2009-03-10

Sassello January 2009 #19. A sense of place part 2


De Chirico, Proust and Mark Meyer


Yesterday's post from Mark Meyer's site cites Proust's "The Guermantes".
I went on this topic a few months ago reading "Fotografia e pittura nel Novecento" a remarkable book on History of Photography by Claudio Marra.
Marra goes on the question of the profound influence photography had on Art in general at the beginning of twentieth century. Interestingly he reports the parallelism with a De Chirico's writing:

Let us take an example: I enter a room and see a man seated on a chair, hanging from the ceiling I see a cage with a canary in it, on a wall I notice pictures, and on the shelves, books. All this strikes me, but does not amaze me, since the chain of memories that links one thing to another explains the logic of what I see. But let us suppose for a moment and for reasons that are inexplicable and independent of my will, the thread of this chain is broken, who knows how I would see the seated man, the cage, the pictures, the bookshelves; who knows [what astonishment], what terror and perhaps what sweetness and consolation I would feel when contemplating the scene.
But the scene would not have changed, it would be I who would see it from a different angle. And here we arrived at the metaphysical aspect of things.


You can find the original article here.

The translation is a bit harsh. Here is the Italian one:

Io entro in una stanza, vedo un uomo seduto su una seggiola, dal soffitto vedo pendere una gabbia con dentro un canarino, sul muro scorgo dei quadri, in una biblioteca dei libri; tutto ciò mi colpisce, non mi stupisce poichè la collana dei ricordi che si allacciano l'un l'altro mi spiega la logica di ciò che vedo; ma ammettiamo per un momento e per cause inspiegabili e indipendenti dalla mia volontà si spezzi il filo di tale collana, chissa come vedrei l'uomo seduto, la gabbia, i quadri la biblioteca; chissà quale stupore quale terrore e forse anche quale dolcezza e quale consolazione proverei io mirando quella scena. La scena però non sarebbe cambiata, sono io che la vedrei sotto un altro angolo. Eccoci all'aspetto metafisico delle cose.


The interesting thing among these writings is the clear understanding of what is "Visual Thinking" and how it can be made conscious. In general I think that an equivalent in photography, albeit more primitive, is the "to stop thinking" reported by various Photographers.

As for myself I tend to define it as the "Metaphysical experiment". You can do it by yourself looking at something familiar and loosening the process of meaning attribution the the objects. Just see them plainly to paraphrase one of my preferred Contemporary Landscape Artist.

1 comment:

Mark Meyer said...

Yes, I hear 'stop thinking' frequently, and I think the sentiment is right, but the phrase is a little imprecise because we don't have a better word for what really happens--one certainly hasn't really stopped thinking. When I was involved with music, coaches and teachers would often say things like 'let go' or 'get out of the way of the music,' which meant, I think, the same thing that photographers mean when they say stop thinking. The parallel between the Proust and De Chirico is striking, thanks for pointing it out.