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introduct

io n

Each answer remains in force as an answer only as long as it is roo ted in

questioning.

Heidegger,"The Or igin of the Work of Art"

J have always liked p hotog rap h y, and in a low- key way I was always intereste d in ir. I bough t a Berenice Ab bott p rim of an Arget bedroo m ar rh e Willard Ga llery in New York

Cit y more t han rh irry years ago,

Evans, Baldus, Frith, and O'S u llivan (a part icular fa vorite). Ove r rhe years, too, I

attende d numerous ex h ibit ions

rhar I felt with respect to ex hib itions of modern painting or sc ulp tur e. Bur unril recen tly

I

- some sort o f ep ip hany, real or imag ined - I have

t hing. Th en several things happene d . First, I got ro know J am es Welling an d his work

because frie nd s in Ba ltimo re wa lked inro his first sh ow at Metro Pictures an d bo u gh t seve ral o f the " Diary" photographs; soo n they became close to him . l found t ha t I liked his p hotographs eno rm ously, an d we, too, became friends . And t hen about ten years ago, by sheer chance, I mer J eff Wall at th e Boymans Museum in Ro tterdam and dis -

covered that, to put

share d

co

I

it mild ly, we were int erested in many of rhe sam e p ictorial issues .

an d have lived for a long rime with p h otog rap h s by

of pho to gra p hy, th ough rarely wit h rhe sense of

urgency

such an intuition

did nor have any strong

int u itions abo ut p hoto gra p hy, an d without

never been mot ivated to write o n any-

had been aware

ncerns,

o f Wall's work

for years an d had

even had an in k ling o f our

was galvanizing

bu r meet ing h im and excha nging rhoughrs

for me. Fro m that

moment on I starred look ing seriously at recent p h otog rap h y, a process grea tly aided by

major exhibitions of work by figur es s uch as Welling, Wall, Andr eas Gursky, Tho m as

St

ruth,

Bernd

and

H illa Becher, Tho m as Demand, Rineke Dijkst ra, Ca n dida Hofer,

H

iroshi

Sugim oto,

and Luc Delahaye, among o rhers. To my surpri se I fairly q uick ly

became

gr ippe d by the though t rhat a ll rhar work, and m uc h else besides, hung together

artistica

lly in ways

rh at it seeme d to

me no one else writi n g ab out the to pic had

qui te

recognized . At t hat poinr, I bega n dra fti ng whar J hoped woul d be a short book on

recen t art photogra p hy that would convey rhe gist of m y think ing . Prett y

ir

jus t ice to my sub ject, I would

gra p hers (and, ir rurne d o ur, video and film makers)

of wha t eac h was rheir ind ivid ual

hat no suc h short book was in the cards . Rather, if I wan ted to d o

soo n , though,

b ecame

clear

t

have to de a l with the work

of more

th a n fifteen photo-

in suf fic ient deta il to co nvey a sense

up

projects

to and at rh e same rime to allow the co nnectio ns I saw among

ro emerge. Thi s is what I have trie d to do in Why Photo-

graphy Matters as Art as Nev er Before.

introduction

The basic idea behind whar follows is simple. Srarr ing

in rhe lare , 970s and 1980s,

arr phorographs began ro be made nor on ly ar large sca le bur a lso - as rhe French crir ic

J ca n -Fran ~ois Ch ev rier wa s th e firsr ro po inr o ur - for

an d no one will conresr ir. What I want ro add is rhar the momenr rhis rook place - I am thinking, for example, of Ruff 's passporr-sryle porrrairs (wh ich begin modesr in scale

bur are marked from the srarr by rhe for-rhe-wa llness thar Chevr ier rightl y regards as

decisive), Wall's firsr lighrbo x transparencies, and Jean -M a rc Busramanre's Tableaux - issues concerning rhe relationship berween rhe p horograph and rhe viewer sranding before it became cru cial for phorography as they had ne ver previous ly bee n. M o re pre- cisely, so I wanr ro claim, such photography immediarely inherited rhe enrire problem- aric of beholding- in rhe rerms defined in my previous wri t ing, of rhearricaliry and

an rirhe atrica liry - rhar had been cenr ral, first, to rhe evo lution of painr ing in France from

rhe middle of the eighteent h cenrury

arion around 1860, an evo lurio n explo red in my books Absorption and Theatricality, Courbet 's Realism, and Manet's Modemism ; and second, co rhe opposition between h igh

modernism and minim a lism in rhe mid- a nd lare 1960s,

exacerba red by, my "infamo us" essay "Arr and Objecr hood. » 1 Whar rhis has meant in indi vidual cases will become clear in rhe course of rhis book, bur I might as well acknowledge at the outser rhat my mor ivatio n for wr iti ng abour recent arr photography has every thin g ro do wirh my be lief that issues o f rhe sort I have

jusr named rhar mig hr hav e seeme d (rhar did seem, ro me as muc h as ro anyone else) quir e po ssibly forever inva lidated by the eclipse of high mode rn ism an d th e t riump h of posrmodernis m borh arr isrically and rheorerically in the 1970s and 'Sos have retu rned, may I say dialectically, to rhe very cenrer of advanced phorographic pracrice. Pur sligh tly diff erentl y, I shall rry ro show rhar the mos r characteristic pro ducti o ns of all rhe photo- g raph e rs jusr mentione d (and ot hers as we ll) belong ro a single photographic regime, which is ro say ro a single com plex srrucrure of rhemes, co ncerns, and represenra riona l srra regies, whic h o n rhc one hand repr esents an epocha l develo pment w irhin rhe h isrory

of art phorography and on

of issues of beholding and of what I rhink of as rhe ontology of pictures rhar we re first th eo rized by Deni s Diderot wirh respect to stage dram a and painting in rhe lare 175 0s and '6os . This means, among other things, thar rhe chapters that follow co nsta nt ly refer

ro my own earlier writings; I declare rhis up front, ro p reempt the facile cr iticism rhar I am excessively preocc upi ed wirh my ow n ideas . I am pr eoccup ied wirh those ideas, for

the sim ple reason rha r rhey seem ro me ro

much less rhan half of eve ryrhing, but srill, a grear deal ) in the picrorial arts of rhe pasr

I am ex plo ring

ropics and issues I have discusse d before bur rather whether Ill) ' interpretations of spe- c ific works by a number of rhe leading phorographers of our rime, and beyond rhar my

th e

wall; this is widely known

unril rhe advenr of Edoua rd Maner and his gene r-

as expounded in, and perhaps

th e othe r can only be

unders tood if it is viewed in the context

hold the key ro much (far from every rhing,

is no r whe th er in rhis book

2.50

years. The qu esrion,

in orher words,

account of the

sua sive as rhey sran d. (I kn ow ir is roo much ro ask, bur

impatient wirh whar I have done were ro feel compe lled ro offer superior interprera rions of rhe ir ow n .)

lar ger project of much conrempora ry arr ph o tography, a re o r are not per-

it would be useful if reade rs

why photography

matters

as art as never before

T he organizat ion of Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Befor e is as follows .

Chapter One sketches three possible "beginn ings," each of which involves t hree terms, by way of indicating something of t he scope of the issues to be dealt with in subse qu ent chapters . C hap ters Two and Thr ee are co ncerne d wit h works by Jeff Wall; the first also says some t hing abou t the concep t of worldhood as it is theor ized in Mart in Heidegger's Being and Time {also ab out the not ion of techn ology as deve loped in his later essay "The Quest ion Co ncerni ng Techn ology") and the second abou t the concep t of t he every-

day as it emerges in a remarkable ext ract from

Ludwig Wittgenstein's note books for

1930, both o f these in relat ion to Wall's pictures . {For various reasons, Wall's work plays

a large r role in t his

a reading of Ro land Bart hes's Camera Lucida, with partic ula r attent ion to his no tion

of the /Junctum; my aim is to show that Camera Lucida is everywhere driven by an unacknow ledged antitheatr icalism and that it the refore bears a close relation ship to t he

larger argume nt of this boo k. C hapte

and Cha pter

Chap ter Six also includes a br ief discuss ion of Chevrier's account of t he new "tableau form, " on e of the few sign ificant co ntribm ions to a t heo ry of the new art photogra ph y with whic h I am fam ilia r. Chap ter Seven, on photographic portra itur e, co nsiders Struth 's

fami ly port rait s, Rineke Dijkst ra's beach ph otog rap hs, Pat rick Fa igenba um's busts of Roman emperors, Dela haye's L'Autre, a boo k of black-and -white photographs made with a hidde n came ra o f passenger s on the Paris Metro, Roland Fischer's portra its of

monk s and nuns, and Douglas Gordo n and

First Century Portrait . Ch apter Eight, organize d around the the me of

gra ph y, exa mines Wall's Mimic, Bear Streuli's videos and phorographs of crowds made

wit h a concea led ca mera, an d vario us pictures and a pho tobook by Philip-Lorca diCor-

wo rks by T homas Demand a nd Ca ndid a H ofer before closi ng

cia. Chapte r Nine looks at

with bri ef remarks a bout Hiros hi Sugimoto's "Seasca pes," St ruth's " Paradi se" ph oto-

graphs, and two gat herings of pho togra phs of anim als

H ofer. C haprer Ten, the climax to t he boo k, begins with a few wo rds abou t James

Welling's ea rly Polaroid photograph, Lock, by way of sett ing the scene for an inter- pretat ion of Bern d and Hilla Becher's Typolog ies, one of t he most orig inal and impr es- sive - also, I sha ll t ry to show, philoso ph ically one of the most profound - artistic

achieveme nt s of the past fifty years. Noti on s o f " true " or "genuine" versus "bad" or "spur ious" infini ty as pu t forward by G. W. F.Hegel in his Science of Logic an d Ency- clopedia Logic are central to my arg ument, as is the theme of objec thoo d in "Art and

Objecthood ." The cha pte r ends

follows a Con clu sion, bea rin g t he sa me title as the book, that at onc e reviews and

extends

Aft er "Spring Snow"

As t his su mmary sugges ts, philoso phica l texts by Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Hegel

(also by Stanley Cave ll and Rob ert Pippin) are vital to my pro ject; this is because the new arr photography has fou nd itself compelle d to do a certa in amount of what I thin k

of as ontolo gica l wor k, and beca use the writ ings of t hose pa rt icu lar philosophers have

bo ok than t hat of any ot her photograp her.) Cha pter Four comprises

r Five exam ines T homas Strut h's mu seum pictures,

Six a range of works by Thomas Ruff, Andr eas Gursky, and Luc Dela haye.

Phi lippe Par reno's film Z idane : A Twenty-

st reet photo-

in zoos by Garry Winogrand and

wit h a bri ef read ing of Wall's Concrete Ball. Ther e

my overall argum ent before closing wit h a discussion of one last work by Wall,

by Yukio Mish ima.

pr oved

indispensable

ro my efforts ro mak e clear exactly what this has

involved. Othe r

writer s

who figure in thi s book

in tex t and not es (apart

from numerou

s co mm entato rs

Bart hes, Brassa"i on Pro ust an d Prou st

a French eighteenth-century conte, Susa n Sonta g,

Clement Greenbe rg, Gertrude Stein in her essay " Pictur es," Heinr ich von Kleist, Robert

Musil, Brian O'Doherty, Walter Benn Michaels (whose writing s on photo graph y bear

closely on my arguments), and , per haps most surpri singly, Yukio Mishima in several

pa ssages in his great terralogy , Th e

whelmingly on th e photograph s I ha ve chose n to discuss. Two more point s. First , in my introduction to Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews, I insist that "be tween m)•self as histor ian of the French antirh eati ca l tradition and the crit ic who wrot e ' Arr and Objecrhood ' there loom s an unbridgeable gulf

the priorit y given in [my earl y arr

such

jud gme nt s in rhe pur suit of historical und erstanding

11see J no crir icismJ

on my photographer -subjec ts)

are

C hevrier,

himself, the anonymous author of

Sea of Fertility. H oweve r, my focus will be over-

way of nego tiating th e differen ce between

to judgment s bot h po sit ive and negat ive and the princ ipled refusa l of all

Jin Absorption

and Theatricality,

Courbet's Realism, and Manet's Modernism]." 2 This seemed ro me a mat ter of some

imp ort anc e, if onl y beca use I did nor want to be unde rsto od as end orsing Diderot's views

deprecatin g Watteau ). Well, as the reader of Why

is about to discove r, th e gulf in qu estion

of individual

Photography

artist s (for example,

Matt ers as Art as Never Before

no longer loo ms as it pr evio us!)' did; pu t slightly differentl y, th e pr esent book turn s our

to be generica lly

engage d and detached - in ways that would hav e been inco mpr ehensible ro me only a short rime ago .J Second , a word about my epigraph . Th e citat ion from Heidegger, " Eac h answe r

rem a ins in force as a n answer onl y as long as it is roo ted in ques t ioning ," was previ- ously used by me as t he epigraph ro rhe introductor y essay, " About my Arr C rit icism," to th e 1998 anthol ogy of 111)' arr crirical writ ings, Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews. Whe n I plac ed it there , 1 meant to signal an aw a rene ss that th e issues grap - pled with in my arr criticism of the 1960s were no longer burnin g topi cs in conte mp o-

dar es from 1995-6 ), and that I ought nor rob e ima gined as

standing

behind each and every claim in my ear ly writings as if nothing significa nt had

happened in th e intervening years . By using it ag ain here, however , I mean to signal som ethin g almost exac tly op posite: rhar the issues of rhearri ca liry and objecrhood rhar were cru cia l to my arr criticism in J 966-7 a re once aga in, in Heidegger's tremendou s

phr ase, "roote d in que stio nin g," nor least ques ti oning conducted with great force and brilliance by the photographers them selves. Inde ed the questioning had begun well befor e I wrote that introduc tory essay, bur I did nor know it then. Now I do.

mix ed - at once crit icism and history, jud gme nt al and non-judgm ental ,

1ary a rr (the introdu ct ion

4 why photography

matters

as art as never before

three

beginni ngs

There are rhree b eginni n gs to rhis book, eac h o f which in irs own way pre pares rhe grou nd fo r t he chapt ers th ar follow.

a consi deration of rhe Ja pan ese ph otograp her Hiro shi

Sugimoto's wid ely ad111ired black-and-whire photographs of mov ie rhearer s in

ciries in rhe Unired Srares, w hich h e began 111aking in rhe 111id- , 97os, while he was srill

his firsr m arure b ody of wo rk

phorograph ing di ora111asin

(Figs. , an d 2.). (Sug i111oto, born in Japan in 1.948, came to rhe Uni red Srares in 1970

to srud y arr. Since rhen he

have some thin g ro say abour his "Seascapes" larer in rhis book .) He went on mak ing

cara logu e to his

2005 - 6 trav elin g ret rospective exhib itio n rhey a re dated 1975 - 2.001. In char catalogue,

too, Sugimoto prov ides rhe fol lowing brief intro d uctory sra rem enr ro rhose pictures :

rhe movie rhearer ph orogra ph s for another rwe nt y-five years : in the

has rraveled widely bur lives mainly in New York. I sh all

The

firsr

rakes

off

from

different

111use u111s of natura l histo ry-

1

I am a habirual se lf-inte rlocu tor. O ne even ing whi le raki ng p hotographs fof dioramas ] ar rhe American Muse u 111of Na tur a l H isrory, I had a near-hall ucinatory visio n. My internal ques t ion-and-a n swer session lead ing up to rh is vision went so meth ing like

rhis: "Su ppose yo u sh oo r a whole movie in a single fra111e?"Th e answer:

sh ining screen." Immediately I began ex per iment ing in or d er to realize

One afterno on I wa lked inro a c heap cine ma in rhe Easr Village wit h a large-formar

camera . As soo n as rh e mov

ie sta rted , I fixed the s hutt er ar a wide-o p en ape rtur e.

When rhe m ovie finished rwo hou rs later, I clicked rhe shurrer clo sed. Thar evening I deve loped the film, and m y vision ex ploded befo re m y eyes.'

" Yo u ger a rhis vision .

In orher words, the dazzl ing blank ness, rhe sheer wh ireness, o f che scree n s in rhe mo vie rhearer photographs are rhe resulr of leav ing rhe shurre r ope n chroug hour an enti re film; by th e same token , there was jusr enough cum ulati ve reflected ligh t fro m the scree n ro

make poss ible rhe relative ly dark bur a lso m ar velous ly d etai led registrat io n of rhe rhearer interio rs th emse lves.

I have n o wish to challenge the veracity of Sugimoto's accou n t of how he came

ro make rhe movie theat er pho tog rap h s. Bur ir s ho uld be n oted t har he presents his doing

so

as rhe ourco me o f a so lita ry brill iant ceived ou r of his q uest ioning mind and

else rakin g place in photography at approximately t he

is how t hey

saw ar leasr rwo orhe r n orable iniriarives in "a rt " photography rhar engage d head-on with the quesrion of cin ema, and I want to sugges r rhat unless rhose init iat ives are ta ken

Maybe thi s rea lly half of t he 1970s

int uirion, as if rhe ph otographs spran g full y co n - thus had nothi ng wharever to do wirh any rhing

Now,

same mo m ent. rhar rhe seco n d

ca m e to be m ade. Yer th e facr remains

1 Hir oshi Sugimoto,

U.A. Walker, New

u9.4

x 149.2 cm, Negative

213

York,

1978 . Gelatin

silver

print.

2 Hir oshi Sugimoto, 149.2 cm, Negative

Ohio Theater, Ohio, 1980 . Gelatin silver print.

205

119.4 x

into conside rarion, one's sense of Sugimo ro's achieve ment in rhe movie theate r photo - graphs risks being curio usly abstract, cut off from the contem pora ry histo ry of which

it was a part. l refer to the early work of Cindy Sher man and Jeff Wall. Sherman first. The works I have in mind are her famous Untit led Film Stills, modesr-

sized black-and-w hite photographs

and 1980 . 2 T hey are,

which she made between r977

of

cour se, not

actua l film st ills but ph otographs

imita t ing t he look of film st ills, and in

all

rhe

images

(a tota l of eighty-four) t he protagonist is Sherman herself, or rather one

or

ano t her female "c har acter"

who m Sherman

is play ing or imp ersonat ing (in a ll the

photographs she is alone, no one else appears). There is by now a vast critical lirerarure

on Sherm an's work, muc h of it in my op inio n t heo retica lly overblow n,3 bur here are some interes t ing remar ks by Sher man herself:

I liked rhe H itchcock look, Anto nion i, Neo realist st uff. What I didn't want were pic- tures showing st rong emot ion . In a lor of movie photos rhc actors look cute, impish,

allurin g, d ist raught , frighrene d, rough , ere., bur what I was int eresred in was wh en they were almost express ion less. Whic h was rare to see; in film stills there's a lot of overac t ing because th ey're trying ro sell rhe movie. Th e movie isn't necessa r ily funny

or happy, bu r in those pub liciry photos, if there's

one cha racte r, she's smiling. Ir was

in Europea n film st ills that I'd find wome n who were more neutral, and maybe the origina l films were ha rder to figure our as well. I foun d thar mo re mysterious. I looke d

rhat if I acted too hap py,

for it consc iously; I didn't want to ha m ir up , an d I knew

or too sad, or scared - if rhe emotio nal quot ient was too high - t he photograp h would

 

seem campy. 181

O

ne way of gloss ing

rhis might

be to

say that by her own

account,

despite rhe

fact t hat

she was in effect "pe rformi ng"

scene, and finally playing a role - Sherman at the same time felt impelled to avoid displays of emorio n and by imp licat ion entire scenes t hat might stri ke rhe viewer as

sense of the rerm. (The wo rd is

to say rhar a ll the Untit led Film Stills are eq ually restrained.

issue of t heat r icality looms large bot h in my art critical essay of 1967, "Art and Objecr- hood," and in my histo rical studi es of the evol ution of paint ing in Fra nce bet ween the middle of rhe eighteenth cent ury and the adve nt of Ma net and his genera tion in the early

, 86os . 4 ) Acco rdingly, in most of the Stills Sherman depicts characte rs who app ear absorbed in thoug ht or feeling (Fig. 3); or who look "offscreen" in a man ner that sug- gests t hat their attentio n has been dra wn, fleetingly or ot herwise, by somethin g or someone ro be fou nd there (Fig. 4); or who gaze close up at their own image in a mirror (Fig. 5); or who are viewed from the rear or the side, from an elevated or "depressed"

viewpoi nt, from

photograph and

rhe viewer (Fig. 6). Thro ugho ur the series the bas ic

possibi lity of any implied commu nicat ion between t he per sonage in t he

a co nsidera ble distance, or unde r orher circumstances that ru le out the

theatrica l in rhe pejorative

mine, no t hers. T his is nor I need hardly add rhat the

for the camera - dress ing up, mak ing up, arranging

rhe

movies co nventio n (or diegeric law )

of never depicting the subject looki ng directly ar the camera is in force,' and in general

the cinematic characte r of the

is also a convergence bet ween a numb er of the actional and structural mot ifs char one

more emp hatic. But there

photographs

co uld hardly

be

3 Cin dy Sher ma n , Untitled Film St ill, #53,

1980 . Ge lat in silver

of Mod ern Arr, New York . Grace M. Ma yer Fun d

print . 16 .2 x 24 cm. M useum

4 Cindy Sherman , Untit led Film

cm . Mu seum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase

Still, #9, 1978 . Ge la tin silver print.

18.9 x 24

/

5 Cin d y Sher man , Untitled Film Still, #56, r980 . Gela tin

5 Cin d y Sher man , Untitled Film Still, #56, r980 . Gela tin silver print. r6.2 x 24 cm . Mu seum

of Mod ern Art, New York. Acqui red throu g h th e genero sity of J o Carole a nd Rona ld S. Laude r in memor y o f Mr s John D. R ocke fe ller 111

6

C ind y Sherman,

Untitled Film Still, #48, r 979 . Gelatin

silver print.

16.2 x 24

c m. Mu seum of Mo d ern

Caro le a nd Ron a ld S. Laud er in memory

Arr, New

York.

Acqu ir ed throug h th e gene rosity

of Eug ene S. Schwartz

of

J o

le a nd Ron a ld S. Laud er in memory Arr, New York. Acqu ir

7 (righ t and faci ng /Jnge)

Jeff Wall, M nuie Aud ience,

1979. Seven transpa rencies

in thr ee lightboxcs. tra nsparency 10 1. 5

Eac h

x

105

cm

finds in the Stills an d mot ifs deployed by eighteenth - and nin eteenrh-cenrury French

pa int ers in

nizes aprop os o f the t rea tment of the subj ect's gaze in Sherman 's Rear Scree11Projec- tio11s of 1980) . 6 I sha ll ha ve much mor e to say ab out thi s issue furth er on in t his chap ter a nd in tho se that follow, but I wa nr to stop shore o f characteri zing the Stills as ant ithe-

atric a l pur e a nd simple for tw o reason s. First , it is not clear - at least not at this pre- lim inar y point in rhe la rge r argumen t of this boo k - w hat such a claim can mean in the rea lm o f ph otograph y or indeed th at of cinema (a sepa rat e topic) and therefore, 11for-

the inrerest of what l have called a nti t hea trica lit y (as Regis Durand recog-

tiori, in t he

rea lm o f on cinema

a co nce pti on itself t hen on

of ph otograp hy th at o penly presents itself as para- a part icula r cinemat ic a rt ifact, the film st ill. Second ,

sit ic if not Sherm an 's

present them-

selves as having been delib erat ely staged by the photogra pher - and is not ''s tagedn ess" such as one find s in these images a marker o f t hea trica lity, nor its ant ithesis? Th e answer to thi s question, which will eme rge as I proceed, is fairly comp lex, but rhe poinr I want to und ersco re is t hat Sherm an's Stills raise rhe qu estion in a particula rly pressing form {they are not simpl y t heat rical, in ocher wor ds), w hich is also to say that t here is more to them as works of a rt tha n br illiant visua l deco nst ructi ons of fictions o f feminity, which

is mostly ho w t hey have been und ersto od . 7

Jeff Wa ll, the ot her key figure I want to cite in this co nn ection, made The Destroyed

Room, his first lightbox pictur e - a C iba chrom e t rans pa rency illumin ated fro m behind

by fluoresce nt bulb s, thro ugh out almost all his

Fro m the o ut set, his art has involved t riangulat ing ben vcen photog raphy, paint ing, and

cinema, as he himself has repeated ly stated in essa ys and interview s. (A pa rtic ularly

splend id exa mple of such t riangulatio n, Momi11g Cleani11g, Mies van der Rohe Fou11-

datio11, Barce/o11a fr999 J, w ill be the pr incipal wo rk d iscu ssed in C hap ter T hree.) In fact, in Wall's rece ntly publ ished cata logue raiso nne all his work s ar e chara cterized by him either as " docu mentary " or " cinematograp hic" pho togra phs, the latt er rerm imply- ing some meas ur e of preparat ion of t he motif - some meas ur e of "s taging," in other

Stills both individually an d (even more exp licitly) as a group

ca reer his preferred medium - in 1978.k

10 why photography

matters

as all

as never before

the exact scope and n ature o f Wall's

exp loitatio n of movies and the thought of movies lies beyond the scope of this in tro -

duction - in fact la m aware of scan ting

matter in this book generally . However, one early work by Wa ll is especially relevant to

Sugimoto's Mov ie Theaters : Movie Audience o f 1979 (Fig. 7), which co mprises seven lightbox portraits of pe rsons seen slig htly fro m below, all of whom gaze towa rd the lcfr as if towa rd a movie screen on wh ich a film is being pro jected, their faces illum inated from the lefr as if by reflected ligh t fro m that screen. Each portrait is abou t one meter high and wide, and the seven have been grouped in three un its depict ing o ne "fa m ily" (" mot her," "ch ild ," and "fa t her" ) and two youthful couples. By cla imi ng that Movie Aud ience is especia lly relevant to Sugimoto 's Movie Theaters l mean tha t whereas the

latter with their blan k sc reen s are in almost all cases

Wall's Movie Audience purports ro be a representatio n of members o f such an au dien ce

words. As

in Sherma n's case, the larger q uestio n of

the

subjec t in my chapters o n Wall and for that

co mplete ly devoid of an aud ience,

(tho ugh we as viewers do not for a moment im agine that his personages are act ually watc hing a movie und er ordinary co nd itio ns; for one thin g, the light falling on their faces is muc h too stro ng for that to be cre dible). In 198 4, to accompany an exhi bition of t his wo rk in Base l, Wall wrote a text of several pages in a tort uous, post-Adorno idio m t hat contra sts st r ikingly with the exce ptional lucidity of his other wri t ings abou t pho tograp hy (the most disting uished body of writing on the to pic of the past thirty years, in my opi nion). One paragraph suffices to convey the teno r of the whole:

W hen we go to the cinema, we enter a t heat re (or what remains of a theatre) which

has been re-insta lled in a monume nral isi ng mac hine. Th e hu ge fragmented figures pro-

jected on the screen are the magnified sha rd s of the o utm oded thespia ns. This implies

acquires ident ity

throu gh its repetitio us accumulat ion ; in thi s process it beco mes an "au dience." The audience is not watch ing the prod uct of t he action of a machine; iris inside a machine and is expe riencing the phantasmagoria of t hat interio r. T he audience knows t his, but

that the film spectator has also become a fragment of society which

it knows ir t hrough t he labour of trying to forget it. Thi s amnes ia is w hat is

cul tur a lly as pleasure and happ iness. On t he other ha nd, the utopia of the cinema consists in the ideal of happy, pleasan t lucidity which wo uld be created by the revo-

lutionary negation and transfo rm at ion of amnesi ac and mon um ent alising cultural forms. Cinemat ic spectarorship is a somnamb uli stic approa ch toward utop ia. 9

known

At the risk of simplify ing Wall's thought, T might note, first , that the top ic of theater,

hence of t heatricali t y,

that a movie au dience (as one might say) " loses itse lf" or, per ha ps more accura tely,

"fo rgets itself" in the experie ncing of a mo vie, or rather is led or induced by the appa-

ratus and the situatio n to seek to do so (Wall : "Th e aud ience knows !that

the exper iencing mac hinej, bur

Thus the " utopia of t he cinema" - which presumably has not been achieved - would be to convert this trop ism toward forgetting into a kind of "happy, pleasant lucid ity" abo ut the whole expe rience, a lucidity that wou ld nor simply be a form of distanci ng and alien- at ion. (Wall associa tes the latter condit ions, dista ncing and alienatio n, wit h what he calls "crit ical modernism" jsee below] - Ben oit Brecht and Jean-Luc Godard wou ld be the models here, not Morris Louis or Ant hony Caro.) As for Movie Audience it self, Wall

goes on to say that he trie d to make it

arr, its

it is inside the la bour of tryi ng to forget it").

is definitely in play, and second, that Wall is struc k by the fact

it kn ows

it t hrough

anticipate,

o wn transfo r mation into tyran nical decor. [In ot her words, its own conscri ption

an experie ntial regime of imme rsion and forgett ing.] T his is greatly facilitated by the

lighting techn ology used to make the

piece, wh ich itself induces a kind of pri mal spec-

to

even evo ke, its own

mom ent of trial and occl usion as modernist

ular fascinatio

n o r absorpt ion which is in some ways ant ithetical to the cond itions of

reflective and

artificia l est rangement indispensa ble to the un happy lucidity of critical

mode rni sm. [28 11

At the same time, the fact that Movie Audience has been hun g unusua lly high by Wall himself is on the side of est rangemen t rather than fascination - it is har d to lose oneself in an image conside rably above one's head.

12

why

photography

matters

as art as never before

Here it is wort h gla ncing at some remarks Objec t hood":

a bou t movies

that

appear in "Art

and

lt is the overco ming

it experie nces as the

why movies

in gene ra l, including whereas all but the

Because cine ma escapes theater - automa tically, as it were - ir provides a welcome and absorbing refuge ro sensibilitie s at war with theater and rhear ricaliry. Ar t he same rime, rhe auto matic , guaranteed chara cter of th e refuge - more accu rately, the fact that what is prov ided is a refuge from theater and nor a triumph ove r ir, absorption no r conviction - means rhat rhe cinema, even ar its most experimental , is nor a modern ist

arr. 10

frank ly appa lling ones, a re acce ptab le to mod ernis t sensibi lity

by irs very narure, escapes t heate r ent irely - rhe mov ies. This helps explain

of theater t hat modern ist sens ibilit y finds most exa lting an d that ha llma rk of high art in our time. There is, howeve r, one art rhar,

most succesf ul

paint ing, sculpt ur e, music and

poet ry is not.

Today I per haps want to qua lify rhe fina l co ncl usion, but my ba sic claim, char rhe absorp-

tion or engross ment of rhc movie audience sidesteps, auro marically avoids, the question of thea rricaliry, st ill seems to me - very broa dly-c or rect. It has much in co mmon, I t hink , with Wall's characre rizarion of t he movie aud ience as ar once "i nside a machi ne"

an

d as "experienci ng the phantasmagor ia of rhar inter ior," though his emphas is on the

au

dience's " labor" of forgett ing int roduces a note of complex it y ab sent from my cruder

form ulat ion. (l shou ld add rhat rhe adverb " autom atic ally" w as not mea nt by me to impl y that rhe avoidance of rhea t rica liry I associate wirh mov ies results simp ly from rhe

natur e of

a hosr of techni ques of acting , directing , scene-settin g, light ing, photogra phin g, sou nd

recordin g, editin g, and so on. T he whole q uesti on w ill ha ve to be taken futur e occasion.)

o n a

rhe appara t us - the camera and pr ojector - as distin ct from t he dep loyment of

up again

All rhis leads me to suggest rhat one way of understanding Sugimoto's Movie The-

in dif-

aters, Sherm an 's Untitled Film Stills, and Wall's Movie Audience is as responding

ferent ways ro rhe pr ob lematic stat us of mov ies in thi s regard by making pho tographs which, althoug h mobil izing one or anot her conve nt ion of movies (or the rhoug hr of

movies), also provide a certa in essenti a lly photographic distance from the filmic expe- rience, a distance by virt ue of w hich rhe automaticity of the avo idan ce of theat ricality

l have just evoke d is foresta lled or undone. By t his I mean t hat th e issue of theatrical- ity is allowed to come into focus, as a lmost neve r in narrative film as such, and even to

be eng aged with

come. (That had to wai t for Do uglas Gordon's brilliant Deja 1111[2000), nor discussed in this book. I sha ll have a littl e more ro say abour rhe relat ion of film to pho tograp hy

as theorized by Roland Barthes in Camera Lu cida in Chapter Fo ur.) In Sherman's Stills, as seen, this is acco mp lished in part through motifs of absorption, distract ion, look ing "offscreen," distance from rhe camera, and the like. In Wall's Movie Audience, it is done

from a

point of view that virtually

the pa rt of rhe viewe r

by dep ict ing members of an oste nsibly or rather no t ion ally immersed aud ience

as a problem - though not, I sugges t , unambiguously defeated or over-

ass ur es a cert ain crit ica l distance

on

but thar at rhe sa me t ime (accordi ng ro Wa ll) seeks at least somewhat to entra nce rhat viewer by means of rhe sheer allur e of the ba ck lit t ransparenc ies. Viewed in rhis context,

in imp licit dialog ue wit h the work of Sherman an d Wall, rhe blank radiance of Sugi-

rnoto's movie screens present s it self as an abst ract image of spectatorly fascinatio n {think

o f t he shiny objects trad itionally ernpl oyed by hypno t ists to fixate a subject 's att entio n), while the fac t t hat in all bu t rhe ear liest Movie Theaters the seats in rhe theate r are empty

- there is no audience to be seen - co mes to seem a brilliant figure for, very nearly a rep-

resent a tion of, the fascina ted or hypnotized {that is, ab sorbe d

ence's charac terist ic forge tt ing of itsel f and

to adopt Wall's ter min ology. {The absence

Ins has a co mp ara ble sign ificance .) Ar rhe sarne time, howeve r, the viewer of rhe Movie

Theaters and Drive-Ins has no sense of be longing ro t hat {at o nce presen t and absent)

movie audience: rather, he or she stan ds conscio usly apart frorn the images in question, and peru ses t heir con t ents in a detached or say disinte rest ed man ner, which in t urn

a llows the cornplex relati on to t he filmic ex perience I have tried ro descr ibe to become

available on rhe pla ne of critical or t heoret ica l reflection. That pla ne coexists with

anot her, shee rly sensu o us one, which conce rn s only the

of t he ph otographs . What

seco nd ent irely eclipse the

rather, here as elsewhere the case for his irnportance requ ires rhat we take into account

the relation of his work to t ha t of his co ntemporaries, a relario n t hat he himse lf pub lished st aremen t s seerns conte nt to leave un ack nowledged .

first, as of ten ha pp ens in co mrnentaries on Sugimoro's arr;

we as viewers oug ht nor ro ler the

und enia ble and uncanny beauty

or imrnersed) rnovie aud i- the cinematic "mach ine,"

photographs

of Drive-

irs positio n w ithin

of ca rs in Sugimoto's

I am sugges t ing is that

in his

M y seco nd beg inn ing cen ters on t he protracted rnomenr between 1978 and 1981 when

in Vancouver, Th omas Ruff in

three yo un g art ists in d ifferent parts

Diisseld o rf, and Jean -Ma rc Bustamante in P ro vence and nort hern Spain - mo re or less

that I am not the first to see as exernplify-

ing a new regime of "art" photography (from now on 1 sha ll drop t he quota tion rnarks),

one that the learn ed and acute French cr itic Jean-Fran~o is C hevrier has character ized as the "tableau form." 11 I shall cons ider Chevrier's ideas in greate r deta il at t he start of

C hap t er Six, whe re I sha ll also say more about Ruff's breakt hroug h works, his

deadpan,

are milieu . For prese nt purposes, however, t he t wo distinctive and closely related char-

acter istics of rhe new regirne are, first, a tende ncy t owa rd a considerably large r

image-size tha n had prev iously bee n thought appropriate to art photogra ph y; and seco nd, an expectatio n or, pu t more stro ngly, an intention that t he pho tograph s in ques- tion wou ld be frarned and hun g on a wa ll, to be looked a r like pa intings {hence Chevrier's

ter m "ta bleau" ) rather t ha n merel y exami ned up close - pe rhaps even held in the hand

"passport-style" co lor portrai ts of fellow stu dents and ot hers in his immed i-

sirnulr aneous ly started

of the wo rld - Wa ll

to make ph otographs

frontal,

- by one viewer ar a rime, as ha d hithe rt o been the ca se. Not that pr evious arr photo- graphs - wo rk s by Carneron, H ill and Adamson, Nadar, Le Gray, Baldus , Emerson,

Steic hen, Coburn, Stiegl itz, Strand, Westo n, Eva ns,

Kert esz, Brassa'i, Wo ls, Levitt, Ada ms, Frank , Calla han, Winogrand, Fr iedland er, Arb us,

Rodc henko, Sande r, Carrie r-Bresson,

Brandt, et al. - had no t lent rhernselves perfectly well to being matted, fra med, and

14

why

pho t ography

matters

as art as never before

exh ibited on the wa ll - obv iously t hey did. Yet

always seemed so methin g a littl e arb itra ry abou t such a mode of display, as if material

images tha t had not been made for the wa ll - which often app ear ed to have been mad e

private by

individual viewers - co uld not be certified as wor ks of arr unless they were so displayed ,

in gallery or mu seum environm ent s w hich furthe r ma gnified their "est hetic "

usually

cac her. T he new work, in con t rast, had its desti nation on the wa ll in view from the first on the level of "form," to use the ot her of Chevrie r 's key word s. It is imm ediately appa r- ent what t his mean s in the case of Jeff Wall' s early lighrbox pict ures such as The Destroyed Roo m (T978; Fig. 8) and Picture for Women ( 1979; Fig. 9) : not only are both

to be reproduced in books an d cata logues, w here they co uld be stud ied in

co mpar ed to the new work, the re had

works far larger than pr evious art phot ograp hs bad been (roug hly five feet high by seve n and a half feet wide) , they also co ntain a wea lth of minu te derail tha t is cru cial to t heir content but tha t wou ld effectively be lost if the images were sign ifican tl y reduced in size - which is what happe ns when the y are illust rat ed in books or catalog ues. So for example

t he ar t historian Ralp h

Ubl ha s based a readin g of the role of "co ntinge ncy" in The

D estroyed Room on th e place men t of a cluster of gleaming tac ks in th e wa ll near t he " w indow " at the right of the picture; 12 the racks a re all but indis cernible in rep rod uc-

tion but , like t he small pieces

of jewe lry on th e carpe ted floo r, at t ract one's gaze when

8 Jeff Wall, Th e Destroyed Room,

1978 . Tran spare ncy in lighr bo x.

,

50 x

234 c m

9 Jeff \Xlall, l'ic ture for

\Y/0111eu,1979. Transparency in ligbtbox. 150 x 234 cm

one

\Y/ome11but the issue of size is even more cruc ial: eve rything depen ds on the viewer's

abili ty to respo nd not just intellectually but p unctua lly, in the mo ment of viewing, ro t he int ernal complexi ties of the life-size image as a who le, in part icular ro its carefu lly

sta nds before the actual tran sparency. Derai l as such matters less in l'icture for

eng ineered that o f the

struct ure of reflected gazes photogra p her, Wall, operat

wo man "mo d el" ro t he

- ing t he sh utter attac hment ro the right ; and

th at of t he young

left;

chat

of t he camera on its tri pod at the exac t cent er of the picture. (As near as one can

tell:

the mirror in which everyt h ing is reflected is identified with the picture plane; t he actual,

not

no t the reflected p hotog rap her gazes at a reflection of the young woma n . The actua l

camera a lone rakes in the enti re m irrored scene.) Fu rthe rmo re, bo th The Destroyed

Room and Picture for \Y/ome11all ude ro major pa intings in

-

the reflected you ng wo man gazes at a reflect ion o f the camera lens, whi le the actu al,

the mode rn French trad ition

the forme r ro Delac ro ix's Destructio11of Sarda11apa/11s,the latter

to Manet's

Bar at

the Folies-Bergere - the reby underscoring both works' specifically pictor ial ambitions as well as their adherence ro an essent ially rableau- like mode o f presentation. 13 (More on

Two and T hree. ) As for Ruff's ear ly co lor

head-s hots of students an d others (Figs. ro an d , 1 ), they arc espec ially int erest ing in

this con nection beca use they d id nor begin large (t hat is, a ll those made between 1981 and 1986 were 24 x 18 centimeters); only from 1986 d id he dramatically increase their

dimensions (ma ny to 210

box p ictures and per haps the work of ot hers as

tan t sense-on which I shal l expand in Chapte r Six - in which on the level of "form" they were fro m the first imagined for the wall, by wh ich I mean that by virtue of their

fronrali ty (with

and psych ic blankness - also of their colored backgrounds - they implied a part icular mode of relat ion to the viewer, one of mu tual facing, indeed con frontation , tha t some how exceeded, in effect subtly negated, the conventions of the tradi tiona l fronta l

Wall's use of pictorial

"sources"

in Chapters

x I65 centi meters), no

do ubr part ly in response to Wall's light- well. 14 Never theless, there is an impor -

some profi le views a nd obl ique angles thrown in), repet it ive srructure,

10 T homas Ruff, Portrait/8. }ii11ger/,1981. Chromoge nic

processprint. 24 x 18 cm

TT

Thomas

Ruff, Portrait /K. K11e((el},1984. Chromo-

gcnic process print. 2.4 x 18 cm

photograph ic portra it . T heir subsequent increase in sca le therefore seems right, as if only then did rhey assume rhe dimensions and sheer "visual presence" (Valeria Liebermann's phrase) prope r ro rheir idea. 15 Indeed ir was rhen rhat rhe portra its became rigorously frontal and cons istentl y dea dpan . In contrast, Sugimoto's Dioramas or Movie Theaters lose intensity when rhey are printed ar a larger scale, as is sometimes done. (Ler me be clea r: I consider bo rh the Dioramas and Movie Theaters to be early instances of the new art photograp h y, wirhour t heir adhering to the tab leau form as suc h. Sherman's U11ti tled Film Stills' srarus w irh respect ro t he new art photography featured in this book is

a trickier

her work after rhe "centerfolds"

matter, in part because of he r own subsequent development; I find almost all

I198 1i to be of relative ly little artistic interest.)

I wanr to say somet hing abour Busrama nte's ea rly Tableaux (the des-

ignation is his), a series of large color photographs that he made in the outskirts of Barcelona and in various places in Provence between 1978 and 1982 . (Bustamante, born in 1952 in Tou louse to a n Argentine father and a British mother, had worked in Paris as an assistant to the American stree t photogra pher William Klein, a leading figure in

the previous generation.) According to Jean-P ier re Criqui, organizer in 1999 of a ret- rospective exhib ition of Busrama nte's arr, the photogra pher rook the Tableaux wirh a cum bersome 8 x 10-inc h box camera, "whic h, need less to say, ha d to be fixed to a tripod for the me rest shot ." 16 T his was far from standard working procedure for a young photographer at rhar time, but even less so was Bustama nre's decision to print his photographs at the maxim um size then possible . Cr iqui beg ins his introduc tory essay

with a brief discussion

M ain ly, rhough,

of an exemplary

wor k, Tableau no. r7 ( 1979; Fig. 1 2), which

shows, in its foreground, an expanse of trodden earth littered with pebbles and criss- crossed by tire marks . A narrow, dusty road comes to an enclhere, hemmed wit h rrees, scrub and some building mater ials - breeze-b locks, stones - waiting for who knows whar. On either side of the strip of earth, two paltry signs announce "Avda de Catalunya ." In rhe distance, hills beneath a lowering sky. In contrast with the any-

t hing bu r grandiose

characte r of t his scene, the exac tness of t he visua l dara offered

by this photograph is notewort hy. This kind of "sharpness" makes the eye waver between afocality and the identificat ion of discrete points, and the roing and froing

between these two facto rs presupposes a

ass umption of aware ness . Simply because of the absence of any spectacle and evenr,

duration that greatly exceeds any mere

you have to look for a long time here. T his is how I understand desc ribing t he Tableaux as "ki nds of slow snaps hots ." [163l

Busramanre's words

A lirtle furt her on, Criq ui rema rks that in the catalogue for a previo us exhi bitio n Tableau

makes an

arresting

110.

17 is immediately

contrast

followed

by Tabl eau no. 43

(198 1; Fig. 13 ), which

wit h its predecessor:

[rhe

second of these!, organized around this metal enclosure thar splits the image in rwo (in from, a lick of pa le gravel, like part of a bullring; behind, moved far back beyond this wa ll whic h only lers part of their bodies show, a woman or girl with two chil- dren, and a greyish mass of unsightly buildings), forms wirh what goes befo re a sort of diptych in which the entire repertory of motifs explored by the whole series is

T his is a contrast that is sw iftly perceived ra ther in rerms of comp lementarity, for

18 why photography

matters

as art as never before

12

Jean-Marc

Busta1i1ante, Tableau 110. 17, 1979.

Type C and Cibachrome.

ro3

x

130

cm

summed up. Areas o f wastela n d, per ipheral zones, cons t ructions unfinished o r in the

roads

every-

process of being built (or unfinished),

where the signs of man, who nevertheless remains aloo f, withdrawn, an d o nly rarely

appea rs, blen d ing in with a set tha t he is forever redesign ing. A faint sen se

wafts

Cri qui 's observatio n s seem ro me exactly right, as does his recognition

eng ulfed and

faded,

dead-ends:

of disaster

u p from this paradoxica l comb ination

o f invasion and aba ndonmen t. I163 I

that t he "thank-

less" nature of Bustaman te's motifs is such that the viewer is not invited ro engage with

ev ident ), as well

as his further claim t hat the Tableaux therefore large ly leave it to the viewer to dec ide what ro make of them - witho u t mor e t han a minimum of guidance by the works rhem-

selves, so to speak. (The t hanklessness of t he motif s is compounded b y what Tar o Amano remarks was Bustamant e's tendency "to take his pho tographs at noon when he wi ll get

them imagina t ively (the parallel with Ruff's pass po rt-style port raits is

13

Jean-Marc Bustamante,

Tableau 110.43, 1981 . Type C and

Cibachromc. 103 x 130c m

no shadows, so t hat no specific portion will stand out, n or o ne sub ject - be it a t ree or

a perso n ." 17 ) Interestingly,

being "w itho ut q ualit ies," a reference to Robert Musi l's mo n umenta l unfin ished novel, The Mau without Qualities (1924-42), 18 a text rh at turns our to have su rp rising reso-

n ance for several of the photogra phers discussed in this book . As Criq u i goes on to say:

"Bus tamante o ften a lludes to the t ype of re lationshi p he wo uld like to see introd uced

b y his wo rk - a no n -direct ive relatio n ship,

based o n a form o f fruitful indeterm inacy

that he calls 'in between' ('eutre-deux '), and which purs the onlooke r in t he positio n of

becoming 'e qually respo nsible for t he

exp lai ns, "t he evenr !more broadly, the mot if! is place d at suc h a dista nce, and con-

tained, t hat these imag es move beyon d th e context

grap hic sett ing an d so on, an d engage the viewer in a one -to-o ne relat ionsh ip so lely

th

his or her resp onsibili ty in what he or she is looking at. " 19

and "My aim is to make rhe viewe r becom e aware of

Bustamante

himself describes th e places

in his Tableaux as

work '"

(r64 - 5 ).

In

his

images,

Bustamante

in wh ich the y were made, t he geo-

rough

t he ir phys ical prese nce"

A

crit ical factor in achieving th e p hys ical p resence Busra manre sought is of cou rse

size:

the

ea-rly Tableaux a re all 103 x r30 centi m etres, that is, more rhan th ree feet high

20 why photography

matters

as art as never before

by four feet wide, unus ually large for tha t moment, and his later ph otograp hs of

cypresses, also called Tableaux, a re even larg er (more on th ose sho rt ly). Another factor,

I suggest, is colo r, specifica lly the harshness of the early Tableaux's juxtapositio n s of

redd ish ea rt h with green foliage, often in fur t her cont ra st to whi te stu cco unfini shed houses, orange-red ceramic rile roofs, ligh ter colored san dy soi l, a nd fresh ly cast greyish wh ite concre te fou nda tio ns. A third is the sheer density of visua l information contai ned

the wo rk rend s to d is-

tance, in that sense ro "ex clud e," him o r her by virtue of its rnure , unin flecred, un mc-

rabo lizable

co realit y is sec

to work

their silent recessive ness,

beholder is exclude d co rhe extent rhar Bu sra mante's icon ic strategy co nsists in present -

ing t hings in all their physica lity, as materia l realities, bur , because the gaze is n or allowed

to penetra te t he scene, deprived of all (imag inary) bod ily inte ra ctio n wit h them. Th is

exclusio n of rhe beholder

singularit y."'" (There will be more co say abo ur "excl u sio n " as an artistic st rategy apropos of photographs by T ho mas Dema n d, Candida Hofer, Sugimoro, a nd T ho mas Stru th in Chapter Ni ne. ) A useful contrast might be with any of rhe slightl y older Stephe n

locales, almost all take n

is one cond ition o f t he appearance of th ings in their intact

along

in eac h pri nt , a factor th at far from drawing

the viewer "i nto"

with

chereness . As Ulrich Loock,

Cri qui o ne of Busramante's

most

astute co mm entato rs, observes, "The

in such a manne

init ial reference o f the photograph

r char the !d epicte d ] th ings can wit hout consideratio n for their

and must be contemp lated in

'mean ing' [signification I. T he

Sho re 's su perb color photographs

of a wide ran ge of American

with an

8 x TO-in ch view ca mera between

, 973 and

, 98 1 and in itially

pu blished in t he

volume

U11co111111011Places in r982 a nd more recent ly in an expanded selectio n (Figs.

14 and , 5)." Altho ugh Shore's photographs, too, are su ffused wirh visual info rmatio n,

14 Srcphcn Shore, Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Ave11ue,

Los A11geles.Califomia,J1111ezr, 1975, 1975. Ch romoge nic

process print. 50.5

x

6 1 cm

1 5

Srephcn Shore,

Holde11Street. North

Adams, Mass-

achusetts, July 13, 1974, 1974. Chromogcnic process prim.

50 .5 x

61 cm

his choice

Becher ca lled

rhe point of the compa rison - in depth 21 combi ne to produce the opposite of the refusa l of imag inary penetra t ion of the scene Loock associates wit h the Tableaux. "\Xlith Shore,"

Hilla Becher remarked in a conversa t ion with her husband Bernd and Heinz Liesbrock ,

"every th ing is rendered very affectio nately, it is genuinely gras ped. For me,

have so mething the object, t hat

it" (27). To w hich Liesbrock added, "As a n author, as a perso n, he becomes absorbed into what he is showing" (28). 14 It is worth no t ing t hat the o riginal pri nt s of the U11- com111011Places images were modes t in size; more broad ly, Shore's photograp hic vision

in that series belongs ro a historical mo ment im mediate ly pri o r to t he emergence of the "tableau for m," above all in that Shore's photograp hs were not made for the wa ll, a fact that does not prevent H illa Becher from pra ising them for their "pictorial qua lit y" (27). Fina lly, Bustamante affixed his prints to a flat plate of alumi n um and then framed them wit hout surro undin g mats of any kind. 1 ; To quote Bustamant e once more: "I

wa nted not to mak e pho t ographs that would

and whit e. I wan ted ro

graphy. I refuse d the small for mat and t he craft aspect of black

be art , but art t hat wo uld be phoro -

of

motifs,

refined

handling

of co lor, canny

use of "side

lighting,"

as H illa more ro

it,u and met iculous composing

of his images bo rh latera lly and-

his pho t os ent ers into

chat I see as being an idea l in phorogra phy: that one ac tu ally

one loo ks at in such a way t ha t afterward one has a genu ine love for

move int o color, in a form at for the wall, in order to give to t he photograp h rhe dimen- sions of a tablea u, tu trans fo rm it into an ob ject. " 16

On the one ha nd, the not ion of a tableau work to t he nor ms of pai nt ing. As Criqu i

writes: '' Th e powe r of such works as t hese" - N o. 9 ( 1978), No. 68 (1982 )- " resides to a cons iderable degree in t he way they minimize [t he interest o f J the ir referents in

orde r to att ract our eye in an ex perience whic h can be calle d picto rial" ( 165). On the

other, Busta mant e's emphasis

an objec t and indee d aspects of rhe object-charac ter of h is images beco me only more

palpable as his caree r proceeds. So for example his next series of Tnblenux ( 199 1), com- pr ising t wem y-rwo large photogra ph s of a cont inu ous curt ain of cypresses situated just above and beyond a low scone wall (the latter inrcn n irten rly stepped upward from left

the

by rhe deep

equally on t he notion of

asserts t hat Bustamante wished to or ient his

There

is ambigui t y in this last sentence.

in t he remarks

just quoted falls

to righ t ), gives rhe pictoria lly inclined eye even fewer pa rt iculars ro dwell earl ier works : virtuall y the ent ire sur face area of each image is taken up

on t han

green, close ly planted cypresses, and t he viewe r has to loo k hard ro ascertain that the

fact subtly different from one anot her

- witho ur chose differences having the least meaning in themselves (Figs. r6 and 17) . 27

The basic relation of

anothe r " st ructure of

m inimalism (t he phrase is Dona ld Judd 's, cited by me in "Arr and

Objecrhood " [r50J) 28 while the cypress curtain

dep t h in a manner

prece ded rhe a dvent of minima lism, notably Frank Stella's st ripe paint ings (Bustamante

the cyp ress

has referred to the cypress photographs as " prac t ically monoc hro me" 29 ) . In

ser ies, in sho rt , the distancing and "excl usion " of

var ious photog raphs, structurally similar, are in

one pictu re ro rhe nexr thus comes close to rhe "one t hing afrer

t hat harks

itself nearly eliminates

all sense of visual

bac k ro t he non-illus ionistic painting t hat imm ediately

the viewer reac h an apogee in his early

16

Cibachrome. 1 50 x 120 cm

Jean-Marc

Bustamante,

Tableau

110.

103,

1991.

17

Jean-Marc

Bustamante,

Tableau

Cibachrome. 1 50 x 1 2.0 cm

wo u ld fully iden-

tify th em Similarl y,

woul d " engage t he viewer in a o ne-to-o ne rela-

tionship solely thro ugh rheir physica l p resence," wh ile comi ng close to minimalism's

insistence that th e view er's experience is the wo rk (mo re

erth eless stops well s ho rt of that ence" a ppea rs to have mor e in

Ne wma n, a nd Stella tha n wit h minim a lism

it is fair to say that min ima lism has remai ned

a bas ic po le in his t hinkin g bur thar his wo rk in a vari ety of med ia has consistentl y

refused

the minimalist op tio n in order to pursue a rang e of bro ad ly p hotog ra phi c aims. 31

itself." Wit ho ut so much as g la ncing here

at Busta manr e's sub sequ ent career, I thi nk

or, as he also says, to ma ke p icture s that

wor k, without how ever the ph o tograp hs raking the fur ther step th at

wit h min imali st o bject hood , w hat ever tha t wou ld mean

in

this cont ext.Jo for the wo rk "

Busrama nre's d esire to mak e the viewer "e qua lly responsi b le

on t his in Ch ap ter N ine), nev-

insistence; simply put , his notion of " physica l pres- common w ith painti ngs b y C lyffo rd St ill, Barnett

110.

104,

1991 .

II

am especiall y

glad to

in sist

on Bustama nre's impo rtan ce beca use, of a ll t he

photo-

grap hers t reat ed

in this boo k,

I am least a ble to d o him justice, for the simple

reaso n

that I have seen on ly a limited sampl e of his oeuvre. N evert heless, I rega rd his Tableaux

as o ne of t he most ori g inal and imp ressive p hoto graphi c ach ievement s in rece nt

deca d es.)

Othe r pho tograp he rs too 111ighthave bee n cited in connectio n with th e e111erge nce of th e n ew ap proach . 33 Ho wever, the exa111plesof Wall, Ruff, and Busta111ant e show beyo nd all question that the pe rt inent develop111entsca111eab out as if of the ir own acco rd , rath er than as t he ou tco 111e o f a shared background, com m on educa tion, or un iform set o f art istic influences. Of course, all thr ee ph otograp he rs were awa re of certain maj or devel- op111ents in the a rt world during the p revious ten or fifteen years, includ ing t he rise of mini111alis111,conceptua lis111, and a ffiliated 111oveme nt s. Throughout thi s book 111inimal- ism in partic ular will be a constant term of reference for my observatio ns.

24

My thi rd beginni ng wi ll mos tly be a consideratio n of t hree exemp lary tex ts: an anony-

mo u s Fren ch conte

morte d'amour, wh ich a ppeared in the m ont hl y journal Mercure de France in Janua ry

pu blished in r970 {the English

tr ans latio n came out fo ur yea rs later); a n d Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others,

published in 2003, a seque l of sorts to her On Photography of 1977. This seems {and

or tale of just over two tho u sand words, Adelaide, ou la femme

175 5; Yu kio Mish im a's The Temple of Dawn, orig ina lly

is) an odd selec tion , bur bas ic to m y a rgument in

it has t he virtue of engag ing wi t h a set o f issues th at will be the ch ap ters t hat fo llow.

I first ca111eacross Adelaide, ou la femme morte d'amour (th e wo 111an who died from

love) in the 1970s, in t he course of pursu

Theatricality. In fact Tt houg ht abo ut

int roduce a level of com p licatio n that rea d ers might find confusing. So I dec ided to set it as ide un t il so111efuture date, which h as now arrived, when it wo u ld mak e strategic

sen se to bring it into play.

"and

suc h changes in our m oeurs, that conjugal love , w hich then was respected, has

become ridicu lo u s; it eve n passes for a chi111era, n o on e believes in it a n y more. Howev er,

th e story

ter of truthfu lness so striking and so na"ive that it must persuade th e 111ost incredulous

intelligenc e, as surp r isin g as it is. T he reader

o f a 111anof qualit y and

ret ired to t he counr ryside to raise her famil y, decides co take a b eaurifu l a nd virtuous orphan, Adela "id e, into her house hold as a co m panion for her sixtee n -year -old daugh-

te r. Also

la"ide, going so

in the ir fo rt unes makes any futur e for the m inco nceivable a nd does her best ro avoid

o ne day teases

hi 111.Nevert heless , the ir feeli n gs cannot be concea led,

love to Ade- the dispari ty

in g the

library

research

for Absorption

and

u sing

it in that book, bu t quickly saw that it would

"Th is adve n ture cook place in 1678," the first senten ce reads,

will perha ps app ear incredible in 1755 . Seventy-seven years have brough t about

today

of Ade la.ide is accom p ani ed by such natural

circu111sta nces, it bea rs a charac-

wi ll jud ge: here it

is." 14

plot is si111ple: t he wea lth y Marq ui se de Fe rval, widow

in the

fami ly is

far as

co

a so n ; the inevitable sp eak of marriage;

happe ns and h e d eclares his

she, h owever, recognizes

th at

and th e Marquise

The

her so n abo ut them. He is about to tell her the rrut h when sh e, realizing what is hap- pening, preve nt s hi111fro111saying any th ing mo re b y abso lute ly refusi ng to consider Ade-

la"ide in th at light. Sh e goes further:

s he gives him ju st o n e day

ing Adela"ide to re111aintru e to h im .

France is a t war, th e Marq ui s is a musketeer,

and

to

leave for the ca 111pa ign . He goes, bu t not b efore i111plor-

why

photog raphy matters

as art as never before

D uring his ab sence a neighb or falls in love wit h Adela"ide and decla res his intentio ns to the Marquise, who welcomes t he opp o rt un ity to pu t her son out of dan ger. The youn g Ferval learn s of rhe plan, returns by post, and throws himself at his mother's feer. She refuses his pleas, bur t he trouble at home reaches the ear of the neighbor, who breaks off the marriage arrangeme nts. This infu r iates the Ma rquise, who expels Adela"ide from her house , in effect d isgrac ing her. Th e Ma rquis mar ries Adela"ide and is at once disin- herited; a boy is bo rn an d broug ht to the Ma rquise but she remains inexora ble, and ro make matte rs even more tragic the infant dies. The lovers live three or four yea rs vir- tually abando ned by the world, bare ly making do, until it becomes necessary for them to separate. Adela 'ide enters a co nvent and the Mar quis goes to Paris to join an austere religious order .

Some of the wo men in her co nvent

learn her

history and ca bal aga inst her so cleve rly t hat she is oblig ed to leave. One of

the older religieitses, touched by her state, gives her lett ers of reco mmendat ion to t he religieuse's fathe r in Pari s, a high official who undertakes to seek anothe r retr eat where

Adelai'de can spend the remainder of her life. Ho wever, w hile she is wait ing for such a retre at to be found, she sends a message t o the M arqu is annou ncing her arr ival, and asking to speak to him. "The new disgrace that had co me t o Adela"ide is painfu l for him. He conti nues to love her, he fears t he interview rhat she wishes, and asks her to spare him an enco unte r [une vue ] which can be only har mfu l to the repose of each of t hem . Adela'ide, altho ugh dera che d from t he wor ld, is no t detached eno ugh from a hu sband

whom she so loved; his refusa l only increases her desire t o see him" (57). Th ere follows

the paragrap h that tale to a close):

Yet forrune

was not done persecuting

Adela 'ide.

l rak e to be the raison d'etre of t he rale (and one more, bringing

the

She goes t o the Monas

the Marquis her husba nd, occupied in a pio us exerc ise with all his Communi t y. His penitential ha bit tou ches her; she shows herself, he sees her, he lowers his eyes, and no matt er what effort she mak es to at t ract his gaze, he doesn' t so muc h as glance at her. Althou gh she unders tand s the motive behind the vio lence of his act , she finds in

falls unco n-

it so mething so crue l, tha t she is seized wit h the most ext reme pain . She

tery, enters t he Church, and the first object that st rikes her is

scious; someo ne suppo rt s her, she recovers only to ask for her dear Ferval. Someone runs to tell him t hat his wife is dy ing. H is Sup erior orders him to go an d co nsole her;

and she d ies from the force of her seizure, before he reaches her. 35 [57-8 J

his

up for his passion,

alt hough legit imate, having had in it som ething too vio lent"

contes

moraux that att racted an enrhu siastic readership amo ng the edu cated classes in France

in the 17 50s and 1760s (Marmontel's "novel" Be/isaire f1767J, barely readable today, is the classic of t he genre) . Considered as ficti on, suc h tales are o f scanr interes t ; nothing

contes D iderot

could be more differe nt from Adelaide,

was soon to wri te - Deux amis de Barbonne, Mme Carlier, Ceci n 'est pas u11 conte . The

The Marquis wee ps, t hen falls into a profou nd reverie. Finally he return

monaste ry, where by the practic e of auste r ities " he tries to make

s

to

(58) .

O n the face of it, Adelaide is an undistinguished

specimen of the sentimenral

for examp le, than th e brilliant

co11tesmoraux' s interes t , I suggest, resides elsewhere: in their pictoria lism, whi ch is ro say in their tendency to evoke literary "p ictur es" which themselves are mosr intere st- ingly seen in the con text of the pictor ial issues of the rime. ' 6 In th e case of Adelaide, rhe

" pictur es" in qu estio n are those "pa inted " from Adela'ide's po int of view in rhe climact ic paragraph just quo ted . I am inte rested mainly in the first and seco nd " pict ures" - the Marqui s in mo nk's raime nt absorbed (th e French is occupe) in a religious exerc ise along

nit y; an d the n, afte r Adela.ide ha s shown herse lf to him (we are nor

rold how), t he "pic tur e" of him refusing to look up despi te her efforts ro attract his

the secon d " pict ur e," and my thought is rhar

although rhe tale do es nor spell rhis our, we are invited to ima gine the Ma rq uis seem- ingly absorbed once more in his "pi ou s exercis e" along with ot her members of his com- munity , with trag ic conseque nces that need no retelling. Moreove r, alt houg h the ta le as

much as states that Adela"ide dies beca use of her hu sband's (if no t just ified, ar least und er- sta ndab le) "c ru elty" toward her, we are, I want ro sugges t , furt her invited to int uit rhar

- from what

point of view - the cause of her co llapse an d deat h is a pa rt icular cr isis of representa- tion conce rni ng the rwo " pict ures" just glance d at. H ere some back gro un d is needed. The backg round T have in mind is the central argu ment of my ea rlier books on eighteenth- and nineteent h-century Frenc h pai nt ing. Briefly, starrin g in the mid-r 75os in France a new con ceptio n of painti ng came to the fore tha t requ ired that the perso nages dep icted in a canvas appea r genuinely absorbed in w hatever they were doing, thinking,

and feeling, which also meant that t hey ha d to appear who lly unaware of everything

other than the object s of t heir absorption , inclu ding - this was the crnc ia l point - t he beholder standi ng before t he paintin g. Any failur e of absorpt ion - any suggestio n tha t

a paint ed personage wa s act ing for an audie nce - was

co nsidered thea t rical in the pejo-

rati ve sense of the term and was regarded as an egreg ious fault . By th e same to ken, rhe

arrenrio n. Th e qu estion is how to visua lize

wit h all his commu

might

be ca lled a srruc rural or the ore tica l rathe r than a stric tly narrative

de

mand that paint ing defeat t heatricali t y - that it establish what l have called the

su

preme fict ion or ontologi ca l illusion rhar the behol der did not exist, t hat there was no

one standi ng before t he canvas

for rhe sim ple reaso n that paint ings, more intensively a nd as it were primord ially tha n any oth er class o f art ifacts, are mad e to be behe ld. What this was to mean historically

is t hat, t hrough out the century t hat followed, one or another "so lution " to the new requirements cam e so one r or late r to revea l its inadequacy, as the un derlying tru t h about

pa inting - that it had the behol der in view from the first - could

(For an accou nt of some of those develop ments see my Courbet's Realism and Manet's M odernism, or, Th e Face of Painting i11the 1860s .) As regard s pai ntin g alone, the new conc eption was at least potentia lly in place in Chardin's genre pa int ings of the 1730s .

no longer be denied .

- placed the art of pain ti ng

under tremendous pressure

H owever, it was nor un til Didero t 's wri tin gs on dra ma and pain t ing of t he late 1750s

and '6os th at the double st ress on a bso rpt ion and antitheatricaliry received its full art ic- ula t ion , alo ng with a new theo rizatio n of the tableau (itali cized ro mark its use as a period conc ept ) as rhe instru ment of bot h, that is, a deliberate cons tru ct ion dir ected

towa rd the beholder w ithin which the individual personages appear ed not just abso rbed in what eac h was doing bur also collectively absor bed in t he overa ll dramat ic act ion

26 why pho tography

matters

as art as never before

represented by the co nstru ction as a whole. (Obv iously the Diderotian tabl eau ha s a dif-

both imply some thin g stro nger,

more claim ing of autonomy, than t he English "pic tur e"; I sha ll say more about Chevr ier's notion of rhe "tab leau form" in Chapt er Six.) ln a certa in sense, we as readers are ent itled to think of the enti re paragraph quoted ea rlier as a success ion of tableaux in Did erot 's sense of the term , desp ite the fact that

the notio n is first developed in his Conversations on the Natural Son and Discourse on

ferent valence from Busramante's use of the term , thoug h

Dramatic Poetry

of T757 and '5 8 respectively (rhar is,

a

few years afte r the pu blicatio n

of Adelaide). By

this I mean that

everythin g t he reade r is given to

visual ize, includin

g

Adela.ide's act ions, co llapse, and death (with

on e or more persons

bending over her?)

and the gr ief-stricken Marq uis's falling int o a profound rever ie, is inten sely absorptive, just as the settin g itself, a mon ast ic chur ch interio r, perfectly ex presses th e theme of sep- arat ion from the wo rld of rhe rea der/beho lder. Yet if we co nsider only t he two tableaux seen by Adela"ide, something else co mes into focus: the intim ation - I wo uld like to say

ret icen t

text - rhar from Adela"ide's poi nt of view no difference can be discerned between the outward behavior of the Ma rquis whe n he is trul y a bsorbed in his religious observ ances and when, after Adela.ide ha s shown herself to him, he has return ed with lowered eyes to those obse rvances bur is now acutely aware th at his wife has her eyes fixed on him . The abse nce of visible differe nce is what I meant by a crisis of repr esentat ion - thou gh

rhe "fact," but of course I

am extrapolating

rather

freely from a t heoretically

furthe r explanat ion is again called for. I say thi s because from the perspective of Diderot's writ ings on drama , what l have ca lled a crisis is bound to seem illusory : what matter s in his accou nt is not rhat the actor s in a play actua lly be unaware of the presence of the

audience - he later arg ued in the

Paradox on the Actor that acto rs should not be so

deeply

identifie d wit h th

eir ro les

as to lose t hemse lves in the m - but rather t hat t hey

deploy

all the co nscious sk ills

at their co mm and in order to creat e successfu lly th e dra-

mati c stage tableaux that w ill secure the overa rching illusion that th e aud ience has nor

been taken into account. Howeve r, is tha t as early as 1755 - significan

tly, t he year wh en Jean-Bap t iste Gre uze's Father of

the family Readi11gthe Bible was shown at the Salon, ma rking the official deb ut of the leading French pain ter of his genera t ion an d a key figur e in t he first stages o f the a ntithe-

atrica l dialectic the n getting un der way - t here was ab road at least a hint of bad co n- science or more prec isely ontologica l uneasin ess abou t the "fa lseness" that t he very

stru cture of the tableau could be felt to imply, a "falseness" that it was beyond the power of either paint ing or dra ma to themarize, but that fiction - a part icular genre of fictio n,

t he pictorial isr conte m oral - could give expression to in

t imental or (the ano nymo us aurhor's term ) "na"ive" way. Adela.ide dies , in this reading, because the absence of outwa rd difference mentioned above is int o lera ble ro her. This is of course to attach a grear deal of significa nce ro an exceedingly slight literary work, bur before leaving Adelaide I wa nt ro go one step furt her and propose that the issue of " trut hfulness" versus "fa lseness" in t his conn ection alrea dy looks beyond stage drama ,

with respect to w hich it is essent ially a matter of techn ique, and beyond painti ng, with respect to whic h it makes no sense to ask wha t a personage in a ca nvas is "act ually"

what

my readin g of t he clim ax of Adelaid e suggests

its own characteristically sen-

or "truly" doin g, th in king, or feeling, tow a rd the mechanical reprodu ctio n of reality in ph orography, with respect to w hich such que st ions are in escapab le. (Or with respect to which such q uestions have been inescapable; 1 am thinkin g of th e adve nt of digitization,

an d theor y ha ve yet to become

fu

Th e second text 1 want ro cons ider, Mishima's The Temple of Dawn , belongs to the

a uth o r 's late tetra logy, Th e Sea

By the latter date Mis h ima was dead, ha ving led t he abo rt ive "u pr ising" that ende d as

plan ned wit h his commi tt ing seppu ku

Nove m ber 1 9 70. l want ro focus on severa l passages, all of which co ncern the not ion of voyeurism, wh ich l sh all go o n ro sugges t ma y a lso be though t of as an essentiall y photographic trop e. First, thoug h, I shoul d note th at rhe Diderorian ideal of the "fo r-

the co nseq u ences of

wh ich for pho rogr ap hic practice

lly clear. 37 )

of Fertility, p ubli shed in J ap an between r968 and '7 1.

im mediately upo n comple t ing th e fin a l volume in

go tten ," in tha t sen se functiona lly abse nt , beho lder has somet imes been

of voye urism, but that has a lways seemed to me wrong. A voyeur of a scene is by defi-

o f dark ness, he o r she sp ies on

the scene, which typica lly is ero t ic in natu re, as in a c ruc ial ep isode in Mishima's earl ier

novel, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. 38 It is of course nor impossi ble for

rhe a rr of paint ing ro co n vey rhe impr ession rhar a depicted scene has been represented from the point of view of a voyeu r, bur ro do so requires particular means (there are

a key ho le or from

nitio n p resent bu t hidden: fro m a place of secur ity, o ften

glossed in terms

sma ll Fragonards of eroti c su bjects rha r seem as if witn essed th roug h

inside a s ligh tly ope n closer), an d is nor at all wh at Did erot had in m ind in his writings

o n dr ama a nd pai nt ing. Nor

the evol ut ion of eightee n th-

be less voyeur is tic , for example, than t he viewe r's implied relation ro David's Oath of

Co urb et's Burial at Ornans , or indeed

M anet's Olympia (a rguab ly rhe least voyeu rist ic n ude eve r painted). In Mis hima's nove l,

rhen, t he fifty-seven -yea r-old protagonist, Sh igek uni Ho n da, has placed a peep hole in

spy on a gu est in h is hous e, the beau-

t ifu l Thai princess Ying Chan, as she di sro bes in her bedro om . Honda , we read, "had

n ever crave d for any momen t so

[He ] was go ing to see Ying Cha n in

a sta te that as yet had been see n

thi ng else in the wo rld . By his act of watc h ing, rh is unseen

destroyed . Being seen by a bso lutely no on e an d being u nawa re o f being seen were similar, yet bas ica lly d ifferent." 39 (Th e flow of sentences, especially the transi t ion between "This

, " sho uld bring us up short:

" By h is ac t o f watchi ng

wa

th ere seems ro be an importa nt " But" or " However" tha t t he novelist has deliberate ly

inmos t impul ses.)

om itt ed, perhaps by way of suggest ing rh e destru ctiveness of H on d a's

for rha t matte r d o voyeu rist ic points of view play a role in a nd n ineteent h -centur y pa inting in France ; not hing co uld

the Horatii, Ger icau lr's Raft of the Medusa,

th e back of a bookcase through which he plans

much as th

to

by no o n e. This was what he wanted more th an any-

con dit ion was already

s what he wante d

." and

La ter in the novel we are ro ld: " It was certain t hat the Ying Chan one saw was not

28

de pend ed

o n the unknown; an d naturally per cep t ion was related to the known. If he d rove his

inc reasing the area of rhat way, because his

love st rove ro keep Ying Chan as far aw ay as poss ib le from rhe ralons of his percep-

tio n " (276). Thi s leads ro the followin g:

a ll t here was . For Hon da, longing for the Ying Chan he cou ld not see, love

percept ions on and wit h the m plunde red th e unk n own, t hereby t he known, coul d his love be achieved? N o , it wo uld not work

why

photography

matters

as art as never before

Therefore his desire to see Ying C han in the nud e, a Ying C han un known to a nyone, became an unatt ainable desire divided con tradicto rily into perceptio n and love. Seeing alrea dy lay within the sphere of pe rcept ion , and even if Ying C han was no r aware of

ir, from t he moment he had peepe d th rou gh t he luminou s hole in the back of t he bookcase, she had become an inh abitant of a wo rld crea ted by her fsic: the sense of the sentence dictates t he pronoun " his" .I percep t ion. In her wo rld, contam inate d by his t he moment he laid eyes on it, w hat he rea lly wanted to see wo uld neve r appear. H is love could not be fulfilled . And yet, if he did not see, love wo uld forever be pre- fHonda's perception it self therefore] became a screen and was defect ive, an infinitesimal obsr rn crion. Then how would ir be if he go r rid of rhe obst ruct ion

and cha nged rhe situ at ion? wh ich he shared wit h Ying

It now beca me clear that Honda's ulrima re desire, what he really, real ly wanted to see co uld exist on ly in a world where he did not. In order to see what he tru ly wishe d to, he must die. Whe n a voyeur recognizes that he can rea lize his ends only by elim-

inating rhe bas ic acr of wa tch ing, this means his dea t h as suc h. [276 - 7]

One way of cha racterizi ng Honda's pr edicam ent

That wo uld mean t he removal of H onda from the wo rld

C han, in ot her words,

his own deat h.

is as a radicaliz ing or meraphys ical-

izing of voyeurism, if nor of ant ithearrica liry as such; the cruc ial stat eme nt , from which

everyt hing else follows, is: "Being seen by ab solut ely no on e and being unaware of being seen were similar, yet basically diff erent" - rhe word "bas ically" here car r ying onto lo- gical weight . In Adelaide, ar rhe o utset of rhe pictorial evolu t ion that led t o modernism,

truly unaware of bei ng seen, and (merely) ap pear ing to

be thus absorbed and unaw are of being seen a lso prove d "simila r, yet basically diff er-

in t he ea rlier case lay precise ly

in the beheld sub ject 's consciousness, which the reader is exp licirly told is not the dec i- sive factor in the late r one - t he Pr incess will not be aware of being beheld and yet every-

thing w ill have been changed . The shi ft of empha sis between t he t wo

than two hund red years apart, might be charact erized by sayi ng that in Mishima's novel the situatio n with regard to beho lding has becom e muc h more dire : simply by virt ue of being beheld the Prin cess's "world" (a fascinating not ion in t his context) w ill be fun- damenta lly altered - Mis hima says co ntamin ated . Put slig hrly diff erenrly, whereas in Adelaide t he sour ce of mortal di fficu lty is the possibility that being abso rbed and pre- tending to be abso rbed (or represe nting being absor bed ) ca n be indistinguis hable from

ent" (if my reading

being tru ly absor bed, t here fore

is believed). However,

t he diffe rence

tex ts, wr itt en more

source of difficult y is beholding it self, and the

only solution the tex t im agines is the preemp t ion of beholding through the deat h of the voyeur.

each other, in The Temple of Dawn the

My furt her suggestion, in t he sa me vein as my con cludin g remarks ab o ut Adelaide,

is that H onda's reflections ma y

were not the figure of the voyeur so much as that of the photogra ph er, wh ose relat ion

frequently been described in terms of voyeurism and on e of

ex pr ession, has been to depict

perso ns who for one reaso n or anot her are unawa re of being photograp hed, often

because

whose tradi t ional a pproach es, in the int erest of t rut h of

be read almost as if t heir u lt imate po int of reference

to

his o r her subjec ts has

they are absor bed in wha teve r they are doing, thinking, or feeling. 40 As Susa n

Sontag puts it in a sta tement l shall return ro more rhan once, "Th ere is some t hing on people's faces when they do n't know they are being obse rved that never ap pears when they do." 41 It is also tru e, however, that att itudes wit hin pho tography toward that

approach have shifted ove r the course of time (Sontag herself cites Brassai"'s " [denu nci-

subjects off-guard, in rhe erroneous belief

t hat something special will be reveale d abou t the m " 42 ), and I thin k it is fair to say char

by t he end of the 1970s - Sontag's views notwit hstanding - t here took place a wide- spread reaction against all such practices, a reac t ion em blemat ized by the crisis of con-

overtake n the brilliant Amer ican st reet pho tographe r Gar ry

Winogrand in the years shortly before his deat h in 1984 (Winogrand in t he !are 1970s rook t housands of photograp hs rhat he never bothere d ro develop, and seems to have been on the verge of giving up street photography entirely 43 ), as well as by some pas- sages in Roland Barrhes's Camera Lucida (1980), to be discusse d in dera il in Chap ter Four of t his boo k. In ot her words, l propose rhar t here exists an affinity between rhe problemarizing of beholding in rhe cont ext of voyeurism in The Temple of Dawn and certai n deve lopmen ts in photog rap hy and the t heory of photography in rhe 1970s and early J 980s . Indeed I want to go beyond t hese considerations, which remain in rhe realm

fidence that seems ro have

at ions ofj pho tograp hers who try to t rap their

of the sub ject 's, and by implicat ion t he artist's, puta t ive psychology and suggest that rhere ex ists a more profou nd affinit y between rhe metap hysica l or ontological register in whic h Mish ima's problemat ic of seeing and being seen is cast and some, tho ugh by

book : as if what ult i-

no means all, of rhe photographic work to be discussed in rhis

mate ly is at stake in rhar work is prec isely the depiction or evocat ion of a separatio n of worlds (" It now became clear that Honda's ultimate des ire, what he really, really wanted

to sec could ex ist on ly in a worl d where he did nor"). Mo re precisely, ir is as if some

such depic t ion or evocation tu rns ou t to

lend itself especia lly well ro rhe construction

of rhe new relationship betwee n photograph and beho lder that in my account - also, ar

- "exclusion" in the strongest com mentaries on Bustamante is a respo nse ro this state of affairs .} Let me add that I shall return to Mishima's retralogy twice more in this boo k, once in relat ion ro Sugimoro's Seascapes and once, more importantly, t owa rd the end of t he Conclusion, in connect ion wirh a recent work by Jeff Wall t hat illustra tes a par- t icular episode in the first novel in rhe rerralogy, Spring Snow. Finally, I wa nt to glance ar certain passages in Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others, a book -length essay in which she reconsiders some of the t hemes in On Photo- graphy of almost thirty years before. In particula r she reflects in her new book on the efficacy - even, at times, the legitimacy - of images of pa in, violence, suffe r ing, and death as a means of promoti ng po lit ical aware ness, given the countless respect s in which such images lend themselves ro ot her purposes as well, are pro ne ro becom ing overfamil iar, hence polit ically ineffect ive, or risk appeali ng, by the ir very cont ent, ro pruri ent inter- ests on the part of the viewer . So for exam ple she writes:

(The theme of

least up ro a po int, in Chevrier's

is at the hea rt of rhe "tab leau form."

Tra nsforming is what arr does, but photography t hat bears witness to the calam itous

and the reprehe nsible is much criticized if ir seems "aesthetic"; that is, too much like

art. The dua l powers

of photography - to genera re documents and to crea te works of

30

why

pho tograp hy matters

as art as never before

visual art - have produced

ough t or ough t not to do . Lately, rhe most co mm on exaggerat ion is one that regar ds

these powers as opposites. Photographs that dep ict

as captio ns shouldn't moral ize. In thi s view, a beautiful photogra ph dra ins att ent ion

turns it towa rd the med ium itself, the reby co mp ro-

sta tu s as a docum ent . The photograp h gives mi xed signals . Stop

suffer ing shouldn' t be beautiful,

some remarka ble exaggerations

abou t what photographers

from rhe sobe rin g subject and

mising the pict ur e's

this, it urges . Bur it also ex claims, What a spectacle! 44

And:

Ir used to be tho ught , when rhe candid images were nor co mm on, that show ing

some t hing t hat needed

goa d viewers to feel more. In a world in wh ich photography is brilliant ly at the service of cosu merist manip ulat ions, no effect of a photograp h of a dole ful scene ca n be

to be seen, bringing a painf ul rea lity closer, was bound to

ideologues of of explo itation

of senti ment (pity, compassion, indigna t ion) in war pho tograp hy and in ro te ways of

provoki ng feeling. (79-80 J

taken for gra nted . As a conseque nce, mora lly alerr ph otogra phers a nd

photogr aph y have become increasingly concerned with the issues

in

small tow ns in the United States between the 1890s and t he 1930s, which provided a shattering, revelato ry experience for the thousan ds who saw t hem in a ga llery in New

York in 2000," Sontag rehearses a series of questions t hat were raise d at t he time of the exh ibitio n and when a boo k of rhe photograp hs, Without Sanctuary, was pub lished:

"W hat is the po int of ex hib iting these pictur es? To awaken indignatio n ? To mak e us

To help us mourn? Is loo king at such pictur es

really necessary, given rhar these horro rs lie in a pas t remote enough to be beyond pun-

ishment? Are we the bett er

Don't they rat her just confirm wha t we alread y kn ow (or want to kn ow)?" (91-2) .

Alt hough one senses rha r Sontag does nor share the negative attitude towa rd rhe exhi- bition and book rhar rhe ques tions imply, she does no t quite co me out and say so, pre- sumab ly because she also feels t he quest ions' mo re t ha n just rhetorical force . Simi lar ly, al though in th e first passage quoted above she appar ently distan ces herself from the "exaggerat ion" rha r would draw a shar p distinction between a photograph's dep iction

feel 'bad'; that is, to appall and sa dd en?

O f an ex hibitio n in 2000 of "a trove of ph otogra ph s of

black victims of lync hing

for seeing these images? Do they act ua lly reach us anything?

of suffering and its "aest het ic" q uality, she also wr ites towa

rd rhe end of her book:

So far as pho tographs with rhe most sole mn or heartre nd ing subject matter are art - and rhis is what they become whe n t hey ha ng on walls, whateve r rhe disclaimers -

rhey pa rtake of the fate of all wall- hung or floor-suppo rt ed arr displayed in publ ic

a

po int, rhe weight and ser iousness of suc h photograp hs survive berrer in a book, where one can look privat ely, linger ove r rhe pictures, wit hout talking. Still, at some mome nt rhe book w ill be closed . The strong emotion will become a t ransient one. Event ually, the specifici ty of rhe photographs' accusat ions will fade; t he denunciat ion of a par- ticular conflic t and at t ribut ion of spec ific cr imes will become a de nu ncia tion of human

spaces. T har is, they are stat ions alo ng a - usually accom panie d - st

Up

ro

cruelty,

hu man sav agery as suc h. The p hotogra ph er's inrent ion s are irrelevanr

to this

larger

pr ocess . I121 - 2]

At o ne point

Sont ag d oes state

uneq uivocally:

There now exis ts a vast repo s ito ry of images that mak e it harde r to ma intain this kind

who remains pere n nially sur-

of mo ral d efective ness [Son tag has in min d someone

pri sed th at de pravit y exists, tha r hu man beings are capable of great cruelt y to ward

one

anot her, ere .].

Let t he atro cio us images haunt us. Even if t hey are only tok ens,

a nd

can n ot

possib

ly encompass

most

o f

th e

reali t y ro

which

they

refer, rhey still

perfo rm a viral function . T he images say: T his is wha t hum an bei ngs are capable

doi ng- 111ayvo lunteer to

of

do, enthusias tica lly, self-righteo usly. Do n 't forge r. [114- 15]

Howeve r, these sorts of assertions are few an d far betwee n; one of the stri kin g things

about

feature of Son tag's wri ting) is its reluctance to take up a sim ple or co nsistent stance

it all the more un expected,

then, that in her book's final pages Sonrag sing les our o ne "an t iwar" imag e, Jeff Wall's

towar d the diffic ult q uestions it contin u ally raises. l find

Regarding the Pain of Others (fo r all its lack of a vecto red arg ument, a typical

Dead Troops Talk {A

Afgha nistan, Winter 1986 (1992 ; Fig. r8),

Vision After

an Ambush

of a Red Army

Patrol near Moqor,

as be ing "exe mplar y in its tho ughtf uln ess

seven and a ha lf

on a ligh t box, shows figu res

and p owe r." She expla ins tha t t he pict ur e, "a Cibac h rome tr ansparency

feet high an d more rhan

posed ( , 23 ).''

th irtee n feet w ide an d mo unted

hillside, that

read:

in a landscape , a blasted

H er con clud ing paragraphs

was co nstru cted in t he pa inrer's stu dio"

Th e figur es in Wall 's visiona ry photo-work

nor . Dead sold iers don't

are "rea list ic" but, of co ur se, th e image is d o.

ta lk. H ere they

Thir teen Ru ssian soldiers in bu lky w int er unifor ms an d high boo t s are scattered

abo u t a pock ed , b lood -splashed slope lined wit h loos e roc ks an d

A few still

have

his red brai n matter. The a tm os p here is warm, co n vivial, fra te rn al. Some slouc h,

leani ng on an elbow, or sit, cha tti ng, th eir o p ened sk ulls and des tro yed han ds on view.

One

hi111to sir up. T hr ee

straddl es ano th er, lying prone, who is laughi ng at a third ma n , on his k nees, who

pla yfull y dang les befor e him a st rip of flesh. O n e soldier, helmeted, legless, has rurned ro a co mrad e so me d istance away, an alert smile on his face . Below him ar e two who

don't see m q ui te up to the resurrect io n and lie supi ne, down rhe ston y incline.

in his belly

lies on his side as if as leep, perh aps encouragi ng

rheir helmets on. The head of o ne kn eeling figure, talk ing animated ly, foams w ith

shell cas ings, cru m pled metal, a boot

the litter of war:

leg

tha t ho lds the lower part

of a

man

bends

over

another

who

men are h ors ing around:

o ne wirh a huge wound

their b loodied head s hanging

Engulfed by the i111age, w hich is so accusato ry, w e could fanta s ize thar rhe so ldiers 111ig hr turn and talk to us. But n o, no one is looking o ut of rhe picture . T here's no

th reat of pro test. They

whic h is war . Th ey ha ven 't co me bac

war-ma kers w h o sent them to kill and be killed. An d the y are not rep resente d as rer-

to tha t abo min at ion off to denoun ce the

are no t abo ut to

k to

yell ar us to life in or der

bri ng a halt to stagger

32 why photography

matters

as art as never before

18 Jeff Wall, Dead Troo/1sTalk (A Vision After a11Amb ush of a Red Army Patrol

18 Jeff Wall, Dead Troo/1sTalk (A Vision After a11Amb ush of a Red Army Patrol near Moqor, A(gha11ista11,Wi11ter1986),

1992 Transparency in lightbox . 229

x 417 cm

rifying to o t hers,

entirely abso rbed in go ing through

and entering the pic ture above t hem (top righ t) o n the path windi ng down the slope

are two Afghans, perhaps soldiers the mse lves, who, it wo u ld seem from the Kalash-

nikovs collected near the ir feet, have a lread y str ipped the dea d sold iers of their weapo n s. These dead arc supremely uninterested in t he living : in t hose who rook their

lives; in w itnesses -

ro say ro us? "We" - th is "we" is everyone who has never experie nced any t hing like what they went throug h - don't understan d . We don' t get it. We tru ly ca n't imagi n e

what

norma l it beco mes. Can' t unders tan d , can' t imagi ne. Tha t 's what every so ldie r, and

every journa list an d aid worker an d ind ependent observe r w ho has pu t in t ime under fire, and had rhe luck ro elud e the death that st ruck down others nea rby, stubbornl y feels. And the y are right. I 124-6 1

for among them (far left) s irs a whi te-garbe d Afghan scavenger,

so meo ne's kit bag,

of whom they take no note,

a nd in us. Wh y shou ld they seek our gaze? W hat wo uld t hey have

it was

like. We can'

t imagine how d readful, how terrify ing war is; an d how

Sontag's respon se to Wall's monumenta

l

concern

ing rhe horro r o f modern

pho tograph

wit h images of vio lence an d their efficacy or

is framed

lac k of

it as

a

in terms of her cen tral

of convey-

means

war; rhe exem p lariness of Dead Troops Talk in her eyes co n -

sists in its ability co do just rhis. What I want to ca ll artenr ion ro is rhat for

dec isive feature of Wall's phocograp h is not so muc h the brilliant interplay among rhe

slau ghtere d Russian soldier s, as gr ippin g as she finds it, bur rhe facr thar, as she puts ir, " no one is looking out of the picture." For Sontag, of course, whar makes rhar facr mea ningfu l is thar it is pa rt of a large r recognir ion she arrribures co rhe dead Russians

ro rhe effecr rhar rhere is no point in rheir address ing the viewer - in add ressing "us" -

for rhe ir refutable reaso n thar, nor having actually experienced the horror s of war, "we" are incapa ble o f under stan ding or ima gin ing wh ar they have jusr gone rhroug h. This is

a perfectly plausible way of thi nking abour whar rakes place in Dead Troops Talk.

Howe ver, rhe fact t har none of rhe soldiers is loo king our of t he picture also means rhar

Wall's picrure is consistent wirh rhe crucial princip le of rhe Diderorian tableau - the use

of absorptive mot ifs and st ru ct ures to estab lish th e ontological illusion rhat rhe beholder

does not ex isr. Sontag doe s not exp licitly invoke the no rion of abs orprion in her descrip- rion of rhe Russians, but she does rema rk on the "w hite-garbed Afghan scavenger [who is] entire ly absorbed in going thro ugh somebo dy's kir bag [and] of whom rhey rake no nore." In facr iris as if Wa ll's pictur e as seen by her rep resents two dist inct "worl ds," that of the dead but risen Russians and that of the living Afghans, which occupy the same pictor ial space but are some how invisib le to one anothe r even as they are both separa te from , though not invisib le to , o ur own. Th ere is a further co mplexity here. As has emerged, no t hing was mo re inimical to rhe

oper at ions of the Diderotian tableau than rhe least

hint of " pr etense" or "posi ng" on

the parr of rhe figures it co mpri sed - indeed, Did erot saw the use of professio nal models,

hold var ious more or less co nventional poses, as a source of the

whose job it was to

dreadfu l mann erism of much histo ry painter to do? Say he

antiq uit y swearing a morta l oath or consume d with gr ief or dying from poison or

engaged in some violent mo mentary actio n; obv ious ly no professiona l model coul d fit rhe bill - but what recourse did the painter have othe r than to depict the personage on

bas is of his im agination? And was not thar a possible so urce of man nerism in irs

t he

own right ?) In co ntra st , it is at once appare nt that all of Wall's soldiers, Russian and

Afghan alike, ca n only be per sons hired by him to dr ess up in the appro priate clot hing and assume rhe poses and enact the pieces of bus iness that he had devised for them (compare Sherman's use of herse lf as model in the Untitled Film Stills). What is more,

it turns our t hat there was neve r a mome nt

in Wall's st udio when the scene before the

came ra was as it appea rs in th e ph otog raph; rathe r, he shor his picture one or rwo figures

at a time a nd sumre d t he w hole cogerher wirh the aid of a compurer. Sontag may or

may nor have known about the piecemeal shoo ting, bur she notes ar rhe start that Wall

posed his figur es in a fictive landscape

is so. In

fact, I suggest tha t it is prec isely Sontag's reco gnit ion that Dead Troops Talk is nor a

Sontag rhe

of the paint ing of his t ime. (Yet what was an ambitious wante d to rep resent a pe rsonage from Gree k or Roman

and is not in rhe least t roubled

t hat

this

ca ndid shor of an actual event bur rat her a work of de liberate and elab orate art ifice rhar - tog et her with the aware ness that none of Wa ll's figures "loo k our of rhe picrure" - und erwrites her adm irario n fo r his ac hievement . We mighr say that the facr rhat Dead Troops Talk is rran sparen rly a wor k of high artifice saves ir from rhe risk of "aesrheri-

34 why photography

matters

as art as never before

cizarion" which for Sontag constantly thr eatens non-art phot ogra ph s such as the sho ts of lynchings or the other images of violence and oppr ession she conside rs, even as its

(do ubly) absorp t ive

on na rr ow ly et hical grounds but which l am sug- to which she also respo nd s - one in keepi ng, l note,

w ith her earlier (and probably the n st ill curr ent) preference for photographs of person s

unawa re of being observed. Here it may seem as if la m on the verge of accusing Sontag

be furthe r from my point . Rathe r, my claim in

rhe chapters rhar follow will be rhar just suc h a conjunc t ion of what l wan t to call "to-

be-seenness" and a Dide rorian thematics of absorptio n has pla yed a significant role in some of the most interesting and impo rt ant photogr aph y of recent decades, and tha t Sontag 's accou nt of Dead Troops Talk, alt houg h nor co ncerned wit h art istic issues as

such, is itself emblemat ic in tha t rega rd. Or to pu t thi s in terms harking back to the rad-

icalization of

of being inco nsistent, bm nothing co uld

avo id seemi ng to address rhe beho lder

directly, a feature she approve s of gesti ng has a more profou nd appeal

int erna l st ructure allows ir to

voyeuri sm in The Temple of Dawn, I sugges t that once ir became imag-

inable that a "wo r ld" cou ld be " contami nated" by the mere fact of being beheld, the situation was ripe for t he emerge nce of an est het ic that would accept suc h "contam i- nat ion " as the basis of its procedures . Inevitabl y, that estheric found irs hom e in

phorogra ph y.

notes

introduction

1

The epith et is Mark Linde r's. See Lind er, Nothing Less than

Literal: Architecture after Minimalism

(Camb ridge, Mass.,

and London, 2004), p . 102. See also the discussion of" Art and Objecthood" in James Meyer, Minim alism: Art and

Polemics in the Sixties (New Ha ven and Londo n, 2oor}, pp. 229- 42.

H ere I will ment ion rhar in an endnot e to the introduc- to ry essay in Art and Objecthood I wrote: " It's noceworrhy

the extent to

which photography-base d (or simply pho -

tograp hic) work of the 1970s and after - for exam ple, that of Cindy Sherm an, Jeff Wall, and Gerh ard Richter - has

found itself co mpelled co address issues of beho lding,

often

by an ap peal co abs orpti ve mean s and effects. Thi s is a large

topic" ("A n

Introduction to my Arc Criticism," Art and

Objecthood : Essays and Reviews

(Chicago and Lo nd on,

19981, p . 74). So I had begun to th ink alo ng these lines as

early as t99 5-6.

 

2

Fried, "A n Intr oduction to my Art Critici sm," p. SJ.

 

3

My thanks

co Molly Warnock

for urging me to make this

point.

three beginnings

 

l

H iroshi Sugimoto in Kerry Brougher an d Davi d Elliott , Hiroshi Sugimoto, exh. cat. (Washingto n, D.C. and Tok yo, 2005 - 6), n.p .

2

C indy Sherma n , Th e Complete

Untitled Film

Stills (New

Yor k , 2003).

Further

page references to th is boo k will be

in par enth eses in rhe text.

 

3

See e.g. the essays by Craig Owens, Do uglas Crimp, Rosa lind Kra uss, et al. in Jo hanna Burton , ed., Cindy

Sherman,

OCTOBER Files

6

(Cambrid ge,

Mass.,

and

Lon d on, 2006);

and J. M . Bernstein,

Against Voluptuous

Bodies:

Late

Modernism

and

the

Meaning

of

Painting

(Stanfo rd , Ca l., 2006), pp . 253-323 .

4

See Michael Fried , "Art and Objecthood," Art and Ob ject- hood: Essays and Reviews (Chicago and Lon don, 1998),

pp. 148-72; Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of D iderot (1980 ; Ch icago and

London,

1986); Courbe t 's Realism (Ch icago and London,

1990); and Manet's Modernism, or, The Face of Painting in

the 1860s (Chicago and Lond on, 1996). See also Fried, "An Introd uct ion to my Art Criticism," Art and Objecthood, pp. 40-54.

5

See e.g. Edwa rd Branigan,

Narrative

Comprehension

and

glance (in ob ject. In

a

fact, glances are

that the only glan ce that is genera lly avoided is a glance into the lens of the camera . A look int o the camera br eaks the diegesis because it mak es the convent ional reverse shot or eyeline ma rch impossible. (Such a matc h wou ld reveal the cam era itself; its absence wou ld be just as revealing.)" For

so important to narrating a scory wo rld

Film (Londo n and New Yor k , 1992),

p.

narrative

film] imp lies an interaction

53 : "A with an

a fuller treatment of the tra nsgression constitute d by "a

co the camera," also charac ter-

ized as "a n infraction of canon ical proportions, an affront co th e 'prop er' functioning of representat ion and filmic narrati ve," see Francesco Case tti , Inside the Gaze: The

loo k and a voice addressed

Ne ll Andrew with

Charles O'Br ien (Bloom ington and Indianapo lis, 1998 ),

Fiction Film and }ts Spectator, trans.

esp. ch.

2,

"The Figure of the Specrator,"

pp. r6,

17. My

thanks

co Dudley And rew for both references.

6 See R egis Durand , " Intr od uct ion," in Cindy Sherman,

exh.

cat. (Paris, Bregenz, Humbleba ek, Berlin, 2006-7 ), p. 246. Othe r essays in the catalogue are by Jean-Pie rre Criqui,

who int erest ingly emph as izes Sherma n's "d isap peara nce" in

favor

More broadly, James Conant has argued in a series of sem- inars entitled "T he Onto logy of a Movie World," given at the H umanities Center, Johns Hopkins University in April

2007,

tha t the requirements for the internal co herence o f

such a "wo rld " align close ly with Diderot's account of the

proper

the

funct ioning o f drama and paintin g in his wr iting s of

of her many fictiona l self-images, and Laura Mulvey.

17 50s and '6os .

7 T he key essay in th at regard is undoubtedly Doug las Crimp's "The Photographic Activity of Posrmodernism,"

first pub lished in October, no. 15 (Winter r980 ): 91-ror.

At

one po int Cr imp describes a phocogra ph y "that is self- consciously compose d, man ipulated, fictionali zed, the so-ca lled dir ecto rial mode, in wh ich we find such auteurs of ph ot ography as Duane Mic hal s an d Les Krims." He cont inu es:

(Cited here from Burt on, Cindy Sherman, pp . 25-37.)

The strategy of this mode is to use the apparent veracity of photogra ph y agains t itself, creat ing one's fictions thr oug h the appearance of a seamless reality inco whic h has been woven a narrative dimension . Cindy Sherman's phot ographs function with in th is mode, but only in orde r

to expose an unw a nted aspec

t of that fiction, for the

fiction Sherman discloses is the fiction of the self. Her pbocographs show th at the supposed auto nomous and unitary self out of wh ich those other "directo rs" would

create their fictions is itself nothing other than a discon- tinuous series of representations, cop ies, and fakes.

Sherman's photographs are all self-portra its in which she appears in disgui se enacting a d rama whose particu- lars are withheld. This ambigui ty of narr ative parallels the ambiguity of the self that is both actor in the narra- tive and creato r of it. For tho ugh Sherman is literally self- created in these works, she is created in the image o f already known femin ine stereotypes; her self is therefore

unde rstood as the cu ltu re

inner impulse. As such, her photographs reverse the terms

rap hy. They use art not to reveal the ro show the se lf as an imagi nary con-

str uct . Ther e is no real Cindy Sherman in these pho - tographs; there are only the gu ises she assumes. And she do es not create these guises; she simp ly chooses them in

any of us do. The p ost of aut hors hip is d is-

the mechanica l means of

making the image but also through rhe effacement of any continuous, essential persona or even recognizable visage in the scenes. 134-51

of auth o r-

motif, as is the critique of

the way that pensed with

conti ngent on th e possibilities provided by in which Sherman participa tes, not by some

of ar t and autobiog artist's true self but

not on ly through

The "d ispe nsin g" o r "effacement"

sh ip" is a crucia l postmodernist

of the "post

rhe very not ion puts forward.

of a stable

identi ty that

C rimp 's account

More recently, Wa lter Benn Michaels

about

Sherma n's place in postmodern

has had this ro say crit icism :

[!In an important essay ca lled "Photography afte r Art Photo graphy, " Ab igail Solomon -Godea u could argue

that photography had come ro "figure as a crucia l term

it had r epud iated

the am bition to make photographs into works of art and had tak en instead "an instrum ental approach to the medium." What this involved was "using photography "

in postmodern ism" precisely insofar as

to mak e art ra ther than

making

photograph

s that

were

themselves

arr,

a

d ist inction

she

derives

from

Peter

Bunn ell's rema rk tha t he finds Cindy Sherman "interest-

ing as an artist but uninteresting as a photographer" and that Arthur Da nto's su bsequent analysis of Sherma n - "photography is not her medium . It is rat her a means to her artistic end s. Her medium is herself " - mak es per-

spicuous. In al l these analy ses,

is of that mak es it art . Even a more or less explicitly deconstructive manife sto like Craig Owens's essay " The Allegorica l Impulse: Tow a rd a Theory of Postmod - ernism" p ra ises "untitled photos for film sti lls" in terms

of Sher man's

of

her imp erso nation s," Owens says, turns "d isguise" into

it is what the photograph

cleverness

as a model:

the

"perfection

"parody"

and thus into cr iticism of the "a lienating iden-

tifications"

of the mass media . Photo graphy is, of course,

necessary for this project - without ir there would be no record of Sherma n 's virtuosity and, in fact, there wou ld have been no occasion for the virtuosity: the pose that

for the

of the ca mer a in

relation to rhe pose - it both causes and reco rds it - in no

is recor d ed by the photograph is also photograph. But thi s doub le functi on

produced

354 notes

to page

10

way detracts from th e primac y of the pose . Instead,

insofar as the pose themat izes photography, trans form- ing the photograph into an element in the history of the pose (subsu ming the photo graph in the narrative of its

own ex istence), the

photo g raph is even more rigorously

subord inated to the pose than it wou ld othe rwise be, for

the p ose becomes, in effect, a critique of the pho togra ph.

What the photograph

of came ras; rhe

pose, as pose, calls attent ion to th is fact and cr iticizes the

world rhe camera has made; the camera, then, reco rds

in Sherman consists in

her ins istence tha t the object the camera records is an objec t th e camera has made, but th e status of the ph oto- grap h as record is asserted rather tha n challenged by the

parody. [The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End

of

emp ha sis in origi nal]

Michaels's po int in rehearsi ng the pos tmodern account of Sherman's Untitled Film Stills is ro set the stage for a very different, i.e. modernist, reading of the work of the pho-

shows is an object th at has been

by the existence

called

into

the worJd

this crit ique. Th e parodic elemen t

History

(Princeton

and

Oxford,

2004),

pp.

97-8,

tographer

James

Welling,

in which,

as

Mic haels puts

ir,

"Welli ng

deploys the shape of the photograph aga inst rhe

shape

to defeat the

and to

emp loy those objects instead in the mak ing of photographs

(to use them like paint )" (100). This scarce ly does justice to his pages on Welling, but my point is that, in the course

camera's

o f the objects photographed

ability

to

in order

let us see ob jects

in the world

of contrasting Welling with Sherman, Michaels perhaps too

much accep ts th e postmodern readin g of her signature

works - at any rate, my suggestion that the film stills bear

con-

photographs thems elves, not simp ly or essent ia lly

cerns the

a significant relat ion ro an antithearrica l problemati c

the poses and disguises they record .

8 In the 2005 catalogue raisonne of Wall's work, one r eads :

"Th e literature various ly describes the artist's backlit colour

transparencies

as 'transpare n cy in ligh tbox ', 'c ibachrome

in lightbox', 'cibachrome transp arency in aluminium ', 'c ibachrorn e transparency in fluorescent light box ', ere. T he artist has spec ified th at the ter m 'tran sparency in lightbox'

these wor k s." And: "T he

transparencies are mad e on Ilfochrome Class ic tran sparent

mat erial. Ilfochrome was form erly known as Cibachrome ."

Theodora

Jeff Wall: Catalogue Raison ne r 978 - 2004 (Basel, 2005), p.

And a few pag es on: "A year before comp leti ng The

Destroyed Ro om, Wall produced a tr iptych of transparen - cies entitled Faking Death . The left pan el d epicted a set fea- turing a bed in which th e art ist and severa l ass istants are absorbed in what appe ar to be prepara tions for making a photograph . The central and r ight panels depicted the artist lying in th e bed, actin g as if he were dead. Fakin g Death was exhib ited first at th e Nova Ga llery in Vancouver along

with The Destroyed

at the Art Gallery of Greater Victor ia. It was exh ibited onc e

aga in in the group exhib ition 'Cibachrom e' at Th e Photo

be used thr ougho ut ro des igna te

Vischer and H eidi Naef, "Introductory Notes,"

27

L

Room, and th en at his solo exh ibition

Gallery in Orrawa in T980. Soo n after , Wall decided to

withdraw the work For an informative

d iscussion of Wall's beginn ings as an

from his co rpus"

(p. 275).

r 5

See

also

Eric

de

Cha ssey, Platitud es: ,m e histoir e de la

photographi e

plate (Par is, 2006 ), pp. 172-84.

Liebermann , "A nnot ated

Catalog ue Raisonn e," p. 183.

artist, includ ing

his

close

relations

with

h is fellow

ar tist

"Betw een 1984 and T986 ," she writes, "Thomas Ruff kept

from Vanco uver Ian

Wallace, see Peter Ga lassi, "U northo-

experiment ing with the size of his Portraits looking for

dox ,"

in Peter Ga lassi and Nea l Benezra,jeff Wall, ex h. cat.

anoth er form at in addition to the 'red uced reality' of 24 x

(New

York, Ch icago, San Francis co, 2007-8 ), pp. 14-29 .

, 8 cm . When he managed to make five print s in L986 on

9 Jeff Wall in Vischer and aef, Jeff Wall (Basel, 2005),

to

p.

parentheses in the text. Fried, "A rt and Ob jecthood, " p. 164. See also Sta n ley

in

28!.

Further

page

refere nces

to

th is book

will be

Cavel!, Th e World Viei11ed:Reflections 011 the Ont ology of

Film, en larged editi on (Camb r idge, Ma ss., and London,

1979), p. 90: "One

impu lse o f ph otog raphy, as imm edia te

as its imp ulse to ex tend the visible, is to theatrical ize its sub-

the large st photo pa per ava ilab le, he di scovered

th e enlargeme nt , inten sified and

the ph otograph became d omina nt.

The projec t came to a hale in 199 r beca use the p aper he had been using was no longer in production. The new photo

pa per had such a great ra nge of colo r and co ntra st th at it

was no longer suitable for his por tra its."

the visual pr esence o f

the look and

pletely new pictu re had eme rged . Through

that a com-

ex p ression of the sitt ers was

 

jects. The photographer's co mmand, " Watc h the birdi e!" is

 

r6

Jean -Pierre Cr iqui, " Bustama n te as

for an Unfin ishe d Portrait), " tran s.

Photographer (No tes

essentially a

stage

d irection.

One

Simon Pleasance and

command is

give n

not

to

achieve

may object that th e the unnaturalne ss of

Fron za Wood s, in j ean-Mar c

Bustamante:

oeuvres

pho-

theater but precisely to give the impression of the natura l,

 

tographiqu es .r978-r999,

ex h . ca t.

(Pari s,

1999),

p. 162.

that

is to say, th e candid; and that the point of the dire c-

Further

page referenc es to th is essay will be in parenth eses

tion is nothi ng more th an to dist ra ct the su bject 's eyes from

 

in

the text. See also rhe va luabl e rema r ks on Bustamante's

fronting on the ca m era len s. But th is misse s the point, for

Tableaux

as exemplars

of "flatness"

in de Cha ssey, Plati-

the que stion is exac tly why the impression of natu ral ness is

tudes,

pp . 163-7

1.

conveyed

or when,

by an essenti ally theatrical tec hn ique. And wh y,

17

Taro

Amaro,

"I ntersecting

Relat ionsh ips,"

in Jean-Mar c

the candid is missed if the subje ct turn s his eye

Bustamante: Private Crossing, ex h. cat. (Yokohama , 2002 ),

into th e eye of th e ca mera."

And

p p . r J 8-19:

"Setti ng pic -

p.

159. Also, " ungrat efu lness" is Bustamante' s word - in

ture s to mo tion mechanically overcame

what I earlier ca lled

 

French /'ingratitud e - in an in terview by Ann ick Co lonna -

the inherent theatr ica lity of th e (still) phocogra ph. The

Cesar i in !.'Express, Jun e 9, 2002. T here

Bustamante spea ks

development

of

fast

film

allowed

th e

sub jects

of

pho-

o f having (in his Tableaux of the late r9 7os and ear ly 'Sos)

tographs to be ca ught unawa res,

beyond

ou r

or

the ir

 

"i

mmer sed himself in the lands ca pes in orde r to realize

con trol. Bur they are neve rth eless caught; the ca mera holds the last lanyard of co nt rol we would forgo."

 

prints [that would be] ca lm an d hard at the same time" (translat ion mine ).

11

See Jean-Fran<;ois Chevrier, "T he Adve ntur es of the Picture

 

18

See Mich el

Ga uthier , "C on struct ing an Aura,"

in

Alfred

Form in th e History of

Pho cograp h y," tra ns. Mic hae l

Pacqu emen t and Jean -Pierr e Cr iqu i, eds., Jean-Marc

Busta-

Gilson, originally publ ishe d 1989, cited here from Douglas

 

mante (Paris, 2003 ), p . 54. As Bustamant e has remarked:

Fogle, ed ., The Last Picture

Shoi11:Artists Using Photogra-

" Mu sil cer tainly left his m ark on me, a lot of thing s can be

phy,

ex h.

cat.

(Minneapoli

s and Lo s Angeles, 2003- 4),

 

traced

back to The Man With out Qualiti es. I am tryi ng to

pp.

Tl

3-27 .

In

the

original

French text

Chev rier refers to

 

produce wo rk 'w ithout qua lities'" (" Fragm ents d ' un entr e-

" la

for me tab leau;"

for re aso ns that

will become

clear, I

 

tien: Jean-Marc Bustamant e, Jan Debbau t et Yves Gevaer t,"

shall reta in rhe word tablea u (in preferen ce to "p ictu re") in

j

ean-Marc Bustamant e, ex h. cat. fEindhoven, 1993 ], p. 14,

my citations from and discussio ns of his essay.

quoted

b y Gauthie r, p.

7 3,

n.

4 ).

l2.

Ra lph Ubl gave hi s lecture, w hich

has not been p ublishe d,

19

Sophie Berrebi,

"Jea n-M arc Bustamant e: 'It's Crap,

but in

in co nnection with Wall's retrospect ive exh ibition at Schaulager in Basel in th e lare spr ing of 2.005. My thanks

the Right Way,'" inte r view, http ://eyestor m. com/ fea ture / ED2.11_article.asp?article _id= r 4o. In the same int erview,

to Ubl for shar ing his thoughts

with me.

 

Berrcbi allud es to Bustamante's havi ng said " that

Mus il's novel The Man With out Qualities ha s had

Rob ert

13

See in pa rt icular Thierry

de Duve's discussion

of Pictur e for

 

a long -

Women in Look,

100

Years of Contemporary

Art,

 

trans.

lasti ng influence over [him!."

 

Simon Pleasa nce and Fro nza Woods (Bruss els, 2001 ),

20

Ulrich

(Paris,

Looc k, " Out of Focus ," in Jean-Mar c Bustamante

pp. 243-9

(rev.

and enlarged edn. o f th e Fren ch and

Dutch