Last Skye Boat Song : the essay film in a maternal landscape : transitional phenomena in photographic practice in Aotearoa : an exegesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy, Fine Arts, Creative College of Arts Toi Rauwhārangi Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
This practice-based research enlists a performative photographic process, where both participation and re-staging of phenomena become primary modes of making a moving image work which draws its form from the essay film, as described within the field of visual arts. The central focus involves my lived experience as related through a contemporary feminist art practice and an exploration of my own maternal landscape – termed here in reference to that which is the familiar space and home of my children while also indicative of my internal landscape and psychology of creative practice. This project proposes the central premise that autotheoretical and maternal experience in the domestic space can offer an opportunity to experience ‘transitional phenomena’ conducive to forming an artwork and the articulation of a unique artistic process. A key focus of my research is the further articulation of methodologies employed in the making of narratives that sit within the expanded documentary fields in essay film and related photographic practices. Moreover, to explore how research material is collected via observational and phenomenological methods and the gestation and transposition of such material into constructed moving image works. This approach involves creating a socially-informed and personally invested moving image art work and examining both the historical and contemporary significances of this approach. This focus encompasses questions about the visibility of process, authorship and gender in film and cinematic aesthetics. It is informed by and draws on scholarship which acknowledges and elevates the site-responsive, discursive and intuitive elements of women’s art making and seeks to contribute to an ethos where mothering can be described as a practice unto itself and which has agency. The moving image work and research outcome Last Skye Boat Song takes as its departure point the singing of a lullaby for the last time and a conceptualising of the liminal space of mid to late-teenagehood. Apprehension, climate change, the housing crisis and ecological harm underpin the story of this work made over a set four year duration in the ‘closed down’ environment of the post Covid-19 outbreak in Aotearoa. At its heart are repetitious, cyclical and transitional observations made while navigating two parallel journeys. One into middle-age away from fertility and one during an initial and formative transgender transition.
autotheory, performative photography, maternal art practice, transitional phenomena, essay film