Susan Derges

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Susan Derges

Susan Derges (British, born 1955) is a practising artist and has a live web page [1]. In her photography, films and practice, she works to embody photography and nature in all senses of the word. That is, she is conscious of the relationship of the body to seeing, hence the shape and size of her River Taw series, and she uses photography like a tactile device rather than an optical one. She is part of what is becoming known as a modern alchemical movement although is it not so much a photographic movement as it is a way of connecting photographers who work in a particular way. (See James Elkins, 'Four Waysof Measuring the Distance Between Alchemy and Contemporary Art', HYLE International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, v.9, n.1 (2003), pp.105-118.) The use of photographic emulsions to make art without optics has its more powerful roots in the dada and surrealist movements where artists manipulated the fabric of photography to make 'art' out of it. But the tradition goes farther back in the sciences, to the early emulsion experimenters and scientists, who often used photography like a sensory device. One has only to look at the influence of x-ray images on much of our visual culture to understand where this tradition comes in. Still Derges plays with the Romantic sensibilities and natural theology of the 18th and 19th centuries to give this purely mechanical notion of the photogram depth and a very poetic end result.

She is studied with diverse photographic practice by not only her contemporaries Garry Fabian Miller and Adam Fuss, but by Pierre Cordier, Floris Neusuess, Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy, Edgar Lissel and many others practicing this sort of investigation in photographic emulsions. Interestingly they are specifically NOT related to emulsion scientists, perhaps it sounds too dry for the Art world, but their activities are very much like emulsion scientists. They do what has variously been called 'cameraless' or the 'antiquarian avant-garde' or (and I think this more likely to stick) 'concrete' photography.

See Lyle Rexer, Photograph's Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The NEw Wave in Old Processes (Harry N. Abrams, New York, 2002)

Beate Reese, Concrete Photography/Konkrete Fotografie (Kerber, Bielefeld, 2005)


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