A separate reality
“This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.” Taken from "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas AdamsIn the last post I've made some remarks about the status of a picture with regard to its genesis. Looking back I think that I need to make some adjustments to what may seem, otherwise taken, a gigantic naivete. A picture, or a photo, has its own reality as an artefact. Itself a picture defines a space. Its own, the one enclosed in its boundaries. As such a photo may be considered an endpoint to a process of production. At least this is what is implied by “having a purpose” or being “finalized”. A photo, however, is not exactly a finite object, it is, so to say, only one half of it. What remains is to be supplied by the viewer along the different, implied, reading axis. More, in our times, the support is no longer needed to have some very large circulation. Loosing its body has photography lost its finalization ? I'm not sure of this. Browsing trough photography blogs there seems to be a recognizable nostalgia of the print on one side and “a not totally clear” onto the other, but the line is starting to get clearer demarcating the former photographer's approach to the Internet as a device to point to something else living outside (the prints) from the ones that are interested in exploiting directly the media as a transport device for the, now incorporeal, exchange of little pieces of space. But just to divagate from a theme ways too hot for this summer there is an other interesting question rising up laterally. Once we start to consider that of a picture a space of its own we are opening the possibility to explore it visually. This metalevel has been achieved in the early times of photography itself. The Alinari where among the first to make a successful and profitable use of photography in representing pictorial spaces. In recent times Richard Prince had a vast media exposure on the question of reuse (aka explorations, or appropriation) of ready made visual artefacts. Back in the seventies, when conceptual art was made, many photographers worked on the theme of reuse and exploration of the two dimensional world of past or utilitarian imaging. I suppose that each of those in my age has got some kind of inspiration from that. The “not Art” applied to photography at the time, however, relegated those quests to the oblivion. So it is with great appreciation that I salute a bold move from a small Italian Art Gallery: “The Studio Glenda Cinquegrana”, based in Milan, that is trying to promote, not without merits, the works from a young Artist who is focusing, mainly, for my knowledge, on the “flatlands” of past landscape painting.
"When the real world changes into simple images, simple images become real beings and effective motivations of a hypnotic behavior. The spectacle as a tendency to make one see the world by means of various specialized mediations (it can no longer be grasped directly), naturally finds vision to be the privileged human sense which the sense of touch was for other epochs; the most abstract, the most mystifiable sense corresponds to the generalized abstraction of present day society," Guy Debord “The Society of the Spectacle”.A picture, it does not matter that much how produced, is itself an object. For a lot of people it may be even an object of desire. The desire to make something similarly spectacular, or beautiful or so. For others the need to have it is the most "natural" consequence. Purpose may be a good practical key for interpreting the meaning coming from the match between the photographers intentions and the addressee, as Mike Chisolm pointed out in an interesting post. To transform real things into objects of desire is an ancient wanna be dating back to Midas' King myth. The consumerist society give us only this opportunity of expression ? Since I'm a strong, and somewhat masochistic, idealist (or if you are better a giant egocentric) I firmly believe that there may be other ways or purposes. One of them is certainly, as much as cicadas do, to mark my place in this world, as a viewer. In this case photographs are, for me, simply an outcome of a stream of conscious viewing. Landscape photography, among other genres, has lots of roots in the need to transform places in something that can be sold. It's not a case that one of the most celebrated, Ansel Adams, landscapists started exactly from that point as he points out in his biography; certainly he succeeded. But on the darker side he also succeeded in the production of that unhappiness that may be subsumed under the “Vacation blues”, that subtle depression that takes in when the place you desired so much does not match with the projection build upon the encountered images. It seems to me that this may be the zeitgeist of landscape photography, a profound tension among the need to built up objects of desire and the need to communicate the experience, not always positive, of looking at our world. But getting to more amusing things, the strict followers of this blog certainly know of my personal interest in the Situationist International. Recently I've been amused by what I would call “Born Again Situationism” that seems to pop up every where, even in suspicious academic contexts. I do not have any shareable key to understand why except to read it in a postmodern light as pointed out by this paper.