Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

glegrady
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Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

Post by glegrady » Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:20 am

Please comment on the James Elkins reading in 3 sections. You can begin with 1 section, then add others later.

Pages 51-62 due by Friday, January 27, 2011;
Pages 63-76 due by Monday, January 31, 2011;
Pages 77-86 due by Friday, February 4, 2011.

Your comments can take any form. You select some ideas or references that could be of interest for artmaking. At some point, you should discuss Elkins contrasting of art images with scientific ones.
George Legrady
legrady@mat.ucsb.edu

alanasg
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Re: Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

Post by alanasg » Thu Jan 27, 2011 6:53 pm

Elkins, Pages 51-62
In the first section of James Elkin's Photography section of Six Stories from the End of Representation, he briefly discusses the idea of formlessness in philosophical and historical terms, and then goes into a rather lengthy discussion on the concept of blur, applied to painting, photography, and science. What I understood from the formlessness section, was that when applied to art, the most significant concept is that there is an absence of forms, which is sort of counter-intuitive to photography (interestingly enough). Next, the concept of blur that Elkins discusses was pretty intriguing. He first brings up the fact that blur has a long history of being primarily associated with painting. It's interesting how the different artists that Elkins talks about use blur conceptually to illustrate things such as uneasiness or "something poorly remembered, seen through exhausted eyes, or peered at on a cloudy night", as well as how artists like Ed Ruscha cloud their meaning or avoid giving direct interpretations of their work by taking advantage of blur.

Elkins goes on to discuss how the number one "rule" of modernism and postmodernism is a "measured retreat from obvious or unequivocal meaning" (formlessness). Something that I thought of while reading this portion and when photography as a medium was woven throughout the text, was that it's rather fascinating how photography is fundamentally about perfect representation...so what happens when we tamper with that idea (blur the image)? When Elkins brought up the scientific reading of blur in reference to the solar system and astrological images, I thought it was interesting to note that so much of the solar system is unknown and mysterious, and that fact that the images taken from the solar system are inherently blurry speak heavily upon this conceptual idea; they are already intrinsically blurred, and when attempted to be corrected, appear to be actually less accurate. The bottom line from Elkin's first section is that blur shakes up meaning, creates formlessness, and leaves interpretation wide open, which is why it is such a substantial strategy for fine-art photographers (and painters).

Elkins, Pages 63-76
In the second half of Elkin's discussion of Photography, he begins by talking about Darkness and how many genres of art have explored this "sublime" phenomena. In photography, he discusses, the risk that artists and photographers run into when playing with darkness is the problem of quality (that is to say, the darker the picture, the riskier it becomes). He argues that "contemporary photographers who flirt with formlessness, blur, and darkness can end up making images a little too easily", because they do not have to work to defocus their images, the camera does the work for them. Thus, what I gathered from this, is that what ends up happening is they merely play with the rules of photography without taking any steps beyond that (essentially, playing it 'too safe'). They regret to actually challenge the medium itself.

Elkins then discusses the grid, and what effect this has on images. The grid, essentially, "takes pictures out of lived experience and places them in a realm where visual phenomena are parceled out in discrete pieces". The grid deflects the visual experience the viewer has with the actual image, and creates a new reading of it. The grid calls analytic attention to the picture, and perhaps, falls flat in the artistic sense of things. The grid is an automatic reflection of something scientific, for instance. However, Elkins notes that Krauss makes an important distinction between the grid and the graph, stating that "the latter have uses and are quantitative -- a distinction that does not exist as such in science". Thus, in order to artistically use a grid, one must come up with a manner of using it that actually challenges the traditional purpose of a grid, or when they "almost give up on the objects they are to represent". In other words, if a grid turns the image into something it is not, it becomes interesting; the grid must revert the image into something non-representational.

The last thing Elkins talks about in this section, and the most interesting, is the anti-optical and its relationship within photography. Photography, in its purest essence, is about attempting to perfectly represent the visual world, something that Marco Breuer is completely tired of, and in turn, a concept that is in complete opposition with his own. In much of his work, he took away the very essential aspects of photogrpahy itself (light, the camera itself, leaving only "the paper, its developing fluid, the stop bath, and the fixing solution"). In one project titled Tremors, he uses household appliances in a dark room to physically burn streaks into the paper without the camera or any traditional photographic aspects. It causes the viewer to question if it is still even photography. Photography is defined as "the process, activity and art of creating still or moving pictures by recording radiation on a sensitive medium, such as a photographic film, or an electronic sensor" (Google online dictionary). Breuer's work uses none of these aspects. However Elkins goes on to note that "the photographs become drawings", which is actually included in the full title of the series itself Photogenic Drawings: Tremors. So then, by playing and challenging the actual medium itself, Breuer criticizes the act of photography and exhibits his frustration with the way in which it attempts to perfectly capture the visual world we live in.

Elkins, Pages 77-86
In the last portion of James Elkins' text, he discusses The Problem of Quality, Revisited and Presence. In the first section he reverts back to everything he's talked about (blur, darkness, etc) and once again reminds the reader that these things are drastically different between the two fields of painting and photography. He notes that "the problem is that as it stands, much of the work is mediocre. The critical literature follows this lead, providing impressionistic commentaries on belatedness, the loss of memory...loss of language, hopelessness...they are disorganized and finally lost in the day-to day criticism that gets written in the art world". He notes that "the challenge is to find the work that is trying the hardest to understand things such as formlessness, darkness, blur, or the anti-optical". Thus, what I think Elkins is getting at is that artists are using these "four rungs on a ladder" in order to assist them in another, separate message that they wish to convey through their work (such as the loss of memory, for instance). Instead, Elkins wishes, artists should be more concerned with (perhaps formally?) critiquing and exploring these aesthetic (or anti-aesthetic) things. We need "not descend the ladder too quickly" or be to literal or easy to digest; there should be some sort of mystery left, and a space to explore. One of the most interesting artists he discussed was P. Elaine Sharpe's photographs that centered around places where murders and other similar events had taken place. She used blur by focusing in on where the people involved in the tragedy would have been (an empty foreground), thus focusing in on an absent subject (which therefore created the blurring effect through the rest of the picture). The viewer isn't immediately greeted with a straightforward focus point; "the photograph itself does not reveal where focus and unfocus should be--or, to say it differently, the artist seems not to be sure where clarity meets blur": leaving an open-ended discussion.

Elkins then discusses Presence in art photography, in reference to representation. He talks about how people have the tendency to simply assume truth without questioning it (assume a particular presence), but instead, "what tends to be most compelling is the ruin of whole meaning and the concomitant fall from presence". He revisits the space/science analogy when talking about scientists' discovery of elliptical galaxies in the 90's. Scientists created three images, a point-like, a real, and a simulated image of the galaxy cluster. The real and simulated images turned out to be very, very similar. Elkins notes that the images resembled conceptual art pieces that would have been viewed and discussed in the art world without question. The images were vague, blurred, but "the difference would be that in the image's original context as astrophysics, each frame has a particular purpose that works against the inevitable aporia caused byt he limits of the instrument and analysis". The cameras they used were not all X-ray cameras, and they had to rely on other instruments to verify their results; "comparing known things with half-seen things and things only visualized in mathematical simulations. i=It would be a kind of dead end, but one that used all its available resources to minimize uncertainty and to pull presence back into the images". Certainty and presence become displaced in this sense; presence is mediated. The point is, there was some knowledge, but there were also gaps of uncertainty. These gaps were filled with unusual things that resulted in fascinating discoveries. Elkins purports that artists and contemporary art and photography should learn from these scientific discoveries, and experiment more with what we have.
Last edited by alanasg on Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rzant
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Re: Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

Post by rzant » Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:17 pm

Elkins p. 51-62
The first portion of the Elkins reading focuses primarily on the idea of formlessness and blur as prevalent elements within the image that greatly affect the interpretation of the subject matter. Formlessness was originally defined by Aristotle, and later by Kant, as “a state of matter that is beyond apprehension, outside of concepts, or inaccessible to intuition” (p. 53). This concept remains rather broad and its definition changeable, as it can be spoken of as a quality (“formlessness”), a state (having no form), or an operation (applying formlessness to an image). It is easiest to consider the last option in order to think about the abstract idea of formlessness in a more concrete way.

The concept of intentional blur is a prominent device utilized within the field of photography, and has been appropriated by many painters as a useful tool. Implementing blur can be viewed as taking a step down the ‘ladder of disorder’: by taking away information from an image, its author adds to both the formal and conceptual chaos that is produced in the final product. However, artists like Ed Ruscha have found ways to harness the device of blur so as to contribute towards their conceptual and aesthetic goals. For example, in Ruscha’s Averages the visual blur applied to the suburban dwellings serves to create an indistinguishable uniformity, which alludes to the artist’s feelings regarding suburbia. Without the use of blur, the viewers may not have understood the conceptual underpinnings of the painting. Thus, it is interesting that the significance of this particular image is contingent upon a step towards disorder and formlessness.

The same may be found in relation to scientific images, although this may seem at first counterintuitive. Undoubtedly, viewers of scientific images seek the clearest explanation possible, while both conceptual and formal blurriness have more room to exist within the art world. However, Elkins argues that some scientific images fall into the ”same middle ground between formlessness and crystal clarity” where Ruscha’s blurred paintings exist (p. 59). This is not related to the scientists’ aesthetic preferences, but rather exists mainly because of technical limitations, especially within the field of astronomy. In photographing deep space, there are many phenomena that are distinguishable only if captured with a certain photographic technique, which may include blur. Instinctively, one may be tempted to sharpen these images in order to gain a clearer view of the subject. However, as many of the images’ subjects are gas and space debris (which lack form), scientists are forced to respect the idea of formlessness. Sharpening would merely produce a misinformed image that would be less “true” than the images that include blur.

p. 63-76
Within this section of the reading, I find that Elkins maintains that descending down the ladder of disorder must be done in a very careful fashion in order to produce interesting and innovative work. He describes the dangers of venturing into nonrepresentational forms. For example, when utilizing blur, an uninteresting image can be produced both by using too much or too little blur. However, when implemented correctly, a device such as blur (or addition of darkness, the ruined grid, etc.) can produce unique and fascinating results. Elkins goes so far as to link such calculated descents down the ladder of disorder with the sublime, as darkness was linked strongly to aesthetics during the romantic period, for example (Elkins 63).

In applying just the right amount of disorder to one’s work, Elkins notes that much of it has to do with the medium one is using. For example, utilizing blur within the painting practice became very popular as a way of mimicking the camera and the photographic process. Such a painting by Gerhard Richter, for example, stands as a very interesting image, as the viewer does not expect such a device to be utilized within the medium of painting. It is thus respected and enters into the intellectual discourse surrounding the painting practice. However, the similar utilization of blur within photography is left virtually unnoticed, although it may address similar issues. The fact that the painter had to do careful calculations and detailed work in order to produce such an effect is unmatched by the simple adjustment on the camera by the photographer’s hand.

Elkins holds a similar attitude towards the anti-optical. He states that “it is not interesting just to renounce optical representation”, but that what counts is to make the work owe as little to the governing medium as possible (Elkins 77). Thus, similar to using the devices such as darkness and blur, utilizing the anti-optical must be done in just the right way in order to function effectively. This is displayed by Marco Breuer’s work, which, despite holding origins in photography, seems to cross over more into the field of drawing.

Elkins deals with abstraction and art that strays away from representation in a very cautious manner. As is evident in this section of reading, he emphasizes the fact that too little or too much disorder within a work can be disastrous, but just the right amount can create radically innovative work. He is careful to imply that the degradation of form and the utilization of abstraction must be done for a reason. Merely denouncing a medium isn’t good enough; there must be a strong underlying principle that makes itself known within the work. Elkins deems successful work that is abstract, but is still relevant to reality and art history in some way. Without this stronghold, such work may slide down a slippery slope, or ladder, into complete disorder.

p. 77-86

In the last section of the reading, Elkins addresses the implications of venturing down the ladder of disorder, along with the notions of presence conveyed in both the fine art and scientific contexts. In speaking about the ladder of disorder, he outlines the points that artists should explore in order to carry out a thoughtful and reasoned study of formlessness. As he has stated previously, the medium within which these ideas are portrayed is paramount (i.e. blur within a photograph vs. a painting). However, Elkins holds that despite the simplistic creative process of creating blurred photos, they deserve as much critical attention as the work of formal photographers.

Elkins then goes on to speak on some of the points surrounding thoughtful contemplation on formlessness. The primary facet holds that one should not descend the ladder too quickly. This results in incomprehensible work that merely contains the ideas of formlessness within the work. As when he was talking about Marco Breuer’s work, artists must strive not to merely renounce form and make references to it, but to fully immerse oneself in the notion of formlessness and create a product that proves an adequate digestion of this idea.

Here he goes on to talk about the notion of the ‘pallid sublime’, a term coined by Lacoue-Labarthe, and implied frequently by Gerhard Richter. This notion suggests, “one begins to flower wherever beauty is exhausted” (Elkins 80). This is a fascinating idea, referencing the fact that one cannot capture the sublime adequately, and must omit the portion of the image (and one’s creative will) that would attempt to achieve the impossible. Stated in more fluently, a reference to the pallid sublime is “a weak thought, that is, a thought without grandeur” (Elkins 80). As such, Richter does not find trouble leaving things half painted, as he knows the idea is better conveyed in this way.

All of this ties into post-structuralist thinking, wherein the focus lies on the inability to achieve whole meaning and to gain absolute Truth. Perhaps the entire notion of formlessness stems from this, as the inability to adequately capture any form. Thus, we see many artists who accentuate the inability to understand, which leads to a concise portion of comprehended material and leaves a large portion for the inexplicable. Elkins suggests that the intersection of these two points is best left indiscernible. Formally, within photography, it may be realized as a confusion produced as to the exact meeting point of blur and focus.
Last edited by rzant on Wed Feb 09, 2011 7:51 pm, edited 5 times in total.

alanasg
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Re: Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

Post by alanasg » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:07 pm

Elkins, Pages 63-76

In the second half of Elkin's discussion of Photography, he begins by talking about Darkness and how many genres of art have explored this "sublime" phenomena. In photography, he discusses, the risk that artists and photographers run into when playing with darkness is the problem of quality (that is to say, the darker the picture, the riskier it becomes). He argues that "contemporary photographers who flirt with formlessness, blur, and darkness can end up making images a little too easily", because they do not have to work to defocus their images, the camera does the work for them. Thus, what I gathered from this, is that what ends up happening is they merely play with the rules of photography without taking any steps beyond that (essentially, playing it 'too safe'). They regret to actually challenge the medium itself.

Elkins then discusses the grid, and what effect this has on images. The grid, essentially, "takes pictures out of lived experience and places them in a realm where visual phenomena are parceled out in discrete pieces". The grid deflects the visual experience the viewer has with the actual image, and creates a new reading of it. The grid calls analytic attention to the picture, and perhaps, falls flat in the artistic sense of things. The grid is an automatic reflection of something scientific, for instance. However, Elkins notes that Krauss makes an important distinction between the grid and the graph, stating that "the latter have uses and are quantitative -- a distinction that does not exist as such in science". Thus, in order to artistically use a grid, one must come up with a manner of using it that actually challenges the traditional purpose of a grid, or when they "almost give up on the objects they are to represent". In other words, if a grid turns the image into something it is not, it becomes interesting; the grid must revert the image into something non-representational.

The last thing Elkins talks about in this section, and the most interesting, is the anti-optical and its relationship within photography. Photography, in its purest essence, is about attempting to perfectly represent the visual world, something that Marco Breuer is completely tired of, and in turn, a concept that is in complete opposition with his own. In much of his work, he took away the very essential aspects of photogrpahy itself (light, the camera itself, leaving only "the paper, its developing fluid, the stop bath, and the fixing solution"). In one project titled Tremors, he uses household appliances in a dark room to physically burn streaks into the paper without the camera or any traditional photographic aspects. It causes the viewer to question if it is still even photography. Photography is defined as "the process, activity and art of creating still or moving pictures by recording radiation on a sensitive medium, such as a photographic film, or an electronic sensor" (Google online dictionary). Breuer's work uses none of these aspects. However Elkins goes on to note that "the photographs become drawings", which is actually included in the full title of the series itself Photogenic Drawings: Tremors. So then, by playing and challenging the actual medium itself, Breuer criticizes the act of photography and exhibits his frustration with the way in which it attempts to perfectly capture the visual world we live in.

davidgordon
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:07 pm

Elkins, Pages 51-62

Post by davidgordon » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:24 pm

Elkins, Pages 51-62

Elkins discusses the etymology of the term informe, "formless," tracing its origins from Aristotle through Bataille and finally to Krauss and Bois in their book, Formless. In Formless, the term usually refers to an operation, rather than a state or quality. The clearest definition of "formless" seems to be an "[operation that] works to tear down good sense, clarity, reason, Cartesian order, system and structure" (53).
The author moves on to discuss blur, beginning with its move from being a tool of photographers to being a device used in painting as well. He mentions Richter, whose paintings investigate an entire spectrum of blur from photorealistic to highly distorted. He then discusses Ruscha's out-of-focus landscapes, which the artist described as "blank," unreadable and "odd" (57). Elkins' main focus is the discussion of formlessness as a photographic technique seeking to employ lack of clarity to arrive at an interesting ambiguity of meaning.
The last part of this section compares the use of blur in art photographs with the attempts to decrease blur in astronomical photographs. He introduces the idea of deconvolution, which attempts to remove blur by establishing a linear transformation between the point spread function of an image and a certain desired resolution. Elkins is intrigued by the "equivalent indistinctness" of blurred images from fine art photography and astronomy, despite their different reasons for image-making.

davidgordon
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Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:07 pm

Elkins Photography, Pages 63-76

Post by davidgordon » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:45 pm

Pages 63-76

In section 12, Elkins discusses the use of darkness as another operation that allows photographers to creatively obscure meaning. He prefers the use of darkness in paintings by Rothko or Richter to its use in many contemporary photographers' work, since the latter seem to "end up making images a little too easily" (64).
Next he introduces the idea of the "ruined grid," in particular in Agnes Martin's drawings. He argues that graphs have always "been understood as radical abstractions from reality" (66). Elkins compares the grid in Martin's work to their use in astronomical photographs. He then mentions digital graphics, using an image created by opening another image using incompatible software as an example of the automatic superimposition of a grid on data by computers.
In the following section, he discusses the concept of the "anti-optical," introducing Marco Breuer's photographic images made without cameras, using only darkroom techniques to expose the paper in different ways. He describes Breuer's value as trying "to make an image that owes as little to ordinary photographic representation as possible."

ariel
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Re: Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

Post by ariel » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:58 pm

In “Six Stories From the End of Representation”, James Elkins begins talking formlessness. He begins by explaining how the idea of formless was mainly used in philosophy by Aristotle and Kant. Both philosophers used the idea of formless “to evoke the failure of intuition on the face of a sublime object.” The idea of formlessness became prevalent in art when Georges Bataille began using the concept for surrealism. Formless is the “study of how the operation continues to produce interesting art even in times and places where artists and critics might never have thought of the word informe.” Elkins continues to describe the different ways philosophers thought of formless or informe and how it is interpreted in paintings and photography. He then combines these ideas and explain formless by the idea of “works to tear down good sense, clarity, reason.

Elkins continues with the idea of blur in paintings and photography. Gerhard Richter’s paintings are used as examples for blur by enacting a photograph in painting by applying blur. Richter is able to get this effect by using a fan brush which allows him to destroy the original brush strokes. He is also known to smear the paint rather than blur with a fan brush. The idea behind blurring an image it to be unsharpened.

Later Elkins begins to talk about the meaning of why some artistes chose to use blur and how scientists choose to reduce the blur. He explains that “the measured retreat from obvious or unequivocal meaning is a central strategy for modernism and postmodernism.” And that scientists try to get the clearest image possible with every detail included. He continues to describe that scientist’s fear obscurity or anything without a clear reason behind it, where as artists or photographers find meaning in the ambiguity and fear rather the clear, straight forward meaning. Artistes need to be aware of the degree in which they blur or take out detain because if they leave to much of an image it is not interesting but if they blur to much of the image it becomes ambiguous for the viewer to enjoy or attempt to understand.


Pages 63-76
In this part Elkin's begins by talking about Darkness. He describes the different problems that darkness can cause for photographers in their pictures. For example photographers use blur and darkness produced from the camera rather than changing the image once produced from the camera. When talking about blur Elkins explains how painters use blur to make it seem as if it is a photograph.

Elkins then continues on to the subject of the grid and the effect this has. Elkins defines the function of the grid as “pictures out of lived experience and places them in a realm where visual phenomena are parceled out in discrete pieces”. The grid is able to take images out of one scene and place into another seen by the viewer. The grid is able to turn something into a non representational image by turning it into something it originally was not.

Elkins continues on to talk about the anit-optical in photography. He talks about Marco Breuer and his idea of taking away the aspect of trying to capture an image perfectly as to represent something in reality. Marco Breuer simply left the camera, paper, developing fluid, stop bath, and fixing solution in order to develop an image. One example that Marco Breuer did using this method was by using everyday household appliances and burned holes in the paper. This piece was called Tremors. When this piece was shown to the public they questioned if it was photography and Elkins agrees. He claims that this becomes more of a drawing rather than photography


Pages 77-86:
In this last part Elkins talks about the problem of quality, revisited and presence. He begins going back to the other topics he talked about such as blur and darkness and how different all these ideas are in photography and painting. Elkins explains that artists should not give the meaning of the work away to easily and literally. He wants the viewer to have to think about the image. He talks about Elaine Sharpe’s photography which uses blur at crime scenes which makes the viewer question and think about what the subject matter was.

Elkins continues on to discuss the Presence of art photography. He questions the way in which the viewer always accepts what is said without questioning the work or what is being claimed by the work. He talks about three images, a point-like image, the real image, and a simulated image. The real image and the simulated image are similar and are both images that are not questioned.
Last edited by ariel on Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kyle_gordon

Re: Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

Post by kyle_gordon » Thu Feb 03, 2011 3:43 pm

Kyle Gordon

Pg. 51-62 Response

Elkins starts off his article discussing the word formless, which can be an operation, a state, or a quality, making it a confusing term to use. Formless can be described as either breaking down something so that it is unrecognizable or something that our eyes cannot perceive as a specific subject. He goes on to describe how people interpret formless today and how it is incorporated into art and the way we view our universe. His main purpose for introducing formlessness is to work it into the world of photography.

Moving into blur, Elkins describes the painting methods of Richter, who employs blur in his paintings in order to reduce their crispness. He describes this technique as similar to photography as the blurring of colors allow for a more realistic image similar to one that a camera could produce. Elkins introduces the terms smearing, blur, defocus, and unsharpness and gives brief definitions of each in order to give a brief background into what he hopes to move into, which are painting techniques and the effects of each on an image. The idea he hopes to get across is by blurring an image, its sharpness is reduced.

Advancing his discussion of blur, Elkins discuses briefly the use of blur in scientific imaging and in the works of artists such as Ruscha. Scientific imaging strives to be clear and as as crisp as possible in order to give a distinct subject matter while artists sometimes deviate from this clearness by using blur in order to create a more ambiguous image that strikes the viewer. It is interesting how two different studies can employ the same concept in their photography, however artists are more fond of risk taking while scientists want concrete images (ex. planets, solar system, etc. all wanted to be as clear as possible). The problem with blurring however is that some artists can blur too much or too little, finding the common ground creates an image that is aesthetically pleasing and intriguing to the viewer. As for scientists, they must respect formlessness because sharpening an image to attempt to make it more clear would create an unnatural image.


Pgs. 63-76

Elkins begins the second section with an introduction to darkness and its use in painting and photography. He describes Umberg's paintings as so dark they cannot be distinguished, and in many cases artists need to be careful not to make their artwork too dark as to avoid indistiguishability. Next he moves away from paintings of photographs to photographers themselves. He notes that artists and photographers who use blur, darkness, etc in their works may tend to make their works too easily.

Elkins next topic is the grid. He notes grids and sets of parallel lines take the images their are portraying and place them in a realm of pieces. He brings up the writings of Krauss and how he sees grids as nothing more than sealing away pictures in a realm that exists far from the world we live in. He tries to convey that the grid is an unartistic tool, but by combining it to create an entirely new image or warping it through the use of a grid, then we take the grid out of context and it becomes a tool for art.

The final topic brought up in this section of the reading is the anti-optical. Elkins describes how photography is the capturing of an image as exact as possible. He states that some artists deviate from this and in many cases do not want to capture the visual world, but distort it in their own way to create a unique form of art. Marco Breur is an artist that used the elements of photography, but didn't use a camera or lighting for his work. Instead he developed pictures using paper, development fluid, etc. in order to create images that seem to be photographs, but the results are images that are blotted, warped, and do not look like anything a camera could have captured. So the question is whether or not this can be considered actual photography since photography essentially needs the use of a camera, but art is all about pushing mediums to the extreme, which Breur does successfully by creating photographic images that confuse the viewer and instill questions into his audience. The artists that criticize their own medium tend to create the most intriguing works, as seen in Breur's Tremors series.

Pgs. 77-86:

In this portion, Elkins begins by talking about the problem of quality, revisited and presence, which links back to his previously mentioned information regarding blur, darkness, etc. He also goes back and discusses the differences between painting and photography and how overuse of any of the previously mentioned techniques can either ruin a work or make it unappealing. By saying this Elkins wants artists to create artwork with mystery in them that cause the viewer to give the piece thought instead of recognizing it immediately. One artist Elkins brings up is P. Elaine Sharpe's photographs. Her works use a series of blurs at crime/murder sites that leave the viewer intrigued and unsure of the subject matter, which links back to Elkins point throughout the beginning of this section.

Elkins begins the next section talking about the presence in art photography in reference to representation. He goes into a brief talk about how people accept the truth too easily and links this to 3 images taken of a galaxy, one image being point, one real, and one simulated. He then notes how the real and simulated images turned out resembling eachother very closely, making them a topic for discussion in the art world due to their vagueness and blur. He talks about how the vagueness of these images leads to uncertainty without the use of other tools to generate them, as in the case of the scientific galaxy images. The scientists sort of knew what they were taking pictures of, but they were not 100% certain, which Elkins wants other artists to employ in their artwork, since using uncertainty while filling in gaps lead to interesting works of art.

jguzman02
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Re: Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

Post by jguzman02 » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:40 pm

Pg. 51-62:

In the first part of “Six Stories from the End of Representation” by James Elkins, he addresses the issue of formlessness. He begins by describing the formless as relating to philosophical and historical concepts in which the formless is a state of matter that is beyond apprehension, outside of concepts, or inaccessible to intuition”(53). This is rather confusing in that it could imply that the formless does not exist. This, however, could also represent that which is always changing and thus does not have a definite train of thought or connection to anything. From this, he moves to his discussion about blur.

Elkins’ relates the use of blur to that in photographs. Here he discusses how the blurring technique can be used in a way that represents an uneasy feeling or something that is poorly remembered. The concept of blur is described as adding to the formlessness of a piece in that it increases the incomprehensible nature of images thus leaving them open for interpretation. He also talks about how the concept of blur relates to the scientific field. He uses the field of astronomy to exemplify how the use of blur in scientific images has allowed us to learn much about the world around us despite the blurred images. I thought this was interesting since the concept of blur was related to the formlessness which seems to be described as being inconclusive in nature and open for interpretation.

Pg. 63-76:

Elkins tackles the concept of darkness in the second part of his book. He address the use of darkness in paintings and photography in where if overused it can obscure the image in such a way that the image itself is unidentifiable. From this Elkins goes into the issue that can arise from the use of darkness in that “contemporary photographers who flirt with formless, blur and darkness can end up making images too easily”. From this idea, I can imagine the technique of photography being inhibited since images could be easily made without the effort put into them.

The discussion then switches to the use of grids in the creation of images. The grid is commonly thought of as a tool in which one can define something to a specific realm in space. In this sense the image can become uninteresting and lose its sense of artistic quality. According to Elkins, the grid can be create interesting images if it helps to create a new realm in space instead of just defining the area. In other words, the grid must create something that is non-representational.

From this concept, Elkins introduces us to the term anti-optical in which the artist uses darkroom techniques to expose images in a way that attempts to make them representational in a slightly nontraditional method of photography. I found this interesting since it follows the basic traditional concept of photography but using the techniques in nontraditional ways.

Pg.77-86:

In this last part of Elkins book, he addresses the concept of presence. He begins by reiterating the concept and use of blur, darkness, and the anti-optical. He reminds us of how the over usage of these techniques can make an image unappealing. He mentions that the idea of ambiguity in photography draws the audiences attention and makes them think beyond the realm of the image. To exemplify this notion, he uses the work of photographer P. Elaine Sharpe who photographed scenes of empty foregrounds where people involved in tragedies once stood. Sharpe’s work give a sense of ambiguity that causes the viewer to question the events in the image, while also obscuring the image.

This leads Elkins into his discussion about astronomers. Elkins explains how in the scientific world, blurred or distorted images are highly unfavorable. Scientists often set out to discover the truth or meaning thus it is desirable to have clear representational imagery. Despite this, Elkins makes a key comparison between certain fields of science and the ambiguity of photographs. Here Elkins describe the process that astronomers use to discover new stars and solar systems in which they study blurred images. Most often astronomers can never get a clear representational image. The blurred result often gives the impression of mysteriousness to the image while also implying some sense of representation to the actual object. This ambiguity makes the image interesting and more intriguing since it leaves room for the interpretation and the imagination. In short, Elkins states that the over use of certain techniques such as, blurring and darkness, can make an image uninteresting. In contrast, he also states that full representation of an object in an image can also make it unappealing. From this he seems to suggest finding the right amount of distortion to create a sense of ambiguity that will keep the viewer’s imagination guessing.

leighdodson
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Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 1:35 pm

Re: Reading 2: Elkins Photography, Pages 51-62, 63-76, 77-86

Post by leighdodson » Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:18 am

51-62
James Elkins chapter on photography discusses what he calls the decent into inadequate representation. The term formlessness is defined as a multifaceted attribute that can be a conceptual formlessness of a visual formlessness. Elkins acknowledges that there is a facet of contemporary art theory that studies the reception, understanding, and analysis of the informe; analyzing criticism of formlessness (either conceptual or visual) to study art history and culture and to reflect on current society. It seems to me that the idea of formlessness is important to Elkins (who references the writings and theories of Krauss and Bois) because it allows an analyst to see past the structural order of society and culture as represented in art and passes into the realm of the indescribable; uncontained and undefined.

Blur is presented as a tactic for achieving formlessness. Artist Gerhard Richter reclaims the blurred effect of photography and recreates it by smearing paint. Elkins distinguishes this practice from true blur from the photographic lens in that the effect is sought and consciously accomplished through technique by Richter, whereas in photography, blur requires no effort. Elkins seems to favors Ruscha’s works because they aesthetically employ the blur effect, but their meanings are also blurred and ‘formless’; they are open to interpretation. Elkins writes that 20th century art ascribes toward a flight from clear sense, stating that modernism and post modernism are characteristic of avoiding clear meaning. He juxtaposes the goal of modern and post with the scientific objective, which is to avoid any blurring and to seek accuracy and specification.

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