Unreal Nature

November 17, 2009

De-Piction

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:49 am

Photography … provides “an experience of experience,” and it defines this as the significance of depiction.

This is from near the end of a very long essay, “Marks of Indifference”: Aspects of Photography in, or as, Conceptual Art by Jeff Wall (1995). Talking about Conceptualism:

… In consenting to read the essay that takes a work of art’s place, spectators are presumed to continue the process of their own redefinition, and thus to participate in a utopian project of transformative, speculative self-reinvention: an avant-garde project. Linguistic conceptualism takes art as close to the boundary of its own self-overcoming, or self-dissolution, as it is likely to get, leaving its audience with only the task of rediscovering legitimations for works of art as they had existed, and might continue to exist. This was, and remains, a revolutionary way of thinking about art, in which its right to exist is rethought in the place or moment traditionally reserved for the enjoyment of art’s actual existence, in the encounter with a work of art. In true modernist fashion it establishes the dynamic in which the intellectual legitimation of art as such — that is, the philosophical content of aesthetics — is experienced as the content of any particular moment of enjoyment.

But, dragging its heavy burden of depiction, photography could not follow pure, or linguistic, Conceptualism all the way to the frontier. It cannot provide the experience of the negation of experience, but must continue to provide the experience of depiction, of the Picture. It is possible that the fundamental shock that photography caused was to have provided a depiction which could be experienced more the way the visible world is experienced than had ever been possible previously. A photograph therefore shows its subject by means of showing what experience is like; in that sense it provides “an experience of experience,” and it defines this as the significance of depiction.

-Julie

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