Subjectivity in Portraiture


“The portrait is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the artist thinks I am and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.”

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida.

In Barthes ‘closed field of forces’, the intentions of the artist and sitter come into conflict. Once the resulting portrait is presented to the viewer a third subjectivity comes into play, creating a vibrant trialogue of interpretation, intent, meaning and difference. Can any participant in this trialogue claim neutrality? Does an artist’s desire for neutrality immediately prevent its achievement? What role can modern tools of artistic creation play in the quest for neutrality? Moving image/video artists are invited to respond to this theme with new work, or work made in the last 5 years, that explores subjectivity in portraiture, through video art, short film and/or documentary film-making.


This open call is the first stage of putting together a programme of short films that can then be screened at venues throughout the UK and Europe starting in early June 2009. The programme will consist of applicants from the open competition alongside selected films that explore the aforementioned theme. The submission panel will consist of artists, curators, film-makers and film producers, including representatives from the Tate and the BBC. Dependent on financial conditions, we will attempt to cover all participating artists’ travel expenses (within the UK) for the opening screening (which is likely to take place in East London). There is no entry fee. All personal copyright remains with the artists. A series of artists talks will accompany the programme, successful artists will be expected to take part in these events.


The submission deadline is May 31st 2009. The first screening at a London venue is planned for July/Aug 2009.


All films must have been made since the January 1st 2004 and must be under 10 minutes in length. Films must be innovative and original, have a solid conceptual foundation and be aesthetically engaging. There is space on this application form for abridged artist statements and CVs, however these will take a backseat during the judging process, with originality of ideas, use of the medium and conceptual rigour being the most important factors. Up to 3 films per person are permitted – please complete a separate application form for each one. For technical requirements, please see below.

Submission information

If submitting by email, please send this completed form (inc. a URL where your video can be viewed to:

If submitting a DVD by post, please email this form to the above address and post your DVD – marked clearly with your name and email address – to:

The Neutral – Submissions
110 Scylla Road
London, SE15 3RZ

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