Unreal Nature

July 14, 2016

That Carries the Burden

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… ‘It is the “inter” — the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space — that carries the burden of the meaning of culture.’

This is from the essay ‘Art and Cinema: Some Critical Reflections’ by Mark Nash, found in Art and the Moving Image: A Critical Reader edited by Tanya Leighton (2008):

… ‘Video and film installations have now introduced deepest night or dusk into the museum.’ The artist, as Groys points out, now controls the light by which we see their work. [Groys’s] second [point] concerns a shift in the temporal conditions influencing our perception of art. Moving pictures have begun to suggest to the viewer how much time they should spend on contemplation.

[line break added] However, should we ‘interrupt our contemplation of some video or film work in order to return to it at a later point, we will inevitably be filled with that very same feeling of having missed something crucial and will no longer be sure what is really happening in the installation.’ Moving images, in other words, return us to the experience of real life, ‘that familiar place … where one is forever haunted by the feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

[line break added] Moving-image installations create an anxiety in the viewer for which there is no adequate and satisfactory solution: ‘Whatever the individual’s decision, either to stay put or to keep moving, his choice will always amount to a “poor compromise.” ‘ In the cinema, on the other hand, the audience is traditionally immobile, secure in the knowledge that, provided they don’t miss the beginning of the film, they will have seen everything they need to see to understand the work.

… But I will argue that there can be no necessary connection between a particular formal approach to the conditions in which a work is experienced (e.g. creating a mobile spectator) and a presumed radicality.

The key question is whether the new physical mobility that the spectator is offered in gallery and museum installations really involves a critique of dominant spectatorial regimes of cinema. Do gallery-based moving-image practices participate in the construction and problematisation of the subject in this way?

Homi K. Bhabha proposed the concept of a ‘third’ space which he made the condition for the articulation of cultural difference: ‘It is the “inter” — the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space — that carries the burden of the meaning of culture.’ In seeking to overturn the dualism underlying much contemporary and theoretical practice, Bhabha further sets out the enunciative terms for a vanguard artistic practice, supplementing those of Kapur:

The language of critique is effective not because it keeps forever separate the terms of the master and the slave, the mercantilist and the Marxist, but to the extent to which it overcomes the given grounds of opposition and opens up a space of translation.

[ … ]

… If one is too much the native informant, one is too close. If one is too much the ethnographer, one is too far. The struggle for the artist is to find the correct distance.

… to what extent are we still involved in the paradox of what Walter Benjamin called the ‘optical unconscious’ — namely, the move to a subjective register which accompanies depiction once it is separated from a critical frame? Benjamin critiqued the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) photography as saying ‘the world is beautiful,’ in opposition to Bertolt Brecht’s imperative that ‘the point is to change it.’

[line break added] One might argue that much of the work involved in the contemporary ‘documentary turn’ is involved in an analogous but dystopian move. This time the affect produced is one of horror rather than wonder: the world is no longer beautiful, and we are in the process of witnessing the destruction of the world as we know it. Crucially then, where is the position for critical engagement in all this?

My most recent previous post from this book is here.




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