key logic

A note on selecting

Michael Guggenheim on the visual critique session, Spring term 2011:

I think for all kinds or work, academic and artistic, selecting material is key. An argument, visual or written is largely based on directing the audience by selection. Being in the middle of a research process one is often unsure about selections and overwhelmed by the richness of the material and/or afraid that there is not enough material.

There is a great danger to throw all material at the audience. This can make sense, it can even be necessary, but very often it just veils the fact that one is afraid to take a stance or that one doesn’t know what to ask of the audience. Because the attention of the audience is limited throwing 100 photographs at them rather than 2 results in the same amount of response. Except with 100 hundred the response is much less precise on the level of the individual picture.

To learn from a crit session (but actually any piece of work) it is thus really important to think about selection of materials. Do I want to talk about juxtaposition of different media? Then I show one photo and one minute of video. I want to discuss how to frame my subject? Then show several images, movies, audio clips of the same event. Do I want to engage in ways of how to use my personal voice in research through juxtaposition? Then show the same pieces of material in different forms of assemblage, etc.

In any case, it is key to ask for any sentence, any photo, any second of video one adds: what do I add here? Is it necessary for what I want to convey or discuss or does it merely distract and dilute?

This is very difficult to do, I know from my own experience, but it is key both to learn from others and to produce strong works in the end. And specifically with audiovisual works, once one has found a key logic to work with material, everything falls into place.


Historical Materialism: Crisis and Critique

The seventh annual conference of Historical Materialism will be held at SOAS November 11-14. Likewise previous conferences, the event focuses on the most recent debates about the relation between labour, capital, society and politics. This year’s topic “Crisis and Critique”, indicates the critical nature of the time we live at the moment since society, politics and culture have been severely affected by the crisis-driven politics. The conference provides a unique opportunity for researchers who would like to examine their research topic in the light of issues related to political economy and historical materialism.

Also, there are a number of panels which are related to the visual issues and would be useful to engage with if you are working on urban life, photography, art, aesthetics, painting.  To name some:

– Capitalism, Labour, photography

– Crisis of Representation: Philosophy, Politics, Aesthetics

– Ultra-Leftism, Insurrection and the City

– Art and activism

– Strategies for Art Today I, II

On-line registration will be closed at 8 November. For more information please visit: