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Stillness and Movement: Time and Materiality in the found moving image.


Andrew Dearman, Disappearance, 2015


This writing is based on a conference paper of the same name presented in 2016 at the third international Helsinki Photomedia Conference at Aalto University. The conference theme was titled 'Photographic Agencies and Materialities', with keynote speakers Geoffrey Batchen, Annika von Hausswolff, and Liz Wells. The writing was accepted for publication as an article in 2017 however nothing seems to have developed from there. To the best of my knowledge, no final papers were published from that year. I present it here as it states some key ideas in my thinking on the topics of memory and the material function of analogue film. It also provides a lead in to some of my other writing that I've done more recently about re-photography, place, and immersion. While it was never finally published, I am grateful to the organisers of the conference for both the opportunity to present and for being asked to write the paper as an article. In writing it up, I was able to make the ideas a lot more concrete than they had been prior to that point in time, and they have developed a lot further since.



Fig. 1. Untitled film stills. 9.5mm, c1955.

Scenes 1 & 2: Descriptions.

A man with a hat and a young boy in shorts stopped along a footpath by a river whilst walking home one afternoon during the summer of 1954-55. The new shirts that had been purchased in town were proudly displayed for a 9.5mm format movie camera that the man had with him. In the first scene, the man films the boy as he walks from left to right across a path to a tree by the river. The boy then stops for a few seconds before walking towards the camera—his face gradually occupying the frame. The scene ends. The man then gives the camera to the boy, who films the man standing in the same spot that he had been standing in a moment ago. The man then walks in the same direction in the second scene which was taken from almost the same vantage point but from a slightly lower angle. As he crosses the path, he opens his jacket to show off his new paisley shirt. He stops at the side of the river, lights a cigarette, then walks towards the camera—his face gradually occupying the frame. The scene ends.


The fragility of the sixty-year-old film stock upon which these two scenes were recorded and the difficulty in accessing a suitable 9.5mm projector means that it can no longer be viewed as it once was. The only way to see the content as a moving image is to digitally scan each frame and view them on a computer screen. (fig. 1). It is then possible to reanimate the frames as a digital moving image. During the process of handling and scanning the footage, the isolated still images take on the status of snapshots—a series of vernacular photographs removed from both the time and place of their production, and the contextual and temporal durational flow of their material origin as a moving filmic image. A vernacular snapshot within photo-theory asserts complex materiality; an object within a set of relationships to time and place as sites of memory;[1] a snapshot as a mnemonic object.[2]


The convention is that we don’t touch an analogue photographic negative, and yet we sometimes do. It has an intriguing tactile quality; the status of original—of having been in the camera when the shutter was tripped in another time and place. Not only was it there then, it represents that which stood in front of it—the auratic ‘that has been’ of Roland Barthes.[3] It is both material remnant and witness. A home movie shares this same material status. It was there then, in the same way that it is here now. Touching and handling such an object puts us into an explicit relationship to the past.


Within the halting process of digitalisation, something of the material qualities of the original film persist while something else disappears. Beyond the shift in material, that which disappears is the originating context, the location, character, action, and event. What persists is a shared haptic response to a materiality which triggers a form of memory work. The form of memory work suggested here is that of a knowing/experience of materiality and place that stretches itself across sites beyond the individual and across time; a haptic/mnemonic response. When these stilled images are set back into motion the vague mnemonic associations blur and disappear again beneath and in-between the quickly moving frames.


Roland Barthes observes that the ‘that has been’ of photography is different from that of cinema, suggesting that it is swept away when the stills are set in motion.[4] Although his reference to the moving image is merely an analogy, John Berger argues differently; that that which moves us deeply persists between the frames of the moving image.[5] Berger writes early in Opening a gate, the introduction to his text ‘The Shape of a Pocket’, about the importance of the rare momentary glimpses we experience through the cracks of the everyday. He writes that;


‘[w]e live our daily lives in a constant exchange with the set of daily appearances surrounding us – often they are very familiar, sometimes they are unexpected and new, but always they confirm us in our lives. … What we habitually see confirms us. Yet it can happen, suddenly, unexpectedly, and most frequently in the half-light-of-glimpses, that we catch sight of another visible order which intersects with ours and has nothing to do with it. The speed of a cinema film is 25 frames per second. God knows how many frames per second flicker past in our daily perception. But it is as if, at the brief moments I’m talking about, suddenly and disconcertingly we see between two frames. We come across a part of the visible which wasn’t destined for us. Our customary visible order is not the only one: it coexists with other orders. Stories of fairies, sprites, ogres were a human attempt to come to terms with this coexistence. … Children feel it intuitively, because they have the habit of hiding behind things. They discover the interstices between different sets of the visible.’[6]


While Berger writes here about the glimpses that we experience between the visible order of things in our daily lives, I argue that these enlightening experiences occur in tandem with other senses such as touch, and with our experiences of time and place. They occur in an embodied form, and when on the rare occasion we become aware of them, they operate on a level akin to the astonishment of the ‘that has been’ that Barthes speaks of.


The experience of time and materiality that occurs through the found moving image presented here in this article, operates in a space both in and in-between the registers of the visible that Berger describes. It operates in a space both in and in-between the registers of touch. The title of the Berger’s introductory chapter ‘Opening a gate’ acts as an analogy for our entrance into the space of the book. However, it is also the first action that a film based motion picture camera performs—the gate being the rectangular frame immediately behind the lens, which opens when the shutter is activated—stillness set into motion.


This article considers how, within the context of the materiality of the found moving image, touch and our complex experiences of place and space mediate a form of memory work. I am interested in how second-hand memory work operates through an object when there is no specific relationship between the object, the viewer, and the sites of production and consumption—when the filmic object, whether a family photo album, or a roll of 9.5mm film is 'found.'[7] Specifically, I am interested in how the sense of touch and the presence of the body facilitate this displaced form of memory work through a complex assemblage of phenomena. In this article, I describe the spatial operation of mnemonic objects and the body through the example of rephotography as both method and analogy. As with the process of standing in the same position from which a photograph was once taken in order to take another, the gap produced by the filmic object’s dislocation from the originating narrative is filled by the imagination of the viewer located within the present.


The movement sequences described above formed the basis of a moving image work titled ‘Disappearance’, which I was commissioned to produce for an art festival in Adelaide, South Australia in August 2015.[8] (I present the work here at the top of the post). Whilst handling and reworking the found footage—around which I had already engaged in research in locating the street and house where the individuals lived sixty years ago[9]—I formed the opinion that such found filmic imagery is difficult to situate within the current discourse of film theory which privileges narrative coherence and cinematic technique.[10] This article suggests a method by which film theory may engage with home movies through paying attention first to their material qualities, and then to their relationships to bodies, spatialities, and temporalities within an assemblage.[11]


This method doesn’t negate the importance of content, but rather defers it. Attending to notions of stillness and movement that old home movies assert, I give emphasis to notions of materiality, agency and assemblages, associated with New Materialism(s).[12] New Materialism(s) asserts the complex agency of the material object within an assemblage, whilst at these same time renders problematic the relationship that the body has within an ‘entanglement’ of objects.[13]


I begin first with a set of descriptions concerning the material qualities of the footage, and the importance of touch. Recent literature that offers a new approach to reading/experiencing cinema within the field of New Materialism is then presented. I then discuss the relationship between materiality and the form of fractured memory work at play in Victor Burgin’s text The Remembered Film (2004).[14] Rephotography as method which situates the body in relationship to materiality, memory and space is then discussed, prior to a conclusion that unpacks a set of personal memories from my past that were triggered by my first viewing of some of the stills form the footage mentioned above.


Fig. 2. Cardboard box for roll of 9.5 home movies, showing details of scenes. C1955.


The two scenes described above are at the beginning of a roll of 9.5mm film, one of eight found by me in a second-hand market in 2011. The scenes are briefly described in blue pen on the cardboard boxes that they were found in; the above scene described simply as ‘Trevor and I at the River Torrens’. (fig. 2). The actual relationship between the man and the boy is difficult to ascertain from the notes. He may have been an uncle, however the language used to describe Trevor’s parents in other scene descriptions is formal, as ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’, suggesting that the wasn’t an immediate relation. Whoever the film maker was, he spent considerable effort over several years documenting the everyday activities of Trevor, his siblings, family, friends and neighbours from the inner suburban working-class area of Bowden in Adelaide, South Australia in the mid-1950s.


The handling of the 9.5mm film during scanning was a dirty process. Acids from the surface of the sixty-year-old film made my fingers sting, reinforcing the need for the wearing of gloves, not just to protect the fragile film from my touch, but to protect me from it. Engaging with the material in this way heightened my awareness of the outside of the film—it’s tactile qualities as a material object, one which had been handled numerous times in the past by the film maker and perhaps those he filmed. The hand writing on the boxes that the films were in was as clumsy as the grammar. ‘Trevor and Me by the River Torrens’ had been altered to the grammatically correct form of ‘Trevor and I by the River Torrens’ at some stage. Who ‘I’ or ‘Me’ was, remains unknown.


A New Materialist approach to this topic offers a new method with which to situate the known alongside the unknown, affording another way to consider how a disjunct form of second hand memory work might be seen to operate through a tactile/haptic engagement with vernacular home movies. A number of recent texts develop a new materialist reading of cinema, although they don’t mention vernacular home movies.[15] Nicholas Chare and Liz Watkins, in their text The Matter of Film: Decasia and Lyrical Nitrate discuss two films that have been constructed from found stock footage.[16] The juxtaposition of the disparate found elements assert their raw materiality, through having been found and arranged in a fashion that avoids narrative coherence. The individual elements then receive a new form of narrative coherence through their relationship to each other (speaking back to the phenomena of the Kuleshov Effect which asserts the notion that a viewer constructs meaning through the sequencing and juxtaposition of each shot) and through their presentation in a new ‘work’ authored, edited, presented for public consumption in the public sphere. Here, the subtle nuance of materiality is pointed to, but then erased. While the material of the found stock footage may have a presence in the works described, the form of memory work presented isn’t mediated by the haptic sense of touch in the same way as a home movie might be.


Similarly, Dirk de Bruyn’s text Recovering the Hidden through Found-Footage Films offers a materialist reading of ‘works’ that are derived from found footage.[17] Parts of his discussion are informative, in particular the way in which the stuttering and fractured elements of the constructed ‘works’ point back to material qualities, which in turn point to a particular emotive response in the viewer. However, the origin of the source material within the works that the author describes is once again that of cinema. My specific focus here, is a questioning of how these material concerns operate within the vernacular found home movie, rather than within the product of commercially produced cinema intended for consumption within the public domain. How do we read found home movies produced for consumption within the private domain, when they find themselves open to public consumption? What reading strategies do we bring to them? Specifically, I am interested in the material qualities of vernacular film, and how their relation to memory work is mediated through touch, and our experience of space.



The New Materialist model of theory made use of here is influenced in part by Karen Barad’s writing on the notion of touch. In On Touching—The Inhuman That Therefore I Am Barad equates doing theory within the physics of touch—to theorise is to touch, to make contact, while at the same time actual contact is an impossibility. The author writes that ‘[t]heorizing, a form of experimenting, is about being in touch.’ Barad then writes that within physics, two distinct material bodies can never actually touch.


'A common explanation for the physics of touching is that one thing it does not involve is . . . well, touching. That is, there is no actual contact involved. You may think you are touching a coffee mug when you are about to raise it to your mouth, but your hand is not actually touching the mug. … [W]hat you are actually sensing, physicists tell us, is the electromagnetic repulsion between the electrons of the atoms that make up your fingers and those that make up the mug. … Try as you might, you cannot bring two electrons into direct contact with each other.'[18]


Proximity is thus the most that we can ever hope for. Within the context of home movies and how they operate within an assemblage of material and mnemonic relationships, Barad’s analogy seems fitting—we can approach an understanding of the found object through touch and familiarity, but there will always be a distance.[19] The material qualities of the boxes of home movies, their texture, their colour, writing, etc—which exist on the outside of the narrative flow of each scene—enter the frame, filter and nuance how the viewer engages with the content. The memory work that the material qualities of the found filmic objects instigates through our physical engagement with them is likewise close/distant, and incomplete.[20]


The tactile qualities of the 9.5mm film, the process of handling used when gaining access to the content, the laborious task of scanning and recording and then reconfiguring in the (apparently) immaterial platform of a computer program such as Photoshop and Windows movie maker; all engage with these notions of touch. New Materialist writing concerning the complexity of material forms and their agency gained through networks and systems, seem appropriate as a theoretical basis for describing these complexities within home movies. Such found vernacular home movies aren’t mere representations of the everyday, they are material objects in and of the everyday, located in multiple sites simultaneously.


Fig. 3. Disappearance, Background scene, work in progress. 2015.


In constructing the film ‘Disappearance’, I first selected a series of scanned stills from the two panning shots of the movements of the boy and the man with the hat as they crossed from left to right, and reconstructed it into a panorama. This enabled a wide-angle 150-degree view of the space, something more akin to what the people at the scene would experience—a view beyond the constraints of the frame of the camera. (fig. 3). Once this was constructed, I added in, frame by frame, the scanned stills of the boy and the man with the hat. The two were again able to occupy the same space together at the same time—no longer separated by the apparatus of the camera.[21] While it wasn’t intended that the two interact with each other in the same space--remembering that each is actually filming the other--there is a moment towards the end where the boy appears to acknowledge the man’s presence within the frame, as he drops what appears to be a box of matches. This was quite coincidental, however it adds something to the reading of the reconfigured narrative, presenting a simple gesture of interaction that the apparatus of the camera would normally refuse, given the actual circumstances of filming. (fig. 4).


Fig. 4. Disappearance, single channel video projection, 90 seconds. 2015.


Within the play of memory and materiality that such old home movies engage with, an element that persists through the translation from analogue to digital is that of the discrete presence of the body of the camera operator in time and space. The subtle vertical shift in camera position between the scene of the boy walking to the river, and the man with the hat, which was caused by them taking it in turns to film each other, only becomes noticeable when mapping their movements into the same reconstructed space. This shift asserts the presence of the body of the camera operator in a way which disturbs and displaces that of the viewer. Our vantage point is doubled and made different to itself—shifting our experience from the monocular vision of the camera, to a binocular view approximating our actual physiology but on vertical rather than horizontal axis. Along with our haptic experience of the materiality of the found filmic object, this co-presence of bodies within spaces and across time is a key concern within my discussion here, for the way that it both instigates and facilitates second-hand memory work. I return this notion of the presence of the body of the camera operator after further discussing the importance of materiality and memory.


The moving image – whether we use a term like cinema or video – stretches across a broad range of practices, materialities and platforms, from home movies, mainstream cinema, documentary, animation, television, video, Vimeo, YouTube, Netflix, etc. There are no boundaries to the field of the ‘moving image’, and yet thus far ‘theory’ seems to cluster only in certain areas. Until recently film theory has given emphasis to either the narrative elements of cinema—its linguistic and semiotic structure within systems of production and consumption, or to the formal construction of said narrative and its relation to ‘realism’ (however that might be defined), through filmic technique. Such theory fails to account for the complexities of home movies, even though they hold a prominent place within representations of the everyday. The narrative form present within home movies is fractured, vernacular, of the moment and bordering on documentary, finding it’s principle set of meanings within the social and familial environments in which it is produced. The primary difference between home movies and cinema is the dynamic of production and consumption—one public, the other private. They are located to the margins, as a mere vernacular document of a mundane event, referred to as film souvenir. I’m interested in how these objects operate as instigators of memory work when they are removed from their origin: when they are found.


In the last twenty years, a gap within the discourse of photography has been identified by Geoffrey Batchen (2003, 2008), Mette Sandbye (2012) and others, in respect to the theorisation of family photographs and their place within the histories of art and photography.[22] In the article ‘Snapshots: Art history and the ethnographic turn’ Batchen argues that vernacular photography is ill served by the art history based model often used to describe photography, writing that;

'[d]espite the ubiquity of the family snapshot as a genre, they barely appear in most standard histories of photography. The reasons are obvious: most snapshots are cloyingly sentimental in content and repetitively uncreative as pictures, having little value in the market place of either ideas or commodities.'[23]


Batchen points to the importance of the materiality of either the photographic object itself, or the material supplements that add complexity to the mnemonic associations.[24] One can argue that while home movies have a presence within cinematic technique, and in the recent discourse that surrounds ‘found footage’ the narrative model used to describe them is inadequate for the same reasons Batchen ascribes to vernacular photography.

As with the importance of context within post-structuralist theory, the theoretical framing device of New Materialism(s) is broad in application, plural and contradictory in nature, presenting a means with which to rethink home movies.[25] Reminiscent of Actor Network Theory, the core concern of New Materialism is its theorising of the relationship between objects, things, or bodies within an assemblage. At the heart of the discussion is the concept that materialities possess a level of agency that is ambivalent to human existence. Authors such as Jane Bennett seek to defer the presence of the human from within the relational equation for the sake of highlighting the agency of materialities within certain ecologies or environments.[26] The phenomena at play here within my discussion are; the various objects filmed, the relationships between those filmed, the time, the place, the relationships between here and now, there and then, the viewers and their memories of material and place, etc.


While they deal primarily with the process of narrative construction within cinematic technique, Victor Burgin’s The Remembered Film, (2004) and Laura Mulvey’s text Death 24 x Frames per second (2006), point to a reading of the moving image in a way that provides a means with which to close the gap within this discourse. Like the more recent texts, that I have cited above, by Chare, Watkins, and de Bruyn, Burgin and Mulvey pay attention to the material and temporal qualities of cinema. Burgin, however gives emphasis to the phenomena of memory. Although not associated with New Materialist theory, his text informs this discussion through its attention to concepts of material forms located within spatial and temporal relational assemblage which are incoherent.[27] Burgin introduces his text with a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein concerning the notion of the disordered elements of a whole entity.

'It is as if one saw a screen with scattered colour-patches, and said: the way they are here, they are unintelligible; they only make sense when one completes them into shape—Whereas I want to say: Here is the whole. (If you complete it, you falsify it.)'[28]


Burgin then commences a section of his text, subtitled ‘The cinematic heterotopia’ making reference to Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia as a fractured but unified space. Burgin uses the quote by Wittgenstein as a way of establishing the primary concern within the text, that being a consideration of the process through which we experience the various narrative elements of a film from a range of different, diffuse, barely connected sources—most of which occur outside of the frame of the film. The author writes that many of these barely connected sources operate through the memory work of the viewer—a mixture of lived and viewed experience. On the topic of film and memory, Martin Lefebvre writes that ‘…human memory can … translate data into a semiotic system and, by the same token, transform it and render it more complex (even if this implies some forgetting). It is able, in other words, to produce a memoria. Seen in this light, memory is no longer duplication but amplification, enrichment, complexification.’ [29]


This motif of a fractured and incoherent narrative constructed through memory work is key to the discussion presented by Burgin. Developing the theme established with the quote from Wittgenstein, Burgin refers to an earlier text of his own, stating that;

'[A] ‘film’ may be encountered through posters, ‘blurbs’, and other advertisements, such as trailers and television clips; it may be encountered through newspaper reviews, [...] Collecting such metonymic fragments in memory, we may come to feel familiar with a film we have not actually seen. Clearly this ‘film’ – a heterogeneous physical object, constructed from image scraps scattered in space and time – is a very different object from that encountered in the context of ‘film studies’.[30]


Returning to the complexity of these fragmented elements of our experience of the ‘heterogeneous physical object’ of film via reference to Foucault’s term ‘heterotopia’, Burgin then writes;

'[w]hat we may call the ‘cinematic heterotopia’ is constituted across the variously virtual spaces in which we encounter displaced pieces of films: the Internet, the media and so on, but also the psychical space of a spectating subject Baudelaire first identified as ‘a kaleidoscope equipped with consciousness’.[31]


Although Burgin’s key concerns within The Remembered Film are the relationship between cinematic narrative, memory and materiality, the central element of his ‘cinematic heterotopia’, that of the fractured, dispersed, and incoherent phenomena within an everchanging assemblage, is synonymous with both home movies and the process of displaced memory work. Encountering the materiality of home movies, second hand via the cluttered tables of the second-hand market—encountering their haptic/physical qualities of texture, temperature, smell, not just the qualities of the visual—triggers an analogous form of memory work.


Burgin writes that the ready availability of video and digital editing software enabled the viewer to have greater access to the material fragments of cinema in a way which hadn’t previously been the case.[32] With the advent of video, the viewer became able to pause, rewind, etc. The viewer can delay the duration of the moving image in a way that would be impossible within the space of the cinema. Laura Mulvey also refers to same process within film and video in which the viewer gains access to the tactile experience of film and video. [33] The author argues that our experience of the moving image at the level of content changed and became more intimate as a result of our increased ability to manipulate the technology—changing our relationship to the past. Mulvey writes; 'Such a return to the past through cinema is paradoxically facilitated by the kind of spectatorship that has developed with the use of new technologies, with the possibility of returning to and repeating specific film fragment.’[34]



Rephotography, (also known as repeat photography) has become an important method within this ongoing research project which seeks to describe how memory operates through the found still or moving filmic object, of which ‘Disappearance’ was a recent outcome. The practice of rephotography consists of returning to where a found image was taken, and taking another photograph from the same position as the original, engaging in an explicit relationship in time and place to the original event. In other words, rephotography is a performance of multiple phenomena within an assemblage. While internet websites abound with images of restaged and rephotographed spaces, other uses of the method assert a more complex use. Trudi Smith writes in ‘Repeat Photography as a Method in Visual Anthropology’ that;

'Repeat photography can probe into historical images in archives ... to allow for a different kind of engagement with images. By producing new photographs, repeat photography brings a distinct awareness to acts of vision and provides an active, interpretive understanding of space and place. ... The act of returning to particular vantage points, shaped by a physical presence, and reoccupying locations by standing in the spot from which a historic image was photographed, becomes a ground to construct knowledge about place, environment and people’s relationship with it.'[35]


In restaging photography, there is also something of a movement back and away from the site—through the technology of camera to the viewer/s of the image/space. By this, I mean that the relationships between the space, the cameras, and the bodies of those holding the cameras are exposed, made present, and afford extra information. While Trudi Smith and others point to an ‘awareness of vision’, I am interested in the non-visual embodied experience of space and its relation to a form of memory work which is activated by rephotography.


In 2010 I found an image of the Havis Amanda fountain in Helsinki in amongst a collection of negatives in a second-hand market in Adelaide, Australia. One of the images in the collection was a view from the Eifel Tower of the Russian and German pavilions at the Paris Expo, allowing me to date the collection to 1936.[36] On seeing the image of the fountain with the seals, I did an internet search for ‘seal fountain’ and found other images which helped me to locate the site. When I travelled to Helsinki in 2012, I rephotographed the fountain from the same camera position as the original from almost eighty years earlier. I then produced a simple animation that presents a superimposed transition from the original view to the rephotographed view. As the video transitions from one view to the next, obvious examples of change are noted; with buildings, fashions, modes of transport, etc. With this reworking of the two images of the Havis Amanda fountain, another interesting difference became evident. I was able to line up the scenes on a horizontal axis, but not on the vertical axis. This was due to the original image having been taken with a different kind of camera altogether. I had used a digital SLR held at eye level, while the original image was taken with a view camera held at waist level—a folding bellows camera with a mirror through which one sees the view of the scene. (fig. 5). Placed against each other, the two views of the same scene make the bodies of the photographers present.


Fig. 5 Havis Amanda Fountain, Helsinki, 1936 & 2012.


A similar vertical shift in the camera position was apparent within the scenes used in ‘Disappearance’. Then, it was a case of the man with the hat and the young boy filming each other on the banks of the Torrens River in Adelaide, minutes apart, in c1955. The rephotography project between myself and the unknown Danish photographer eighty years apart but in the same location, draws out notions of movement and stillness even further. This simple and subtle shift in viewing position between the two Havis Amanda fountain images asserts the presence of body of the original photographer in time and space. In both Disappearance and the combined fountain images, there is a subtle return to binocular vision—albeit on a vertical rather than horizontal axis—pointing back in a barely discernible way, to the presence of the body. These minor shifts due to the difference in viewing positions and technologies both displace and incorporate the body of the secondary viewer in a process which asserts the notion of a complex assemblage of phenomena; time and place, bodies and objects. These are objects—that like second-hand memories, and Barad’s analogy of the cup in her discussion of touch—come together and coalesce into a false appearance of coherence.


This complex incorporation and displacement of bodies back and forth across the surface of the still and moving image brings to mind Michel Foucault’s discussion of real and ideal spaces in the first chapter of ‘The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences’, and in his article ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias’.[37] The first chapter of The Order of Things is devoted to an extensive analysis of Las Meninas (1656) by Diego Velasquez. Foucault argues that the complex relation of gazes inside and outside of the near life size painting (which contains the reflection of King and Queen of Spain within a mirror on the back wall of the pictured space), results in the viewer swapping place with the sovereigns. In Of Other Spaces, Foucault describes heterotopias as idealised spaces that combine complex and contradictory phenomena. In one of the more poetic passages of the article he describes his relationship to the space described within a mirror—and it deserves to be quoted here in full.

'I believe that between utopias and these quite other sites, these heterotopias, there might be a sort of a mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopias in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.'[38]


Although Foucault writes about the spatial qualities of heterotopia in a way that, for me, engages well with the complexities of rephotography, elsewhere he discusses the complex temporal qualities of heterotopia, which he defines as heterochronies. These consist of fixed accumulations of time within specific places, like museums and libraries. Opposing these, Foucault presents ‘chroniques’, flowing temporal and transitory sites such as fairgrounds. The temporal and spatial complexities and contradictions that Foucault elaborates upon lie beneath the process of rephotography. While most practices of rephotography engage with the still image, moving image variations offer similar possibilities.[39] One of my key concerns here has been the movement of bodies through real and imaginary space across different time periods, activated through and within the handling and viewing of old home movies.


In early 2016 I attempted to find the exact camera position at the River Torrens where the original footage of the boy and the man with the hat were taken in c1955. The original view with the city of Adelaide and the Victoria Bridge which crosses the river in the background, allowed me to find a space within approximately 100 metres of the site, but nothing more specific. (fig. 6). This resulted in a curious anxiety and a feeling of being lost. I could locate myself in relation to both the far and middle distance, but not the immediate—a strange psycho/physical spatial sensation like an uncertain memory. For me this resonates strongly with the problem of incomplete touch that Barad raises, and the incoherence of the fractured elements that Burgin (via Wittgenstein) present. A dislocated almost-but-not-quite experience of touch/presence.



Fig. 6. The River Torrens, Adelaide South Australia, where the original footage was taken.


The title of the film Disappearance refers to many fragmented conceptual elements that coalesce around the work. These being; the slow pace of the original environment; the technology that allows the films to be experienced in its original format; the physical presence of those who had the primary capacity to remember both the events recorded, and those pictured; and the presence of the film maker’s identity through it having been dislocated from its point of origin. The title also points to something much more personal. My first response to seeing the stilled scanned image of the man with the hat was that of a quiet sense of dread—a flashback to a childhood memory concerning how life changed dramatically in Adelaide fifty years ago. In January 1966, three children went missing from a beachside suburb, never to be seen again. When they failed to return home in the evening, the police were notified, and a search was commenced. Witness statements were made, with reports that the children we seen in the company of a thin man wearing a hat. The identikit drawing of the man was used in the newspapers that reported on the incident for years to come.


For me, the stilled image of the man with the hat—the person who held to camera and directed its gaze according to what he himself saw—became superimposed upon the image from the front of the newspapers from fifty years earlier. (fig. 7). The abduction of children in the 1960s resulted in a significant change within Australian suburban culture, where the space in which children played, learnt, and socialised, went from being the street, with neighbours etc as a form of extended family—the kind of social space described in much of the footage on the eight rolls of 9.5mm film—to the space of the back yard or the lounge room. [40]


Fig. 7. Identikit drawing of man believed to have taken the Beaumont Children. (1966).


Interestingly, the initial response that I had to the image of the man with the hat subsided once I put his image into motion within the animation—his gestures seeming slightly comical. He appears to stumble briefly as he commences walking off his mark as people do when they attempt to walk, mindful that they are being looked at. Put into motion, the stilled snapshot of the man in the hat moved away from having a status approximating a mnemonic object that operated as a site for my own disjunct memory work. The initial affective response that Berger spoke of in Opening the gate, which I experienced something of at seeing the man in the hat, disappeared back into the space between the frames swept away in a fashion suggested by Barthes. The staggering steps of the man in the hat, as subtle as they are, point to a particular moment of delay, [41] when stillness becomes movement—a moment when that which Berger speaks about becomes apparent—a rupture in the process of memory work through an engagement with the found vernacular moving image.



The relationship of this intensely personal background element of ‘Disappearance’ has been initially difficult to rationalise within my theoretical concerns. However, the notion of the movement of bodies through space; real, imagined, emotive, re-enacted—pictured, still, and moving: results in a curious metaphor. These are a complex assemblage of materialities, that change and flow, and refuse our attempts at fixity through explanation. Martin Lefebvre writes that ‘We each possess inside us a sort of imaginary museum of the cinema where we keep the various films and fragments that have touched used deeply or made a profound impression on us.’[42] I argue that throughout all the complexities of the relationship between the still and moving image, the memory work that they instigate, within the context of found home movies, is facilitated to a large degree by our experience of touch.



The intention behind the making of ‘Disappearance’ was that of playful experimentation. During the making the film, I realised that various elements engaged quite well with a range of theoretical concerns—specifically in respect to New Materialist writings concerning an engagement with the world through handling material substances.[43] How we respond within the enactment of displaced memory work, varies depending on the assemblage of phenomena—some material, some spatial, some temporal—that we are immersed within and that we are a part of.





Bibliography and Notes [1] My use of the term ‘sites of memory’ is informed by Pierre Nora’s text Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire in which the author writes that; ‘[m]emory takes root in the concrete, in spaces, gestures, images, and objects…’ Representations, No. 26, Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory, (Spring, 1989) p.9. [2] The vernacular photograph as mnemonic object has been theorised extensively in recent years. Of specific relevance to this discussion are; Annette Kuhn, ‘Photography and cultural memory: a methodological exploration’, Visual Studies, vol. 22, no. 3, December 2007, pp. 283-292; Geoffrey Batchen, ‘Fearful ghost of former bloom’: What Photography Is, Photoforum, 2003; Forget me not: Photography & Remembrance, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2004.; ‘Snapshots: Art History and the ethnographic turn’, Photographies, vol. 1, no. 2 September, 2008, pp. 121-142. [3] Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Vintage, London, 2000, pp. 76-77. [4] Barthes, p. 78. [5] John Berger, ‘Opening a Gate’, in The Shape of a Pocket, Bloomsbury, London, 2001. [6] John Berger, 2001, p. 5. [7] I have been slowly developing these concerns through both a studio based visual arts practice, and through writing. See; Andrew Dearman, ‘Working (with) the Dead: Agency and its absence in the Use of the Found Image’, COLLUQUY, text theory critique, 22, 2011, pp. 229-246.; ’Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead: Performing disjunct memory through an early 20th century Danish family photo album—in early 21st century South Australia, Image & Narrative, 31, 2009. [8] The moving image work Disappearance (2015) is online at https://vimeo.com/169203635 [9] Another series of scenes titled ‘Raelene, Dianne, and Trevor coming home from School’ show the three walking down the street on which they live. Using a virtual form of rephotography (Google Maps street view) I was able to identify a bridge at the end of the street, and from that their address. [10] A number of texts discuss the materiality of the moving image, however the materiality of the filmic object and its relation to the body, space, and memory (which I give emphasis to here) are usually situated within the discourse of popular cinema rather than the vernacular. I make use of some of these texts here, in particular the writing of Victor Burgin (2004), Laura Mulvey, (2006), however they don’t really engage deeply with the vernacular, which is my focus here. [11] My use of the term assemblage is derived from Actor Network Theory (John Law) and New Materialism Barbara Bolt & Estelle Barratt (2013), Jane Bennett (2004, 2010), and Karen Barad (2012). [12] Lemke, T, ‘New Materialisms: Foucault and the ‘Government of Things’’, Theory, Culture & Society, 0(0), 2014, pp. 1-23.; Barad, K, ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter’, Signs, vol. 28, no. 3, Gender and Science, Spring, 2003, pp.801—831.; ‘On Touching—The Inhuman that therefore I am’ (v1.1) 2012.; Bennett, J, ‘The Force of Things: Steps toward an Ecology of Matter, Political Theory’, vol. 32, no. 3 June, 2004, pp. 347-372.; Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Duke University Press, Durham & London, 2010.; Law, J; Singleton, V, ‘ANT and Politics: Working in and on the world’, 2012. [13] See Barad, 2012.; Bennett, 2004. See also Foucault, M, ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias’, Diacritics, vol. 16, no. 1, Spring, 1986, pp. 22-27. [14] Victor Burgin, The Remembered Film, Reaktion, London, 2004. [15] I also became aware of Guiliana Bruno’s text Surface: matters of aesthetics, materiality, and media (2014) very late in the stages of writing this article, and have been unable to fully synthesise her ideas into this text. The author pays close attention to the material qualities of film, however from what I have been able to see thus far, she also gives more emphasis to cinema rather than vernacular home movies which are my focus her. See Guiliana Bruni, Surface: matters of aesthetics, materiality, and media, University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 2014. [16] Nicholas Chare & Liz Watkins, ‘The Matter of Film: Decasia and Lyrical Nitrate’, in Estelle Barrett & Barbara Bolt, Carnal Knowledge: Towards a New Materialism through the Arts, I.B. Tauris, London & New York, 2013, pp. 75-86. [17] Dirk de Bruyn, ‘Recovering the Hidden through Found-Footage Films’, in Estelle Barrett & Barbara Bolt, Carnal Knowledge: Towards a New Materialism through the Arts, I.B. Tauris, London & New York, 2013, pp. 89-104. [18] Karen Barad, ‘On Touching—The Inhuman That therefore I Am’ (2012). [19] On reflection, this is a good analogy for my search for literature that deals with materiality, memory, and vernacular home movies—close, but not complete. [20] During the later stages of the writing of this article I was pointed in the direction of the writings of Jean-Luc Nancy. At this late stage I am unable to fully synthesise his writing into my thinking, however I acknowledge his importance. In particular elements within his text ‘The Image—The Distinct’, in The Ground of the Image, (trans Jeff Fort) Perspectives in Continental Thought, Fordham University Press, New York, 2005. [21] While the primary relationship between the two main figures was the initial focus of the film, I added another short scene from the same role of film in which a woman (the boy’s mother) stands in a back yard, looking over a brick wall as white linen sheets move back and forth drying in the breeze on the washing line. This scene was added into the view, as a point of constant movement/stillness that allowed for the whole to be played in a continuous loop. When it was first displayed in a public space, it played continuously 24 hours a day for over six weeks. [22] Geoffrey Batchen, 2003, 2008.; Mette Sandbye,’ Looking at the family photo album: a resumed theoretical discussion of why and how’, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, vol. 6, 2014, np. [23] Batchen, 2008, p. 121. [24] Batchen, 2003, 2004. [25] The definition of poststructuralism that I use here, is one in which meaning/identity is constructed within discursive contexts, fluid and always in a state of flux. [26] Bennett, 2004. On reflection, Jane Bennett’s conception of ‘thing power’, articulated through her analogy of seeing a collection of rubbish in the gutter of a street one day, resonates with John Berger’s analogy of ‘different sets of the visible.’ [27] Burgin, 2004. [28] Burgin, 2004, p.7 [29] Martin Lefebvre, On Memory and the Imagination in Cinema, New Literary History, Vol.30, No. 2,Cultural Inquiries (Spring, 1999), p. 479. [30] Burgin, 2004, p.9. [31] Burgin, 2004, p.10. [32] This isn’t strictly the case. While it is certainly true that greater access to the materiality of the moving image through the introduction of video in the 1960s and 1970s facilitated a broader experience of the material processes of image making particularly within the arts, home movies have been around since the 1920s. The producers of home movies rarely if ever had the means to develop the footage that they took, however they were still able to edit and reconfigure it into something meaningful. This meant an encounter with the experience of handling the material in a way which aligns with some of the concepts discussed by the Burgin and Mulvey, at an earlier historical point in time and within a different context. [33] The discussion concerning the historical development of our experience of the materiality of film within the writing of Burgin, and Mulvey, is contextual and specific to the fields of cinema and the visual arts, not to the vernacular use within home movies. Beyond their descriptions of the materiality of the moving image and its relation to time within the context of stillness and movement, for the most part they share the same problem in their relation to vernacular home movies, as that between snapshot photography and the art historical narrative mode of description used to describe photography in general that Batchen presents. [34] Mulvey, 2006, p.8. [35] Smith, T, ‘Repeat Photography as a Method in Visual Anthropology’, Visual Anthropology, 20, 2007, pp. 179-189. [36] A disproportionate amount of antiques and other material deriving from deceased estates to be found in some Australian second-hand markets, originate from Denmark. This is a topic that I have written on in the past. Dearman, 2009. [37] Michel Foucault, ‘Las Meninas’, in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Vintage, New York (1994); ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias’, Diacritics, vol. 16, no. 1, Spring, 1986, pp. 22-27. [38] Foucault, 1986, p. 24. [39] I am mindful that some of the key concerns of Michel Foucault’s writing on the body aren’t regarded as being compatible with some of the key interests within New Materialism relating to the body as defined by Barad (2003). I am influenced here by the argument of Thomas Lemke in finding points of comparison between new materialism and elements Foucault’s writing, particularly in his text ‘Governmentality’. See Thomas Lemke, ‘New Materialisms: Foucault and the ‘Government of Things’’, Theory, Culture & Society, 0(0), 2014, pp. 1-23. [40] I am of the generation of children who were removed from the public space of the street to the private domesticated space of the back yard. [41] Mulvey, 2006, p. 8; Burgin, 2004. [42] Lefebvre, 1999, p.480. [43] Barrett, E, & Bolt, B, Carnal Knowledge: Towards a ‘New Materialism’ through the Arts, LB Tauris, London & New York, 2013.; Barad, 2012; Bennett, 2004.

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