Unreal Nature

January 20, 2016

At a Certain Distance (and from a Certain Angle)

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:03 am

… in a landscape, persons are depicted on the point of vanishing into and/or emerging from their property.

This is from the essay, ‘About Making Landscapes’ found in Jeff Wall: Selected Essays and Interviews (2007):

… In making a landscape we withdraw a certain distance — far enough to detach ourselves from the immediate presence of other people (figures), but not so far as to lose the ability to distinguish them as agents in a social space. Or, more accurately, it is just at the point where we begin to lose sight of the figures as agents that landscape crystallizes as a genre. In practical terms, we have to calculate certain quantities and distances in order to be in a position to formulate an image of this type, especially in photography, with its spherical optics and precise focal lengths.

I recognize the “humanist” bias in this construction, and the recurrence of the idealist notion of measure in it, but I think it’s valid as a way of thinking analytically about the typology of pictures, which, unlike some other art forms, are radically devoted to the semblances of the human being. This is just one of the senses in which we have not gotten “beyond” idealist aesthetics.

To me, then, landscape as a genre is involved with making visible the distances we must maintain between ourselves in order that we may recognize each other for what, under constantly varying conditions, we appear to be. It is only at a certain distance (and from a certain angle) that we can recognize the character of the communal life of the individual — or the communal reality of those who appear so convincingly under other conditions to be individuals.

… in a landscape, persons are depicted on the point of vanishing into and/or emerging from their property. I think this phenomenology is analogous to, or mimetic of, real social experience, extra-pictorial experience.

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

-Julie

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