Friday, May 1, 2009

11-Interventions into reality

It is because photographs of reality – and in fact reality itself – are not able to turn the objectified other into a subject[22] that it is necessary to create alternative representations and interventions into reality, to put a human perspective on the Palestinian/Israeli divide — whether this uses a dialectic through text, and concept (as in Jacir’s Where We Come From), or filmic identification and narrative[23], or participatory works that propose different models of relationality between the subject and world (an encounter with the other as challenger as opposed to a reassuring encounter with the self[24]), or other means. In Jacir's piece, Waxman writes that '[b]etween those simple photographs and unremarkable written requests lies a profoundly affecting failure: the implicit inadequacy of Jacir's gesture... Paradoxically, it is neither meaningless nor merely symbolic: by fulfilling each request and returning with proof, ... Jacir's gesture is at once success and failure. Such failure can be a startlingly potent tool, both conceptually and formally... It lurks at the heart of [this piece]: ... the failure of the Middle East peace process, the failure of photographic representation'[25].

‘[I]t is not indifference which erases the weight of the image... but love, extreme love', Barthes says (and that the only person who can do that is perhaps his mother). This love, which is not conditional, is distinguished from dependence or projection: ‘obviously, when there is fear there is no love’[26]. One function of art is to provide an encounter with the other, an encounter that allows a momentary access to the Real (in the Vedic sense), to love – Arendt uses the word ‘natality’ to describe people’s ability to bring 'new' ideas, frameworks, and institutions out of nothing and into reality – that erases the weight of the other’s image so as to resignify and reimagine one's identification to shift toward the other.

[22] Barthes, 12.
[23] Merz, Christian. "Identification, Mirror". The Imaginary Signifier. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982. More on the process of viewer identification in film in this article — Merz writes that in order to understand the fiction film, one must take oneself for the character (imaginary) but not take oneself for her/him (return to the real) so that the fiction can be established. And in order to understand the film one must 'perceive the photographed object as absent, its photograph as present, and the presence of this absence as signifying'.
[24] A review of 'The Art of Participation' SFMOMA show that analyses its interpretation of 'participation': Donough, Tom. "The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now". ArtForum. Apr. 2009. 20 Apr. 2009 <>.
[25] Waxman, 44.
[26] Krishnamurti, Jiddu. “Freedom”. Flight of the Eagle. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1973.

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