looking and representations of looking, looking out, looking at, looking for

Catherine Connolly

Thursday 29th April, 3.30pm-5.30pm

Presentation Room (UTS Bldg. 3, Lvl. 5, Rm. 510)

Screening: 10mins

For Open Fields I would like to exhibit a video installation about ideas around looking and representations of looking, looking out, looking at, looking for….. My work in general examines existing models of representation in popular media, in particular cinema. In my previous video works moments from existing films are removed from their familiar narrative structure and extended in a continuous state of ambiguous emotion or motivation. In my short, looped re-edits the protagonists remain endless tension and yet filled with inertia, constantly repeating their emotions and gestures with no climax. My interest in this not only lies in exploring the multitudes of representations of romance, fear and otherwise commonly featured emotional experiences but ways in which they enforce, subvert or complicate ideas of gender, performativity and narrative structure.

For this project I would like to draw on the dialogue and theory around ideas of looking, looking at and being looked at and the Gaze in film and feminist theory through excerpts from existing films, specifically in tropes of romance and suspense. I would like to concentrate on two representations of ‘looking’ in mainstream cinema, of a male and a female character literally looking, seeking, panning for something or someone unseen by the audience. From a romantic/melodramatic trope the feminine hero looks, out but not at the audience, it is the look of longing, expectation and waiting. The moment of looking out and disappointment resulting when the object sought is unattained is slowed, looped and repeated, leaving her in an endless cycle of searching and failure to see what she seeks. The look and the emotion is ambiguous, does she want to see what she scans for?

The second except is that of a man with binoculars. In this the setting is scanned but it is seemingly unaware of it own filmic perimeters. It looks beyond the frame and into the audience. By implication the work becomes self aware surveillance, albeit benign. He pans back and forth forever, nothing in his visual field more or less curious than anything else.  The is audience held captive by the looker, both aware of their sense of surveillance and the structures that facilitate this feeling.

The two films explore and juxtapose both the gendered use and representation of looking as connected to emotion, narrative and power. The films would ideally be shown on two opposite screens, where the two both intersect and interrupt each other. While one may look for a shared narrative, it is more a rupture between the two than resolution that results. The active search and self awareness of the male character may at time seems to almost catch the seeking eye of the female protagonist before they both continue in their consuming search into the visual field, the audience unseen and yet spatially intersecting their looking out, looking at, looking for…

Catherine Connolly is a Sydney based artist, working predominately in video installation. Her work examines representation in and the hyperbolic language of popular culture, particularly through music and film. She has exhibited in and curated for both artist run initiatives and public galleries, including Conical, Bus Projects, Seventh Gallery and Centre of Contemporary Photography.


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A two day forum of creative research, experimentation and practice held from April 28-30 at the University of Technology, Sydney, and Serial Space Gallery, Chippendale.

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