Unreal Nature

March 23, 2016

Made from Mistakes

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:06 am

… Beauty is not something that comes towards us from a future in which the imperfections of the present will have been made good, but rather comprises a more accepting, even loving attitude towards the fleeting moment …

This is from the Introduction to Jeff Wall: Works and Collected Writings by Michael Newman:

… The slowing of the image in the large-scale constructed photograph [such as Wall’s] implies a way of “reading” it. When places in sequence, snapshots evoke narrative, and this was the way they were typically used in photojournalism. A reading of the photograph in relation to sequential time — photo as chronicle — may be contrasted with one based on the spatial simultaneity or composition of elements within the image.

[ … ]

… recently … Wall has rejected the utopian as a repudiation of the imperfection of the present:

The Utopian aggression against the actual, against the slow and the imperfect — I see that as a rhetoric, as one of the last formations of the avant-garde. Democracy involves imperfection. The fundamental aesthetic trait of democratic culture is the taste for imperfection. It has to do with accepting its presence and knowing that everything you do won’t be realized exactly as you want it to be, and that other people will also have something to say about it. That spirit of imperfection realizes that the past was made from mistakes that we now find interesting, as interesting as “getting it right” might have been, maybe more interesting.

The grimy here-and-now has found its way into a number of his pictures since the 1990s in the form of representations of dirt and desuetude, and a focus on ordinary, everyday subjects. Clearly Wall still tries to make beautiful pictures, but the implications of beauty are no longer the same. Beauty is not something that comes towards us from a future in which the imperfections of the present will have been made good, but rather comprises a more accepting, even loving attitude towards the fleeting moment of a contingent present remembered, reconstructed, and held in a photograph.

… If photography is to be taken as a medium rather than a means to produce pictures, as is generally the case in Wall’s earlier work, what conception of medium might we be able to infer from the work itself? I will argue that Wall’s conception of photography as medium needs to be understood in the following ways: in relation to a crisis in the transmission of experience in modernity; in relation to the abandonment of the “expressive” model of the picture with its distinction between appearance and essence; and in relation to an emphasis on the ordinary.

-Julie

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