Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bodies, Images, Production (1)

Spurred by Matt Clayfield's post to read Paul Willemen's "Of Mice and Men" in the new Rouge, this helped me recognize some major synchronicities in my reading and thinking lately, some of which have to do with Willemen's article.

"[Paolo Uccello's] point is that the body, historically, cannot be reduced to its allegorical and symbolic treatment; it's not sacred, it doesn't transcend what surrounds it, it isn't plastic; but rather it's limited to minimal effects of volume and proportion. Uccello's most powerful gesture is to make that body produce an effect of coherence, to lead the misrecognition of the body back to the mythical (to the problem of mythology, which is the division of the species, marked by "creatures" with no identity except the marks of their tracks). Equally, Uccello can discolor the body, making figures vary even if they are substantially undifferentiable."
-- Jean-Louis Schefer, "On the Object of Figuration" The Enigmatic Body (trans. Paul Smith, Cambridge UP, 1995) (p 28) ... emphasis in original

"The image is always sacred ... . Indeed, the meaning of the "sacred" never ceases to be confused with that of the "religious." But religion is the observance of a rite that forms and maintains a bond (with others or with oneself, with nature or with a supernature). Religion in itself is not ordered by the sacred. (Nor is it ordered by faith, which is yet another category.)"
--Jean-Luc Nancy, The Ground of the Image (trans. Jeff Fort, NY: Fordham UP, 2005) (p 1)

"The question broached by Uccello is not of knowing where the visible body is to be found, but of knowing where is the visible in the body. (Compare, too, the anatomical drawings, the penetrating incisions of da Vinci [sic]--anything that painting cannot reproduce. What is he looking for? for the place of pleasure in fiction where it's visible but cannot be figured.)
-- Schefer (p 30)

"Panofsky (1953, pp. 86-7) has demonstrated in Leonardo's anatomical experimentation the dialectical links beginning to be forged between artistic and scientific practices in Renaissance Italy, and, in the same study, suggested other such links in the centuries that followed:
Anatomy as a science (and what applies to it applies to all the other 'descriptive' disciplines) was simply not possible without a method of preserving observations in graphic records complete and accurate in three dimensions. For, in the absence of such records, even the best observation was lost because it was not possible to check it against others and thus to test its correctness and, no less important, its general validity. It is no exaggeration to say that in the history of modern science and invention of perspective, coupled with the nearly simultaneous emergence of the multiplying arts, marks the beginning of a first period; the invention of the telescope and the microscoope that of a second; and the invention of photography that of a third. In the descriptive sciences illustration is not so much the elucidation of a statement as the statement itself.
Indeed, if the researches that culminated in the invention of photography corresponded in immediate awareness to an ideological drive, it is just as clear that this new technology objectively answered a need of the descriptive sciences of the period (botany, zoology, paleontology, astronomy, physiology). At the same time, it should not be forgotten that the economic expansion and accession to political power of the bourgeoisie were closely linked to advances in the sciences and in technology, and that hence by evoking the strictly scientific effects of some instrument or mode of representation we are by no means leaving the historical terrain of the relations of production. Here, therefore, no more than anywhere else, can one set scientific practices apart from ideological ones without the utmost care."
--Noël Burch, Life to These Shadows (trans. Ben Brewster, Berkeley and LA: University of California Press, 1990) (p 8-9)

I will leave you with these quotes now and return to my own thoughts on these issues soon.


Zach Campbell said...

Everyone, I'm really sorry this post is so ugly. I consciously tried to do the whole 'multiple colors' thing because I had planned on differentiating the quotes from my regular commentary, but the commentary is now reserved for a follow-up post. But with the out-of-nowhere 1.5 line breaks ... which happen on Blogger sometimes and which are the bane of my online existence ... they're so unattractive and I don't know how to fix them.

Zach Campbell said...

OK, so now I think it looks a little better ...

Matt said...

You think I should write something longer in response to Willemen's piece?

Matt said...

That last quote is a killer.