U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: Re: More than 2 worth - much more

Re: Re: More than 2 worth - much more


Thanks for your insights into 'tampering' with photographs, and your history
of a particular kind of writing about art - it was really interesting. You
reminded me of my introduction to semiotics some 26 years ago - one of the
most challenging periods of my life, but also one of the most productive
learning times too.

Thanks again Judy.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Judy Seigel" <jseigel@panix.com>
To: <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
Sent: Sunday, September 10, 2006 3:48 PM
Subject: Re: Re: More than 2 worth - much more

> On Thu, 7 Sep 2006, Christina Z. Anderson wrote:
> >.... and even though tampering
> > with photographs has been done since photography began, that does not
> > the concept any less important to teach to students.
> It's easy to lose sight of the fact that "tampering" is a very elastic
> concept. Writing a few years ago about "Violating the Medium" (as the term
> went in the days of Weston, Kirstein, et al) after exhaustive study of the
> topic (that is, I was exhausted) I surmised that "tampering" was anything
> not done to make the photo more "realistic." To "improve" contrast, color,
> definition, grain, etc., using conventional post-camera "controls," was
> expected. The same or similar to be "poetic" or "creative" was "violating
> the medium."
> BUT....
> > I continually feel frustrated when slugging through art history writings
> (try
> > Rosalind Krauss, for one) which use the word "trope" and "slippage" and
> > "elide" and "hegemony" and blah blah blah--or artist statements that I
> > over and over and don't understand what the hell the artist is trying to
> Chris, here I think you elide two topics-- style & vocabulary.
> There was a style of writing popular in the '80s and early '90s,
> influenced by, in fact imitating, semiotics, which was the rage (blame the
> French -- where was Rumsfeld when we needed him?)... Even the course
> descriptions in the ICP catalog were written in that jargon (quite
> delicious actually, I wish I'd kept them).
> Donald Kuspit, Rosalind Krauss and Robert Pincus-Witten may have been the
> champions (I clocked one 264 word Kuspit sentence in an old Artforum, of
> which no more than 3 consecutive words made sense). But, as with most fads
> in art, it eventually wore out and lo and behold, every one of them could
> write a coherent sentence & often did. Kuspit, for instance, writes now
> just like a regular person (that he's usually wrong is beside the point).
> But there's also specialized vocabulary that can be used badly (as can any
> vocabulary), but used well enhances expression and concision.  What would
> you say for instance when you mean "trope" but "trope"?  The closest my
> (old) dictionary comes is "figure of speech," but that's lame.  For
> instance, when a T-shirt says, as Frank Rich recently wrote in the Times,
> a propos of "voters of faith," that "all they got for their support of
> Republicans in the previous election year was a lousy Bush Cheney
> T-shirt," he's using a familiar format (I have about 6 variations,
> beginning with "My mommy and daddy went to Florida but all I got was this
> lousy T-shirt") best described as "trope." (Tropes are RAMPANT on
> T-shirts, which feed off each other 24/7, and as I comment re a
> particularly obscene one, which I will not quote for fear of folks
> fainting at their monitors, finding a new one is like finding a new form
> of clay tablet in Mesopotamia.)
> But your comments made me get out an old book -- "Artspeak" by Robert
> Atkins [Abbeville,1990] which bills itself as A Guide to Contemporary
> Ideas, Movements and Buzzwords. Flipping through now, I'm annoyed because
> there is no contents or index entry for "buzz words," despite claim of the
> cover, but was fascinated to find that about half of the "schools" and
> artists are vanished (& not a moment too soon, mostly). I didn't buy the
> book, it was sent to me, & MUCH more interesting now than then. But if
> "hegemony" is used badly doesn't mean it's a bad word. (NPR does the
> BBC at night, and -- do you know Brits pronounce it hedge-EH-mennee? Where
> do they GET these ideas?)
> The artists' statements you complain about are probably just bad writing.
> (When I was editing an artists' publication, and tried to nudge something
> totally incoherent toward the light, the artist complained that I was
> cramping her style, and if I were an artist I'd "understand" what she
> meant. (The word for this is "narcissism.")
> Anyway, you can't expect every word in any specialty to be familiar. Art
> words can be extremely useful in expressing abstractions or intangibles.
> And, frankly, I'd expect they'd be just your meat... In fact I'd expect
> you to compile and define them with good and bad examples.  (And if not
> you, who?)
> > But that doesn't make the message or the artwork any less valuable,
> > frustrating to the uninitiated.
> So write the guide -- might count as "research." (Try "oneiric" heh heh!)
> As noted, once semiotic-speak was passe, many of them (even Jeremy Gilbert
> Rolfe) wrote English.
> cheers,
> Judy