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2014, Jan 09
Koji Taki on the flood of images

This is from an interview published in the March 1988 issue of Eureka (ユリイカ).

In the end, the world is a confused web of sight-lines, and this has been given an absolutely material form by photography. Because it is possible to take any number of photographs, a photograph is nothing more than one out of an endless number. If we think in this way, we will understand that photographs can only be produced out of a flood of images. Usually, it is thought that photographs produce this flood. But the birth of a photograph itself presupposes a flood of images—in other words, noise or chaos.


							

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2013, Oct 16
Daido Moriyama on the foreign reception of his work

For people from America and Europe, the image of Japanese photographers is a kind of mystery shrouded in unknown gloom, or a darkness, isn’t it? I think that Japanese photography has definitely been maturing for quite a long time. Pre-war photographers—Yasui Nakaji for one—show its depth, or quality. I have some reservations about how much they know about Japanese photography. With the development of the internet and this way existing with information, the world is becoming speedier and flatter, and the work of many Japanese photographers is more visible. I think this is a good thing, but, you know, even after doing lots of exhibits overseas—and of course this has been an interesting experience for me—to say how people look at my work? That’s difficult to say.

The May 2013 issue of Gendai Shiso 1 was entirely dedicated to Shomei Tomatsu. I’ve been making my way through the issue at my own pace; one of the texts that grabbed me immediately was an interview with Daido Moriyama. Of course Tomatsu is the focus of the interview, but there were a number of fruitful digressions, including this one. Here, the interviewer has asked him for a comment about the foreign response to his work, and I’ve translated his answer.



							

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Daido Moriyama, Quotes, Translation

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2013, Jun 15
Toyo Ito in 1989

No matter how loudly we might insist that these impassive young architects acknowledge the reality of their lives more openly, our cries remain as pointless as admonishing a child who is eating a hamburger and watching TV to eat fish, turn off the TV and talk to his parents. Perhaps we must instead find a new type of dining table where we can enjoy eating hamburgers. Rather than clinging to the counters of our neighborhood bars and reviling the big tables of the cafes, perhaps we should seek out a new reality in those new tables. […] I now sense that reality does not precede consumption, but rather lies beyond it, on the other side. Thus, we have no choice but to stand before the sea of consumption, immerse ourselves, and swim through it to discover what lies on the far shore. If we stand motionless at the shore, the water only continues to rise. So if we are to survive, we can neither refuse to swim not stand dumbfounded as the water envelops us.

In “A New Architecture Is Possible Only in the Sea of Consumption,” From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan, 1945–1989: Primary Documents 1 published by MOMA.



							

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2011, Aug 17
Tonight’s gchat conversation

<friend>: people take themselves so seriously it hurts

in web photoland

This was in reference to looking at Ed Panar’s series “Animals That Saw Me,” which we both agreed is excellent. The Ice Plant will be publishing it as a book (“Volume One”!) in November.


							

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2011, Apr 12
Missed opportunity

I only wanted Uncle Vernon standing by his own car (a Hudson) on a clear day, I got him and the car. I also got a bit of Aunt Mary’s laundry and Beau Jack, the dog, peeing on the fence, and a row of potted tuberous begonias on the porch and 78 trees and a million pebbles in the driveway and more. It’s a generous medium, photography.

Lee Friedlander

A little while ago I heard of someone who was shooting a photo project in Japan, which was a meditation on the idea that a major earthquake could strike here sometime soon. This person had been to Japan a few times before, but as luck would have it, he was actually in the country on March 11—amazing, cosmic timing, right? I was curious to find out what became of the project, but as it turns out, he viewed the earthquake as an imposition; he was annoyed that he couldn’t complete the project as he’d previously envisioned it!

On the one hand, you could say this is a failure to be flexible in one’s thinking. Fair enough. But if the subject of your photography project was the possibility of a major earthquake in Japan, and you were not in Japan when a major earthquake hit, wouldn’t that just drive you up the wall? To actually be in Japan at that time, and effectively throw in the towel, strikes me as a misunderstanding of the medium. Unless you’re working in a studio, it’s not reasonable to expect control over anything—and it’s surprising that someone whose subject was the shifting of tectonic plates would not grasp this! Friedlander’s quote (and work) is perhaps the example of how to keep yourself open—to receive the unexpected not as an obstacle, but as a gift.


							

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2010, Sep 06
Herzog on images

“I have often spoken of what I call the inadequate imagery of today’s civilization. I have the impression that the images that surround us today are worn out; they are abused and useless and exhausted. They are limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution. When I look at the postcards in tourist shops and the images and advertisements that surround us in magazines or I turn on the television, or if I walk into a travel agency and see those huge posters with that same tedious image of the Grand Canyon on them, I truly feel there is something dangerous emerging here.

…As a race we have become aware of certain dangers that surround us. We comprehend, for example, that nuclear power is a real danger for mankind, that over-crowding of the planet is the greatest of all. We have understood that the destruction of the environment is another enormous danger. But I truly believe that the lack of adequate imagery is a danger of the same magnitude. It is as serious a defect as being without memory. What have we done to our images? What have we done to our embarrassed landscapes? I have said this before and will repeat it again as long as I am able to talk: if we do not develop adequate images we will die out like dinosaurs. Look at the depiction of Jesus in our iconography, unchanged since the vanilla ice-cream kitsch of the Nazarene school of painting in the late nineteenth century. These images alone are sufficient proof that Christianity is moribund.

We need images in accordance with our civilization and our innermost conditioning, and this is the reason why I like any film that searches for new images no matter in what direction it moves or what story it tells. One must dig like an archaeologist and search our violated landscape to find anything new. It can sometimes be a struggle to find unprocessed and fresh images.”

-Werner Herzog, from Herzog on Herzog

stolen from some other blog, via miguel


							

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2010, Sep 02
Sloterdijk on critique, and other academic type speak

“The effects of critique are generally different from those that were intended.”

Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason

I don’t think I’ve made a secret of my affinity for academic thought. It bothers me when people shrug off philosophy and critical theory as an amusing pastime for waffly professors. Of course, there is a lot that the academy (and academic writing) leaves to be desired—“academic thought” and “philosophy” may hardly ever intersect, if at all. For every lucid comment one comes across there are bound to be twenty (fifty? a hundred?) that were not even intended to be understood in the first place, and—do I even need to say it?—not in a joyful, Nietzschean way. Sloterdijk, though, that guy is on to something.

With this in mind, here is a link to a new academic review called Trans Asia Photography Review. I want to look over it carefully and write more about it later, but for now I’d say that Geoffrey Batchen comes across as a very lucid person, and Christopher Pinney does not.

I’m back on a regular blogging schedule, I think, there should be at least one every weekday. Peacing out for the weekend. Going to Pat’s opening, and this Japanese surf rock guitarist.


							

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2009, Dec 24
Philosophy interlude

Here is a link to the full text, in PDF form, of Peter Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason. If you have any inclination to read contemporary philosophy I can recommend it very highly. Sloterdijk is much easier to understand, and much more direct in his style, than most other continental philosophy cats. He’s amoral but life-affirming—just how I like my philosophers! The only technical term he leans on is kynicism, which refers to the Greek version of joyful, “cheeky” cynicism, rather than the negative cynicism we know today. Diogenes, a brash philosopher of Plato’s time, is the original kynic.

This is an excerpt from the text:

Before we “really live,” we always have just one more matter to attend to, just one more precondition to fulfill, just one more temporarily more important wish to satisfy, just one more account to settle. And with this just one more and one more time arises that structure of postponement and indirect living that keeps the system of excessive production going on. The latter, of course, always knows how to present itself as an unconditionally “good end” that deludes us with its light as though it were a real goal but that whenever we approach it recedes once more into the distance.

Kynical reason culminates in the knowledge—decried as nihilism—that we must snub the grand goals. In this regard, we cannot be nihilistic enough. Those who reject all so-called goals and values in a kynical sense break through the circle of instrumental reason, in which “good” goals are pursued with “bad” means. The means lie in our hands, and they are means with such enormous significance (in every respect: production, organization, as well as destruction) that we must begin to ask ourselves whether there can still be any ends that are served by the means. For what good could such immeasurable means be necessary? In that moment when our consciousness becomes ripe to let go of the idea of good as a goal and to devote itself to what is already there, a release is possible in which the piling up of means for imaginary, always receding goals automatically becomes superfluous. Cynicism can only be stemmed by kynicism, not by morality. Only a joyful kynicism of ends is never tempted to forget that life has nothing to lose except itself.

buy from Abebooks


							

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2009, Nov 20
Tarkovsky on images and the unconscious

Some quotes from Andrei Tarkovsky, from a book of his Polaroids that a friend lent me. I wouldn’t choose to use this language but I’m interested in the thought he’s expressing.

 

“An image is an impression of the Truth, which God has allowed us to glimpse with our sightless eyes.”

 

“How does a project mature? It is obviously a most mysterious, almost imperceptible process. It carries on independently of ourselves, in the subconscious, crystallizing on the walls of the soul. It is the form of the soul that makes it unique, indeed only the soul decides the hidden ‘gestation period’ of that image which cannot be perceived by the conscious gaze.”

I just got back XX rolls of film from the summer, looked at them all at once, and now I’ll probably leave them alone for a little while. This Garry Winogrand video is relevant here, look for the part about 3/4 of the way through where he talks about his editing process.


							

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2009, Oct 27
Nietzsche, from “Human, all too human”

155

Belief in inspiration. Artists have an interest in others’ believing in sudden ideas, so-called inspirations; as if the idea of a work of art, of poetry, the fundamental thought of a philosophy shines down like a merciful light from heaven. In truth, the good artist’s or thinker’s imagination is continually producing things good, mediocre, and bad, but his power of judgment, highly sharpened and practiced, rejects, selects, joins together; thus we now see from Beethoven’s notebooks that he gradually assembled the most glorious melodies and, to a degree, selected them out of disparate beginnings. The artist who separates less rigorously, liking to rely on his imitative memory, can in some circumstances become a great improviser; but artistic improvisation stands low in relation to artistic thoughts earnestly and laboriously chosen. All great men were great workers, untiring not only in invention but also in rejecting, sifting, reforming, arranging.

read on


							

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