Tim Stephens – ‘The End(s) of the Still’ – Releasing rhythm from photographic geometry

Event date: 29 October 2011 
King’s Anatomy Theatre & Museum, 
6th Floor, King’s Building
King’s College London, 
Strand Campus, 
London, WC2R 2LS



Rhythm and Event

Tim Stephens (LSBU):
‘The End(s) of the Still’ – Releasing rhythm from photographic geometry 

This paper is part of a longer work currently in progress on Rhythm in relation to Photography. The argument here is concerned with undoing the assumed, inherited or automatic associations of rhythm with space, and geometric space or structure, in particular, in philosophic thinking (Agamben 1994) and following the implications of Lefebvre’s work. In photography theory that may prefer the term, should it rarely occur in this respect, spatiotemporal to temporospatial is revealed a shorthand philosophic tendency to subordinate time to movement ‘from the Greeks to Kant’ (Deleuze 1989). But what is photographic space, in any event? It is a much debated issue and now familiarly draws on affinities between photographic and architectural theory. This is a type of space that I will describe using Heidegger, that is both mathematical-technological and specifically western and hence bound up with the formation of the Modern/ Subject. I will also use Heidegger’s work on Building Dwelling Thinking, and ‘Art and Space’, to exceed this model and propose a different type of space, a temporospatiality, a rhythmic space, closely reading his notion of what could be called non-local dimensionality, or, the contiguity between real and represented space. Other terms will emerge in a discussion of various examples.
A concept of ‘ Photographic Rhythm’, a temporospatial term, furthers the debate by contributing a nondualistic and four dimensional term which is fundamental in undoing the artificial separation of ‘the arts of time’ from ‘the arts of space’ and therefore reveals the assumed spatialised ground on which some medium-specific notions in photography theory are also based. Recent work on photographic time and temporality also acknowledges this (Baetens, Streitberger, Van Gelder 2010). This theoretical approach therefore also requires a redefinition of rhythm, to enable its transdisciplinary potential as a term with both temporal and spatial dimensions, as we can agree it is a very under-theorised notion in the history of aesthetics and philosophy (Hamilton, 2007). I argue, drawing on Heidegger, Irigaray and Deleuze, that rhythm constructs a temporo-spatial field through its quality as non-local dimensionality, energetic flow and differential intensity, respectively. The upshot of which is, finally, to be able to delineate the very ends of the concept of the ‘still’ photograph, and all that that implies.

Tim Stephens Tim Stephens is a lecturer at London South Bank University in Photography, Art and Theory. He is also an editor of the Philosophy of Photography Journal and teaches Philosophy and Photography at The City Lit. He also maintains a freelance practice as a photographic artist primarily working in the public art realm and acts as an art & education consultant.


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