January 20, 2009
I'm continuing to work my way through W.J.T. Mitchell's Picture Theory. As he thinks in triads He explores the force-field of image/text from the side of language of literature in four chapters, and then explores the field of visual representations in three chapters, before turning to examine the power of pictures by exploring the kind of picture of power we are assuming.
On the former he explore William Blake's mode of writing, ekphrasis (poems which describe works of art), and slave narratives. On the latter he explores abstract painting the work of Robert Morris and the photographic essay.
He says that texts present a greater threat to concepts of the integrity or purity of images than vice versa. For one thing, they unavoidably and literally impose themselves within and around the pictorial object, on the walls, outside, inside and on the frame through which the object is seen and discourse about it is conducted. Images interests, by contrast are generally regarded as immaterial, figurative and dispensable and description is ancillary to narrative.
The photographic essay, with its roots in documentary journalism, newspapers, magazines and the whole ensemble of visual verbal communications in mass media, is thereby connected to popular forms of communication that are quite antithetical to modernism in their freedom of exchange between image and text.This places the photographic essay at the cross roads between modernism and postmodernism, understanding it as a form in which the resistance to image text relations is most crucial. It is a space that occupies a real place in our cultural history.