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6. Assembling Photographs

Looking at animals is like looking at photographs. Or at least, looking at familiar animals like dogs and cats and horses is like looking at photos. They offer themselves up to us, but they expect us to respond as well. Pictures are the same. As W.J.T. Mitchell asked some years ago, whenever we try to get something from images, we should also ask “What do pictures want?” There is a yearning for comprehension on both sides. There is so much each can understand about the other, but only so much. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 22.02.2017
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5. The Image Withheld

All that distinguishes a photo as image and a photo as component of the mass image is the simple act of attention. Among all the billion images uploaded, stashed or discarded, only a tiny few secure even a few moments of active contemplation. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 15.02.2017
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4. The Mass Image

I wrote in my previous post that individual images use the unavoidable division between being and appearance to create negative images of the world, and thereby to create glimpses of happiness as the opposite of the world we inhabit. That seems to be as true of individual prints or photographs as it is of unique paintings and drawings. But can the same be said of images in the mass? mehr

Veröffentlicht: 09.02.2017
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3. Problems of Happy Images

I ended my last post with the ethical and political demand for happiness for all. Yes, it is a radical demand. Our world is not a very happy place; and each of us has been schooled, by religion, politics, and what we like to call reality, that we have to put up with pain in the hope of something better coming along when we get to heaven or pay off our debts. Both prospects, in reality, are equally distant. Which means that we have schooled ourselves to accept unhappiness as the nature of life. Casting that off is a huge psychological task, let alone the immense political revolution that would have to happen to realise happiness for everyone. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 30.01.2017
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2. Image + After 2: From Truth to Ethics

In my last post I argued that the gradual move of photography from random scatters of molecules to formal grids marks its assimilation into formal modernity. Before leaping to this conclusion, it is important as well to reflect on photography’s place among scientific instruments, one of the major ways it was understood in its early period. Peter Galison makes a distinction between image and logic as two principles of scientific observation. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 18.01.2017
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1. Image + After I: Photography as Print and as Scientific Instrument

There is a well-known theory on the left concerning British history known as the Nairn-Anderson thesis named after two of its protagonists. Tom Nairn and Perry Anderson traced the peculiarities of the British state to the failure of the country to complete its revolution. Perhaps something similar has to be said about photography. At many points in its history, photography has been on the brink of revolutionising the very concept of the image; and yet the old still maintains its place – like the British monarchy. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 09.01.2017
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Aus der Series
Processing
09.01.–28.02.2017

The photographic image introduced a radical new proposition about representation. Drawing, painting and printmaking required prolonged contemplation of subjects. The long exposures of early photography seemed to parallel that durational encounter. But the appearance of the snapshot changed that. The photogram was an isolated moment singled out that provided a new aesthetic and a new ethical quandary about the instant seized abruptly from the flow of time. The moving image may be seen as an attempt to heal this trauma in the flux of time, but one that created new modes of temporal alienation. Digital imaging, still and moving, alters the conditions of the photogram, bringing it closer to the processing of scientific instruments. In his blog series, thinking ahead of a proposed new avenue of research into the aesthetic politics of truth, Sean Cubitt draws on thinkers from Flusser to Badiou to consider the changing nature and function of time from the decisive moment to data visualisation.

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6. Justice Appears

Justice appears. At Standing Rock, for example. Law represents and negates. In North and South Carolina, for example. Law and justice stand in relation to, in and as the space of appearance. The dialectic of justice is possibility. Law is pure negation. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 08.12.2016
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5. Visual Sovereignty and Standing Rock: Decolonizing Native Spaces of Appearance

When I visited Aotearoa New Zealand in 2005, the conference I attended was opened by a Maori rangatira (leader; chief, if you must). As the visiting rangatira, I had to respond. It was a moving way to begin the event and it reminded everyone of the realities of settler colonialism. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.12.2016
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4. Empty the Museum, Decolonize the Curriculum: For the (Roman) General Strike

How does white supremacy make itself normal and the given against which other actions are judged? In Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon claimed that cartoons and other forms of popular culture taught (white) people how to be racist. What teaches them/us how to be ‘white’? Whiteness demarcates the boundaries of the space of appearance and makes it a space of representation. To be admitted to this space is to not be, or have been, enslaved. And to be of the imperial group rather than the indigenous. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 25.11.2016
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3. A Broken Hallelujah: Mourning and Militancy for the Age of Authoritarian Nationalism

The clock of the world is showing a new time that we’re struggling to understand. Neo-liberalism became hegemonic in the doubled moment of Thatcher and Reagan coming to power (1979–80). Brexit-Trump heralds a toxic new formation of white supremacy, patriarchy and nationalism. What Stuart Hall called ‘the great moving right show’ in 1977 has become the ‘it’s great to be white show’ in 2016. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 17.11.2016
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2. It's on Us

Like so many others, I misjudged this. I had a draft of a post about how to undo whiteness post-Trump. Today these moves seem shallow, smug, self-righteous. It’s time to reflect. Trump and his followers are all about ‘them’: women, people of color, Mexicans. But what’s happened is on us, those people who are identified as white. We did this – or failed to stop it – and it’s mostly going to be people of color that pay the price. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 10.11.2016
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1. MAGA Masculinity, Scary Clowns and the Souls of White Folk

During the revolutionary upheavals of 2011 from Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street, a transformation of real conditions of lived existence seemed at hand. In 1958, philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase ‘the space of appearance’ to convey her sense of where politics takes place. This space, derived from the ancient Greek city-state, was constituted by exclusion of women, children, enslaved human beings and non-Greeks. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.11.2016
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01.11.–22.12.2016

Philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase ‘the space of appearance’ to convey her sense of where politics takes place. Until mid-December, Nicholas Mirzoeff will be exploring the spaces of appearance constituted by the intersection of the ‘right to appear’ (Butler) and the ‘right to look’ in both present-day and historical contexts. How does this space of appearance work, and what happens in the space of representation in politics and visual media that is its counter? 

The posts will be written ‘live,’ in the week prior to publication, rather than being excerpts from finished, written work. Themes that are likely to be considered include the state(s) of whiteness, decolonizing the space of appearance, and Black Lives Matter and its intersections. Dialogue is welcome!

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