I’ve been reading a thread about the role of artistic intent that seems to have sprung up here and there. I’m not interested in the role of intention in the reading of art so much as I am in the link between intention and agency. Specifically, I wonder why it would trouble some people that being mindful of the image being made (implying a conscious intent to represent something in a specific manner) must be classed as either relevant or irrelevant to the final result. Joerg Colberg phrases it in this way:
Photography, of course, has become an established part of art – the implications of that have important consequences for how we understand photography. If photography is an art form (and not, say, a technical craft to produce images) then this means that we need to treat it like an art form.
But it also means that we can use practices well-established in the art world to approach photography, and we might learn something very valuable. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we have to treat photography just like minimalist art – each art form clearly deserves to be treated according to its own characteristics. But we better stop thinking about photography as if it was a technical craft to produce images.
I am confused. The Aristotelian definition of techné is an ability to make with a consciousness of what is being made. The invocation of photography as a “technical craft” reads as techné for me, which makes it no different than say, the ability of the sculptor or painter. So why then should the craft of photography (because it is “technical”?) be excluded from consideration? The only way that I can get this assertion to make any sense is if one classes “art” as an activity that requires the absence of any mindfulness of the potential result. In short, a photographer is denied any agency in his products (photographs). He is merely a conduit through which verities or falsehoods “flow” on their way to an interpretive community.
This is all quite counter-intuitive. I like making things. I like to think I have some awareness of what I am doing. I do not care whether it is classed as “art” or not, and if it means that in order to be considered as such that one should surrender any sense of photography as a craft, well, count me out on that one.
Of course, on the interpretive (reading) side, then the consideration of the artist’s agency (whether in the form of technical ability or communicative success at conveying their intent) is always optional. On the making (techné) side intent is never superfluous. Without intent, it is no longer making—it is finding.
At this point, some readers may say, huh? How can a statute of limitations for copyright infringement bar a state law claim for an accounting of profits between co-authors brought under diversity jurisdiction? The answer according to the majority is that the accounting cause of action was predicated on there being co-authorship status; if there can be no such co-authorship claim because the statute of limitations bars even a facial assertion of co-authorship status, there can be no possible accounting cause of action. The majority found the copyright limitations indeed barred the co-authorship claim, and hence affirmed dismissal of the claim.
You know you have crossed a threshold when you start finding copyright law funny. I couldn’t read Patry’s post about the I.P. issues surrounding Hummels without thinking of About Schmidt. There’s also a funny (to me at least) bit about Hummel photographer knock-offs.
When I first taught first year writing in Arkansas, I took a cue from my literature background and required the students to write a bibliographic essay in order to establish the distinction between research and opinion. I expressly forbade offering excessive opinion about their sources; I wanted them to place the sources into some relationship with one another. The results were mixed. I got a lot of opinions.
I changed my approach just a bit this time. One of my grad instructors in Minnesota last year required an annotated bibliography and I was confused—I wrote a bibliographic essay instead, and was forced to revise it to fit the alternate form. It dawned on me that an annotated bibliography is a completely different animal that is noticeably easier to write than a bibliographic essay. No relationships are required; an annotated bibliography is simply a string of summaries. When we organize things, opinions seem to be the requisite glue to hold things together. I could more easily eliminate the opinions by eliminating the creative possibilities inherent in structure.
Continue reading “Becoming Authority”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problem of storytelling, particularly about the way that technology impacts the way that we tell stories. There’s a lot to say about it, but it seems like some throat-clearing is in order.
Over the last few days, a couple of rhetoricians have weighed in on Doris Lessing’s Nobel prize acceptance speech—seemingly without bothering to read it first. This tactic reminds me of the sort of snap judgments that first-year composition students make—they accept the consensus of their peers without question. I suppose it’s one of the hazards of the rapid-fire atmosphere of electronic discourse—it’s easier to twit than to perform any sort of analytic work.
Lessing’s speech is also a wonderful example of the classic solitary originary proprietary model of writing, which might provide an interesting contrast to the newly emergent models of distributed collaborative authorship if more close reading were applied. But there isn’t space or time for that at this moment; I’ll press on with the reactive component, hoping I can return at a later date to the analytic problem.
Dennis Jerz and Clay Spinnuzi are not stupid people. I wouldn’t normally expect this sort of knee-jerk. I remember months ago, rr linked to a video of Lessing being ambushed by journalists when she won the prize. She couldn’t think of anything to say, apparently, and ended up asking the reporters to tell her what to say so that she could repeat it back to them—a tactic first suggested by Andy Warhol in one of his books as I recall. Jerz and Spinuzi didn’t misread the speech as far as I know, they simply parroted back the critique of Techcrunch and Ars Techica—which read Lessing as claiming that the internet makes you dumb or that it was the cause of our fragmented culture. Really? That’s not what I read. Here is the pertinent section, as printed by the Guardian:
Continue reading “Storytelling (1)”
D.T. Max quotes Steven James Joyce:
“We have proven that we are willing to take any necessary action to back and enforce what we legitimately believe in.” Or, as he put it to me during two phone calls that he recently made to me from La Flotte, “What other literary estate stands up the way I do? It’s a whole way of looking at things and looking at life.”
. . . Stephen said that Joyce’s genius could be found in his several books. (His own library of Joyceana, he once told Le Monde, “is less than a metre wide.”) He did not see what the two hundred and sixty-one works of criticism in the catalogue of the Library of Congress, say, could add to this legacy. Academics, he said at one point, are “people who want to brand this great work with their mark. I don’t accept that.”
. . . Academics, he declared, were like “rats and lice—they should be exterminated!”
Though the much trumpeted “settlement” by the Joyce estate seems like a victory for fair use, ultimately it seems that scholars are the proud owners of a newly refurbished semi-public closet:
Continue reading “Scholarly meeting in the closet”
I haven’t bought a print magazine in a long time, but I made the trip to get February’s Harper’s because of the article about Joywar. I’m interested in the ongoing debates about appropriation/plagarism, particularly as they relate to photography. If the 2005 Sweetland conference proceeding ever passes the UMI press editors, my first published paper will be on that topic.
Following the Joy Garnett/ Susan Meiselas piece, there is a long and somewhat tedious collage/article on plagarism (now available online, thanks Tom). Reading through the commentary at the end, it was great to find out about Graham Rawle’s Diary of an Amateur Photographer, I don’t really see collage/mash-up as the future of creativity (as some people people do). But it certainly is fun.
On a related note, the recent article on visual plagarism from Slate is pretty good.
A contemporary Stanhope rosary from Michioacan, Mexico.
Looking through the lens embedded in the cross presents a view of the Virgin of Guadalupe levitating strangely within a hazy space.
A seizure in 1863 involved a type of photograph that was particularly adaptable to pornography—microphotography. These tiny images, sold as transparencies, were impossible to read with the naked eye and were packaged with special magnifying viewers (called Stanhopes). Numerous patents for microphotographic techniques were filed in 1861 (by Martinache for “microphotographs of jewelry”; Regad, “Prints for microscopes”1862 (Brin fréres; Nachet et fils) during the peak of interest in this novelty. Caught this time with “micro nudes” were Guth and Laufer, who were middlemen rather than photographers. Other firms that tried to register microphotographs with the Ministry of the Interior had similar problems getting their images approved. The list of “planches sans ou avec texts non autorisées” in 1862 included macroviews by Dagron et Compagnie entitled Surprised Bathers, La Joyeuse orgie, L’ Indiscret, Léda; Voland’s micro Enlévement de Psyche and Venus et Adonis; and Villeneuve’s Le Balancoire and Le Hamac (all photos of artworks, which represented another type of illegal image). Some of these works were marked “á la condiction expresse de ne pas mettre á l’étalage” or “pour l’export,” which suggests that they were conditionally approved.
Continue reading “French Postcards”