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.

Representing the ineffable; or, the photograph as haecceity

Yet again. Still. Continuing a line… I seem to be stuck in this photographic line that will inform a key argument in my dissertation topic. Going into the dissertation, I knew that photography would be important to the topic. I mean, Google Street View is a veritable photographic plane. Within the last month or so, however, I’ve come to realize how important the history of the photographic discourse will be in relation to not only an organization of user practices, but also the conceptual framework in which to locate my own critical voice. Previously, I was trying to give the uses of GSV adequate attention, and I found that my voice got in the way. But keeping it out seemed like too much ‘reportage’. And while I appreciate Latour’s work and what it has to offer, I think I was too close to ‘letting the actors speak’, part of a larger problem of Methods. I still think it’s important, but I found myself sitting in front of pages and pages of text saying, ‘so?’, and unable to write anymore.

I think it was an article by Sekula that I happened to come across, along the line of ‘invention of photographic meaning’. I don’t know why I was reading it, but it was in a collection of essays in a book that needed to go back to the library. I was already thinking about the concepts that were being challenged by using GSV, the truth claims of the photograph, conducting research based on the photograph, who was the artist in the artistic uses of GSV, etc. Since I was already familiar with the history of photography, I knew that there has been persistent discussion of the veracity of the photograph, as well as its uncertain status as a ‘fine art’. So when I ran across this essay by Sekula- suddenly everything started to fall into place and how the user practices could be organized along the documentation line and the fine art line.

But then. What really helped things fall into place was recalling one of the dominant points of What is Philosophy, and the importance of the philosophical, scientific and artistic planes. Each discipline has its own unique plane and concepts, but each inform the other planes in different ways. The result is not a hybrid, of course, but rather points of intersection in which each of the planes takes up the problem in different ways. Both the scientific and artistic plane has taken up the problem of GSV in its own unique way. My project thus takes up the problem on the philosophic plane. In true fashion, this problem has no solution. Solutions can be found of course, but what fun would that be, and what would that say about the question posed?

Of course, I started this post thinking I would talk about a quote by Strand, in which he describes Stieglitz’s photographs, and his description has remarkable resonances with Deleuze’s articulation of pure difference, or the haecceity. But the problem: the photograph is a representation of that moment, not the moment itself. So instead, I’ll bookmark this thought and elaborate in part 2.

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.