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Re: I think I Like Tilmans (related to earlier Rodchenko arguments)

From:     blp
Category: Art
Date:     29 March 2008
Time:     07:45 PM


But it's precisely the fact that the other thing is further from the way you look at the world
that's interesting about it. It's this explicit artifice in the design of these things, rather than
direct exposure of the means of production, that makes them have this effect. And it's precisely the
way you relate to the Tilmans photos and believe they show you the world as you see it that makes
them similar to the Stalin era, post-formalist Rodchenkos: the claim to a universalist, window to
the world status. It's complicated because, in the Tilmans photos, the fact of them being photos
does seem to matter, being snapshotty, having a bit of lens flair or dodgy lighting, but this seems
to illustrate Zizek's point about how, in the postmodern moment, the old modernist alienation
technique of making the means of production explicit is now part of what is fetishised. 

To put the idea simply, as it applies here: photographing something confers glamour. Or, as you say,
nostalgia. A sort of immediate nostalgia. But that was my original point. Isn't it you who's always
pooh poohing nostalgia on this site? And nostalgia, especially Tilmans' nostalgia for the present,
is surely a perfect manifestation of desire, to whit., like the child ignoring his toy until another
kid tries to play with it, you don't want it until it's at the one remove of the Tilmans snapshot;
the old trick putting a frame around the reality that no one really noticed up to that point. That's
why the technique works so well for advertising. It's a neat, tricky, two-way manoeuvre. It says,
look, this is normal life and it's lovely and somehow poignant (and never ugly and difficult, except
in a way that's not), yet shows you something you have no real access to except through the
photograph, since its effect really depends on it being a photographic object, with lens flair and
blurring and no movement. 

Whereas, the Rodchenko, on the other hand, says, this is fake and it's all you need. It uses some
subject matter from the real world, a human in portrait pose say, but makes it quite obvious that
the appeal of the photo is not that, but how it's been handled by the photographer, so it alludes to
nothing beyond itself and gives you a complete experience right there, a total artwork or
gesamtkunstwerk, not in the sense of engaging all the senses, but  being hermetic and complete and
not a synechdoche for a broader reality and a means of sentimentalising that reality. So this is
what's remarkable about it: it's this largely figurative medium remaining figurative, yet, rather
than seeking to supplant painting's mimetic function, is actually moving with painting (supposedly
in flight from its own photography induced irrelevance) towards formalist abstraction, trying to
keep up with it. 

Eva's might be right that the Dogma lot and Tilmans too are heirs, in a way, to the formalism of
Godard (they might say, no, it's more Cassavetes or Warhol - and still be missing the point as
badly). But they're squandering the legacy. The sense in which they are heirs seems to me to be this
Zizekian one in which the acknowledgement of the means of production is fetishised. The difference,
and the reason I said I found the Rodchenko's shocking, is that there's a deadness in them, which is
also in Godard and that still shocks people when they find it there. The postmodern era artists who
seem to be revealing their process somehow enact a reversal, where the shaky camera et al make the
subject seem more  alive and increases the sense of reality. I think it's a dirty trick, though it
always looks as if it's more one that's been played on them than the other way around. 

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