Brassal PROUST IN THE POWER OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001
Proust is an excellent mental photographer, sometimes a reporter, sometimes a portraitist, a landscapist, or a night photographer. He has the reporter’s curiosity, acuity of vision, and promptitude of glance. Several Proustian exegetes have managed to reveal these qualities of the writer: for instance, Jean-François Revel, in Sur Proust, is struck “by the number of short self-sufficient sequences” and observes that for Proust “the snapshot acquires from the start the vivacity of a close-up, the narrative potential encased within the very immobility of the image.”. . . Photography is so deeply anchored in Proust’s mind that even certain Parisian views appear to him in the form of photographic proofs. The dome of Saint-Augustin (in his neighborhood, “one of the city’s ugliest,” as Proust remarks) assumes for him the form of a “violent bell, sometimes reddish, sometimes too, in the noblest ‘proofs’ the atmosphere affords, the transparent black of ashes” (Swann’s Way). Thus Proust summons to the aid of his description the entire vocabulary of photography.
Jerome Liebling THE DICKINSONS OF AMHE
Polly Longsworth, and Barton Levi St. Armand
Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001 Among Liebling’s private visual preoccupations is his abiding concern with what might be called the afterlife of things—the strange expressiveness of the dead or inanimate object. He likes untenanted clothes, hanging (continued on next page)
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Elisabeth Bronfen London: Phaidon, 2001 [With her] close-up shots of a woman’s face, her eyes and mouth opened wide, as if in ecstasy, or covered dramatically with her hands— Rist invokes the language of hysteria, as invented in the late nineteenth century by Jean Martin Charcot in his clinic, the Salpêtrière, on the outskirts of Paris. The images have been reworked not only by the surrealists but also by contemporary women artists such as Annette Messager and
(continued on next page)
shop windows, in the bedrooms of the dead. During his fifty years of work, he has returned again and again to corpses and cadavers, skeletons and slaughterhouses, manikins and masks. Like Emily Dickinson, he is constantly wondering what happens to us after we die. Liebling: “In the body that remains, is there some residue of the spirit, of the soul?” Dickinson: “Do People moulder equally, /They bury, in the Grave?” Liebiing’s photographs are always asking where the line is between life and death. What of our feelings lingers around the objects we loved? ... [His] photographs of the Dickinson houses, as packed with secrets as any haunted house of Hawthorne’s invention, draw on the twin modalities of
photography. They are images of the visible as surely as they probe an invisible reaim of family history and cultural memory. ... These photographs hark back to a nineteenth-century emotional climate of mourning and melancholia, absence and loss, memory and obsession.... His affinity for images of absence and mortality finds a perfect analogue in Emily Dickinson’s death-haunted poetry.... His visual questioning ... encounters a whole range of objects— some of them handled and cherished, some of them stepped on or discarded—in the rooms of the Dickinsons.
—Christopher Benfey, from ‘“Best Grief Is Tongueless’: Jerome Liebling’s Spirit Photographs”
Pipilotti Rist continued
Louise Bourgeois. As was the case in the photographs Charcot used to illustrate his case histories, the passionate poses here stage a disturbance of the body meant to express psychic anguish in an exaggerated and highly histrionic mode, though it is unclear whether the body fragments we see express pleasure, pain, laughter, or fear. As the voice-over (which alternates with the sound of percussive instruments, punctuating the statements) indicates, the passionate exaltation enacted here is fundamentally concerned with sight. It addresses not only the manner in which the feminine body has traditionally been turned into an object of the gaze, but more crucially the manner in which, once self-reflexivity is brought into play, any clearly delineated siting of this body is troubled.
—Elisabeth Bronfen, from “(Entlastungen) Pipilottis Fehler ([Absolutions] Pipilotti’s Mistakes)”