PHOTOGRAPHIES & CONFLICT: Archiving and Consuming Images of Strife
5th International Conference of Photography and Theory (ICPT2018)
International Association of Photography and Theory (IAPT)
Famagusta Gate, Nicosia, Cyprus 22 to 24 November 2018
Still Framing: The Buffer Zone as a Modern Ruin
Joint paper with Stuart Moore
The presentation considers the UN buffer zone in Cyprus as a ‘ruined artefact’, reflecting the growing scholarly interest in ‘modern ruins’ – declined urban environments and derelict spaces – that the human geographers DeSilvey and Edensor refer to as Ruinenlust (2012). Drawing additionally on Brian Dillon’s 2011 survey of the modern ruin as an ambivalent locus of modernism, memory, and the cultural afterlife of eras such as those of state communism and colonialism, this paper uses our practice research project, Father-land, as a case study for identifying the dynamic interrelationship between memories of a place of conflict and the photographic strategies used in location film-making.

The Father-land project began with a month-long artist residency in Nicosia, the principal output being a collaborative essay film that investigates notions of home and (dis)placement in the divided island of Cyprus through the film-makers’ memories and their encounters with the material traces of the urban landscape along the southern edge of the buffer zone. Political and social histories, the legacies of colonialism, occupation, and the Cold War, resonate culturally and also biographically for the authors, as both had childhood links with Cyprus through fathers stationed there with the Royal Air Force.

The principal photographic strategy was to use static framing, with the camera fixed on a tripod. The stasis of the ‘locked off’ view enables the audience the space for quiet contemplation of the buffer zone, this monument to a silenced history, whose ‘falling-down-ness’ embodies post-colonial detritus and conveys an uneasy prescience of a potential post-apocalyptic future. The choice of the filming style developed on location: the un-moving frame was an artistic response to the experience of the ‘suspended animation’ of the (apparently) unchanging buffer zone. Laura Rascaroli argues that the ‘radical disjunction’ of the essay film’s scattered parts is opposed to the suturing of the documentary (2017). Father-land does not seek to provide answers, rather, forms a container for an unresolved exchange of memories, feelings and thoughts.

The residency allowed us to venture into unexplored regions of shared, but separate, histories. To make sense of our collective past, we drew on formative experiences of both being ‘RAF children’, uprooted from one country to another – patriarchal baggage moved by the forces of neo-colonialism. This period of quiet reflection was inflected by the uneasy stasis of the unresolved conflict which tore the island in two over forty years ago, and the ruins of the past.

The project was supported through the artist residency programme facilitated and funded jointly by the Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre (NiMAC, associated with the Pierides Foundation), Republic of Cyprus, and the research group for Land/Water and the Visual Arts, School of Art, Design and Architecture, at University of Plymouth, UK.

DeSilvey, C. and Edensor, T. (2012) ‘Reckoning with Ruins’ Progress in Human Geography Volume 37 Issue 4 (November 2012). pp. 465-485.
Dillon, B. (ed.) (2011) Ruins. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press and Whitechapel Gallery.
Rascaroli, L. (2017) How the Essay Film Thinks. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.