I was really getting bogged down in Victor Burgin’s In/Different Spaces. Mostly, because like so many contemporary critics, he seems hell-bent on reshaping psychoanalytic criticism into a non-problematic way of looking at images. I don’t buy it. Every time they invoke the sacred Lacan my eyes glaze over. I read through a long chapter dissecting the Helmut Newton photograph (above) and decided that I was just going to have to put the book down.
I never cared for Newton’s work at all. I much prefer Christian Vogt as far as this sort of stuff goes. Burgin wrote about this photograph as if it were Las Meninas. Sorry, but I just don’t see that. I don’t see it saying anything that adds or extends any one of a hundred other “perceptual perspective problem” photographs or paintings. I find it incredibly boring, and like most of the criticism I’ve read on Mappelthorpe, it seems to me that critics could find something more interesting to write about. It’s not that I think these people untalented, it’s just that I don’t think of them as being really innovative in proportion to the ink spilled over them.
Of course, the same day I was thinking all this Helmut Newton died. I didn’t find out until the next day. Now I sort of feel guilty for having such negative thoughts. I’ve never had much attraction to fetish stuff of any sort, so he was really off my perceptual “radar” until I started reading Burgin’s book. Odd coincidence, really.