Thursday, May 25, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 19

Observation, description and its abuses

Text: The End of Oulipo?: An Attempt to Exhaust a Movement by Lauren Elkin , Scott Esposito - remixed
Illustrations: Photographs from Kassel during the Documenta (13) in 2012

Ways of observing - the context switch:
Benjamin tells authors they must learn to appropriate as does a camera’s lens. A camera is a tool for taking things out of context: taking a photo is nothing more than selecting a rectangle of the world to be pulled up from its surroundings.
Ways of observing - the cubist view:
Merleau-Ponty argues that painting that adopts a classical view of things—that is, painting that attempts to portray the world “realistically”—is but one interpretation of our experience, one that makes our world precise and rational. But of course, I would not be alone in arguing that what we experience in day-to-day life more commonly conforms to Picasso’s Cubism or Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism than classical art.
Ways of observing - methodical, long-term observation:
Perec once said, “I detest what’s called psychology... I prefer books in which characters are described by their actions, their gestures and their surroundings.” ... Elsewhere he declares his ambition “to write every kind of thing that it is possible for a man to write nowadays.” ... I begin these descriptions over again each year, taking care, thanks to an algorithm ... first, to describe each of these places in a different month of the year, second, never to describe the same pair of places in the same month. The intent is to create a way of looking at these 12 places that will reveal things no one has ever seen in them before ... “Question your tea spoons,” he exhorted readers of “The Infra-Ordinary.” “What’s underneath your wallpaper?”
Ways of observing - obsessive, exhaustive observation:
[Édouard Levé says] ... “Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid.” ... one might consider his photography book Amérique, where he compulsively produces photographs of American cities that share their names with major world cities. In both books the project is clear: follow the idea exhaustively, trusting that what comes will be art. Somehow in this widest of embraces he will catch things that are new ... they simply give the details, leaving it to the reader to decide what lies beneath.
Abuse and consumerization of revolutionary (situationist) techniques:
Products, beliefs and fashions that once existed on the boundaries of society were resolutely transformed into mass-consumable versions that were bought up by the middle classes.
David Foster Wallace put forth the argument that the second half of the twentieth century was a time of two great changes: first, the development of this “no” of resistance against capitalistic culture, and, second, the co-opting this “no” of resistance into a catchy sales pitch. Wallace identified the “no” of resistance with irony—long a potent weapon of the oppressed—and then he went on to argue that the appeal of this irony had been taken over by savvy advertisers, who use it to make their products hip. The fiction of irony and ridicule, which he identified with rebellious postmodernists like Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, had been taken over by TV culture.
[Christian] Bök also strikes a polemic tone, forcefully declaring that artistic innovation has been co-opted by capitalism: Postmodern life has utterly recoded the avant-garde demand for radical newness. Innovation in art no longer differs from the kind of manufactured obsolescence that has come to justify advertisements for “improved” products; nevertheless, we have to find a new way to contribute by generating a “surprise” (a term that almost conforms to the cybernetic definition of “information”).

About this series Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.

Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity,  4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness,  16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones.

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