August 8, 2010
Good afternoon, friends,
Thank you for your comments last week. It has been fun as well as helpful to think your thinking with you. Send more!!
My friend [aka The Ditigal Semanarian] came to visit. She brought laughter, good food, and a feast of ideas. We talked often (and sometimes late) about the ways in which ideas are conveyed through images in the present world of digitalized information. A picture in a book does not convey information in the same ways as does an image on a screen, we agreed, then wondered: How does the rapid flow of images across a screen impact differently our human processes of knowing?
Wannabe armchair philosophers that we are, we revisited Descarte's idea ["I think, therefore I am"]. We considered the possibility of revising it for this present age into something like, "I visually process images, therefore I am." We thought about the ways in which we humans make meaning and asked ourselves, "How do we make truth from the images we visually absorb?"
On our last evening together we considered another question: can any image be declared to have intrinsic 'goodness' or 'badness'? If so, what forms the foundation for an 'ethic of the eye'?
My friend returned to teaching, and I resumed the undramatic routine of my days. Then while the afterglow of our conversations still lingered in the back of my mind, I had a startling experience. I saw a picture--a picture on an unmoving wall, not a screen.
The picture hung slightly left of center and several degrees lower than the viewer's eye might have anticipated. This artfully chosen imbalance made the wall itself an extension of the canvas, a large unbordered empty space within which the picture aggressively held its small framed place.
While the space the picture occupied initially caught my attention, it was the content of the picture--the static image it held--that stopped me in stride.
It was an image of a woman's hands, extended gracefully as though she held a spray of flowers. What she held, however, was a spray of money, an enormous bundle of thousand-dollar bills that had begun to unroll making a half-formed bouquet in her hands. The viewer's eyes were drawn simultaneously to the money (a fortune held casually in those slender fingers) and the nails on those fingers--they were long, fashionably square-cut, and varnished a fierce, fire-engine, in-your-face red.
The image was untitled.
In the time since I first saw it, I occasionally revisit that image in the gallery of my mind. I still have yet to give it a title.
What do you think? What title would you give it? What truth does the image give you to see and know?
See you next week.