Sally Waterman

Visualising The Waste Land: Discovering a praxis of adaptation
PhD Media and Photography (2004-2010) Completed 2010

My practice-based doctoral research examines the types of issues and visual processes that arise in the production of self-representations derived from literary texts. This has been investigated through the creation of a series of photographic and video installations based upon T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land (1922), which has allowed for the exploration and analysis into how literature functions as a reference to represent the self and autobiographical experience within my media arts practice.

The study therefore considers the relevance, usage and function of the literary text in the creation of these self-portraits in terms of what complexities become apparent when approaching a text and how these might be understood. Having positioned my practice outside of orthodox film adaptation, I have drawn upon appropriate contemporary case studies such as Chris Marker's multimedia installation Owls at Noon: The Prelude (2005), John Smith's film The Waste Land (1999) and Katie Mitchell's theatre production of Waves (2006) to illuminate different models of literary interpretation within alternative art contexts.

Identification with Eliot's later admission of the autobiographical nature of his work enabled the realization that these literary texts are used as a means of projection for visualising past traumatic experiences and operate as a form of displacement technique for the protection of a confessional practice. It was realised that I adopt an emotive approach to the source material, seeking out autobiographical attachments and affinity with particular themes, concepts or events within the text in order to create elusive self-portraits.

The research considers the employment of literary feminine metaphors within my work such as the preoccupation with boundaries and enclosure versus the fluidity and escapism represented by the landscape and sea, through visualisations of the self in autobiographical ‘waste-land-scapes'. Through the critical evaluation of my self-representational strategies, I was also able to detect recurrent tropes that I utilize within my work, such as ‘Self-transformation', ‘The Disembodied Self' and ‘Nostalgia and the Past', which led to the acknowledgement that the interplay between the revealing and concealing of the self through multiple, fragmentary methods parallels the deconstructive nature of my literary interpretations.

Image credits:

1. Rural Shadow Walks (Sea/Rock/Grave/Beach) (2006) Digital video projection, 6'
Based on Section I ‘The Burial of the Dead' from T. S Eliot's The Waste Land (1922)

2. Sermon: Vol.II Contemplation (I can connect nothing with nothing) (2008) 600x500 mm photograph with text
Based on Section III ‘The Fire Sermon' from T. S Eliot's The Waste Land (1922)

3. Sermon: Vol.III Disintegration (Unreal City) (2008) 600x500 mm photograph with text
Based on Section III ‘The Fire Sermon' from T. S Eliot's The Waste Land (1922)

4. The Deep Sea Swell (2009) Two-channel digital video projection, 1'30'
Based on Section IV ‘Death by Water' from T. S Eliot's The Waste Land (1922)