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University of Connecticut University Libraries

Selections from A Short History of Portraiture Photographs
by Robert Seydel

"Mechanical Head in Revolution"

Click Here to see selected works by
Robert Seydel

Robert Seydel received his BFA from New York University in 1984 and earned an MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1990. Mr. Seydel's background includes extensive curatorial and editorial assignments, and his work has been displayed in galleries in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington. He has taught at both the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts. Currently, he lives and works in Amherst, Massachusetts and teaches at Hampshire College.

A Short History of Portraiture is an archive of sorts, the first part of a much larger project modeled upon the idea of a contemporary Canterbury Tales. It is a kind of Tale of the Collector, whose lineaments can be read between the lines, as it were, of his gathered horde.

The selections from the Short History presented in this exhibit are best approached by emphasizing the two primary activities that bear most upon its production. First, the activity of the Collector himself; a pedant by nature, this Collector is devoted not only to his portraits, and to the myriad forms by which they have been represented, but also to books of divers sorts. The somewhat odd and endless Sections into which he divides his History, his shuffling of figures across innumerable conceptual categories, represents a psychology that has learned the psychoanalytical game of substitution to near perfection.

The second activity to be addressed defines procedure. By looking at cave paintings and bone inscriptions, paleontologist Alexander Marshack has defined a system of writing based on the employment of previous marks to generate, on the same object, secondary and tertiary markings. Marshack calls this multilayered writing system "the concept of variable image use and reuse." This concept holds a key to the Short History; images therein have been taken as texts, and added to. The act consists of a form of overwriting, like a type of Hebrew midrash or creative interpretation. The pictures themselves are meant as thoughts made, in the sense that they express an interest not in experience per se, but in the thinking that the visual image can contain.

Artist's Statement

Dodd Research Center, West Gallery
Curator: Rutherford Witthus