On the indexical line: a dialogic study of 1960s abstract art through the scientific imagery of the photographic innovator Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904)
Kingston University, London
Year of enrolment: 2017
Supervisor: Professor Fran Lloyd
My research aims to develop an innovative methodology to approach questions of abstraction and conceptualism in art since the 1960s. It follows two paradigms of scientific imagery in the nineteenth century that re-emerge in the neo-avant-gardes of the twentieth century: the line and the trace.The French physicist Etienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) contributed to the systematic use of what he called the 'graphic method': an array of recording and tracing devices which encode phenomena through a linear language associated with an experimental use of sequential photographic images ('chronophotography'). This groundbreaking scientific imagery catalysed two paradigms of the line and the trace. The influence of Marey's work upon developments in twentieth-century conceptual art is yet to be analysed. My research opens up this new area of study through its focus on the intricacies of sequential photography and graphic recordings, and their impact on the status of images (notably, on resemblance, representation and indexicality).My methodology is based upon a reassessment of both Marey's work and of recent experiments in the line and the trace, and of their interrelationship, with a particular focus on the 'eye-hand' dynamic and on representations of movement and time. My project entails original archival research on Marey’s writings and documents (at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris and Musée des Beaux-Arts in Beaune). It also examines how the line and the trace have been a productive focus of recent critical writing and conceptual practice, as in the work of Rosalind Krauss, Georges Didi-Huberman and Sol LeWitt. My project also contextualises Marey’s investigations into the line and the trace through a study of the theory of disegno. My research's central aim is to establish, via Marey's work, a dynamic assessment of what a conceptual or abstract image is, and how it can relate to disegno/drawing as data and language.