Cecile Chevalier: multimedia PhD research

Cecile Chevalier, artist and lecturer in Media Practice at University of Sussex

Cecile Chevalier is an artist and lecturer in Media Practice at the University of Sussex. Her PhD research explores network memory embodied through interactive art installation.

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I am making these objects; testing, breaking and rebuilding them, and if they survive these experiments then I have these artefacts, these texts, that I am ready to let go for others to use and to engage with

Key points

  • The nature of PhD theses is changing - Cecile produces interactive installations which could never be captured in a traditional text-based thesis
  • She will be able to submit a portfolio of practice but will write a critical text thesis as well
  • Universities, and the British Library's EThOS service, must think about how such research outputs can remain accessible for future research to build on

Cécile looks at the way collective memories form on the Internet. She argues that memory has been transformed through digital computational technology - not just in the way our memories are stored but in the way we think about them. Her installations offer a space for people to think about memory, to express it through their bodies, leaving marks behind as they physically navigate the space.

Her PhD is made up of artworks including one based in Flickr using existing online methods, including tagging, to expose online memory navigation algorithms exploring how narratives are changed and developed. Another is a family album onto which she projects glitch videos triggered by QR codes. Through this she analyses how memory changes through tangible material digital transformations. She has also made a website to locate her research using Wix, a development platform for HTML websites.

Cecile Chevalier, artist and lecturer in Media Practice, University of Sussex

For Cécile one of the most challenging parts of completing her PhD has been finding ways to record her art practice. Interactive installations are living experiences, never still, constantly in flux, and therefore very difficult to record. Cécile is resolved that compromises must be made, through the use of video and photography documentation made available through her website, and recorded in her text thesis through hyperlinks - although these may become unavailable since Wix and Flickr are commercial companies whose services might change.

“Having installation art as an academic artefact that becomes still in an image, or seemingly moving in a video, is not live enough, knowledge in experience is lost, this is an issue for all live performance or spaces.“

Through practice research Cécile is reconsidering the thesis as portfolio – like many other practice PhD students. During her practice she did not think about the legacy of her work, as recorded in the thesis. She considers it a big enough challenge to make the artwork, and thinks there is a danger that being an artist and an archivist restricts imagination.

“When asked to write the thesis, I felt I was working with a new creative media that I was not used to expressing my concepts with. I had to make sense of new forms of materiality that theories and texts were offering in this space that was the portfolio. That was something I struggled with. For me these were materials and mechanism to another installation space, to my informal topology of memory from which I was attempting to represent ways in which network memory can move.”

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