The Image Conditions
Philippe Descola (Les Formes du Visible, 2021), begins by stating: “Of the myriad of images produced by humans for at least eighty thousand years, only a tiny fraction is relevant to art and its history”. In this myriad of images are contained all sorts of representations, from image productions with cult value, to body, decorative, votive, or utilitarian images, which, however, have in common the need to present an absent.
In a complex way, the photographic image has come to fulfill, after all the post-miracles of Art History (from Hegel to Danto, from Belting to the very recent Yves Michaud), a version of that same need to evoke the absent, its presentification, or its liberation from the inevitability of the blindness of oblivion. After a process of half a century (or much longer, if we take Hegel as the defining moment of the death sentence), the arc of Art History, understood as a history of the spirit, or of style, or of Kunstwollen, or of the survival of the formulas of Pathos, has found a moment of sunset, or of aphasia, even if tactical.
The field of the photographic spreads, like a blur impossible to contain, beyond the sphere of the artistic, or its secant zone in relation to what we can continue to understand as the field of art (with a capital letter, perhaps). Photographic imagery production, if today very difficult to draw in epistemological terms, understood as the production of lenticular images or numerical combination (or both), occupies a large part of our possibility of representing the world and, above all, has replaced drawing as a way of mediating our fixation on the semantic problem of representation.
In this sense, photography (so named in schools, in many museums and archives) has taken the place of writing, also replacing the idea of the internal limit of the represented object by the notion of cut (or caesura, as it remained in theoretical reflection) in the field of the visible. In this exercise of fixing the gaze, in this permanent mediation between the eye and the world through orthoses increasingly embedded in our daily communicational possibility (the cell phone as the parergon of the contemporary device) a new and paradoxical model of evocation of the absent is drawn: it is the image of the self, built fragmentarily, in looking at the small quotidian, the beach in winter, the abandoned coffee cup, the rest of the eve or the furtive image of the ephemeral and fleeting, that asserts itself as an image of summoning the impossibility of memory – and, therefore, of the acceptance of forgetting as destiny. This second instance romanticism, voted to volition in the social networks, ravages, like a specter, the premise of the efficacy of the photographic as the great builder of the evocation of the absent, as Hermes at the service of the survival of images, because it is the most important sector of the forgetting process.
It is in this context that it becomes fundamental to think about the role and status of the photographic image (or the photographic as a performance) in the dialogue with other forms of construction of the imagetics of the world, from art to architecture, from design to cinema, that is, to the fields that assert themselves in the universe of the sensitive and reflect on the question of representation.
It is in this sector of relationship that the photographic can build its own epistemology of its operativity, its functionality, and the way it can resignify fields of visuality, but also think about the
of visuality, but also think about its hapticity (besides, of course, the thought about its historicity, the link to time, the grounding of the visible in the projective definition of a porous spatiality and temporality, as it was thought from Benjamin to Sontag, from Barthes to Flussel, just to mention reference texts).
The field of the academy, where reflection must always have its transcendentals on the horizon, is one of the places in which the photographic can take itself as a possibility of revision of the processes of seeing, fixing, reconfiguring and resignifying the visible in a process of experimentation and error, of repetition and rehearsal.
The Contrast project, collecting the experiences of the various formative experiences and placing them in an index, under the gaze of naming and presentation, implies the construction of a necessary epistemology of the photographic but also, and above all, of an epistemology of teaching and research on the relational character of the image, its complexity and its conditions of possibility.