Lisa Barnard – Hyenas of the Battlefield

Lisa Barnard visiting lecturer 17 November 2014

Lisa’s latest book

Lisa gave us a great insight into how she developed her practice and exactly what is necessary to develop a niche for yourself and how she achieved this.

I realised within a few minutes that the lecture was going to be over my head, so I scribed what I could, with the intention of revisiting at my leisure.  The word Sublime was key to the lecture and I will be writing a separate journal about this word, suffice to say that my colloquial understanding of the meaning of this word was not relevant.

Lisa describes herself on Twitter as ‘Photographic artist Intetested in aesthetics, politics and war. Senior Lecturer in Documentary Photography, Newport, Wales.’  (Hope that is a typo and not another new word I don’t know.)

Following a confusing start, I joined the lecture at the point at which Lisa had received Arts Council funding for a year long project at the Unicorn Theatre in Tooley St, London, for an art based photography project.  She fixed a toya view 5 x 4 plate camera to the end of an aisle and photographed the children in low light, taking some 200 plus photos of which only 30 worked.  The eyes of the children are mesmerising as they watch the theatre production.     

Lisa referenced the work of Craigie Horsfield

(nominated The Turner Prize 1996, who photographs people and the environment, and describes his work as  as, “intimate in scale but its ambition is, uncomfortable as I find it, towards an epic dimension, to describe the history of our century, and the centuries beyond, the seething extent of the human condition.”[1] )

Bill Henson (Australian contemporary art photographer. His photographs’ use of bokeh is intended to give them a painterly atmosphere )

Tolarno Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

and Loretta Lux (an east German surreal photographer of children). The-Waiting-Girl-Loretta-Lux

Dorothea and the Cat 2006

She spoke about Nietzche, the birth of tragedy, the theatre, chaos and order, of Psychological Aesthetics (‘The psychology of art and aesthetics is the study of the perception and experience of art and of what is beautiful. Art is a human phenomenon, and therefore aesthetics is fundamentally a psychological process. Psychological aesthetics evolved from the study of aesthetics by philosophers such as Baumgarten and Kant. It was Gustav T. Fechner (see Foundational Works) who took aesthetics out of the realm of contemplative musings by developing rigorous procedures for studying the arts. He subjected beliefs derived from philosophical work, such as the golden section, to empirical investigation. Today, the psychology of art and aesthetics incorporates a host of different areas of study, including visual arts, music, literary reading, dance, cinema, and product design.’ taken from  and how the frame orders chaos.

Next Lisa spoke about a three week project interviewing and photographing Blue Star Moms, in Walnut Creek, LA, using a 6 x 7 Pentax camera, similar to a large 35mm.  These were mothers of military, who sent care packages to Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, She referenced Michael Moore’s film, Farenheit 9/11, which blamed women for kids joining the military.

See Lisa’s web site for photographs that she took of the contents of the packages against a black velvet  background.

Her next funded  project in Eastbourne, where she worked with a poet, produced postcards of the local Polish community.  These were given away at the station, where large typological portraits were hung, symbolising communication between the two communities.

There followed a project to record the then empty 32 Smith Square building, former home to the Conservative party, and believed, because of the layout of the building, to be synonymous with the demise of the party.  Professor Jeremy Till, Principal of St Martins and Vice Chancellor of the University of the Arts, London, referenced the 6 inches of power, the platform that Maggie Thatcher had built in the main rooms for addressing the faithful.

Lisa was inspired by Bertholt Brecht’s play Mother Courage, to become an activist, not to be immersed in the emotion of the performance, but to engage by working backstage.  The symbolism of the silver spoon brooch in the play prompted her photograph of the same.  The images of Maggie Thatcher stuck together, when separated and photographed referenced the repetition of Andy Warhol.  The Ghost of Maggie was shown alongside Simon Roberts’ work at the Co-op Building in Brighton in 2011, curated by Brighton Photo Biennale Fringe, the UK’s largest international photography festival.  Lisa also referenced Sarah James, professor at the UCL who lectures in the relationship between art and photography in the 21st century.

The building now houses the European Commission.

Keen to work in the US again,  and drawn towards the military, Lisa’s next project arose after listening to All in the Mind on radio 4, about virtual reality and drones.

Psychologist Skip Rizzo, director of Medical Virtual Reality at the Institute of Creative Technologies (ICT), University  of Southern California, conducts research into the design, development and evaluation of virtual reality (VR) systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment, treatment rehabilitation and resilience.  ICT is funded by the military and Lisa was given access to photograph in areas that the UK would not have allowed.

Drone pilots work with real images.  It has been established that continual exposure to the virtual programme, makes it seem more true than the real event.  More soldiers have died from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) piloting the drones, than have been killed in action.

Mary Cummings, associate professor in Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke university, USA is an expert on drone pilots and PTSD.  Lisa travelled to Pakistan to interview a number of victims of drones.  There are 900 companies involved in the production of drones.

Lisa referenced Professor Julian Stellabrass, lecturer photographer and art historian at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and curator of the Brighton photo Biennale 2008, and Eugenie Shinkle who researched the Technological of the Sublime, a combination of anxiety and boredom, originally an awareness of the limits of self.

Lisa reference the film style of Tom Gunning of the University of Chicago, and Peter Singer’s Wired for War, which explores how sci fi has started to play out on the modern day battle field.  Lisa’s work referenced the Thin Blue Line in her images of drone patterns and blue landscape, society from anarchy.   It is not possible to tell whether the landscape is US or Pakistan

She notes ‘The drone dominates both in its position as a hovering predator and in its control of the airwaves and the ‘speed’ of communication. This intimate relationship Paul Virilio describes as the ‘dromosphere’ (the sphere of speed), where the interface, the technology and the user is integrated. Stefan Decostere suggests that the ‘dromosphere’ “is a stadium for one person in which one is witness to the anamorphosis of speeded-up reality, an environment driven by technology in which one experiences the grotesque deformations of what we once called ‘reality’” .

Jameson notes how the crisis of alienation from this experience and anxiety gives way to the fragmentation of the subject, suggesting that,  “….the representation of space itself has come to be felt as incompatible with the representation of the body…..the world thereby momentarily loses its depth and threatens to become a glossy skin, a stereoscopic illusion, a rush of filmic images without density.”

These images are taken in collaboration with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and each landscape has embedded within it a set of statistics’

Lisa referenced the Marxist literary critic and political theorist Fredric Jameson, who suggests that technology can only be theorised through the category of the sublime. note 2.  Sharon made reference to the Brighton artist Anna Dumitriu, who specialises in bioart. Her installations, interventions and performances use digital, biological and traditional media.

The landscape is too much for humans to bear, and the famous saying from Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke

The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (referenced in the title of her book) is a 1964 work of literary criticism written by Leo Marx and published by Oxford University Press. The title of the book refers to a trope in American literature representing the interruption of pastoral scenery by technology due to the industrialization of America during the 19th and 20th century.

Lisa concludes with the ‘All seeing eye of imperialism, control the sky and you control the land.  The higher up you are, the more powerful, as illustrated in Foucault’s Panopticon, with the centrally based tower designed by Jeremy Bentham, and the control of prisoners.

Scary and hugely thought provoking work.


Turner Prize History: Craigie Horsfield Accessed April 15, 2006[

2 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, London 1991, p.38.


Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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