Week 14: Is Photography Over?

December 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

I definitely found myself agreeing with a large portion of the participants of the symposium, or at least I agreed with parts of most of the arguments. Most of the participants wanted to dissect the question, asking what kind of “photography” is being referred to, and what are the connotations of the word “over”? Is “is photography over?” referring to the non-expanded field of photography? Does “over” mean moved on, expanded, or something else?

I agreed with Vince Aletti when he says, “What’s over is the narrow view of photography – the idea that the camera is a recording device, not a creative tool, and that its product is strictly representational – not manipulated, not fabricated, not abstract.” Aletti then goes on to say that this notion has long since died, which I think everyone can agree with. He discusses how there is no longer a distinction between photographs made by artists versus everyone else with a camera; I don’t completely agree with this. Although I think he is trying to make the point that photography is so accessible that it can be made by anyone, the distinction is still seen in gallery settings, for example. “Artists” show their work in galleries, and “people with cameras” show their work on Tumblr. I’m not saying that this notion is correct; in fact, I’m saying the opposite, for the most part. But there are settings where people still prefer to distinguish between the two.

Related to that, Walead Beshty had the most eloquently composed argument, in my opinion, and he raised a lot of interesting points. He points out that the “is photography dead?” question refers to “a crisis pertaining to whether or not the current structure of disciplines is able to identify and dutifully manage the traditions they are called upon to preserve and maintain; it is about creating a criteria for what is excluded and what is included in the hypothetical warehouse called “photography”. He says that we are experiencing “less a crisis for the medium, but more so a crisis of the institutionalization of art itself”. Since “everyone is a photographer these days”, what does that mean for the distinction between “artists” and “everyone else with a camera”? Can only artists create meaningful work? Does art have to be meaningful/thoughtful? Is art only meaningful when placed in a museum or in an art canon?

I also thought Trevor Paglen made a good point – “by understanding photography itself as an array of performances and landscapes, rather than a never-ending procession of unstable images, we may find a language with which to understand the contemporary ways in which imaging and reality are inescapably enmeshed”. Paglen’s work deals with a lot of super interesting concepts, and I’m sad I had to work when he was lecturing last week. He mentions that, for him, photography includes a lot of things: from “art” photography, to cell phone snapshots, to MRIs to surveillance cameras to photographs documenting supposed differences across species, cultures, races, etc. Photography is becoming more and more ubiquitous as we expand the definition of photography. According to Paglen, the argument about the “politics of representation” is an old one, and we must consider photography in terms of the performance of imaging and spacial politics. Using his work as an example, we must consider what the implications are of photography as “big brother”, to put it simply.

 

Relational Aesthetics

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ben Lewis opens up the documentary Relational Art: Is It AnIsm? by describing the experience of Light Corner, made by artist Carsten Holler; a relational art installation that Lewis says is experienced with eyes closed. The flashing lightbulbs pulsating as fast as a human heart pumps creates patterns when your eyes are closed; the piece is not about what is seen, but the effect it has on human eyes. I thought this was a good way of introducing relational aesthetics.

“The Possibility of a relational art (an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space), points to a radical upheaval of the aesthetic, cultural and political goals introduced by modern art”

Based on this quote, Nicholas Bourriaud describes modern art as independent and private; something that is experienced more or less alone, and something that definitely does not address human interaction. Relational art, however, explores human interaction and the context these interactions are in. To supplement this quote, the video attempts to explain what relational art is, and uses several artists/works as examples. With the piece Phone Home, visitors could choose to call someone they know on a pay phone while others listened in on their conversation. Using this piece as an example of relational art, the conclusion can be made that this kind of art has everything to do with social context and political statement; wiretapping has very much been a “hot issue” within the past few years, and this piece attempts to address that. It is up to the visitors to “activate” the art by calling and listening in on conversations. One has to play with the work or art to give it meaning, otherwise, the work is just a line of pay phones in a room, which sends a different message entirely. Meaning is found in the work when people interact with it. The art and it’s meaning is found in the relationships between the people interacting with it. Relational art draws from minimalism; minimalist sculptures are about the experience of interacting with the sculpture by moving around it and taking in the feeling it gives off. Relational art is slightly different, however, as it can also have a more blatant political statement or be more about how a group of people interact to make the art/give it meaning, instead of just one person interacting with art that already has an assigned meaning. Relational art is different from modern art because relational art attempts to address the society we live in now, which as the video suggests, is highly communicational.

Aside from Santiago Sierra, who was mentioned in the video, I’m having trouble thinking of how relational art and photography can be combined. Photography can capture the effects of relational art; after a relational art piece is over, like, for example, the artist mentioned in the video who cooked for visitors and then displayed the dirty dishes from cooking as a relational art piece, the end result can be photographed. The photograph won’t convey, however, the smell of the dirty dishes, for example, and it certainly won’t convey the social interactions that went on while the cooking and eating was being done. The name of the artist escapes me now, but we discussed a photographer in class who’s installation consisted of large screens hanging from the ceiling that displayed a video of various people standing and staring, their subtle movements noted. Maybe if the video was streamed live, and the subject on the screen could somehow view a live feed of who was looking at them, could photography then be relational; the installation would then find meaning in how people interact with it.

I’ve got to say though, I am pretty intrigued with relational art; if nothing else, it gives me a new way of thinking about things. Even though on some level I agree with the “who do they think they are” tone of the documentary, I found myself somehow standing up for the artists in my head. Putting all debate aside as to what art is, the works mentioned seem, for the most part, fun and interesting – definitely something I would want to participate in and explore. I know this is the second time I’ve mentioned Jason Lazarus in a blog and I probably seem like a total fan girl, but I thought of Jason Lazarus’s Texting Forgiveness when watching Ben Lewis’ video. The piece, when it happened, consisted of a Catholic priest receiving and replying to texts sent to him asking for forgiveness.

Although a photograph was made of the piece, the photograph is definitely not what the piece is about. I’ve even heard Lazarus talk about how when gallery visitors would arrive, some went across the room to text the priest, as opposed to standing in front of him. This makes the installation very much about the relationship between the priest and everyone else; this is what relational art is.

Week 12: Narrative (or lack of) in photography

November 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Szarkowski begins the introduction to The Photographer’s Eye by asserting that photography is “a process based not on synthesis but on selection”, meaning that instead of synthesizing a painting, photographers select from the world before them to create an image. The history of photography, as Szarkowski puts it, is made up of a lot of photographers (who’s original job/interest was certainly not to be a “photographer”) making mistakes and experimenting with photography. The 19th century brought about a surge in an interest in photography, and with that brought upon new understanding and discovering of how people view the world. Photography processes became faster, cheaper, and more accessible. Szarkowski cites E.E. Cohen as describing this surge as “photographers who run rampant…photographing objects of all sorts, sizes, and shapes, under almost every condition, without ever pausing to ask themselves, is this or that artistic?”. Out of the mass of photographs that were being created during this time, some were significant; a lot of them weren’t. The significant ones, as Szarkowski puts it, “survived, like organisms, to reproduce and evolve”. Photographers learned and became inspired by past generations of photographers, and so on, to this day; “Tradition was formed by all the photographs that had impressed themselves upon his consciousness”.

Szarkowski expands on five issues/characteristics that he thinks are inherent to the medium of photography:

The Thing Itself:
Photography deals with the actual, and no matter how factual photographs seem to be, they are different than reality iteself. Photographs create an exaggerated importance, and photographers must create their images based on this, while still having an understanding of reality; the difference between the subject and the photograph.

The Detail:
Photographers are unable to connect clues that allude to details of the truth so that a narrative is created. Photographs only isolate moments in time and truth/narrative is drawn from that (or at least photographers try to). Because of this, photographs are read as symbols, not narratives. Szarkowski lists several ways photographers in the past have attempted but failed to make narratives out of photographs. Stitching negatives together like the works of Henry Peach Robinson attempt to tell a story, but only ever resulted in a “pretentious failure”. Photographic sequences in magazines attempt to narrate, but the connection is superficial. War photographs and their captions don’t ever explain what’s going on or what the war is about, they only make war real, according to Szarkowski.


Robinson, Fading Away


The Frame:
Szarkowski talks about how photography puts subject(s) in a frame that are assumably in relation to each other, even if this is not necessarily true; the relationship is created by the photographer.

Time:
An instant photograph doesn’t exist because of the fact that photography is made up of exposures of a certain amount of time; “this time is always the present”. Photography makes reference to the past and future because photographs survive as relics of the past, and the future “through prophecy visible in the present”. Photographs that show time lapsed, particularly ones from the time where films and lenses were slower, were (and still are) seen as accidents that should be discarded and forgotten about. When Eadweard Muybridge photographed a running horse, the world realized not only that a horse raises all of its legs off the ground when running, but how animals move in general. Photography impacted people’s perceptions of the world, and for once, answered a question truthfully. Finally, Szarkowski asserts that “the decisive moment” that Cartier-Bresson was talking about isn’t about creating a narrative, but about finding a “visual climax” to photograph.

Muybridge’s galloping horse

Cartier Bresson, a decisive moment

Vantage Point:
Photography has taught us to see from different vantage points; once people began to think photographically, “photographic distortion” no longer existed; it’s just how people see now. Szarkowski finalizes the introduction by stating that it’s easy to forget how impacting photography is on photographers; we learn from its history, we learn from experimenting with it. Photography isn’t linear; it’s impacted how we see and think. The history of photography is always changing and we are always learning from past techniques.

Greenburg, on the other hand, asserts that there is narrative conveyed in photography, but photography fails as “art”. Photography, according to him, works well when it isn’t calling too much attention to itself. When photographs become too descriptive, they threaten what art is, just as much as purely abstract art is sometimes not considered “art” at all. He goes on to discuss how Eugene Atget was a “complete photographer” because he was a “pictorial as well as illustrative artist”, yet illustrating his subjects properly came first, and the pictorial aspects of his photos happened as an unconscious second.

Atget, Rue de la Colonie

According to Greenburg, Edward Steichen’s photographs have not held up as art, unless you’re talking about his photograph taken in the Acropolis at Athens; this photograph, according to Greenburg, tells a story and is successful as a photograph. The woman’s arms raised in contrast with carved stone of a sculpture of a woman, the photograph was almost too “arty” to succeed as an acceptable photo.

Greenburg asserts his seemingly close minded view of what art is even further by claiming that photographs that are purely formal or abstract (long exposure of a moving object, reversed negative, macro shots) are a threat to photography if it’s going to be taken seriously as “art”. He even goes as far as criticizing the art of Andreas Feininger, saying that Feininger’s photographs only succeed when they are of statues of female nudes. Finally, according to Greenburg, Cartier-Bresson is one of the greatest photographers of our day, but even still, Greenburg isn’t satisfied with Bresson’s work. His photographs try to hard to do what “painting and sculpture” have apparently already done better. Bresson’s photographs are too frozen, he says, and apparently tabloid snapshot photography succeeds more at showing us a “sharper sense of life and movement”. Bresson’s work is too esoteric, Greenburg says, and a demonic eye is more likely to find and produce photographs that are more literary.

Both Szarkowski and Greenburg bring up debates that are interesting to think about, but I don’t completely agree with either of them. Even from the beginning, I disagreed with the notion that only photographs are selected; doesn’t an artist have to select a scene and put a frame around it when minimizing it to a canvas? When questioning narrative in photography, it is hard for me to NOT see narrative in most photographs. I think Szarkowski talks about a very literal form of narrative, played out through a forced sequence or a mash-up of negatives. Even if war photographs don’t “tell us the whole story”, what other form of art does? Photographers set up a narrative or not when they photograph, but it is the viewer’s job as well to create their own story. As for Greenburg’s argument, I don’t take it very seriously. I’m obsessed with detail (maybe even too much) in photographs, so it’s hard for me to think of there being “too much” of it. Also, purely formal art may not tell as elaborate of a story, but it is by no means a failure as “art” (usually). I think, in 2010, we can all get past the completely outdated notion that photography is a medium that falls short of “traditional” art like painting or sculpture. I mean, common, I don’t think I could roll my eyes more. As Szarkowski stated in his intro, photography is continually evolving and expanding, just like it always has. Even if early pictorial photographs were seen as painting failures, photographers today (Jeff Wall, for example) essentially do the same thing that Robinson and Rejlander did in the beginning of the history of the medium. The expanded field of photography is STILL evolving, and Greenburg’s opinion isn’t just “snobby”; it’s ridiculously outdated to a point that cannot be taken seriously in this day and age.

When I think of narratives in photography, the types of photographs that Cotton discusses are what comes to mind. She opens up the second chapter of The Photograph as Contemporary Art by explaining the term “tableau photography”, and how that entails a narrative in a stand-alone picture. She explains how photographs like those of Jeff Wall tell a story through it’s composition. The layout of the interior in “Insomnia” “acts as a set of clues to the events that could have led up to this moment…”

Jeff Wall, Insomnia

Cotton mentions Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hollywood series, claiming that narrative is even shown through the use of titles that are given to photographs:

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Eddie Anderson; 21 years old; Houston, TX; $20

In this photograph, narrative is shown in a couple of different ways. Cinematic lighting is used to illuminate the person in the photograph, but we also draw a narrative from the title of the photograph; the name of the subject, how old he is, where he is from, and how much diCorcia paid him so that he could use him in a photograph. These set of facts insinuate a narrative, and one can’t help but draw conclusions based on the title of the magnificently lighted man in the photo.

Hannah Starkey, March

Even when a subject’s face is hidden, one draws a narrative from the subject’s body language, gestures, and surroundings, according to Cotton. We create meaning and comparison between the figure and their surroundings. Often in tableau photography, actors, props, and digital manipulation are also employed to create a narrative:

Wendy McMurdo, Helen, Backstage, Merlin Theatre

Charlie White, Ken's Basement

Through these examples, it is painfully obvious to me that narrative is shown through several different methods and in many, many different ways in contemporary photography alone. My viewpoint, and probably a lot of others’ viewpoints as well is shared with Cotton. Narrative doesn’t have to be linear or sequential to work, and the examples above are proof.

Week 10: Photography’s Expanded Field

November 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

So, I’m not gonna lie, I felt like I had some trouble understanding this article. Like this article asserts, photography is being described using new terms and ideas to fit into a contemporary understanding of photography and these ideas are, well, pretty complex.

BUT, Baker has mapped out in Photography’s Expanded Field the way in which photography has transformed since postmodernist artists such as Cindy Sherman used photography in a way that is more cinematic instead of photographic. This doesn’t mean, however, that photography is over. Photography has expanded as a field, and now we must broaden the kinds of terms we use when describing what photography is. Baker calls for a more frequent mapping of photography’s effects because the terms we are using to describe it are becoming more complex and less self-evident. This, instead of retreating back to modernist and post modernist ways of thinking about photography, is what needs to happen in order to discuss contemporary photography in a way that does it’s artists justice.

Baker employs this map to describe the pull of contradictions in these artists’ works, and how contemporary photography can be one or more of these terms combined. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills are both statis and non-stasis because even though they are taken from a cinematic film, which is non-stasis, the work is of one moment in the film, creating a moment of stasis. Jeff Wall’s photographs are both narrative and stasis. By using a light box to display his photographs, Wall makes his photographs about the physical, tangible object. His photographs are narrative because of the layers of digital compilation that go into his photographs, and the amount of “story-telling” that is going on in each of his images. Through the many layers he composites, a story of the every day is narrated.

A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai), 1993.

 

View from an Apartment, 2005

When reading this article, I was reminded of Jason Lazarus’s Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree (2008). The video can be viewed here: http://jasonlazarus.com/#/work:14:a.-frank-video/media:361:anne-franks-che…

Still from Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree

I think that Baker’s argument is evident in the fact that when thinking about how to discuss Lazarus’ body of work, I’m not sure whether I should refer to it as “photography” or as a “film”. The video is 15 minutes of the same view at the top of a tree; from far away/quick glance, sound turned off on my computer, it seems like a “photograph” in the traditional sense that we know a photograph: still. When one continues to watch the video, we see the gradient of the sky slowly changing, birds are flying by, the tree is rustling with the wind, and in the background we hear the every day street sounds that surround the tree.

When referring back to the map above, I am not completely sure which of the four categories Lazarus’ work falls under; I can rationalize that all or most of them can be used to describe this body of work. It is a narrative in the sense that the video is telling a story about that tree and its surroundings on that specific day, during that specific time. It is also non-stasis, because of the fact that it is a video recording a sequence of events (the events being the trees movements and it’s surrounding sounds). At the same time, however, it is stasis because of how “still” the video’s recordings are; for a video, it is pretty static. The groan of the wind in the background is constant, and is only ever broken up by a car horn, church bell, or bird chirp. Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree might also be rationalized as non-narrative, or at least as non-narrative as video could be. We don’t really ever know what’s going on below or around the tree, and the fact that the video has sound only alludes to anything going on around the tree at all.

Week 7: The Digital

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ritchin-

It seems to me that Ritchin has an almost cynical view about digital photography and the future of the medium, or at least more cynical than Ribalta or Dzenko. He compares computer users to drug users, and points out how computers try to simulate things humans already know about, like “folders” and “painting”. Ritchin makes the statement that synthesizer sounds can mimic the sounds of other instruments, even inventing sounds we’ve never heard, and he relates this to how digital photography works; “the digital inhabits the in-between, and beyond”. It can do things we have never imagined, and should kind of be feared because of it.

Ritchin makes the claim that digital changes photography; with analog photography, each reproduction was a slightly poorer version than the last. But with digital photography, “the original” no longer exists. Reproductions can be made from a single digital file that all look exactly the same. He also says how it means something different to take a photograph now; the image serves as an “initial recording, a preliminary script”. The digital photographer is a “postmodern disc jockey” that takes a photograph only to alter it completely in post production, creating something that we haven’t seen yet and something that we can’t necessarily trust. Ritchin also talks about how digital photography has been reduced to casual interactions over phones, webcames, and satellites, and how, like the invention of cars gave humans a sense of entitlement to go wherever they want, “the digital” creates new realities. He talks about how everyone witnesses important events and enjoys things through a screen. We have “banished the actual experience” and we act differently because of digital photography; we are always being watched, and always expect to be recorded.

When discussing “the real”, Ritchin is referring to the actual scene that existed before the camera. Scenes that are made up through digital post production are not “the real”.

Ribalta-

In “Molecular Photography…”, Ribalta argues that photography is becoming increasingly more disposable because of how simple it is to create and delete an image, and people can have a more relaxed relationship with it; amateur photographers don’t have to mess around with chemical photography. People have more access to photography now than ever before, it seems. The discourse on the “death of photography” is about photography’s reappearance as something totally separate from it’s “traditional technological material condition”. Photography dies but the photographic is born; photographic is how we take in the world and it defines our culture.

Photography has always been a link between image and historical reality, but digital photography has taken away that “reality”. Ribalta wonders in his article if photography is possible without realism; if it loses it’s historical mission to create social change and is no longer about “documenting”, will photography still be the same thing?

Ribalta calls for a change in the way we talk about, critique, and view photography in “the digital” age. Realism in photography goes from captured, to invented, and we need a new way to talk about photography when we have a different opinion about what is “real” about photography and know it functions differently now. He also calls for new ways to show art, other than a museum, that is more fitting for art in the digital age.

Dzenko-

Dzenko main argument is that a photograph being digital does not negotiate it’s ability to be practical and trustworthy. He makes the argument that when we read newspapers online, we don’t trust them any less because we’re reading them in digital form. So why should we trust digital photography less than analog photography? Dzenko uses this rational to explain how people like Ritchin had it wrong; digital photography has made a lot of things easier, and it has not caused widespread mistrust like once assumed by people like Ritchin.

 

Week 6: Azoulay + Reinhardt

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Reinhardt reading:

Abu Ghraib photos/ photography as tool to hurt someone-

-photography is a tool that is used to abuse and humiliate prisoners
-by viewing the photograph, the humiliation is prolonged; circulating the photo means that the victim in the photograph can be humiliated over and over, over a long period of time – extend moment of violation
– American government doesn’t allow photographers to take pictures of dead American soldiers – withholding images of Americans suffering from the public out of respect/images would be too insensitive
-Government still allows photographers to take pictures of dead Iraqi soldiers –  not insensitive, display/circulate these images, Sontag: “The more remote or exotic the place, the more likely we are to have full frontal views of the dead and dying“.
-Victims that were in infamous Abu Ghraib torture photos: reuse image of suffering on their business card for their group, Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons
-reuse/resignify image of their torture, thus ending humiliation


Aestheticization and  James Nachtwey-

-emphasis on quality of images
-trouble viewing photos by Nachtwey: aesthetic form promotes anxiety, possibly because the victims that were photographed were suffering when the photograph was taken.
-Sekula, about images like those by Nachtwey: praises the way artists “resist the pornography of the ‘direct representation of misery” – “place language between the viewer and the ‘visual experience'”, according to  Reinhardt.
-Instead of showing the misery directly, Martha Rosler, for example, photographed without people in the composition
and paired images with “foul” words that would be used to describe the location and it’s inhabitants.

Aesthetic strategies for critical engagement:
Ground Zero photos:
– Meyerowitz: photograph of ground zero depicting heroism/reconstruction/home: aesthetically pleasing, but doesn’t do much to suggest there was a critical vision and a deepened understanding when taking the photo.
-Ruff: appropriated image of burning WTC that’s pixels are distorted to call attention to digitalization of image;  emphasizing distance from actual suffering and media perceptions surrounding 9/11.
-no bodies visible in image, see suffering but not exploiting victims, image came about after suffering as a way to open
up dialogue for critical thought.
-used aesthetic strategy to invite critical engagement and metacritical reflection
-aestheticization does not always equal being passive about suffering.


-Steinstrasse 22:

-photography’s roll in making of collective memory
-pleasure of picture doesn’t trivialize suffering of Holocaust victims
-individuals on projections weren’t in pain when their photos were taken
-aesthetically pleasing but still critical

Acknowledgement-
-acknowledgement is necessary when confronted with human suffering; “it is the difficult, often painful, and thus often avoided act when confronted with human suffering” – for example, we avoid acknowledgement all the time when it comes to homeless people on the streets of Chicago
-photographs cannot be understood by knowledge about suffering/context alone. One must acknowledge human suffering in order to relate the victims to ourselves.
-Nachtwey’s photos: he photographs to bring aid to afflicted, so his audience is presumably able to do that. By viewing his photographs, one is offering their help for the afflicted.
-perpetuate idea that Africa = misery and suffering, and that help must come from above
-we are disturbed by Nachtwey’s photos, and we pat ourselves on the back that we are humans who feel sadness
towards his photographs, but his photographs don’t ask us about our relationship to the situation in Sudan, or
anywhere else. Encounter with Nachtwey photograph = absolute, anonymous benevolence encounters pure, individual
and yet anonymous (generic) powerlessness.
-The Eyes of Gutete Emerita: we read about experience with war from Emerita’s perspective as a victim; it’s not about anyone else being a witness, just her.
-Throughout reading text, viewer expects to eventually see images of suffering at the end, but instead, a flash of Gutete Emerita’s eyes is shown: reminds us of her perspective as a witness to war, we’re not bombarded with images that perpetuate the idea that a certain third world country = misery and suffering only.
-Acknowledgement of victim in photograph = connecting tragedy to us personally, finding context.

Chapter 3: Jeff Wall, Wittgenstein, and the everyday

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

In this chapter, Michael Fried attempts to explain how some of Jeff Wall’s later photographs justify Wall being called an “antitheatrical” photographer that photographs in a “near documentary” way; Wall sees an everyday scene, and recreates it through several different shots and uses “subjects” that are so in character, they should feel like they were the person in the scene first experienced. Fried uses Wall’s Morning Cleaning and Fieldwork photographs as examples this:

Morning Cleaning

Fieldwork

Furthermore, Fried argues that Wall’s photos are a renewal or reinterpretation (not necessarily intentionally) of paintings such as the mid-17th century piece Interior with Painter, Reading Woman, and Sweeping Maid:

When compared to this painting, Morning Cleaning has many compositional similarities, as well as sharing the idea of a work of art depicting the “everyday”, with subjects that are oblivious that they are being beheld.

Finally, Fried makes a correlation between a passage written by Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jeff Wall’s photographs. The passage, written in 1930 and comes from a volume called Culture and Value, talks about how “nothing could be more remarkable than seeing someone who think himself unobserved engaged in some quite simple activity”. Wittgenstein longs for art that is more “genuine” and “in the moment” than theater, but also contradicts himself by admitting that when one sees the everyday played out in front of their eyes all the time, no special attention is paid. Wittgenstein then makes a very valid point; one that I appreciated reading as a way to understand how people define what art is:

“…only the artist can represent the individual thing…so that it appears to us as a work of art; (art) rightly loses it’s value if we contemplate it singly and in any case without prejudice, i.e. without being enthusiastic about it in advance. The work of art compels us – as one might say – to see it in the right perspective, but without art the object is a piece of nature like any other and the fact that WE exalt it through our enthusiasm does not give anyone the right to display it to us.”

Fried makes the point that art makes us see the ordinary. Jeff Wall’s job is to interpret the everyday and make it meaningful – or not. His job is to recreate the “everyday” so that it is art for us to look at and think about and interpret. He goes on to discuss how certain Wall photographs contain subjects that “refuse to be beheld”; Fried cites photographs such as Untitled (Forest), where the humans in the photograph are fleeing the scene and Untitled (Night), where the beholder has to work hard to perceive the image and as a result, is resistant to being beheld:

Untitled (Forest)

Untitled (Night)