George Baker – Photography’s Expanded Field, October, 114 2005
Baker begins by stating that in the today (of 2005) of contemporary art, the photographic object is in crisis – a “severe transformation.” which includes the digital transformation & the shift of the term “photographic” to “cinematic”. He considers photography displaced aesthetically…with examples such as Jeff Wall making connections to older mediums like painting, Gursky’s scale due to new digital possibilities, Rineke Dijkstra uses video and sound alongside her still image, etc. When Baker states, “even the most traditional of a younger generation…cannot now resist the impulse to deal the concerns of other mediums into their practice”…I wonder if this statement rings true with how programs are shifting into a more interdisciplinary approach, merging and opening artistic practices to be more inter dimensional. I personally prefer this approach as it is how I myself practice. I wonder about the “most traditional” youngster he speaks of therefore and I am curious if Baker is against this as he calls it a “lamentable expedient, an insufficient bride to other, more compelling forms.”
Sidenote: all three of these readings were challenging to understand so I am synopsizing what I can understand of them…
Baker focuses on his interest/curiousity in the motion and stasis of contemporary work, including Nancy Davenports work, and how it curious because of its dualistic cinematic & photographic approaches…..an approach he considers a “hiccup of indecision.” almost as if both approaches are a reluctance to choose sides. I think this approach and the pushing of let’s call it interdisciplinary could be what Baker terms the “expanded field”…that photography’s slipperiness allows it to move and shift and to adjust with the changing technologies, to age with them so to speak. An expansion of its discipline if you will. “Perhaps, indeed, photography’s expanded field, unlike sculpture’s, might even have to be imagined as a group of expanded fields, multiple sets of oppositions and conjugations, rather than any singular operation.” Baker calls for the importance of “mapping” the oppositional fields – to map the tearing of “narrativity, and stasis”. Motion = narrative…moving away from the static object-image.
The built (constructed) and non-built: Modernist opposition of narrative (moving, cultural) and the stasis (unthinking, nature). “the gradual relaxing of the rending suspension of photography between the conditions of not-narrative and not-stasis that would signal the emergence of postmodernism in photographic terms.” Postmodern examples include the “Pictures” generation which Baker focuses on Cindy Sherman’s untitled ‘film stills’ which “would not call themselves photographs, and that would hold open the static image to a cultural field of codes and the refocus of what I am calling not-stasis.”
The field diagram below show Baker’s mapping approach “two artists here, then move obliquely away from and yet thus manage to continue the critical hopes of modernism; the other simply inverts its terms, allowing the ideological expulsions of modernism to shine forth without disruption.”
I am perplexed by Baker’s explanations of Sherman/Coleman/Wall, but what I did get is the importance Baker is underlining by making these diagrams is to focus less on the individual artists but more on the movements/tranformations/changes of the medium itself. “We are dealing less with ‘authors’…than with a structural field of new formal and cultural possibilities, all of them ratified logically by the expansion of the medium of photography.”
Counter-presence: 1990s, stasis – “always pushing the still image into a field of both multiple social layers and incomplete image fragments.” The ‘still film’ / projected image
Documents of Contemporary Art – The Cinematic – David Campany, Intro//When to be Fast? When to be Slow?
Film & photography paradoxically are at the same time similar and dissimilar. Speed & movement was something they had in common in terms of how practitioners of most of the 20th century used the mediums, later tho contemporary artists, in order to be radical, switched to slowness. (24-Hour Psycho comes to mind). “A stubborn resistance to the pace of spectacle and money-driven modernization seemed the only creative option” Cinema perhaps worked better for showing movement, “Right from the start the fixity of the still photography presented challenges – technical and aesthetic – for the depiction of time.” Cinema turned “stillness into arrestedness.” Campany says plainly that photography has become a “simple & primitive medium” yet he refers later to Barthe’s comment that cinema ‘domesticates the essential wildness of photography.” Campany goes on to state that the serial or sequence has been photography’s greatest achievement – so a merging of the photographic and cinematic, not ‘static’ but not in full swing either, a “para-cinema” he calls it. His examples include Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Robert Frank’s The Americans. Notably these types of work for not made for the wall but rather in a book or magazine, influenced by cinema’s “assembly of images.”
However Campany points out that there are significant differences between this comparison – the slowness of a photo book versus a moving cinematic experience, the stops, and gaps in a photo series cause separation in the narrative – “static photographs show far more than they tell“. Cindy Sherman’s film stills for example take their cues from cinema yet do not tell one narrative, she rather used “a range of stock femininities familiar from cinema”
(( It’s interesting to me that there are Youtube videos of whole photo books. Its a curious expansion and update to the way a photo book is to be viewed because now it is no longer a book but a moving image. ))
Tom Gunning – Moving Away from the Index: Cinema and the Impression of Reality
In this essay Gunning in interested in cinema’s realism and strives to find alternative approaches to defining this quality from the photographic index. He wonders whether the photographic process is the only means to an index. In the past cinema’s realistic aspects have been connected to its use of photographic histories. Gunning summarizes the ideas of a few theorists, Charles S. Pierce and Andre Bazin . Pierce uses the index, defined as a “sign that functions through an actual existential connection to tis referent”. Gunning states that the index should not be the only way to think about cinematic realism and brings Bazin’s theories in, which are more focused on the aesthetic basis, styles such as “visual, aural, and narrative.”…an “aesthetic world” as opposed to Pierce’s semiotic, logical approach. Gunning finds problems with these theories when including “animated pictures” (animated, CGI, etc) which often get pushed to the side because they don’t fit into the “luminous mold” created by these theorists. “Cinema has never been one thing” he says later, its a “braiding” of many aspects that change over time including scale, proportion, sound, color, display, etc. Digital technology has added to this braid, and Gunning introduces some of Lev Manovich’s ideas “that the arrival of new digital media reveals cinema as simply an event with in the history of animation.” which would put the importance on the motion of cinema rather than the photographic qualities. Motion creates strong emotional and physiological experiences for the viewer, “can shape and trigger the process of both emotional involvement and intellectual engagement.” Motion and the idea of participation was an even greater emphasis for theorist Christian Metz. Motion could “inject the reality of motion into the unreality of the image and thus to render the world of imagination more real than it had ever been.” Participation is “affective and perceptual”and it is movement that affects the spectator, “bodily sensations of movement can engage spectator fantasy through perceptual and physical participation.”