Distribution Automatique

Monday, March 3

I met Murat Nemet-Nejat, author of a recent Green Integer book called "The Peripheral Space of Photography," roaming around on the poetics list . Murat is a great talker, and here he is in an exclusive interview, conversing about photography and art with one of the most sought after art "talkoholics" around, David Shapiro.

Dear Nick,

During the recent weeks David Shapiro and I exchanged e-mails and talked on the phone. Here is one of my e-mails to him in which I am responding to a few of his comments on "The Peripheral Space":

"And so the questions remain: Can you paint or take photographs in the past tense? Can you take photographs of involuntary and voluntary memory at the same time? Is this indeed what you suggest all photographs do? "He is dead, and he is going to die, and he will have died"

Dear David,

Let me try to clarify, if I can. Reflection in photography is a process which takes place between the subject and the viewer, substantiated in words in the mind of the viewer. On the one hand, a photograph is a flat piece of paper on which time and light leave traces, creating an epistemological aura (thereness); to it the mind responds bringing its own past. In this coupling the paradoxes of time and the voluntary/involuntary are synthesized.

Maybe, Mohaly-Nagy's "Decorative Work" (pp. 88-90) embodies the purest example of what I am saying. The process of viewing a photograph takes time.
That space is in the present, and the eye/mind's movement starts as voluntary. At one point(s) the response turns involuntary, at that moment the "past" of the photograph and the past of the viewer joining into full photographic space. In that sense, the photographic experience/space is a present into which involuntarily the past pours in and surrounds it.

One (that is, the photographer) does not "take" photographs in the past tense; each viewer substantiates it. The past the viewer brings to a photograph is history in W. Benjamin's sense, that is, a critical re-interpretation of the past as if a dream. For instance, my response to Mohaly-Nagy's photograph implicitly, subliminally critiques, re-sees modernism, in search of something beyond (peripheral), something new, decoration as a positive, active idea (word).

The worker's activity on the wall is also my involuntary experience of time.

In "Histoire du Cinema" Goddard talks about the "gaze" in Manet and Velasquez. He, and Deleuze in his book "Time-Image," are seeing cinema, in my opinion, moving to a state of photography. In his essay on Einsteinstein's stills ("The Third Eye"), Barthes anticipates that.

"Other questions, from Meyer: Is a photograph semiotically translatable: wpord and image'; frontaloity is like an I; profile like a he. If thois does not hold in a stable form, what does?"

Not semiotically, and not in the sense of "trans"; but in the sense Walter Benjamin means by translation: a movement in which two languages move to a "third" space of "ideal language," which is also photographic space. Photographic space is (spills into) ideal language. From that angle the correspondances between frontality and I, profile and he are incorrect. The subject may choose to look at or avert his/her/its face from the lens. That potential for either, that doubleness (the Lincoln photo), the potential for choice (freedom) is the essence of photography.

Photography's impulse is towards chaos, break down, rather than stability.

Thank you for all your ideas, questions and suggestions. I looked at some of Baldessari's work. He also is interested in "parallel texts" to photographs. I am finding the list of artists you gave me very revealing in terms of my looking at my own work.

My best to Lin