art, ideology

Since I’m currently working through the birth of the photographic discourse, this seems like I good article to look at… I haven’t had an opportunity to read any Badiou, but the early discussions of the nature of photography, its status as an index of reality, as well as its questionable status as a fine art, seems to resonate with his statement 1 in the abstract: art is not ideology. Thinking about the act of making art, the ways in which we attempt to theorize art, and the established ideology that dictates its reception- there certainly must be some food for thought in here.

Progressive Geographies

 178webcoverCommentary: Resisting Resilience, Mark Neocleous

Article: Extraction, logistics, finance Global crisis and the politics of operations – Sandro Mezzadra  and Brett Neilson

Article: An introduction to Françoise Collin’s ‘Name of the father’, Penelope Deutscher

Article: Name of the Father, ‘One’ of the Mother: From Beauvoir to Lacan, With introduction by Penelope Deutscher – Françoise Collin

Article: An introduction to Alain Badiou’s ‘The autonomy of the aesthetic process’, Bruno Bosteels

Article: The Autonomy of the Aesthetic Process, With introduction by Bruno Bosteels – Alain Badiou

Reviews and obituaries of Eric Hobsbawm and Mary McIntosh

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only connect

One two different fronts I’m engaging Deleuze and Deleuze and Guattari. In my reading group, I am rereading Anti-Oedipus; with my co-conspirator, I’m slogging through Difference and Repetition. I’m sure this intense intellectual preoccupation has nothing to do with the fact that I’m reading D and D & G in nearly every essay on Photography…

Take, for example, Man Ray :
“For what can be more binding amongst beings than the discovery of a common desire? And what can be more inspiring to action than the confidence aroused by a lyric expression of this desire? From the first gesture of a child pointing to an object and simply name it, but with a world of intended meaning, to the developed mind that creates an image whose strangeness and reality stirs our subconscious to its inmost depths, the awakening of desire is the first step to participation and experience.”

or maybe this:

“No plastic expression can ever be more than a residue of an experience. The recognition of an image that has tragically survived an experience, recalling the event more or less clearly, like the undisturbed ashes of an object consumed by flames…”

or maybe even this:

“Each one of us, in his timidity, has a limit beyond which he is outraged. It is inevitable that he who by concentrated application has extended this limit for himself, should around the resentment of those who have accepted conventions which, since accepted by all, require no initiative of application. And this resentment generally takes the form of meaningless laughter or of criticism, if not of persecution. But this apparent violation is preferable to the monstrous habits condoned by etiquette and estheticism.”

What seems more germane is perhaps the spirit in which Man Ray is writing, one that embodies the same spirit of Deleuze (and yes, Guattari too, but I find I respond more to D’s thinking in general.) In each case, each quote recalls moments of the above two texts I’m reading. As Deleuze puts forward a new kind or orientation towards the material world, the virtual and pure difference as a way to get outside of a dogmatic image of thought, D & G continue this orientation through schizoanalysis and the embrace of the schizo’s way of moving through the world. Both instances argue for a need to move beyond representation and the eventual labeling and categorization that makes the adoption of habits or the ‘illegitimate’ synthesis so damaging.

Regardless, it seems that everywhere I look, I see the spirit of Deleuze’s thinking. As I was talking with my friend last night, finding these ‘minor’ voices/positions seems like a pretty productive line as I pull together the dominant lines of the history of photographic discourse.

Down with doxa!

Continuing the historical journey of early photographic discourse, I’ve happened upon another gem which oozes with Deleuze’s (sorry- couldn’t resist…) thinking in chapter 3, “Image of Thought” in Difference and Repetition. I’ll not go into the details of D’s railing against common sense and good sense, presuppositions, representation and recognition, etc. Instead, I’ll just give a  few snippets of an article, “Hints on Art,” by Peter Henry Emerson. Writing in the 1880’s, Emerson was a strong proponent for photography as an art form- in a multiplicity of styles. He established himself both as a photographer and a writer, and often judged photographic exhibitions, quietly and subversively shifting the photographic plane.

“Never compete for prizes for ‘set subjects,’ for work of this kind leads to working from preconceived ideas, and therefore to conventionality, false sentiment, and vulgarity.”

“Remember that the original state of the minds of the uneducated men is vulgar, you now know why vulgar and commonplace works please the majority. Therefore, educate your mind, and fight the hydra-headed monster – vulgarity. Seize on any aspect of nature that pleases you and try and interpret it, and ignore – as nature ignores – all childish rules, such as that the lens should work only when the sun shines or when no wind blows.”

“Do not call yourself an ‘artist-photographer’ and make ‘artist-painters’ and ‘artist-sculptors’ laugh; call yourself a photographer and wait for artists to call you brother.”
“Pay no heed to the average photographer’s remarks upon ‘flat’ and ‘weak’ negatives. Probably he is flat, weak, stale and unprofitable; your negative may be first-rate, and probably his if he does not approve of it.”

of course, Deleuze would seize on Emerson’s own dogmatic image of thought that he puts forward, so eager to label, to identify, with a medium and presupposed attendant ontology and ideology; eager to dismiss the poor sense of the average public, so knowledgeable and superior in his own good sense of aesthetic judgement.

photographic plane

I’m currently doing a little research on the emergence of the discourse of photography. In the early years of the formation of its concepts, the discipline and explication of its ontological nature, two threads have consistently created movement in the overall plane, those celebrating it indexical nature of reality- a faithful reproduction of the world; as well as the creative, magical moments of the automaticity of the light sensitive element and the desire to establish it as an art form in its own right.

One of the earliest voices theorizing its emergence, importance as an invention for the sciences and its lack of artistic integrity was Lady Eastlake. She had a literary background and embarked on a career in writing about arts and photography. Her published article, Photography, has a particularly wonderful snippet of the differing attitudes apparent in the circulating discourses.

Speaking of the stereoscope, she insists that the invention of photography has made the value of stereoscope clear. What’s more, only photography has any business of illustrating this phenomenon, “A few diagrams, of sufficient identity and difference to prove the truth of the principle, might have been constructed by hand for the gratification of a few sages, but no artist is it to be hoped, could have been found possessing the requisite ability and stupidity to execute the two portraits, or two groups, or two interiors, or two landscapes, identical in every minutia of the most elaborate detail, and yet differing in every point of view by the inch between two human eyes, by which the principle is brought to the level of any capacity.”

Actually, I think that sounds like a pretty fantastic conceptual art piece.