My tutor suggested the following reading material for this part of the course:
Susan Sontag On Photography for a better understanding of the idea of the original versus the copy – downloaded on my Kindle as well as had it as an audio book- much to my friends at gym’s shock: that I listened to a book and not music, whilst running on the dreaded treadmill!
Daniel Chandler, “Semiotics; The Basics”, 2017 – downloaded from internet
Sean Hallett, This Means This, This Means That, second edition: A user’s guide to semiotics, 2012
My own explorations
I bough Critical Terms for Art History, Nelson and Shiff eds., on Kindle The articles on Simulacrum ( Camille) and on Sign ( Alex Potts) was in particular good reading and reference material for the studies. I am planning to read the rest of the book in the next few weeks (4 March 2019)
I had a book I bought with me to the UAE which I thought I should also bring into my reading list: Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul, Memories and the City The illustrated Edition
In The Art of Art History, A critical Anthology, Donald Preziosi, I found an article by Coda, rather to the end of my readings – Plato’s Dilemma and the Tasks of the Art Historian Today. At this time I was not happy with my discussion of question 3.2 and new I could go back with a broader understanding.
I also ordered Walt Whitman, Specimen days and collect and Logic of Sense, Gilles Deleuze, and Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation on Amazon for this part of the work to be done as well as needed for the next chapter of the studies.
Cleary a long list of books to work through and start working on the exercises and the assignment, to be handed in by early March 2019.
On Photography is a compilation of 6 essays
- In Plato’s Cave
- America, Seen Through Photographs Darkly
- Melancholy objects
- The Heroism of Vision
- Photographic evangels
- The Image world
In the foreword, Sontag states that her collection of essays arose from “some of the problems, aesthetic and moral, posed by the omnipresence of photographed images.”
In Plato’s Cave Sontag opens with the statement: “humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still revelling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth” (Sontag, 1977:3) She uses these metaphors, ‘cave’ and ‘shadow’. Sontag discusses not only the philosophical question of how reality may be perceived and knowledge gained, but she also reviews photography as a tool, an industry, an activity that “imposes a way of seeing” and therefore, actually alters reality. In these essays she investigates what photography is, what photographers do and the role photographs play in the world. She pays critical attention to the multiple uses to which photographs can be put; to photography understood as both aesthetic and the instrumental; to capitalist societies requirement that culture be based on images due to its need for ‘vast amounts of entertainment’ to ‘stimulate buying and anesthetize the injuries of class, race and sex’; to cameras’ power to define reality as a spectacle and as an object of surveillance; to the role of images as producers of ideology; and to photographs’ ability to shock and to anesthetize. In a world dominated by images, she writes, ‘Social change is replaced by change in images. The freedom to consume a plurality of images and goods is equated with freedom itself’
In ‘The Image world she states that reality has always been “interpreted through the reports given by images” While the photo grants us the chance to keep contact with what’s past and some of it’s substance, there’s also the need to deal with the transference of value that can happen between the “things” and their “images”, something that concerned Plato, even though he didn’t saw this phenomenon as a competition between realities, but as the destruction of the only possible reality. Sontag don’t accept this argument:
Sontag reminds us of our consumerism and obsession/ addiction to photographs.“ A capitalist society requires a culture based on images. It needs to furnish vast amounts of entertainment in order to stimulate buying and anesthetize the injuries of class, race, and sex. And it needs to gather unlimited amounts of information, the better to exploit natural resources, increase productivity, keep order, make war, give jobs to bureaucrats. The camera’s twin capacities, to subjectivise reality and to objectify it, ideally serve these needs as strengthen them. Cameras define reality in the two ways essential to the workings of an advanced industrial society: as a spectacle (for masses) and as an object of surveillance (for rulers). The production of images also furnishes a ruling ideology. Social change is replaced by a change in images. The freedom to consume a plurality of images and goods is equated with freedom itself. The narrowing of free political choice to free economic consumption requires the unlimited production and consumption of images.”
Throughout history reality has been related through images and philosophers such as Plato have made efforts to diminish our reliance on representations by pointing at a direct ways to grasp the real. Susan Sontag quotes Feuerbach in saying that our age prefers the photograph to the real thing, the appearance before experience. This argument, Sontag says, is widely accepted in modern culture which is constantly engaged with producing and consuming images to such a degree that photography has been made essential for the health of the economy and the stability of social structures.
Photography, according to Susan Sontag, holds an almost unlimited authority in modern society. Such photographic images are capable of replacing reality by virtue of being not only a mirror or interpretation of in, but also a relic of reality, something that is taken straight from it.
Photography, unlike painting, does not only address and represent its object and does not only resemble it; it is also a part of the object, its direct extension.
Photography, according to Sontag, is a form of acquisition in a number of ways. When you photograph something, it becomes a part of certain knowledge system, adapted to schemas of classification and storage starting from family photographs up to police, political and scientific usage. Photography, in other words, is a form of supervision.
Primitive tribes are afraid that the camera will take their soul or something from their being. Modern societies do not of course share this fear by still views photography as directly related to the material world, a physical relic of it. our attitude towards photographs is still fetishistic, still voodoo like.
A typical nowadays statement is that an experience was “like in a movie”, which is said when other forms of description fail to convey how real a sensation was. While many people in developing countries are still hesitant about being photographed, people in industrialized countries are more than happy to stand in front of a camera and that is because, Sontag argues, that being photographed gives us a sense of being real and of existing.
Photography is a means for capturing reality (which is considered unobtainable) by freezing it. You cannot hold reality but you can hold a photograph. photography in not only a way of preserving the past but also a way of handling the present., with photographic images becoming more and more widespread in modern times.
Photography also means that we can see something before we experience it, and that takes away from the virginity and openness of the way we experience reality. reality, in other words, is photographed before it is experienced.
Photography, Susan Sontag holds, is not a mere copy of reality but rather a recycled copy. We consume photographs at an ever increasing rate and they are therefore consumed and need to be replaced. Meaning, the more we take photographs the more we need to take photographs, and this accounts for what is known today as the “pictorial turn”.
But the very question of whether photography is or is not an art is essentially a misleading one. Although photography generates works that can be called art –it requires subjectivity, it can lie, it gives aesthetic pleasure– photography is not, to begin with, an art form at all. Like language, it is a medium in which works of art (among other things) are made. Out of language, one can make scientific discourse, bureaucratic memoranda, love letters, grocery lists, and Balzac’s Paris. Out of photography, one can make passport pictures, weather photographs, pornographic pictures, X-rays, wedding pictures, and Atget’s Paris. Photography is not an art like, say, painting and poetry. Although the activities of some photographers conform to the traditional notion of a fine art, the activity of exceptionally talented individuals producing discrete objects that have value in themselves, form the beginning photography has also lent itself to that notion of art which says that art is obsolete. The power of photography –and its centrality in present aesthetic concerns– is that it confirms both ideas of art. But the way in which photography renders art obsolete is, in the long run, stronger.”
Appearance and Reality :
Metaphysics is the science that seeks to define what is ultimately real as opposed to what is merely apparent.
The contrast between appearance and reality, however, is by no means peculiar to metaphysics. In everyday life people distinguish between the real size of the Sun and its apparent size, or again between the real color of an object (when seen in standard conditions) and its apparent color (nonstandard conditions). A cloud appears to consist of some white, fleecy substance, although in reality it is a concentration of drops of water. In general, men are often (though not invariably) inclined to allow that the scientist knows the real constitution of things as opposed to the surface aspects with which ordinary men are familiar. It will not suffice to define metaphysics as knowledge of reality as opposed to appearance; scientists, too, claim to know reality as opposed to appearance, and there is a general tendency to concede their claim.
It seems that there are at least two components in the metaphysical conception of reality. One characteristic, which has already been illustrated by Plato, is that reality is genuine as opposed to deceptive. The ultimate realities that the metaphysician seeks to know are precisely things as they are–simple and not variegated, exempt from change and therefore stable objects of knowledge. Plato’s own assumption of this position perhaps reflects certain confusions about the knowability of things that change; one should not, however, on that ground exclude this aspect of the concept of reality from metaphysical thought in general. Ultimate reality, whatever else it is, is genuine as opposed to sham.
Second, and perhaps most important, reality for the metaphysician is intelligible as opposed to opaque. Appearances are not only deceptive and derivative, they also make no sense when taken at their own level. To arrive at what is ultimately real is to produce an account of the facts that does them full justice. The assumption is, of course, that one cannot explain things satisfactorily if one remains within the world of common sense, or even if one advances from that world to embrace the concepts of science. One or the other of these levels of explanation may suffice to produce a sort of local sense that is enough for practical purposes or that forms an adequate basis on which to make predictions. Practical reliability of this kind, however, is very different from theoretical satisfaction; the task of the metaphysician is to challenge all assumptions and finally arrive at an account of the nature of things that is fully coherent and fully thought-out.
Excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica without permission.
Reading to understand the philosophical similarities and differences between Searle and Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 and died in April 1882. The study material notes on page 69 and 70 refers wrongly to dates with regards to R W Emerson’s publications and lecture, stating during 1934 and not 1834. Contextualizing his place from which he wrote and thought, his impact on society as well as his mind/thoughts I enjoyed reading form various sources. I understand that through this lecture Emerson aimed to answer the question: What is the place of natural history in Education? I imagine a society of America, still very much driven by forces of conformity and building itself on principles never before seen in the history of humanity. Allen Sugg describes it as follow: “In a world of suppression of the individual under kings and queens, despots and warlords, or simply a lack of any civilized coherence, something new happened in the history of humanity on July 4, 1776: The Declaration of Independence. This document, drafted by Jefferson, began with three words that would change the world forever. These words were simply “We the people…” and would set in motion a new liberation, the right of the individual to be equal to its government, to criticise and to influence and form that government, and indeed to be part of that government, which in turn would be accountable to the people. The individual and the government are to be indiscernible.” (taken from his discussion on the film The Dead Poets Society)
It was important for me to come to understanding that constructivism is linked with reality – some authors refer to it as “politics of reality” and that the relationship between constructivism and postmodernism is complex and ambivalent.
The central claim in constructivism is that all we claim to know, is constructed. Searle (2012) discuss a question in this regard as follow: “There is an overriding problem in philosophy. It is the problem of how to reconcile what we know about the world from physics, chemistry, and the other hard sciences with what we think about ourselves. The hard sciences tell us that the world is entirely composed of physical particles in fields of force, and thus is composed of mindless, meaningless entities. Everything consists of “atoms in the void”. Yet we think of ourselves as conscious, free, rational, linguistic, political, aesthetic, ethical, creative, speech act performing animals.”
Searle maintain four theses about Social Reality .
All of human institutional reality is created in its initial form by a certain type of linguistic representation that has the same logical structure as Declarations and as these create Status Functions, he call them Status Function Declarations.
Institutional reality is maintained in its continuing existence by Status Function Declarations.
The status functions without exception function to create power. So the purpose of institutional facts is to create power relations.
The powers in question have a very peculiar status, because they function by creating reasons for action that are independent of the desires or inclinations of the agents in question.
Great words written by Walter Lippmann comes to mind: “We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them.” (1922, 49)
Einstein’s theory of relativity introduced a new way of looking at the physical properties of the universe. The Newtonian constraints of absolute time and space were abandoned. Time and space were unified and made relative, it formed a continuum that curved and enfolded about itself. Gravity was a distortion of this continuum caused by the presence of mass. Critical theorists, however, emphasize that the world is socially constructed, and not shaped in fundamental ways by objective factors. Anarchy, after all, is what we make of it. Yet when critical theorists attempt to explain why realism may be losing its hegemonic position, they too point to objective factors as the ultimate cause of change. Discourse, so it appears, turns out not to be determinative, but mainly a reflection of developments in the objective world. In short, it seems that when critical theorists who study international politics offer glimpses of their thinking about the causes of change in the real world, they make arguments that directly contradict their own theory, but which appear to be compatible with the theory they are challenging. ( Eugene Walters, 2013) Read about Positivism here to understander background …..Pre-Darwinian peoples had an immediacy of encounter with nature that scientists today may lack, and among them there are forgotten truths. They too had places in nature that they only visited, not to remain. But they had only groping access to the depths of historical time and change that have characterised Earth over the millennia.
They had neither evolution nor ecology as sciences on the one hand (nor microbiology
nor astronomy), and their cultural developments, on the other hand, did not (not
so evidently to them, at least) threaten the health and integrity of their ecosystems.
Even we Westerners have re-educated ourselves in this century about these matters.
We have increased access to non-human phases of nature; we increasingly threaten
As member of the Republican Party, Emerson fully supported Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. When Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation Emerson called it a momentous day for the United States. Emerson became an important American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He studied at Harvard to become a minister in the Church, but in 1839 he resigned due to his growing dissatisfaction with traditional Christianity, he had doubts about the authority of the church as an institution, the efficacy of its rituals, and the veracity of at least two of its doctrines—namely, Adam’s fall and Christ’s redemption. In my research I read that in 1836, an essay entitled Nature was published anonymously. It created a great stir, especially among college students, who formed clubs to discuss it – Emerson was the author. The essay marked the beginning of a movement that came to be called American Transcendentalism. Emerson was involved in all of the major reform movements of the pre–Civil War era. He invited an abolitionist to deliver an address from the Second Church pulpit in 1831. He gave his first anti slavery speech in 1837 and spoke publicly the following year against war with Mexico and the removal of the Cherokees from east of the Mississippi River. In 1844, he lectured on the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies. In Art as Therapy Alain de Botton refers to Emerson’s 1844 essay, called ‘The Poet” – here Emerson reminds his readers that the changed industrial landscape with its, railways, factories, warehouses should also be seen as beauty, and that we should not stay with the nostalgic, be prejudice about changes, but be open to new alternative forms of beauty – another way of challenging ‘traditionalist’ thinking. ‘
I found it important at this stage to look at his relationship with friends/contemporary thinkers, such as Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau and his readings of Goethe, Kant and Carlyle. Emerson, being an educated man, read and were aware of archeology and biology making advances in research and discoveries – such as the discoveries by the explorers JF Champollion and Giovanni Belzoni in 1824 of the Rosetta stone and other artifacts brought to England during these expeditions into countries of antiquity. Kant’s distinction between Understanding and Reason became a central point in Emerson’s philosophy. One of the Emerson’s most famous act of support was his enthusiastic response to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a copy of which Emerson received shortly after its publication in 1855. “Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul,” Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) wrote in offering his timeless advice on living a vibrant and rewarding life in the preface to Leaves of Grass ….. and further in the poem..“ The quality of being, in the object’s self, according to its own central idea and purpose, and of growing therefrom and thereto — not criticism by other standards, and adjustments thereto — is the lesson of Nature. Whitman was a volunteer nurse in the Civil War, he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed at age 54 and it took him two years to recover — convalescence aided greatly, he believed, by his immersion in nature and its healing power. “How it all nourishes, lulls me,” he exulted, “in the way most needed; the open air, the rye-fields, the apple orchards.” (Brainpickings.com article on Whitman, Maria Popova) Looking at Emerson and his ability as a writer made me consider how he could utilize language to shift his readers/followers’ ability to perceive reality.
According to Sheldon W Liebman in an Oxford Research Encyclopedia article (2017), “what impressed Emerson most in this widespread and growing acceptance of the basic principles of transcendentalism was less its social and political ramifications than its religious and philosophical dimension.” I read further that Transcendentalism in America, of which Emerson was the leading figure, resembled British Romanticism in its precept that a fundamental continuity exists between man, nature, and God, or the divine. What is beyond nature is revealed through nature; nature is itself a symbol, or an indication of a deeper reality, in Emerson’s philosophy. Matter and spirit are not opposed but reflect a critical unity of experience. Emerson is often characterized as an idealist philosopher and indeed used the term himself of his philosophy, explaining it simply as a recognition that plan always precedes action. For Emerson, all things exist in a ceaseless flow of change, and “being” is the subject of constant metamorphosis. Central to defining Emerson’s contribution to American thought is his emphasis on non-conformity that had so profound an effect on Thoreau. Self-reliance and independence of thought are fundamental to Emerson’s perspective in that they are the practical expressions of the central relation between the self and the infinite. To trust oneself and follow our inner promptings corresponds to the highest degree of consciousness.
The following on his ideas is from Liebman’s article: “This idea is at the center of Emerson’s vision, for in all of his writings individual change is the basis for all human achievement, whether moral, political, intellectual, or aesthetic. Indeed, he says again and again that self-reformation is contingent on complete self-transformation, a revolution of mind and heart, a leap from one level of consciousness to another. He believed that there are basically two angles of vision, one social and one individual, and two kinds of knowledge, one derivative and one original. Yet, though Emerson valued the mystical experience as an indispensable introduction to the spiritual world, he was not a monist. For as much as he believed that knowledge of the spiritual—of the One—is necessary to a true understanding of things (that, in fact, awakening to this reality is the foundation of wisdom), he did not thereby dismiss the significance of the material world and its appearance to the senses as the Many. Emerson’s universe ( reality), as he says repeatedly, is dual, containing as it does a number of bipolarities, which he listed whenever the occasion required: spirit and matter, man and woman, reason and understanding, motion and rest, change and permanence. Nature is thus composed of one essence (Soul, Mind, or God), but this unity has two aspects. Each thing in the universe is only a partial reality, he says in “Compensation,” and requires another thing to make it complete.
Brewton describe the legacy that Emerson left as follow: “Emerson’s emphasis on self-reliance and nonconformity, his championing of an authentic American literature, his insistence on each individual’s original relation to God, and finally his relentless optimism, that “life is a boundless privilege,” remain his chief legacies.”
Emerson strongly believed that conformity to any societal standard inhibits self-realization, and without a fully developed self, the individual is hopelessly mad. Emerson believed that although insanity was manifested in such contemporary fads as mesmerism, spiritualism, and phrenology—easy targets for anyone’s diagnostic attack—it was, in any guise, caused by the pursuit of wealth and power. Therefore, he says in the essay “Power” that every age is dominated by imbecility, which is characteristic of almost everyone at all times. Nature is Emerson’s testament to his belief that ideas, forms, and laws (what Emerson sums up as spirit) are more important than physical, phenomenal, material things (what Emerson calls nature). Both exist, of course, but spirit or mind exists prior to nature, and the natural world is, for Emerson, a product of spirit. In the chapter on “Idealism,” Emerson concludes: “It is the uniform effect of culture on the human mind, not to shake our faith in the stability of particular phenomena, as of heat, water, azote [nitrogen]; but to lead us to regard nature as a phenomenon, not a substance; to attribute necessary existence to spirit; to esteem nature as an accident and an effect,” not as the final reality.
Realism and semiotic
In case it is not obvious to readers, I should declare a social constructionist bias, which is not shared by all semioticians. For semioticians who are (in contrast) drawn towards philosophical realism, reality is wholly external to and independent of how we conceptualize the world. Social constructionism does not entail denying the existence of all external reality but it does assume that our sign-systems (language and other media) play a major part in ‘the social construction of reality’ (or at least ‘the construction of social reality’) and that realities cannot be separated from the sign-systems in which they are experienced. It is hardly surprising when social constructionists are drawn to semiotics, but readers may of course insist on being philosophical realists without abandoning semiotics (many semioticians are indeed realists). Note that I make reference here to an opposition between idealism and realism, and those who are already well-read in philosophy may object that this sometimes involves a common conflation of two pairings, namely:
1. idealism vs. epistemological realism (stances on the issue of whether or not the reality of a physical world is dependent on our minds or language);
2. nominalism vs. conceptual realism (stances on the issue of whether or not the reality of abstract universals is dependent on our minds or language)
The full lecture as given by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Reflecting on exercise 3.2
I am contemplating the idea of finding meaning and always thinking something is hiding – and not just accept something to be what it is. I understand it to be impossible in theory – but it is becoming my idea to me to agree with Greenberg when he says’ “reality has no meaning, but that, contrary to his posture, art . “I have discovered photography” Pablo Picasso is said to have once exclaimed, “now I can kill myself” Picasso introduced a whole system of fundamental changes to the conventions of painting; a series of innovations which prepared the ground for much of twentieth century art. At the centre of the cubist project was, as Edward Fry has convincingly shown, the abandonment of the linear perspective, the abolishing of the convention of the “spatial illusionism of the one-point perspective” (Fry 1966: 13). The convention of the linear perspective had been an obligatory part of the painters’ tool box for almost 500 years, ever since Brunelleschi and Alberti established its rules and principles. Picasso introduced this technique of combining multiple viewpoints into a single image in his famous painting of the Demoiselles d’Avignon.
On the meanings of the words: origin, original and originality.
Original means “the very first.” Original comes from the Latin word originem, which means “beginning or birth.” In my language, the word is “oorsprong”, much like in German ” der ursprung” – I would translate is that that gives it life to, what we inherit from, the source, where it starts and its roots/beginning, before it came into being.
Whether I used it in the above sentences as an adjective to describe something that is literally the very first, or as a noun meaning something that serves as a model for making copies, original means “first.” More words to add could be originally and originate. Martin Heidegger in his essay The origin of the Work of Art, 1935 (Preziosi, 1998:284) refers to origin as that it means that “from and by which something is”, “what it is,” as well as, “as it is”. What something is, as it is, we call its essence or nature, thus the origin of something is the source of its nature. The question concerning the origins of the work of art is asking about the source of its nature. (I contemplate: It could also be to ask about the relationship between the artwork and the artist. Can the artist be the origin of the artwork?) This then takes Heidegger to the ‘thingness’ of matter and how the Greeks designated names to describe their thinking about thinks they named. In my thinking about the ‘thingness of a thing’ (which is here a work of art) I connected Heidegger’s use of Van Gogh’s painting , Old Shoes with laces, 1886 with paintings by surrealist, Rene Magritte, The Red Model, 1935, and later The Philosophy in the Boudoir, 1947 and The Well of Truth, 1963 – went about searching this idea that Magritte mimics and mocks the ideas about truth of painting. Staying with Martin Heidegger’s essay, I follow to read the reply by Meyer Shapiro and J Derrida (deconstructing? ) and by now the word ‘Hermeneutics’ also need some clarification and context.
Stephen Halliwell, however, has shown that this was just one family of meanings of mimesis. A second family of meanings was something like simulation or world-making, which for fiction is arguably more important. Reduced to a schematic but nonetheless instructive dichotomy, these varieties of mimetic theory and attitude can be described as encapsulating a difference between a “world-reflecting” [conception] (for which the mirror has been a common though far from straightforward metaphorical emblem), and, on the other side, a “world simulating” or “world creating” conception of artistic representation.
Reflecting on Simulacrum and Simulacra
When I read Camille’s paper on Simulacra, as well as Deleuze, I felt more at ease with the idea, as I understand Deleuze’s suggestion of taking simulacra from the “opposition’ position to a reality which is ‘out there’ and not hidden or presented as negative, due to the Platonism idea of division. Deleuze claim that ‘to reverse Platonism’ means to make the simulacra rise and to affirm their rights among icons and copies (2015,271) – Camille says this is to erase the distinctions entirely. ( 2003, 37) Simulacra stands on its own as a copy without a model. A good example of a simulacrum is photorealism: here we have painting which is a copy not of reality, but of a photograph, which is already a copy of the original. Photography is according to my understanding at this stage a very good example of simulacra which can stand on its own – I felt I almost had an ‘Aha moment’ when reading an article in a newspaper on 9 February 2019, on photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whom I had no knowledge about. It affirms Deleuze’s idea that modernity is defined by the power of the simulacrum. In this article I saw photos which are loaded with raw signs of reality, but staged or posed moments. To me this is an understanding of a moment in time which the photographer captured, the photo ‘manifests’ a larger reality, which is that of sublimity, provocation, vular, lust – the viewer believes this as a spontaneous and true moment. This is simulacra, similarity of reality which Baudrillard says : “….pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact” (1994,3) By now Baudrillard examines the ways through which simulacra effects representations of reality. I understand that I need to examine the semiotics and signs, and almost borrow from them in this process of understanding and exploring the complex phenomenon of simulacrum. In this newspaper article Robert Mapplethorpe’s remark on his style sits with me: ” my interest was to open people’s eyes, get them to realise anything can be acceptable. It’s not what it is, it’s the way it’s photographed” (FT Weekend 9 February 2019) I am also reminded of my readings of Susan Sontag and her reference to the photographer Diane Arbus’s extraordinary people in ordinary households, the images convey a moment of reality in time and history of a particular culture or subculture group. and maybe, how I understand this is: we (the public at that moment and time) do not want to be confronted with this simulacrum – prefer to see it as a ‘distorted’ truth than its vulgar reality, and the institutions of this world can react with their ‘power’ to undermine this, thus hide it. In the case of Mapplethorpe’s 1990 exhibition at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center, conservative politicians excoriated the show on moral grounds, the court case which they lost, but ended in a budget cut of the National Endowment for the Arts.
I reflect on Deleuze trying to show a possibility of looking at dimensions of visuality different by seeing that simulacra brings out the difference between the different versions – it stays within the domain of the image, but simulacra is not a representation. The work/simulacra is difference. The concept of simulacra is central to both Baudrillard and Deleuze’s philosophies. Mc Donald, states, ” for Baudrillard it creates a hyperreal and simulation of reality. For Deleuze, through repetition of the image, the virtual (becoming) creates a simulation of reality. Therefore central to their philosophies are the ways in which difference in itself (becoming) is used by commoditization in order to create an illusion of the same; the way in which this same can be combated with a singularity allows for difference in itself to return.” ( 2009,ii) Interesting if you do a google search on an image, it will bring up a very big list of images, all similar to the one you are looking for, you still need to know the difference between the original and the copy. This is a great example of a simulacra – all the images are just different versions. This visual experience on the computer screen is a simulacrum – as all of the images are not representations, but images on their own, a different version.
Camille refers to Michel Foucault who looked at surrealism for the simulacrum in modernity and his analysis of artist Magritte when he says this artist call into question the ontology of the object itself – the example of “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” – is almost a ‘lure of the false’ at play as representation as in philosophy is dissolving. (2003, 38) Susan Sontag (1979, 179) says that photography’s powers have in effect “de-Platonized” our understanding of reality, because the photographic images are material images in their own right, they are “more real than anyone could have supposed.” Susan Sontag refers to Feuerbach’s contrast of original with copy as static definitions of reality and image. She states that this assumes what is real persists, unchanged and intact, while only images have changed. She says, when the notion of reality changes, so does that of the image, and vice versa. “Our era” she says, does not out of perversity prefer images to real things, but partly in response to the notions of how the real was progressively been complicated and weakened.(1979, 159)
What I found interesting in Baudrillard’s discussions is how he writes about the ‘imaginary’ that slips into the ‘real’ and ‘seduces’ us, and then the fact that we do not demur to that. It is not that we are being lied to – we believe even though there is no ‘real object’ or referent out there to convince us of this reality. (TV news becomes the real) I do feel sceptical and almost overwhelmed by his ideas, but thinking about when his ideas started to be discussed, (pre postmodernism?) I find this theories in many very real to our current lives. I do however believe having knowledge of something makes for a possibility of being able to distinct between the real and the fictional. I see this as a normal part of a child growing up and coming to contact with the ‘real world’, but being told about the ‘world of imagination’. Einstein’s famous quote comes to mind: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” I also contemplate our human need to ‘express’, in words, writing, song, dance – where we do not always need language to understand.