Unreal Nature

September 30, 2016

Ads Are News

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… [the] mosaic form [of news media] has become a dominant aspect of human association; for the mosaic form means, not a detached “point of view,” but participation in process.

This is from ‘Press: Government by News Leak’ found in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… As the speed of information increases, the tendency is for politics to move away from representation and delegation of constituents toward immediate involvement of the entire community in the central acts of decision.

… Both book and newspaper are confessional in character, creating the effect of inside story by their mere form, regardless of content. As the book page yields the inside story of the author’s mental adventures, so the press page yields the inside story of the community in action and interaction. It is for this reason that the press seems to be performing its function most when revealing the seamy side.

[line break added] Real news is bad news — bad news about somebody, or bad news for somebody. In 1962, when Minneapolis had been for months without a newspaper, the chief of police said: “Sure, I miss the news, but so far as my job goes I hope the papers never come back. There is less crime around without a newspaper to pass around the ideas.”

… The early stages by which information itself became the basic economic commodity of the electric age were obscured by the ways in which advertising and entertainment put people off the track. Advertisers pay for space and time in paper and magazine, on radio and TV; that is, they buy a piece of the reader, listener, or viewer as definitely as if they hired our homes for a public meeting. They would gladly pay the reader, listener, or viewer directly for his time and attention if they knew how to do so. The only way so far devised is to put on a free show.

… The book-oriented man has the illusion that the press would be better without ads and without the pressure from the advertiser. Reader surveys have astonished even publishers with the revelation that the roving eyes of newspaper readers take equal satisfaction in ads and news copy. During the Second World War, the U.S.O. sent special issues of the principal American magazines to the Armed Forces, with the ads omitted. The men insisted on having the ads back again. Naturally.

[line break added] The ads are by far the best part of any magazine or newspaper. More pains and thought, more wit and art go into the making of an ad than into any prose feature of press or magazine. Ads are news. What is wrong with them is that they are always good news. In order to balance off the effect and to sell good news, it is necessary to have a lot of bad news.

… Here I must repeat that the newspaper, from its beginnings, had tended, not to the book form, but to the mosaic or participational form. With the speedup of printing and news-gathering, this mosaic form has become a dominant aspect of human association; for the mosaic form means, not a detached “point of view,” but participation in process. For that reason, the press is inseparable from the democratic process, but quite expendable from a literary or book point of view.

Again, the book-oriented man misunderstands the collective mosaic form of the press when he complains about its endless reports on the seamy underside of the social garment. Both book and press are, in their very format, dedicated to the job of revealing the inside story, whether it is Montaigne giving the private reader the delicate contours of his mind, or Hearst and Whitman resonating their barbaric yawps over the roofs of the world. It is the printed form of public address and high intensity with its precise uniformity of repetition that gives to book and press alike the special character of public confessional.

The first items in the press to which all men turn are the ones about which they already know. If we have witnessed some event, whether a ball game or a stock crash or a snowstorm, we turn to the report of that happening, first. Why? The answer is central to any understanding of media. Why does a child like to chatter about the events of its day, however jerkily? Why do we prefer novels and movies about familiar scenes and characters?

[line break added] Because for rational beings to see or re-cognize their experience in a new material form is an unbought grace of life. Experience translated into a new medium literally bestows a delightful playback of earlier awareness. The press repeats the excitement we have in using our wits, and by using our wits we can translate the outer world into the fabric of our own beings.

My most recent previous post from McLuhan’s book is here.




September 29, 2016

All Things Conceal a Mystery

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… “It’s the same raw material for all … the same bones, arranged differently … “

This is from the essay ‘Robert Bresson: L’Aventure intérieure’ by René Prédal found in Robert Bresson edited by James Quandt (1998):

Bresson likes to quote Renoir’s advice to Matisse: “You must paint the bouquet from the side it wasn’t arranged.” … Godard does the same thing, first in Sauve qui peut (la vie) (“I tried to shoot the landscape from the back”) and above all in recreating the tableaux vivants of Passion. He arranges his models like they are in the real painting, but films them from a different angle than the one chosen by the painter in order to “see the story rather than tell it,” as he put it.

… But cinema must track the unforeseen, the perverse; consequently Bresson does not allow himself to decide anything ahead of time, leaving instead the possibility of attacking the shot differently from what he’d prepared.

The following is from ‘Bresson and Pascal: Rhetorical Affinities’ by Mirella Jona Affron:

… In Un condamné à mort s’est échappé, the title’s second clause announces the climax, while the first retains the film’s connection to the thriller. The two parts of the title undermine one another to define Bresson’s recasting of the genre. The film has a subtitle, however, Le Vent souffle où il vent, itself part of a maxim drawn from the authority of the Old Testament. “The wind bloweth where it listeth” serves as the title’s emblem. Title and subtitle link the two mysteries: the one that can be uncovered and solved, and that gives its name to the genre; the other that covers all things in eternal enigma.


… Can one speak of suspense at all in Bresson’s versions of the thriller? No, answers Eric Rohmer in his discussion of Un condamné à mort s’est échappé, if by suspense one intends the clever choice and placement of good and bad omens. Yes, if by suspense is understood that nothing can distract the spectator from the thought of escape.

[line break added] The title and voice-over testify to the survival, indeed to the vigor of the narrator/hero. The image is in the past in relationship to the present of the voice; from the first intervention it is clear that the danger is long gone. Yet the image remains in the present of the screen and of the viewing. While we know that the man escapes in the end, the mode and, above all, the fact of the escape root our attention.

[line break added] The wind blows, but we do not know from where it comes nor where it goes. The enigma of the subtitle, the suspense of that other mystery, remains. In Bresson’s hands, the mystery, the conventional mode of the hidden, becomes the privileged mode of the revealed. “All things conceal a mystery.”

[ … ]

… Towards the beginning of Une femme douce, there is an extended discussion between She and He of the similarities in skeleton between man and other animals. She is on the floor of the sitting room surrounded by books and records, eating sweets. She tells He of a recent visit to the natural history museum; opened before her is a book of photographs of skeletons.

[line break added] “It’s the same raw material for all … the same bones, arranged differently, for a mouse, for an elephant, for a man,” She observes. Towards the end of the film, He and She make a visit together to this same museum. They walk through rooms filled with skeletons of animals large and small, much like those that had served to illustrate the book on which She had commented earlier. “You were right. It’s the same raw material for all,” says He, taking up her point — and Pascal’s almost to the word.

[line break added] For Bresson as for Pascal, in art as in nature, it is not so much a question of the matter at hand (“c’est la même matière” — He repeats after She) but of its editing (“la disposition des matières est nouvelle” — writes Pascal), not so much a question of which words one uses, which ball, which colors, which bones or which shots, or whether they have been used before, but of their placement.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




September 28, 2016

With My Remaining Eye

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… wipe the blood off, polish it with an oil-stained black cloth until it shines, and display it on the dark drawing-room table.

This is from the essay ‘Four Scenes of Hell I Saw Outside the Theater’ by Terayama Shūji [1968] found in Provoke: Between Protest and Performance: Photography in Japan 1960-1975 edited by Diane Dufour, Duncan Forbes, Walter Moser, and Matthew S. Witkovsky (2016):

[ … ]

The Third Song: Eyeball Repairer’s Phantom Crime

According to the eyeball repairer, the two eyes of human beings serve different purposes. One theory states that one eye looks at other individuals, while the other looks at the self. Another theory stipulates that one eye “discovers” while the other eye “abandons.”

Anyhow, if you find that the two eyes are imbalanced, you must scoop one of them out with a sickle. Then, for the eye that “discovers” the self, it is good to wipe the blood off, polish it with an oil-stained black cloth until it shines, and display it on the dark drawing-room table. I will keep on abandoning the world with my remaining eye, and maybe travel to Siberia. The one eye I’m left with will gaze at people endlessly in order to abandon them, and on the boundless clouds of the sunset in people’s hometowns.

It will count the number of swallows that are flying by, as I rest with my eye closed.

Amidst the comfort of a new darkness

A gentle, blindfolded era goes by … .

My vision will become that of a hawk, glancing at the horizon, at faraway winter fields. But the horizon of my imagination is vast and cold. I cannot spot the practitioner, and because of that the punishment still awaits!

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




September 27, 2016

A Place, Not a Landsape

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… I try to figure out what people do in a place like that.

This is from A Brush with the Real: Figurative Painting Today by Marc Valli and Margherita Dessanay (2014). In this book, each featured artist has a section where he talks about his or her work under somewhat (but not always) consistent headings. I’ve picked out the bits that I like. This first is from François Bard:

On creating a personal style

Work, work and work: through work I could gradually find a way to express my artistic intentions. I tend to be suspicious of styles. I try to remain as instinctive as I can. Style is too often confused with a personal technique, which is a big mistake.

François Bard, La Croix, 2012


It takes ma approximately a week to paint a portrait, with a model who sits for me three hours every afternoon. I also use these moments to take photographs of the models. Usually I pick my models from everyday life. Initially, their own stories don’t interest me. But the more I work with a model, the more I get to know them. They all have their own history and past, which eventually shows in the way they behave with me. At some point, whether I want it or not, this dimension, this human ‘effect,’ appears in the paintings.

From Tim Eitel. (The square brackets in the quotes are in the original.):


Each work contains multiple narratives. The first of these is the fact that it’s a painting and I thought it had to be done and so I made it, and I want you to look at it. And you’ll see it as a painting and see where it fits within your conceptions of that. I don’t see any kind of underlying storyline [in the paintings] myself. Of course there is a lot of great art that tells stories we already know so you can pack a lot of action from the before and after into one pregnant moment. … But my interest is more in situations, in constellations [alignments of chance], in what meaning there is [left] when you strip them of all narrative.


… I don’t do preparatory sketches. I feel like this would spoil the fun. I like the unexpected to happen. To finish a painting can take quite some time: up to a year. I know that it is finished when I experience the work as if somebody else had painted it.

From Maya Gold:

Beyond politics

I feel that as an Israeli artist I am always expected to refer to the complex political situation and to the occupation. This expectation can be tiring. I am sure one can find the influence of living in this reality in my paintings. Yet I wouldn’t like the discourse around them to be political. For me, art is beyond politics. My work deals with the connection between art and daily life, with the unique ability of art to be a part of daily life but yet be ‘unusual’ at the same time. My paintings depict ordinary moments that, through pictorial actions, such as changing the point of view or the perspective, lose their balance and thus are excluded from the pre-existing order.

From Serban Savu:

Process and subject matter

… The landscape is important: it acts like a character, defining the other characters and giving meaning to the whole scene. I deliberately choose a raised and distant point of view in order to have a better perception of the landscape. When I see a place in reality (I prefer to call it a place, not a landscape) I act like an X-ray machine, trying to understand why it looks like this, and I have to dig a little bit into recent history. Such a place often is a catalyst for a painting; I try to figure out what people do in a place like that. I follow that place from time to time to check out what’s going on there.

From Liu Xiaodong:

Against style

… The history of painters is merely the history of forming one’s own style. But once a style is formed, it is difficult to reflect directly and effectively on contemporary society. To reveal the truth, painters must undermine their own style at any given time. This is the hardest problem for an artist to handle.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




September 26, 2016

Their Homeliness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… They are not ugly ducklings that will grow up to be swans but what the French call “jolie-laide,” that particular kind of beauty for which unapologetic imperfection provides the most striking and original features.

Continuing through the book that accompanied her MoMA retrospective; Elizabeth Murray by Robert Storr (2005):

… Neither chaotic nor reliably structured, Murray’s ensembles remain open to as many interpretations as they suggest correspondences and discharge intense sensations.

If Murray were more sober and decorous in her way of playing with forms and symbols, the analogy I have drawn between her work and that of conceptually oriented artists of the same period might seem less far-fetched. But the purpose in forcing the comparison is to remind those with doubts about the ambition and complexity of Murray’s work that the ability to address fundamental issues in art is not circumscribed by choice of medium, style, tone, or intellectual manner, or even by the disinclination to do so.

[line break added] Rather, it is determined by the ability — whether programmatically set forth or empirically and intuitively arrived at — to seize upon the aesthetic givens of one’s time and milieu and first reconsider, then refashion them in previously unimagined ways.

Elizabeth Murray, Bop, 2002-03

… It would be easier to argue this if Murray’s mud-pie way of dealing with life and art made for neater, less raucous, more consistently ingratiating products, or if, following Greenberg’s defense of Pollock, one could promise that what looks “ugly” today will be acknowledged as beautiful tomorrow. (The truth of the matter is that many of Pollock’s most original and forceful paintings still look ugly.) Murray’s paintings have their beauties — of drawing, color, surface, and spatial interval — but their homeliness is every bit as essential to their integrity and power.

[line break added] They are not ugly ducklings that will grow up to be swans but what the French call “jolie-laide,” that particular kind of beauty for which unapologetic imperfection provides the most striking and original features. In any event, undistracted by thoughts of what she ought to have done or how her paintings should have looked to please the average taste, Murray has proven herself to be an undeterrable force in the rejuvenation of painting in New York in the last quarter of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

My most recent previous post from Storr’s book is here.




September 25, 2016

The Believed-in

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:38 am

… it collects the audience’s magic mind, its imaginative attention; it puts one into another time sense than that of practical action.

This is from ‘A Letter on New York City’s Ballet’ [1952] found in Edwin Denby: Dance Writings, edited by Robert Cornfield and William MacKay (1986):

I hadn’t expected so intense a pleasure, looking at New York again [Denby had been abroad for four years], in the high white February sunlight, the childishly euphoric climate; looking down Second Avenue, where herds of vehicles go charging one way all day long disappearing into the sky at the end like on a prairie; looking up a side of a skyscraper, a flat and flat and a long and long, and the air drops down on your head like a solid. Like a solid too the air that slices down between two neighbor skyscrapers.

… And the faces on the street by day: large, unhandsome, lumped with the residue of every possible human experience, and how neutral, left exposed, left out unprotected, uncommitted. I have never seen anything so marvelous.

[ … ]

… [At the end of a Balanchine ballet] I was too absorbed still in the solemnity of the vision to wonder then how Balanchine could have circumvented my tense mistrust at the beginning, and made me accept his magic; and grateful to him too, because though I knew what I had seen was real, he at least assured me it was just a trick. Balanchine’s gift for seriousness in the theater is a rare one.

[line break added] While anything happens it looks like ballet, like a step or a joke or a grace; but when it is finished it suddenly can look serious and real. The victim has been struck square. By the time it is over, the immolation has been thorough. Look at it in Orpheus, Prodigal Son (where it is a conversion), or Fairy’s Kiss.

Prodigal Son is told, since it is about good and evil, in two kinds of pantomime: the dry, insect-like, insect-quick elegance and filth of atheism, and the fleshy biblical vehemence — so Near Eastern and juicy — of sin and of forgiveness, the bitter sin and sweet forgiveness. Still bolder as an image seems to me the leisure in the pacing of the scenes, which transports the action into a spacious patriarchal world, like a lifetime of faith.

[line break added] Very different is the ancestral religious Greece of Orpheus. The overslow adagio motions at the beginning and again at the close evoke the magic passes and stalkings of ritual — Orphic and Orthodox both. The forest creatures who witness Orpheus’s grief appear in this magic slowed-down time from so remote and so pristine a country, it feels like a pre-Homeric Parnassus. (And don’t they form a kind of protopediment or roodscreen?)

[line break added] Eurydice writhes at her husband’s feet like a mountain lioness in heat, like the Worm of Death, like an eternal image. A pity the Furies’ dance in Hell is of no value. But on earth the Maenads shudder possessed, swallow the spurted blood. Different again is the brutal romantic Switzerland of Fairy’s Kiss. It is a land of fairy tale, reduced from the country of myth by industrial encroachment.

[line break added] Here the poet is only unconsciously a poet; as long as he may he thinks of himself as an average mill-owner boy. Poignant as is the reduction of consciousness, it is in this particular “world” that the image of looking under the bridal veil in horror becomes so grandiose and takes on so many tragic dreams. And the world of the believed-in fairy story is evoked by the nineteenth-century style of Fairy’s Kiss.

… Dance rhythm is a power that creates the validity of the grand style. It is not rhythm used as a wow effect; I think it begins instead by quietening the audience; but it collects the audience’s magic mind, its imaginative attention; it puts one into another time sense than that of practical action.

[ … ]

… but individuals isn’t what this letter is about, as I said to begin with. I love them all. I went by the air station when the NYC [Ballet] was off for Spain and when your Juniors were off to London, and how ravishing they looked, at the station full of dancers both times; such an elegant and rich habitual way of moving, the little faces green from the farewell parties the night before, but the bodies delicious to watch in their unconscious young feline assurance. So they flew up into the sky.

My most recent previous post from Denby’s book is here.




September 24, 2016

The Tactile and the Poetic

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Materiality, representation, and imagination are not separate worlds …

This is from the essay ‘Terra Fluxus’ found in The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner 1990– 2010 (2014):

… apparently incoherent or complex conditions that one might initially mistake as random or chaotic can, in fact, be shown to be highly structured entities that comprise a particular set of geometrical and spatial orders. In this sense, cities and infrastructures are just as “ecological” as forests and rivers.

… We have yet to understand cultural, social, political, and economic environments as embedded in and symmetrical with the “natural” world. The promise of landscape urbanism is the development of a space-time ecology that treats all forces and agents working in the urban field and considers them as continuous networks of interrelationship.

[ … ]

… There is simply no point whatsoever in addressing any of the above themes for their own sake. The collective imagination, informed and stimulated by the experiences of the material world, must continue to be the primary motivation of any creative endeavor. In many ways, the failing of twentieth-century planning can be attributed to the absolute impoverishment and incapacity of the imagination with regard to the optimized rationalization of urban development practices and capital accumulation.

[line break added] Public space in the city must surely be more than mere token compensation or vessels for this generic activity called “recreation.” Public spaces are firstly the containers of collective memory and desire, and secondly they are the places for geographic and social imagination to inspire new relationships and possibilities.

[line break added] Materiality, representation, and imagination are not separate worlds; political change through practices of place construction owes as much to the representational and symbolic realms as to material activities. And so it seems that landscape urbanism is first and last an imaginative project, a speculative thickening of the world of possibilities.

In conclusion, I would return to the paradoxical separateness of landscape from urbanism. Neither term is fully conflated into the other. I do believe that this paradox is not only inescapable but also necessary to maintain. The failure of earlier urban design and regionally scaled enterprises was the oversimplification and reduction of the phenomenal richness of physical life. A good landscape architect must be able to weave the diagram and the strategy in relationship to the tactile and the poetic.

My most recent previous post from Corner’s book is here.




September 23, 2016

The Age of Gesture

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… if outer posture is affected by the photograph, so with our inner postures and the dialogue with ourselves.

This is from ‘The Photograph: The Brothel-without-Walls’ found in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… If the phonetic alphabet was a technical means of severing the spoken word from its aspect of sound and gesture, the photograph and its development in the movie restored gesture to the human technology of recording experience. In fact, the snapshot of arrested human postures by photography directed more attention to physical and psychic posture than ever before. The age of the photograph has become the age of gesture and mime and dance, as no other age has ever been.

… the logic of the photograph is neither verbal nor syntactical, a condition which renders literary culture quite helpless to cope with the photograph. By the same token, the complete transformation of human sense-awareness by this form involves a development of self-consciousness that alters facial expression and cosmetic makeup as immediately as it does our bodily stance, in public or in private.

[line break added] This fact can be gleaned from any magazine or movie of fifteen years back. It is not too much to say, therefore, that if outer posture is affected by the photograph, so with our inner postures and the dialogue with ourselves. The age of Jung and Freud is, above all, the age of the photograph, the age of the full gamut of self-critical attitudes.

… “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a feature not only of the compositor’s arrangement of his type fonts, but of the entire range of human organization of knowledge and action from the sixteenth century onward. Even the inner life of the feelings and emotions began to be structured and ordered and analyzed according to separate pictorial landscapes, as Christopher Hussey explained in his fascinating study of The Picturesque. More than a century of this pictorial analysis of the inner life preceded Talbot’s 1839 discovery of photography.

[line break added] Photography, by carrying the pictorial delineation of natural objects much further than paint or language could do, had a reverse effect. By conferring a means of self-delineation of objects, of “statement without syntax,” photography gave the impetus to a delineation of the inner world. Statement without syntax or verbalization was really statement by gesture, by mime, by gestalt.

… The photograph might be said, also, to have brought to human attention the subvisual world of bacteria that caused Louis Pasteur to be driven from the medical profession by his indignant colleagues. Just as the painter Samuel Morse had unintentionally projected himself into the nonvisual world of the telegraph, so the photograph really transcends the pictorial by capturing the inner gestures and postures of both body and mind, yielding the new worlds of endocrinology and psychopathology.

To understand the medium of the photograph is quite impossible, then, without grasping its relations to other media, both old and new. For media, as extensions of our physical and nervous systems, constitute a world of biochemical interactions that must ever seek new equilibrium as new extensions occur. In America, people can tolerate their images in mirror or photo, but they are made uncomfortable by the recorded sound of their own voices. The photo and visual worlds are secure areas of anesthesia.

My most recent previous post from McLuhan’s book is here.




September 22, 2016

What Is Necessary

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:35 am

Bresson’s attempt is to insist on the irrefutability of what he is presenting.

This is from the essay ‘Spiritual Style in the Films of Robert Bresson‘ by Susan Sontag found in Robert Bresson edited by James Quandt (1998). Note that I changed my mind and will not be giving more from last week’s Ayfre essay:

Some art aims directly at arousing the feelings; some art appeals to the feelings through the route of the intelligence. There is art that involves, that creates empathy. There is art that detaches, that provokes reflection. Great reflective art is not frigid. It can exalt the spectator, it can present images that appall, it can make him weep. But its emotional power is mediated. The pull toward emotional involvement is counterbalanced by elements in the work that promote distance, disinterestedness, impartiality. Emotional involvement is always, to a greater or lesser degree, postponed.

The contrast can be accounted for in terms of techniques or means even of ideas. No doubt, though, the sensibility of the artist is, in the end, decisive.

… In film, the master of the reflective mode is Robert Bresson.

… Jean Cocteau has said that minds and souls today “live without a syntax, that is to say, without a moral system. This moral system has nothing to do with morality proper, and should be built up by each one of us as an inner style, without which no outer style is possible.” Cocteau’s films may be understood as portraying this inwardness which is the true morality; so may Bresson’s. Both are concerned, in their films, with depicting spiritual style.

… While Cocteau’s art is irresistibly drawn to the logic of dreams, and to the truth of invention over the truth of “real life,” Bresson’s art moves increasingly away from the story and toward the documentary.

Bresson’s attempt is to insist on the irrefutability of what he is presenting. Nothing happens by chance; there are no alternatives, no fantasy; everything is inexorable. Whatever is not necessary, whatever is merely anecdotal or decorative, must be left out. Unlike Cocteau, Bresson wishes to pare down — rather than to enlarge — the dramatic and visual resources of the cinema. …

True, in the last, most ascetic of all his films, Bresson seems to have left out too much, to have over-refined his conception. But a conception as ambitious as this cannot help but have its extremism, and Bresson’s “failures” are worth more than most directors’ successes. For Bresson, art is the discovery of what is necessary — of that, and nothing more.

[line break added] The power of Bresson’s six films lies in the fact that his purity and fastidiousness are not just an assertion about the resources of the cinema, as much of modern painting is mainly a comment in paint about painting. They are at the same time an idea about life, about what Cocteau called “inner style,” about the most serious way of being human.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




September 21, 2016

Laying a Trap for the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:36 am

… Today, at this very moment, language is losing its material basis — in other words, its reality — and floating in space.

This is from the essay ‘Me to me narazaru mono (Eyes and Things That Are Not Eyes)’ by Taki Kōji [1970] found in Provoke: Between Protest and Performance: Photography in Japan 1960-1975 edited by Diane Dufour, Duncan Forbes, Walter Moser, and Matthew S. Witkovsky (2016):

… If we start by speculating that we are overcome by the world, caught up in the deceitful overflow of audio, visual, and other signs, we can consider countermeasures to trick the world to expose its deceptions. Conventional uses of photography yield ambiguous effects in the outside world that often deceive us. We can devise a method from this [awareness], and respond by laying a trap for the world.

… When loading film in the camera, you must first shoot several blank frames before taking any photographs. In this process you may end up capturing your own feet or the ground, or sometimes people, animals, or cars that happened to be there, or slanted horizons or buildings that look like failed shots. Have you ever felt a strange realness in these? Have you ever analyzed such sentiments?

If you have, then there must be contexts in which these meaningless frames — with images that are just faintly dangling in the corners — can acquire meaning. For us, it is crucial to discover these contexts. I sometimes realize that I have only chosen frames that would undoubtedly be thrown out according to usual standards. For instance, as depictions of people, I would rather choose images that are blurry over accurately focused images and choose those images that feel somewhat insufficient or compositionally lacking, over those that are well composed.

[line break added] This selection process is unconscious and intuitive rather than deliberate. However, it applies to the process of selecting negatives and not to the shooting. Such photographs would acquire meaning once we understand that our own existence is defective, and realize that we should not be passionate about the things that constitute the world, but rather recognize the world’s imperfections and feel a deep attachment to them.

The following is from the Preface to Provoke 1 [1968] by Takanishi Yutaka, Nakahira Takuma, Taki Kōji, and Okada Takahiko:

The image in itself is not an idea. It cannot attain the totality of a concept, nor can it be a commutative sign like a word. Its irreversible materiality — a reality that has been detached by the camera — exists in a world opposite that of language, and because of this it sometimes provokes the world of language and concepts. In such instances, language transcends its fixed, conceptualized self, and is transformed into a new language, or rather a new idea.

Today, at this very moment, language is losing its material basis — in other words, its reality — and floating in space. We as photographers must capture with our own eyes fragments of reality that can no longer be grasped through existing language, and must actively put forth materials that address language and ideas. This is why we have been so bold as to give Provoke the subtitle Provocative Materials for Thought.

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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