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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making Space:image events in an extreme state: Johanna Drucker

Neethu Ann Jose (1124113)


Thesis Statement

In place of the act of making strange, or de-familiarization, so banalized as shock-effect tactics in the last century, Jaar's Lament shows the need for refamiliarization, an act of connection and association that takes full account of the gap between image and referent, between images and systems of belief.

Para 1:

Topic sentence: In THE LAMENT OF THE IMAGES, Alfredo Jaar confronts the stark inadequacy of photographs to register with any significant impact the image-saturated state of our current culture.

Key ideas: not simply quantity of images - but breakdown in our belief in the ability of photographic documentation to bear witness - ethical dilemma and collapse of faith - traumatic blindness - exploitative tactics of media production

Para 2:

Topic sentence: Does his crisis and subsequent recoil from this documentary work apply equally to images created within the aesthetic frame of the art?

Key ideas: aesthetic images –tasked with imagining rather than presenting - exempt from breakdown of belief?

Para 3:

Topic sentence: The belief system Jaar is questioning has deep roots in Enlightenment thought and the wellsprings of modernity.

Key ideas: aesthetic images can shock us into awareness of our stable condition- inadequacy of documentary images- can no longer show us what is – elegy for aesthetic work- imaginative images show us what might be or how we think about what is-documentary images should show version of reality-"what is"

Para 4:

Topic sentence: The demise marked by Jaar's project is the end to belief in the defamiliarizing effect that was a tenet of the historical avant- garde.

Key ideas: aesthetic images linked to making strange- real and symbolic are traumatically disjunctive- need for critical shift- refamiliarization- returns images and symbolic expression to a system of cultural and symbolic production with which they are codependent- act of recovery and connection-not innovation, novelty or shock exposure

Para 5:

Topic sentence: Jaar's poignant Lament is not a work of refamiliarization.

Key ideas: activism has become impotent- effects of image culture crushed avant-garde impulse

Para 6:

Topic sentence: Jaar's work tells us much about the larger scenes of fine art and visual culture.

Key ideas: visual communication as "a regime to be managed" vs. "business as usual"- galleries become venues for image commodities- artist's dilemma to establish brand identity- offered as works of opposition or resistance- "critique" the culture industry or "transgress" the symbolic discourses of power

Para 7:

Topic sentence: When Jaar collapses his "art" work into the general category of "images" the distinction between fine and culture industry visual production becomes difficult to maintain.

Key ideas: existential dilemma- can images matter in extreme state of current visual culture?- artist as agent of social change or magical politics- counter extreme is impossibility of efficacy in our supposedly completely virtual condition or simulacral disorder

Para 8:

Topic sentence: The current crisis of visual images is twofold- epistemological and cultural.

Key ideas: structural problem- media image is most often smokescreen- images don't show us what is- managed deception- capacity to imagine and capacity to bear witness are radically different facets of visual expression

Para 9:

Topic sentence: "Exactly repeatable images," as William Ivins famously called them, provide a consensual knowledge base.

Key ideas: visual images constitute system of belief- shared social experience- mass media are symptom not cause of extreme condition in which images circulate without accountability

Para 10:

Topic sentence: Modern fine art took its historical shape from two determining moments: the separation from mass media culture brought about in the Industrial Revolution, and the utopianism that sprang from nineteenth-century romanticism to shape the early twentieth-century avant-garde commitment to alterative discourse.

Key ideas: beliefs in art's autonomy and efficacy are not un-truths but masking ideologies

Para 11:

Topic sentence: These myths are not lies, but they are structures of belief whose basis may be obsolete.

Key ideas: autonomy, once foundation of aesthetic identity is now condition of consumption- extreme state- simulacral images and rhetoric serves to produce and sustain political administration whose terrifying power is effected through visual regimes

Para 12:

Topic sentence: Under these extreme conditions, the challenge isn't to expose an imagined "real" through its representation

Sub-topic sentence: We face a more difficult task: reconceptualizing images as events that expose the systems in which cultural forces and interests create networks of power and its simulacra.

Key ideas: power – illusions-corrupt and simulacral world- epistemological and cultural crises are intertwined

Para 13:

Topic sentence: Within received convention, we think of images as things (reified, static, material, self-evident, in- themselves).

Key ideas: de-familiarization proposed slap-in-the-face shock effect- refamiliarization asks images to show relations of complex systems to expose vectors and forces of interests, desires, and power- connected to lived experience of persons and peoples- image events emerge from systems of codependency

Para 14:

Topic sentence: Our sense that the world is broken and that we have the obligation to put it right descends through the modern era from certain tenets of romanticism.

Key ideas: refamiliarization isn't prescriptive, but richly descriptive-refamilialization as a critical approach not limited to study of contemporary works

Para 15:

Topic sentence: In her current study of images of Condoleeza Rice, Karen Finley is painting and redrawing media image photographs of the Secretary of State.

Key ideas: images not the way we know Rice- public image does not mask a knowable person- persona, representations and psychic identity bound together- assumption of de-familiarization was that the surface was false- but surface is true as well- she is imaged reality-a realized image- not surface image hiding the real- not a simulation without a reality effect

Para 16:

Topic sentence: Finley's project engages directly with the epistemological crisis of images in our culture.

Key ideas: attempt to ask how knowledge is produced, visually, across these images- what appears to be natural- exposes images as documents of relations within systems of power- visual regimes

Para 17:

Topic sentence: Rice is a paradigmatic expression of the Xtreme state, the familiar face of that smiling fascism inconspicuously announced in the disappearance of discourse.

Key ideas: habits of media have become parodic- support of imperialistic impulses - commentary passing as reasoned and reasonable narrative of unjustifiable actions- are images obsolete?

Para 18:

Topic sentence: Conceived in a human – a compromised – rather than an ideal frame, fine art registers conditions within a social scale.

Key ideas: refamiliarization is always flawed, unfinished, and partial as a process- propaganda images try to show a fixed reality- partial knowledge continually provokes reading and interpretation-rather than keep familiar things out of thought, he brings masked into a familiar scene- another kind of space to refamiliarize us with set of lived conditions

Para 19:

Topic sentence: The rhetorical force of fine art also derives from the affective impact of images and from the imaginative view that powerful works bring to awareness, not just from their conceptual strength.

Key ideas: imaginatively transformative properties of works of art distinguish them from commercial or industrial ones- "Xtreme" state capable of monumental folly- casts us daily into the shadow of possible apocalypse- purveyors of visual criticism came to believe that images circulate with no referent to the real- theory language feels bankrupt in the face of destruction-images produce their own testimonial perhaps more suspect than language

Para 20:

Topic sentence: In Longo's drawings for Sickness of Reason, the new sleep. Toxic and intoxicating, rises in archetypal mushroom cloud formations as if to glory in the climax of an atomic reaction.

Key ideas: sublime is always terrifying-sickness is not sleep- sleep is forgetting and rewarding but sickness lives with its condition, perverted and compromised

Para 21:

Topic sentence: The drawings are too perfect – indeed too perfectly historical.

Key ideas: culture has become consistent- propaganga has migrated into terror industry- language, image, media, and discourse would align with facist and totalitarian agendas to cover the tracks of repression so completely that the citizens became active in their own submission to authority that did not serve their interests

Para 22:

Topic sentence: Political theory and paranoid fictions notwithstanding, the imperative to artists remains much the same today as it was in the era in which Goya raised his graphic protest to the unimaginable cruelties of human beings: to resist the closure to which administrative reason is prone when it turns culture to its propagandist purposes.

Key ideas: reason in the service of administration is a weapon of terror- art in the service of bureaucratic culture becomes a commodity

Para 23:

Topic sentence: Adorno's arguments remain central to any project of critical epistemology, especially in the aesthetic realm.

Key ideas: the capacity of fine art to expose the systems and forces of cultural conditions and ideological production remains vital- fine art embodies capitalist mythology

Para 24:

Topic sentence: In another series of drawings of planets, Longo's rendering shows Saturn ringed with its belt of sparkling dust, catching the sun's rays on one bald face profiled against an interstellar darkness utterly unmitigated by the presence of even a single star.

Key ideas: the sheer force of aesthetic impact is vital, not trivial to, to engagements

Para 25:

Topic sentence: Making space suggests an active role for fine art events, as Alain Badiou calls them.

Key ideas: shifting from object to process- from thing to action- substitutes systems theory for critical theory and cultural studies

Para 26:

Topic sentence: Badiou says that a "passion for the real" dominated twentieth-century thought.

Key ideas: democratic materialism means there are bodies and languages; there are individuals and communities and nothing else- multiplicity- liberty- rights-considers what exists to be objects and cultures absorbed into their market dimension

Para 27:

Topic sentence: True enough, but the reductive phrase "market dimension" with its suggestion that a critique of consumption is the goal of critical thought is naïve.

Key ideas: fine art participates in mass culture- value is a codependent entity not an essence

Para 28:

Topic sentence: The work of Geoff Mcgann brings connections between fine art and image industries into focus with different effects than those of Finley or Jaar.

Key ideas: Geoff's work comes from experience in advertising industry- combined high-end production values of the industry with intriguingly near- incidental insights- point at which document and artifice meet

Para 29:

Topic sentence: The uncompromised consumable quality of the images gives them an effervescence that arouses the most repressed imagination.

Key ideas: kitsch consumerism

Para 30:

Topic sentence: But these images are all paired with photographs that document their making.

Key ideas: angel pictures are excuse for glimpses of models in the daily business of producing themselves- the goddess portraits provide a consumable product- pretending to be more when they are less than the situation from which they are extruded

Para 31:

Topic sentence: The angel pictures are the cast-off shins of the illusion machine.

Key ideas: show that documentary photos are not authentic through a simple opposition- pictures matter because of associations to situation and circumstance, the lived and embedded relations of production and product- pseudo-documentary images are deceptive

Para 32:

Topic sentence: By contrast to McGann's flirtations with commercial culture, photographer William Wylie's work is squarely within a fine arts tradition.

Key ideas: marble is treated with reverence- the material is inherently beautiful- but also because of association with great pieces of sculpture

Para 33:

Topic sentence: Wylie is not in any sense making the marble, the quarry, or the men whose color portraits accompany the black-and-white prints of the stones "strange".

Key ideas: images of potentiality- image events show art activity as a relation between various processes of labour, social and cultural relations, skills of varying kinds and degrees- circumstances are not a context or fixed system, but a set of conditions and processes.

Para 34:

Topic sentence: Aesthetic documents in their own right – large-scale, highly refined digital prints that reward repeated looking- Wylie's images are also document of what "art" is in the refamiliarized sense.

Key ideas: ideological meanings are integral to formal richness- multiplicity of meanings is inexhaustible and unstable- chain of associations

Para 35:

Topic sentence: The split between the black-and–white images of the marble blocks and the color portraits of the men introduces one kind of "space" for critical dialogue.

Key ideas: dynamic readings- pairings create their own splits and associations

Para 36:

Topic sentence: In an era where there is no order to return to, where nothing can be made stranger than the daily business of mediated imagery and experience with its fully exploitative tactics of shock and relation to the extreme state of a politics of aggression and violence, the task of a reader of ideological values is to see how we are situated within the networks that produce us as subjects.

Key ideas: aesthetic acts in modern autonomy function as things apart but the task now is to reconstruct sites and circumstances of production with the meanings the images provoke

Para 37:

Topic sentence: In conclusion, I want to mention the reflections of an art historian and critic on the condition of art and theory.

Key ideas: Xtreme state conjures an image of managed and administered culture that penetrates every aspect of society – terror industry is the public relations arm of the Xtreme state.

Para 38:

Topic sentence: No truth can be revealed under such a regime.

Key ideas: entities become events and images dissolve into circumstantial expressions- splits every notion of the real into unreconcilable set of contradictory conditions

Para 39:

Topic sentence: In that space of play, we can imagine - not "otherwise" but instead – into recognition, awareness of our place within ideological conditions.

Key ideas: The more a phenomenon appears to be natural, the more truly it is cultural

Para 40:

Topic sentence: Wylie's blocks, McGann's angels, and Finley's Condoleezza Rice images are striking examples of refamiliarization.

Key ideas: images reify illusion as well as perform it- not matter of simple concealment or deception but of ignorance

Para 41:

Topic sentence: We are far from the era of the early twentieth-century avant-garde.

Key ideas: refamiliarization- an act of connection and association that takes full account of the gap between image and referent, between images and systems of belief- can aesthetic works answer the crisis of epistemology and culture?

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