Unreal Nature

September 23, 2016

The Age of Gesture

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… if outer posture is affected by the photograph, so with our inner postures and the dialogue with ourselves.

This is from ‘The Photograph: The Brothel-without-Walls’ found in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994, 2003):

… If the phonetic alphabet was a technical means of severing the spoken word from its aspect of sound and gesture, the photograph and its development in the movie restored gesture to the human technology of recording experience. In fact, the snapshot of arrested human postures by photography directed more attention to physical and psychic posture than ever before. The age of the photograph has become the age of gesture and mime and dance, as no other age has ever been.

… the logic of the photograph is neither verbal nor syntactical, a condition which renders literary culture quite helpless to cope with the photograph. By the same token, the complete transformation of human sense-awareness by this form involves a development of self-consciousness that alters facial expression and cosmetic makeup as immediately as it does our bodily stance, in public or in private.

[line break added] This fact can be gleaned from any magazine or movie of fifteen years back. It is not too much to say, therefore, that if outer posture is affected by the photograph, so with our inner postures and the dialogue with ourselves. The age of Jung and Freud is, above all, the age of the photograph, the age of the full gamut of self-critical attitudes.

… “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a feature not only of the compositor’s arrangement of his type fonts, but of the entire range of human organization of knowledge and action from the sixteenth century onward. Even the inner life of the feelings and emotions began to be structured and ordered and analyzed according to separate pictorial landscapes, as Christopher Hussey explained in his fascinating study of The Picturesque. More than a century of this pictorial analysis of the inner life preceded Talbot’s 1839 discovery of photography.

[line break added] Photography, by carrying the pictorial delineation of natural objects much further than paint or language could do, had a reverse effect. By conferring a means of self-delineation of objects, of “statement without syntax,” photography gave the impetus to a delineation of the inner world. Statement without syntax or verbalization was really statement by gesture, by mime, by gestalt.

… The photograph might be said, also, to have brought to human attention the subvisual world of bacteria that caused Louis Pasteur to be driven from the medical profession by his indignant colleagues. Just as the painter Samuel Morse had unintentionally projected himself into the nonvisual world of the telegraph, so the photograph really transcends the pictorial by capturing the inner gestures and postures of both body and mind, yielding the new worlds of endocrinology and psychopathology.

To understand the medium of the photograph is quite impossible, then, without grasping its relations to other media, both old and new. For media, as extensions of our physical and nervous systems, constitute a world of biochemical interactions that must ever seek new equilibrium as new extensions occur. In America, people can tolerate their images in mirror or photo, but they are made uncomfortable by the recorded sound of their own voices. The photo and visual worlds are secure areas of anesthesia.

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

-Julie

http://www.unrealnture.com/

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: