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chatnoire in theoryishotcrew

A list, if you will, from the perspective of a visual artist and art historian:

1. Screen Memories - Sigmund Freud
2. Archive Fever - Jacques Derrida
3. Glottal Stop: 101 Poems - Paul Celan
4. Literature and Existentialism - Jean-Paul Sartre
5. Light in the Dark Room: Photography and Loss - Jay Prosser
6. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction - Walter Benjamin
7. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Post-memory - Marianne Hirsch
8. Myth Today - Roland Barths
9. The projections of Shimon Attie
10. The walks of Richard Long

Kat, and the entire TIHC,

Thank you so much for the time and consideration this week in reviewing my app, and thank you as well for the opportunity to revise and resubmit. I will be doing that when I feel I've progressed enough to compete. :)I've already started reading the recommended Culler book, and have a few sticky notes that I will be addressing in my journal if they don't get answered by later chapters. I look forward to welcoming anyone who is interested into those conversations.  In the meantime, though, I appreciate this process, and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was very enlightening (and I mean that in a positive way.)

Best to all of you, and thank you again....

Chatnoire >^..^<


I'm not sure which version of the Benjamin essay you have read, so my quotation may not match up exactly with your version. But there will be one like it in whatever version you have.

My question is, what do you make of Benjamin's statement that "All efforts to aestheticize politics culminate in one point. That one point is war"?
The version I find easiest to reference when speaking online is this one, where the same phrase is translated as "All efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war."

That phrase, being in the epilogue, comes back to me as a great way to summarize many of the ideas in the essay, but my personal take on it refers back to the concept of the aura. Political messages have an aura. Objects of ownership have an aura. The Tea Party has an aura of that appears different from their perspective than from ours, yet the aesthetics of the movement rally people around a certain, central, emotive point. A passionate response to the aura created by that political message and identity (in an aesthetic state) engenders a "fight for what is right" type of approach.

And yet, under the guise of war, even then there is an aesthetic to representation - the heroes, the brave ones, the patriots, the jihadists fighting for honor, respect, freedom - these are all also concepts with a greater aura than their reality. Yet the reality on the ground - this is the war. Stripped of the attractive. Reduced to the base human condition. Repeated, over and over, through the ages. The technology changes, the representation changes, but the motive, the original, the single point remains ultimately the same.
Ooooh, Knut's going to be sad you took his performance art question. :)

Richard Long didn't just take walks. He made art by walking in the landscape. From his website, he describes it as "Art as a formal and holistic description of the real space and experience of landscape and its most elemental materials." Many of the walks were documented, not just by photographs, but pen and paper, and construction of markers and land-art in the place where the walk was enacted. For Long, it wasn't just a stroll through the Scottish countryside, but rather an act of art-making, on both a personal level and a political level (speaking about the ownership of the land, in a general sense, within the political reference of the time, starting in 1967.)

Long used his walks to a different purpose rather than to just travel, or to traverse space. His walks were a physical manifestation of an idea.

How this relates in a theoretical way, I can best explicate with my own interpretation and reaction to Long's work. When I started making "art" photographs in my undergraduate program, I was torn between the structure of a formal photograph with beautiful elements, and my inability to use that form to truly convey what I was trying to say - and to even grasp within myself whether what I was trying to say was worthy of a conversation with anyone other than the trash can at the end of the developing table in the darkroom.

Learning about the work of Long helped me to look at artwork in a different manner than the standard "Painting, Photograph, Sculpture" framework of identifying art as a concept unto itself. Realizing the thought process that goes into the walks, and the act of setting a goal of understanding a certain idea that will become physical and temporal through the act of walking can mirror the manner in which people use theory to approach the concepts in other artworks, texts, films, and other processes that may be analyzed.

It is possible to reduce the walks to a silly experiment by some crazy hippy in the 60s, and I think that the era of the 60s had to happen in order for the walking/performative art/happenings work to develop, but of all the work that came out at that time, Richard Long's work, thought process, and subsequent documentation have had a long standing influence on how I both create artworks, and also how I interpret the works of others that I come across in my studies.

Boo. I was going to ask about this.
Ok, I may have to do this in two parts, because this is the one book on my list that is *not* on my bookshelf. If I am unable to fully tackle this without the book, I'll have to revisit my answer tomorrow when I can get a copy from the library.

Ok. Why is it on my list? I picked this book up when I was working on an idea about things that were lost. Part of the work can be seen here if description is not enough. I had three different iterations of the idea, starting with empty photograph frames titled with the names of objects I had lost. I then made prints with a narrative text instead of an image, describing the experience of the loss, and the final work (linked above in digital form) was the performance and documentation of feeling that loss. This final project was executed as such: I entered the darkroom with a list of objects that I had lost. I put a sheet of photographic paper in the enlarger and turned on the timer/enlarger light and meditated on the first object on the list. When I experienced sadness, I turned off the light, and noted the elapsed time. I then developed the print. I repeated this for a total of 9 objects, which were then displayed as prints, with accompanying documentation of the time to feel sadness, and the presence of any other emotions.

At the same time, I had taken a photograph of my family after my grandmother's funeral. Despite the loss of the matriarch of the family, and the already collapsing family structure, the photograph shows 25 people on the porch of my grandmother's house, smiling.

It was after this time that I picked up the Hirsch book, and it led me to a lot of other works that I actually did purchase. She mentions the work of Lacan, Freud, Barthes, and Benjamin, and that opened many doors for me. It is in this that I find most of the value.

However, I struggle to talk more deeply about it, because her references were a lot of "He said this. That guy over there said this." but that, interspersed with a lot of personal narrative, tipped the book between an academic book to a more memoir-like treatment of the subject than I would have liked.

It was a great book to start me off on a lot of the later research I've done, and a lot of the later readings I discovered, so I listed it here to acknowledge that it helped me to frame some of the questions I have regarding my own research. But it is a flawed book in the sense that I don't think it ever came up with a definite answer other than a compendium of "this is what everyone thinks about this subject, and here is my personal story."
How are you reading Celan as theory?
When I started my MFA, I was in a program that was interdisciplinary in approach (ostensibly) - and Celan was recommended to me as reading I should look into regarding the ideas I was putting into my work on loss, mourning, presence, and grief, and the artistic representations of such. While not all readers will approach poetry as such, I find that Celan's concepts and presentation (specifically in this translation, problematic as it is) help me to clarify and understand the ideas I am trying to work with, by enabling me to look at them from a different perspective. Perhaps it could also be looked at as theory employed, rather than simply "theory" - which I admit could be problematic. However, it is the book I turn to again and again, when I need to review an idea, or catch a fragment of emotion that I am not quite sure how to place.

Since Kat stole my question...

...and because I have claimed him as my own, I will ask about Derrida.

I haven't read this work, but as I understand it, in this work he discusses the impact of electronic media on our memory. Is this correct? If not, please correct me.

But if it is correct, could you please talk about what implications electronic media has for archives. Do electronic media increase what exists to be archived (say, emails on a hard drive), or will the archive disappear because these electronic media often have no physical embodiment? Does cyberspace eliminate the public/private distinction (because of the proliferation of identifying information) or expand it (given the chance to create an identity separate from our identity in the meatspace?

And just for the hell of it, weave Benjamin into your answer.

Re: Since Kat stole my question...

You are correct, in that he does discuss the impact of electronic media on our memory. He uses quite a bit of Judaism, mythology and psychoanalysis to set down the structure of his argument about what is coming to us with the advent of the "digital age".

Derrida starts out (in the intro, or as he calls it the "Exergue" - which is, interestingly "A description in this space") talking about Freud's body of work, and a museum/archive of Freud's work. The implication, he says, is that psychology could not have developed in the way it did, between many many handwritten letters, notations, etc that were archived, referenced, collected, and indeed also burned and destroyed, had Freud and his contemporaries had access to E-mail. Not only because of the instantaneous nature of email and digital connectivity, but the way that the digital is undervalued at this point. But even beyond that, Derrida works to identify what is required of an archive. By the inclusion of "what" and the obverse necessity of exclusion, the archive is a body of recall, edited, contained, and removed from the flow of time. If only Derrida could have seen in 1995 (when he first presented this text as a lecture) what we see now - books delivered in digital form. Massive backup systems for email and blogs and detail on the web.

One of the quotes I underlined and highlighted that set the premise of the book exceedingly well is that "What is no longer archived in the same way is no longer lived in the same way."

This sentence, early in the book, is the "meat" of the argument. Because of the scale, speed and privilege of electronic communication, private vs public space is being radically transformed, to a level beyond anything Freud could have fathomed, and I dare say the same for Benjamin. The technical structure of the archive determines the archivability of the collection. You cannot save a painting in a hard drive, despite the ability to create an image of the painting from digital data collected on a platter. Beyond the "aura" that Benjamin talks about, we're losing a lot of reality and originality in both our thought processes and our artworks, and by extension, the archive.

Another note I made for myself was to question whether recall of something constituted the death of the original. If you have something in memory, has it replaced the actual event or object?

Archive Fever, in the title, in the book, is a reference to the "instinct of destruction" in psychoanalytic literature that Freud himself debated and doubted, which works to "destroy the archive: on the condition of effacing but also with a view to effacing its own "proper" traces" - aside from desire.

So in light of these concepts, and in light of where we've gone to from the point that Derrida wrote this book - I think in some ways we have both an expansion and collapse of the public/private distinction. We have the opportunity to create, as here, an identity that is partially ours, or wholly ours, but there will always be ways for a savvy digital mastermind to identify who and where you are. The lack of physical embodiment doesn't necessarily restrict the archive, but it runs the risk of over-valuing certain data, and in turn devaluing the archive as a whole.

I'm going to stop there for a moment, because I want to check and see if you have followup questions before I rewrite the whole book (which isn't very long).

I'd love to hear why Shimon Attie is on this list.

For example, how do we reconcile cultural obliteration, collective nostalgia, the need for emotional catharsis and the rendered (but sometimes heavily constructed) image?

Personally, I included him because I was/am doing work on this exact topic. However, I will admit to being shaky on specifically the phrasing you are asking about, because I've struggled with that through my entire career in art production. The line between power and schmaltz can be tipped so easily.

I've tried to interview and meet with Shimon Attie a few times, through connections, but I've never gotten anywhere with that. I wanted to speak to him specifically regarding his work on the displaced and disappeared Jews of Berlin, and his work with the archive.

There are a few different people who have done projection work like this; Krysztof Wodiczko comes to mind; and the difference between the two is that with Attie's work, he's giving vision and voice to people who are long gone (in this work - it'd different in other works he has done, specifically on immigration in the Jewish communities in Manhattan's LES). Where Wodiczko is giving actual voice, and actual face and projection to people impacted, and his work is about opening up the margins, Attie is concerned with the inability to tell the stories from the Jews of Berlin, and questions whether the face can trigger remembrance, rather than forgetting.

I'm going to try to tackle this in a couple different ways, please revisit the question if I don't quite manage to get to the point you want...

In Attie's specific case, he's working (to great acclaim) in a location that is fraught with political tension between remembering and forgetting. When the perpetrators have been wiped from the language, and the image of evil is given "persona non grata" status, it's easy to develop that into a nostalgia for people who have no other way to find the truth, hence the rise of Neo-nazis and nationalistic views in Europe and Germany. When the perpetrators are not seen, the victims are not seen either, because like there can be no victim-less crime, there can be no victim without an abuser.

So, while in America, where we look back and long for "nostalgia", in Europe, the work of uncovering the past and giving a face to the dead and missing is the catharsis. The image sometimes has to be heavily constructed, but also to have some serious intention. Putting the images into their physical place and returning the self (in image form) to a people that have been removed from a place is heavy handed, but needs to be, and is infinitely more successful (in my opinion) than works like thisK, which are just photoshopped recreations.

I think the tipping point here is that the work I just linked is what sways toward nostalgia, whereas Attie's work moves toward catharsis, or at least generating an response in more than just viewing an image. People walk by the projections, and see them, people who might not have access to an art gallery or even interest in an art gallery. People in the street who come across the projection, and the man with all the equipment sitting there for the duration of the projection, stop to wonder, even in their head, what they've seen, what they may have missed about the place they are at.

Re: On Barthes

First and foremost - Um, ewww! But then, a warrior woman should be used to all sorts of gore.

Ok. I'm going to look at this in the structure of Sartrean criticism as denoted in the essay - the signified as the original crisis, literature as discourse for the signified, and the signification is the intersection of the two, meeting at the central location called "myth."

The identification of this as an origin myth, and the broad use identify the public use as the discourse/signified, whereas the original story is the crisis, per the preceding description. The use of the story/discourse elevates it to the point of myth, according to that structure.

But, from there, it's just a communication at the level of society, the way we may speak of our "origin myth" for the US or other countries. The additional layers are still "Strong, warrior nation arises from violence, despite all improbability. Can you imagine what would have happened if he'd actually impregnated Athena, rather than just prematurely ejaculating on her thigh, leaving her to clean up the mess."

The point at which now it becomes a secondary structure for the language/myth as discussed by Barthes is illustrated by the pattern in the essay (the version I have lists it on the 5th page) breaking the structure down into two stair-stepped semiological systems. The first, which is the actual myth as defined above and becomes the sign - and then, in this structure, also becomes the signifier, while the study of the myth, and our subsequent discussion of it, stands in for the signified/discourse, creating the entire mythology (of the origin myth, of our understanding of it, of it's presence for retelling and reinterpreting additional levels) as the sign - combined together to create the myth/language.

This list seems vary focused (that's the generous interpretation, less generously it could be called narrow). But much of the point of interdisciplinarity or at least speaking across disciplines is about helping us take our blinders off. So, what does your list--or a specific title on your list--have to offer someone like me: a political sociologist who is interested in social reproduction, and the interaction between "structure" and "agency"? Or even more broadly, what does it have to offer someone who doesn't study media/communications?
Allow me to preface this by saying that I have very little experience with sociology, and may not fully comprehend structure and agency from your perspective. But, I think that I'd like to specifically direct you to the Prosser book. It is less a "photography" book and more about the experience of loss and memory, beginning with Roland Barthes, continuing on to Claude Levi-Strauss, Gordon Parks, and finishing up with Elizabeth Bishop.

The memento mori, the death object, is a constant (in the form of the photograph) throughout the book, but the loss is shifted between each of the featured sections. Roland Barthes talks about the Studium and Punctum from Camera Lucida, and Prosser talks about that in relation to a specific photograph of Barthes mother as a child, whom he knows, but doesn't know. After her passing, there's the sadness of never knowing that child, but yet again, knowing her intimately.

Claude Levi-Strauss discusses the problematic "slide show" of tourists and travelers, and the "modern narrative" that "pretends to itself that it is investing [primitive peoples] wiht nobiity at the very time when it is completing their destruction." The connection between Levi-Strauss and Barthes is drawn by Prosser into the concept of the myth, the magical, causing the viewer (Barthes and L-S at first, us on a more grand scale) to first retreat, then embrace the image. This is done through the revelation of the images of CL-S at work in Brazil as captured by a student, the unconscious spirit of the anthropologist at work.

Following on the ideas presented of the unconscious of the anthropologist being revealed through the photograph, Prosser then presents us with the photographer as anthropologist, touching on the FSA work in the 30s, but then more specifically on Gordon Parks, and his representation of "moments without proper names" as a documentation of African-American lives, and giving face and voice to humanity. But all the same, there is the construction and reconstruction of his own expectations with the photographs. Parks becomes the ghost within his own images. The section on Parks wraps up with his work in the Brazilian favela</a>.

Brazil also plays a role in the chapter on Elizabeth Bishop, the poet, writing about her travel "to see the sun the other way around", and her experience that "the photograph is the place where the dead go." Bishop wandered the world as an observer, an isolated, depressed, suicidal poet, but also turned her camera on that world. There's the question of what happens when a photographer writes poems. What is the obverse? When a poet takes a photo?

Finally, Prosser wraps up the book with his own image of reversal, change and reflection, the death of the other, in telling his own story, as a f-to-m transsexual, and the act of sharing photographs of the process - yet for him, there is something again in the realization of holding back, the palinode that is woven throughout the book, studying the manner in which these subjects all put forth something, thinking they were improving, making, creating, solidifying a belief, then suddenly realizing that no, they need to retract.

As a sociologist, I think you may find this work interesting, because it does not read as a communications or media critique. I don't think you need to have that background to get something out of it. Prosser talks about the work of C L-S,, Saussure, Derrida and others, in getting the point across.
Tell me about the Freud please. For starters, just give me a paragraph or two precis, and why this is important theory according to you. I'll probably have followup questions.
Ok, why it is important theory - I started in on Freud in grad school, and while The Interpretation of Dreams was the one that I was directed to most often, Screen Memories is the one I revisit. I've used it for a couple papers (one on Ricour's Masters of Suspicion most recently) and also in conjunction *with* The Interpretation of Dreams.

A precis:

The paper, Screen Memories 1899, is considered indispensable to The Interpretation of Dreams (hence my returning to this even more frequently). The body of the paper consists of memories from childhood that are questionably from a third person. There is some dispute on the autobiographical nature. Freud asserts that a "child of three or four already exhibits...highly organized mental function...in the expression of his feelings." Freud wants to know more about the content of these memories -whether they are quite powerful enough to propel us into some consequence of adulthood. At the least, he expects the memories to show the difference between childhood and adult attractions.

The subject of the paper describes a set of remembrances of scenes frequently described by the subject's parents. The second set includes scenes with no recall, despite frequent retelling, and the third - recall of scenes in which the other players could not have been retelling - a nanny or a nurse or playmate from that time, a person no longer present in the known past. The subject describes a specific memory and the importance of yellow flowers in the scene; he continues to describe the trigger to this memory, a later event in which the girl who was his first crush wears a dress of the same deep yellow that is prominent in the dream previously mentioned. The two dream/fantasies combine to connect symbolic links of hunger and love, but the true "desire" of his dream was relegated to an earlier, manageable emotion of hunger, jealousy, envy and violence as a child, rather than the sexual hunger and masturbatory drive that resulted from the later conflation of the idea (which led to his concern with seeking psychiatric analysis).

So, why is this important to me? I've chosen it because it's more foundational than the longer "interpretation of dreams" work, and also because a lot of my creative work involved the mutation of memory. I was looking for ways in which I could signify works of personal memory in a manner that would translate, not necessarily the letter of recall, but the mood, at least. If I wanted it to be creepy, spare, oppressive, sad....but without being directly so and keying into a cliche of nostalgia.

In addition, I find the underlying sexual tension in Freudian analysis (as annoying as it is) to be able to insert a powerful inflection into the "memory work" or the interpretation of such - when thought of in a similar light.

I don't claim to have succeeded at this. But it is still a strong piece of work for me as I move into the art history realm of academia (from the creative/studio based background I have) dealing with the work of memory, loss, and conflation of the two, in addition to the other issues that will come up (tragedy, cultural/national identification, etc.)
One piece of advice: don't listen to anything Kat says. She is trying to sabotage you! I swear she is. Really. Evil, evil.

Otherwise, I have nothing to say.
How would I pun on the final glottal stop?
Unterschreiben Sie nicht, Ihren Namen
zwischen den Welten

die Mannigfaltigkeit der Bedeutungen,

Vertrauen in die tearstain,
lernen zu leben
Kat, and the entire TIHC,

Thank you so much for the time and consideration this week in reviewing my app, and thank you as well for the opportunity to revise and resubmit. I will be doing that when I feel I've progressed enough to compete. :)I've already started reading the recommended Culler book, and have a few sticky notes that I will be addressing in my journal if they don't get answered by later chapters. I look forward to welcoming anyone who is interested into those conversations.

In the meantime, though, I appreciate this process, and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was very enlightening (and I mean that in a positive way.)

I'm also going to edit my primary post to reflect this comment so people don't have to search for it. :)

Thanks again,