Mitchell – Picture Theory (1994)

Some risk involved in beginning with a leap; Mitchell’s Picture Theory
splinters through the title’s pun–a theory of pictures and theory pictured or
picture-able.  In the introduction, Mitchell calls the problem of the 21st
C. a problem of the image.  This opens onto difficulties with the
relationship between word and image, mapping and organizing fields of
representation, and discord between reading proper and spectatorship (3). 
Fumble them as we inevitably will, these and other differences might seem less
gnarled if we "adopt Michel de Certau’s terminology and call the attempt to
describe [them] a ‘heterology of representation’" (5).

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Taylor and Saarinen – Imagologies (1994)

In Imagologies, Mark Taylor and Esa Saarinen weave and warp through a series of new media (vintage 1994) fabrics. I call them fabrics because the book’s designer, Marjaana Virta, does: “Mediatext: A collection of fabrics…” (jacket). And if we can call Imagologies a “book”–rich ironies here for all their project does to frazzle the paradigms of print–the visual designs and variations are as striking as any of the stuff we might otherwise classify as content. Perhaps as much as any paper-bound book could hope to, Imagologies pushes and
sometimes exceeds the constraints of the bound page.

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Jet Blue’s mechanical glitch and
emergency landing
in L.A.
close to twenty-four hours ago has re-re-re-played out in both the
footage and the passenger accounts.  The flight returned safely despite the
sideways-jammed and intractable landing gear; the culmination was a straight,
frictional grind to a halt. Thereafter, the angle of many of the news reports
has been the visibility of the event as it unfolded on the television monitors
inside the plane.  One of Jet Blue’s most prized features is a one-per-seat
television monitor that can tune to a variety of programs, including live
national news broadcasts.  Stunning as it must have been, what resulted was
disfiguration of the flash-of-celebrity fan on the Jumbo-tron: "Look, we’re on

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Baudrillard – Simulacra and Simulation (1981/1994)

Baudrillard begins by suggesting the impossibility of Borges’s exhaustive
map, a precise cartography of the empire.  According to Baudrillard, such a
map is no longer possible; the farcical project is rendered impossible because
of "the precession of simulacra," which we might take as an onslaught of
images without immediate reference or "copies without originals."  If images
are referential, simulacra shroud the reference, resulting in what Baudrillard
calls the hyperreal as well as conditions giving rise to "the era of
simulation [which] is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials" (2). 
Hereafter, maps precede territory (1); this applies to the medicalization of the
body and anticipations of war-action as the trainings for each are staged
through elaborate and artificial simulations.  Also, Baudrillard works this
theory on Disneyland, Watergate and God.

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Debord – Society of the Spectacle (1967/1983)

Spectacle, for Debord, refers broadly to the convergence of representation,
media, the proliferation of image-objects, and visually gripping mass
circulations given to
commodity: "a monopoly of appearances" (12). 
spearheaded the Situationist
International movement which was resolutely
actionist, performative, politically motivated, and theoretically sophisticated
(expansive of avant-garde, from Dada to surrealism).  In

Society of the Spectacle
, Debord issues a series of relatively short
vignettes–manifesto-like blurbs each attending to the effects of the spectacle,
from the separations of workers and their products to widespread isolationism.  Debord was concerned with the implications of the massification of the image,
consumerist patterns, and the spread of disillusionment pushed by the complacent
and consenting bourgeois profiteers.  Among the multiple definitional
turns, Debord writes, "spectacle is the opposite of dialogue" (18).

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Barthes – Rhetoric of the Image (1964)

In the advertising image, nice bright colors–a net-sack of Panzani pasta and
assorted spaghettimakers including vegetables, fresh and plenty.
Though non-linear, many of the signs accord with a variety of "euphoric values,"
says Barthes: domestic preparation, freshness, an unpacking, the casual
market-knowledge of slow foods of a pre-mechanical pace (no need for
preservation, refrigeration). Also, in the coordination of colors and types,
Barthes suggests second meaning–Italianicity or a gathering of things
Italian, much of this "based on a familiarity with certain tourist stereotypes"
(34).  Each of these meanings match with distinctive kinds of knowledge.

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A This-side of Language

On trauma and image from RB, "The Photographic Message":

These few remarks sketch a kind of differential table of photographic
connotations, showing, if nothing else, that connotation extends a long way. 
Is this to say that a pure denotation, a this-side of language, is
impossible? If such a denotation exists, it is perhaps not at the level of
what ordinary language calls the insignificant, the neutral, the objective,
but, on the contrary, at the level of absolutely traumatic images.  The
trauma can be seized in a process of photographic signification but then
precisely they are indicated via a rhetorical code which distances, sublimates
and pacifies them.  Truly traumatic photographs are rare, for in
photography the trauma is wholly dependent on the certainty that the scene
‘really’ happened: the photographer had to be there (the mythical
definition of denotation).  Assuming this (which, in fact, is already a
connotation), the traumatic photograph (fires, shipwrecks, catastrophes,
violent deaths, all captured ‘from life as lived’) is the photograph about
which there is nothing to say; the shock-photo is by structure insignificant:
no value, no knowledge, at the limit no verbal categorization can have a hold
on the process instituting the signification.  One could imagine a kind
of law: the more direct the trauma, the more difficult its connotation; or
again, the ‘mythological’ effect of a photograph is inversely proportional to
its traumatic effect. (30)

"The more difficult its connotation…," close to what Jeff posted
Monday at
this Public Address on

spectacle, disaster and "signature images."

Barthes – The Photographic Message (1961)

Press photographs.  Barthes refers to several such photographs in this
essay from 1961.  He was concerned with contending orders of connoted
and denoted meanings operable in the reading of photographs. The
"photographic paradox," as he puts it, involves the double structure of
contending linguistic orders (connotative, denotative) and the photograph as
, "a message without code" (17).  Paradoxically, the press
photograph bears a "continuous message" sustained in the two significant
structures (of which "only one is linguistic"…either accompanying text or
description). Barthes calls the relationship between the image and the text
"contiguous" rather than "homogenous" (16). And so the photograph must be read
with some awareness of these variations, which lead to variations in meaning.
Barthes: "What can at least be done now is to forecast the main planes of
analysis of photographic connotation" (20).

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Amphigeography and Doppelspace

Roland Barthes in Roland Barthes on Amphibologies:

[I]n general, the context forces us to choose one of the two meanings and
to forget the other.  Each time he encounters one of these double words,
R.B., on the contrary insists on keeping both meanings, as if one were winking
at the other and as if the word’s meaning were in that wink, so that one
and the same words
, in one and the same sentence, means at one
and the same time
two different things, and so that one delights,
semantically, in the other by the other.  This is why such words are
often said to be "preciously ambiguous": not in their lexical essence (for any
word in the lexicon has several meanings), but because, by any kind of luck,
a kind of favor not of language but of discourse, I can actualize their
amphibology, can say ‘intelligence’ and appear to be referring chiefly to the
intellective meaning, but letting the meaning of ‘complicity’ be understood

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