Sheena Calvert (Visiting Lecturer)

Last week in uni, we had a visiting lecture from St Martins called Sheena Calvert.  Sheena was a practicing graphic designer for years in New York, but she told us about how she got to a point where she didn’t understand language anymore, and returned to London to do a PhD in Philosophy.  The lecture was a brief overview of the different types of western philosophy.  She talked about the allegory of Plato’s Cave and how it is we know what we know if all we ever see is a partial representation.  This caught my attention due to the essay I am currently writing on photography and its use in medical diagnoses of insanity in the Victorian era.  She went on to say if anyone was interested in the idea of photography as truth then Susan Sontag’s On Photography was an excellent novel to read.  Well, it echoed similarities with my essay so I was down the library like a rat up a drainpipe to see Sontag’s comments on representation.  I’m currently reading through it, and although it deals more with photography in the 1970s, in particularly the work of Diane Arbus, it does talk about whether photography can truly exist as a record alone, or whether the photographers choice of viewpoint and exposure ultimately changes it and subjects it to certain standards and interpretation.  I completely agree that photographer and photograph can never truly be separated from one another, as the camera allows you to see what they want you to see, and remains personal regardless of subject matter.

Sheena also did a second lecture in the afternoon looking at text as image.  A slightly less busy lecture, but more visuals!  Really liked a piece of her own work she showed us that was called Skinful; she basically screen printed the word over and over until the ink made no marks on the paper anymore – about 500 pages later!  She had made the pages around A2 size and when they were all bound it was literally impossible to pick up, which was the desired effect, and related to the concept of alcohol abuse that she had based the piece on.  Such an interesting person to listen to speak.  She also introduced me to the idea of concrete poetry, which was not something I was aware of, and having been looking into since; in particular E. E. Cummings who was a great practitioner of it.



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