Unreal Nature

May 20, 2015

Remaking the Visible Thing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… Here, [it] … is … [a matter] of things caught up in the sticky substance of vision …

This is from the essay ‘A Little Background Noise (Excerpts)’ by Timothy Martin found in Uta Barth: In Between Places (2000):

… Functions aside, what does the blur mean? What is it as an end in itself? Because the blur is so inherently intermediate, that is, between visual thingness and nothingness, it is difficult to address such a question directly without interpreting the blur as a sign — and coming up with the usual shopworn readings of it. Instead, being as obtuse as the blur is — and taking our cue from the Ground series’ title — we might ask: In what sense, outside of the figure-ground nomenclature, is the blur grounded? This is perhaps not so odd a question, for it can be approached in familiar terms that have been applied to all photographic images.


First, in structuralist terms, a photograph is an emanation of the referent, as Roland Barthes has put it, “a sort of umbilical cord [that] links the body of the photographed thing to my gaze: light, though impalpable, is here a carnal medium.” That is, it is grounded in the photographed thing by way of an “umbilical” link of photons, a kind of chain of custody between the thing and the image. In these terms, is an unfocused photograph any less an emanation? Not exactly, but it would appear that something has gotten in the way of the link, some second pole of grounding: the lens. The lens, which Barthes seems to assume is eternally focused, is that material “organ” which gathers up the emanation — flying in all directions at once — and reconverges it, thus making the link and remaking the visible thing. The emanation of the thing is still there in the unfocused photograph, but so is an “emanation” of the lens, so to speak, showing itself in the act of gathering (and suspending) the errant rays, but not (yet) resolving them.

… Here, vision par excellence is not a matter of sheer and unimpeded transcendence of things but of things caught up in the sticky substance of vision, like a primordial fly in amber.

Last week’s Barth post is here.




Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: