Milan ordinary landscapes. Porta Garibaldi #10. February 2010

For a definition of "Dèrive" see here. In the last months I've mainly focused on the preliminary phase of photo making, that I've called "inventio", a term borrowed from Leonardo Da Vinci's "Treatise on Painting" (as you may know anachronism is another obsession of mine). The way in which a photographer borders his/hers performing space certainly constitutes an important part of his/hers identity.

In the meantime, while busily reading philosophy contributions to the topic of physical/conceptual space bounding, I've came across this interesting study on mazes, labyrinths and tracking from BLDGBLOG.


Milan ordinary landscapes. Porta Garibaldi #9. February 2010

In the post closing the series on the PASM (Parco Agricolo Sud Milano) I have left you with a quote that focused on "LANDSCAPE AS DOCUMENT". In case you where interested here is the, almost, complete article: "THE MONUMENT AND THE BUNGALOW", courtesy by Google books. The article is divided in two parts. The first one, of general scope, focuses mainly on to the ways to approach landscape reading, the second one is a live example, that I have found of great Interest for Italians too, that, as immigrants, left their native country, in great numbers, for the "new world", as my father did.


Milan ordinary landscapes. Porta Garibaldi #8. February 2010

Philosophy what's the use ? After all Kant was formerly a Geographer

With this post I'm starting my first instalment in philosophy as anticipated here. But first some general advice: I'm not getting into what Philosophers may have said about photography or painting or any kind of visual form of expression, in general such approach, except in particular cases, never gave me any interesting outcome; the job of the philosopher is way too far from practice for my taste. But Philosophers too have to delimit their field, and the way they do it is so much like what we, photographers do, framing out contents. More or less this is the same approach I've taken with Geography, even if, in that case, we were dealing with the science that has as an object the same as a Landscape Photographer has: land's surface.
I'm not even getting into deep and academic contortions (a promise that I'm not so sure I'll completely comply with). Anyway I'll try to keep an homeopathic approach and give only some fast snapshots where possible.
It's fortunate that in these days any inhabitant of the western world had the opportunity to devise the profound meaning of the word "immanence". The eruption of a volcano, with all the consequences for the aerial traffic, may be considered an accurate display of what is immanent to us. Setting the border among immanence and the rest was one of the preoccupations of Immanuel Kant as well discussed in his essay "De Mundi Sensibilis atque Intelligibilis Forma et Principiis" included in his "Inaugural dissertation of 1770". In the essay, "Dissertation on the Form and Principles of the Sensible and the Intelligible World", in English parlance, Kant introduces the process of going from an abstract whole to the different particulars (indefinite) composing it and vice versa. As in his style he starts with the general assertion to proceed demonstrating and expanding it as much as if it was a theorem.
"As the analysis of a substantial composite terminates only in a part which is not a whole, that is, in a simple part, so synthesis terminates only in a whole which is not a part, that is, the world"
I do not think that there is any necessity for a further explanation. Here he gives us a dynamics of thought. Prosecuting he introduces a concept that may surprise many of you, and, hopefully, make some resonance with a key concept in bidimensional representations, that is, albeit in a finite domain, our whole.
"... Similarly, a substantial composite being given, we easily attain to the idea of the simple parts by the general removal of the intellectual notion of composition; for what remains after the removal of conjunction are the simple parts. But according to the laws of intuitive cognition this is not done, that is, all composition is not removed, except by a regress from the given whole to any possible parts whatsoever — in other words, by an analysis again resting on the condition of time ..."
Some of the more affectionate readers may remember Constable's idea that time, in a landscape painting, is what it takes, for a viewer, to scan (appreciate) the artefact. The same applies when we study our subject, always presented to our senses as a whole or as a composite ? What's the difference ?
" ... But since in order to a composite a multiplicity, in order to a whole, the allness, of parts is required, neither the analysis nor the synthesis will be complete; hence neither by the former will the concept of the simple part emerge, nor by the latter the concept of the whole, unless either can be gone through within a time that is finite and assignable ... "


Parco Agricolo Sud Milano. Rites of passage #12

I'm closing the series here, just to avoid the peril to go on indefinitely. I suppose that almost any reader of the blog had its ratio of greeneries. Going to urban for a few time. But on closing let me cite this short extract from the book "everydayamerica. cultural landscape studies after j. b. jackson" (lower case as in the book cover), page 86 "LANDSCAPE AS DOCUMENT": "In sum, landscape is a historic document that tells a story -- actually multiple stories -- about the people who created the landscape and the cultural context in which that landscape was embedded. ... The ordinary landscape is, after all, the only lasting record written by the overwhelming majority of the earth's population ... The landscape created by ordinary people is the main historic record they leave behind -- records written on the face of the earth."


Parco Agricolo Sud Milano. Rites of passage #11

Click here to follow the whole series. Or here to browse everything published about the PASM (Parco Agricolo Sud Milano). Click the Image for a larger view.

The problem of derivatives and visual expression levels

One of the deepest problems that an Amateur Photographer Artist -- an exact match in my case -- faces is that of the so called derivatives. A problem that, generally, does not bother the professional one, after all he is in a business, and therefore, the object must be defined previously in a contract. Sometimes the problem gets to a level of such anxiety that the poor APA has a complete block. However if we look carefully, as usual when in doubt, to history, of imaging in this case, and even of general expression, we will see that the need to always make something new and totally original, occupies only a small slice of - historical time: the modernist one. Fortunately or not, those times have passed. Consider, for example, the case of the novel writer, he certainly has no need to always come up with a new written form, well maybe he will modify some rules a bit, succeeding only if he/she is very clever, to better adapt to her/his style, but in the end, to be understood, she/he needs to write in the conventional way, or so to say derivative. Or do you think, getting to landscape painting, that Canaletto even considered for a second that he was making derivatives of Caspar Van Wittel ? I think that he was more interested in representing a place, to derive a painting to sell to somebody interested in the semantic referent, whatever it was, and the more he did the more the money came in. Canaletto, as much as Van Wittel were lavishing their art, and applying techniques, to tell something. As much as in writing I like to think about photography, or in general in imaging in the same way. Someone may be more interested in poetry than in telling tales. Someone will look to make a single picture of great force, someone else a meaningful sequence. An Artist's audience could be that of other Artists as well, for a Landscapist, that of the Garden Architects, just as an example.

I'm not saying with this that modernism was wrong, history is never right or wrong, it has been, full stop. Instead I think that in the anxiety of making new things the expressive horizons have been enlarged a lot. And yet many of those novelties have not been completely put to use, sometimes even forgotten under the pile of the ones coming in later. Now it may be, I suggest, the time to harvest all that grew up in the last century, and before, instead of consuming ourselves, if not the world in some cases, in the search of the new for the new. Well, that does not mean that there must be no more research, each of us will do it anyway, at least to learn how to use expressively the instruments of precisions that we have. Anachronism, see a previous post here, may be a real source of ``novelty''.

There are also some solid cognitive foundations in this discourse. Given the exponential growth of the number of images that we deposit in our memory it may be almost impossible to speak or even think of newness in imaging any more. Just as an example I've read recently about the increase in image processing speed of human visual sensor system. As measured in some neuro sciences experiments (I've twitted about it a few months ago) the number of processed images per second in a few generations bumped up from 60 (for subjects forty years old or older) to 200 per second (for subjects in their twenties).


Parco Agricolo Sud Milano. Rites of passage #9

Approaching the PASM (Parco Agricolo Sud Milano)

At first my knowledge of the PASM was limited to what I saw passing by a car on the Highways that cross it: a large collection of cultivated land and factories. It was only when I started to go there by bike that my knowledge of the place progressively expanded in a very material sense. So after some few short exploratory trips I decided to explore the place photographically. The aim was, and is, to understand if a subjective, and consequentially expressive, kind of landscape photography could be of actual use in describing my experience, as a viewer, there inside while preserving, or better, convoying, the needed informations to represent the place.

A classical, documentary, approach is to photograph the main attractions like monuments, historical buildings or temporarily recovered green areas (eventually for the only time needed by the inaugural ceremony). There are plenty of those in the PASM. Then there are the factories and the various and related animals and breeds. The inventory of retrievable things goes on indefinitely and a photographic approach based on the traditional documentary practice, centered around the object, as the only consensual fact, is at risk to not preserve at all the visual identity of the place. The problem is that the entire park is almost a ruin itself. The ruin of a complex and extended hydraulic system, now far less efficient than in the past. The land, in its flatness, is the result of man made interventions that stratified in time. Water too is still drained by systems put in place by the Romans, the new thing is that now several waterways, formed by the emerging waters, have been transformed into sewage (this was planned by a bunch of modernist engineers back in 1911).

So, for my documentary project, I've decided to take a subjective approach, trying to equate what I was seeing with what other ones certainly saw, albeit in a different light and a different identity, trying to preserve the emotional side without, hopefully, sliding to much in the painterly. I like to think about it as a documentation of the visual identity of the place, certainly made by the objects too but seen through their spatial relations. As far as I know only one other photographer, to whom I owe some inspirations, tried to work it out that way: Beniamino Terraneo. There has been some others that are well known, but they focused mainly on the institutional building, as it used to be in the tradition of the Alinari.