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« diptych # 120 / civilized ku # 2862 ~ getting (to) the point | Main | picture window # 64-67 ~ narrative and concept, pt. 2 »

civilized ku # 2861 ~ narrative and concept, get over it

open / fermée / 12:01 AM ~ Canada / America border crossing, Northern NY • click to embiggen
In a nut shell, it would appear that 2 ideas emerged from the previous entries (see below), re: narrative & concept.

1) .... narrative can be thoughts, ideas and emotions which spring to a viewer's mind when instigated by the viewing of a picture - as opposed to literal story telling.

2) .... the idea of concept emerging from the (all ready made) pictures .... that upon recognizing something has emerged we might push it along, expand or clarify it - as opposed to starting to make pictures after the fact of a fully formed concept.

I would also like to add and expound upon a third point, re:

1) .... due to the pervasive influence and pressure, re: concept is King, emanating from the academic lunatic fringe many a fine picture maker has spent an undue amount of time and energy concerned with and, in fact, worried about whether his/her pictures pass the MFA lunatic fringe litmus test.

Some might believe that I am anti-academic / higher learning. Thinking so could not be further from the truth since I believe that learning of any kind is a good thing. That written, my problem with higher education is its compartmentalizing of fields of study. That is, vertical Ivory Towers with little or no horizontal integration with other related academic disciplines.

Like, say economic theory and human behavioral studies/theory, the integration of which might have helped to balance and redefine the pure economic academic notion that human beings are "perfect actors" in making rational self-interest decisions in the economic arena and therefore the idea that prosperity springs from markets left free of government interference. If he had spent some time with human behaviorist academics or practioners, Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve and a Milton Friedman devotee, might not have had to admit to the House Committee of Government Oversight and Reform (after the financial crisis of 2006) that the crisis had shaken his very understanding of how markets work. In his words, "I can see I might have wrong. Markets aren’t perfect." People ain't perfect. Markets ain't perfect. NO F...NG DUH.

But I digress .... IMO, where institutions of higher learning went off the rails, photography wise, is when they began to expand their photography departments and pack those departments, instructor / professor wise, with academic theorists and art history majors as opposed to actual picture makers. That is to write, those who couldn't make a better than average picture / painting to save their tenured butts. Consequently, they tend mask their picture no-how in the arcane fold of concept. And, no surprise, those departments are churning out MFAs who profess to be using photography to make art as opposed to being good ol' fashion picture makers.

The net effect of all of those MFAs floating around the photography landscape is that some of them have migrated to institutions of Fine Art as directors of Photo Departments where, as key holders, they practice a form of picture making incest by promoting those who fit the academic Concept is King mold. John Szarkowski must be spinning like a top in his grave - probably at the rate of one revolution every 1/500th of a second or some other setting on the shutter speed dial. He was, after all, a picture maker.

It was Szarkowski who wrote in his book, THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S EYE:

Immobilizing these thin slices of time has been a source of continuing fascination for the photographer. And while pursuing this experiment he discovered something else: he discovered that there was a pleasure and a beauty in this fragmenting of time that had little to do with what is happening. It had to do rather with the momentary patterning of lines and shapes that had been previously concealed within the flux of movement."

I'll admit that I wish I had written that little gem of wisdom because I would love to use it as all-purpose Artist Statement for nearly ever picture / body of work I make. But wait. there's more:

The first thing that the photographer learned was that photography dealt with the actual; he had not only to accept this fact, but to treasure it; unless he did, photography would defeat him. He learned that the world itself is an artist of incomparable inventiveness, and that to recognize its best works and moments, to anticipate them, to clarify them and make them permanent, requires intelligence both acute and supple."

The academic lunatic fringe seems to simply refuse to accept the aforementioned Szarkowski notions as a basis for good/great pictures. As evidence I present a very small sampling of excerpts from various MFA picture maker's artspeak Artist Statements. Phrases and concept which set their own and their overlords' little hearts a-thumping:

photography as ideological apparatus ... its late-capitalist frenzied circuitry of production and consumption ... its liminality ... the infinite stream of images better actualizes our ideas about what and how we perceive with perception ... I use saliva and manual manipulation as part of my photographic process ... examine the tensions and confluence of want and need ... stimulate the emergence and performance of an identity ... allegorize the complexity of systems that make up an individual and the perception of self ...

Holy shit on a shingle*. If I have to read another Artist Statement filled with highfalutin artspeak, I think my head will explode.

In any event and all of that written, my reason for this entry is to address Eric Fredine's oft repeated statement, "For me there's a danger in thinking about it too much. I often end up in an cognitive cul-de-sac", and to let him know that I think he should just get over it / let it go narrative and concept wise. And, to remember that interpretation / concept as the academic lunatic fringe expresses it is nothing more than (Susan Sontag's notion) "the intellect's revenge upon art."**

*military-ese for creamed chip beef on toast.

**In her essay, Against Interpretation, Sontag express the opinion that, in the new critical approach to aesthetics, the spiritual importance of art is being replaced by the emphasis on the intellect. Rather than recognizing great creative works as possible sources of energy, contemporary critics were all too often taking art's transcendental power for granted, and focusing instead on their own intellectually constructed abstractions like "form" and "content." In effect, she wrote, interpretation had become "the intellect's revenge upon art." The essay finishes with the words, "in place of a hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) we need an erotics of art".

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