Art historianDouglas Crimp is speaking at The Carpenter Center next Wednesday at 5:30pm.Should be a good one! More info.
Below is a Jstore link to the essay “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered,” by Susan Buck-Morss. In the essay, she is responding to the last two paragraphs in Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproduction.” Buck-Morss’s essay has been transformative to my thinking surrounding photography, its contemporary role and the larger implications of a reproducible and ubiquitous medium. As Benjamin writes (n the face of fascism in a pre-WWII Europe), I see parallels in the contemporary political and cultural climate in the Unites States with respect to media and images.
“The increasing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two sides of the same process…The masses has a right to change property relations; fascism seeks to give them expression in keeping these relations unchanged. The logical outcome of fascism is an aestheticizing of political life.” (in the section XIX)
How true is this statement today when we think about political propaganda (the presidential debate being one example)! Think of the ways in which we engage in this reproducible medium in everyday life. How many times a day do you check your Instagram feed, watch television, see an advertisement? With an almost continuous engagement of images, have we become anesthetized to the image? What are the limits and repercussions of a completely reproducible medium?
I found the long contemplative pauses between the end of discussion about a photograph gave ample time to think about what Frampton said. The slow burn of the remains of each photograph feels like looking into the last flickering embers of a campfire. The small movements of the paper during the final burning process are soothing in a way.
What intrigues me as well is the juxtaposition between the details described by Frampton and the details lost as the photograph is burned. The image disappears in a wave of smoke and rings of fire. In a sense, it represents how our memories work. Photographs allow us to capture and remember moments in our lives, but without them, many of those memories disappear into oblivion.
“here it is. look at it. do you see what i see?”
This reminded me of a therapy session with Time – in which he showed you snippets of your life and you were explaining to Time what the events were, what was happening and most importantly how you felt. All the objects in the scenes where still, the only thing causing movement was the energy of the heat – which is something you cannot see, only see the consequences of. The same way you can only see the consequences of your memories after you have lived and made them. Photographic therapy is good for the soul.
Meditative. Hollis Frampton’s Nostalgia with its long takes of burning photographs, records the combustion process while orally telling stories that seem to be about the content of the photos burning on screen but were also not always the photograph he is describing. To me, it’s meditative by nature of including the whole process and because you have to focus on the what of his words, awakening me to the moment of watching. I found myself noticing the warmth of the laptop on my stomach as the images burned. Interestingly, I had just watched old videos from my life for a documentary project so it all coalesced quite nicely with my experience of the now.
Also, Frampton’s Nostalgia did something I recently saw in a documentary. In this film, the filmmaker placed footage in between major points that did not serve much of the narrative storyline but rather served formal qualities like rhythm (in time and visually). For me it was brilliant and helped me to consume this documentary as desired—thoughtfully. The b-roll footage provided a place to let my mind process what heavy point was just made. When there is no space within a film, information can wash over a viewer. Many films take away a viewer’s agency by completely bombarding with stimulation and persuasive storytelling, not a moment to think critically. Media influences us without our full awareness of how our consciousness takes it on and integrates it into our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
These are just some of the things that Frampton got me thinking on…
After Tuesday’s class on motion I realized that I needed to mention Harold (Doc) Edgerton. He is an iconic MIT photographer who use strobe photography to capture a bullet cutting a card in half
drop of milk hitting a pool,
and lots of other images including motion, and many other scientific phenomena.
Check out the site about him! MIT’s largest student makerspace for FSAE, solar car, and other teams is also named after him.
In response to yesterday’s lecture on movement I wanted to share some photographs which were part of early Taylorism studies. Frederick Winslow Taylor began developing his theories of scientific management in the 1880’s and 90’s America, centered around improving economic efficiency and labor productivity.
In the United State, Taylorism is usually lumped in with Fordism (with clear links to capitalism) but many Soviets of the 1920’s made direct connection between the work of Taylor and Marxism. Interesting that the this kind of activity of the interim-war period could be linked to such opposed ideologies .
Below is an excerpt which explains the Soviet fascination with Taylorism. The USSR’s TsIT (Central Institute of Labor) produced many beautiful photographs in a similar and relevant style.
Below is a excerpt from: The Charnel House Blog
The Constructivists’ goal to rationalize artistic labor and thus enter life can be traced to the early Soviet intellectual fascination with the Taylorist industrial theory of scientific management. As was covered in the previous section, American Taylorism exerted an influence throughout the European world of modernist art and architecture. However, the especially central role it played through its reception and dissemination in the Soviet Union warrants further contextual reflection. For the Soviet architectural avant-garde did not simply absorb the influence of Taylorism through its mediation by the Constructivists in art, but also directly from a number of academic sources as well. Taylorism was enthusiastically embraced in the USSR by many in the revolutionary intelligentsia and even some leading Bolsheviks, including Trotskii and Lenin himself. It was mostly popularized by writers like Osip Ermanksii and later advocates of the Scientific Organization of Labor like the poet and factory worker Aleksei Gastev. Gastev was the founder and, from 1920 to 1937, the director of TsIT (Central Institute of Labor). TsIT was dedicated to the improvement of industrial efficiency.
In reading Walter Benjamin’s “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” I decided to raise the topic of photogravures. Here is the link to an incredible article and resource by The Getty Foundation:
PHOTOGRAVURE The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes The Getty Conservation Institute, © 2013 J. Paul Getty Trust
this is a piece I did with Mauricio Cortes. It it not a rotogravure but a copper plate photogravure (b/w print) made from 35mm color photograph. We also designed the angle-iron frames.
Grisha mentioned that you can use coffee as a developer. It turns out that a fairly standard mix uses coffee (instant coffee only) and vitamin C powder! There seem to be lots of different knock-off developer, stop, and Photo-Flo variations using common drug store ingredients. They obviously have different effects on the outcome, but the results are surprisingly good, once you’ve adapted to the nonstandard materials.
This was a clear video that also provides a short review of the developing process!
As part of the Starr Forum, next Thursday 10/6 there will be a screening of the film “Leviathan” at 5 p.m. in 4-370 with an introductory Skype conversation with the director, Andrei Zviagintsev.
I’ve not seen this one, but his previous film, The Return, is very visually rich and compositionally considered.
new yorker article: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/campaign-leviathan-russia