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David Taylor Talk 170212

-Idea of Americaness as manifested in US Western landscape: self-reliant, independent.

-Photography as tool to portray rugged identity of West.

-Truth vs. myth of photography, especially in construction of identity.-West as means of lloking back at traditional landscaope e.g. Ansel Adams

-Photographic mutability: As hermetic vehicle, containing essence of object, thus defining our impression of its subject. (How images are recalled in our mind when certain words are said)

-Place = Space + History. E.g. Tseng Kwong Chi ‘Ambiguous Ambassadors’


Roland Bathes: Camera Lucida: Chapter 5

It can happen that I am observed without knowing it, and again I cannot speak of this experience, since I have determined to be guided by the consciousness of my feelings. But very often (too often, to my taste) I have been photographed and knew it. Now, once I feel myself observed by the lens, everything changes: I constitute myself in the process of ‘posing’, I instantaneously make another body for myself, I transform myself in advance into an image. This transforamtion is an active one: I feel that the Phtotgrpah creates my body or mortifies it, according to its caprice (apology of this mortiferous power: certain Communards paid with their lives for their willingness or even their eagerness to pose on the barricades: defeated, they were recognized by Thiers’s police and shot, almost everyone).

Posing in front of the lens (I mean: knowing I am posing, even fleetingly), I do not rsik so much asthat (at least, not for the moemnt). No doubt it is metaphorically that I derive my existence from the photographer. But though this dependence is an imaginary one (and from the purest image-repertoire), I experience it with the anguish of an uncertain filiation: an image – -my iamge – -wil be generated: wil I be born from an antipathetic indivdual or form a ‘good sort’? If only I could ‘ come out’ on paper as on a classical canvas, endowed with a noble expression – thought ful, intelligent, etc.! In short, if I could be ‘painted’ (by Titian) or drawn (by Clouet)! But since what I want to have captured is a delicate moral texture and not a mimicry, and since Photography is anything but subtle except in the hands of the very greatest portraitists, I don’t know how to work upon my skin from within. I decide to ‘let drift’ over my lips and in my eyes a faint smilewhich I meant to be ‘indefinable,’ in which I might suggest, along with the qualities of my nature, my amused consciousness of the whole photographic ritual: I lend myself to the social game, I pose, I know I am posing, I want you to know that I am posing, but (to square the circle) this additional message must in no way alter the precious esence of my indivdiuality: what I am, apart from any effigy. What I want, in short, is that my (mobile) image, buffeted among a thousand shifting photographs, altering with situation and age, should always coincide with my (profound) ‘self’; but it is the contrary that must be said: ‘myself’ never coincides with my image; for it is the image which is heavy, motionless, stubborn (which is why society sustains it), and ‘myself’ which is light, divided, dispersed;  like a bottle-imp, ‘myself’ doesn’t hold still, giggling in my jar: if only Photography could give me a neutral, anatomic body, a body which signifies nothing! Alas, I am doomed by (well-meaning) Photography always to have an expression: my body never finds its  zero degree, no one can give it to me (perhaps only my mother? For it is not indifference which erases the weight of the image – the Photomat always turns you into a criminal type, wanted by the police – but love, extreme love).

… …

Ben Cohen talk 180112

Blog vs. Online Magazine: Blog is not beholden to previous manifestations of technology.

Platform (print/web) vs. Genre (Catalog/ magazine/ blog)

Blogs to check out!: Joanne Mattera Art Blog, Two Coats of Paint

Blog: Something that responds to external events, low-key.

Tweet: Something witty, funny, not too conceptual. Announces presence.

Blogger (Responsiblity to artwork, artist, audience; Good representation of artist, not personal opinion; Nuanced analytical approach, overview) vs. Blogger (Personal taste, agenda)

Art criticism Crisis: Lack of memory from previous generation. Check out Rafael Rubenstein ‘Critical Mass’.

Revisionism vs. Repression: Teaching minor suppressed figures vs. teaching major figures only.


Rolan Barthes: Camera Lucida: Chapter 4

So I make myself the measure of photographic ‘knowledge’. What does my body know of Photography? I observed that a photograph can be the object of three practices (or of three emotions, or of three intentions): to do, to undergo, to look. The Operator is the Photographer. The Spectator is ourselves, all of us who glance through collections og photographs – in magazines and newspapers, in books, albums, archives … And the person or thing photographed is the target, the referent, a kind of little simulacrum, any eidolon emitted by the object, which I should like to call the Spectrum of the Photograph, because this word retains, through its root, a relation to ‘spectacle’ and adds to it that rather terrible thing which is there in every photograph: the return of the dead.

One of these practices was barred to me and I was not to investigate it: I am not a photographer, not even an amateur photographer: too impatient for that: I must see right away what I have produced (Polaroid? Fun, but disappointing, except when a great photographer is involved). I might suppose that the Operator’s emotion (and consequently the essence of Photography-according-to-the-Photographer) had some relation to the ‘little hole’ (stenope) through which he looks, limits, frames, and perspectivizes when he wants to ‘take’ (to surprise). Technically, Photography is at the intersection of two quite distinct procedures; one of a chemical order: the action of light on certain substances; the other of a physical order: the formation of the image through an optical device. It seemed to me that the Spectator’s Photograph descended essentially, so to speak, from the chemical’s revelation of the object (from which I received, by deferred action, the rays), and that the Operator’s Photograph, on the contrary, was linked to the vision framed by the keyhole of the camera obscura. But of that emotion (or of that essence) I could not speak, never having experienced it; I could not join the troupe of those (majority) who dealt with Photography-according-to-the-Photographer. I possessed only two experiences: that of the observed subject and that of the subject observing…

Roland Barthes: Camera Lucida: Chapter 2

Who could help me?

From the first step, that of classification (we must surely classify, verify by samples, if we want to constitute a corpus), Photography evades us. The various distributions we impose upon it are in fact either empirical (Professionals/ Amateurs), or rhetorical (Landscapes/ Objects/ Portraits/ Nudes), or else aesthetic (Realism/ Pictorialism), in any case external to the object, without relation to its essence, which can only be (if it exists at all) the New of which it has been the advent; for these classifications might very well be applied to other, older forms of representation. We might say that Photography is unclassifiable. Then I wondered what the source of this disorder might be.

The first thing I found was this. What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the PHotograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially. In the Photograph, the event is never transcended for the sake of something else: the Photograph always leads the corpus I need back to the body I see; it is the absolute Particular, the sovereign Contingency, matte and somehow stupid, the This (this photograph, and not Photography), in short, what Lacan calls the Tuche, the Occasion, the Encounter, the Real, in its indefatigable expression. In order to designate reality, Buddhism says sunya, the void; but better still: tathata, as Alan Watts has it, the fact of being this, og being thus, of being so; tat means that in Sanskrit and suggests the gesture of the child pointing his finger at something and saying: that, there it is, lo! but says nothing else; a photograph cannot be transformed (spoken) philosophically, it is wholly ballasted by the contingency of which it is the weightless, transparent envelope. Show your photographs to someone – he will immediately show you his: ‘Look, this is my brother, this is me as a child,’ etc.; the Photograph is never anything but an anticipation of ‘Look,’ ‘See,’ ‘Here it is’; it points a finger at certain vis-a-vis, and cannot escape this pure deictic language. This is why, insofar as it is licit to speak of a photograph, it seemed to me just as improbable to speak of the Photograph.

A specific Photograph, in effect is never distinguished from its referent (from what it represents), or at least it is not immediately or generally distinguished from its referent ( as is the case for every other image, encumbered – from the start, and because of its status – by the wa in which the object is simulated): it is not impossible to perceive the photographic signifier (certain professionals do so), but it requires a secondary action of knowledge or of reflection. By nature, the Photograph (for convenience’s sake, let us accept this universal, which for the moment refers only to the tireless repetition of contingency) has something tautological about it: a pipe, here, is always and intractably a pipe. It is as if the Photograph always carries its referent with itself, both affected by the same amorous or funeral immobility, at the very heart of the moving world: they are glued together, limb by limb, like the condemned man and the corpse in certain tortures; or even like those pairs of fish (sharks, I think, according to Michelet) which navigate in convoy, as though united by an internal coitus. The Photograph belongs to that class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying them both: the windowpane and the landscape, and why not: Good and Evil, desire and its object: dualities ew can conceive but not perceive (I didn’t yet know that this stubbornness of the Referent in always being there would produce the essence I was looking for).

This fatality (no photographs without something or someone) involves Photography in the vast disorder of objects – of al the objects in the world: why choose (why photograph) this object, this moment, rather than some other? Photography is unclassifiable because there is no reason to mark this or that of its occurrences; it aspires, perhaps to become as crude, as certain, as noble as a sign, which would afford it access to the dignity of a language: but for there to be a sign there must be a mark; deprived of a principle of marking, photographs are signs which don’t take, which turn, as milk does. Whatever it grants to vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible: it is not it that we see.

In short, the referent adheres. And this singular adherence makes it very difficult to focus on Photography. The books which deal with it, much less numerous moreover than for any other art, are victims of this difficulty. Some are technical; in order to ‘see’ the photographic signifier, they are obliged to focus at very close range. Others are historical or sociological; in order to observe the total phenomenon of the Photograph, these are obliged to focus at a great distance. I realised with irritation that none discussed precisely the photographs which interest me, which gave me pleasure or emotion. What did I care about the rules of composition of the photographic landscape, or, at the other end, about the Photograph as a family rite? Each time I would read something about Photography, I would think of some photograph I loved, and this made me furious. Myself, I saw only the referent, the desired object, the beloved body; but an importunate voice (the voice of knowledge, of scientia) then adjured me, in a severe tone: ‘Get back to Photography. What you are seeing here and what makes you suffer belongs to the category “Amateur Photographs,” dealt with by a team of sociologists, nothing but the trace of a social protocol of integration, intended to reassure the Family, etc.’ Yet I persisted; another, louder voice urged me to dismiss such sociological commentary; looking at certain photographs, I wanted to be a primitive, without culture. So I went on, not daring to reduce the world’s countless photographs, any more than to extend several of mine to Photography: in short, I found myself at an impasse and, so to speak, ‘scientifically’ alone and disarmed.

Photography: A Little Summa by Susan Sontag

1. Photography is, first of all, a way of seeing. It is not seeing itself.

2. It is the ineluctably ‘modern’ way of seeing – prejudiced in favour of projects of discovery and innovation.

3. This way of seeing, which now has a long history, shapes what we look for and are used to noticing in photographs.

4. The modern way of seeing is to see in fragments. It is felt that reality is essentially unlimited, and knowledge is open-ended. It follows that all boundaries, all unifying ideas have to be misleading, demagogic; at best, provisional; almost always, in the long run, untrue. To see reality in the light of certain unifying ideas has the undeniable advantage of giving shape and form to our experience. But it also – so the modern way of seeing instructs us – denies the infinite variety and complexity of the real. Thereby it represses our energy, indeed our right, to remake what we wish to remake – our society, our selves. What is liberating, we are told, is to notice more and more.

5. In a modern society, images made by cameras are the principal access to realities of which we have no direct experience. And we are expected to receive and to register an unlimited number of images of what we don’t directly experience. The camera defines for us what we allow to be ‘real’ – and it continually pushes forward the boundary of the real. Photographs are particularly admired if they reveal hidden truths about themselves or less than fully reported social conflicts in societies both near and far from where the viewer lives.

6. In the modern way of knowing, there have to be images for something to become ‘real’. photographs identify events. photographs confer importance on events and make them memorable. For a war, an atrocity, a pandemic, a so-called natural disaster to become a subject of large concern, it has to reach people through the various systems (from television and the internet to newspapers and magazines) that diffuse photographic images to millions.

7. In the modern way of seeing, reality is first of all appearance – which is always changing. A photograph records appearance. The record of photography is the record of change, of the destruction of the past. Being modern (and if we have the habit of looking at photographs, we are by definition modern), we understand all identities to be constructions. The only irrefutable reality – and our best clue to identity – is how people appear.

8. A photograph is a fragment – a glimpse. We accumulate glimpses, fragments. All of us mentally stock hundreds of photographic images, subject to instant recall. All photographs aspire to the condition of being memorable – that is, unforgettable.

9. In the view that defines us as modern, there are an infinite number of details. Photographs are details. Therefore, photographs seem like life. To be modern is to live, entranced, by the savage autonomy of the detail.

10. To know, first of all, is to acknowledge. Recognition is the form of knowledge that is now identified with art. The photographs of the terrible cruelties and injustices that afflict most people in the world seem to be telling us – we who are privileged and relatively safe – that we should be aroused; that we should want something done to stop these horrors. And then there are photographs that seem to invite a different kind of attention. For this ongoing body of work, photography is not a species of social or moral agitation , meant to prod us to feel and to act, but an enterprise of notation. We watch, we take note, we acknowledge. This is a cooler way of looking. This is the way of looking we identify as art.

11. The work of some of the best socially engaged photographers is often reproached if it seems too much like art. And photography understood as art may incur a parallel reproach – that it deadens concern. It shows us events and situations and conflicts that we might deplore, and ask us to be detached. It may show us something truly horrifying and be a test of what we can bear to look at and are supposed to accept. Or often – this is true of a good deal of the most brilliant contemporary photography – it invites us to stare at banality. To stare at banality is also to relish it, drawing on the very developed habits of irony that are affirmed by the surreal juxtapositions of photographs typical of sophisticated exhibitions and books.

12. Photography – the supreme form of travel, of tourism – is the principal modern means for enlarging the world. As a branch of art, photography’s enterprise of world enlargements tends to specialize in the subjects felt to be challenging, transgressive. A photograph may be telling us: this too exists. And that. And that. (And it is all ‘human’.) But what are we to do with this knowledge – if indeed it is knowledge, about, say, the self, about abnormality, about ostracised or clandestine worlds?

13. Call it knowledge, call it acknowledgement – of one thing we can be sure, about this distinctively modern way of experiencing anything: the seeing, and the accumulation of fragments of seeing, can never be completed.

14. There is no final photograph.

Dilonardo, Paolo, Anne Jump eds. At the Same Time: Essays & Speeches. New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 2007.

Talk by Charles Traub

-Cinema/ AV appeals directly to the senses/ emotions/ the mind. This is unlike language which depends on mental attention.

-Art: Appeal to the senses, accessible even when abstract. Human perception: Unified across cultural differences etc.

-Representations of realities: filmic & photographic. How does medium/ technique affect the rendition of reality? Impose own form on reality: real time vs. reel time.

-Vision through works. Market images/ text to galleries/ magazines.

Check out Rudolf Arnheim!