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1 R EPRESENTING THE UNREPRESENTABLE: ETHICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY IN POST PHOTOGRAPHIC ERA POST DOCUMENTARY OF LUC DELAHAYE, WALID RAAD (THE ATLAS GROUP) AND AERNOUT MIK By JONG CHUL CHOI A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2012
2 2012 Jong Chul Choi
3 To my parents
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank Dr. Joyce Tsai, chair of my disse rtation committee, for giving me a great academic advice, and for turning my wild drafts into an acceptable form of dissertation. It would have been impossible, though, without my former advisors Dr. Alexander Alberro, Dr. Eric Segal, and Dr. Shep Steine r who helped me immensely outline this dissertation. They could not come all the way to this moment, but, wherever they are, my gratitude should be delivered to them. Dr. Melissa Hyde and Dr. Elizabeth Ross also deserve many thanks for being my mentors f or the past five years in the University of Florida. They are more than just members of my dissertation committee, as they always have supported me with such a warm, cordial encouragement. I also thank Dr. Gregory Ulmer from UF English department for being my outside committee member. If my readers find any unique dynamics in ways I pose, reason, theorize issues in the dissertation, it is perhaps from his revolutionary lecture that I have taken a few years ago here in Florida. And, the rest of the gratitude should go to my wife Sang Mee Chung and my son Daniel J.Y. Choi who are the reasons of my life.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 8 2 CULTURAL CONDITIONS FOR POST DOCUMENTARY ................................ ..... 14 Cultural Dilemma of the Post 9/11 Era ................................ ................................ .... 14 Post documentary: Between Art and Journalism ................................ .................... 17 The Confrontation between Art and Politics in the 1980s and the 1990s ................ 25 9/11 and Demand for Cultural Merger ................................ ................................ ..... 36 The Post Medium Condition ................................ ................................ ................... 41 The Ethical Turn ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 46 The Digital ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 50 Responses ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 55 3 PLATONISM IN THEORY AND PSEUDOS OF POST DOCUMENTARY: THE ATLAS GROUP (WALID RAAD) ................................ ................................ ............. 58 ................................ ................................ ....... 58 Critics of Documentary ................................ ................................ ............................ 60 Anti aesthetic View in Criticism and its Underlying Platonism ................................ 66 The Politics of Aesthetics .................. 68 New Ethics of Image: Georges Didi Imag es In Spite of All ................. 73 Walid Raad: The Atlas Group ................................ ................................ ................. 76 ................................ ................................ ..... 88 4 BETWEEN OBJECTIVITY AND SUBJECTIVITY: REHISTORICIZING SOCIAL DOCUMENTARY THE F.S.A. PROJECT at MOMA ................................ ............ 90 Documentary between Art and Politics ................................ ................................ ... 90 The Great Depression and the Myth of Social Documentary ................................ .. 91 ................................ ................................ 97 Social Documentary as Art ................................ ................................ ................... 100 Documentary as an Expressiv ... 102 Between Classical Evans and Anonymous Evans ................................ ................ 106 Walker Evans at MoMA ................................ ................................ ........................ 110 Two Concerns about Documentary as Art ................................ ............................ 117 Toward a New Ae sthetics of Social Documentary ................................ ................ 123
6 5 THEATER OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND EMANCIPATION OF THE SPECTATOR: INSIGHT ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 127 Aernout Mik at MoMA in 2009 ................................ ................................ ............... 127 Photography as Theater: Roland Barthes ................................ ............................. 132 Michael Fried: the Dynamics of Theatricality and Anti Theatricality ...................... 136 be ................................ ........ 144 ................................ 148 Emancipation of Photography in Theater ................................ .............................. 155 Photography and Ethics ................................ ................................ ........................ 160 6 REPRESENTING THE UNREPRESENTABL HISTORY AND THE ETHICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY ................................ ............................. 162 Writing of Disaster ................................ ................................ ................................ 162 Disaster of Writing ................................ ................................ ................................ 165 Luc Delahaye: History ................................ ................................ ........................... 167 Image that Thinks ................................ ................................ ................................ 174 Ethics of Photography ................................ ................................ ........................... 179 The Poetics of History ................................ ................................ ........................... 184 APPENDIX LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................. 187 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 192 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 200
7 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Ph ilosophy REPRESENTING THE UNREPRE SENTABLE: ETHICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY IN POST PHOTOGRAPHIC ERA POST DOCUMENTARY OF LUC DELAHAYE, WALID RAAD (THE ATLAS GROUP) AND AERNOUT MIK By Jong Chul Choi May 2012 Chair: Joyce Tsai Major: Art History My research investigates a recent photographic art that has been described as Post documentary Luc Delahaye, Walid Raad (the Atlas G values (close engag ement with reality, political consciousness, objectivity, etc.) with various aesthetic sensibilities (large scale picture planes, vivid color, theatrical narratives, etc.) in order to produce more provocative and more engaging visual testimonies of recent histories. But these Post documentary artists are also subjected to the ethical concern that their arts may involve uncomfortable visual sensationalism of The primary goal of this resea rch therefore is to produce a critical framework in which Post documentary be validated both ethically and art historically. With theoretical insights of art historian Michael Fried, philosopher Jacques Rancire, and many other recent critics, I argue that Po st documentary is a new form of visual communication that brings an effect ive merger between art and politics in this new age of image war.
8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Since 9/11, artists and art historians have often been confronted with cultural pressures t itical realities. 1 While such pressures 9/11 era, they also draw concern that ntion in political realities may result in irresponsible aesthetic pluralism, formal abstraction, and visual sensation alism. 2 For the past ten years in the United States viability for r epresenting reality is radically diminished in favor of national security and thereby, 9/11 in this lack of visual reflection turns into what Giorgio Agamben has 3 Photographic and filmic representa tions, in particular, face a deeper dilemma for two reasons; firs t, as Jean Baudrill yielded a disturbing parallel between the terrorist attack and its visual representation in media, 1 See critical magazine October explain the seeming absence of visible opposi tion to the Iraq War during the past years within H. D. Buchloh and Rachel Churner, October 123 (Winter 2008). 2 aesthetic engagement in socio political reality, see Journal/Photography, Thursday, June 2011, accessed August 28, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014240527023042593045763778 71932426008.html. For theoretical elaboration of this concern, see also Documentary, Post Decoy and Disruptions: Selected Writings 1975 2001 (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2004), 211 3 See Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2006), Jacques Derrida, Philosophy in A Time of Terrorism (Ch icago: University of Chicago Press, 2003) and Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005) as well as Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: the witness and the archive (New York: Zone B ooks, 1999)
9 spawning an idea that those media images re terrorize and re victimize the viewer 4 ; secondly, U.S. wartime censor ship and the change in the mode of military operations to incapable to bring first hand visual evidence of socio political conflicts. 5 In this situation, recent photographic artists such as Luc Delaha ye, Aernout Mik, Walid Raad (the Atlas Group), Jim Goldberg, Juul Hondius or Richard Mosse, offer an opportunity to overcome the stagnancy of the post 9/11 visual culture by bringing together political sensitivity and aesthetic sensibility in their visual ly provocative and politically attuned pictorial documentation that has been identified as Post documentary Many critical assessments have been made for this Post documentary practice. Artist/critic Martha Rosler argues that ephemeral aesthetic form and its maker into 6 While critical concerns as such reiterate the lingering anx indulgence, institutional critiques try to domesticate this new hybrid art into an exclusive Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before (2008) provides a fo rceful argument about Post documentary theatricality, a 4 See Jean Baudillard, Requiem for The Twin Towers trans. Chris Turner (London, New York: Verso, 2002) 5 See William J. Mitchell, The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post Photographic Era (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994) and Fred R Photovideo ed. Paul Wombell (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1991) 6 Documentary, Post Decoy and Disruptions: Selected Writings 1975 2001 (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Pres s, 2004), 211, 240.
10 tradition originated from the eighteenth century French Salon painting. 7 In this critique, political association is deliberately obligated to ensure its art historical continuity and aesthetic autonomy. My research challenges both critical perspectives that arguably fail to address Post documentary rgue that Post documentary responsibility and aesthetic creativity in its strategic application of pictorial composition, theatrical sensibility, and digital technology that all serve to vivify the often invisible political catastrophes and their victims. My dissertation is organized in five chapters which have been drafted in an individual essay format with particular case studies and theories. But, the five chapters together make a col laborative voice in theorizing the Post documentary as a new ethical form of art that represent the unrepresentable. The first chapter Cultural Conditions for Post documentary investigation of the cultural and historical conditions that have affected the formation of Post documentary during the first decade of the 21 st century. Throughout this chapter, I investigate the historical conditions that have paved the way for the reunion of art and politics in recent photography, how this a esthetically articulated photography can also find its place in political arenas without further ethical complication, and what are the current cultural conditions that have played a pivotal role in establishing the Post documentary practice in this new ag e of war and terrorism. 7 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008)
11 Pseudos of Post documentary : The Atlas Group his chapter, I rehearse critical texts that have been recognized as the most influential ethical frameworks in photographic discourses for the past several decades texts of Susan Sontag, John Tagg, Martha Ros ler, and Abigail Solomon Godeau. In this rehea rsal, I argue that there is a pervasive Platonic anxiety in these ethical requests that theoretical resolution in the works of Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Rancire, and Georges Did i Huberman who insist respectively on the priority of simulacra, the equality of the sensible, and necessity of images in an era where Platonic truth claim loses its cultural validity. The third chapter : Rehistoric izing Social Documentary examines the cultural history of the US social documentary, with a particular f ocus on the FSA project. After this review, I will discuss the ways in which this social documentary was encompassing aesthetics proximity was reduced and limited in their probl ematic emphasis on its formality. The fourth chapter the notion of photographic theatricality with Aernout Mik as a cas e study. In this chapter,
12 comes to a particular emphasis; a lthough theatricality and pictorial quality, the critical details he produces in the book underscore the very theatrical nature of photography, given that all of his critical terms emphasize an imaginary (theatrical) relationship between the subject and the other. This photographic s recent thoughts on new, Representing The Unrepresentable: Luc Delahaye 's History ic (anti) theatricality with more emphasis on its ethical aspect. In this chapter, I will argue how recent Post documentary art, Luc Delahaye in particular, overcomes the ethical insight on photographic (anti) theatricality will be applied in my reading of Delahaye. In particular, absorption that Fried considers as a merger between two worlds (the world of the photographed figures and the world of beholders) will be reinte rpreted as an ethical encounter between the privileged beholding subject and the marginalized, suffering others in images. Creatively playing on Post documentary today show how effecti vely and intuit ively photography could address sensitive socio political agendas without diminishing i ts aesthetic potency. Moreover, onto an imaginary stage where the ontological distance be tween privileged viewers and
13 marginalized others can be negotiated, the Post documentary emerges today as a new ethical mode of representation.
14 CHAPTER 2 CULTURAL CONDITIONS FOR POST DOCUMENTARY Cultural Dilemma of the Post 9/11 Era Since 9/11, there h as been an increasing concern in U.S. culture that art is no longer viable enough to deal with recent political catastrophes. For instance, in its winter 2008 special issue, October one of the leading U.S. art journals, offered various artistic and intell ectual responses to a questionnaire intended seeming absence of visible opposition to the Iraq War during the past years within the 1 The respon ders argued, in various ways, that American art lost its critical viability in the a the post 9/11 U.S. society, they argued, seems to keep art and artists from this sensitive cs might result in irresponsible culture pluralism (Susan Buck Morss), 2 formal retrogression ( Hans Haacke ), 3 and uninspiring visual sensationalism ( David Joselit 4 1 October In what ways have artists, academics, and cultural ins titutions responded to the U.S. led invasion and (Winter 2008): 3. 2 Susan Buck Morss, response (untitled) in October 123 (Winter 2008): 27 30. Buck economic, racial, and cultural groups around a shared political Buck se to express in their work, and art by itself 3 Hans Haacke, response (untitled) in October 123 (Winter 2008): 80 82. After mentioning (consisting of banners, photographs, private messages, etc.) in front of the Houses of Parliament, as a resolute testimony against the war in the Middle East, Haacke asked the
15 But art is not the only discipline that has gone through difficult situations in the afte rmath of 9/11. Photojournalism, documentary, or more broadly media images in 5 As William J. Mitchell 6 any infectious disease, a host of antibodies in the form of counter 7 Cons equently, many news images about 9/11 and the subsequent wars in the Middle East provoked public controversies and governmental bans due to such concerns that quality. contractors at Falluja, Iraq in 2004 8 release of Abu Ghraib photos for the safety of US troops in the Middle East 9 are just a few exampl es. Media theorist Fred Ritchin in this regard argues that in this digital era in or could afford -3 Amer ican museums, collectors are also refraining from association with works that question the wisdom and morality of current U.S. government actions in Iraq. The widely shared opinion of 4 David Joselit, response (untitled) in October 123 (Winter 2008): 86 89. Critic David Joselit mentioned that in the United States, where the overarching impacts of the culture industry make citizenship synonymous with spectatorship, and where civic duty and patriotism a class spectator 5 W. J. T. Mitchell, Cloning Terror: The War of images, 9/11 to the Present (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011), 1 15. 6 Ibid., 2. 7 Ibid., 2. 8 Nieman Report ( Summer 2004): 71 74. 9 The New York Times May 13, 2009, accessed July 25, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/us/politics/14photos.html?ref=politics
16 malleability, photography has come to an end. 10 In this situation, recent photographic artists working on the li mits between art and photojournalism call forth new critical attention. They represent recent socio political disasters in the form of documentary. But they also make use of pictorial composition, theatrical staging, or digital modification that is unconve ntional in documentary traditions. In doing so, these hybrid documentary artists register a new direction of frequently spelled out. This new direction of photographic art h Post documentary documentary paradigms (paradigms based on photographic objectivity and authenticity) ars that photographers are no longer able to break the news in this age of digital warfare. 11 Artists participating in this Post documentary practice include Luc Delahaye, Aernout Mik, Walid Raad (the Atlas Group), Richard Mosse, Jim Gold berg, Juul 10 Photovideo ed. Paul Wombell (London: River s Oram Press, 1991) 1:8. 11 p ost d p ost photography ) has been used protocols (its objectivity and authenticity) are no longer viable enough to d e fine this genre, due to th e digital modification technologies that have radically eroded these earlier protocols, and therefore, practice and discourse should find another set of post protocols to deal with this crisis This supposition has been addressed by Fred Ritchin ( After Photography 2009 Documentary, Post 2004 ). The other usage comes from a situation that some recent photographers are drawn more to th e political disasters, rather than going directly into the real time situations. it is often more empathetic, discursive, and visually appealing than conventional war reportages. This point is addressed by David Campany ( The Cinematic ed. David Campany (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003), 185 188.) (detailed biblio graphical information for the rest will be provided throughout the dissertation)
17 Hondius and many others whose works are frequently highlighted in many international art venues, calling for a new discourse that can explain Post documentary disciplinary position between art and politics. This chapter explores the new cultural conditi ons for Post documentary in the post 9/11 era. Throughout this chapter, I will investigate historical circumstances that have brought this reunion between art and politics in photography, the ways in which this aesthetically articulated photography finds i ts place in political arenas without further ethical complication, and the current cultural conditions that have played a pivotal role in establishing Post documentary practice in this new age of war and terrorism. Post documentary : Between Art and Journ alism Contemporary p hoto between aesthetics and politics has been reclaimed by a number of artists during the first decade of the twenty first century This new artistic practice, identified as Post documentary include s but not limited to the works of Luc Delahaye, Aernout Mik, Walid Raad (the Atlas Group), Jim Goldberg, Juul Hondius and Richard Mosse, whose visu ally provocative, politically concerned photographic testimony of recent catastrophic events have establish ed a new m odel of politico aesth etic representation. In fact, c ontemporary approaches has already been exemplified by Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Thomas Demand, and other artists whose pictorial, museum friendly have provided a new syntax of documentary
18 as art. 12 But while thes onalization appears to diminish political significance, Post do cumentary emphasis on both political and journalistic consciousness distinguishes it from the earlier models. This political and journalistic consciousness derives mainly from the Post documentary For example, Luc Delahaye is a former Magnum photographer and has been affiliated with various media institutions such as the SIPA agency and Newsweek covering wars in Lebanon Afghanistan, Rw anda, Chechnya, and Bosnia 13 Jim Goldberg has been a member of the Magnum agency since 2006 and has photographed immigrants, refugees, and trafficked individuals in Greece and Ukraine. 14 Richard Mosse also has worked for news magazines, photographing conflicts in Haiti, Baghdad, and Beirut. 15 Even for those without dist inctive journalistic careers, journalistic conventions play a significant role in documentary that strategically mise en scne, 12 Jeff Wall, Border Crossings, no. 19 (February 2000): 50. 13 14 Jim Goldberg is also a winner of Henri Cartier Bresson Award in 2007 for his project The New Europeans, in which his camera follow ed the journey of refugees and immigrant who traveled from their devastated countries to Europe to find new opportunities. Born in 1953, Goldberg lives in San Francisco and teaches at California College of Arts and Crafts. See Goldberg wins HCB award, Ar tweek 38, no 9 (November 2007): 3. 15 Richard Moss has originally been trained in English Literature and culture studies (he got MA in Culture Study from the London Consortium). After this academic trainings, he worked momentarily for Art Monthly, a British art magazine, as a listings editor consuming gallery press release.(He later recalls this editorial experience turned out to be the best art education for him). After this, he became a photographer working either for his own art or news company unt il Aperture 203 (Summer 2011), 52 59.
19 fabricated documen tary archive (the Atlas Group), which invites viewers into a rupture between journalism and history. This journalistic proximity takes a provocative turn, however, when these artists employ distinctive artistic methods such as pictorial composition, theat rical s taging, or digital manipulation. Characteristically, the Post documentary arts involve imposing size, vivid color, captivating clarity, and dramatic mise en scne, as evidenced, for History se ries [Figure 2 1, 2 5] 16 [Figure 2 2, 2 6], and Hondius dramatic close ups of despaired and endangered human beings. [Figure 2 9, 2 10, 2 11] In other cases, post documentarie s emphasize odd juxtaposition of facts and fictions, ambiguous or ambivalent narratives, shabby style and boring sequences, as a way to resist both mass media clich s and journalistic conventions. Artists in this category include Walid Raad whose virtual a rchive, the At las ars reveal psychological disarray between history and individual memory (see Chapter 3); Aern out Mik whose staged documentations of te rrorism, illegal immigration, and o ther political conflicts increase the communicability of the images (see Chapter 5); and Jim Goldberg who produces Polaroid snapshots of political minorities, filled with various textual marks and traces of his photographed figures, effectively reinstating the authority of the ph otographed o ver the spectator [Figure 2 7, 2 8]. As a result of this aesthetic reinterpretation, Post documentary mark s a distinctive shift from a rig orous journalistic convention to what Delahaye has recently 16 Images are not provided in this version of dissertation due to the copyright issue. Instread, detailed inf ormation about the figures are provided in the Appendix of this dissertation.
20 e term between art and journalism. 17 What is interesting about these poetic documentations is that they appear to increase the ethical proximity of documentary photography, despite the fact that their subject matters reach out to the most problematic human conditions around the globe. This ethical proximity comes from their particular aesthetic strategies, designed to establish more engaging and more active spectatorship with these sociopolitical imageries. That is, unlike conventional straight photography, characterized by its literal 1972 photo of a naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack [Figure 2 3],or Saigon Execution in 1968 [Figure 2 4], both of which won the photographers the Pulitzer Prize), the Post documentary takes more metaphoric, allegorical, or symbolic detours in representing the pain and misery of their subjects. But, these poetic detours do not attenuate sensitivity of their su bject matters; rather, they provide, with the aid of aesthetic methods, a deeper beholding experience (in contrast to the quick glance one might give to a newspaper or magazine) in which the painful truth of images is examined, contemplated, and challenged As art historian Michael Fried argues in his essay about Delahaye, this detour or detachedness of the image from shock value ironically draws beholders even more 18 In 17 of achieving a poetic form. For me that is more than an interesting possibility, it aiming at. -Art Press 306 (2004): 33. 18 Artforum International vol. 44 no. 7, (March 2006): 65. -The photographs ... involve a balance of opposing forces. So, for example there is in most a strong sense of distance, even withdrawal, on the part of the photographer: the viewer quickly becomes aware that a basic protocol of these images rules out
21 othe r words, if conventional straight photographers achieve their professional goal Post documentary artists achieve the same goal by producing a sort of psychological space in which the viewer can be confronted more empathetically with the victims in the images. This feeling of confrontation prevents the viewer from a quick, pitiless glimpse 19 because this aesthetically situated confrontation, as Fried argues in his recent study of contemporary photographic art, involves absorptive spectatorship in which beholders thei r own worlds, or their extraordinary performance as if there are no beholders before them -one that the eighteenth century culture critic Denis Diderot considered an ideal of painting and theater, and that now, according to Fried, has been inherited by c ontemporary art photography. 20 Taliban (2001 ) [Figure 2 5] exemplifies this absorptive spectatorship reinforced by its particular aesthetic sensibility. In the work, a dead Taliban soldier lies in a ditch with his shoes off, eyes half opened and with dirt all over captured at a mountain valley near Kabul when the U S troop s massive raid in prec isely the sort of feats of capture of fast moving events, extreme gestures and emotions, vivid momentary juxtapositions of persons and things, etc. that one associates with photojournalism at its bravura best. At the same time, the photographs in their sheer breadth and detail extend an invitation to the viewer to approach closely, to peer intently at one or another portion of the pictorial field, in short to become engrossed or indeed immersed in intimate contemplation of all that the image offers to b e seen 19 Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Dell Pub. Co, 1977), 110. 20 See Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), and Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008) (I will discuss more on this in Chapter 5)
22 Afghanistan had just swept the region. 21 But the image does not sh in fact the result of his use of a large format Linhof Technorama 612 panoramic camera 22 Thi s detached pictorial composition takes a strange turn when Delahaye makes a few digital modifications to the image; 23 for instance, the straw lying across the attention to the focal point of this tragedy. Therefore, as Fried argues, back into the image by the subtle attraction of the details. In this balanced psychic interaction, the image comes to elicit a deeper visual recognition, and the formerly fixed distance between the photographed reality and the beholder starts be ing renegotiated and redefined. Grand Voyager Sunni Trian gle (2009) is another example that shows Post do cumentary 6] This work features a destroyed van with numerous bullet holes and traces of explosion, and it surely indicate horrifying violence in this notorious war zone of the Sunni Triangle. But there is also a melancholic feeling of ruin in this image precipitated by the subtle tonality 21 Art Press 306 (November 2004), 29. 22 Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic in Pain, ed. Mark Reinhardt, Holly Edwards, and Erina Duganne (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 58. 23
23 of the retreating brown color. 24 In fact, both ruin and tonality of color are two distinctive to evoke the Sublime feeling out of this unimaginable, immeasurable reality; Mosse believes that one of the best ways to communicate in sublime, which is in itself a con tradiction of feeling one can have out of the unthinkable or the insensible. 25 Indeed, there is a sense of remoteness in the image that forestalls in the war zone, and thei r solitude, emptiness, and irreparable damage). And at the same time, there is also a strong sense of attraction coming from the ironic overlap of an exquisite color field with the bombarded car and surrounding air. As a result of these opposing forces, Mo without spectacularizing them. 26 The juxtaposition of opposing powers is also evident in the works of Jim Goldberg, when he photographs marginalized individuals (immigrants, refugees, poor urban work ers, etc.) with his Polaroid camera, and then asks them to leave personal marks (a few words with a marker pen) on the pictures that punctuate (in the Barthesian 7, 2 subj 24 Aperture 203, (Summer 2011): 57. 25 Ibid., 56. ffectively communicated through shocks to the 26 In to the society of the spectacle
24 direct conversation with the subjects. 27 photographs of immigrants and smugglers, often rendered in sharp focused, tightly cropped compositions, create the same tension in that their suggestive poetic metonymy of zooming in and zooming out lures the viewer both to the world of art and to the world that the subjects belong in. 28 [Figure 2 9] In most cases, the world of s is compressed in shabby motor cars that, by extension, symbolize the precarious mobility of the drifting lives. 29 [Figure 2 10, 2 11] In this overloaded, stifling de eper recognition. These images above all document realities, but they do so neither by the brutal immediacy of certain reportage traditions nor merely by the pictorial artistry of painting, which would attenuate the effect of the real in the images. Inste ad, the Post documentary delivers reality in a strategic mediation between the two. In this mediation s the Post documentary comes to establish a new tradition of ethically sound visual representation in an era in which widespread skepticism about the power of images has prevented photography from representing realities deemed unrepresentable. W hat then are the cultural and historical conditions of this new era that have contributed to the emergence of Post docum entary ? How could this radical reconciliation between art and politics have been made in a documentary form, despite 27 James Yood, Conversation: Text and Image, Aperture 176 (Fall 2004): 12 14. 28 http://www.juulhondius.com/juulhondius.html 29 Sven Lutticken, Artforum International vol. 42, (September 2003): 237.
25 reactions to this new form of political art? The res t of this chapter w ill be dedicated to discussing these questions. The Confrontation between Art and Politics in the 1980s and the 1990s Al though Post documentary is the term for a new artistic practice that has emerged in the first decade of the twenty f irst century, critiquing it requires an in depth overview of the past two decades prior to the new century, because, if the Post documentary is a mediation between art and politics, then the 1980s and 1990s were the times in which the confrontation between the two disciplines was initiated and deepened in a contradictory structure of culture politics. T he photograph ic discourses of the 1980s in the United States can be unpacked by what critic Abigail Solomon Godeau called art photography and Art photography in this in the footsteps of Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Walker [ ae sthetic ] aura 30 Postmodern photographic activities, on the other hand, include the 31 According to Solomon Godeau, t his distinction however takes a problematic twist in the 1980s, as postmodern photographic activity fell into its own contradiction in which its self cl aimed criticality was liquidated in a tautologi c al circuit within the 30 Abigail Solomon in Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions, and Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 19 91), 103. 31 Ibid., 106.
26 argues Solomon Godeau the 32 which re 33 34 Ironically, this particular contradiction between pho tography as politics an d photograph y as art, as Solomon Godeau put it, reinforced the status of the latter (art photography) in the postmo sociopolitical agenda 35 In other words, when postmodern photographic activities failed to address the practical agendas of socio politics due to their tautological circ ularity within the art world, art photography effortlessly earned its aesthetic va lidity, 32 Abigail Solomon Supply The Critical Image: Essays on Contemporary Photography (Seattle: Bay Press. 1990), 62. 33 Ibid., 63 34 Often times, th e explicit social concerns of photographic works by Dan Graham, Gordon Matta Clark, Ed Ruscha, Bernd and Hilla Becher, or Hans Haacke, for instance, were dissolved into popular post modern tropes: publicity Twenty Six Gasoline Stations (prod uced first in 1962, yet constantly highlighted over the course of the 80s and 90s), site specificity Cooling Towers (1993), seriality Homes for America (also produced in 1966, but continued to show up in discussions of post minimal art), etc. Twenty Six Gasoline Stations or Homes for America reflexive aesthetics of permutation to a perspective on t he architecture of mass culture. The from their attempt to construct models of visual meaning and experience that juxtaposed formal reduction with a structural and work argued for an analysis of (visual) meaning that defined signs as both structurally consisted ex 1969: From the Aesthetic of Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology ed. Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: the MIT Press, 1999), 521. 35 Abigail Solomon photographic imagery that have made it a privileged medium in postmodern art are precisely those which for generations art photographers have been concerned to di
27 36 Thus, Solomon Godeau viewe in the 19 80s and 19 90s t o the lingering modern dogma of aesthetic autonomy and institutionalism. Solomon God eau, it ends up lik e someone 37 it is more precisely because there were too many directions to choose from. As critic Hal Foster pointed out, Ame rican art during the 1 980s was saturated with the sugared promises of (institutional) pluralism. 38 This pluralism certainly gave postmodern artists tremendous encouragement fo r more viable resistance to But to some extent, it als o fostered a distorted vanguardism that yielded an idea that anything co uld be an artwork if it met the criteria of art institutions. For Foster, this utopian vanguardism seemed to disperse po and s in both art produ ction and criticism 39 eccentricity that leads, in art as in politics, to a new conformity: pluralism as an 40 that has brought about Foster 41 T hat is, once the tradition of authorized and consented aest hetic criteria was dismantled by institution s strategic promotion of pluralism, art 36 Ibid., 106, 113. 37 Ibid., 80. 38 Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1985), 13. 39 Ibid., 13. 40 Ibid., 15. 41 Ibid., 16.
28 institutions began to p roduce countless tongue in cheek criticisms supported by tacit consent of artists, which eventually blunted the sharp edges of criticism. Adrian Piper termed this phenomenon a process that has systemat ically concerns with beauty, form, abstraction, and innovations in media, to which political and social subject matter is either largely subordinat 42 Securing the art institution s control over artists in aesthetic acculturation has established a critical ten dency that has discouraged American arts from addressing socio political subject matters. This aesthetic acculturation has surely been an underlying motif for s rapid institutionalization over the past several decades in the United States. Peter Galassi, for instance, remarked in 1981 that, bastard left by sc ience on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial trad ition. 43 department over the past thirty years, 44 and confidence rega For the institution, this aesthetic legitimation of photography might have guaranteed its 42 Institutional (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2009), 247. 43 Peter Galassi, Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1981), 12. 44 Galas For the ten years prior to that, he had been an associate director in that department (1981 1991), working with John Szarkowski, a chief director at the moment and a legendary figure of photographic modernism.(see chapter 3) Based on his career and position, it is undeniable that recent retirement in March 2011.
29 dominant cultural position aesthetic val ue ran out. But as Douglas Crimp argued, while institutionally legitimized pho tographic art was increasing relation and responsibility were unconditionally suspended. 45 While art institutions were b ecoming more and more d epoliticized in their predilection for aesthetic discourses there was also a counter reaction against this aestheticism in many artistic practices and theories during the same period. Nicholas Bourria u Relational Aesthetic s (1998 French / 2002 English version) remaps the political top ography of international art in the 1980s and 1990s 46 In this text, Bourria u d coins the term, relational a esthetics theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than 47 For Bourriaud specificity seemed to bring a suspension of productive possibilitie s of human interaction, participation, and communication. 48 Thus, instead of the se modernist slogans, he poses 45 The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography ed. Richard Bolton, (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989), 7. 46 The term, Esthtique relationnelle s catalog for the exhibition, Traffic (1996) held at CAPA muse 47 Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics ( Dijon: Le 14. 48 Nicolas Bourriaud once called this particular antagonism against monotheistic modernism became possible for us to produce some thing that made sense starting from an assumed a nostalgia for the avant garde and indeed for any era a positive vision of chaos and urriaud, Altarmodern: Tale Triennial (London: Tate, 2009), 13.
30 m odel of relational art characterized by 49 R elational art as such has been embodied in, for instance: cooking show ( Untitled [occasionally, Free ] 1992) at 303 Gallery, New York, [Figure 2 12] in which the artist and aud ience shared food, talk, and other daily rituals in the gallery, and therein, the gallery as a high culture institution turned into a space for more intimate conversation and inter personal relation: party project at Le Consortium in Dijon, France (January 1995) that consisted of a two hour long party in which the cl uster of individuals around art objects produced various temporal, relational forms: Felix Gonzalez Untitled (1990), a work shown at MoMA [Figure 2 13] consisting of a pile of candies that gradually disappeared as the audience took a grab on a pe r mission of the artist, and thereby metaph orize d mo rtality and mutability of human beings and their relationship with others. These relational arts in their particular promotion of utopian relations become a 50 As Bourriaud elaborates, the relational art dot i ates a transitory community based on democratic interaction s and exchange s of communicable information. 51 follows in the political footsteps of Guy Debord who argued in his manifesto for Situationist I nternational (1960) : 49 Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics 24. 50 Ibid., 16 51 Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics 18.
31 Our central purpose is the construction of situations, that is, the concrete construction of temporary settings of life and their transformation into a higher, passionate nature. We must de velop an interven tion directly by the complicated factors of two great components in perpetual interaction: the material setting of life and the behaviors that i t incites and that overturn it. 52 But while Debord found art ineffective and incapable of constructing such situa tions n 53 Bourria ud believed that art is capable of creating inter subjective relationships and of helping to maintain them in a capitalist society; therefore, he argued that rela tional 54 Bou rriaud finds photographic media (including video and film) particula rly vital in the relational paradigm, because they have retrosp 55 Gonzalez photographic billboards ( Untitled 1992 ) [Figure 2 14], for example demonstrate create the awareness about the particular li 56 This temporal and multi locational (installed in twenty four lo cations in New York city in 1992 ) photographi c billboard installation features the image of an empty but recently occupied bed, taken after the 52 Participation, ed. Claire B ishop (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2006), 96 -53 Ibid,. 99. collapse of the idea of the theater. It is easy to see to what extent the very pri nciple of the theater non intervention is attached to the alienation of the old world. Inversely, we see how psychological identification with the hero, se as to incite this spectator into activity by provoking his capacities to revolutionize his own life. The situation is thus made to be lived by its of 54 Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics 85. 55 Ibid., 70 56 Ibid., 71
32 dea th time partner, Ross Laycock, from AIDS. This massive photographic image of an empty bed speaks of both the absence of a man and his photography. 57 This photogra thus evokes an issue of sexual minorities (such as Laycock) whose right and privilege to have a legitimate relationship with others is often either unacknowledged or threatened. The billboards in this regard ar e a solicitation for recognition, an effort to re locate him in another web of relations. Therefore, rather than being an individual piece of work to be looked at, the photo billboards play as a series of dots in the city to link the people within it cons tructing a psy chological community in which the invisible p atterns of the marginalized life are r ecalled and questioned. Bourria u cs emerged as a useful framework to discuss the political motif of art in the 1980s and 1990s. 58 But cri tical receptions of the relational aesthetics h ave not always been hospitable. In her 2004 October arti cle, Claire Bishop, for example, argues that the relational aesthetics is grounded on an insecure structure that 59 Bishop agrees that relational aesthetics 60 However, d both from artistic intentionality and 57 Rolan d Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981) 88. 58 Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics 17 developing a political project when it endeavors to move into the relational realm by turning it 59 October 123 (Winter 2008): 64 60 Ibid., 53
33 constantly changing portrait of the heterogeneity of everyday life, and do not examine 61 What troubles Bi 62 Often, this question about the quality has been answered by Bourriaud himself, based on the notion of relation as an intrinsically democratic modus operandi by relational aesthetics are not intrinsically democratic, as Bourriaud suggests, since they rest too comfortably within an ideal of subjectivity as whole and of community as immane 63 Hal Foster presents another critique of relational aesthetics. According to Foster, ions of originality 64 This promiscuity of collaboration has been incubated, as Foster argues, in the increasing positivism of international ar t communities such as Documenta and the Biennials held o Paulo, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and the curatorial ore chaotic than 65 collaboration cause even more complicated conceptual dissolution and formal 61 Ibid., 64 62 Ibid., 65. 63 Ibid., 67. 64 Participation, (Mass: The MIT Press, 2006), 191. 65 Ibid., 192.
34 delusion. 66 Thus, Foster concludes that di and in this vague, i n coherent community, pacified b 67 The critical concerns and skepticism surrounding rela tional aesthetics speak to a content. 68 While relational art emerges as a new model of inter subjective political art that effectively role in a society, many critics find it demonstrates: [ rather than to celebrate in art a condition to make over into form for the purpose of reflection and resistance. 69 In any case, this critical discrepan cy has influenced the ways in which each camp (the political and the aesthetic) has treate d photography. W hile the relatio nal camp find s 70 and 66 Ibid., 193 194 there are problems too. Sometimes politics are ascribed to such art on the basis of a shaky analogy between an open work and an inclusive society, as if a desult ory form might evoke a democratic community, or a non hierarchical installation predict an egalitarian world. Hirschhorn moment where everything is complete stand, and to do this in a concrete register that brings together the aesthetic, the cognitive and the critical. And formlessness in society might be a condition to contest rather than to celebrate in art 67 Ibid., 194. 68 academics in Britain and the U.S. seem reluctant to move on from the po liticized agendas and intellectual battles of 1980s art (indeed, for many, of 1960s art), and condemn everything from installation art to ironic painting as a depoliticized celebration of surface, complicitous with 69 70 Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics 78
35 71 this tactical use of photography also draws a its rich formality, as manifested in the 1980s and 1990s by art institutions that found a legitimate child of the Western pictorial trad Arguably, it is this mutual antagonism between the aesthetic discourse and the pol itical discourse that has kept photography from exercising its true potential to bring together aesthetic forms and political contents until recently. But on the other hand, this antagonism and polarity hav e also incubated a desire for another leap in phot ographic criteria, but it also revealed their own dilemma -T his dilemma was recognized and widely discussed in the 80s and 90s, as some of them have been already addressed in this chapter. But it became all the more visible in the first decade of the twenty first century when the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, broke the seeming stability of culture, to an for its own sake could no longer make any cultural resonance in public minds, and postmodern critical photography swamped in the tautological circuit within the art world appeared to make no better impression than media spectacles in this new age of image war. This new recognition arguably brought a radical compromise in photographic disciplines. It urged photographic artists to get out of th eir safe aesthetic sanctuary and his political turn did not completely leave behind the aesthetic attitude that photographers had 71 Ibid., 70.
36 developed for many decades, because there was also a growing recognition of the power of the image in the aftermath of 9/11 that led photographers to a competition with other media spectacles. In other words, once 9/11 upended certain traditions of (photographic) realism in its disturbing and repetiti ve visual terrorism, photographers such as Luc Delahaye, Aernout Mik, or Walid Raad, started reconsidering the shock of images and finding a new way to represent disasters in both politically more responsible and aesthetically more powerful forms. Post doc umentary politics, I argue, needs to be understood as a response to these historical demands after 9/11. 9/11 and Demand for Cultural Merger As many scholars have noted, 9/11 was a political disaster r esulting from the failure o f a US led post Cold W ar world order based on diplomatic unilateralism and military interventionism. 72 But, the media expansion of the past twenty years (with the advent of mobile phones, digital cameras, and global news channels) turned 9/11 into a media e vent, in which the terrorist attacks were rapidly duplicated and amplified by real time global media networks. 73 This media explosion increased the parameter s of the s to the extent that the 9/11 terrorist attack s gained a symbolic (or iconic 74 ) status, creating cul t effects around the world. 72 S Life: The Powers of Mourning and Vi olence (London: Verso, 2006), and Jacques Derrida, Philosophy in A Time of Terrorism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003) 73 For the effect and fear of such duplication and amplification of images of 9/11 and wars Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011), 16 24. 74 According to Robert Hariman and Joh subsequent visual resources such as Abu Ghraib photographs and dead bin Laden images all historically significant even ts, activating emotional identification or response, and are
37 The towers, which 75 Jean Baudrillard wrote in 2002 as part of his ongoing theoretical elaborations about this culture of simulacra dominated not by reality but by its effect. This account by extension summarizes pervasive assumptions that the terrorist attack s were somehow choreographed to increase the symbolic impact on the mass es Indeed, the airplanes penetration of the towers, causing them to collapse into an enormous pile of rubble, smoke, and ashes seem ed programmed in advance to maximize the scale of terror. The visual power of the crumbling towers thus led British artist Damien Hirst to remark, he 76 As Judith Butler remarks, thi s unsettling connection led to a nation in the fight 77 Consequently, images were censored, freedom of speech was suspended, and cultural pluralism an d political relativism became target s of public hysteria. 78 For many Americans, the curtailment of their civil right was considered a Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites. No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy (Chicago: Universit y of Chicago Press, 2007), 27. 75 Jean Baudillard, Requiem for The Twin Towers trans. Chris Turner (London, New York: Verso, 2002), 43. 76 The Guardian (September 11, 2002), accessed July 2 011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/sep/11/arts.september11. 77 Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2006), 2. 78 To name a few, cancelation of the construction plan of the cultural institutions on Ground Zer o for their pluralistic art exhibitions in 2005, Vandalism and attack to the gallery owner at the Capobianco Gallery in San Francisco for its display of an anti American painting in 2005,
38 necessary step to recover ing the national security. But while the U.S. public voluntarily surrendered its constituti onal rights, the vitality of U S culture was rapidly extinguished While this cultural dilemma brought a noticeable decline in post 9/11 US culture, many critical articulations that concerned the political and cultural decline of US society have been heard from both inside and out side of the country 79 Judith Butler, in particular makes one of the most compelling inside voices that call for more c onstructi both political and cultural attitude s Pointing out the unprecedented absence of critical reflections in the United States after 9/11, Butler argues that the blind patriotism of post 9/11 U S society has systematically sub dued both intellectual and help clarify the true cause s and effect s of terrorism ; 80 American unilateralism, unwillingness to understand this absence of explanation. Subduing explanations, she continues, brings up an effect an due to uncomfortable reminder of 9/11 victims in 2002, and several media bans of US military casualties (such as Falluja military contractor mutilation image or US military coffin image at Dover) and moral depravity (such as Abu Ghraib) are the examples of this public/national hysteria. These few incidents, of course, cannot represent the general mentality of post 9/11 US culture. But they 79 Jacques Derrida, for example, compared this cultu destruction to immunize itself in his words, the post 9/11 Ameri Giorgio Agamben also points to the juridical paradox of the US foreign policy after 9/11 by s a justification of its unlimited use of military force in the foreign soils is nothing other than the abuse of its troubling sovereignty. Agamben warned that this kind of overly self determined juridico political system A Dialogue with Philosophy in A Time of Terrorism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 93 99 and Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005) 23, 86. 80 Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2006), 4 5.
39 anti juridical foreign actions are neutralized and sustained. 81 For Butler this exoneration is a self deception that conceal s the very selfishne ss of the logic of self defense, 82 and it rather increases the tension between the U S and the Third World. S he collective responsibility as part of an international community based on a commitment to equality and non vi olent create better social and political conditions around the world; it is a centers us fro m our 83 Although Butler did not specify the particular role s of art and culture, it seems obviou s that her articulations of collecti asking unasked questions, hearing the unheard, and finding narrative decenterin were to solicit more active inte rventions of art and cultural community beca use both have traditionally provided society with such counter narratives. To be more specific, in anothe r essay, Butler argues that mourning or grief is not a private, depolit icized activity, but something that have implications for theorizing fundamental dependency and ethical 84 e thrall in which our 81 Ibid., 8 9. 82 Ibid., 17. noring its image as the hated enemy for many in the region, the United States has effectively responded to the violence done against it by consolidating its reputation 83 Ibid., 17. conditions came about, and endeavor to re create social and political conditions on more sustaining grounds. This means, in part, hearing beyond what we are able to hear. And it means 84 Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2006), 22.
40 relations with others hold us, in ways that we cannot always recount or explain, in ways that often interrupt the self conscious account of ourselves we might try to provide, in ways that challenge the very notion of ourselves as auto 85 Here, Butler insightf ully suggests that the grief or mourning that followed 9/11 can be an opportunity to make a shift from blind Cold War unilateralism to a new inter subjectivism. Rather than being constantly isolated by viole nt military solutions, the n prioritize communicability and inter connectivity, to replace the First W orld unilateralism that has plunged the U.S. in to its current political predicament. Asking what the role of art can be is i mperative in this shifting moment given that art, since 9/11, has played a pivotal role in ways in which the public express grief and mourning despite the cultural concerns to the artistic expression in the time of disaster; for instance, philosopher Ar thur Danto on ce described Manhattan for a few weeks after 9/11 as a public. 86 (Retort is a group of leftist intellec tual writers among whom T.J. Clark is one of the names most familiar to readers in the art world 87 ), the i as reve aled by visual terrorism, opens up a whole new chapter in visual picture, in the pr esent condition of politics, is itself, if sufficiently well executed, a 85 86 87 Retort is a group of thirty to forty members who meet monthly to discuss a wide range of political issue. There is no representative for Retort, but T. J. Clark is one of the names that may rich counter argument aga particular attention to the power of spectacles.
41 power, like all other forms of -to frighten, de 88 It is this awareness of the Janus faced power of image that has made any given political states both vulnerable and ambitious to the image power. 89 But at the same time, this awareness of image power has also sparked a new cultural aspiration that nourishes the very alliance, the productive merger, between art and politics in post 9/11 U S society, despite recurring concerns about representing the u nrepresentable disasters. This aspiration, I argue, is large part of t he motif of the transition that Post documentary is making upon the untamed and often distrusted power of media spectacles. The Post Medium Condition Why then is this alliance between art and politics much more viable in photographic genres than in other forms of representation? How could photography (as well as film and video) arise as a central medium in an era that has systemically rejected the privilege of a single medium? The ever growing significance of critic medium conditio particular emphasis here b ecause her articulation of the (art) medium explains the fundamental dr in the post medium era. 90 88 Retort and Iain A. Boal, Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (London: Verso, 2005), 26, 29. 89 Ibid., 27. -90 Rosalind E. Krauss, A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post Medium Condition (New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2000), 11.
42 In Kraus notion of medium a other elements) of art and thus ends up dismissing all possible relations to its outsides: The specific mediums painting, sculptu re, drawing had vested their claims to purity in being autonomous, which is to say that in their declaration of being about nothing but their own essence, they were necessarily disengaged from everything outside their frames. 91 its paintings being executed in serial runs, for example seemed to carry the imprint of the industrially produced commodity object, internalizing within t he field of work its own status as interchangeable and thus 92 To put it another way, Clement Greenb project of medium specificity succumbed to the very chimerical nature of mediums, and thus, resulted in rapid integr ation with the culture industry in which a m edium as a pure, unique embodiment of subjectivity ( ) turned into a media as a web of interchangeable values or inter subjectivity. adaptability to the culture ind ustry as a sym ptomatic quality that precipitated s the post medium era. Not only did s within the e unmediated picture plane etc.) but this transition allowed conce ptual art to effectively defend its own aesthetic territory from the chaotic diversity of the culture industry. [B] y abandoning this pretense to artistic autonomy, and by willingly assuming various forms and sites the mass/distributed printed book, for 91 Rosalind E. Krauss, A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post Medium Condition (New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2000), 11. 92 Ibid., 11
43 example, or the public billboard Conceptual art saw itself securing a higher purity for Art, so that in flowing through the channels of commodity distribution it would not only adopt any f orm it needed but would, by a kind of homeopathic defense, escape the effects of the market itself. 93 Marcel Broodthaers was exemplary for Krauss [Figure 2 15] In his fictional centere d termination of the individual arts as medium/specific; and it does so by enacting the form that this loss 94 y then is not the medium itself but the specific condition(s) to which a medium is subjugated, such as at where, of what, for whom, etc.: In the intermedia loss of specificity to which the eagle submits the individual scattered into a multiplicity of sites each of in which the installations that are constructed will comment, often critically, on the operating conditions o f the site itself. To this end, they will have recourse to every mate rial support one can imagine, from picture to words to video to readymade objects to films. 95 never exceeded the parameter s of the culture industry and the market friendly system o f art institutions, at least not in the United States. But after 9/11, the cultural parameter s within which a medium determines its working territory were abruptly expanded (if not evaporated), and the operating conditions within these parameter s came to i nclude a large number of political realities. 96 93 Ibid., 11 94 Ibid., 12 95 Ibid., 1 5 96 Krauss has critica incre incoherence comes to destroy the aesthetic alibi that art institutions have relied on to maintain
44 What happened to photography then was not only the collapse of its medium specific discourse constituting photographic modernism, but also the collapse of its membership in art institutions That is, the id eas that 97 a legitimate child of the Western Peter Galassi) 98 bec ame no longer valid identity, because the concept of the (photographic) institution was dissolved in the abrupt expansion of the medium in this age of the image war. Therefore, photography now returns to where it originally belong ed: society. 99 According to her, no longer constitutional to photographic discourses, each photographic practice bega n to recupe rate its own documentary as a socio po litical apparatus, for instance) and as Krauss expected, this new membership reinstated a their dominance over photographs, photographers and photographic discourses. See Rosalind The Contest of Meaning ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1992), 287 302. 97 in The Photographer's Eye (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1966), unpage d. progressive awareness of characteristics and problems that have seemed inherent in the 98 Peter Galassi, Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1981), 12. 99 The Contest of Meaning ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Pres s, 1992), 287 302. (This essay was first published in Art Journal vol.42, no. 4 (Winter 1982): 311 319)
45 practices in the ir complexity and density; to show that to speak is to do something 100 The post medium condition sparked this chain reaction: first, the theoretical grounds of the institution, and then the institution its elf. Consequently, this chain Following Sculpture in the Expanded Field (1979), leged middle term between 101 What is reassured in this account is tha no longer be determined by its kinship to the fields that have claim ed claims Baker, is specificity would simply be dissipated into the pluralist state of anything goes, but r ather that such mediums would quite precisely expand, marking out a strategic movement whereby both art and world, or art and the lager cultural field, would stand in new, formerly unimaginable relations to one 102 In this new relation, photography, between its expanded form and the cultural realms that this form refers to, 103 and that is precisely where Post documentary is currently located with its unique neutrality between art and politics. 100 101 October 114, ( Fall 2005): 136. 102 Ibid., 136. 103 Ibid., 136.
46 The Ethical Turn T he diminishing power of the art in stitution that eventually brings p hotography to a way station where art and the world intersect which the medium beg ins to represent events that have been rendered unrepresentable ac cording to previous aesthetic criteria, all indicate what Jacques Rancire has called The term ethics has a unique connotation that is par ticularly useful to explain Post documentary According to Rancire the term ethics signifies in contrast to its traditional tie with moral judgments which establishes the identity between an environment, a way of being and a pri nciple 104 It is, in oth er words, an effort or between corresponding to this dwelli 105 Thus hypothetically, the most ethical life is a life in which there is no distinction rules of action. But this seems hardly ever possible, specifically in this modern era in which various ideologies, rules of governing, claim their own validity for ac tion. Politics, in Rancire ethical frame, results from this impossibility of the perfect ethical life and is a sort of supplementary technique to bring the best state of indistinctness into life. A good politics therefore is not the one that asserts a perfect match between actions and rules in its coercive illusion of indistinctness (a bad political 104 Recognition, Work, Politics: New Directions in French Critical Theory, ed. Jean Philippe Deranty (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 28. 105 Ibid., 28.
47 juridical act of violence often results from this illusion 106 ) but the one that operates according to the premise that constant efforts should be made to efface the difference between fact and law, what happens and what sho uld happen, regardless of (im)possibility. 107 on the ground that it (specifically western illusionism) is also a technique of producing a sense of indistinctness between a re presentation and its reference. In this view, an ethically good art is not an art that declares no distinction between an image and its model (this is what Plato posed in his mimetic theory), but an art that admits the impossibility of this perfect mimetic totality and eagerly challenges it. What defines the current ethical turn of art adm ission to its own illusionary nature and courageous efforts to address, question, and challenge th e impossibility of re fundamental supposition. This gradual disappearance of the difference of politics and right in an ethical indistinction also defines the present state of the arts and aesthetic reflection. In the same way that pol itics fades away in the couplet constituted by consensus and infinite justice, arts and aesthetic reflection tend to redistribute themselves between a vision of art dedicated to the service of the social bond and another that de dedicates it to the intermi nable witnessing of the catastrophe. 108 It has been said that representing disasters such as the Holocaust involves an ethical problem because the Holocaust is, as Jean Fran ois Lyotard argued 106 According to Agamben, the United was promoted by a tactical elasticity of its politics that blurred the distinction between juridical validity and political need. See Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2005). 107 unprecedented dramaturgy of infinite 108 Ibid., 36.
48 immeasurable ( the Holocaust is like an earthquake that destroy ed not only lives, 109 ), and thereby, every representation and every gesture to be a a witness or truthful reporter of of measuring the 110 falsification and imposture through this very 111 This idea suggests that the most ethical representation is un representation an art does not say the unsayable, but says 112 However, while such ethical concern s deny capacity to represent thereby catastrophic event s such as 9/11 becomes unrepresentable myth s Giorgio 113 As in Christian traditions, this unrepresentability hinges on the incomprehensibility of divine mysteries. Thus, th e application of this term to such disasters as the Holocaust had the effect, according to Agamben, of enhancing the mystic power of the disaster. Agamben viewed this mystification process as an unconscious repetition of the Nazi atrocity of the Final 109 Jean Franois Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1988. p. 56 110 was like an epic earthquake whose seismic intensity was so powerful that it destroyed not only lives, buildings and objects, but also the very instruments used to Jean Franois Lyotard The Differend: Phrases in Dispute (Minneapolis: Univers ity of Minnesota Press, 1988), 56. 111 N o one can by writing, by painting, by anything pretend to be witness and truthful unrepresentable], without being rendered guilty of falsification and imposture through this very Jean Franois Lyotard Heidegger and "the Jews" (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), 45 112 Jean Franois Lyotard He idegger and "the Jews" (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990) 47. 113 Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: the witness and the archive New York: Zone Books, 1999. p. 32
49 Solu tion because mystifying the mass murder through unimaginable and unspeakable violence was at the core of the Final Solution. 114 Rancire also argues in the same sense that this ends up destroying impossible. 115 In these accounts, we find a new concept of ethical representation. It is not the art that give s up on its own visuality for the vacuous wish of unrepresentation, but the art that push es itself to the limit s between what i s representable and what is not, as an ethical will to reduce the distance between what we think and how we act. The ethical tur n is not the simple appeasement of the dissension between politics and art in the consensual order. It appears rather to be the ultimate form taken by the will to make this dissension absolute. 116 Post documentary artists such as Luc Delahaye, Aernout Mik, o r Walid Raad play on the limit between what is representable and what is unrepresentable, or and the ir aesthetic subjectivity. They deny the d ty between the image and real ity that has been a dominant myth of photojournalism for a l ong time. But they also deny the reckless application of pictorialism, formalism, or ae stheticism that has fostered an institutional banality. Post documentary art fun ctions in this double 114 Ibid. pp. 156 157 115 The Future of the Image (London: Verso, 2009), 137 138. 116 Ibid., 44.
50 denial: denial of the journalistic clich and of aes thetic banality, 117 as evidenced in documentary that is neither an authentic testimony nor a pictorial tableau of the real (it is a staged documentary featuring ac tors). 118 [Figure 2 16] representations produc e an indelible socio political testimony about the events and beings that otherwise could neve r have gained sufficient visibility. It is an art o f the double negation, an attitude to stay conscious to all the unethical attem pts to make a false match between fact and law, an attempt to resist the limit s of representation But : An anti representative art is not an art that no longer represents. It is an art which is no longer limited in the choice of representable subjects or in the means of representation. 119 In this double negation of the age old ph otographic myth of objectivit y and authenticity Post documentary recent culture, despite its seeming dissention to any of the past ethical norms. The Digital The last condition for Post documentary has to do with the rapid digitalization of the world. Wit h the growing accessibility of digital image modification technology, been radically diminished; Photoshop enabled its user s to create seamless fake indexes, and 3 D technologies came to nullify the separation 117 ht tp://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/sullivan/sullivan4 10 03.asp 118 See chapter 4: Theater Of Social Documentary And Emancipation Of The Spectator: 119
51 between real and fantasy by creating forceful para indexes. 120 Indeed, Andr Bazin account of ng photographed noema of photograph has seem inadequate to defi ne the digital images that are produced without any spatiotemporal contacts to their models. This diminishment of photographic indexica lity in the digital era has reintroduced the question of photographic credibility, to the extent that the long tradition of photography as an indexical medium has, as Fred Ritchin has recently argued, come to an end. 121 C ritic Eric Rosenberg also argues that, with the truth, photography 122 What the present day allows us to and its romance is utterly dependent upon conditions obtained primarily in a world in which photogr aphy is either nonexistent or unnecessary, in which we are always as much before photography as after or during it. 123 Photojournalism faces particular difficulty in this new digital era Since the first Gulf War in 1991, the majority of war images hav e been produced under the military digital imaging system and sanction 124 ; instead of photojournalists going into the battle field to take pictures (a long held basic protocol of photojournalism), satellite images 120 Para indexes are the indexes of things that never existed, such as for instance, the Autobots (robotic cars) in Hollywood blockbuster film Transformers (Michael Bay, 2007) 121 Photovideo ed. Paul Wombell (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1991) 1:8. 122 Clark Symposium, Robin Earle Kelsey, and Blake Stimson, The Meaning of Photography Williamstown (Mass: Sterling and F rancine Clark Art Institute, 2008), 190. 123 Ibid., 190 124 William J. Mitchell, The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post Photographic Era (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 199 2 ), 13.
52 nose cone camera images sta rted occupying newspapers and television. As William J. Mitchell put it already in 1992 is no Mathew Brady to show us the bodies on the ground, no Robert Capa to confront us with the human reality of a bullet through th 125 Consequently, this new digital warfare, according to Fred Ritchin, brough 126 Moreover, as I discussed earlier, whenever unfiltered images of war casualties and su ffering victims of war appear in the public media, they immediately stir controversy of whether they are realities worth viewing or voyeurism and sensationalism that harm the dignity of the victims. These ethical concerns and the change in the mode o p hotojournalism incapable of bringing reliable, first hand visual evidence of socio political conflicts. However, critics in this particular ending narrative also find the cri sis to be an opportunity to make both role in this troubling time As Eric Rosenberg argues stillness, is ultimate extent, this awareness essence of doing in the face of 127 Post documentary marks this turning point That is, as Ritchin observes once newspapers, magazines, or television appear no longer available for photojournalists, 125 Ibid., 13. 126 127
53 they start to look for another opportunity in galleries and museums to replace glorious tradition of the multi page photo essay in which photographers were able to make an in 128 Ritchin views this particular transition of 129 The poetic documentary therefore is not simply something to look at, but to feel, to engage with, and to act upon. Rather than bury ing the viewer in incontestable facts and realities, P ost docum entary variety, maximized by digital malleab ility, brings us to the situations in which 130 For Ritchin, to the 131 This enlarging comes for s an open ended conversation with the reader who has enough curi osity 132 and second, with subject can see the image immediately and thus becomes a collaborator with the image 133 Accordingly Ritchin argues, with these two conditions of digital journalism, we are facin r : authorship, to other media will make it clear that it represents an essentially different approach than does analog photography. It will be forever linked with others as a component in the interactive, networked interplay of a 128 129 Ibid., unpaged. 130 After Photography (New York: W.W. Nort on &Company, 2009), 97. 131 After Photography 15. 132 133 After Photography 125.
54 134 The current practice of Post documentary reflects in many ways this new par adigm of hyper photography, because Post documentary like hyper photography estab lishing authenticity, including 135 This e thoughtful, le documentary archive (The Atlas Group) Since its first foundation in 1999, Raad, a Lebanese American artist, has questioned the (in)authenticity of the Leba non War documentaries and histories through both his hyper photographic online Archive and offline lecture performances. [Figure 2 17] For Raad, the hypermedia digita l environment is the very space malle able records of the visible (and identifiable) that can and will be linked, transmitted, 136 The digital photograph a m ore elastic sense of time, in which future and past can be strategically intertwined and be as decisive as the p resent. 137 So Raad, rather than being a photographer, (although many images are photographed image maker in this hyper photographic era. 138 134 Afte r Photography 141. 135 136 After Photography 141. 137 Ibid., 142. 138 Ibid., 146 Since its first public presentation in 1998 in a Beirut academic symposium and the annual Ayloul mock academic presentation, p art deadpan
55 Responses Th e relation between these recent cultural conditions and Post documentary is not conclusive But it does offer a useful framework to help us understand how socio political events, such as 9/11, have affected the formation of a new artistic tradition that em braces sociopolitical realities without abandoning aesthetic values. Co nsidering decades of conventions in both art and journalism that have treated this inter disciplinary collaboration between the aesthetic and the political as a threat, the Post documen tary may ap pear ironical and contradictory. But this irony and contradiction should also be part of the discourses that critics embrace. Current accounts of Post documentary reflect both trust and distrust. Martha Rosler who has long been investigating doc s for instance, its maker into an 139 investment in a particular moment and specif spatiotemporal what 140 For Rosler, this is a problem 141 or without art world theorizing, [social] documentary will continue to negotiate between T he Atlas Group (1989 2004): a project by Walid Raad 41. 139 Documentary, Post Decoy and Disruptions: Selected Writings 197 5 2001 (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2004), 211. 140 Ibid., 211. 141 Ibid., 211.
56 sensationalism on the one han 142 which means, by extension, the continuation of social documentary regardless of its recent alliance with art. British critic Maartje van den Heuvel claims on the contrary, new path and function in the space of the visual literacy 143 visual modes of communication that the commun an ability to deal critically and knowledgeably with wri tten and spoken texts which she explains as an ability to deal intuitively with highly complex codes and m echanisms. 144 Vi sual literacy refers to the competence of image makers in employing a more and more complex visual language and of viewers in being able to understand, fathom, and interpret this. Visually literate people are able to critically distinguish t he codes and mechanisms that the media uses in photography, film and vid eo and to fathom their meaning. 145 Therefore, visually literate people prefer to work with rich visual sources, rather than limited textual materials, in order to sort out, analyze, and understand particular socio political agendas. The a rtistic turn of documentary, in this regard, is not a 142 Ibid., 240. 143 Gierstberg, Frits. Documentary Now!: Contemporary Strategies in Photography, Film and the Visual Arts (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2005), 105. increased role of the media in how reality is experienced in our western society. They indicate artists, photographers and filmmakers 144 Ibid., 106. 145 Ibid., 106.
5 7 progression. R esponses to the Post documentary as such certainly r eveal paradigmatic uncertainty regarding At this point, i t is hard to make a conclusive assertion as to wheth But it is in this u ncertainty or in a struggle to stay independent from all the past norms and protocols that Post documentary finds its position in this age of war l in progress and is in need of further critical investigation to determine what its task and role should be today. In the mean ti me, it is our responsibility to overcome our old moral anxieties and start to confront the painful truths in images, of which w e are all responsible.
58 CHAPTER 3 PLATONISM IN THEORY AND PSEUDOS OF POST DOCUMENTARY : THE ATLAS GROUP (WALID RAAD) In s ummer 2011, thirty five year old Yale alumna who had previously made a sensational debut in the that hinged on sexual voyeurism, co llapse of inter human relation and the manipulative power of the camera. In that same summer, MoMA presented a retrospective of delved into the socio economical devastat ion of Ukrainian lives after the fall of the Soviet Union. These two shows drew immediate media attention and many reviews noted the notorious reputation for manipulating and exploiting their subjects. photographs, for instance, fe atured the artist with several middle age men in staged sexual orgies and uncomfortable physical harassment, foregrounding the question of how willingly the public would be to tolerate this visual sadomasochism in the name of art. [Figure 3 1] Mikhailov a lso has been criticized for his inappropriate cash reward to his models for posing before the camera, despite their unrepresentable misery in the devastated ideological dystopia. [Figure 3 2,3 3] Richard Woodward in his review for The Wall Street Journal underscores the public concerns of t inevitability of ex
59 in represe nting socio political catastrophes. 1 After truth or objec tivity is gone and t hus when this axiom of no truth/no objectivity is conveniently spelled out in the coercive power of the camera (and the artist) artists, by exaggerating the ills of the world, and using te chniques of the very society they are trying to mock, can always find shelter in museums and art galleries while their subjects 2 account pinpoints treatments of existent social ills as little more th an fodder for the production of artwork, and the museum as an accomplice and host to these artists, while the tragedies that serve as the subject matter for these artists still remain unsolved. What is troubling to him is precisely that this collaboration between artist s and th e museum appears not to give voice to the lives they purport to represent. The distance between the uneasiness of the misery and its museums, thus, brings about another grotesque cul tural scene, as Woodward writes, weave toward us like a gang of foul smelling bums who have crashed a party in a luxury 3 What is the point in a museum as luxuriou s as M o MA throw ing this million dollar party to 4 1 Journal/Ph otography, Thursday, June 2011, accessed August 28, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304259304576377871932426008.html. 2 Ibid., np. 3 Ibid., np. 4 Ibid., np.
60 if not to rescue them? Why does MoMA al a camp if not to warm up their frozen feet? These are tough questions to answer but not entirely new to us. Critics have brought the same charge to such photographers as Diane Arbus, Sal ly Mann, Sebastio Salgado and Luc Delahaye all of whom their art. Photojournalism, war reportage, and social documentary have also encountered the s ame ethical issues of beautifying calami ty and making pro fit out of and secondly how we can find a solution for this anxiety. Critic s of Documentary In the past several decades, some of the most recognizable critical articulati ons on the ethics of documentary have been produced in both explicit and implicit refore its aesthetic vitality. In particular, critical texts that have been said to be the most rigorous et hical frameworks in documentary discourses texts of Susan Sontag, John Tagg Martha Rosler, and Abigail Solomon Godeau, to name some of the most recognizable 5 have posed explicit concerns about social documentary in aesthetic pleasure, and therefore, arguably promoted a l amentable negation of photographic art. On the one hand, with the a cute recognition of documentary s inseparable re lation to ideologies, these critiques have contributed to revealing h ow vulnerably these documentary images have be 5 These texts will be discussed throughout this chapter and chapter 4.
61 6 (John a ne 7 (Martha Rosler), and exoticism or famil 8 (Susan Sontag), despite their self claimed authenticity and objectivity. One of t he frustrations that these critiques are articulating is that soc ial docume ntary photography fabricates, distorts, and thus re victim izes the subject, in its pitiless formal attention. As Abigail Solomon Godeau has put anecdotal or the em 9 There is little doubt that these critical effo rts have provided criteria withi n which documentary, photojournalism, and photographic realism in art find their ethical responsibility. But it should also be said that these et hical tendencies in documentary discourses have g ained their critical legitimacy by stigmatizing documentary pulse to speak through visual images, or by ignoring the fact that the father o f documentary film ) 10 (Beaumont Newhall). 11 What these critics emphasize is that the desire to see, to be seen and to show expressed in social documentary can be led to an in appropriate and irresponsible 6 John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), 63. 7 The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of P hotography ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989), 318. 8 Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977), 70 71. And also see On Photography (New York: Dell Pub. Co, 1977), 20 21. 9 Abigail Solomon Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions, and Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 179. 10 in The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology ed. Ian Aitken (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), 151. 11 Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present Day (Fourth edition) (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1964), 144.
62 careeri 12 For Rosler, as long as the visual impact becomes a primary appeal in social document 13 Here, the term, imagery, is devaluated as something that liquidat dubious reality effects. This photo graphic liquidatio n of practical threats, encouraged by the irresponsible optical desire appears to be as s hameful as the threat itself. F or instance, when South African photographer Kevin Ca r ter c aptured in 2004 an image of an emaciated Sudanese girl bei ng watched (and thus threatened) by a vulture behind her, peopl e ferociously accused him of predatory attention to the girl with his camera, of 14 [Figure 3 4] This disturbing equivalence eventually led this gifted Pulit zer Prize winning photographer to suicide out of the shame of being vulture n his moral codes, as many would see it. Bu t at the same time, it demonstrates how photographers also suffer in this dichotomy of aesthetics and politics that conveniently defines This skeptical view on d thus calls for a radical relocation of the main axis of docum entary discourse: from photography 12 The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989), 306. 13 Ibid., 306. 14 This famous photograph f irst appeared in The New York Times March 3, 1993, 3. In a More details of the tragic story of Kevin Carter can be found in TIME Domestic vol. 144, no.11 (September 12, 1994) "The Life and Death of Kevin Carter" by Scott MacLeod, Johannesburg. The St. Petersburg Times (Florida ); it reads "The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene." Ibid.
63 and photographers to the photographed people and their catastrophic situations. In her essay Who is Speaking Thus? Some Questions about Documentary Photography, Abigail So lomon Godeau poses a question, mentary act does not involve a double act of subjugation: first, in the social world that has produced its victims; and second, in the regime of the image produced within and for the same system that engenders the conditions it then re 15 Here too place. In this image into the image, to invest the subject with either an emblematic or an archetypal importance, to visually dignify labor or poverty, is a problem to the extent that such strategies eclipse or obscure the political sphere whose determinations, actions, and 16 What matters in this c ritique is that documentary only upon the premise of structural dichotomy. At one side, there are unrepresentable socio pol itical tragedies of which representation is a shame. On the other side, there are nosta lgic, generalized, and 17 Rosler reframes them in evidence arguing for 15 Abigail Solomon 17 6. 16 Ibid., 179. 17 Ibid., 179.
64 conventional aesthetic historical moment, afforded by the aesthetic rightness or well 18 Consequently, this structural dich otomy between form and content creates an u neasy confrontation between art and politics in documentary discourses In this confrontation, the pleasing variety of aesthetic documentary is the very evidence of its political or ethical indifference, as Rosler argues in the following account: this cov ert appreciation of images is dangerous insofar as it accept not a dialectical relation between political and formal meaning, not their interpretation, but a hazier, more reified relation, one in which topicality drops away as epochs fade, and the aestheti c aspect is, if anything, enhanced by the loss of specific refe rence. 19 In this hazier practice of d sensuousness, classical beauty, and transcendent off point into ae the work itself 20 perhaps, takes the most aggressive voice tography. For Sontag, problems begin with our cognitive inability to handle all the visual inputs, the very Platonic problem, with which her book, On Photography begins: old habit, in mere images of the 21 unable to distinguish truth from shadowy illusions of culture. I n this epistemological 18 19 Ibid., 317. 20 Ibid., 317. 21 Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Dell Pub. Co, 1977), 3.
65 to see images is to corrupt 22 because, by t he act of seeing, we subject ourselves to the deceptive power of image in which our misreading constantly undermine the truth of image. 23 As S i n the repetition of viewing, ck a certain f amiliarity with atrocity, making the horrible seem more ordinary making it appear f 24 What the looking and its repetition in time do in photographic experi 25 in which our responsibility to the other is dissolved in the below the surface, for a re demption and celebration of the body of the world all these elements of erotic feeling are affirmed in the pleasu Sontag. 26 For Sontag, Diane Arbus and her photographs of the abnormal, ugly, and marginal beings w ere perfe on the concentrating on victims, on the unfortunate but without the compassionate purpose that such a project is expected to se 27 [Figure 3 5] 22 Ibid., 20. 23 Ibid., 40. to lowering the threshold of what is terrible. By getting us used to what we could not bear to see or hear, because it was too shocking, painful, or embarrassing, art changes morals that body of psychic custom and public sanctions that draws a vague bound ary between what is emotionally and spontaneously 24 Ibid., 20 21. 25 Ibid., 21. 26 Ibid., 24. 27 Ibid., 33.
66 photographs (of the freak) suggest a naivet w hich is both coy and sinister, for it is based on distance, on privilege, on a feeling that what the viewer is asked to look at is really other. 28 This otherness o f the subjects and their pitiless camera 29 from th e audience. Not only does this reinstate the 30 Anti aesthetic View in Criticism and its Underlying Platonis m Despite their self con tradictory nature that brings a decline particular tradition, these anti aesthetic criticisms of documentary have constantly expanded their critical boundary as they have been widely cited in many academic and jou rnalistic articles for the past few decades. T hi s critical expansion however, according to critic David Levi aesthetic self from 31 That is, one of the underlying assumptions of citing the anti aesthetic criticisms is an aspiration to remain moral and privileged, despite their incapability and unw illingness to act upon the As Levi Strauss obs of now 28 Ibid., 34. 29 Ibid., 35. 30 Ibid., 41. 31 David Levi Strauss, Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (New York: Aperture, 1995), 8.
67 seeing images of suffering others to recognize 32 In Levi he emotional attachment to images is unstable and can be manipulated, certainly, but that 33 34 ization is socio cultural encoding to 35 But while we remain skeptical in Strauss), many brave photogr aphic the works, for example, by Boris Mikhailov, Kevin Carter, Sebastio Salgado, or Sally Mann have been stigmatized in many critical antagonisms that denounced their aesthetic sensibility. Barbar a Maria Stafford argu es in her pro aesthetic text, Good Looking: Essays on the Virtue of Images (1996), that in those cr aesthetic venture, ranging aesthetic process submerged in a culture that, despi te its clear reliance on a spate of images, remains 36 convinced of the superiority of written or propositional language, that devalues sensory, affective, and kinetic forms of communication precisely because they often baffle verbal 37 These accounts summarize that the anti aesthetic criticisms we have discussed is based on the logo centric prejudice that makes a biased demarcation 32 David Levi Strauss of accessed October 11, 2011, http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/014_02/258 33 Ibid. unpaged. 34 David Levi Strauss, Between the Eyes, 8. 35 Ibid., 9. 36 Barbara Maria Stafford, Good Looking: Essays on the Virtue of Images (Cambr idge, M ass: The MIT Press, 1996), 23. 37 Ibid., 23.
68 between art and politics the very Platonic issue. This logocentrism is problematic how things are presented from what 38 we are gradually detached from the very truth of image that is conveyed not only in its contents but also in f orms. Thus, as Stafford claims, in order to red eem the visuality in social documentary, to rethink anti aes theticism of documentary discourses, and lastly 39 Overcoming Pla tonism: Jacques Rancire The Politics of Aesthetics French philosop text, the Politics of Aesthetics (2004) offers a possible exit from the Platonic dichotomy between politics and aesthetics. In this text, the story of Platonic per secution against mimetic art is addressed as a prototypal tale of later class confrontation in which the doing/making labor class was confronted with intellectual bourgeoisies. By reframing this classical hierarchy, Rancire attempts to restructure the con frontational dichotomy of art and politics into an insepa rable community of the sensible in which aesthetic sensibility becomes a motor of political communication. For Rancire and political confrontation between art and politics was not merely the bourgeo the use value and its ruling over the laboring class, but more prototypal and more paradigmatic rejection of la bor value in antiquity 40 That is, when Plato place d classes who work with their hands including pa inters and sculptors, below intellectual classes such as politicians and philosophers in his 38 Ibid., 21. 39 Ibid., 22. 40 Jacques Rancire, The Politics of Aesthetics trans. Gabriel Rockhill (New York: Continuum, 2004), 13 14.
69 ontological category, based on a classical idea that those manual laboring technicians would never have su fficient leisure time to make much more v aluable intellectual contributions the hierarchy between art and politics was set in more primordial prejudice. 41 Recognizing this intrin sic political nature of Platonic system, Rancire presents a new critical model in wh ich art embraces politics. Here aesthetic forms are considered in their intrinsic political sensibility 42 writes Rancire because both the politics and aesthetics share a single principle of what Rancir e calls the distribution of the sensible Originally termed Le partage du sensible (w hich also could be translated to: 1. The partition of the sensible or the partaking of the sen sible, and 2. The share(ing) of system of self evident facts of sense perception that simultaneously discloses the existence of something in common and the delimitations that define the respective parts 43 This defin ition ostensibly reveals its double nature that brings together both aesthetics and politics. It is first of all an aesthetic process as long as it is 41 Jacques Rancire, Ibid., 12. and see also Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963) is based on his totalitarian inclination to control t he rising liberalism and equalitarianism. By categorizing class roles or by privileging or discriminating certain classes, Plato wanted to prevent any possible delusions for the dangerous class crossover imagined by artists. Arguably, tive, Plato was one of the enemies of what he called the open society because to some extent, Platonism, whose prejudicial ontology or class categorization was inherited by Hegel and Marx, later played a malevolent role in the troubling history of hegemoni c war, class struggle, and ethnic cleansing. In other words, Platonic antagonism, according to Popper, is a prototypal form of totalitarianism that created the malicious techniques of identification and differentiation, based on ontological prejudices. 42 Jacques Rancire, The Politics of Aesthetics 13. 43 Ibid., 12.
70 defined as nt system of sensory perception. 44 But in the second hal f of the definition, Rancire makes it clear that this aesthetic system discloses not only quantifiable commonality but also immeasurable heterogeneity of the sensible betray ing traditional definitions of aesthetics based on universality. Due to this hete 45 ), the distribution of the sensible takes up also an implicit law of politics or democracy based on dissent 46 When time s, and forms of activity that determines the very manner in which something in common lends itself to participation and in what way various individuals have a part in 47 it certa inly reveals a political aspect of this term. An analogy tak es place at this moment, an a priori unity between the aesthetic regime and the political regime. 48 Politics from the beginning has functioned as a and what can be said about i t. Around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around 49 Similarly, aesthetics has also dealt with the sensory experience. 50 The aesthetic regime and the political regime are 44 This is what aistheton a Greek etymological origin of the word, aesthetics, means. 45 Jacques Rancire, The Politics of Aesthetics 63 65. the way 46 Ibid., 52. specific form of a 47 Ibid., 12. 48 Ibid., 13. perverse commandeering of politics by a will to art, by a consideration of the people qua work of 49 Ibid., 13. 50 Participation, ed. Claire Bishop (Cambridge Mass: The MIT Press, 2006), 83. a simple sp its own aesthetic: its ways of dissensually inventing scenes and characters, of manifestations
71 therefore in separable, and any critical attempt to elaborate validity of one regime against the other either political validity of aesthetic discourses or aesthetic validity of political discourse in art comes at odd because in the end, either way would speak to t he validity of the same sensory experiences that encompass both regimes anyway. This inseparability between two regimes was a fear for Plato who believed, earning class as well as the auxiliar 51 Thus, Plato had brought the two inseparable regimes into a question of capacity the hierarchical question: politics, the regime of reason, fully capable of addressing truth, whereas art, the regime of t he sense, in capable of it, only imitating the address. In other words, if both regimes concern the same problem of the sensory distribution, then only way to separate the two is to make a hierarchy between the two, to make an order according to the biased definition of what they are capable of. 52 As Stafford argues, t he ethical concerns of docume ntary, as well as political art in general rest on this Platonic bias; that is, when an aesthetic articulation of political realities does not amount to the same ef ficacy of the politics itself, it appears to tarnish, at some level, the acuteness of the political realitie s, and therein, produce inferior and statements different from the inventions of art and sometimes even opposed to them. On the other hand, aesthetics has its own politics, or rather its own tension between two opposed politics: between the logic of art that becomes life at the price of abolishing itself as art, and the logic of art that does politics on the 51 Plato, The Republic of Plato, Trans. Francis Macdonald Cornford (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), 434. Also see Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies Popper, 86 118. 52 Jacques Rancire, Th e Politics of Aesthetics ,17. -logic of representation] separated the world of artistic imitations from the world of vital concerns and politico social grandeur. On the other hand, its hierarchical organization in particular the primacy of living speech/action over depicted images formed an analogy with the socio
72 simulacra of the realities. But again, this question of capacity in criticism reiterates that leads the questioners to a biased differentiation between two identical modes of commu nication, the bias that Rancire by revealing the distribution of the sensible common in both regimes. This biased logocentric differentia political dichotomy, was indee d an overarching problem for many post modern thinkers. For example, Gilles Deleuze, whose philosophy was devoted to revealing Platonic prejudice against the Sense and its untamable differen tiation and repetition 53 In positive power which denies [a distinction between] the original and the copy, the model 54 simple imitation but rather the act by which the very idea of a model or privileged includes a difference within itself, such as two divergent series in which it plays, all resemblance abolished so that one can no longer point to the existence of an original 55 Indeed, the existence o f simulacra reveals that this Platonic division is in 53 Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 262. Also see Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetit ion (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 66 69 t fear because the difference of the returning copies and their inevitable repetition would destroy his whole cosmology based on the oneness of truth and the its simulacrum is the true character of form Difference and Repetition, 66. 54 Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense 262. 55 Gilles Deleuze, D ifference and Repetition 69.
73 fact a groundless assumption, because without simulation, no one, including Plato essence except as simulated, tha t is 56 Therefore, Deleuze claims and the Similar, the model and the copy, fall under the power of the false (phantasm). It renders the order of parti cipation, the fixity of distribution, the determination of the hierarchy impossible. It establishes the world of nomadic distributions and crowned 57 New Ethics of Image: Georges Didi Image s In Spite of All Anti Platonic discourses as such give us an opportunity to rethink all the moral denouncements charged on photographic simulacra. If photographic images appear to miss or violate moral criteria, it is not because the images are incapable of or irresponsible for representing the unre presentable but because they are still subje cted to the Platonic prejudice of what is representable and what is not. As Rancire argues, ends up destroying because this hyperbole that something is unrepresentable is 58 The problem is that this vacuous wish for moral privilege makes us unable to see the wish o f the photographed, the wish of th e beings who aspire to be photographed. This problem constit utes a major critical topic in French critic Georges Didi recent study, Images In Spite of All (2008), i n which he searches for 56 Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense 262. 57 Ibid., 263. 58 The Future of the Image (London: Verso, 2009), 137 138.
74 desire to be seen, to remain visible in spite of all controver sies of photographing the Holocaust. In this provocative study about four photographs smuggled out of Auschwitz, Didi Huberman argues that the photographic images are the only way, in spite of all the negativities, to let people know about how the unimaginable was imagined at the death camp; it is to demystify the tragedy buried under the trope of unspeakability and unimagin a bility. 59 [Figure 3 6] What the Nazi attempted in gas chambers and crematoria was, according to Didi to destroy not only life, but also the very form of human and its image with it, 60 remain s and some survive, people 61 D idi t the extermination of their existenti al evidence, of their beingness; they wrote what they went through in rolled papers and buried them in the ground to let others know later who they were, how t hey suffered, and how they died. They also photographed the mselves at great risk, and smuggled out these photographs in a hope that these images, visual testimony of the unimaginable Nazi crime, would bring a rescue. For Didi 59 Georges Didi Huberman, Images in spite of all: four p hotographs from Auschwitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 38. photograms is a limit of this kind. The infra thin threshold between the impossible by right and the possible, the necessary de facto: we have, thanks to these images, a representation in spite of all, which, henceforth, imposes itself as the representation par excellence, the necessary representation of what was a moment in August 60 Ibid., 43. 61 The Drowned and the Saved left to bear witness, bu t even if someone were to survive, the world will not believe him. There will perhaps be suspicions, discussions, research by historians, but there will be no certainties, because we will destroy the evidence together with you. And even if some proof shou ld remain and some of you survive, people will say that the events you describe are too monstrous to be Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved (New York: Summit Books, 1988), 11 12.
75 is the very image of art that the prisoners will have wished to preserve in spite of all, as 62 Through such acts of representation the Holocaust is no longer an untouchable, unspeakable myth. Its uniqueness and its remoteness that have implicitly promised our in nocence, safe distance from the evilness of the crime is dissipated in looking at the pictures. Now what was formerly conceived to be the unseeable becomes visible by the desire of the subjects, and the mystery of the tragedy becomes an identifiable histor 63 This is the power of image, the power of simulacra that destroys the par titions between myth and history in its eternal returning as an instant of truth as Hannah Ar endt wrote : Lacking the truth, (we) will however find instants of truth and those instants are in fact all we have available to us to give some order to this chaos of horror. These instants arise spontaneously, like oases in the desert. They are anecdote s and they reveal in the brevity wha t it is all about. 64 Finally, in the ruin of history where truths are all exterminated, we discover the instants of truth, the images, to begin another ethical reflection. Why is the instant of truth more ethical than tr uth? Why are image s more inspiring than the real ? Why do we need aesthetics for a better ethical consideration? These are the questions that lead us Critique of Judgment by way of Arendt. Didi Huberman writes: 62 Georges Didi Huberman, Images in spite of all 44. 63 Ibid., 3 9. the invisible par excellence (the laziness of the aesthetic), nor the icon of horror (the laziness of the believer), nor the mere document (the laziness of the learn ed). A simple image: inadequate but necessary, inexact but true. True of a paradoxical truth, of course. I would say that here the image is the eye of history : its tenacious fuction of making visible. But also that it is in the eye of history: in a very l 64 Recited from Georges Didi H uberman, Ibid., 31.
76 the judgment of Adolf Eich mann 65 seeks to establish a bridge between aesthetics and ethics. was necessary in spite of all to cast an aesthetic gaze in the four photographs of Auschwitz: in order to shed light on the ethical and anthropological content of the trust accorded to those images by the members of the Sonderkommando 66 In recalling Kant Didi Huberman reassures that when the practical reason betrays the imperatives of pure reason, aesthetic intervention plays a bridging role in the ethical mediation between the two. Art might risk fabrication or disperse political realities by way of aesthetic pluralism and formal abstraction. But, in spite of all th e risks and anxieties, Didi Huberman argues, we should and must no t give up on the power of image. It is not because images are free from those risks, but because they demand that viewers take responsibility for what they see and remain vigilant to the ri sks that the action entails. Walid Raad: The Atlas Group number of recent documentary photographers who s eek to produce an image that promotes a circuit of sensory communication i n both political and aesthetic communities. One of the most not iceable characteristics of this Post documentary is that it discover s and utilize with the viewer. It often takes a form of staged, fabricated, or dramatized documentation of socio political events and it is pre sented in museums and galleries. But rather than 65 Adolf Eichmann was a high rank Nazi SS member and one of the organizers of the Holocaust. Before he was executed in 1962 in Israel, he defended himself in the famous war e same Nuremberg Defense that drove the post war intellectuals such as Hannah Arendt to rethink the relation between the pure reason and practical reason (as an action following the order of the higher reason) of modern (Kantian) philosophy. 66 Georges D idi Huberman, Images in spite of all 162.
77 being institutionally and generically absorbed into the tradition of the museum, it enlarges parameters of the art institution by incorporating political subject matters with aesthetic sensibility. In Post documentary ics and aesthetics are dissipated ; thus they offer a model for a new critical art that mediates between the aesthetic domain and polit ical domain. The last part of this essay will discuss a specific example of such Post documentary practice The Atlas Group & mation brings about reconciliation between the aesthetics and politics. T he Atlas Group is a virtual foundation and an archive project founded in 1999 by Walid Raad, a Lebanese American artist, whose works have been presented and discussed in several high profile venues including the Moscow Biennial of Contemporary art (2011), Seoul International Biennial of Media Art (2010), Sydney Biennial (2006), Venice Biennial (2003) Documenta 11 (2002) and W hitney Biennial (2002). The Atlas Group project adopts the form of an archive and presents various documents from the contemporary h istory of Lebanon with particular emphasis on the Lebanese civ il wars waged from 1975 to 1990, during which Raad himself spent his adolescent life Raad colle cts, parcels out, and reframes the memories of the wars in the archives located in both Beirut and New York, as well as online, so that they can constructs fictional fabrics of history Lebanese Civil War is not a self and through various actions, situ 67 67 The Atlas Group (1989 2004): a project by Walid Raad 41.
78 writings that are categorized in three file types: type A is attributed to specific individuals (such as Fakhouri, Mrad, Bachar, Hussan, and Raad) who hypothetically have provided their own documents of the war time experiences: type FD is fo und documents that Raad collected from various sources: and type AGP is attributed to the Atlas Group featuring documents arranged in specific tactical orders an d formal considerations. 68 [Figure 3 7] The complex web of the archive preserves a certain constellation that become s more accessible when Raad presents the archive images in his lecture performance. Since its first public presentation in 1998 in a Beirut academic symposium and the performance. 69 mock 70 the fictional nature of the and authenticity of history becomes manifested. de constructin g conventional mode of history leads him to a new wa y of re constructing non episodic non linear historiography in which the past and the present, or the collective and individ ual, productively overlap. This reconstruction of history therefore relies less on docume authenti semiotic arbitrarines s and rhetoric al nature. Accordingly, docu ments in the Archive are either str ategic fabrications or rearrangements from i ts original contexts, but they are intended to produce a 68 See the Archive Group website, http://www.theatlasgroup.org/aga.html 69 70 Aperture 198 (Spring 2010): 63.
79 meaningful narrative out of the ambiguous and ungraspable history. Raad believes that the official political history of Lebanon could not make a reliable account of what actually happened during the civil war s 71 To compensate for the limits of official history, he p roduced documents and archive s in which the formerly unreadable arrays of historical facts find a link in personal memories. Facts are relentlessly condensed and displaced by the dynamism of historical conscious and un consci The archive thus reveal s 72 Notebook volume 72: Missing Lebanese wars a notable work in type A hinges on this very constructive nature of documentary th at reveals a dynamic relation between the objective and the subjective, between the public record and the individual memory, and between facts and fictions. [Figure 3 8] The work features a number of noteboo k pages each of which contains a newspaper photo g raph of a horse track race and detailed scribbles about the race and gambling by a Lebanese historian named Dr. Fakhouri, a mystic persona made up by Raad himself. In the text accompanied by each do cument, Raad provides an obscure story of Lebanese war his gambling at the horse race; the story goes that they (Marxists, Islamists, Maronite nationalists and socialists) met every Sunday at the r ace track betting, however, not on the horses but on the track photographers, t heir subtle failure to capture the precise moment of a horse passing the finish line. 73 71 Artforum (Feb 2003): 129. 72 The Atlas Group (1989 2004): A Project by Wa lid Raad, 39. 73 Walid Raad, The Atlas Group (1989 2004): A Project by Walid Raad 68.
80 On top of the page is the scrap of the following day newspaper photograph of the winning horse. There are parallel red markings between the horse and the finish line, which indi cate the time lapse that a track photographer falsely made up. The photographer should have capture d the accurate moment of the horse dashing in the finish line, as a visu al evidence of the winning horse. B ut each and every time, photographers failed to ca pture it, and the proximity of this failure urged the historian gamblers to bet on the numeric deviations of the failure for each race. Scribbles in the middle are the details of the race such as race distance, winning time, and average speed sine qua n on of documentary, handwritten by Dr. Fakhouri ( thus, in fact by Radd himself). On the right at the bottom, there are brief notes of deviations each historian gambler bet on, and on the left are satiric descriptions of the ogant characters that, for example in one page, read, 74 Page after page events as seemingly trivial as the horse track gambling are documented with remarkable seriousness. The pure descriptiveness of the document somehow manages to cut off any emotional intrusion that this sort of private memorandum may involve; its numeric formation with succinct handwritten notations increases credibility of this pseudo document But while all those details indicate fact s they also allude to something that the sheer fact s cannot address: the constant delay of facts which is inevitable in both history and photography, or the risky endeavor of both historians and photogra phers to petrify the facts that are in essence durat ional and relational in time and context. 74 See the plate in The Atlas Group (1989 2004): A Project by Walid Raad 69.
81 Th is delay and failure of history brings Raad to an assumption that history is a sort of gambling on th e historical proximity, and in this game of history in which the winner takes everything, unsuccessful gamblers gain nothing and their bets soon er or later will submerge into invisibility and oblivion, regardless of measurement and deviation that could also be equally meaningful to u nderstand history. The fictional figure, Dr Fakhouri, who h as long been forgotten, or so it is said by Raad, symbolizes this Notebook series incommensurability between factual events and individual 75 C haracteristic h istory is often incorporated with individual memory. In the Archive, for instance, the objectivity of historical narratives and the subjectivity of individual recollections are always brought together. But this does not mean that there is a certain comprom ise between the two; rather it says that even if both work together there is a play on this area of discordance between established history and raw memory, as evidenced in the work, (2002). is a set of vintage photographs taken in 1982 and donated to the Atlas group in 2002 by Walid Raad himself. [Figure 3 9, 3 10] Since they r emained in negatives for a long time and were taken fr om a far distance, the images are blurry, scratched, and barely recognizable Accord rchive, he was only fifteen and was o n the other side of Beirut, in a parking lot across the street ls around East Beirut, when he photographed the Israe li army assaulting West Beirut where the PLO, along with their Lebanese and 75 in Th e Atlas Group (1989 2004): A Project by Walid Raad 52.
82 Syrian allies were located. 76 The incapability of coming closer to the subject due to his precarious status at the moment, and t he uncanny political situation that even fur ther distanced this young observer of pro Israeli West Beirut from the anti Israeli East Beirut, result ed in the obscure images. The obscurity of the images however resides not merely in the physical conditions of photographs but more in the very elusiveness situation itself. The violence in Lebanon has very complex and sensitive origins that most of his western audience does not know much about; this elusiveness is a part of peal, as his lecture performance often begins by answering the pre arranged questions about the historical background of Lebanon wars. 77 in the archival statement, which is part of this work, is meaningful: [of the Israeli army], or so it seemed. get as close as possible to the events, or as close as my newly acquired camera and lens permitted m e. Clearly not close enough. 78 T his statement conveys two things. The first is that tenor of the part or it seemed following the affirmed political stands of both East and West Beirut, somehow implies that there must have been something else that cannot be fully accounted in this clea r cut historical evaluation of the political attribution of the two states. Secondly the statement also exposes desire and his new violent events that frustrated this close engagem ent. Importantly, this discrepancy is encoded in the photographs as well; in 76 Walid Raad and Achim Borchardt Hume. Miraculous beginnings (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2010), 47. 77 In his lecture performance, Raad usually plants someone in the audience to raise questions about 78 Walid Raad, The Atlas Group (1989 2004): A Project by Walid Raad, 116.
83 close examination, one may notice that the images reveal not only the knowledge and information of the assaults, but the very frustration of capturing the event in spite of the yo willingness and technical support. Thus, what is really underlined in this work is a certain failure of documentary effectively revealed in juxtaposition with individual memories. In this juxtaposition, historical fa cts collide with personal memories and thus create a sort of melancholia, a feeling that nothing can adequately bring the past into the present consciousness. It is this melancholic feeling that deeply underlies Ra archive project, reinforcing the idea that histo ry comes into play in this inevitable collision between fact and memory. To this extent, the Archive does not merely s tore dead facts. It is a va st space of historical fragments that are waiting for a moment in which meanings arise as a certain constellati on from t his uncountable chaos of facts. cal attention to fragment and repetition for more meaningfu l rearrangement is manifested in his another work, which features one hundred photographs produced by anonymous photojournalists and found by Raad in the archives of An Nahar Research Center (Beirut, Lebanon) and the Arab Documentation Center (Beirut, Lebanon). 79 [Figure 3 11, 3 12] During the Lebanese civil w ars, car bombing was a common tactic deployed b y the anti Israeli militia. While causing many civilian casualties and property damage the explosion s interestingly left the car engines relatively intact; they flew away in unex pected directions, and landed in strange places like other streets miles away r ooftops, or balconies. It led to competition among photojournalists to find the engine 79 Ibid., 96.
84 faster than other competitors, because the engine shot was considered an exclusive news report. is a collection of the news images discovered i n other archives and rearra nged in this repetitive order. In this particular reformatting with no caption, the news images turn into an ironical array of incomprehensible realities. (The textual documents juxtaposed with the images are the brief notes in contexts) T hey were clear evidence of street warfare in newspapers, but now, the half wrecked car engines, a nd police or passer s by surrounding them seem incredibly absurd and strange; they look puzzled and awed by this eccentri c experience of urban spectacle, and this too speaks about the very vulnerability of documentary that easil y lose its mean ing in this si mple re contextualization. Contrary to any other war repo (Cartier Bresson), this work never involves any decisiveness despite its remarkable inde xation of the car bombing; what is captured is a baffling moment after the fact. Moreover, which is a symbolic enactment of i f your pictures aren't good twice; o ne by the photogr running toward engines that are already detached too far from their original body of meaning, and the other by passer s by who silently testify the emoteness from the violence in their clean suits with one hand in pocket and the o ther grabbing a cigarette, or by tight ly lining up one by one (a child included) to look at the marvelous object coming from nowhere.
85 In this negation, images descend to the very private level of reception that is abstracted from the actual event. 80 To p ut it differently while our perception of the wars is always determined by histori cal pre mapping this specific constellation of images, this detour, or deconstruction of the map, shows us a new route in which we find incredible absurdity in th e (Lebanon ) wars that have been driving us all in to the endless and directionles s warfare. 81 In this regard, curator Kassandra Nakas non present spaces and times cannot be grasped simply as a closed past, for these documents are not perforce concer ned with recording factual incidents, but rather stand for a concept of time in which the past, non passing and defying closure, ever continues to 82 By positioning the wars in endless repetitions, and by taking the history ou t of its consented frames, Raad i nsists that the wars are not finished yet, as our memories constantly bring them back again, reframing them over and over The Archive is a symbolic manifestation of this generic expansion of memories that has no center and no margin. re 83 deserves the final examination. As mentioned earlier Walid Raad is conscious of how limited history is in its capacity to address an e vent that is unfinished and complicated. Lebanon wars in appear to be incomprehensible and unspeakable, and thereby all journalistic attempts to capture an a nave self deception, intended at 80 81 Ibid., 44. 82 51. 83 Walid Raad and Achim Borchardt Hume. Miraculous beginnings (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 2010), 115 121.
86 best to reduce the tension and anxiety of speaking the unsp eakable history. As Gil bert 84 This questio n leads us to the Aristotelian notion of poetry in which he argued a more philosophical and more serious thing than history; poetry tends to 85 Simil arly, Gilbert also considers formal st rategy as a poetic turn that find s universality from the fragmented particularity. 86 In order to overcome the inadequacy of history s transform historical facts into particular compositions in which the dead facts are re deemed with poetic significance This poetic compositi on turns the dislocated fragments of history in to an arrangement in which they could speak what historians or documentarians could not speak of due to the political complexity of tension in the Middle East. Sweet Talk: The H ilw commissions (1992 2004) and weather helped (1998) are perhaps the best examples that demonstrate this new poetic formality. In Sweet Talk the make up figure Lamia Hilw who was a dancer and photographer submits over 900 images of 2004, fourteen years later than her first commission in 1990 (or it is said in the Archive). 87 For the fourteen years, images have been enlarged, cut out, distorted, and colorized by Hilw allegorizing both time passed and context changed over time. This rearranged history, its new forms and colors, creates an odd sense of beauty, the beauty of fragments. [Figure 3 13, 3 14] 84 Ibid., 116. 85 Aristotle, Poetics trans. Richard Janco, (Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett, 1987), 12. 86 87 Walid Raad, The Atlas Group (1989 2004): A Project by Walid Raad 108.
87 In this odd formal beauty (the colorful dots in the photograph of street factual, half fictional Archive text, Raad back in the 1980s lived in a city filled up with numerous bullet holed buildings and cars. Raad, like many of his friends, spent days digging out bullets from the holes. Raad in particular marked the bullet holes in his black and white photographs with different colors matching up with the colors on the bullet tips, as they mesmerized the young boys in the war zone. 88 [Figure 3 15] Raad d ecades later purchased new bullets from street vendors to make sure of the entire spectrum of colors, and interestingly it proved that his childhood photo collections cataloged the 23 countries (including U.S., U.K., Saudi Arabia, Israel, France, Switzerla nd, and China) engaged in the Lebanese wars by either arming various militias and armies or selling ammunitions. There is indeed a crisscross of facts and fictions in these makeup stories and images that is accentuated by the odd colors and forms. Often ti mes, in this crisscross, to create new meanings out of this destruction and reconstruction of facts. s a dissociative aspect of the Lebanese political history, its non representational aspect, by way of its elusiveness its circling around the event. 89 Raad i n this evocation 90 88 Ibid., 126. 89 7. 90 Ibid., 118.
88 Do documentaries, as well as recent Post documentary practices involving theatrical or poetic reinterpretation of historical facts, manifest the p ower of simulacra that rejuvenates the sensible monads scattered all over the political minds. As philosopher Jacque Rancire points out, this scattering of the sensible, or in his own term, the distribution of the sensible is an a priori essence of democratic community. He claims that the aesthetic regime a nd the political regime are inseparable in political rhetoric and artistic metaphor are inseparably identical, and this inseparability or breakdown of division is no longer a n ontological threat once we admit that in this world of simulacra, no one can take an exclusive aesthetic/political privilege over others. Therefore, as lo ng as the exchange of the sensible between the two regimes is promised, this inter subjective and in ter disciplinary cultural framework plays a significant role in inviting, with remarkable hospitality, what has been unwelcomed in the old cultural frameworks politically invisible, marginalized minorities. This invitation, in his subsequent book, The Em ancipated Spectator is described as a moment of cultural emancipation, which takes place in a symbolic space of theater, because this politico aesthetic framework encourages the invisible non protagonists, the others, to ente r into the domain of visibilit y to act with the spectator. 91 91 The Em ancipated Spectator trans. Gregory Elliott (London, New York: Verso, 2009), 22. theatre that wants to transform representation into presence and passivity into activity, it proposes instead to revoke the privilege of vitality and c ommunitarian power accorded the theatrical stage, so as to restore it to an equal footing with discussion about this text, see chapter 4)
89 The pseudos of the Post documentary exemplifies or simulates this ethical emancipation in its highly expanded/distributed networking of the sensible. In the fictions of the At las Group which continue to put a spin on our custo mary view of the Arab world, the conventional divisions between the subject and the other, between fact and fiction, and between intellectuality and sensibility, become dissipated. At this ity produces various s ensible echoes. With this echo of the sensible, the singularity of documentary embraces the multiplicity of art.
90 CHAPTER 4 BETWEEN OBJECTIVITY AND SUBJECTIVITY : REHISTORICIZING SO CIAL DOCUMENTARY THE F.S.A. PROJECT A T MOMA Documentary between Art and Politics father of documentary remarked that 1 Grierson here points out documen 2 been pro ven. F or Grierson, i t was a penalty bsession with authenticity turned everything else into excess The formal beauty of documentary in this regard often appeared as an undesirable byproduct, and it troubled Grierson who believed that, documentary ( film ) is a richer form of art 3 genre. At one side people believe that documentar y is a socio political apparatus intended to provide a society with objective visual e vidence that needs deeper sociological or political attentions. In this be distraction that disperses the socio political attentions by a numbing effect of visual pleasure. The art world, on the other side claims t hat documentar 1 The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology ed. Ian Aitken (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), 105. 2 Classic Essays on Photography ed. Alan Trachtenbeg, (New Hea -space that govern it. No matter how fuzzy, distorted, or discolored, no matter how lacking in documentary value the image may be, it shares, by virtue of the very process of becoming, the being of the model of which it is the reproduction; it is the model. 3 in The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology ed. Ian Aitken (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), 151.
91 reformation will bring an expansion to this genre in broader visual contexts. Art instit utions therefore have been elaborating art, putting its socio political responsibility aside. However, as David Levi 4 because from the outset, social documentary has never been detached from the aest hetic considerations, encoding emotional appeals in every layers of reality it represents. In this chapter, therefore, I will revisit the cultural history of the U.S. social documentary, with a particular focus on the F.S.A. project. 5 After this revisit, I will discuss the ways in which this social documentary was rebranded into art by early encompassing aesthetics proximity was reduced and limited in their problematic emphasis on its formality. The Great Depression and the Myth of Social Documentary Although not unprecedented, 6 the heyday of social documentary in the United States was the 1930s. 7 The rise of social documentar y in the thirties began with a few 4 David Levi while the doctrinaire left contents that art has no place in politics. Both takes are culturally restricted Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (New York: Aperture, 1995), 9. 5 FSA is an acronym for the Farm Security Administration founded in 1935 as part of the New Deal recovery project. Th e FSA project in particular refers to its highly influential photographic project between 1935 and 1944. The project collected photographic images of became a g reat inspiration for both the era and for later photographers 6 Before the 30s, the European model of film documentaire performed of course an growing intell Documentary Now! Contemporary Strategies in Photography, Film and the Visual Arts ( Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2005), 65 66.
92 factors. First, the development of new, lightweight 35 m m cameras ( Leica first developed in 1930 and improved over the decade) brought to the genre a new possibilit y of closer and quicker snatch of reality. 8 The emergence of photo magazines such as Look or Life during the thirties also fueled demands for photo graphy to illustrate their articles. Life, in particular, first published in 1936, initiated a new editorial tradition that required large format pictures and sophisticated photo essay, increasing 9 But it is the t economic crisis and subsequent efforts to recover the devastated economy and culture that played the The United States in the 1930s was undergoing a disturbing economic crisis. The meltdown of the stock market sparked unstoppable ch ain reactions in the U S economy, and perennial drought in rural farming areas and fragile system of tenancy ic depression. But the majority of the public had little access to accurate measurement of the crisis for nearly a In America during the first decade of the 20 th century, Jacob Riis already launched early version of American social documen tary by producing photographic documentation of working marginalized lives (often collaborated with police men) did not amount to the inherent logic of social documentary as a objective, unmediated social fact. See, Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction (London: Routledge, 1997), 69 71. 7 Historians generally agr al education] was produced during the 1930s. see, Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction (London: Routledge, 1997), 77. 8 Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction 77. 9 Ibid., 76.
93 political leaders. 10 The public sen sed the crisis from the long breadlines appearing in New York, Chicago and other major American cities 11 but no reliable statistics or reports arrived in time, because who should have brought it to public attention the Hoover government, the business community, and the media 12 T he print media or newspa pers of the thirties, i n particular distrusted 13 as documentary historian William Stott po inted out, because they often 14 Indeed, many newspaper s of the thirties were run by privileged members of the society who did mined what shall and what shall 15 the press published was generally felt to be a propaganda serving a special 16 not reality itself. 10 Robert C Goldston, The Great Depression: The United Sta tes in the Thirties (Greenwich, Conn: Fawcett Premier Books, 1970), 46 50. -By the spring of 1930 six month after the Crash over 4 million Americans lost their jobs. But business and political leaders were still responding American busine in that spring of the 1930, breadlines began to appear in New York, Chicago, and othe r major cities. By December, 1931, unemployment reached 13.5 million almost one third of the American labor force. 11 Ibid., 47. 12 William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 68. 13 Ibid., 7 7. 14 Ibid., 78 15 Ibid., 77 78. -papers were inculcating fear in this country, and he said, this problem traced back to the newspaper owners who tempered with the news to promote 16 Ibid., 77.
94 This bur eaucratic optimism and media conservatism increased the level of uncert ainty in the society making the public even more crave for accurate information. had grown skepti cal of a they saw, touched, handled, and the crucial word 17 Warren Susman in his cult of experience self previously 18 mind, because the mind aspired to the quality of authenticity, of direct and immediate 19 Documentary came into a special kinds of appeal helped reinforce a social order rapidly disintegrating under economic and social pressures that were too great to endure, and helped cre ate an environment in which the sharing of common experience, be they of hunger, dustbowls, 20 The photographic campaign of the F.S.A. (the Farm Security Administration) refle reinforcement of social order and sharing of 17 Ibid., 73. 18 The Development of an American Culture ed. Stanley Coben and Lorman Ratner ( Englewood Cliffs, NJ : Prentice Hall 1970 ), 193. 19 William Stott, Documentary Expression and Th irties America, 77. 20 Warren I. Susman, Culture As History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 159.
95 common experience through the power of documentary. Est ablished in 1935 as part of onomic recovery campaign, the F.S.A. embarked on a vast the head of the photography section, commissioned photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, and Marion Post to illustrate and support the written accounts of conditions in 21 This governmental project marked a watershed in the history of social documentary because of its unprecedented scale and excellence that went far beyond the bureaucratic expectation. 22 The returning images were emblematic of the Great Depression; they showed, as we remember to this day, individuals or families on their desperate travels to a remote low wage fruit or cotton fields to find j obs after all hopes in their hometown ran out; winds and dusts, eroding their hometown ranches and the roads they were traveling through, also made them look incredibly weary and defenseless; stuffs were roped on the top of their shabby motorcars, reassuri ng their precarious life; around the straying trucks or makeshift campsite, mothers and children were looking vacantly in the barren field. [Figure 4 1, 4 2] Not only did these images o f struggling rural lives appear, during the thirties, as precise measu rements of catastrophic human conditions, but their sheer presence in photographs no matter how pathetically depicted also became a therapeutic inspiration 21 Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction 81. 22 The total number of photographs tak en for the eight years of the FSA photography cataloged in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. Carl Fleischhauer, and Beverly W. Brannan, Docum enting America, 1935 1943 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 330.
96 for the New Deal era, demonstrating their indomitable courage for survival in this catastrophic ti me. Photographer Edward Steichen wrote in 1939 in his review of the F.S.A. photographs from the International Photographic Exhibition in New York: men and the women in these pages. Listen to the story they tell and they and the children; weird, hungry, dirty, lovable, heart breaking images; and then there are the fierce stories of strong, gaunt men and wom en in time of flood and drought. 23 early review illustrates how the F.S.A. photographs helped recover the public morale in the New Deal era in their sheer revealing power. For many people in the thirties who were getting tired of newspaper propag andas about truth of their time, these images, at least at the moment, seemed as accurate as reality itself. As Steichen rget to ask how they were made up. 24 As documentar y historian Liz Wells has put it, people in the thirties believed that imposes rathe r than creating meaning; it dise mpowers the reader or spectator from any acts of interpretation vis a v is the text. 25 This seeming transparency of documentary the workers and the poor into facts, the 26 This immediacy and transparency of documentary gaze the revived myth of photography since its invention in the nineteenth century, began to take up the thirties again. 23 U.S. Camera 1939 ed. T. J. Maloney (New York: The Beck Engraving Company, 1938), 44. 24 Ibid., 44. 25 Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction 78. 26 Ibid., 78.
97 context, a photograph was wo rth a thousand words. While newspaper articles were rendered vulnerable to editorial interferences, documentary photographs seemed to provide incontestable and unalterable facts. But over the course of the twentieth century, this photographic mythology, having revived all over documentary, has been also gradually dismantled by a social practice. C ritic John Tagg for instance, status varies wit 27 Tagg considers that pol itical arena has to do with bourgeois ideologies to gain more effici bourgeois ideology of social control c instrument of permanent, exhaustive, omnipotent surveillance capable of making all 28 e power a sort of vantage point 29 Thus, Tagg argues that images belong not to the camera, but to the power behind it, one who has enough cont rol and authority to utilize it: the representation it [camera] produces are highly coded, and the power it wields is never its own. As a means of record, it arrives on the scene vested with a particular authority to arrest, picture and transform daily life; a power to see and record; a p 27 John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), 63. 28 Ibid., 71 72. 29 Ibid., 74, 76.
98 camera but the power of the apparatuses of the local state which deploy it and guarantee the authori ty of the images it constructs. 30 lance hinges bout the reality of photography 31 As a dominant ideological rhetoric, realism in ated as if it were identical with a pre 32 by which realism is constituted appear of no account. 33 Therefore, reality in bourgeois a constant cross 34 In other words, photographic reality under the bourgeois control is always overlapped in larger ideological contexts, and this circuit of systematic encoding generates repetitive codification of the same regulatory logic. It be ars an idea that reality in documentary, as the referent but reference: a subtle web of discourse through which realism is enmeshed in a complex 35 Accordingly, if we bring this whole discourse of bourgeois realism into our t does, doc in this 30 Ibid., 64. 31 Ibid., 76. 32 Ibid., 99. 33 Ibid ., 99. 34 Ibid., 99. 35 Ibid., 100.
99 appear s to be a groundless assumption that veils historically reified hegemonic int erests. To this end, Tagg concludes that ieve this [authenticity] because it is already implicated in the historically developed techniques of observation domination and because it remains imprisoned within an historical form of the regime of truth and 36 Allen Sekula presents another force ful argument relevant to T documentary as the historically developed technique of propaganda in his critical essay, To Sekula, the theory of 37 In 38 Thus, for of dead facts, reified objects torn from 39 reassures its limit as a spectacle, nothing but a retinal excitement constantly failing to convey truth of the world it rep resents. 40 It is undeniable that in both Tagg and Sekula, the myth of photographic objectivity only serves to historicize or propagandize partic ular political ends ; the privileged wants to brain i mpassive mechanical 36 Ibid., 102. 37 The Massachusetts Review Vol. 19, No. 4, (Winter, 1978): 863. 38 Ibid., 863. 39 Ibid., 863. 40 Ibid., 864 contributed much to spectacle, to retinal excitation, to voyeurism, to terror, envy and nostalgia,
100 object seems to be the most effective means of the political persuasion. For 41 I n a similar sense, Sekula also writes, truth that photographs offer is the assertion that somebody or something was somewhere and took a picture. Everything else, everything beyond the imprinting of a 42 Social Documentary as Art Although a great deal of criti cal attention has been paid to exposing sufficient form of art. This new critical movement began as early as 1 photography director (appointed in 1940), started including documentarians such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, or Margaret Bourke White in his influential early exhibition (and catalog), Photography 1839 1937. 43 As Christopher Phillips argues, crucial step in the acceptance of photograp hy as a full fledged museum art 44 And this early contribution culminated when John Szarkowski took up the position in 1962 and launched his own ver sion of photographic modernism throughout the 60s and 70s in which social documentary began to be looked at as a significant body of photographic tradition. 41 John Tagg, The Burden of Representation 13. 42 43 The exhibition catalog was reprinted in 1938 with The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present Day (Fourth edition) (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1964), unpaged. 44 The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography ed Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989), 17.
101 photographer seeks to do more than convey information through his photography: his 45 approach which makes use of the artistic facul 46 This aesthetic perspective has been inherited in most of the current readings of the F.S.A. photographers and therein, the focal point of understanding for example, ions in the F.S.A. project is noticeably changed from her particular history into a universal language of art. This new transition emphasizes exquisite formality that enhances the emotional communications between th e viewer and the subject. This formal consideration is visual compositions that 47 [Figure 4 3] In order to maximize this emo tional impact, Lange carefully they could play as a vehicle of expression and emotion. 48 Moreover, the subject low angle, close contact shot. [Figure 4 4] Wide open sky in the bac kground emphasizes the epic nature of this moment, which is also reinforced by tight cropping that cuts off every other Therefore, as Liz Well points out, are seen as historical, but timeless; densely coded, but 45 Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography 137 46 Ibid., 144 47 Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction 81. 48 Ibid., 82. orks which
102 49 works are not only historically codified documentations of s pecific U.S. history, but art Documentary as an Expressive G enre Then, how could this artistic turn of explicit social documentary gain its cultural validity in the 60s and 70s, the years in which document study Documentary E xpression and Thirties America, the provided not only an articulation of quality found its ethical justification. 50 William Stott in this study undersc ores the priority of subjectivity emotional expression, and artistic nature in the d ocumentary practices. For Stott, a journalistic document offers not only an intellectual verification of social events, but it also provides readers with compell ing emotional experience: one sees genre in the the same thing: emotion counted more than fact. 51 As he argue s in the book even in the most simple and literal utterance of forensic evidence in a news article containing not hing but facts themselves ( 49 Ibid., 82. 50 Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic in Pain ed. Mark Reinhardt, Holly Edwards and Erina Duganne (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) 52. 51 William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 9.
103 ) can cause a subconscious e motional upsurge, given that the facts in the public media are the consequence of a carefully designed journalistic selection process to maximize the 52 fact speak for its it has long been a catch praise in journalism. But truth is t hat even though a camera is an impassive fact machine photographers are emotional beings and, whenever they are faced with the issue of human suffering, they feel, think, and react with full of emotions, which is parallel to what artists do with their subjects. 53 Thus, Stott claims that sharpen it with feeling; put us in touch with the perennial human spirit, but show it str uggling in a particular social context at a specific historical moment. They sensitize 54 expression wa s inevitable in documentary, and the real problem was how well photographers c ould manage their expressive desire within the basic protocols of docume ntary. Noticeably, this problem brings him to a sort of first level ethical discussion of the good and bad as the second half of his book is devoted to a 52 Ibid., 12 Lynchburg, Va., Dec. 17, 1967, (AP) and this short news article delivers nothing other than sheer facts. 53 Tim Gidal, Modern Photojournalism: Origin and Evolution, 1910 1933 (New York: Macmillan, 1973). Tim Gidal in this sense points out photo journalist should be a creative and by this we mean the rare phenomenon of the passionately committed photojournalist personally experiences what he captures on film: laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, tragedy, and come dy. It is only through his subjective experience of the objective facts that the photo reporter can become a witness to his time. His alertness and his gift of observation distinguish his work from that of others not as an artist, but related to the arti 54 William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America 18.
104 didactic comparison between t he good Walker Evans and the bad Margaret Bourke White In this quasi ethical discussion, photographer Margaret Bourke White, who had 55 in the thirties, is downgraded to an inferior and flawed artist deliberately and artfully seek ing to make 56 57 In her best selling documentary book, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), Bourke White molded the types of people whose poses and gestures were deliberately fabricated to represent 5, 4 6]; they looked incredibly defenseless, vulnerable, and pathetic, and these dramatic lights, and subtle stagin g of the subjects. These types of images were facts themselves but by subtle f abrications. Stott, putting B o urke White sentimental 58 he purpose of these unusual techniques was just to be unusual: to pep up the content, to wheedle the viewer into emotion by making it seem that what he looked at was fresh, subtle, and passionate, and not what it was: a sentiment 59 55 Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography 149 56 William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America 215. 57 John Stomberg, 58 William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America 267. 59 Ibid., 270. -This sentimental clich, though was pervasive in the thirties. In this clich, photographic objectivity was only instrumental to manipulate reality into utilizable material for a social propaganda. Such manipulations were standard procedure shared by many F.S.A. photographers. For ins tance, one of the F.S.A. photographer, Arthur Rothstein often used to set employed a fake interviewer to lead the interview, asking questions for a while with out his concern completely unaware of the camera, Rothstein stepped forward and snapped the
105 Walker Evans o n the contrary documentary genre 60 because Evans had an exceptional talent to 61 E works, such as Bed, Tenant Farmhouse (Hale County, Alabama, 1936) [Figure 4 7] that depicts a bed covered by stained white sheet s in a corner of a wooden cabin. There is nothing special in this room, except for the s heer presence of the bed that evokes a being whose resting site speaks the very nature of his or her world. Sharecropper (Hale County, Alabama, 1936) [Figure 4 8] is another work that demonstrates a farm worker pre cariou sly staring at the camera with no emotional trace on his face. His face never solicits any pity or documentary in its defying of all the sentiment al clich, deliberate fabrica tion of facts accepted or even promoted protocol for documentary production. 62 reticent, understated, an d impersonal style takes a higher aesthetic position than Bourk e dramatic, and solic itous style ntervention of self conscious gestures. But at the same time, it undermined the reliability of photographic 60 Ibid., 2 66. 61 Ibid., 268, 269. 62 Roy Stryker, who was the director of the FSA project and made the decision to let Evans mphasis, and line sharpness, focus, filtering, mood are made to serve an end: to Beaumont Newha ll, The History of Photography 149
106 because the former calls 63 In Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1942), a monumental documentary book co authore d by James Agee, Agee emphasizes on this beauty of liter alness, as important as ethical consideration: inextricably shaped as it is in an economic and human abomination, is at least as Without humiliating th e poor in a fabricated clic h of misery, Evans accomplishes 64 Between Classical Evans and Anonymous Evans part structure, his influential study can be parceled out in two points: first, contrary to the initial public expressive genre that was intended to bring an inspiration for soc ial change. Although skills to encode emotion and feeling into their images, so that the viewer could re act with something more than just simple k nowledge that an image showed; s econdly, while this expression was often o verdone by many photographers in that time period, breaking the limit of promoted objectivity and authenticity, photographers like Walker Evans made a recogniz able compromise between a esthetic expression and political/ethi cal authenticity. 63 William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America 273. 64 Ibid., 276.
107 This strategic incorporation between reality and artistry has been served as a major framework to define documentary aesthetically. 65 Specifically the critical virtue of ways that it neutralizes the anxiety of realism in the necessity of formal consideration in t o the documentary e nterprise, and Walker Evans was classic of 66 to Stott. mentation, it is doubtful that Walker Evans was the true c lassic of the thirties documentary, bec ause, as Stott himself admitted idiosyncratic, old fashioned, cold, insuffic 67 68 Evans was discharged from the F.S.A. project in March 1937 for his unproductive 65 Jean Franois Chevrier Documentary Now! : Contemporary Strategies in Photography, Film and t he Visual Arts ed. Frits Gierstberg (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2005) formulated principle from the artistic field Chevrier reiterates this view. Based on the recognition that documentary is a literal represe ny photography could be defined To document something is above all to shot it and to have the shot developed into a recognizable image. It is ba sically the same process as artistic reproduction. As long as a documentary camera captures something in reality and reproduces or represents it in particular ways of authorship, it should be discussed in more traditional agenda of photographic art. To Che vrier, therefore, early photographers who paid immense attention to the 19 th century world, such as Atget, is a prime example of the documentary tradition, ensuring the inseparability between art and documentary. 66 William Stott, Documentary Expression an d Thirties America 266. 67 William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America 222. 68 Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic in Pain ed. Mar k Reinhardt, Holly Edwards, and Erina Duganne (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 53.
108 performance. 69 For years thereafter he remained practically unemployed and relat ively anonymous in mainstream documentary fields. His financial status during the mid 70 It was at this time that 71 an to grow at the end of the thirties when he became the first photographer to be given a one man show at the Museum of Modern by his longtime friend and MoMA associate Lincoln 72 Let Us Now Praise Famous Men which b rought him ultimate public recognition was only published in 1942, no t during the thirties. Moreover, at first, this publication did not even make an immediate impact; the recognition as great as it is today was made during the 1960s wh en Agee died with th e Pulitzer P rize and thereby media attention was poured once again to both the book and Evans whose reputatio n at this point was also remarkably increased in the art world. 73 It seems Stott did not take into serious account all these historical facts w hen he wrote Evans was 69 Belinda Rathbone, Walker Evans: A Biography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995) 147. 70 Ibid., 75. 71 Ibid., 75. 72 In the Spring of 1930, Kirstein, who was a form er member of the Harvard Society of years earlier (1928) Evans met him at a Manhattan bookstore (where Evans was working) and sent photographs to Kirstein who wa s at this point, the editor of a culture magazine, Hound and Horn, hoping to get them published. Since then, the two had maintained close friendship, sharing many cultural interests. When Kirstein became a MoMA associate, he gave Evans some works at MoMA i See Belinda Rathbone, Walker Evans: A Biography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995) 58 64. 73
109 historical inaccuracy signifies more than ju st a simple mistake because it is in this historical vacuum between anonymous Evans and classical Evans that documen ta contradiction between aesthetics and politics was initiated. In other words, when much later institutional was rebranding anonymous Evans into classical Evans, this job was done by a n intrinsic a moral comparison between au thentic Evans and inauthentic other documentary photographers, or politically righteous art of Evans and just aesthetic clich of B o urke White. And this didactic comparison had in tory that strategy to lure the public attention. For instance, Thomas Mabry, who was the publicity lker Evans had potential order and morality at the very moment that it pictures the ordinary, the vulgar and the casually corrupt. 74 The power as such reflect ed the dogma of modern aesthetics simple, medium specific, less mimet ic and thus purer than others. And at the same time, this power also reassured its moral commitment morality as a potential order If a socially concerned art loses this subtle balance between morality and formality, it will be thrown to harsh criti cism, as B o urke White It is, I argue, from this tactical mix of morality and formality by the early art institutions that contemporary antagonism against 74 Thomas Dabney Mabry Harpers Bazaar (November 1, 1938): 85. -Tom Mabry was the MoMA curator curated and managed the press
110 75 There i s little doubt that social documentary is a n aesthetic genre, as convincingly argued lies in the subtle logical twist that aesthetic expressions the very tactical mix of mor alit y with formality, nourished in the early art institutions. Walker Evans at MoMA As I mentioned earlier, the aesthetic nature of documentary photography takes a new turn in the great curatorial enthusiasm of the early twentieth c entury art institutions. By the time, art institutions faced an urgent deman d to replace their old inventories paintings and sculptures in the rise of new media (film, photography, architecture, 76 Moreo ver major American art institutions, the Museum of Modern Art among others, were well aware of the pervasive photographic activi ties of European avant garde. Alfred Barr, the first director of MoMA, for instance, traveled Paris, Weimar Germany, and the Sov iet avant avant 77 In this survey trip (specifically in his trip to the Soviet Union in 1927), B arr witnessed not only European avant 78 but also increasing 75 Similarly, St clearly owes much to this [ethical]differentiation, and the debates surrounding contemporary photographic representations of human suffering derive, almost unaltered, from these polari ties 76 The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989), 3. 77 in The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989), 49 78 See Ibid., 50 53. -are factography and fakura. F actography is i
111 use of photographic images in the forms of photomontage or photo collage 79 As not strong enough to affect his future project. 80 awareness of the photographic activity of the European avant garde spurred the 81 Moreover, the (appointed in 1935 as a photography as a full fledged museu in their historical exhibitions such as Mural by American Painters and Photographers (Kirstein, 1932) and Photography 1839 1937 (Newhall, 1935), an stages and second, its totalita affected the ways in which those early contributors in the American institution. 82 To put it differently the early curators wanted t arguably not in the same way as it was in some of the radical European avant construct iconic representations ( faktura : part of the Russian tradition) for a new mass descriptive, self styled journalistic ideal of art (50) and faktura is the sound of the materials, the assemblage (51) that aesthetics correlative to the introduction of industrialization and social engineering of the Soviet Union after (53) 79 Ibid., 57 61. 80 Ibid., 50. -Barr was more interested in the weste rn European models of avant garde (primarily arts in Paris) and after returning from his trip, he organized the exhibition, Cubism and Abstract Art 81 The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories o f Photography ed. Richard Bolton, (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989), 17. 82 Ibid., 17.
112 (political or totalitarian) strategy to implement the 83 deserves closer critical scrutiny, not only because he was the first photographer who he ld a solo exhib ition at MoMA, but more importantly, his disinterested, reductive style Lincoln Kir stein, friend, organized the first museum debut of the anonymous young photographer, Evans, who was at the moment just laid off from the F S A p photographs seemed superior t o salon photography which was a n heir of European pictorialism, and also to newly re cognized candid photography which for Kirstein seemed 84 Kirstein in his curatorial statement for Evans 85 real photographer art photography where poetic or pictorial illusions were liquidated. Thomas Mabry, co curator and publicity manager for also played a significant role in situ ating Evans in the art world. first MoMA show was being planned, the museum was under construction and its temporary quarters were located at the Rockefeller Plaza. Mabry was concerned of 83 84 Belinda Rathbone, Walker Evans: A Biography 159. 85 Ibid., 159.
113 unfa miliar location unknown character. He therefore organized a followed by overtures to periodicals, offering them exclusives on certain i mages in exchange for coverage. 86 Moreover in h is press release, Mabry elaborated [I] t is the power to create an austere drama from America as it is that gives photographs. He never exagge rates by angle shot or unusual perspective. respects the industrial worker too much to exploit his pathos. He abh ors such easy camera melodrama. 87 [Figure 4 9, 4 10] In t hese early cura is described to pathos of the real turning the so Here, as I mentioned earlier, a tactical mix of morality and formality emerges as an underlying logic of the early institutional critiques for substantiat photographic institu aesthetics and e thics. 88 The se early curatorial efforts to culminated when John Szarkowski wa s appointed as a director of Depa rtme nt of Photography in 1962 contributions reignited the early curatorial interest redefining the 86 Belinda Rathb one, Walker Evans: A Biography 157. 87 undated, Registrar Exhibition Files, Exh. #78, MoMA Archive, NY (Recited from John Stomberg, 56.) 88
114 irrevocably autonomous 89 Szar kowski (1966), reflects The vision they share belongs to no school or aesthetic theory, but to photography itself. The character of this vision was discove have seemed inherent in the medium. 90 specific perspective comes from standing of the tools and s formed by all the photograph s that had impressed 91 cific photographe their participation du ctive and self critical logic, and therein, bleach out its social concern altogether. Not only did these accounts 92 but they also appeared as Douglas Cr imp argued in 1989, modernist 89 90 in The Photographer's Eye (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1966), np. 91 Ibid., np. 92 Christopher P 36. -As Phillips suggests, introduction of a formalistic vocabulary theoretically capable of comprehending the visual st inherent to the photographic image; and 3 ) from the (exhausted) Stieglitz/Weston line of high modernism and toward sources formerly seen as peripheral art photography.
115 sense of the term an art form that can distinguish itself in its essential qualities from all 93 In Szarkowski further categorized suc h traditions in five the frame, time lity in order to make sure of the uniqueness of photographic endeavor that is different from conventional representation. [photographer] learned that the world itself is an artist of incomparable inventiveness, and that to recognize its best works and mom ents, to anticipate them, to clarify them and make them permanent, requires intelligence both acute and supple. But he learned also that factuality of his pictures, no matter how convincing and unarguable, was a different thing than the reality itself. Muc h of reality was filtered out in the static little black and white image, and some of it was exhibited with an unnatural clarity, an exaggerated importance. The subject and the picture were not the same thing, although they would afterwards seem so. It was problem to see not simply the reality before him but the still invisible picture, and to make his choices in terms of the latter. 94 constitutes its new should attain to the quality of camera that would bring the thing itself to us, not exaggerated and overly clarified photographic clic phot interestedness of t he medium with the world as it is 93 The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989) 7. 94 in The Photographer's Eye np.
116 It is undeniable that Walker Evans would have been one of the photographers that embodied Szarko vision MoMA retrospective in 1971 Szarkowski writes: Evans at his best convinces us that we are seeing the dry bones of fact, presented without comment, almost without thought. His lesser pictures make it clear that the best ones had deceived us: what we had accepted as simple facts were precise description s of very personal perceptions. 95 [Figure 4 11, 4 12, 4 13] by impli strate gic codification of Greenbergian tic quality bears arg uably a hierarchical in the good photography in this photographic Greenbergianism is the one that serves only ag ue of subject (as the good avant garde art does), whereas the bad photography is the one that and t hose who are insensible for the genuine culture (as the bad Kitsch art does). 96 This assumption (a good documentary serves for its own sake, retires from public, and never mixes form and content) eventuall y brings two different concerns in documentary disco po litical agenda, and 2) the concern that denounc suffer. 95 John Szarkowski, Walker Evans (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1971), 18. 96 Clement Greenberg, Avant Garde and Kit s ch, in Art and Culture ( Boston: Beacon Press, 1961 ), 5 10.
117 Two Concerns about Documentary as Art Before concluding this chapter, I will briefly rehearse the two concerns of documentary mentioned above. The first concern from socio politics has been articulated by Douglas Crimp, when he critiqued that art gs about a conflict with other institutions (the Library of Congress, in particular, where 77,000 negatives of the F.S.A. photographs 97 ue aesthetic quality ended up decimating all other relationships that it had served since its invention: Thus ghettoized, it will no longer primarily be useful within other discursive practices; it will no longer serve the purpose of information, document ation, evidence, illustration, reportage. The formally plural field of photography will henceforth be reduced to the single, all encompassing aesthetic. 98 sin gle, all is as problematic as Greenbergian mode rnism which, in its exclusive emphasis on pictorial autonomy, ndestructible social bonds, Crimp argues morbid sy s Crimps writes: For photography to be understood and reor ganized in such as way is a complete perversion of modernism, and it can happen only because modernism had indeed become dysfunctional. Postmodernism may be said 97 Doug 3 13. 98 Ibid., 7.
118 as a modernist m edium that signals the end of modernism. Postmodernism begins when photogra phy comes to pervert modernism. 99 the postmodern antithesis that the assertion for autonomy exposes both modernist ideology and its crisis, other criti cs pay more attention to the second concern indulgence when its subject matters are problematic. Their claim s rest primarily on the idea that aesthetic redundanc y in documentary would blunt ical sensitivity. concern that the beauty of journalistic photography might produce moral depravity, or 100 In On Photography, Sontag writes: the aes theticizing tendency of photography is such that the medium which conveys distress ends by neutralizing it. Cameras miniaturize experience, transform history into spectacle. As much as they create sympathy, photographs cut s ympathy, distance the emotions. 101 photographer s would n ever want to involve themselves in a situation they pictures, but just pass through it with a camera as a or as a sign for doing nothing but looking, like a 102 In this idea, without walls in which every subject is depreciated into an article of consumption, promoted into an item 103 aesthetic ignifies an eye shopping in this shopping mall of disasters where the pain of others is embellished by aesthetic sensibility. It is a moral crime for Sontag, as far as it induces an aesthetic 99 Ibid., 8. 100 Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Dell Pub. Co, 1977), 105. 101 Ibid., 109 110. 102 Ibid., 41 42. 103 Ibid., 110.
119 pleasure that solidifies the distance between the subject and ob ject. Sontag elsewhere points out that this distancing is nothing other than exoticism (making the pain always 104 Martha Rosler presents another articulation that pinpoints the problems of a esthetic documentary. Rosler argues a historical in its refusal of specific 105 For Rosler, documentary rightne ss or well universality. Documentary should be a testimony of particular event occurred in particular time; in this way, documentary could bring a ti mely intervention into r eality universality and thus, makes it impossible for the viewer to connect an image to a particular time and p lace in which the image was captured. As Rosler writes appreciation of image is dangerous insofar as it accepts not a dialectical relation between political and formal meaning, not their interpretation, but a hazier, more reified relation, one in which topicality drops away as epochs fade, and t he aesthetic aspect is, This a historicity of aesthetic documentary is even more problematic for Rosler because beyond its evaporation of particular history, th is aesthetic documentary dismisses the mutability of aesthetic criteria. Universality, then, turns out to be a false supposition based on immutability of ae sthetic rightness, masking differences between 104 Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New Yo rk: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977), 70 71. 105 The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography ed. Richard Bolton (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1989), 318.
120 each practices. It follows that documentary centered on aesthetic formality eventually makes a double failure in capturing both particularity of events and specificity of each documentaries. Rosler points this out in the following paragraph: a problem with trying to make such a notion [aesthetic moment] workable within actual photographic practic e is that it seems to ignore the mutability of ideas of aesthetic rightness. That is, it seems to ignore the fact that historical interests, not transcendental verities, govern whether any particular form is seen as adequately revealing its meaning and t hat you cannot second guess history. This mutability accounts for the incorporation into legitimate photo history of the work of Jacob Riis alongside that of the incomparably more classical Lewis Hine, of Weegee (Arthur Felling) alongside Danny Lyon. It s eems clear that those who, like Lange and the labor photographer, identify a powerfully conveyed meaning with a primary sensuousness are pushing against the gigantic ideological weight of classical beauty, which presses on us the understanding that in the search for transcendental form, the world is merely the stepping off p oint into aesthetic eternality. 106 documentary photograp hers focus on their work itself ( such ) the identities of the ir subjects are generally unnoticed, and become instrumentalized to serve larger agendas In this anonymity, all the benefits from the no fo rtune out of their modeling, whereas B ourke selling documentary books brought them great fortune and fame. In these best sellers, the subjects were utterly exploited given that the photographs did not practic ally affect ccording to Rosler, this exploitation continues to this day by countless media reproductions that keep reframing their pathetic past without any the victimization by e 106 Ibid., 318
121 indignation of the new writer to capture them, in words and images both, in their current 107 This particular concern of exploitation in a guise of sp eaking on behalf of t he photographed is also an issue in Abigail Solomon Who is Speaking Thus? Some Questions about Documentary Photography. In this essay, she poses a f subjugation: first, in the social world that has produced its victims; and second, in the regime of the image produced within and for the same system that engenders the conditions it then re 108 According to Solomon Godeau, from Jacob Riis and L ewis Hine to the F.S.A. photographers, all of whom claimed for the social necessity of their photographi c 109 Based on these tropes, r sympathy into the image, to invest the subject with either an emblematic or an archetypal importance, to visually dignify labor or poverty, is a problem to the extent that such strategies eclipse or obscure the political sphere whose determinations, acti ons, and instrumentalities are 110 In this account, the visual is denounced as an eclipse of the 107 Ibid., 319. 108 Abigail Solomon Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions, and Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 176. 109 Ibid., 179. 110 Ibid., 179.
122 political to an extent that the visual belongs solely to the domain of photographers, while the political is opposite; what photographe 111 which turns photographs retain their specificity only briefly; much of the graphic legacy of the F.S.A. is currently embalmed in a collective nostalgia about the 1930s, or enshrined as a humanist monument to the timeless struggle against adversity, or revered as a record of individual photographic achievement. Child laborer, tenant farmer, disenfranchised black, the (once) living subject whose existence testified to the injustice and abuses bred within a political and social system, now becomes testimony to the 112 Noticea bly, in the se ant i aesthetic accounts, the term aesthetics simply designate often leads to a misconception that aesthetic is an appreci ation of beautiful things, or dis interested taste toward impractical things. It is t his misconception that yields the ethical concerns about documentaries that draw aesthetic attentions. In his recent article (2007) Mark Rein hardt, a political scientist and art writer, 113 argues that such critical antagonism, however, has something to do with critical anxiety based on a obscuring or exploitat ion of pain slides into an anxiety inchoate or unstated, but 111 Ibid., 179. 112 Ibid., 179. 113 historian Erina Duganne a nd Holly Edwards. The catalog included insightful essays, by these and a For the review, see David Levi Strauss, Nikon and Icons: Is the aestheticization of suffering critique still valid? (online article) accessed October 11, 2011, http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/014_02/258
123 perhaps more powerful for that of the formal choices and rhetorical conventions, and 114 Reinhardt points out that Kantian line of aesthetic tendency has formed this is purposefully disregarded in favor of the dogmatic dis interestedness; he further elaborates that this attitudinal turn has driven our aes thetic attention exclusively to the concepts. 115 y, the aesthetic, Reinhardt argues 116 Toward a New Aesthetics of Social Documentary engagement are not based on an adequate definition of aesthetics, then what is the essence of the emotional experience, expressions, and inspirations that are the underlying impulse of do cumentary photography? Michael Renov in his study, Toward a Poetic of Documentary suggests a new way of understanding documentary aesthetically By surveying both classical (Aristotle) and modern poetic discourses (James Clifford and Susan Rubin Suleiman) 114 Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic in Pain, ed. Mark Reinh ardt, Holly Edwards, and Erina Duganne (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 23. 115 Ibid., 21. 116 Ibid., 21.
124 117 Poetics in which he argued for poetic art l utility, and thereby became the most forceful answer to the Platonic separation between art and politics, Renov here attempts to make a philosophical reconciliation between aesthetic form a nd political content. Renov writes poetics to submit aesthetic forms to rigorous investigation as to their composition, function, and effect this field of study has become a kind of proving ground for the relations 118 o confront the 119 because the powers the principle of authority and legitimacy as well as the historical repressions are what shape and confine aesthetic form. 120 knowledges its politics. 121 to persuade or promote, 3. to analyze or interrogate 4. to express) with classical aesthetic theories (he calls them modalities of desire 122 ), Renov ela borates relations between socio political tendencies and aesthetic qualities 117 Michael Renov et al., Theorizing Documentary (New York: Routledge, 1993), 20. 118 Ibid., 20. 119 Ibid., 19. 120 Ibid., 19. -inquiries into the species, functions, and effects of discursive forms must attend to the pressures and limits of social determination the principles of authority and legitimacy as well as the historical repressi 121 Ibid., 25. -an elaboration of conceptually discrete modalities, must be willing to acknowledge transgressiveness as the very cond 122 Ibid., 22. -
125 as a cognitive or psychological as a communicative aim through aesthetic formality. 123 In so doing, Renov revitalizes the connection between art and politics that has never been fully severed away in documentary genres despite forceful critical amputations of the anti aesth etic criticisms, mentioned earlier This conn ection has been symptomatically reinstated through the new documentary pract ices ( Post documentary exemplified by such artists as The Atlas Grou p (Walid Raas), Luc Delahaye, Aernout Mik, and more,) whose aesth etic engagements in pictorial composition, the atrical staging, and digital manipulation appear to rather reinforce the topicality of socio political agendas, despite social ose aesthetic elements Of course, this new hybrid social documentary as art may not a lways provide us with best pos sible options for social change But at least, such documentaries encourage both photographers and viewers to participate in this complex structure of aesthetic proximi ty. David Levi Strauss once argued n act amid a complex structure of choices. These choices, which extend beyond the time of the photograph, influence the photograph before, during, and after its instant. Reading 124 It means by exten sion that looking images, we are already entering into the complex space of participatory the visual testimonies of documentary ; it is to unde rstand a complex codification of socio political contexts through the aesthetic eyes. As Levi 123 Ibid., 25 35. 124 David Levi Strauss, Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (New York: Aperture 1995), 33.
126 Strauss articulates, this participation, this willingness of engagement to the visual, even if it is uneasy for us to relation of photographer to subject is recognized, questioned, and redefined. 125 In this negotiation, which brings the unprivileged, invisible others onto the stage of visibility documentary is an art of emancipation. 125 Ibid., 10. -they are always only instants. What they do most persistently is to register the relation of photographer to subject the distance from one to another and this understanding is a
127 CHAPTER 5 THEATER OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND EMANCIPATION OF THE SPECTATOR: Aernout Mik at MoMA in 2009 Representation of catastrophes in media (photography, video or film) involve s a great deal of ethical complexity. What ma kes such media representation s ethically questionable is the conflict between an claimed objectivity and its inherent subjectivity. Oftentimes, our responses to those media images end u p with a mix of aversion and pleasure. Brutal violence easily turns into a spectacle that leads us to an roles are dismantled, and its inheri ted cultural privilege in thi s society of spectacles face s new challenge s Dutch media artist Aernout Mik challenges this privileged notion of media objectivity by exploring an ethically fraught terrain of theatrical documentary. Mi k has produced a number of fictional documentaries featuring elaborately staged events that evoke particular socio political conflicts. This theat rical documentation howev er, has been observed to involve little risk of re vic timizing the documented figures either by the brutal immediacy of documentary or by artful circuit of representation. Moreover, the s theater brings up a new terrain of media representation in which both political objectivity and aesthetic subjectivity can peacefully coexist. This chapter exam ines the ethical concerns pervasive in documentary discourses through strategically reinterpreting the notion of (photographic) theatricality addressed by Roland Barthes ( Camera Lucida ), Michael Fried ( Theatricality and Absorption and Why Photography
128 Matters as Art as Never Before ), and Jacque Rancire ( the Emancipated Spectator ). trical documentary emerges as a new ethic al form of media art that leads spectator s to a stage of ethical confrontation in which their formerly passive spectatorship turns into more active, more engaging communication with the other. first solo exhibiti on outside Europe was held at Mo M A. His works, which consisted of either large siz e single photographic images or multi channel video installations clearly revealed a distinctive political tenor in their subject matters ranging from wars and terrorism to the issues of immigrat ion and ethnic conflicts. However, in a cur ious way, these political subject matters seemed quite effectively adjusted to Mo largest depositories of Western aesthetic tradition. Visitors, in cluding myself, had to run the museum, and i t was a sort of double edg ed experience combined with both political aware s theatricality. works and film stills, mounted in large format light boxes, seem to be a series of documentaries showing recent socio political events. However, all the people shown on the screens are actors and act resses, 1 and they are playing their given roles in the works, such as Scapegoat (2006) [Figure 5 1] and School Yard (2009) [figure 5 2, 5 3] people are elaborately staged in rich typological allusions to some recent polit ical conflicts 2 Groups 1 There is one exception Raw Footage ima ges he found at the archives of Reuters and Independent Television News (ITN) in London. 2 Scapegoat (2006) recalls, to some extent, the unseen inside view of the 2002 Moscow theater hostage situation. School Yard (2009) also represents multi ethnographic rituals that
129 of people with unclear id entities move around mutely on the stage (which is in fact a real site), suggesting the anxiety of an impending danger ( Scapegoat ) or chaotic commotion of some sort ( School Yard ). The deciding factor of this movement is the flow of emotions that constantly re coordinates t he focal point of the situation; as practical returns to the emotional gestures of the actors. It is this ch oreographed emotion exuberated on the stage that make s these works both enigmatic and mesmerizing. On the one hand, they are enigmatic because anonymity and obscurity penetrate the entire soundless typological sequences, continuously frustrating the viewe comprehension. On th e other, they are mesmerizing given that the tantalizing situations same way as a successful documentary film does. This ambivalent effect, coming from both anon ymity and at traction simultaneously, encourages viewers to begin a sort of emotional free play without being subjected to ethical This free play of emotions insured by anonymity becomes more explicit in another work, Raw Footage (2006). [Figure 5 4, 5 5] In this case, people and events are real, 3 but by using abandoned raw footage of the Yugoslavian civil war, with anomalously edited sequences, Mik keeps viewers from being overly occupied by the distu rbing factua lity of the images. include Turkish, Surinamese, and Moroccan. Middle Man (2001) depicts a stock market break down; Training Ground (2006) reminds of illegal immigration issues; and Vacuum Room (2005) reminds of a meltdown of political gatherings. 3 Mik unusual ly uses the real newsreels of the Yugoslavian civil wars for this work; he collected them from the archives of Reuters and Independent Television News (ITN) in London, Laurence Kardish, Aernout Mik: An Introdu ction (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2009), 21.
130 S ubtle manipulation of emotions as such begi ns with double screens. In the gallery, the juxtaposed screens produce strange unintentional overlaps of sequences with sporadic rhythms and cross perspectival circuits. [Figure 5 6] Viewers therefore find a strange correspondence between the two screens; for example, at a certain moment, one screen shows an artillery combat unit shooting smoky field guns over the tranqu il wheat field. The camera generates drastic contrast s between the busy g u nners and the peaceful fields. Meanwhile, the other screen plays a musty, smashed farm ecce ntric layout of the site is produced in the farm house / the gunn ers / the wheat field. What makes this landscape eccentric is the gunners uncanny position between the farm house and the wheat field that emphasizes a disturbing void in the pastoral Balkan landscape. This speci fic psychological layout has something to d o with the ironic relation between the Balkan landscape and people who have long been subjected to such a serpentine political history. 4 As one way of echoing this serpe ntine history, Mik never chooses a straightforward mode of representation. He shows n either a dead body nor an actual close up engagement in this work. All scenes are taken at a certain distance from the killing zone; snipers or soldiers shoot invisible enemies far away from their position. Seriousness barely come s into the situation when a soldier pulls the trigger of his machine gun sitting on an antique love chair or when a boy wearing nothing but a red trunk scav enges around an abandoned tank. Perhaps this is why those films were found 4 The pastoral life of the Balkan people started complicated when their early communist slogan of the Brotherhood and Unity among its various ethnic groups (Serbo Croatian, Macedonian, Slovene, Albania n, and Hungarian) was broken by na tionalism resulted in one of the most catastrophic ethnic cleansings since the Holocaust.
131 unopened in the arch ive (They were abandoned films Mik fou nd in a corner of The Independent Television News (ITN) in London ) They lost their news value due to their distance from the site in which all the provoking spectacles are produced. By using the residues of news, Mik keeps viewers from being overly occupied by the disturb ing factuality of the images. The viewers thereby experience a certain emotional circuit: tension, relaxation, and tension again, and then laughter in the end. In other words, all such absurd dramatic mise en scnes serve to reduce the tension and pres sure of the images, and lead the viewer to neutralized in a sudden emotional overturn. In Training Ground (2006), [figure 5 7, 5 8] the emotional free play turns into an interch angeable role play. In this work, two groups are confronted: one in police uniforms and t he other with various trip paraphernalia as if they are illegal immigrants. S tereotypical roles determined by their symbolic costumes and belongings are changed by the ir unifor m is overturned by their idiotic tumbling on the grou nd. However, this role reversal does not seem to diminish the emotional tension of the scene because of the a complete engrossment in their roles. Rather, it emphasizes the intrinsic theatricality of all political actions that would constantly renew and reset the presumed political privilege of the subjects. To this end, Training Ground unveils the fact tha t, in this political theater, an individual is nothing but an anonymous actor whose ontological certainty cannot be insured by any means. In this work, the subject/the other relationship turns into an interchangeable network, renewing the typical formula o f modern subjectivism. The last se quence the lunatics marching around with their fake
132 rifles perhaps implies the very insanity of the modern subject, marching along the false track of history. Vacuu m Room ), beholders are guided to take a particular beholding positions [Figure 5 9]; they stand, sit, or lie down on the floor mats placed in the gallery. Children walk around the freestanding, low profile six channel screens, making unique interfering sha dows on the screens. In this 5 e nvironment, screens turn into strange passageways to the mysterious chamber in which politicians and military figures are mutely disputing each other. Therefore, beholders who are watching them with a furtive ey e begin to feel a curious urge to walk into this symbolic inter human and inter media space. Photography as T heater : Roland Barthes one fundamental question i documentary gives the beholder the same soc io politi cal experience in its theatrical resemblance, is there any identifiable epistemological difference between a documentary and this staged pseudo documentary? All the figures in his works are certainly not real victims, but such knowledge comes not with the images, but from the wall text, making this whole experience more striking. documentary nor representation. This ontological ambig uity has recently been addressed by critic Walter Benn fossil character. 5
133 There is an important sense in which the question about the painting is it a painti ng or an object? has become the question about the photograph, not so much because the photograph can somehow be taken as the object it is object it is a photograph of. That is t experience the fossil as a trilobite, but we do not experience it as the picture of a trilobite either. And if we understand photographs on the model of fossil, we cannot take for granted their status as works of art. To put it that way, however, is to refuse both the indexophobia and the indexophilic, to refuse the idea that because indexicality is a false issue photographs can of course be works of art and to refuse also the idea that because photographs are essentially iindexical they cannot be works of art. 6 ontic territory situating it self somewhere between reality and art Therefore, whether it is a documentation of a fact or not, photog raphic representation is subjec ted to its intrinsic ambivalence. cality of photography, through which we see what it is, is confirmed and revoked simultaneously, because the figures in the photos can be itself. However, it should pseudo documentary does not radically diminish sensitivity of its subject matters because of the f fossil is neither a likeness of 6 Photography Theory ed. James Elkins (New York, Londo n: Routledge, 2007), 443.
134 7 do documentary leads us to Roland Camera Lucida in which photography explained as its phenomenological essence. 8 According to Barthes, photography retains two ambivalent layers of epistemological experiences studium ( cultural, intellectual experience ) and punctum ( ineffable, sensational experience ). 9 Since these two irreconcilable experiences leave completely different epistemological marks on a single consciousness, they often result in a cognitive con fusion. Faced with this confusion, 10 It is nearly impossible to speak about a photograph because it always says something more than what it appears to be. 11 In other words, a n intellectual/cul tural reading of image ( studium ) is often nullified by the interruption of inexplicable sensations ( punctum ), and in this repetitive process, hotography is an uncertain art 12 To B arthes, the uncertainty of photographic experience only takes its validit y when it embraces the uncompromising privacy of the experience. 13 It revokes universal 7 Ibid., 435. (parenthesis mine) 8 Sartre explored phenomenological process (intentionality in particular) of human imagination following Husserl. 9 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 25 27. 10 Ibid., 106. 11 Ibid., 6. -ants to vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is 12 Ibid., 18. 13 Ibid., 4, 12. -something else: the photograph always leads the corpus I need back to the body I see; it is the absolute Particular, the sovereign Contingency, matte and somehow stupid, the This (this photograph, and not Photography), in short, what Lacan calls the Tuche, the Occasion, the
135 comprehensibility; instead, photographic experience is a completely private activity and thus, it takes neither any preconception of affirmative spectatorship, nor intel lectual consensus. 14 experience in highly individualized signals; in this almost incomprehensible process of photographic internalization (or photographic intentionality in phenomenological te rminology), which Barthes describes a mystic alchemy of the brilliant light in Camera Lucida something more than what it is. Barthes remarks, in this regard: the photograph repre subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I then experience a micro version of death: I am truly becoming a specter. 15 It is often inevitable that a fact loses its solid universality when individuality In this private arena of sensory experience, the real comes to (re)present itself without having to validate its presence in time and space. It is just like a theater on which a real (an actor as a real person) represents another real (his/her role) In theater, no actors are expected to explain why they are playing their role on a stage. Without any redundant explanations, actors are just what they are on their stage. Certainly, the same goes on in photography; the photographed figures do not explain why and how they are there, but their existence is never denied in Encounter, the Real, in its indefati 14 Ibid., 6. -a photograph is 15 Ibid., 14.
136 absent presence. 16 It is a stage presence an d therein, an analogy between a theater and photography can be made at this moment, a moment in which we acknowledge the presence of a being in a photo as the actual without actuality. 17 photography introduces into the realm of representation. 18 This inexplicably atemporal presence of photography, having no actuality despite its almost perfect reality, is be represented. 19 embarrass experience in which one cannot resist to admitting the magical presence of a being in a photograph is in fact the very experience of a theater 20 is a kind of primitive theatre, a kind of Tableau Vivant, a figuration of the motionless and made up 21 Michael Fried: the Dynamics of Theatricality and Anti Theatricality Within a critical convention of modern art histor y, to define photography as a type of theater is to deny its aesthetic autonomy and authenticity because it would necessarily en 22 Micha el 16 Ibid., 88. 17 Ibid., 31. 18 Ibid., 87. embarrassment which its invention has introduced into the famil y of images. The first however, that he was nose to nose with a mutant; his consciousness posited the object t had 19 Ibid., 82. 20 Ibid., 31. actors separated themselves from the community by pl 21 Ibid., 32 22 Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1998), 153. (originally published in Artforum 5 (Jun e 1967): 12 23)
137 Fried, who first sketched this anti theatrical traditio n in his famous essay, Art and Objecthood (1967) revisits and reinforces this view in his recent book, Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before (2008). 23 In this book, Fried insists that contemporary photographic arts reinstate the anti theatrical tra dition in its absorptive pictorial quality historical contingency and aest hetic autonomy. However, although Fried throughout the book attempts to elaborate historical continuity of the anti theatrical tradition in art and photo graphy, most of his cri tical languages rather reassure a more dynamic relation between the theatrical and anti times. Why Photography be gins with a claim that in the terms defined in my previous writing, of theatricality and antitheatricality that had been central, first, to the evolution of painting in France fr om the middle of the eighteenth century until the advent of Edouard Manet and his generation around 1860, an evolution explored in my book Absorption and Theatricality and Modernism ; and second, to the opposition between high mo dernism and minimalism in the mid 24 famous concepts absorption and anti theatricality as major frameworks for his reading s of recent photographic art scale, tableau sized 23 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008) 24 Ibid., 2.
138 photographs that are hung on gallery walls (like easel paintings) and aspire to the rhetorical, or beholder important development in visual arts of the past twenty 25 For Fried, these 26 but in so doing, 27 Fried considers Jeff Wall as one of the leading artists in this new photographic current, because his large scale pictorial documentations of everyday affairs seem to artistic and philosophical stakes of high modernist paintin of the pa st. Wall produces picture s in which (photographed) eir 28 who is a painter and in the photograph, sketching a specimen of a human arm in a laboratory) [Figure 5 10] s to be 29 Fried finds it absorptive on the same theoretical ground that his critical precursor Denis Diderot argued in the eighteenth century. In Absorption and Theatricality Fried argues that there was a particular ae sthetic trend in some of the eighteenth century French Salon paintings, characterized by its 25 Ibid., 37. 26 Ibid., 336. 27 Ibid., 81 82. 28 Ibid ., 38. 29 Ibid., 38.
139 30 [Figure 5 11, 5 12 ] Unlike earlier Rococo con ventions that featured erotic and sumptuous subject matters with explicit invitation of the new eighteenth century painters represented by Jean Baptiste abandonment nearly to the poi nt of 31 In this pictorial manifestation of self forgetting for French painters of the early and mi d 1750s the persuasive representation of absorption entailed evoking the perfect obliviousness of a figure or group of figures to everything but the objects of their absorption. Those objects did not include the beholder standing before the painting. Hence presence if the illusion of a bsorption was to be sustained. 32 Fried calls this absorptive obliviousness o the beholder does not exist, that he was n ot really there, standing before the canvas; and that the dramatic representation of action and passion, and the casual and instantaneous mode of unity that came with it, provided the best available medium for establishing that fiction in the painting itse 33 Fried develops this idea from the eighteenth century critic Denis Diderot, whose tremendous interest in both theater and painting helped establish the earl y European tradition of cultural critici and 30 Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality: Paint ing and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 15. 31 Ibid., 61. 32 Ibid., 66. 33 Ibid., 103. -that the beholder did not exist, that he wa s not really there, standing before the canvas; and that the dramatic representation of action and passion, and the casual and instantaneous mode of unity that came with it, provided the best available medium for establishing that fiction in the painting i
140 Nature of the Beautiful and art criticism often reflected his interest in the flawless order and beauty of nature. 34 This early interest led him to a r adical transformation of the old, unnatural theatrical coups de theatre: surprising turns of plot, reversals, revelations into a more natural accidental groupings of figures 35 that Diderot found in some Salon pain dis int erestedness, and absorptiveness. Diderot claimed to be thought of as before a canvas, on which a series of such tableaux follow one 36 It demands, in particular, ution of a stage space devoid of spectators which in conjunction with painted scenery would allow separate but related actions to proceed simultaneously, thereby providing a more intense because more pictorial dramatic experience than the French t heater ha 37 I by depicting personages wholly absorbed in what they are doing, thinking, and feeling to deny the presence before them of the beholder, or 34 Writings ed. Lester G. Crocker, trans. Derek Coltman (New York, London: Macmillan, 1966), 53 57. -ul is composed of order, relation, in order to the greatest naturalness of their own art. 35 Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality 78. And see also Di and effects, we could do no better than simply to represent natural objects as they are. The more perfect the imitation, the greater its conformit y with the underlying physical causes, the Writing, 162. 36 Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality 78. 37 Ibid., 78.
141 38 topped and held before even worse, posing for the artist (and ultimately for the beholder) was registered as theatrical in the pejorative sense of the term, and paintin 39 In Fried new book, photographers in this absorptive category in clude for instance Jeff Wall, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Philip Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijikstra, Luc Delahaye, Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno and many other c ontemporary photographic artists whose subjects in photographs are so deeply absorbed in their own world that they appear to exist in a totall y different ontological terrain from beholders. But, as many reviewers have complained, 40 it is a curious argument that the persons depicted in those photographs would have never known the fact that they were being photographed, specifically for instance, in documentaries that show people acting in front of the photographers, portraits of families looking at the camera. [Figure 5 13, 5 14] Fri ed himself is clearly aware of this unlikelihood of his major theoretical frameworks, and it is in its most distinctive critical sensitivity: unawareness to the presence of the photographer) is unlikely, both 38 Michael Fried, Why Photography Ma tters As Art As Never Before 40. 39 Ibid., 40. tradition reach es 40 See for example Robin Kelsey, Eye of the Beholder, Artforum Book Review, ( January 2009 ) or James Elkins, Critical Response: What Do We Want Photography to Be? A Response to Michael Fried, Critical Inquiry (Summer 2005)
142 because the depi cted situation appears patently staged, and because the conspicuousness of the apparatus of display suggests a comparable conspicuousness of the photographic apparatus as such. 41 supposition of painting and photographing (patently staged but looking unstaged) is explained by certain intimacy between the subject and the photographer (or painter, as a first beholder); that is, the unlikely fiction likely and p ossible Reading Woman in Fried book, who is a daughter of the painter [Figure 5 15]) feels too near and in the open for 42 It is a difficult claim, but acc ording to Fried, it is historical, initiated first by 43 In privilege, situated by the in one entity who had a confrontational pose to beholders, yet never looke d at them, but himself in a mirror. 44 A Boy Bitten by a Lizard [Figure 5 16] for example, seems to look at beholders b ut what he really looked at was himself reflected in a mirror, not beholders; so even if he (a model) knew he will be seen by anyone, his gaze ne ver goes to the beholder. This intimacy or inseparable relation between a painter (as well as a photographer) a 41 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 41. 42 Ibid., 42. 43 Ibid., 42. 44 Michael Critical Inquiry, vol. 24, No. 1 (Autumn, 1997): 21.
143 ultimate detachedness (or in Why Photography 45 46 A decade later, Fried re elabor be their own world despite their inevitable exposure to photographers or beholders. For Fried, it is a theoretical guar theatricality. 47 The new art photography seeks to come to grips with the issue of beholding in ways that do not succumb to theatricality but which at the same time register the epochality of minimalism/literali acknowledgement of to be seenness, just as ambitious French painting reserving an imaginative space for itself that was not wholly given over to soliciting the appl a use of the Salon going public. 48 F A View from an Apartment (2004 2005) [Figure 5 17] (this photo is used as a cover image of the book Why Photography ), in which two women are doing their daily routines (one reading and the other iron ing) in their harbor be awareness about the presence of the photographer. Wall leased the pl ace and had the two women live there for a while; then he occasionally visited the place, set his camera, and took photos not letting them know when he would put the shutter. 49 rom the 45 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 43. 46 -This facingness is another important theme for Fri Manet's Modernism (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1996) 47 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 43. 48 Ibid., 43. 49 Ibid., 57.
144 camera) rather proves her disinterestedness of when to be seen, when to be photographed. 50 In this deliberate performance of disinterestedness, the picture, argues I have called to be 51 regardless of the staged situation in which the figures belong. be is, by extension, to acknowledge a specific physical relation between the beholdin g subject and the object of beholding. It is moreover an action controlled by a theatrical: Mini to see the presence of b eholder, in a specific time and actual space. siness To be seen is to stand within the unknown relation (unknown time and space) and thus an object in this unknown distance does not care much about what happens to beholders. This indifference and passivity rather secure t he ob independency (or autonomy), regardless of terms and conditions under which it is shown. There might be a beholder, but since an art in this category does not pay any attention to the beholder, it is something more than just simple t heatrical (literal) presence; its presence becomes persistent in time and space Fried has called this persistent feeling of presence in (modern) art presentness in Art and Objecthood: 50 Ibid., 58. 51 Ibid., 59.
145 it is this continuous and entire presentness amounting, as it is, to the perpetual creation of itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness, as though if only one were infinitely more acute, a single infinitely brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and f ullness, to be forever convinced by it. 52 Fried, as a modernist, presentness was a grace 53 and presentness and instantaneousness that modernist paint ing and sculpture defeat theatre 54 s side, because no matter how elaborately rendered, a painting could never completely overcome the materiality of its own medium. At best, the presentness was an illusion of presence that needs further transcendental compromise for the arbitrariness betwee n a thing and its image. Therefore, as Hal Foster has gainst minimalism called for a it was theological rather than critical. 55 presentness in art did not work out very well, for the radical intrusion of theatrical presence in postmodern art. 56 But photography, since it has much more elastic proximity between the presence and the presentness (the very elasticity articulated by Walter Benn Mich aels in his ), raised in Art and Objecthood finally finds its most plausible answer in photography. 52 Michael Fr ied, Art and Objecthood in Art and Objecthood (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 167. 53 Ibid., 168. 54 Ibid., 167. 55 Individuals: A Selected History of Contemporary Art 1945 1986 ed. Howard Singerman, ( New York: Abbeville Press, 1986), 174. -conviction of presentness reveals its theological motif, and thus it exposes his desperate 56 October 8 (Spring 1979): 77. -f art replace that condition as a result of the sensibility he saw at work in minimalism what has replaced it
146 there is an important sense in which the question about painting is it a painting or an obejct? has become the question about the photograph, not so much because the photograph can somehow be taken as the object it is object it is a photograph of. experience the fossil as a trilobite, but we do not experience it as the picture of a trilobite either. And if we understand photographs on the model of fossils, we cannot take for granted their status as works of art. To put it that way is to refuse both the indexophobic and the indexophilic, to refuse the idea that because indexicality is a false issue photographs can be works of art and to refuse also the idea that because photographs are essentially indexical twentieth century obligation of the painter to secure or assert the status of the only be understood in terms of their more or less implicit commitment to establishing (since it cannot be taken for granted) the photograph as a representation. 57 This post discourse is elaborated in chapter 10 of Why Photography ( Welling, Bernard and Hilla Becher, Jeff Wall ) 58 For Fried, James Wellin by four [Figure 5 18], which could presumably be a photographic version of minimal art in its literal objecthood, embodied an instance of photographic presentness, because it preserv ed the essence of the wood stake without presenting it literally. Thus this photogr aphic ob jecthood of a wood stake appeared as by four might be to speak of an interest in real as opposed to abstr act literalness or even in 57 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 336. 58 Ibid., 3. -In the introduction, Fried remarks the chapter 10 in which Welling and the issue o
147 both oppositions qualities pertaining to objects that can only be revealed or manifested in and by the art of photography. 59 When Art an d Objecthood presentness and instantaneousness 60 he was, frivolous (essence of minima 61 However, as Melville argues, over the course of the sixties and seventies when modernism was declining, F pure 62 But, this impossible attempt of separating the mere from the pure became all the more possible in photographic art bec by four symbolically manifested, a photograph of a thing was capable of bringing the purer abstraction of the thing without merely and literally presenting it. In this way, Fried came to an answer that he Art and Objecthood seemed quite possibly forever invalidated by the eclipse of high modernism and the 63 59 Ibid., 304. 60 61 the Necessity of Rhetoric, and the Condi October 19 (Winter 1981): 63 62 Ibid., 63. 63 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 2.
148 Die (1962) [Figure 5 19], a Concrete Ball (2003) [Figure 5 20], a rks: Die is a work of almost pure theatricality, depending as it does on enticing the viewer into a kind of indeterminate, open ended situation of transparency (Concrete Ball in a transparency light box), on the other hand, seeming concrete ball, as well as his or her apparent distance from it, are fixed by the sheer fact of the icture is what it it stands. 64 What this final comparison reassures is that photographic objecthood is a bett er theatrical plea in Art and Objecthood bject (a essence of a thing itself without presenting it literally. Fried in this regard concludes that, Concrete Ball 65 Again, the questions transcendent al condition in at every moment the work itself is wholly manifested were raised in minimalism, but answered in photography. This is why photography matters as art as never before, in F criticism. 64 Ibid., 333. 65 Ibid., 333.
149 and misunderstandin gs. Among them, t wo need to be mentioned here to get at my earlier point that dynamic relation between theatricality and anti theatricality. The f irst concern begins with Robin Artforum review is self referential that references and aggrandizing 66 That is, contemporary photographic art constantly retur ns to and co opts his earlier theoretical formulas absorption and anti Art and Objecthood -photographic formulas to photogra phy. 67 arguments in the new book in many cases appear lo gical only in relation to his previous sets of theories that all point to, rely on, and praise photography Problem lie s in a contradiction t hat this self referentiality brings about; that is, on medium specificity due to this self referential nature that constantly brings photography into the discourse of pain ting (and sculpture). James Elkins for instance Punctum appeared first in Critical Inquiry in 2005 and later included as a chapter in Fried book Why Photography ) that defining phot ography through terms and conditions of painting is opting of properties from 66 Why Photog raphy ), Artforum (January 2009): 53. 67 Ibid., 57.
150 68 Critic Diarmund Costello has also noted in his recent review on Fried, this view (photography as an extension of 69 These critical responses to an extent suggest that Fried, while absorbed too much in his own notion of absorption which does not originally belong to photography i tself, ends up dismissing every other possibility of photography, so that beholders can see nothing other than a pictorial contour of the photographic tableaux. In other words, le attention to its specific tie to socio anchorage in socio political grounds that have been inseparable from the outset. Therefore, Elkins, although agreeing in part on contemporary photographic a whole not only by reference to art but to the many kinds of scientific, technological, and utilitarian images and their digital and philosophical possibilitie 70 leads his readers to a misunderstanding that there seems to be a theoretical discrepancy between anti theatrical formulas (absorption and to be seenness, etc.) and 68 Critical Inquiry 31 (Summer 2005): 942. 69 all as a Painter; Gerhard Photography Theory ed. James Elkins (New York, NY: Routledge, 2007), 76 77. 70
151 rrefutably staged positions 71 ; thus, this creates difficulty in understanding the subtle dynamics of the theatrical and the anti It seems that this complexity results from sort of theoretical leap of the notion, theat Absorption and Theatricality (1980). As Robert Smithson wrote in the 70s, it was a prevailing thought in and Fr that seemed ironically also theatrical: provides the artworld with a long of what he is doing namely being himself theatrical. 72 a higher theater that defeats a lower theater, which drama at every moment of which the work itself is who lly manifested 73 As Fried remarked in his later discussions with Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, and Benjamin Buchloh, this point had criticism. 74 But it was definitely in his s ubsequent elaborations in Absorption and Theatricality and that 71 review in his blog. accessed March 26, 2012, http://photofocus.com/2009/07/19/photo book review why photography matters as art as never before/ 72 Robert Smithson, The Writings of Robert Smithson ed. Nancy Holt (New York: New York University Press, 1979) 3 8. 73 74 Krauss, Benjamin Buchloh, and Hal Foster) in Discussions in Contemporary Culture; Numb er One, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1987) 57.
152 substantiated with more convincing historical details. It was, as Stephen Melville has argued, to distinguish the truly dramatic f rom the merely theatrical. theater is what pure painting would exclude from itself -what it thus fails to exclude and is, in the end, obliged to acknowledge as its inward capacity to go always astray from itself (we could even say: to be always astray fr om itself). But, as Fried reads Diderot, this very theater can be divided against itself, sorted out into the merely theatrical and the truly dramatic. The stage -to name the neutral thing on which the dialectic both breaks and rests -shows forth not o nly the threat to or failure of painting, but also that which is most powerful and absorbing in it. 75 critical accounts in Why Photography revolve around the updated notion of (supreme) theatrical ity that sets out an imaginary n etwork between a photograph and beholders. It is a pure communication between art and beholders because it never solicits any physical, literal recognition between them. But possible s review on Absorption and Theatricality 76 However, we should also remember what Melville added in his review essay Absorption and Theatricality and now reiterated in Why Ph otography ) -as against the apparent tale in Greenberg -is not that of the truth of painting, but rather that of 75 October 19 (Winter 1981): 7 2. 76 Ibid., 63.
153 of its necessary conditions 77 This effort unfold s the true meaning of absorption and true status of the beholder, as Melville argues in the following paragraph: As this project unfolds in time, it will necessarily have the character of a ch given grasp of it falls before the inevitable and ineluctable fact of the beholder. The beholder, always there, gazing, is the silent motor that drives the history of modern painting forward, forcing it to find behind its ever more radical claims to abs orption always the same brute fact of theater. 78 As from this rich dialectics that invites readers to a sort of juncture between what he said and what he said not 79 It is, I beli eve, in this juncture between the implicit theatricality and the explicit anti theatricality that Fried discovered It explains, in other words, a complexly interwoven network of pho tographic experience that cannot be attributed to a single entity, discipline, or discourse. As Fried elaborates, this experience reveals the fidelity of the photographed fi gures completely absorbed in their own world, of the photographers who come so incredibly closer to the themselves, and finally of beholders whose responsibility pushes them to the very world they are looking at, despite the inviolable pheno menological distance between an image and themselves. It is an experience of th eater par excellence that can exist only in this complex interrelation of one another. 77 Ibid., 65. 78 Ibid., 66. 79 Melville in his introductory comments mentions briefly Paul de Man, specifically one of his Blindness and Insight (1971) that an Michael Fried should be understood as one of the main project of this essay.
154 T even though he never mentions political association, brings all of those interrelated f ields and entities into a community of complex discourses As Fried insightfully argues, recent photographic arts is reaching out at a great level of the supreme fiction that makes the models and beholders completely engrossed in what they are doing and lo rooted concerns about the broken relationship between image and the viewer, which has maxim: pha and omega 80 The contemporary photographic art in the dynamics of theatricality and anti be understood in terms of issues of self control and oubli de soi 81 Consequently, what recent photographic art manifests is a new spectatorship that calls for a new degree of responsibili theater, as Fried has already articulated in Absorption and Theatricality, a primary op him in front of itself, and to hold him there in a perfect trance of involvement. At the could be achieved; only by establishing the fiction of his absence or nonexistence could his a ctual placement before and enthrallment by the painting be secured. This paradox directs attention to the problematic character not only of the painting beholder relationship but of something still more fundamental the object beholder (one is tempered to say object beholder relationship epitomizes. beholder relationship 80 Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: [Black & Red], 1973), 20. 81 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 339.
155 as such, the very condition of spectatordom, stands indicted as theatrical, a medium of di slocation and estrangement rather than of absorption, sympathy, self transcendence; and the success of both arts, in fact their continued functioning as major expressions of the human spirit, are held to depend upon whether or not painter and dramatist are able to undo that state of affairs, to de theatricalize beholding and so make it once again a words, is at one and the same time the creation of a new sort of object -the fully reali zed tableau -and the constitution of a new sort of beholder --whose innermost nature would consist precisely in the conviction of his absence from the scene of representation. 82 Then, once again, why does photographic theater matter a s a cultural agenda as never before? Why do the recent Post documentary artists such as Aernout Mik explore the fraught terrain of theatr icality? It is because, I argue this photographic theater leads us to a new ethical terrain of representation in which formerly blind and passive spectators, invisible and detached fi gures in photographs, and indifferent and irresponsible photographers find ea exhibition then becomes a sort of psychological stage in which the su bject and the other medium and the beholder in this post medium era. Ema ncipation of Photography in Theater This new ethical terrain of theatricality has been sketched by Jacques Rancire in his recent text The Emancipated Spectator (2009), as a part of the demand he made in his earlier work, The Ignorant School Master in whic h Rancire explored his neo Marxist theme of intellectual emancipation. This th eme finds a new metaphor in the current theatrical society in which the public /spectator exists with a hopeless passivity in 82 Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality, 103 104.
156 a spectacle society. This passivity leads Rancire t o a new aspiration by which the passive spectator becomes an active participant in the emancipated theater community. The E mancipated Spectator is first of all a philosophical question about who the spectator really is question thus begins with what The Emancipated Spectator revolves around an i dea 83 In classical (Platonic in particular) discourses, being a spectator is a bad confused by false appearance of what they look at due to their epistemological inactive in their seat and this passivity leads them to certain inferiority. Unless accompanied with some actions, a mere viewing draws an ethical doubt. In short to be a spectator i s to be separated from both capacity to know and power to act. 84 According to Rancire, these two problems of the theatrical spectatorship result in two different conc lusions. 85 First is that theater is a n absolutely bad thing because of its mimetic delusion that undermines truth of form and action; this is what Plato denounced drama for in his acc usation of theatrical mimesis. Second conclusion is that the evil of theater lies on the presence of the spect ignorance and passivity deteriorate theatrical mimesis. In these logical consequences spectators are not considered as much important as actors on a stage 83 The Emancipated Sp ectator (London: Verso, 2009), 2. 84 Ibid., 2. 85 Ibid., 2 3.
157 To Rancire, however, such conclusions are based on a prejudice of s epistemological capacity. It is a prejudice that the spectator cannot do anything more than the name implies; specting, or viewing which has nothing to do with knowing and acting. 86 To avoid this prejudice, Rancire ut a (And it is the moment Rancire from different motif arrives at the same consequence as that of Fried) The conventional spectator as a passive viewer does no longer exist in theater. Rather, to him, theater is a place in which ac tors and spectators play passive optical relationship implied by the very term is tr ansformed into a different 87 In this account, Rancire returns to the classical (Aristotelian) form of drama, in which actions and interactions (both physically and psychologically) are highly emphasized. Rancire writes that place where an action is taken to its conclusion by bodies in motion in front of living bodies that are to be mobilized. The latter (the living bodies or spectators) might have relinquished their power. But this power is revived, reactivated in the perfor mance of the former (actors), in the 88 Rancire is on the basis of this active power that a new theatre must be built, or rather a theatre restored to its original virtue, to its true essence, of which the spectacles that takes this name offer nothing but a degraded version. What is required 86 Ibid., 3. -that makes the characters suffer through a machinery of ignorance, the optical machinery that pr epares the gaze for illusion and passivity. A true community is therefore one that does not 87 Ibid., 3. 88 Ibid., 3 4.
158 is a theatre without spectators, where those in attendance learn from as opposed to being seduced by images; where the y become active participants as opposed to 89 Here, once again, dialectical reversal of a certain prejudicial, hierarchical relations take place; in this case, emancipation of the passive spectator into an active participant. Th is self motivated emancipation is in fact, as Rancire remarked in the fir st page of this book, what has constituted the theme of his early book, The Ignorant School Master. This book begins with a story of early nineteenth century French educator, Joseph Ja cotot whose pedagogic adventure of teaching French literature to a group of Flemish students who did not speak French proved the possibility of intellectual self e mancipation. 90 Without any further explication except for the two texts written in different s ucceeded in designing their own pedagogic apparatus and learned the language. For Rancire, It was the moment in 91 92 that bro ke the barrier between teaching and learning that was initiated by the master teacher, Socrates. 93 Therefore, Jacotot concludes that the mo st ignorant teacher is the true master intellectual inspirat ion to emancipate themselves from all prejudices. emancipated oneself, that is to say, conscious of the true power of the human mind. The ignorant person will learn by himself what t he master 89 Ibid., 4. 90 Jacques The Ignorant Schoolmaster: five lessons in intellectual emancipation (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), 1 18. 91 Ibid., 6. 92 Ibid., 11. 93 Ibid., 29.
159 capacity: a circle of power homologous to the circle of powerlessness that 94 In the same way, Ranci re claims that we, spectators, already possess enough intellectual capability to transform ourselves from passive viewers to more active participants. Classical drama had already anticipated this transformative process through the form of chorus. In most G reek tragedy, there was a moment in which spectators become active participants when chorus begins to speak directly to audiences. At this moment audiences were as important and as active as actors. Rancire says very spectator is already an actor in h er story; every actor, every man 95 According to Rancire, e mancipation begins when we challenge the opposition between viewing and acting. 96 It begins when we understand that viewing is also an action that confirms or transforms this distribution of positions. Such transformation turns this whole process of spectatorship into a process of buildi ng a collective theatre remains the only place where the audience co nfronts itself as a c ollective. form. It involves an idea of community as self presence, in contrast to the distance of representation. 97 What is behind all of this process of transformation and emancipation is what Rancire calls the distribution of the sensible an epistemological engine that pushes us to the limit of our passivity, an engine that makes us move toward the stage of action. 94 Ibid., 15. 95 The Emancipated Spectator 17. 96 Ibid., 13. 97 Ibi d., 5.
160 Theater is a symbolic form of our society in which political conflict and medi ation appear to be a structure giving power in this interactive cultural stage. Rancire says: Theatre accuses itself of rendering spectators passive and thereby betraying its essence as community action. It consequently assigns itself the mission of rev ersing its effects and expiating its sins by restoring to spectators ownership of their consciousness and their activity. The theatrical stage and performance thus become a vanishing mediation between the evil of spectacle and the virtue of true theatre. T hey intend to teach their spectators ways of ceasing to be spectators and becoming a gents of a collective practice. 98 Here, the distance between actors and audience or distance between a work of art and beholders is restructured because, unlike the convent ional Diderotian motif that there should be no recognizable distance between actors and audience, the distance is a necessary condition of communication istance is not an evil to be abolished, but the normal condition of a ny communication. 99 Photography and Ethics subjective relation in spectatorship that calls for an action and communication. This inseparable interaction between a photograph and the spectator establishes what I prefer to call a theatrical the neg ativities of the term, theater -What does it mean that there is no diffe rence between a documentary and art photography mimicking ? Why is it still an issue that we are unable to distinguish between the two as many contemporary concerns of social documentary revo lve around this very indistinguishability between art and reality ? It is after all that we are still li ving the life of prison in Platonic cave and this is why the 98 Ibid., 8. 99 Ibid., 10.
161 call for the emancipation and the new ethics of whe photography, I argue, should not merely be an extension of painting, but be an extension of our lives, which nonetheless would never exclude any artistic sensibilities that are distributed in every layer of our sensible life. Photography is a theater in its most intrinsic sense, a stage that calls up the presence of the photographed despite its painful absence. Admitting this photographic theatricality, we should say that the sympathy of photography is no t to fill up the space of absence with false morality and skepticism, but to recognize the painful absence and illuminates, in its highly expanded/distributed emotional networ king, the presence of the other, who has long occupied the marginal area of subjectivity. There, the distance hrough the increased sensorial interactivity. Indeed, it is in th e sensorial interactivity of theater various sensational echoes, and it is at thi s point that the singularity of documentary photographic art today emerges as an ethical apparatus that leads spectators to a stage of ontological negotiation in which the fleeting fidelity of socio political documentary turns into a more enduring ethical drama through the theatrical expansion of the sensation s
162 CHAPTER 6 REPRESENTING THE UNREPRESENTABLE : LUC HISTORY AND THE ETHICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY When to write or not to write makes no difference, then writing changes whether it happens or not; it is the writing of the disaster. --The Writing of the Disaster Maurice Blanchot Writing of Disaster The Writing of the Disaster evo kes an idea that the ethics of writing begins at the very moment in which writing reveals the disastrous impossibility of representing a disaster. 1 For writers like Blanchot, whose entire life was overshadowed by traumatic encounters with the victims of th e Holocaust, writing itself was not an adequate tool to reduce the pain of the disaster. This is not only because no writing could adequately represent such an unimaginab ly horrifying disaster but also because this representation would re terror ize and re victimize the reader A disaster like the Holocaust is unimagi nable and unrepresentable; thus, a t any rate, it should never be re presented in the illusions of writing. Recognizing this inevitable dilemma of writing refuse to write 2 representation has been embodied in French director Shoah [Figure 6 1] Originall y meaning Shoah is a globally acclaimed nine hour documentary about 1 Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster ( Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), 7. The disaster, unexperienced. It is what escapes the very possibility of experience it is the limit of writing. This must be repeated: the disaster de scribes. Which does not mean that the disaster, as the force of writing, is excluded from it, is beyond the pale of writing or 2 Ibid., 10.
163 the Holocaust. 3 This global recognition however accomplishment in documentary conventions, but from o f the v ery conventions. T h roughout the film, he never use s any archive photographs, films, or voiceover narrations that directly depict the devastating human conditions in the camp. Lanzmann instead, fills his entire film with interviews in which the trut h of the camp is revealed in meticulous questions and answers about the day that each interviewee came to be involved in, as a victim, as a bystander, or as a collaborator. 4 T he film therefore, involves no sensationalism that visual spectacles may produce As Lanzmann believes such secondary images are incapable of and despair of facing their imminent death in a gas chamber. 5 How can one capture those moments only briefly hovering in the eyes of victims and then just going away w ith their last breath? It is impossible, and this impossibility of capturing reality of disaster was in recognition of t he Holocaust that eventually led him to produce Shoah a film about the impossibility of imagining the unimagi nable. 6 3 Holocaust and the Moving Image: Representations in Film and Television Since 1933 ed. Toby Haggith and Joanna Newman (London, New York: Wall Flower Press, 2005), 161. -Shoah has b 4 episode about the death camps at Treblinka and Auschwitz consists of a testim ony of survivor Abraham Bomba who was a barber, or Henryk Gawkowski (the man in the poster) who drove a train to the dead camps while he was intoxicated with vodka given by Nazi officers. The horror and pain of the deceased were delivered by their unimagin able memories which are more horrifying than any other visual reenactments. 5 Christopher Sultan, accessed November 25, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,716722,00.html 6 Ibid., np essness of death in the gas chamber remains incomprehensible.
164 Chilean media artist Alfredo Jaar also engages with this impossibility of representation in his six year political art project, The Rwanda Project In 1994, when the most massive genocide since the Holocaust occurred in Rwanda, Jaar flew there to witness the terrifying failure of humanity in his own time. 7 The atrocity of the tribal war fueled by western colonialism was far beyond his imagination; according to a UN report, more than a million people were killed in the first hundred days of the geno cide, and while the western intervention was lingering, about 20% of Rwandan population disappeared in that single year. 8 In this apocalyptic land, Jaar interviewed and took photos of victims and survivors in complete shock and trauma. When he returned t o his New York studio, however, he 3,500 pictures he brought back from the killing field, because the cruelty of the photos was unspeakable and unrepresentable. 9 After spending an uneasy year in traumatic memories, Jaar fi nally decided to make an exhibition with the im ages. But in the show, he never allow ed visitors to see the photographs; instead, he carefully put them in a number of black boxes bearing silk screened descriptions of the images contained within. [Figure 6 2 ] In this specific setting, the viewing of his photographs was precluded and replaced with the experience of reading. Art critic David Levi 7 Phillips and Alfredo Jaar, Art Journal Vol. 6 4, No. 3 (Fall, 2005): 18. 8 United Nations Rwandan Genocide Report http://www.un.org/News/dh/latest/rwanda.htm 9 ssed Novemebr 26, 2011, http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/jaar/index.html
165 heretical in its refusal of visual representation. It wa s non representation. It was meant 10 Disaster of Writing Remaining in silence before great disasters, rather than speaking recklessly, was indeed one of lessons that have long been empathized by many European intellectuals since the Holocaust. This massive failure of the Reason drove them to an idea that the Nazi crime was so unimaginably horrific that nothing could adequately represent it. Jean Franois Lyotard has pointed out the unfathomable atrocity of the event by saying that powerful that it destroyed not only lives, buildings and objects, but also the very 11 This immeasur ability encouraged Lyotard to compare the disaster with Kantian notion of sublime the other side of aesthetic experience that designated 12 tes by writing, by painting, by anything affection, without being rendered guilty of falsification and imposture through this very feeling of the unrecognizable. 13 Thus, as in the Blan chotian axiom 14 10 Let There Be Light; The Rwanda Project 1994 1998, Alfredo Jaar ( Barcelona, Spain: ACTAR, 1998), 1 st page. 11 Jean Fran ois Lyotard The Differend: Phrases in Dispute (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 56. 12 Jean Franois Lyotard Heidegger and "the Jews" (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), 44 45. 13 Ibid., 45. 14 Ibid., 47.
166 representation certainly echo this post Ausch wi t z aes thetic tenet. By rejecting all the impossible desire of representing the unrepresentable, they come up with an ethically legitimate form of ar t that would never disturb the dignity of its subjects. Their determination not to show images of victims moreover protects them from the moral stigma of voyeurism, sensationalism, exoticism, 15 And it is this conscious recognition. However, when the ethical concerns prevail in art and when art submerges in the domain of ethics, a fatal irony of the non representation emerges an irony of visual art decimating all visuality for the sa ke of ethics. If art should take the complete ab sence of representation, then it will be a negation of art, as Ly otard himself admitted in his remark 16 If no one is allowed to produce or see a visual testimony of what happened i n the concentration camp or in the Rwandan villages due to the ethical concerns, then it is gio Agamben has once argued. 17 And if art has to make a compromise with ethics or politics, or sub limated 15 David Levi Str auss, Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics (New York: Aperture, 1995), 8. 16 Jean Franois Lyotard Heidegger and "the Jews," 44. 17 Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: the witness and the archive (New York: Zone Books, 1999), 32. -Gio rgio Agamben has once pointed out that the trope of unrepresentability widely accepted by the post 17 As in the Christian tradition, the unrepresentability hinges on the incomprehensibility of divine mysteries. Thus, the application of this term to such disasters as the Holocaust, according to Agamben, was rather to enhance the mystic power of the disaster. Agamben viewed this mystification process as an unconsciou s repetition of the Nazi atrocity in their Final Solution because mystifying the mass murder through the unbelievable, unimaginable and unspeakable violence was at the core of the Solution. See also Ibid., 156 7.
167 toward those non may signify orical ending in Hegelian sense. 18 This set of suppositions reveals of of own 19 When representation of a disaster gives up on its own representability due to the ethical concerns and political pressures, then it would inevitably end up in its own disaster of self destruction. When art ne gates what it is originally capable of, as an ethical response to the unrepresentable disaster, then it would fall into a fatal irony of self denial that would eventually bring a decline in art. The self motivated refusal of the visual in art may reduce et hical tension. But in the meantime, the pain of image, the Luc Delahaye: History dilemma of unrepresentation the irony of art having to negate itself for the sake of ethics h as revived in the current age of war and terrorism once disasters such as 9/11 appeared to break a certain limit of human understanding, and thereby brought a sense of incomprehensibility in a society. A Chicago Tribune article published a few days after 9/11, for instance, read he shock of the attacks was so powerful and so peculiar that it made the low re nt postmodern American attitude of 18 This comprises a grand axis of Hegelian a sublimation within the ever developing orbit of dialectical history bears its own transformation into religion, into philosophy, which is what is not art any more. For contemporary thoughts on this aspect, see also, Arthur C. Danto, A fter the End of Art (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997) 19 of Maurice Blan chot, The Writing of the Disaster ix.
168 sar casm, aloofness, and pluralism 20 In this uneasy moment first TV show after the attack was seen sympathetic and appropriate. 21 As Judith Butler remarks, this cultural attitude soon grew into a nation wide explanation about the disaster was and cultural pluralism and political relativism became a target of public hysteria. 22 For many Americans, restriction of their civil righ t was considered a necessary procedure to recover national security. But while the U.S. public voluntarily surrendered their constitutional rights to express freely what they think, the vitality of the U S c ulture was rapidly declined. However, w hile th is public attitude after 9/11 threatened the vitality of U.S. visual culture, it also urged artists to come up with another way to visualize political disasters. 23 A noticeable transition has recently been made by a number of 20 After the attack, postmodernism loses its glib grip Chicago Tribune (September 27, 2001): 1. 21 Ibid., np. 22 Public furor against the New York times photograph of dead American military contractors who were killed, mutilated, and hung on a bridge by local insurgents at Falluja, Iraq images of military coffins at Dover in 2009, a media policy that prohibited further release of Abu in media in 2011 explains the fear and distrust of photographic truth after 9/11. See chapter 1. 23 See critical magazine October explain the seeming absence of visible opposition to the Iraq War during the past years within H. D. Buchloh and Ra chel Churner, October 123 (Winter 2008).
169 documentary photographers who h ave found sort of mediation between art and politics in their politically engaging and visually provocative photographs of recent catastrophes. These Post documentary artists show how effectively and intuitively a documentary can address sensitive socio po litical agenda without diminishing its aesthetic potentials. Luc Delahaye, a renowned French photojournalist, is one of the leading artists i n the Post documentary practice, as his works continue to appear in various internationally recognized art institu tions, including Tate Modern ( 2012), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012) J. Paul Getty Museum (2007), and Cleveland Museum (2005). Delahaye began his career as a photojournalist in his early twenties. His first professional work commissioned by the SIPA agency in 1985 86 was done in the first Lebanon war. edges to produce the most vivid documentations of wars and catastrophes. By the 1990s, Delahaye earned international reputation for coverin g wars in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Chechnya, or Bosnia. He has also w orked for the major photography and news institutions such as the Magnum agency (1993 2004) and Newsweek ( 1994) and received many recognizable awards including the Robert Capa Gold Medal (19 93 and 2002), World Press Photo first prize (1993, 1994 and 2003), the ICP Infinite Award (2001), the Niepce Prize (2002), and the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize (2005). 24 In addition to the war reportages, Delahaye has also produced a number of portrait series throughout his career, such as Portrait/1 (1996), Memo (1997), (The Other) (1999), and Winterreise (Winter Journey) (1998 1999). These portrait series featured various types of catastrophic humanity saturated by poverty, homelessness, 24 Recent History: Photographs by Luc Delahaye, The J. Paul Getty Museum: Past Exhibition, accessed November 27, 2011, http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/delahaye/about_delahaye.html
170 drug/ alcohol addiction, and civil wars in his hometown Pa ris or other area like Bosnia and Russia. Interestingly, these por trait works had an analogy in the early American social documentarians such as Walker Evans or Arthur Rothstein. 25 Portrait/1 (1 9 96) (1999), for instance, reiterated the hidden camera tactic Evans experimented in his Subway series, and thereby produced the most emblematic iconography o f marginalized human beings in their most defenseless moment. 26 [Figure 6 3, 6 4] Moreo ver, Winterreise (1998 99) had many things in common with Rothstein ; just like this F S A precursor, Delahaye employed a translator and made him talk to the perso n whom he wanted to photograph; then when the person became completely unconscious about Delahaye due to the talk with the translator, he jumped in and took photos. 27 These early practices reveal two things about Delahaye as a photographer: the social concern and formal/aesthetic interest. A s h is early photojournalist care er show s Delahaye was a very determined war reportage photographer, always drawn to the most dangerous political conflicts around the world. But at the same time, he never stopped sharpening his photographic skills and formal language, as his later effort s in the portrait series demonstrate. Therefore, although adventurous and somewhat abrupt, 25 Michael Fried, World Merge r: Michael Fried on Luc Delahaye Artforum International vol.44 no. 7, (March 2006): 64. 26 In Portrait/1 (1996), Delahaye photographs French homeless people by asking them to have their photo in a photo booth while Delahaye looked away. In The Other (1999) Delahaye set up a hidden camera in the Metro to photograph commuters. 27 hours passed. After a while, life resumed its course. ''I hadn't moved,'' he recalled. ''The people ART/ARCHITECTURE; Russia in Winter: Bleak, Desperate, Beautiful, The New York Times (February, 11, 2001)
171 turn in 2001 was not entirely unexpected in regard to this early career. Delahaye repositioned him self from a successful journalist to an artist in 2001, launching his famous History series o n European stages. 28 Although still dealing with the most news worthy events around the globe, this prototype History series took a different direction from conventional modes of photojournalism; t hey wer e large scale photographs hung on the gallery walls, with distinctive emphasis on color and pictorial composition. Furthermore, Delahaye began to incorporate digital tec hnology in his works; after making several shots in the same position, he digitally rea ssembled them to produce a fin al image that was more dramatic and appealing 29 It was certainly a b authenticity an s possibilities and limits that conventional photojournalism had been failing to address: Photojournalism is neither photography nor journalism. It has its function photographing, for ma ter ial, not for telling the truth. In magazines, the images are vulgar, reality is reduced to a symbolic or simplistic function ... 28 In his 2004 interview with the Guardian, Delahaye remarked t hat he has officially become an artist. (see Peter Lennon, The Big Picture, The Guardian (January 30, 2004) accessed http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2004/jan/31/photography ). A first twelve photographs in History series was published in 2003, and these works have been exhibited at many European art institutions including the National Media Museum (Bradford, England, 2004), Huis Marseille (Amsterdam, 2004), La Maison Rouge (Paris, 2005) and the Sprengel Museum (Hannover, Germany, 2006). Recent Hist ory: Photographs by Luc Delahaye, Getty Information, accessed November 27, 2011, http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/delahaye/about_delahaye.html 29 Artforum International vol.44 no. 7, (March 2006): 65.
172 incompatible with the economy of the press. 30 In 2003 Delahaye made his successful debut in the United States at the Rico/Maresca Gallery in New York. In this s how, he presented eight pieces of four by eight foot color prints documentary the most problematic histories of t he contemporary world, including the U.S. Bombing of Taliban Positions, Geno a G8 Summit, Taliban soldiers, t he Milosevic Trial, the aftermath of September 11, etc The presented images contained suf ficient journalistic values. But when presented as large s ize picture formats at the gallery, these news images also invited th e viewer to a unique pictorial experience. Taliban Soldier (2001), per work, summarizes the [Figure 6 5] This provocative photograph features a dead Taliban solider lying in a ditch of a mo untain valley near Kabul. His body is bent along the line of the ditch; his khaki colored Taliban uniform, without boots, a piece of straw crossing his face and d irt ov er his body, all indicate his miserable and unprepared death. But as Bill Sullivan has noted in his exhibition review, casualties in photographs. 31 This unusual grace, according to Sullivan, d erives from the 32 which is one of the most popular compositional pictorial sensibility therefore brings Delahaye in to the same rubric of contemporary 30 accessed July 19, 2011, http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/sullivan/sullivan4 10 03.asp 31 sed July 19, 2011, http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/sullivan/sullivan4 10 03.asp 32 Ibid., np.
173 pictorial documentary art that has been explored by such artists as Jeff Wall or Andreas Gursky. 33 As in these pictorial conventions, Delahaye places the subject matter ( the dead fighter ) right in the center of his picture turning it into an object of beholding. 34 But there is also a powerful beholding experience in this image that somehow neutralizes the ethica l concerns. It is, as art historian Michael Fried has recently argued in his study on contemporary photographic absorbed in his own world as to stop the viewers and attrac t them in his world. 35 This absorption, in turn, reinforces the very confrontational structure between the soldier and the viewer, keeping the question of ethics wholly within the two entities, not between the photographer and the viewer. In order to maxim ize this absorptive beholding experience, Delahaye employed a few tactics that are normally considered a break of journalistic protocol. For instance, something Delahaye later digitally added. This digital manipulation however creates a experience, although pictorial at an art gallery, could not completely ignore the face of the victim. Moreover unlike other photojournalists, Delahaye often uses a large format, Linhof panoramic camera incompatible with the economy of 33 Artforum International vol.44 no. 7, (March 2006): 6 4 34 David Walker, ban, 2001, Photo District News 23.4 (April 2003): 16. 35 Michael Fried Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 40.
174 36 Not only does this incompatibility of the large scale panorama help Delahaye make a successful departure from journalism, but it also gives him a different or distan rather than capturing a snapshot of disasters and digital after work slowly and meticulously collect a disaster, w ith enough duration and distance to create both vivid and thoughtful images. 37 This slow and detached strategy position between the aesthetic domain and political domain. I n my head I am thinking only of the process. Do I have enough li ght? Is the distance good? Speed too? This is what allows me to maintain an absence or distance to the event. If I impose myself too much, look for a certain s ee the two crossin g in my mind. 38 Image that T hinks Kabul Road (2001 ) is actical promotion of slowness and detachedness [Figure 6 6] This work depicts a group of Afghan local people gathered on a roadside in Kabul that is frequently a mbushed and air bombed. In the center of the group, two bodies one old and the other young (seemingly his son) are la id down one by one with no sign of life; blood oozes through their clothes, indicating the terrifying violence that caused this trag ic death. People, presumably local 36 http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/sulliva n/sullivan4 10 03.asp 37 Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic in Pain ed. Mark Reinhardt, Holly Edwards, and Erina Duganne (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 58. 38 http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/sullivan/sullivan4 10 03.asp
175 travelers, however seem uninterested in this death; a coup le of children playfully hang around the bodies, and others look vacantly at the camera or somewhere else. The re is no trace of panic in the picture. Instead, the gro up of people makes a peaceful horizontal line, unintentionally arranged by the directions from o r to which they come and go. This line of the people also makes a compositional harmony with the lines of barren mountain range in the background. It seems to h ave been in the late afternoon, and the army has left the scene already, leaving this innocent dead untouched. It is quite a simple visual composition and indeed, th ere is not much to see beyond what appears in the photograph. Bu t this simplicity creates an ironical duality, when it is compared with the heavily layered historical connotations of the simple, semiarid Afghan landscape and its obvious analog the viewer both to detachment and to immersion in the scene: The photographs ... involve a balance of opposing forces. So, for example there is in most a strong sense of distance, even withdrawal, on the part of the photographer: the view er quickly becomes aware that a basic protocol of these images rules out precisely the sort of feats of capture of fast moving events, extreme gestures and emotions, vivid momentary juxtapositions of persons and things, etc. that one associates with ph otojournalism at its bravura best. At the same time, the photographs in their sheer breadth and detail extend an invitation to the viewer to approach closely, to peer intently at one or another portion of the pictorial field, in short to become engrossed o r indeed immersed in intimate contemplation of all th at the image offers to be seen. 39 the U.S. Bombing Of Taliban Positions (2001). [Figure 6 7] Delahaye took this image in his risky trip to the North Alliance territory where the confrontation between the Northern Alliance 39 Artforum International vol.44 no. 7, (March 2006): 65
176 and The US troop often brought an attack to the western media reporters. 40 It was a plac to the ar ea, as Susan Sontag once accused photographers of it 41 Delahaye photographed the image of bombing with his highly visible panoramic camera. Bu the nece ssity of this dangerous gamble Th e imag e shows just smoke floating over the ground. ( The US troops often make random air bombing over the area to keep the invisible Taliban guerrillas away from their camps. 42 ) I n this image of ephemeral smoke, the spectra l aspect of the bombing, intended t o ward off invisible threats is we ll indicated; bombing, one may think, would be a pandemonium. But the bombing Delahaye witnessed in closer distance was just as calm and slow as a specter, and the va st and monumental landscape with parched weeds everywhe re also brings the very serenity (or the sublime) of the war to the viewer. Certainly, a s curator Carol Squiers has put implementing this human subjects caught in newsworthy events, often refusing to spectacularize the pain 43 In this altered relationship, vi ewers feel a complex dynamics of attached and detachedness that somehow make them even more curious about the truth of the image 40 Art Press 306, (November 2004): 29. 41 Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Dell Pub. Co, 1977), 41 42. 42 43 Stranger: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video (New York: International Center of Photography, 2003), 17.
177 Fried in his recent study about photography ( Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before (2008)) has explained this curiou dynamics of attached/detachedness as a supreme fiction that constantly calls the 44 In his reading on Delahaye, Fried poses the same idea: n emphasis on the sheer openness of the image, its total accessibility to vision, as if the photographer has somehow managed to withdraw so as to make way for reality itself. But precisely because this is so, the viewer is given only the most minimal indic ations of where to look; unlike a photojournalistic image, which is effective only insofar as it makes complexity (and also, in a manner of speaking, their simplicity) leave the viewer to shift for himself or herself to recognize [the main event] and then ble drama at the 45 In this account the photographic experience, which formerl y has always been complicated by et reconstructed by the image supreme fiction that figures in the image does not realize the presence viewers even cl oser to the very world that the figures in the picture are absorbed in: sort of psychological aspiration resulting from a curious engrossment of painted /photographed models into a thing in their own world. 46 In this theatrical or deliberate 44 Micha el Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 37 62. 45 46 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 40. -These pretenses by depicting personages wholly absorbed in what they are doing, thinking, and feeling to deny the presence before them of the beholder, or to establish the ontological fiction that the beholder does not exist. Only if this was accomplished could the actual beholder be stopped and held before t
178 performance of figures in the photographs, [beholders] rather than delivered perso Fried. 47 For Fried, this absorptive motif signals viewer knows or at le ast believes that this is not the case (details not delivered by 48 a sort of transcend ental fiction that figures in a picture would never know that there will be beholders outside it inherits the pictorial tradition first developed by some of the eighteenth century French painters 49 However, as I have argued in Chapter 5, what appears non theatrical for Fried is in fact very theatrical in regard to the dynamics of de/attachment; it is a sort of hyper fiction that one does not know or does n undeniably there. As Fried himself often recounts, th an unmistakable sense of deliberate construction that belongs to what [Fried] has called to be 50 In this complex dynamics between to see and to be seen between an image and a beholder despite the apparent detachedness of the image from the beholder. 51 Delahaye image is a (photographic) theater par excellence that po werfully attracts the aud ience onto the stage where the polit ical tragedies are being played with great actuality. Moreover, it does achieve all of this 47 48 Ibid., 66. 49 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 40. 50 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 59. 51 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 339.
179 without any unnatural beautification, or sentimental soliciting that may construct another f the beauty and sentiments cause the visual exoticism or tourism in their otherworldliness, as Susan Sontag argued, 52 detached images keep the viewer reattached to the world he/she is looking at. Fried in tion of imaginative encounter between the something like merger with the world an aspiration that may well stri ke a wholly original no te in contemporary photography. 53 54 Ethics of Photography T he merger Fried claims to happen in this subtle dialectics of detachment and between the acti ng object and the viewing subject or the photographed others and the beholding self. spectatorship, and therefore, his theory touches on the limit of modern subjectivism in regar d to the visual experience. 55 Indeed, the transcendental (Cartesian) subject who had been believed to have a privileged power to control the entire field of authorship t Fried calls for beholder control and 52 Susan Sontag, On Photography 110. 53 54 for the perfect action, pure in its efficacy, getting over anything that const ituted an obstacle; attaining by a form of absence, by a kind of unawareness, maybe to unity with the real. A silent unity. There is something rather beautiful about the practice of photography: it allows the 55 As argued in Absorption and Theatricality What is called for, [in this Supreme Fiction] is at one and the same time the creation of a new sort of object -the fully realized tableau -and the constitution of a new sort of beholder --whose innermost nature would consist precisely in the conviction of his absence from the scene of representation
180 oubli de soi 56 ) when a figure in a picture turns around from, or unable to look at, the Overpass s Blind Blind subway musician (1938), who all either turn around or cannot see the beholder, somehow encourage the beholder to come closer to them [Figure 6 8, 6 9, 6 10]) 57 r subject, but one with full of aspiration and willingness to encounter with th e other in pictures. 58 This aspiration and willingness of the beholder uncovered by the dialectical u s to the ethical terrain of Delahaye and other Post documentary artists. To this end, it will be useful to recall Emmanuel Le ethics of the other ethical encounter between the subject and the other. Levinas who had considered that the crisis of modern subject tological validity of the other (most painfully recognized in the Nazi crime during the World War II) attempted to first philosophical task. This attempt above all begins with the repositioning of the insubstantial concept to a substantial being. I comprehend being in the other, beyond its particularity as a being. The person with whom I am in relation, I call being, but in so calling him, I call to 56 Michael Frie d, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 339. (see footnote 58) 57 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 44 47 and 63 93 58 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before 339. -artistic signi ficance of that state of affairs [dynamics of theatricality and anti theatricality] at any rate, this is my claim demands to be understood in terms of issues of self control and oubli de soi that radition f
181 [upon] him. I do not only think that he is, I speak to him. He is my partner in the heat of a relation which ought only have made him present to me. 59 And this repositioning of the other from a concept to an actual being whom one can call on, think of, and speak to brings abou The absolutely Other is the human Other. And the putting into question of the Same by the Other is a summons to respond. The I is not simply conscious of this necessity to respond, as if it were a matter of an obligation or a duty about which a decision could be made; rather the I is, by its very position, responsibility through and through. 60 61 or the capital I I recognizes the face of the other ( accessible 62 63 ). Here appear somewhat surprising when one is accustomed to the conception of a being that is by itself insignificant, a profile against a luminous horizon and only acquiring signification in virtue of its presence within this horizon. The face signifies otherwise. In it, the infinite resistance of a being to our power affirms itself precisely against the murderous will that it defies; because, completely naked, the face signifies itself. 64 59 Emmanuel Levinas; Basic Philosophical Writings ed. Adrian T. Peperzak (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996), 7. 60 Emmanu el Levinas; Basic Philosophical Writings, ed. Adriaan T. Peperzak (Bloominton: Indiana University Press, 1996), 17. 61 be 62 63 Ibid., 9. 64 Ibid., 10.
182 As many post Auschwitz writers point out, the Auschwitz broke out in the failure of ethical recognition, and its most monstrous killing machines ( the gas chamber and the crematoria) were developed in the malicious wish to remove all possibilities of imagining the human form of the other. 65 By annihilating everything and everyone that might bear witness to the monstrosity of their crime, the Nazi want ed to make sure tha t ofs remain and some survive, people will s ay that the events [the Holocaust] 66 Giorgio Agamben in this regard, argues that the moral rhetoric of unrepresentation (an idea that the A uschwitz is unrepresentable) is an unconscious repetition mystifying the mass murder by destroying all human forms (the possibility of representation, as a witness, as a testimony) was at the core of the Solution. 67 65 See for instance Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved (New York: Summit Books, 1988) 66 Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved, 11 12. Here Levi transcribes the Nazi SS -ar may end, we have won the war against you; none of you will be left to bear witness, but even if someone were to survive, the world will not believe him. There will perhaps be suspicions, discussions, research by historians, but there will be no certaint ies, because we will destroy the evidence together with you. And even if some proof should remain and some of you survive, people will say that the events you describe are 67 Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: the witness and the archive (New York: Zone Books, 1999), 156 157 -Geheimnistrager, a keeper of secret, the Muselmann is the absolutely unwitnessable, invisible ark of biopower. Invisible becaus e empty, because the Muselmann is nothing other than the volkloser Raum, the space empty of people at the center of the camp that, in separating all life from itself, marks the point in which the citizen passes into the staatsangehorige of non Aryan desce nt, the non Aryan into the Jew, the Jew into the deportee and, finally, the deported Jew beyond himself into the Muselmann, that is, into a bare, unassignable and unwitnessable life. This is why those who assert the unsayablility of Auschwitz today should be more cautious in their statements. If they mean to say that Auschwitz was a unique event in the face of which the witness must in some way submit his every word to the test of an impossibility of speaking, they are right. But if, joining uniqueness to unsayability, they transform Auschwitz into a reality absolutely separable from language, if they break the tie between an impossibility and a possibility of speaking that, in the Muselmann, constitutes testimony, then they unconsciously gesture ;
183 T his particular historical reflection has requested a new task of images in spite of all the negativities and vulnerability, as Georges Didi Huberman has recently articulated in his book, Images in spite of all: four photographs from Auschwitz (2008). 68 If D idi con cerns about its aesthetic involvement. Levinas as a philosopher was skeptical about zes the real 69 70 But Michael Fried, who felt the same anxiety in an exactly opposite direction in the 60s, finds reconciliation from photography which, to him, appears as neither reality nor shadow. 71 68 Georges Didi Huberman, Images in spite of all: four photographs from Auschwitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008) 69 Unforeseen His tory trans. Nidra Poller ( Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004), 78, 78 and 84 70 Aesthetics Objectivity, and Alterity in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas Ethics as first philosophy : the significance of Emmanuel Levinas for philosophy, literature, and religion edited by Adriaan T. Peperzak, (New York : Routledge, 1995), 139) as his ethics of the other returns to theological spher es in doubt about the vicious power of the negotiation between the subject and the other) should not be the answer after all the philosophical repositioning of the other and instead, ethical thoughts should pay more attention to the notion of the Same which was rejected by Levinas, yet bears a significant potential t o Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil trans. Peter Hallward (London, New York: Verso 2001), 18 29. 71 Michael Fried, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before, 336.
184 ) despite the 72 es who first humbly keep themselves in a complete darkness in which their privileged spectatorship is put off. They are however the ones who keenly respond to the invisible, inaudible summons of the image, despite this denial of their presence, their subje ctivity, in the theater. It is this dynamics of rejection and invitation to the unseen face of the other that creates both ontological and ethical merger The Poetics of History History brings the most vivid representations of the suffering world. In so doing, Delahaye challenges the ethical concerns about representation, the impossibility of representing the unrepresentable. In the power of image, in its poetic a helps us see what has been unseeable, unspeakable something more historical than history itself. 73 I f Delahay not simply because they have a kinship with certain pictorial traditions but more precisely because they seek to achieve absent to the tangible and eternal forms 72 Ib id., 42. 73 Aristotle, Poetics trans. Richard Janco, (Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett, 1987), 12.
185 for art. 74 Delahaye in an int erview has articulated this poetic vision that constantly repositions him in a neutral area between art and politics: Being an artist is nothing, or at least, not enough; what you want is to be a poet. You are articulating sounds that are still formless, i nventing what looks like a possible route. And yet that is the essence of the thing. All using first of all what is specific to photography. There is the refusal of style and the refusal of sentimentalism, there is this desire for clarity, and there is the measuring of the distance that separates me from what I see. There is also the will to be like a servant of the image, of its rigorous demands: to take the camera where it needs to be and to make an image that is subservient neither to the real nor to an intention for the intention of the record as many details as possible and achieve an order, without taking away the complexity of the real. To voice the real, and create an image that is a world in itself, with its own coherence, its autonomy and sov ereignty: an image that thinks. 75 The ethical discourses of photography in the past several decades have images of the suffering others. One of the appalling reminders of this anti photographic discourse is that it might bring not only a decline in photographic genre, but also a repetition of the same disturbing logic from the dead camps, from Rwandan villages, or from Ground Zero, that had all signaled a hopeless idea that annihilation is the only way to achieve their political goals. But the ethics of photography turn differen tly in Delahaye if an artist wants to champion a political or moral cause, he can only do it 76 ethical dream of photography will come true when photographers di scover and utilize 74 Michael Fried, Art an d Objecthood, 167. amounting, as it is, to the perpetual creation of itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness, as though if only one were infinitely more acute, a single infinitely brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and 75 76 Ibid., 32.
186 brining reality into a persistent and perpetual image. In this fidelity to its own art, photography reveals its most innocent face.
187 APPENDIX LIST OF FIGURES Figure 2 1 Luc Delahaye, Jenin Refugee Camp, 2002, Chromogenic process print, 111x239cm 2 2 Color 2 3 Nick Ut, Phan Thi Kim Phuk (9 year old in the center), 1972, B/W, the Associate Press 2 4 Edward T. Adams, Saigon Execution, 1968, B/W, The Associate Press 2 5 Luc Delahaye, Taliban, 2001, Digital chromogenic process print, Color, 111X237cm 2 6 Richard Mosse, Grand Voyager Sunni Triangle 2009, Color 2 7 Jim Goldberg, untitled image from Open See B/W with marker pen text 2 8 Jim Goldberg, untitled image from Open See B/W with marker pen text 2 9 Juul Hondius. Man #2 1999, Chromogenic print, Color, 165x124cm 2 10 Juul Hondius, Bus 2001, Chromogenic print, Color, 162x123 cm 2 11 Juul Hondius, Plastic, 2001, Chromogenic print, Color, 160x125 cm 2 12 Rirkrit Tiravanija, Untitle d (Free), 1992, installation views, Mixed media, The 303 Gallery 2 13 Felix Gonzalez Torres, Untitled, 1990, Candies, individually wrapped in red, silver, and blue cellophane (endless supply), Dimensions vary with installa tion Ideal weight: 300 lbs (136 kg), The Museum of Modern Art 2 14 Felix Gonzalez Torres, Untitled, 1992, Exhibited at Bleecker and Carmine Streets, New York, Color, Dimension variable 2 1 5 Marcel Broothaers, details of Museum of Modern Art, Eagle Department, Section des Figures, 1972, mixed media 2 16 Aernout Mik, Training Ground 2006, Two channel video installation (color, silent) 2 17 Walid Raad, 1998/2004, Digital print, 46.8x72.4cm
188 3 1 Laurel Nakadate, Exorcism in January 2009, Still from video 3 2 Mikhailov, Untit led from Case History Kharkov, Ukraine, 1997 98, Chromogenic print, Color, 148.5x99.5cm 3 3 Boris Mikhailov, Untitled from Case History Kharkov, Ukraine, 1997 98, Chromogenic print, Color, 236.2x126.8cm 3 4 Kevin Cater, The New York Times Photograph on March 26, 1993, Color 3 5 Diane Arbus, Untitled, 1970 71, B/W, 25x25cm 3 6 Anonymous, Gas chamber of crematorium V of Aus chwitz August 1944, Oswiecim Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum (negative no. 277 278) 3 7 Atlas Group Archive, Homepage screen shot, http://www.theatlasgroup.org/aga.html 3 8 Walid Raad, Notebook volume 72: Missing Lebanese wars, 1989/1998, Digital print, Color, 34x24.8cm 3 9 Walid Raad, 2002/2006, Digital print, Color, 111.1x171.3cm 3 10 Walid Raad, We 2002/2006, Digital print, Color, 111.1x171.3cm 3 11 Walid Raad, My neck is thinner than a hair: Engines 2001/2003, Digital Print, Color, 25x35cm 3 12 Walid Raad, My neck is thinner than a hair: Engines 2001/2003, Digital Print, Color, 25x35cm 3 13 Walid Raad, Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut), 1996/1997, Digital print, Color, 7.8x5.5cm 3 14 Walid Raad, Sweet Talk: The Hilwe Commisions 1992 2004, Digital print, Color, each 111x111cm, (attributed to Lamia Hilwe) 3 15 Walid Raad, 1998/2006, Digital print, Color, 46.8x72.4cm 4 1 Dorothea Lange, Negro Family Mississippi, June 1938, B/W 4 2 Dorothea Lange, Dust Bowl farm, Texas, June 1938, B/W 4 3 Dorothea L ange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California 1936, B/W 4 4 Dorothea Lange, Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle, 1938, B/W
189 4 5 Margaret Bourke White, Clinton Louisiana 1936, B/W (image from Documentary Book, You Have Seen Their Faces ) 4 6 Margaret Bourke White, Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, 1936, B/W, (image from You Have Seen Their Faces) 4 7 Walker Evans, Bed, Tenant Farm house, Hale County, Alabama, 1936, B/W, 17.8x22.2cm 4 9 Family, Hale County, Alabama 1936, B/W, 20x24.7cm 4 10 Walker Evans, y, Alabama, 1936, B/W, 19x24.1cm 4 11 Kitchen, Hale County, Alabama, 1936, B/W, 23.5x16.7cm 4 12 Walker Evans, Wife Hale County, Alabama, 1936, B/W 19.6x7.3cm 4 13 Walker Evans, Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead, Hale County, Alabama, 1936, B/W, 16.5x17.9cm 5 1 Aernout Mik, Scapegoats, 2006, Single channel video installation (color, silent) 5 2 Aernout Mik, Schoolyard 2009, Two channel video installation (color, silent) 5 3 Aernout Mik, Schoolya rd, 2009, Two channel video installation (color, silent) 5 4 Aernout Mik, Raw Footage 2006, Two channel video installation (color, silent) 5 5 Aernout Mik, Raw Footage, 2006, Two channel video installation (color, silent) 5 6 Aernout Mik, Raw Footage 2006, installation view 5 7 Aernout Mik, Training Ground 2006, Two channel video installation (color, silent) 5 8 Aernout Mik, Training Ground, 2006, Two channel video installation (color, silent) 5 9 Aernout Mik, Vacuum Room 2005, Six channel video installation, looped, Six rear projection screens embedded in temporary architecture (color, silent) Installation view at MoMA
190 5 10 Jeff Wall, Adrian Walker 1992, Transparency in light box, Color, 119x164cm 5 11 Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, Youn g Student Drawing 1733 8, Oil on Panel, 21x17cm 5 12 Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, The Young Draftsman 1737, 81x67cm (left) and The House of Cards 1737, 83x66cm (right), Oil on canvas 5 1 3 Philip Lorca diCorcia, Mario 1978. Kodak Ektachrome paper, Color, 38x58cm 5 14 Thomas Struth, The Smith Family Fife, 1989, Chromogenic process print, Color, 100.8x126.3cm 5 15 Gerhard Richter, Readin g, 1994, Oil on linen, 72.4x102.2cm 5 16 Caravaggio, Boy Bitten by a Lizard ca. 1596 97. Oil on canvas. 5 17 Jeff Wall, A View from an Apartment 2004 5, Transparency in li ght box, Color, 167x224cm 5 18 James Welling, Lock, 1976, Chromogenic print from original Polaroid, B/W, 9.52x7.3cm 5 19 Tony Smith, Die 1962, Steel with oiled finish, 183x183cm 5 20 Jeff Wall, Concrete Ball 2003, Transparency in light box, Color, 204x260cm 6 1 Claude Lanzmann, Shoah (film Poster), 1985 6 2 Alfredo Jaar, Real Picture, 199 5, Mixed media with silk screened texts and photographs inside the box (Installation view at The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago) 6 3 6 4 Walk er Evans, Subway Passengers New York, 1938. Film negative 35mm, B/W 6 5 Luc Delahaye, Taliban 2001, Digital chromogenic print, Color, 111x237cm 6 6 Luc Delahaye, Kabul Road, 2001, Digita l Chromogenic print, Color, 111x241cm 6 7 Luc Delahaye, The US Bombing of Taliban Positions 2001, Chromogenic print, Color, 112x238cm 6 8 Jeff Wall, Untitled (Overpass) 2001, Transparenc y in Light box, Color, 214x273.5cm
191 6 9 Paul Strand, Blind 1916. Platinum print, B/W, 34x25.7cm 6 10 Walker Evans, Untitled (Subway Passenger, New York) 1938, Film negative 35mm, B/W 6 11 Luc Delahaye, A Rally of the Opposition Candidate Alexander Milinkevich 2009, Digital Chromogenic print, Color, 181.9x247.3cm 6 12 Luc Delahaye, The Registration of Internally Displaced People in Eastern Chad, 2006, Chromogenic print, Color, 281.9x137cm
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200 BIOGRAPHICAL SK ETCH Jong Chul Choi is an art history Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida. His specialty is contemporary art and criticism, focusing on the socio political aspects of media art. His recent stu dies on the ethics of photography have been presented at Cornell, Beijing, Harvard University, and other institutions.