Posts tagged ‘Books’

Man in the Dark – Paul Auster

»There’s no single reality, Corporal. There are many realities. There’s no single world. There are many worlds, and they all run parallel to one another, worlds and anti-worlds, and each world is dreamed or imagined or written by someone in another world. Each world is the creation of mind.«

The medium fabricates realities within of reality, in this way producing a doubling of reality, which Luhmann has described as a “transcendental illusion”. Maintaining the illusion can only be accomplished if its veracity is not questioned. “Man in the Dark” (2009) by Paul Auster takes on an essential questioning. Fearlessly looking into America’s most recent traumas, such as a dim sense of reality after September 11th or, the schizophrenic feeling of being at war without experiencing war in its own territory, “Man in the Dark” proves to be a very interesting book. In it Auster masters a reflection on his own country and country men together with his own individual responsibility as a writer, in a self-reflexive act which joins both social and individual responsibility.

Not undeliberately, his protagonist is a 72 year-old literary critic. Confined to his wheel chair, August Brill lives with his daughter, who was left five years ago by her husband, and his granddaughter, whose boyfriend was brutally murdered in Iraque, in a house full of grief. To cope with life he religiously watches films throughout the night together with his granddaughter, who hopes that new images may replace the infernal ones in her head of her boyfriends’ execution. In other occasions Brill makes up stories of a parallel world in which the Twin Towers still stand, the war on Iraque has never happened but America is plunged into a secession war as different states claim independence. A creation of Brill’s mind, this world will haunt him and someone will be sent out to kill him. In literary terms this enterprise “character seeks to kill author” sets a very interesting self-reflexive mechanism in motion, just the same way the hypothetical worlds rehearsed in “Man in the Dark” constituts a therapeutic mechanism for America to deal with its own recent History and responsibility.

May 11, 2009 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag (II)

Barbara Kruger, You Substantiate Your Horror
Photo: Mendel, flickr

Could one then oppose war just by looking at an image? Can an image change the world or at least us?

Photographing the pain of others leads us to recognize their suffering, but how is protesting against suffering different from recognizing it only? – Sontag asks. „To nominate a hell is definitely not the same thing as to say anything on how to take people out of that hell“. Images seem to tell us only what horrible things people can do to each other and with pleasure, all over the world.
So Sontag righteously asks: „what is the point in showing such images? Make us feel indignation? Cause sadness and consternation? Help us to mourn? Do we become better by watching them? Do they teach us something? Or do they confirm what we already knew?“

It has been repeatedly pointed out that we are living in a society of spectacle, in which people also aim to transform themselves in spectacle. There seems to be nothing but representations, media representations more precisely. In this state of over stimulation, the hunt for dramatic images which drives the photographic enterprise is, according to Sontag, a mere reflex of a culture in which shock has become the main stimulus for consumption and a source of value.
One of the functions of photography is to improve how things look, and this tends to diminish a moral response to what is showed. Perhaps this is why people often react against images of war and suffering, specially if they are beautiful. And when showed in a museum or art gallery, we often ask ourselves if that isn´t just unecessary exploration of the suffering of others?
It seems that in order to provoke an active response images must shock. But how long does the shock last, Sontag strikingly asks. If we are able to get used to horror in our real life we’re also able to get use to the horror of certain images, the author refers. People often criticize news´ photographers for proffiting commercially from images drawn in scenarios in which they did nothing to help, critics contemptuously call them “war tourists” often forgetting how they´ve risked their life to give us testimony.

It seems thought that our attention is being driven by the attention of the media, of the images, that in a world full with them, the ones which should interest us have hardly any effect on us and that our insensitivity to them is somehow deeply related to the way television works. Sontag sustains, that the multiplicity of images showed in TV favours a light, mobile, slightly indifference to content, for the flux of images in television excludes a privileged one. What matters in television is that we may always change the channel. Sontag also believes that people simply turn off not because they’ve become indifferent to those images but because they are scared. It is because we have the feeling that war, any war, cannot be stopped (even pacifists no longer believe war can be stopped) that people have become less sensitive to its horrors. Symptoms of apathy, moral or emotional numbness are, in Sontag´s view, nothing but full of feelings of rage and frustration.

It is not an unsufficiency that we are not touched enough or that we do not suffer enough with those images, for the way Sontad sees it, it is not photography’s job to repair our ignorance on history or the cause of pain of others which it selects and frames. For the author, those images are but an invitation to reflect, try to learn, examine, etc. in order to finally ask ourselves: is there a state of things which we’ve accepted so far and should be questioned now?

October 3, 2008 at 12:15 pm 1 comment

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

What to do with the acknowledge of the pain of others? – On the impact of Photography

To state that we are surrounded by all kinds of images – images of war, pain, misery, cruelty, beauty, pornographic or digitally produced images nowhere to be found in reality – and that this is not without consequences for us has become obvious to everyone and a cliché today. It has also been repeatedly argued that this manic flux of images is responsible for a general state of numbness regarding the Other. For this reason, Susan Sontag proposed and battled, in her famous book “On Photography“ (1977), for an ecology of images.

16 years later and still reflecting on the modern use and meaning of images, Sontag comes to admit that the idea that our ability to react to our experiences with emotional freshness and ethical acuteness is hindered by the constant broadcast of common and disgusting images is nothing but a very conservative critique of the proliferation of such images. Focusing on the intersection between information, news, art and politics in the representation of war and catastrophe, “Regarding the Pain of Others” (2003) reexamines Sontag´s former position and admits that neither an ecology of images is doable nor it is necessarily truth that our exposure to shocking images should result in indifference. We do not become necessarily violent by witnessing images of violence.

No doubt, we are living in an age which contemplates the maximum reproducibility and broadcast of images, with few possibilities to control the context in which they disseminate. But for the most of us wo never experienced war, it remains truth that the understanding of war is only possible through the mediation of photography; something can only become real if it is photographed. From Vietnam onward we came to recognize how war images are not stagged thought everybody knows there´s nothing objective about photos which in some cases have even been used both in favour and against something. Which leads us to ask: can an image make us understanding something?

According to Sontag, if there is a year in which the ability of photography to define reality was stronger than any narrative this was 1945, with the images of the first days after the liberation from the concentration camps of Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau, and also the images of what happened in Hiroxima and Nagasaqui.
In the fight between word and image – a very old querrel still far from its end – the problem is not, for Sontag, that we might remember events through photographies but that we only remember events through them. It is a problem that remember is no longer remember a story but being able to remember an image.Photographies do not lose their ability to shock but they do not help a lot when it is about understanding.

October 3, 2008 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

No One Belongs Here More Than You – Miranda July

Selected quotes:

“We met twice a week in my apartment. When they arrived, I had three bowls of warm tap water lined up on the floor, and then a forth bowl in front of those, the coach´s bowl. I added salt to the water because it´s supposed to be healthy to snort warm salt water, and I figured they would be snorting accidentally. I showed them how to put their noses and mouths in the water and how to take a breath to the side. Then we added the legs, and then the arms. I admitted these were not perfect conditions for learning to swim, but, I pointed out, this was how Olympic swimmers trained when there wasn´t a pool nearby. Yes, yes, yes, this was a lie but, we needed it because we were four people lying on the kitchen floor, kicking it loudly as if angry, as if furious, as if disappointed or frustrated and not afraid to show it”.
The Swim Team in No One Belongs Here More Than You, Stories by Miranda July

“This pain, this dying, this is just normal. This is how life is. In fact, I realize, there never was an earthquake. Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy to hope for something else”.
Majesty in No One Belongs Here More Than You, Stories by Miranda July

“I had made everything just horrible enough to bring Theresa´s sadness down to the next level, and I joined her there. It was a place of overflowing collaborative misery, and we cried together, We could smell each other´s shampoo and the laundry detergents we had chosen, and I smelled that she didn´t smoke but someone she loved did, and she could feel that I was large but not genetically, not permanently, just until I found my way again”.
It was Romance in No One Belongs Here More Than You, Stories by Miranda July

“My mind ballooned with nervous fear. I looked at Pip and for a split second I felt as though she was nobody special in the larger scheme of my life. She was just some girl who had tied me to her leg to help her sink when she jumped of the bridge. Then I blinked and I was in love with her again”.
Something that needs nothing in No One Belongs Here More Than You, Stories by Miranda July

April 9, 2008 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Haruki Marukami – Norwegian Wood

“Tell me how you could say such a thing,” she said, staring at the ground beneath her feet. “You´re not telling me anything I don´t know already. “Relax your body, and the rest of you will lighten up.” What´s the point of saying that to me? If I relaxed my body now, I´d fall apart. I´ve always lived like this, and it´s the only way I know how to go on living. If I relaxed for a second, I´d might never find my way back. I´d go to pieces, and the pieces would be blown away. Why can´t you see that? How can you talk about watching over me if you can´t see that?”

Haruki Marukami, excerpt from Norwegian Wood

April 8, 2008 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment

On Memory- Haruki Murakami

“Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene I hardly paid it any attention. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that 18 years later I would recall it in such detail. I didn´t give a damn about the scenery that day. I was thinking about myself . I was thinking about the beautiful girl walking next to me. I was thinking about the two of us together, and then about myself again. I was at that age, that time of life when every sight, every feeling, every thought came back, like a boomerang, to me. And worse, I was in love. Love with complications. Scenery was the last thing on my mind.
Now, though, that meadow scene is the first thing that comes back to me. The smell of grass, the faint chill of the wind, the line of the hills, the barking of a dog: these are the first things, and they come with absolute clarity. I feel as if I can reach out and trace them with a fingertip. And yet, as clear as the scene may be, no one is in it. No one. Naoko is not there, and neither am I. Where could we have disappeared to? How could such a thing have happened? Everything that seemed so important back then – Naoko, and the self I was then, and the world I had then: where could have they all gone? It´s true, I can´t even bring back her face – not strait away, at least. All I´m left holding is a background, pure scenery, with no people at the front”.

Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

April 8, 2008 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

Art is not chaos but a composition of chaos that yields the vision or sensation, so that it constitutes, as Joyce says, a chaosmos, a composed chaos – neither forseen nor preconceived. Art transforms chaotic variability into chaoid variety… Art struggles with chaos but it does so in order to render it sensory, even through the most charming character, the most enchanted landscape.

March 12, 2008 at 6:14 pm Leave a comment

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