Unreal Nature

November 26, 2014

Caused to Function as True

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… How is photographic discourse related to those privileged discourses harbored in our society and caused to function as true, and to the institutions which produce them?

This is from The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories by John Tagg (1993):

… We must pinpoint those strategic kinds of intervention which can both open up different social arenas of action and stretch the institutional order of the practice by deploying or developing new modes of production, distribution and circulation; by exploiting different formats; by evolving different formal solutions; by cutting different trajectories across the ruling codes of pictorial meaning; and by establishing different relationships both with those who are pictured and those who view the pictures. There is no center to such a strategy, only a multiplicity of local incursions in a constantly shifting ground of tactical actions — specific contests which link up with others in all sorts of ways, which may hold significance for a chain of related struggles, and which are the precondition for any more concerted confrontation.

… How is photographic discourse related to those privileged discourses harbored in our society and caused to function as true, and to the institutions which produce them? What are the mechanisms or rules operative in our social formation by which truth and falsehood are to be distinguished and how do they bear on photography? [ … ] What would it mean in photography to struggle not for ‘correct consciousness’ but to change the political, economic and institutional regime of the production of truth, to detach its power from the specific forms of hegemony in which it now operates, and to project the possibility of constructing a new politics of truth?

… Realism offers a fixity in which the signifier is treated as if it were identical with a pre-existent signified and in which the reader’s role is purely that of consumer. It is this realist mode with which we are confronted when we look at the photograph as evidence. In realism, the process of production of a signified through the action of a signifying chain is not seen. It is the product that is stressed, and production that is repressed. The complex codes or use of langauge by which realism is constituted appear of no account.

… What lies ‘behind’ the paper or ‘behind’ the image is not reality — the referent — but reference: a subtle web of discourse through which realism is enmeshed in a complex fabric of notions, representations, images, attitudes, gestures and modes of action which function as everyday know-how, ‘practical ideology,’ norms within and through which people live their relation to the world. It is by the routes it opens to this complex sphere that the realist text trades with that generally received picture of what may be regarded as ‘real’ or ‘realistic’ — a picture which is not recognized as such but rather presents itself as, precisely, the Reality. It is a traffic which brings into circulation not a personal and arbitrary ‘association of ideas’ but a whole hidden corpus of knowledge; a social knowledge, that is called upon through the mechanism of connotation and which gives the encounter with the regime of sense its solidity.

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

-Julie

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