Staging memories: the imagined city through the mise-en-scène of photography

Chu, Y.H. 2011. Staging memories: the imagined city through the mise-en-scène of photography. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design

TitleStaging memories: the imagined city through the mise-en-scène of photography
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsChu, Y.H.

This practice-based research arises from the experience of travelling between different cities, which induces a state wherein perceptions of the physical environment are overlaid with memories. The physical space that reflects actual light into one’s eyes is transformed, through and across the spaces one remembers, imagines or fantasises, into what I call the ‘imagined city’. ‘Staging memories’ takes mise en scène beyond its associations with staging technique, developing it as a methodology for representing and experiencing the imagined city.

This research takes three key elements as its starting point: the city, subjectivity and photography. The research project is structured in such a way that the written thesis and the photographic practice intersect. Firstly, the concept of the imagined city is established through an account of the experience of watching the same film in different contexts, with the imagined city emerging as a transitional phenomenon belonging to the gap between the physical environment of the city and psychical space of the individual. Secondly, the research draws on theoretical debates about the relationship between subjectivity and the city, and explores different aspects of ‘mise en scène(ing) the imagined city’. Thirdly, through the practice of mise en scène, I examine the medium of photography as a technology of memory in relation to the imagined city.

The intention of the written research and the related photographic projects is not to provide any definitive answers but rather to establish a model of practice that offers a particular way of perceiving the physical environment of the city. The process of mise en scène is pivotal to the conjuring of the imagined city. The end results, the photographic images, are treated as souvenirs, embodying authentic experiences of the imagined city, and opening up sites for the play of desire.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
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