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Supervisor: Sophie Berrebi Second Reader: Jeroen Boomgaard Master Thesis Artistic Research MA Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities Amsterdam, June 2013 Michal Kirschbaum




Michal Kirschbaum



ABSTRACT The present thesis proposes a dialogue with some photographic works that expose cuts or obstructions which intercept the visibility of a photographic image, or that use appropriated images that have been already cut. The aim of that proposition is to unfold the theoretical and poetical insights that may arise from those procedures in their contribution to contemporary debates in Photography and their relations and repercussions over the notion of place, space and time. Those last issues are aroused especially in relation that the photographs selected somehow deal with themes that transverse landscape and its representation. To that extent, this investigation departs from the analysis of two works of Robert Smithson (US, 1938-1973) that present some procedures of fragmentation and interruption. Smithson's articulations provided important tools and perceptions to think further a few works that deal directly with photographic cutoffs and blockades. Thereafter, the works of Marina Camargo (Brazil, 1980) and Lisa Oppenheim (USA, 1975) will be discussed and analyzed through a focus on the performances and articulations that surround the objects of visual culture. In examining these artworks something that became present throughout this thesis is the entropic reality of things; a reality of disintegration, decomposition and recomposition, through time and its manipulation. Finally, I shall say that the representational practice of the visual culture is explored by those artists as an expedition inside the gaze itself and its representation which are put in practice by different spatial explorations.

KEY-WORDS photography, place, space, time, entropy, interrupted/ blocked visualities, postproduction, spatial operations, philosophy, thing theory, landscape representation.





Parables of the Visual A collapse of Vision……….............................................................................................................12 Robert Smithson: reflexive displacements.....................................................................................18

Perceptions of continual interruptions Interruptive processes……...……………………….........................................................................27 On Deconstructions.......................................................................................................................32

Interrupted visibilities Photography as objects of interruption..........................................................................................37 Marina Camargo: some journeys on collecting, forgetting and reframing.....................................40 Lisa Oppenheim: behind the image...............................................................................................50

Conclusion.....................................................................................................................59 Bibliography...................................................................................................................61 List of illustrations........................................................................................................64



INTRODUCTION The strata of the Earth is a jumbled museum. Embedded in the sediment is a text that contains limits and boundaries which evade the rational order, and social structures which confine art. In order to read the rocks we must become conscious of geologic time, and of the layers of prehistoric material that is entombed in the Earth’s crust. When one scans the ruined sites of pre-history one sees a heap of wrecked maps that upsets our present historical limits. A rubble of logic confronts the viewer as he looks into the levels of sedimentation. The abstract grids containing the raw matter are observed as something incomplete, broken 1 and shattered” (Robert Smithson, 1979)

Sense of place is an expression that seems to be very broad, it may refer to a personal, social and even to a public scale, of perception and production. It may indicate the stimulus that places may provoke in us, or it also may refer to how our sensory perception rules the understanding of places which we may have, from which any response might take place. A glance on the ways we perceive, considering ourselves immersed subjects, might not be purely physical or biological, it will probably be cultural, mediatic, electronic, or even mystical as well. In that regard, our perceptions seem to be formed by a set of circumstances which are contingent in relation to an archeology of a body that is in relation to a place or its representation. Yet, sense also refers to meaning, as the understanding that comes from something: the awareness which arises from perceiving, experiencing and learning, not being in this regard completely singular, but constituted within a common ground, a social and political ground. In that way, the perceptions arise from those possibilities that are already there and within the bodies, for the sensible to see or not to see, to read or not to read, from which the real takes many forms.2 The present thesis surrounds the problematic of the sense of place, specially in relation to our visual system and its representation. It approaches visual representation as a construction and a production, and furthermore it approaches its reception, especially from the photographic material. This thesis proposes a dialogue with several photographic works that expose cuts or obstructions which intercept the visibility of a photographic image, or that still use appropriated images that have been already cut. The aim of that proposition is to unfold the theoretical and

1 Flam, 1996: 110 2 Nevertheless, this does not mean that the perceptions and their responses are something predetermined as already settled, even though they rest on many shared codes. According to Certeau we could think of it as “the construction of individual sentences with an established vocabulary and syntax”. (Certeau, 1984: XIII)



poetical insights that may arise from those procedures in their contribution to contemporary debates in Photography and their relations and repercussion over the notion of place, space and time, specially considering that the photographs selected somehow deal with themes that transverse landscape and its representation. The artists that are proposed for this study are Robert Smithson (USA, 1938-1973), Marina Camargo (Brazil, 1980) and Lisa Oppenheim (USA, 1975). The works here selected put in evidence, in some way, that the visual construction departs from an articulation which is part of a social and physical reality (from where any gaze forms itself). In that sense, those artworks point to the articulations that produce the visual materials themselves and propose their circulation. The photographic and textual pieces that comprise the artworks selected for this thesis were used considering them as procedures that enabled reflections where dematerializations, disjunctions and gaps became a generational place to think about space, place, spatial operations and time. In those artworks, the depiction and investigation of a place, through a representation of perspectival continuity gives place to the understanding and production of sites, which is always rather constructed, fragmented and selective. The study of the set of operations that produced these artworks also arouse themes that lay bare the problems that circumscribe our sight as something that is formed through multitemporal fragments, which are found in our memories and expectations, fragments that intervene in the perception of any present look. It is then, also part of this study to examine how the visual construction operates and how the visual production intervenes in our senses, from where the work of the selected artists also deal with, and for which those cases hold a direct conversation with photography, a medium so directly connected with how we make the world socially visible. In how many ways can places be explored and experienced? Space is a practiced place, claims Michel de Certeau3. Then how many forms of practices can there be? That is certainly something that cannot be measured. But then, I could venture to think that the spatial experience may be in a large spectrum of possibilities, a reality that Gaston Bachelard could not manage to deal with, a gaze that was quite essentialist, exclusionary and idealistic in which existential conflicts were somewhat excluded.4 Still, if space is a practice, it should be performed, or exercised. In which ways does the exploratory practice show itself in the propositions of the artists

3 Certeau, 1984: 117 4 On the reading of Bachelard, the Poetics of Space, the phenomenology applied to the sense of space (and especially to place as home) turned out in such a essentialist operation that his idea of home have been questioned by feminists, since any home, mentioned as a fundamental place would negate somehow the reality of being “out of place”, a situation experienced by many women in a paternalistic society. Bachelard's spatial outline does not show any oppressor or traumatic possibility within the spatial experience, in this case the spatial experience of being at home. In relation to similar operations within human geography Creswell points out “They fail to recognize the differences between people and their relation to place. In the search for 'essence' -'difference' has no place.” (Creswell, 2004: 25)



discussed in this thesis? And more importantly, how do they show places themselves? The expeditionary practice draws a clear line over the practice of these artists where the collection of data, the representation of the sublime or still the anthropological/archeological practice is called into question. For that purpose, this investigation departs, in the first chapter, from the analysis of two works of Robert Smithson (US, 1938-1973) that present some procedures of fragmentation and interruption. Agreeing with the artist’s statement, quoted in the epigraph, that a text is found in earth, there is therefore a process of reading it and bringing it to sense wherein, according to the artist, a realistic representation does not seem to be a reliable mode for visibility itself since its reading will emerge in fragments, in a shattered form. Somehow, it is his distrust of the sensory apparatus and in any assured realistic representation that starts to grant to the reflexive mirrored images, that are very present in Smithson's selected works, the perception of cuts and interruptions as something that constitutes our own sensory apparatus and understandings, instead of a phenomenology constituted of unity and correlation in relation to things. Smithson's articulations provided important tools and perceptions to think further several works that deal directly with photographic cutoffs and blockades. An analysis of the photo-essay Incidents of Mirror Travel in the Yucatan, 1969 will follow after the investigation on the work Enantiomorphic Chambers, 1965: a work in which the structural disposition of the former work takes a more environmental practice and in which the subject and the object as separated instances are also put in the discussion. The analysis of those works led to the focus of the processes of montage, which is at the heart of the perceptive ability, and from where this text relates to those with the “theatricality” in an artwork, pointed at by Michael Fried in his text Art and Objecthood, between other things, as the focus, in an artwork or in the experience of an artwork, on the situations that produce the same, which reminds us that an artwork is always in a process of montage in its reception (something that Fried would disagree with, since theatricality would be a feature of non-art, a feature of common objects). Furthermore the works also led the investigation to address some connection with the “disjointed nature of time and of any presence” in the articulations of Jacques Derrida, propelled by an interview with the philosopher about photography5. Those subjects were found to be of importance for the reflection of the interruptive processes that an account of the presence (of visual production) may give rise to. Those theoretical relations will be developed in the second chapter of this thesis. The third chapter will reflect on three works of Marina Camargo: Alpenprojekt, 2011; 5

Derrida, Jacques; Richter, Gerhard. Copy, Archive Signature: a conversation on photography. Stanford University Press. California: 2010.



Oblivion-Alpes, 2012; and Diagrama, 2013. In these works a dialogue is put in place between an appropriated photograph, and the site which it refers to, in a way that the photograph seems to be put between them, and not exactly as an object that unifies or connects those instances: showing itself as an object of interference towards the actual thing, from where Camargo intercepts back into the photographic reference. In continuity, the work of Lisa Oppenheim, Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans will be analyzed in relation to the agencies performed on an archival material, and the artist’s particular response in relation to an absence and a cutoff in that heritage. These processes reminds us somehow, that some acts of intervention and manipulation (let´s say of an archivist, an artist, an explorer or along its own entropic fate), provokes the suspension of the stability of those objects bringing ways of activation of some of their possible meanings by, on the other hand, undoing other ways of articulating their possible meanings. The artists point out such images as objects put in a set of social relations, as objects that are not stable as we could first have supposed. Moreover, all these artists clearly establish a conversation with objects of the material culture: for Smithson, the Loyd's nineteenth century expedition to Yucatan; for Marina Camargo the picturesque Swiss Alps representations of the tourist market; and for Lisa Oppenheim the work of Walker Evans, a legacy archived in the National Library of Congress and manipulated by means of administration for publication. The preceding investigations may be important to mention to clarify the decisions of the present search. The interest in the forms of reading and approaching places from the beginning of the Artistic Research course at the University of Amsterdam gradually took the investigation into the works and processes of artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark and Robert Smithson. It was found in those artists, operations that dealt with themes of ruin, entropy and processes of “unbuilding” of the structure and its disintegration. These actions somehow indicated the possibility of a sort of different awareness in relation to those structures that were themselves being dismantled, possibly because they were being dismantled. The gesture invokes taking something apart in a way that heeds the logic of its own architectural plan and thereby exposes the internal tensions that both enable and vex it. Heidegger takes pains in his accounts of Being to formalize the “building-unbuilding” construction that always also is an undoing of itself, mobilizing the word Abbau (partially derived from the phenomenological work of his teacher, Edmund Husserl) and Destruktion, or de-structuring, instead of the more usual German 6 equivalent destruction”...

The artists’ procedures, in investigation throughout this thesis, display a kind of “unbuilding” practice, exposing the procedures of visibility and circulation in relation to the production of the

6 Richter, 2010: X



gaze, which takes part in any textual or photographic depiction, unveiling the same as a performative act of bringing into truth, of bringing into visibility. This practice also shows the solidity of these productions as something that tends to scatter their materiality into the mutations of entropy and agencies. In examining these artworks something that became present throughout this thesis is the entropic reality of things; a reality of disintegration, decomposition and recomposition, through time and its manipulation. Following that, in a different way, an attention to the writings of Michel de Certeau uncovered some of the tensions, between a sort of “systematic grammar of space- an order that we inhabit and is not constructed by us- on the one hand, and our ability to use this grammar in ways which are not predetermined on the other�7 . Somehow, the interest in these artists was being attracted, in part, for their subversive actions over what was expected for those objects to be, and for dealing directly in the physicality of those structures: in Smithson's case, deconstructing the visual sensory apparatus as an object in itself, in Camargo's case, effacing an object of remembrance in order to be able to experience anew the same referent, and in Oppenheim's case, using a previous decision of neglecting a photographic production as the possibility to reinvent it.8 We could also consider Photography in relation to its index character, as a conclusion of its physical process, which points to it as an outcome of the world reflective existence and because of that, liable to be called documental, a feature which makes us forget that this media, beyond its documental capabilities, is an object which is articulated, processed, released and archived, among other procedures and operations. The interest here also rests on merging and confusing the instances of the scientific and the objective, (that is also related to the way that we experience photography) with the deconstructive/constructive operations led by those artists, which are also seen as part of those processes of revelation and presentation. The virtuality opened up by the collapse of part of an image reinforces the present absence which is the characteristic of any photograph. That collapse, in the works of this thesis, shows itself as a situation that conveys generative possibilities. In this way, these artists put themselves in relation to a material context to be experienced: place and its representation. As a reflection and an image that keeps repeating itself infinitely, as a sort of echo in the cultural imagery, photographs also construct our sense of place and space, as a site for possible spatial drifts, detached from the real and the actual and creating in this way a different reality: a place within itself. And it is exactly because photography is thought of as a place on its own that there lies always the invitation to personal spatial practices: photography takes us to places and takes us to perform a spatiality. The representational practice is explored by those artists as an expedition over the gaze and its 7 Cresweel, 2004: 39 8 I have been thinking especially how a subversive act towards a structure implies a relation and dialog towards that reality instead of a negation towards the former structure.



representation, inhabiting again that gaze in a different way, into new spatial explorations. The kind of spatiality that may be performed by the focus on gaps and blockages in relation to photographs is what we will see in the next chapters.






A Collapse of Vision

“Were the mirrors mounted on something that was dropping, draining, eroding, trickling, spilling away? Sight turned away from its own looking. Particles of matter slowly crumbled down the slope that held the mirrors. Tinges, stains, tints, and tones crumbled into the eyes. The eyes became two wastebaskets filled with diverse colors, variegations, ashy hues, blotches and sunburned chromatics. To reconstruct what the eye see in words, in an “ideal language” is a vain exploit. Why not reconstruct one´s inability to see?” 9 (Smithson, 1968)

How may a collapse of vision truly be something that is worthy of consideration? Vision collapse does not signify in present meditations a fatal blindness or a perceptual restriction as first we might expect, but rather that, when we take into consideration its fallibility in its attempts to see the world, the world, as we see it in its determinative actuality, also may somehow collapse. It may show itself, instead of something solid and real, as being somewhat fictional and vulnerable, putting the faithful, accurate, precise and permanent qualities of a linear scan way of seeing, into question. In a similar way, a gaze or action that brings about deconstructive processes might not refer to physical annihilation, but perhaps exactly to its contrary: it may articulate itself as a procedure to expose the internal articulations within the appearances.

9 Smithson, 1968. Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 101



Some deconstructive procedures, that might be seen in the artworks here discussed, as we will se further, may generate a regard on the agencies and articulations that act on the visual construction (the ways of seeing) and the visual production (the objects of representation, as photographs). If matter itself, which we try to perceive, by many different processes, is always in the state of becoming and crumbling, (and storing in itself a historical residue within the composition of its structure) are we not in the same way in a process of becoming and crumbling in relation to things in space, adhering its composition in ourselves and in the other hand engraving there our own agencies? Somehow it seems that to see the possible forms of relations of subjects and objects is to see the forms of interactions that A to B and B to A may display. To “see the gaze” as something interactive in this context, might show itself, as well, very “active” and “activating”, instead of the common passivity that we commonly project to the look, an action that may also frame and mold matter and bodies. This chapter will explore Smithson's artworks through a focus on a sort of spatial instability that the artist’s works convey, and from where a particular landscape arises. For that purpose, it is a central issue the choice to deal with Smithson's works that have an articulation with mirrors, where interruptions and cuts happen to intervene in any attempt to depict any sort of continuity. In the present chapter, two works of the artist will be brought for further investigation: the Enantiomorphic Chambers and the photo-essay titled Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan (along the photographs titled Yucatan Mirrors Displacements), a project in where the former investigation takes a more environmental insertion and where the subject and object, as separated instances start somehow, to merge. Robert Smithson's investigations on the visual system, crystallography and optics are often used by him as a critique of the perspective and centralized vision, from where he denies the visual perception as an objective tool, and proposes a representation of space which is not in accordance with centralized optical terms. A gaze which is not topographic (neither goes for any objective depiction) arises in his work as a possibility of place experience and understanding, and it is exactly towards the meditation on our “inability to see” that a different experience of perceiving and responding arises. In his text, Pointless Vanishing Points, written in 1967, Smithson makes reference to his work Enantiomorphic Chambers as “an illusion without an illusion”10. No way to go for unilateral conclusions in Smithson's work. There, oppositions coexist with no invalidations, where the real takes a singular form. The kind of realism that Smithson articulates of “an illusion without an illusion” seems to be formed by a skeptical look at the natural human structure, for Smithson's distrust arises from an attentive focus on the physiology of vision rather than on any mistrust in 10 Smithson, 1967. Pointless Vanishing Points. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 209.



reality per se. According to Smithson our own body apparatus is not devoid of illusion. It is then, from the investigation on the physicality of things (I will say a pretty realistic perspective) that the appearance of things becomes suspicious. According to Smithson, that mistrust comes from a gaze that “perceives “nature” everywhere” and “starts detecting falsity in the apparent thickets, in the appearance of the real” being in the end “skeptical about all notions of existence, objects, reality, etc.”11 Smithson's interests in the functioning of vision somehow also led him to work with mirrors in many of his works. In Enantiomorphic Chambers12 (figure 1), he constructs a piece that partly represents the processes of sight and the binocular structure of our vision. The work is composed of two structures that hang on the wall, having a similar appearance to the mirror-stereoscope invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1832: an invention that was able to produce a three dimensional effect by the arrangement of two images reflected on mirrors.13 The artwork further shows how our impression of solidity departs from two images produced from two different points of view and that through a mental process (of superposition) a unification of those images constructs the human perception of depth of field. Yet, Smithson's artwork, which was meant to be a reference of the visual system itself and of the stereoscope, makes difficult any attempt to construct an illusional three dimensional spatiality. Instead of producing it, the Enantiomorphic Chambers confuse any spatial understanding that we could have with an image and seems to confuse the perception of the surrounding space where the work is inserted, because of the angles of the reflexive surfaces. “Enantiomorphic perspective differs from central perspective in so far as it is mainly three 14 dimensional and dualistic in conception, whereas the latter is two dimensional and unitary. “

Enantiomorphic chambers destroys the unified point of fusion. Within its structure we are not able to have a vision in depth but rather an “infinite myopia”,15 as Smithson explained16. The assumption that we have an enantiomorphic visual structure puts in focus the visual mechanics in the body processes, whereas the images and the world itself are in a constant process of construction in our system. But also, an enantiomorphic focus on our visual system would confront 11 Smithson, 1968. Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 103 12 Enantiomorph (plural enantiomorphs) Etymology: From Ancient Greek ναντίος (enantios, “opposite”) + µορφή (morphē, “form”): 1. Mirror image, form related to another as an object is to its image in a mirror; 2. Either of a pair of crystals that are mirror images of each other, and are optically active. (Wiktionary: Accessed at: 13 For more information on Wheatstone invention see: Wade, 2002. IN: Perception, volume 31: 265 -272. 14 Smithson, 1967. Pointless Vanishing Points. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 209 15 “Nonetheless, even objects squarely within the field of phenomenality are often less clear (that is, less opaque) the closer you look. As Georg Simmel said of telescopic and microscopic technology, "coming closer to things often only shows us how far away they still are from us." (Brown, 2009: 6) 16 Smithson, 1966. Interpolation of the Enantiomorphic Chambers. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 39



us with a much more proximal interaction with the world, that would wrap us in its inner structure or configuration. To act within that grasp would leave no possibility to experience place as an outside viewer. It that case, whole body would happen to be embedded and no depiction would be possible without its lines, shadows, graphisms and spasmodic pulses getting splashed into personal biomechanisms. Plus, how could we conceive the possibility of an overview or of a topographic regard along the non existence of a single point of view? To assume our own visual enantiomorphism would be to assume the contrariety which is present in the consolidation of two different positions into one and to assume reality as multifaceted. Then, it is settled, in my regard, (maybe as a side conclusion) that it is not purely about the critique of being put outside the frame, or of being deceived by a non-existent profundity, as a feature of the perspective construction and part of the discussions of being in front of a realistic painting in the artistic set up. But, therein lies a turning point in the discussion of being deceived by an art work: the deceptive instrument becomes here assumed in the visual system itself (the object of interest and of critique is not an image but the body that looks). It also puts in evidence that the gaze of the subject that looks is an environmental gaze. It is sunk in the ambience of everyday experiences and practices in where the perceptive process is a result of prior inputs, gazes, performances and operations of any of us (that also configure different potentialities), as a process that is not solely set by objects that are put in our way, but in a relation which invokes a response.17 “Eyes are enantiomorphs. Writing the reflection is supposed to match the physical reality, yet somehow the enantiomorphs don't quite fit together. The right hand is always at variance with the 18 left.”...”You are caught in your own enantiomorph”

Enantiomorphs19 are double. In this case they also mean “seeing double”. As a reversal from each other they come close to a mirroring. One mirrors each other’s structure and they both somehow mirror reality itself. If, as Smithson puts, those eyes, as organs, are not the perfect mirror from each other, inasmuch as they “don't quite fit each other” perhaps they also do not mirror, in the same way, the real physicality of the world itself: perhaps those two images do not fit together. Later, in relation to the non-correspondence of the visual in relation to reality, Smithson points out that, if you take the sight phenomena as an object by itself, in a way that you realize the camera 17 “If all of our perception and awareness is a response to the forces of nature, a response to the movement of energies in our environment, then the ability to respond becomes responsibility. Our perception of our bodies is dependent upon forces in the environment. More than this, our conception of our bodies and of ourselves is a response to the movement of energy in our environment, most particularly social energy generated in our relationships with other people...” We have an obligation not only to respond, but also to respond in a way that opens up rather than closes off the possibility of response by others.” (Weiss, 2008:144) 18 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 102 19 Online Merrian Webster Dictionary: from Greek enantios ‘opposite’ + -morph.Greek enantios ‘opposite‘ (from enanti facing, from en in + anti against) + -morph morph. First Known Use: 1885



obscura of perception as a physical thing or an object, if you later translate it into a three dimensional illusion, you would be left with a non-thing or a non-object20. “Not fitting” seems to reproduce itself in a virulent way when you then think of environmental sets, big scales and several relations: everything there seems not to fit. The look may quite not fit together with reality, and reality may quite not fit together with ourselves, revealing a tension in place, between us and what surrounds us. At the same time, the things that we see and the enantiomorphs may be attracted by the same oppositions and variances: “my look is mainly attracted by things that are quite opposite to or new to my previous grasps”, from where there is an attempt at familiarization, that possibly changes things a bit, from what it already is, from where its meaning differs and differs to something else. A gap is installed. In the work Enantiomorphic Chambers, spots of blindness come into existence, for any subject positioned in the gap between the two mirrors will not be reflected, and will therefore be invisible for the mirroring. “The Chambers cancel out one's reflected image, when one is directly between the two mirrors...“to see one’s own sight means visible blindness”.21 The center of the stage (localized in the middle of the mirrors) becomes the invisible point and also the crux to be looked at, whereas the place where the depth was supposed to be constructed is replaced by one's own presence. Blindness is therefore explored. The place of centrality, transformed into a gap to where the mirrors cannot encounter their other half would always leave visual experience incomplete but is not visual experience solely (as if we had a disembodied eye) incomplete? ...“that enantiomorphism offered Smithson a way of thinking about mirroring that emphasized the irreconcilable difference, as well as the similarity, between a form and its reflection, a way of viewing 22 the mirror as a tool of cutting or splitting rather than strict unification”

The several fragmentations and non correspondences led by Smithson may somehow put in evidence the divergences, disjunctions and ambiguities in the center of visual construction. His work suggests a dialogue that departs from the mirrors, towards the articulation of intervals and insets leading to a grasp over mirrors and consequently over vision as a tool of separation and cut. It seems reasonable to anticipate that a fragmented or interrupted experience in sites (as if it was different ways of articulating time along space in a given experience) might bring perceptions of disjunctions of some kinds. But perhaps disjunctions of time and space may be part of the perception of any experience, which is in itself fragmented.

20 Smithson, 1967. Pointless Vanishing Points. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 209 21 Smithson, 1967. Smithson, 1966. Interpolation of the Enantiomorphic Chambers. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 39 22 Roberts, 2004: 47



Figure 1 Enantiomorphic Chambers, [Reconstruction, 1964/2003] Painted steel and mirror

Figure 2 Diagram sketched by Robert Smithson. Interpolation of the Enantiomorphic Chambers. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson. New York University Press: New York, 1979



Robert Smithson: reflexive displacements

“On the site the rows would come and go as the light fell”...” A mirror on the third row jammed between two branches and flashed into dematerialization. Other mirrors escaped into visual extinguishment. Bits of reflected jungle retreated from one's perception. Each point of focus spilled into cavities of foliage. Glutinous light submerged vision under a wilderness of unassimilated seeing. Scraps of sight accumulated until the eyes were engulfed by scrambled reflections. What was seen reeled off into indecisive zones...” 23 (Robert Smithson, 1968)

In 1969 Robert Smithson took a journey to what he called “The Yucatan”24. The travelling took a drifting form and it was a singular sort of expedition. From that journey, a photo essay was produced that recalls a travelogue, reminding one of the American tradition of expeditions and travel literature. The text was published as an article in an issue of Artforum, at September 1969, the same year that the expedition took place and it was titled Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan. 23 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 100/103 24 However applied wrongly since his expediton not only embraced the Yucatan Peninsula and outline areas. Possibly the Yucatan name was meant to embrace all the Mayan influence territories within those areas. (Roberts, 2004)



Not by coincidence, a book similarly titled, Incidents of Travel in Yucatán, was published in 1843. The writer, John Lloyd Stephens, made a similar expedition that took place in 1841. Propelled by entirely different intentions and contexts, considering some of his imperialist operations, his journey was a sort of archeological study on the Mayan ruins of the region along with an account of some adventures. The book contained many etchings and drawings by Frederick Catherwood and some photographs and became an important reference for the Mesoamerican archeology.25 Smithson referred to his own journey as the “anti-expedition” of Stephens' expedition, being therefore an important dialogue for the production of this specific work and the positions taken within it. Smithson does not critique directly the above-mentioned explorer. However, critical references appear all over the text, especially from his distrust of the (visual) capabilities to represent the Other in realistic, focused terms, from an exterior position. From the Enantiomorphic Chambers it somehow becomes clear how Smithson delineated the realistic depiction as an abstraction and illusionist mental operation. Somehow his position lays bare the empowering visibility of the central perspective and of the illustrative operation over the Other (and in this case the colonized Other). His “anti-expedition” does not look for objective informational data, and the practices performed by him as opposed to Stephens', that “emphasize, rather than mask, the labors of installing modern vision and modern history in an obscuring, indifferent environment” for “the extraction of historical artifacts and their relocation to the United States, the new PanAmerican historical epicenter.”26 The photo-essay Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan comprises a text divided in chapters from number one to nine, each of them referring to each of the mirror arrangements that he mounted along the route he took and from which his photographs Yucatan Mirror Displacements were made. Even though his essay counts with other images, this text will address itself to the mirror photographs in particular and the textual production related to them. Smithson's understanding of our enantiomorphic vision is present all over the photo-essay, by his recurrent reference to our double vision that “don´t quite fit together”27: an insight that plays a crucial role in the decision to look towards place in a manner that contradicts any measurement or objective documental procedure and that also contributes to his decision to continue working with mirrors and reflections. In the text, Smithson explores space as having a personified existence, a non-linear historical time structure whereas he practices a non-perspectival approach, something that was already in exercise in Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey, which was written one year before the Yucatan project. However, in Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the 25 Smithson and Sthephens in Yucatan, 1968. IN: Roberts, 2004: 88 26 Roberts, 2004: 94-96 27 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 102



Yucatan his articulations become more aggressive whereas a total deconstruction of any spatial solidity comes into place. Beyond any recognition, the Yucatan landscape shows itself to Smithson28: “Through the windshield the road stabbed the horizon, causing it to bleed a sunny incandescence. One could not help feeling that this was a ride on a knife covered with solar blood. As it cut into the horizon a disruption took place”29. There is no event to be witnessed in Yucatan, not in such a way of one directional look into a single situation, disruption is total and all situations are divided into multiple stills, cut short from each other and barely revealing something which could be recognizable. Through the light reflected into those mirrors, a bloody light, as mentioned by the artist, comes from the past and cannot be clearly witnessed, but invisibly reflected. Infinite myopia, or rather, a sort of imperfect vision, is once more operative. There, a kind of “low vision” is exercised. Probably that “illness of the look” partly relates to Dr Samuel Cabot, who was in the exploratory crew of Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Yucatán. Dr Cabot was responsible for a series of a new surgical procedures that were being taken on the strabic diagnosis. Stephens recurrently associated that defectiveness with a Yucatecans disorder of the “lazy eye”. “He describes the operations in lurid details over several pages, and finally proclaims that his head was “swimming with visions of bleeding and mutilated eyes.”30 Strabismus may show itself as a radical demonstration of the eyes enantiomorphism, being a situation of non-alignment of one eye with the other. The dysfunction was related in that time with mental incapacity because of a sort of “dullness of the look” that could not focus properly or visualize in depth. However, Smithson appeals to a visual disorder in order to truly “experience” this place. The quest for a full, sharp capacity of depiction seems, in one way or another, to overlook and disregard, in some aspects, space itself, and also to disregard how the circumstance of human visual capacity operates. In order to see, an illness of the look is put in practice, but now the infinite myopia of the Enantiomorphic Chambers is replaced by a constant strabismus. It could be said that Smithson's operations often move towards the physical investigations over the structures and their loose appearances or mirages, and all the way he also works on deconstructing them, departing from the idea of our own visual misalignment in the reconstructive process. But that deconstruction also seems to come from what “having a vision” could mean or 28 In the relations of seeing and witnessing from Merleau-Ponty, Oliver writes that: Already suggested in MerleauPonty’s invocation of the double meaning of vision is the double meaning of witness. Although he doesn’t develop the concept, Merleau-Ponty frequently uses the verb witness (tŽmoigner) to describe our relation to the world, particularly when he stresses the activity of the object and the passivity of the subject in perception. Even in the phrase that I just quoted “I am a pure witness . . . equal in power to the world’s infinity” there is a tension between the sense of witness as a passive observer in the world and the sense of witness as actively giving testimony of the world; this is the difference between witnessing the power of the world and witnessing to or testifying to the power of the world. (Oliver 2008: 33) 29 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 95 30 Roberts, 2004: 93



show. Taking in consideration that to have a vision would also mean to have a “visualization” from the past, from the future or from the gods, having a vision is a time disruption, even in relation to gods, that are spaceless and timeless. It is felt, in the reading of the text an assumption on how “visionary” and full of “visions” any vision, any look, is made of, even though scarcely admitted. Through that recognition, space is scattered and transcended and finally “Hyperbole touched the bottom of the literal”31 and brings about an illusion without illusion. While crossing the horizon through the Mayan land in the Smithson textual piece, things and sites appear and disappear, devoured and born in that illusionist line: it is there, by the horizon, that a turning point happens. The road is suddenly referred to as a leftover horizon that may be seen from elsewhere, transforming the horizon itself, the one thing that visually marks the limit of earth and sky to become a reality in the present “here” and not only in the future “there”. Smithson's articulations guide a perception that space and time are no longer together or rather that they are no longer in accordance. In some way, reality and fiction begin to take form in a space that is intercepted by countless places or by a time avalanche over any still spatial reality.32 “The distance seemed to put restrictions on all forward movement, thus bringing the car to a countless series of standstills. How could one advance on the horizon, if it was already present under the wheels? A horizon is something else other than a horizon; it is closedness in openness, it is an enchanted region where down is up.”

Something that really grasps my attention in Smithson's work is again revealed: a physicality that is put in work in such abstract terms that nonetheless shows itself very committed to a direct look over things. If, for Smithson, space and time do not seem to be together any longer it may be because space itself seems to be assaulted by many temporalities. Maybe it is the burden of history, and a sort of physical accumulation of time. A kind of physicality seems to arise at Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan against any chronomaniacal complex, due to that time assault. All times are here, the future (the one that is beyond the horizon) and the past (the horizon that can be seen from the rear mirror of the car, which is left behind) constitute the very present. The constant references to a god from the past that sees the future through the mirrors somehow opens up a perception where expectations may come at the same time from voices of the future and the past, in a traveling that moves back and forth, from past to future, from future to past, from ghosts that are timeless and everlasting, ghosts that say ”The future travels backwards”.33 If the impossibility of living the pure present comes from the expectations that move every living being, it possibly also happens because of the disjuncted temporality in which we live,

31 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 99 32 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 94 33 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 96



a time that is disjointed by the many different temporalities that converge on every moment, from where any “presentness or wholly presence” is refused. First, because there is no pure present in any perception since the gaze itself is very much a set of relations and expectations, and secondly, because a presence is not, in any case wholly or fully manifested. For instance, in relation to any object or event, there would be no way to grasp it in its “totality”, in the sense of exhausting all its content. We will get to that in more details on some reflections on perception and meaning in the next chapter. Thus, in Yucatán, the expectation of “what is there to come” is infolded in the same locality. The mirrors, in Smithson's photographs (figure 3) reflect sky into earth and make of that site an earth-sky locality with no separation line. Earth gets over sky reflections and the mirrors, as objects and also as images, cover the heaps of earth. Mirrors become an object for non-resolved dialectics, between the present physical existence and the images that haunt and assault all the environment, layering the living reality with a multiplicity of stills and moving frames, that nonetheless show themselves as absent stills and absent moving frames. However, even though those reflected images and Mayan voices are displacements in place, a fusion occurs there, bringing those back to place, mixing what the horizon separates, past and future, earth and sky. One of Smithson's quotes in the text is from George Santayana, and says: “living beings dwell in their expectations rather than in their senses. If they are ever to see what they see, they must first in a manner stop living; they must suspend the will, as Schopenhauer put it; they must photograph the idea that is flying past, veiled in its very swiftness.”34 Somehow, many processes that are in place in the photographic procedures and in the performances that take part inf those processes seem to be in activity in the sets created in Yucatan35, which are mounted in an environmental, or sculptural manner. The procedure of absence reinforcement, a tension that photography conveys in relation to any referent clicked, gets its evidence in these mirror arrangements. Nevertheless, if absences are actually the presence of an absence, (and that is why it is a phenomenon of ghosts) there is something that speaks by it. A photograph of that, turns to, as Smithson puts, a memory of reflections, becoming an absence of absences36. Even though that procedure shows what is outside the frame and out of the camera 34 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 103 35 Those procedures somehow take me to the perception of a gigantic camera obscura, the type of camera obscura that would take great dimensions, in which we could not even perceive its closeness. Many mirrors placed in it would bring in an external reality from faraway objects that would become non-objects, as stressed by Smithson. A dialogue between an environmental inner reality and an immaterial outer reality would be materialized then in the same ground stage. The operative structure of the gaze seems, in that way, inserted in the landscape itself as one of any of the physical elements inside it, inside this camera obscura. There, some structures, mechanics and scientific procedures could easily become quite paranormal... Something in photography and in the camera obscura may bring things that could interrupt violently the present day. But somehow it seems that the only thing we may visualize is the images that are processed in that camera obscura, this chamber of absences. It is somewhat terrifying. 36 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979



direction (shown by the mirror reflections), it happens to create a set of relations on that place, by reflections, disruptions, and reinforced absences, a procedure that is stressed by Derrida when he recalls: ...“in photography there are all sorts of initiatives: not only framing but point of view, calculation of light, adjustment of the exposure, overexposure, etc?”...”they modify reference itself, introducing 37 multiplicity, divisibility, substitutivity, replaceability”

Smithson's Yucatan expedition has no clear destinations, there is no expected place to be found there, since place must happen by situation (a convergence of times and fluxes) which cannot be predetermined. Suddenly there is no certain way to find things or even to define the things encountered, but the operations lead anyhow to some digging, splitting and multiplying operations. That archaeology brought a matter from other temporalities that are, when found, somehow timeless: ghosts are neither in time nor space, even though that invisible apparition has been aroused by a material residue38. His anti-archaeology does not seek objects. It seeks to find a dimension of absence. This is the same dimension of absence that photography conveys, since it leaves an image that is dead in itself but that is referential to someone or something, activating somehow “ghosts” that live among us. However, that absence is here firstly staged, to be then afterwards photographed. The archaeology here does not seek objects, it seeks to find a dimension of absence, but absence is anyhow not a void. Smithson's twelve mirrors arrangements are always positioned in parallels. From them, as he mentions in some parts of the text, Tezcatlipoca, the god of the smoking mirror, and other Mayan divinities, seem to speak. They say things as “The true fiction eradicates the false reality”39, “He knows the Future travels backwards,”40 and “That camera is a portable tomb, you must remember that.”41


. The mirror displacements and the photographs of these, as absence of

absences, produced gaps that are inhabited by an invisible presence which seems to come from a fossilized past and that shows itself in a non corresponding present, that nevertheless shows a land underneath that any continual landscape sight could not ever reconstruct. The god's three voices “The true fiction eradicates the false reality”, “The Future travels backwards,” and “That camera is a portable tomb” are, in my view, of great importance to think about the instability and multiplicity of any definitive gaze since, in relation to these: 1. The real is 37 Jacques Derrida interview. IN: Richter, Gerhard. Copy, Archive Signature: a conversation on photography. Stanford University Press. California, 2010: 07 38 “Smithson understood history as a material residue, an ever accumulating remainder of time. In developing this thoroughgoing “historical materialism”, which he derived directly from the physical sciences rather than from Marxism as such.”. (Roberts, 2004: 5) 39 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 97 40 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 96-97 41 Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, 1968. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson, 1979: 95 42 If the camera carries a presence of an absence, is that what a tomb os ghosts is like?



unstable and also a construction; and 2. Photography strengthens the power of the ghostly multiplicity of times. In the next chapter I will focus on some possible perceptions and understandings that may arise from works and practices that somehow incite, in my understanding and to some extent, interruptions and deconstructions. I will try to develop some themes that relate both to Smithson's works as well as to the contemporary artists that will be studied in the third chapter. I will reflect on a critique of Michael Fried in relation to the “theatricality” found in some works, whereas he was especially referring himself to some minimalist works. However I will take his critique in order to understand a practice that was actually very understood by him, (even though he had negative conclusions from it) and that somehow connects a intense concern (of artists and viewers) about the physicality and materiality of artworks with other concerns: the one of the situations and articulations in relation to a work in which its object and material character is emphasized. If this concern, on the materiality and theatricality, results in an interactive experience, as Michael Fried pointed out as “theatrical”, it may also point to the interruptive processes that an account on the presence (of the beholder and of the artwork object) may give rise to. Some connections of those processes of interruption yet of also subordination were also enlightened by some reflections on the disjointed nature of time and of any presence, of Jacques Derrida, as we will further see.



Figure 3 Robert Smithson From one to nine, in order. Yucatan Mirror Displacements, 1969






Interruptive processes

Instead of guiding one's way towards a correct path, the gods' voices in Smithson's work somehow reveal a space in all its instability and turbidity. The mirrors, which throughout the text are related to the Mayan gods, especially Tezcatlipoca, the god of the obsidian mirror, split the reality and indicate the cuts and separations that are already present between reality and its representation, between reality and the perceptions that we may reconstruct from it. Roberts stresses, in relation to Smithson's mirrors, that he uses them as “a tool of cutting or splitting rather than strict unification”43. After the careful reading of his work I cannot separate anymore reflections and photographic image production from a kind of ghostly intervention that produce no longer existent actualities but materialized references, that work somehow as injunctions and disjunctions in the everyday. That theme will be in discussion in this chapter. It was initiated from the study of articulations that show deconstructive44 operations (as operations that put in evidence structures that are rather unstable, in relation to the possible ways that we may inhabit them). 43 Roberts, 2004: 47 44 Deconstruct | dēkəәn strəәkt| verb [ with obj. ] analyze (a text or a linguistic or conceptual system) by deconstruction, typically in order to expose its hidden internal assumptions and contradictions and subvert its apparent significance or unity. IN: New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd edition © 2010 by Oxford University Press, Inc.



For that purpose, the present chapter will investigate several critical and philosophical inputs in relation to subjects that were put forward in the analyses of the discussed artworks of this thesis, and that will help to make a transition to and establish the connections from the investigations of Smithson's work to Lisa Oppenheim and Marina Camargo's. The focus is especially located in the processes of montage, which is at the heart of the perceptive ability, and from where I relate it to the term “theatricality”, pointed out by Michael Fried. For Fried, theatricality would be the focus that we may put at work in an artwork, or in the experience of an artwork, on the situations that produce the same. This kind of experience would reminds us that an artwork is always in a process of montage in its reception and production (something that Fried would disagree with since theatricality for him would be a feature of the non-art, a feature of common objects and never of a “true artwork”). These subjects were found to be of importance for the reflection of the interruptive processes that an account on the presence (of visual production) may give rise to, and connects a trend of operations and critiques that Robert Smithson was somehow involved in the Minimalist scene. In addition, the second part of this chapter discusses some relations of photography with Deconstructivism, propelled by an interview with Derrida about photography. The implications of works that put in practice a much more experiential than representational focus or rather that put the experiential factor within the representational object, which in this case produced some undermined images, bring into the foreground something that is in between viewer and objects, and in an extended way, subjects and objects. The Minimalist conjuncture of bringing the artwork as an object gave rise to many critiques: accusations negatively referring to it as an ideological, literalist, and “theatrical” art. Those critiques, however, could not be more accurate for the understanding of some of the Minimalist inner concerns, as Michael Fried outlines in Art and Objecthood, and that I found here to be of interest in relation to other works that have an articulation on deconstructions along a spatial and performative focus. The aspects from which I am departing to establish a few connections with further artworks presented in this thesis are also related to the focus that Minimal art gives to the presence around the art object, and consequently around any object, leading us to think on the relational condition which is in between subjects and objects. To some extent, it is as if what is known, seen or understood as fixed certainties would give place to a gaze on what is experienced, as a more variable situation in space. But above all, it is a gaze concerned with the result of spatial practices, consequentially leading to temporal concerns. It may be also important to stress that although it may be seen as an abstract articulation that departs from the object, the same is not a gaze detached from reality but an abstraction very much related to structural preoccupations, from where we can also understand the physical and material concern of many of those artworks.



“For instance, just as phenomenology undercuts the idealism of the Cartesian “I think”, so minimalism undercuts the existentialism of the abstract expressionist “I express”, but both substitute an “I perceive” that leaves meaning lodged in the subject. One way to ease this bind is to stress the structuralist dimension of the minimalist conjuncture, and to argue that minimalism is also involved in 45 a structural analysis of pictorial and sculptural signifiers.”

The Minimalist structural focus, therefore, does not take in consideration the artwork as having only an intrinsic significance, as a meaning that is lodged in the work, since that would disregard a perceptive realm which belongs to the subject. The significance of the work then, is less a detached and transcendental “revelation”, as Fried would argue, than something that would go along spatial and temporal circumstances, which happens along an encounter within a situation. In that sense it is interesting to notice that many of the minimalist artists referred themselves to their sculptures as objects, and objects are things put in front of us or in our way, as an opposition, something that is in relation to other.46 Thereby, that way of conceiving the artwork brings to perception its significance into a contingent existence, from where its meaning arises from a blurred mass of subject-object within spatio-temporal situations. According to Foster, ...“far from idealist, minimalist work complicates the purity of conception with the contingency of perception, of the body in a particular space and time”47,while for Minimalism, the implications with the internal meaning of the work decreased its significance, the attention shifts towards the spectator. However, the focus does not seem to go only and directly towards the one that experiences the work, but especially to the exploration of the ways that things can be perceived and experienced. It is therefore, the interlink of two instances: the subject and the object, both of them being passive and active, as activators but also being receptive of stimulus and projections, that destabilize any apparent stability. A duality subject-object is something that “minimalism tries to overcome in phenomenological experience”48, putting the focus on the experience itself. Thereby, the medium, beyond being only a thing placed for exhibition, from where something is expressed, also starts to be perceived along the operations that it provokes around it, on the actions that produce it and on the ones that experience it. In the middle or in-between subject and object the significance of the work is understood to take place, and that is somehow explored in some of the

45 Foster, 1996: 43. 46 object (n.):late 14c., "tangible thing, something perceived or presented to the senses," from Medieval Latin objectum "thing put before" (the mind or sight), noun use of neuter of Latin objectus "lying before, opposite" (as a noun in classical Latin, "charges, accusations"), past participle of obicere "to present, oppose, cast in the way of," from ob "against" (see ob-) + iacere "to throw" (see jet (v.)). Sense of "thing aimed at" is late 14c. No object "not a thing regarded as important" is from 1782. As an adjective, "presented to the senses," from late 14c. Object lesson "instruction conveyed by examination of a material object" is from 1831. IN: ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY. Accessed at: 47 Foster, 1996: 40. 48 Foster, 1996: 40



Minimalist objects. It is therefore proposed, that something takes shape along space and along the spatial operations from where the objects are also activators, a concern that will be the point of criticism of Michael Fried, calling it an anti-art, which he understood as being a new gender of theater. For the understanding of “space” or “spatial” in this context, I would say that it is the environmental reality which allows movements and actions to happen, fluxes to create a rhythm in relation to spatial systems and their structures, allowing finally to spatial operations, as actions within the many different spatial systems, to occur. The understanding, for a lot of the Minimalist artists, that experience happens three-dimensionally, marked a conflict in relation to Fried's and Clement Greenberg's concerns into the internal two-dimensional and pictorial experience which is most of all, lodged in the work, and specially, in an image. The main issue in their critique seems to be that the “objecthood” (the feature of object) in an artwork is exactly that thing that modernist painting tries to “defeat or suspend”49, and particularly the procedure that makes a work an artwork or its opposite (a non-artwork). Moreover, a work that would not point to its “selfness” would otherwise lead to a “theatrical” character (as Fried put it), pointing to its exteriority and surrounding situations. In short, pointing to a certain stage; from where I would add, pointing out, as well, to actors and agencies. Those actors, agencies and spatial operations are of great concern here because they happen to be pointed out when we focus on a given artifact, in its “thing” as a manufactured piece that has a certain course in the world. Furthermore, those elements are pointed out when we look at the work as a thing that has been produced or handled, from where we perceive its social context. That is something that is in evidence in the next artworks presented in this thesis, on the account that those are interfered photographs which put them in evidence as artifacts, in their material existence. Moreover, those agencies and spatial operations also reveal the decisions that are in place in the archival, distributional and exhibitory process, within an extended visual culture, that is enacted through the medium of that visual culture, in this case in relation to place representation. What may the object feature of an artwork possibly mean for those mentioned critics? In my understanding, they may refer to the feature of an artwork that can be mistaken with any other object in the world, as well as in its utilitarian realm, as a device, pointing out its uses and articulations. For Fried, the “theatricality” was the element that was infecting, corrupting and perverting Modern Art. The “theatrical” was responsible for the processes of dismantling the “selfsignificance” of an artwork by presenting an object that pointed to an externality. Fried's articulations were somehow correct, in that bringing forward the “objecthood” in the work it would 49 Fried, 1967.



also point to a circumstantial gaze, putting in evidence the surrounding elements. To bring forward an objecthood would unveil situations and articulations in the exhibitory practice of that object (its situational and ambient placement), the agencies around its program of exposition, and moreover the situations which that production induced or was induced by. Paradoxically, showing that externality, the object entity, so much in evidence, would somehow have the attention shifted to the fluxes and realities that encompass it, and in this sense a shift process occurs, from the object to the scenes, from matter to fluxes and actions that happen along it, an aspect that I hope to develop more extensively in my discussion of Marina Camargo's and Lisa Oppenheim's works. Michael Fried's concern with what he calls the “theatrical” aspect of “literalist” art (the way he referred himself to Minimalism) also points to his concern about the work of art as a “perpetual present”.50 Any “theatricality” would, therefore, contradict Fried's conception of the artwork from something that should instantly show itself entirely, a situation that he proposes would separate the instance of the experience from the instance of meaning, something that minimalism gathers together by the attention on the duration of the experience. That leads us definitely to time. Time shatters any confidence in such perpetual present and wholly revelations. That, anyhow, brings something that may be a kind of transcendental perception: things are actually eternally deformed, timeless within a time layering that mixes different temporalities; timeless within visible and invisible (as projected) entropic sedimentations. That is one of the points that Incidents of Mirror Travel in the Yucatan reclaims. Smithson’s timeless transcendence has an entropic perspective, and that is an important poetic motor of his work, for his articulations over the historical and the geological as formations that suffered extreme violence show themselves as responsible for the present reality that they convey. If a given present is always also in relation to traumatic and catastrophic events, how can it show itself with no interruptions?

50 Fried, 1967: 167



On Deconstructions

It seems that any new intelligibility over a thing is run by necessary reconstructions, a type of activity that makes possible to enclose provisional and new senses over things. In that sense, meaning is all the time being restructured and it is put on work by people and situations. It is put on work by unfolding the possibilities that inhabit things themselves. In another perspective, which is a little more abstract, what could also encompass understandings, perceptions and meanings may also be produced by the ghostly voices

that we incorporate (as injunctions), that do not

necessarily belong to us. Therefore, the perceptions that I may have might be, in this sense, not solely attributed by me but connected with many others which can speak through me. Anyhow, this hypothesis (that comes very much from Derrida reflections) only increases the multifaceted and multi-temporal existence of any time and place, pointing out the many injunctions that destabilize any reality. The sense of defining something, for the sake of articulation, in the sense of the definitive, may be starting to be a pointless hinge in the present configuration. How can knowledge be something if it is with no punctual destination? A look on “the thing in motion� could surprise us with a slippery grasp:



In The Social Life of Things, he argues that "even though from a theoretical point of view human actors encode things with significance, from a methodological point of view it is the things-in-motion 51 that illuminate their human and social context."

Things may be in motion through their own entropic existence but they are also in motion through the social relations that are established along their existence. If the ways of visualization, signification and forms of approach change by the different injunctions that we can also exercise over a thing, that consequently change them and change their course of existence. As Arjun Appadurai put, the things in motion illuminate their human and social context, a focus that lends many potencies to think about the works here placed. How do “forms” exist along performed articulations? Especially considering that “things in motion”, do not, as mentioned before, happen without interruptions, recalling Smithson's stress on the violence that is behind the production of any present, but we may also consider the motion that also happens by displacements, along redirections, pauses and interruptions, in order not to be solely tragic. As a discontinued continuity in time, “things in motion” seem to show themselves as a flow of nondefinitive uses that is continually being altered into new significances by our exercise over the same legacy. “One must means one must filter, sift, criticize, one must sort out several different possibles that inhabit the same injunction. And inhabit it in a contradictory fashion around a secret. If the readability of a legacy were given, natural, transparent, univocal, if it did not call for and at the same time defy 52 interpretation, we would never have anything to inherit from it.”

The several possibilities that are present in the same existence would defy again the manifestation of any whole presence. From a given existence that assaults us, from which we are called to inhabit it, it is wholly only in its promiscuous possible beholding, wholly in its nature of being made of several and it is never completed or concluded, since it is always ready to interrupt as well as to be interrupted. The interruptions and deconstructions put in practice by Robert Smithson are actions that were also propelled by his considerations on the enantiomorphism and its relations to the visual system as a deconstructing-reconstructing system in itself. The enantiomorphism pointed to a unity break in relation to the continuity of any experience, willing to depict something that was thought to show itself entirely and conclusive inasmuch as it was expected to be read as something total. Somehow, to think experience along a space and a time that show themselves continually interrupted by our own inner enantio-reflections would chop duration into pieces: a disjointed temporality that is implied in our gaze. 51 Brown, 2001: 6 52 Derrida, 1994: 16



“That enantiomorphism offers a passable approximation of différance (Derrida's keyword for the difference that evades, precedes, and constitutes all presence- a difference which operates both 53 spatially and temporally, which both differs and defers”

A presence, as something that forms itself in time along a constructive process, never shows itself entirely, as Derrida puts it, since its meaning and presence are plural in its potencies, and never wholly manifested, always differing and deferring.54 Différance seems to establish in that way the deconstruction for which any presence is always subjected, always deferring and differing inside its own architecture55, and in the way it is further inhabited, altering it and bringing it back again, in a singular way, by the “theatricality” that circumscribes any existence. The thing then, which is always given to variations and re-constructions, may always be at work differently, when re-experienced. How then may a representation, which somehow is supposed to be a fixed reality, be analyzed? How can a photograph, which carries also the significance of an indexical and documental object, escape those different possibilities?

“Representation does not provide "impoverished 'images' of things"; rather, "certain segments" of representation "take on the weight of an 'index of reality' and become 'stabilized', as well as they 56 might, without this stabilization ever being assured once and for all, as 'perceptions of things”

Those given materials and places of representation, in the plurality of their own possibility, “can only be staged in multiple voices”, inhabited in multiple voices, as the call of the other, “and their future staging can only be written and thought about in multiple voices, ones that remain elusive and spectral.”57 At the same time that call, of those places of representation, would always intercept our present as a spectral presence for which Derrida reminds us that the same is indeed 53 Roberts, 2004: 49 54 “Violence of the law before the law and before meaning, violence that interrups time, disarticulates it, dislodges it, displaces it out of its natural lodging: “out of joint”. It is there that differance, if it remains irreducible, irreducibly required by the spacing of any promise and by the future-to-come that comes to open it, does not mean only (as some people too often believed and so naively) deferral, lateness, delay, postponement. In the incoercible differance the here-now unfurls. Without lateness, without delay, but without presence, it is the precipitation of an absolute singularity, singular because differing, precisely [justement], and always other, binding itself necessarily to the form of the instant, in imminence and in urgency: even if it moves toward what remains to come, there is the pledge [gage] (promise, engagement, injunction and response to the injunction, and so forth)”...”No differance without alterity, no alterity without singularity, no singularity without here-now.” (Derrida, 1994: 31) 55 Derrida elsewhere expands on this imbrication of deconstruction and memory work when he explains that “the very condition of a deconstruction may be at work, in the work, within the system to be deconstructed; it may already be located there, already at work”...”deconstruction is not an operation that supervenes afterwards, from the outside, one fine day; it is always already at work in the work.... Since the disruptive force of deconstruction is always already contained within the architecture of the work, all one would finally have to do to be able to deconstruct, given this always already, is to do memory work” (Richter, 2010:62/footnote 28) 56 Brown, 2001: 8 57 Richter, 2010: XXXVII



“the essence of photography”58


, pointing to it as an echo that interrupts and creates temporal

multiplicities in the present. “Husserl explained the “present” as a point that was always diverging forward into protention and backward into retention. Smithson owned a copy of The Phenomenology – its influence is clear when he claims, for example, that in one of his traveling projects “the present fell forward and backward into a tumult of ‘de-differentiation‘ “ In each attempt to grasp at the present, one will 60 encounter only a void, a gap suspended by the reflective ligatures of protention and retention.”

What then, if part of an image of retention, as a photograph, an instant in infinite repetition, has its echo interrupted? And that moment that is sealed and sort of stabilized gets, in a violent way, interfered, partly destroyed. A gap, practiced directly in the medium of representation, establishes then a meaning that departs from the performance that takes place with it. To make invisible parts visible or, to produce absences are a sort of interruption on what is visible. Instead of adding and combining with new information as a photo-montage would commonly do, these artists work on the echoes asserting that the invisible and non-visible are also a place of exploration in the field of photography from where they inhabit them. Those articulations will be part of the debate in the next chapter, with the photographic production of Marina Camargo and Lisa Oppenheim.

58 Richter, 2010: XXXVII 59 “And I believe that modern developments in technology and telecommunication instead of diminishing the realm of ghosts as does any scientific or technical thought is leaving behind the age of ghosts, as part of the feudal age with its somewhat primitive technology as a certain perinatal age . Whereas I believe that ghosts are part of the future. And that the modern technology of images like cinematography and telecommunication enhances the power of ghosts and their ability to haunt us (Transcript of Derrida's speech in Ghost Dance, 1983) 60 Roberts, 2004: 50






Photography as objects of interruption

They are questions that ask not whether things are but what work they perform questions, in fact, not about things themselves but about the subject-object relation in particular temporal and spatial contexts. These may be the first questions, if only the first, that precipitate a new materialism that takes objects for granted only in order to grant them their potency to show how they organize our 61 private and public affection. (Bill Brown, 2001)

A spatial representation, such as a photograph or a postcard, may be seen as a place in itself. A place from where spatial narratives and reveries may take over the representation of its surface, and inhabit it in such a way that it becomes spatially operative, in abstract and concrete terms, since it also may take you to an actual journey. Michel de Certeau claims that the act of reading is a form of space production: “In the same way, an act of reading is the space produced by the practice of a particular place: a written text, i.e., a place constituted by a system of signs.�62

61 Brown, 2001:18 62 Certeau, 1984: 117



To read a photograph may also be, somehow, to inhabit that place and to practice it, in spatial terms. Furthermore, the same spatial practice may play a part in what forms our idea, perception or understanding of the world, a spatiality which may be practiced, many times, in a collective manner. That, in spite of that surface not being the actual world, the same is somehow materialized in our perceptions (becoming an actuality in the virtuality of our beliefs), extended as space in our own way of inhabiting imagined landscapes, differing in each case by different possible forms of embodiment, incorporation, and response, through historical or personal perspectives. If it is a spatial operation I understand that it is given to be inhabited in infinite possible ways: strolled, hiked and walked in such different possible practices.63 If a space is produced from a system of signs, as Certeau puts it, such may often happen in relation to something that is already given, that may be many times produced by others (as a physical place, a written text, a photograph). He furthermore stresses that “systems of representations or processes of fabrication no longer appear only as normative frameworks but also as tools manipulated by users.”64 That system of representation, that it is assumed to be, perhaps constative and stable, taking in consideration that it was first of all produced and accomplished by others, with the expectation of not being interfered in its own structure, is in its way, eventually interrupted, subverted and forced by time towards the pertinence of places. “The oddest thing is no doubt the mobility of this memory in which details are never what they are: they are not objects, for they are elusive as such; not fragments, for they yield the ensemble they forget; not totalities, since they are not self-sufficient; not stable, since each recall alters them. This “space” of moving nowhere has the subtlety of a cybernetic world. It probably constitutes (but this reference is more indicative than explanatory, referring to what we do not know) the model of the art operating or of that metis which, in seizing occasions, constantly restores the unexpected pertinence 65 of time in places where powers are distributed”

The present chapter will reflect first on three works of Marina Camargo: Oblivion-Alpes, 2011; Alpenprojekt, 2012; and Diagrama, 2013. In those works a dialogue is put in practice between a material of place representation, and the site to which it refers. In continuity, the work of Lisa Oppenheim, Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans, 2007 will be analyzed in relation to the agencies practiced on photographic archival material and the artist’s particular response in relation to an absence and a cut-off in that media. Smithson stresses, in Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan, that an artwork may be in the thickets, to be found. The work as a situation-trouve but also as a proposed situation within the 63 The relation of the virtual reality with the actual seems to be even more noticeable with the ease in the present days of narrowing the gap between virtual operations and real operations, virtual practices and real practices. In a way that those do not operate in opposition, but in cooperation along its tensions. At the same way, the status of images as actualities in the social culture organize more and more relations in the social structure each time with higher speed, giving place to new events. 64 Certeau, 1984: 21 65 Certeau, 1984: 89



same takes also in consideration that the affect that those objects or situations provoke are also produced by our own apparatus of montage (physical and cultural) that also sets in them a particular perception, making them meaningful in several particular ways. To produce a work around the effacement or absence in a photograph as a proposed situation, (in the case of Marina Camargo) or as an encountered situation (as in the work of Lisa Oppenheim) has shown itself as a decision to bring forward photography as a material reality in its own right, and recalling Susan Sontag: ...“the force of photographic images comes from their being material realities in their own right, richly informative deposits left in the wake of whatever emitted them, potent means for turning the tables on reality – for turning it into a shadow.” 66 As discussed in the last chapter, an emphasis on the physicality of an artwork may drive the gaze to the circumstances that surround the work, around its existence, as a thing in the world, it may unveil the fluxes and realities that encompass the actually of any object, and furthermore it may lead to the attention on the interferences that the object provokes in us or the interference that we provoke in their meaning. A relation with interrupted visualities is put in work by those artists, putting also in evidence the articulations and activities that exist around them. Their procedures also offer a gaze on the experience of being a spectator (in the artist's experience as image spectators) of those objects, from where there seems to be a mixed sense of expectation67, a sort of anxiety in relation to those images and their not found referent. The works also put in evidence Photography in its expanded field, as a practice that takes place through a process of circulations, articulations, beholdings and idealizations. Whereas Photography ...”bears witness in that it activates the circulation of a certain cultural memory and exchange through its medium-specific modes of writing, inspection, and interpretation.”68 Within that gaze I ask myself for those wounded images that the works present to us. At the same time some anxiety and expectation gets in place while experiencing those works that try to establish some relations with a referential which somehow asks to be found again: a landscape and situation that is nowhere to be found. In that extent, the images that are appropriated by those artists seem to provoke an injunction into the present from where they put in practice the same representations of former explorations and haunting images into other new spatial explorations.

66 Sontag, 1978:180 67 I feel the need to relate the word expectation, as when we look out for something or someone, a care that waits for what it may turn to be with some anxious anticipation and the meaning of observation of the word spectator, which reminds a body as a receiver, partly as a disembodied gaze. Expectation shows itself as a disrupted gaze, as an observation which is interrupted.: “Expect ORIGIN mid 16th cent. (in the sense ‘defer action, wait’): from Latin exspectare ‘look out for,’ from ex- ‘out’ + spectare ‘to look’ (frequentative of specere ‘see’).” ; and “Spectator ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French spectateur or Latin spectator, from spectare ‘gaze at, observe’.” IN: New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd edition © 2010 by Oxford University Press, Inc. 68 Richter, 2010:XXV



Marina Camargo: some journeys on collecting, forgetting and reframing

Figure 4. Martin Parr. SWITZERLAND. Alps. The Matterhorn. 1990

Figure 5. Martin Parr. SWITZERLAND. 1990

The manipulation and interference on a given image is the central theme in this chapter. Along these procedures over an image it is perhaps fruitful to pay some attention to a power of photography which is related to its documental force and because of that related to a sense of truth. The kind of truth which is of interest here does not locate itself in the investigation of the photographic content, with the intention of conferring its reality, focusing towards the credibility of what it represents. The interest is rather focused on the perception which is formed from those images, in our response in relation to the images that populate the world reality, constantly constructing our sense of the world, our sense of events, our sense of places and furthermore constructing the above-mentioned world, events and places, by actual responses. That kind of



reality, or truth formation, which forms itself beyond the materiality and correspondence of any image with its referent, is structured by the effect that images provoke, the fascination that they provoke. This one would be a sort of exercise on looking to photography “when photographic image is no longer defined in terms of what it represent but rather by its power to affect and be affected”69, considering it as a production of truth in itself. Looking through that angle my attention also goes towards the perception of the photographic performance as a production of truth from where I am specially focused in the production of places. Jacques Derrida, in an interview about photography, points out to a photographic performativity which would relate the action of production as inseparable from any attempt of “recording” a thing: ”we would be dealing with a photographic performativity, a notion that some might find scandalous and that singularly complicates -without dissolving it- the problem of reference and truth: the problem 70 of a truth to be made”...

And he follows: ...“one then mimics photography or even cinematography, while at the same time bringing the graphic element to a certain completion, to what some might consider a higher dignity, since it becomes productive and “performative” rather than a mode of registering or recording that would be “constative” or “theorematic” (that is, an affair of the gaze and the point of view): it produces the 71 point of view rather than placing itself within one or occupying one”

Derrida points out “the production of truth” in relation to the documental capacity of photography, but besides that he also points out the photographic performativity as an act of adopting a gaze and in that way producing a gaze (and perhaps of producing a discourse). That produced gaze, at some point, may turn to be a shared gaze, a collective gaze, hence shared collectively, as visual cultural memory, keeping then a close relation to the formation of memory and playing a part in our everyday affections. Marina Camargo mentions in an essay72 the potentiality that images may have, of altering or determining the way of thinking of people. She was referring to the images of the Swiss Alps in the visual culture, by considering the impact of that imagery on the population of Munich. It is around this collective memory in relation to a place, that a group of postcards in Marina Camargo's works Oblivion (2011), Alpen Project (2012) and Diagrama (2013) dialogue with. Camargo's work deals with a tension that is found between the photographic representation and its referent, as if the photograph was put in between them, and not exactly as an object that unifies or connects those instances, something that may add layers to the thing itself. The photograph then 69 70 71 72

Lomax, 1985: 268 Jacques Derrida interview. IN: Richter, 2010: 5 Jacques Derrida interview. IN: Richter, 2010: 6 Camargo, 2004.



may be seen as something that possibly intervenes and recreates a relation and hence the thing itself, active as a ghostly presence before our affections, that also may obscure and model the referent, nevertheless also intensifying our perception: photography is a potential object of fascination and therefore of idealization of things. A focus on the opaqueness and physicality of this mediatic object, even though it is felt as a transparency, is aimed here in order to see the potentialities of it as a place in itself that keeps echoing in time, as an “iterability”73, that comes back towards new spatial operations and performativities. Furthermore, this would point out to an experience of the solid reality which is rather mediatized, for which this object that is in the middle, let´s say, the image or the camera, takes also a part in that constructed relationship , and furthermore reinforces an operation that takes part in the perceptive process itself. 74 “There is a fracture. I can no longer overlook the photographic surface. I become aware that the photographic process comes in between, that it intervenes, that it stands in the middle. In the middle... the mediate... the medium... the signifier... the means... mediation. I become aware that the window, as it were, frames, constructs, the view seen. Quietly I ask myself: as the spectator am I 75 also framed?”

A thing can hardly function as a window”.76 Maybe to look at it in its opacity, as a thing, by considering the image as a thing in itself, would be to look at it immersed in its thingness, as Brown stresses, breaking that transparency which we also constantly require from an image. If this thing, lets say a photograph, that is often seen as a window, gets somewhat opaque, dysfunctional as a window, it would perhaps point out to the photographic practice and to the photographic reception: to the performativities that produce them and receive them (the last also having a form of production involved), and that are practiced around it. It would perhaps put in evidence the gaze production, its reexperience, collection and distribution. 73 “Deconstruction's emphasis on the proliferation of meanings is related to the deconstructive concept of iterability. Iterability is the capacity of signs (and texts) to be repeated in new situations and grafted onto new contexts. Derrida's aphorism "iterability alters" (Derrida 1977) means that the insertion of texts into new contexts continually produces new meanings that are both partly different from and partly similar to previous understandings. (Thus, there is a nested opposition between them.). The term "play" is sometimes used to describe the resulting instability in meaning produced by iterability.” (Balkin, 1995-1996) 74 “We can no longer oppose perception and technics; there is no perception before the possibility of prosthetic iterability; and this mere possibility marks, in advance, both perception and the phenomenology of perception. In perception there are already operations of selection, of exposure time, of filtering, of development; the psychic apparatus functions also like, or as, an apparatus of inscription and of the photographic archive.” (Jacques Derrida interview, IN: Richter, 2010: 15) 75 Lomax, 1985: 265 76 “In Byatt's novel, the interruption of the habit of looking through windows as transparencies enables the protagonist to look at a window itself in its opacity”...”because there is a discourse of objectivity that allows us to use them as facts. A thing, in contrast, can hardly function as a window. We begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us: when the drill breaks, when the car stalls, when the windows get filthy, when their flow within the circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition, has been arrested, however momentarily. The story of objects asserting themselves as things, then, is the story of a changed relation to the human subject and thus the story of how the thing really names less an object than a particular subject-object relation.” (Brown, 2001:4)



It is appealing, in my regard, that Camargo's procedures take the imagery of such present topography in modern and contemporary culture. The Swiss Alps may be very present for the population that lives nearby that amazing place, but it is also very present as an export image (an image in global circulation and distribution) even in some tropical countries (that also adopt alpine architecture, alpine design, alpine fashion, alpine wallpapers, etc). This speculative celebration of landscape and the production of the sublime within its produced images, invent and reinforce somehow one identity, playing an important part in the globalized tourism market (conveying, many times, a patriotic image within it). In that sense, it participates in many idealizations, fears and stories around the fascination of that place. Such a romantic practice would not be detached from idealizations. “Am I to say that ideology is a line in the middle which frames or narrates the world so that it is seen only in a particular way? Is ideology to do with surface appearance? Am I to assume that the real 77 truth lies essentially outside of ideology's frame, beyond its front?”

Oblivion (figure 6 and 7) is a series of postcards of the Swiss Alps that were found and purchased in antiquaries. Those awesome images suffered an interference after Camargo's acquisition. They were blocked and furthermore erased with a cover of black ink, so that only the outline of those mountains were left for recognition in relation to the real place. A silhouette portrait perhaps (if we consider it as a kind of landscape portraiture)? Is not, in this case, the outline itself the very functional technic for profile identity drawings? In the work, the rest of the Alps cannot be seen, the only thing left to see is the sky. The procedure it not only of tracing the contour of the Alps, as a kind of portraiture could be. The artist erases a previous image in that procedure, making then a bursting inscription over previous data. If the image of places, and in this case a very celebrated one, is an object that intervenes in our everyday affections, there also lies the possible reaction to intervene back, back into new spatial procedures. Maybe in that reaction there is also a need to construct differently the representation itself: as an urgency to make the same visuality different, intervening in the materiality that enhances and intervenes in the referent existence, in a certain manner. “Negation in abundance can be read as the cancelling-out effect which is possible when confronted with more than is comprehensible, that which is mind numbling, more than one can bear. It can also be read as a multitude of negation, many minuses. What I´m referring to as a cancelling-out effect can also be thought of in relation to absences, lacunae, holes which occur in the midst of densities of information, as well as the amidst their lack. The lacunae referred to in this text are those which allude to that which is beyond understanding, and understanding can be thought here in terms of how it might be possible to perceive as well as the boundaries of such perception. It is exactly at these locations of limit and even fatigue where it may be necessary to search. What impossibility is 77 Lomax, 1985: 266



faced beyond the more superficial fatigue?”

As stated by Camargo, to erase those images configured itself as an obsession, as a desire to see that referent otherwise, intervening “only over the representation of those places”, and shortly afterwards she states “it would be as an effacement gesture of that which is desired79 to be seen, as a useless exercise between trying to remember and to forget”.80 Somehow Oblivion seems to be one step of what further would be a practice of producing a cut paper that would correspond to a chosen referent. Still working on the Swiss Alps, Alpenproject, 2012 (figure 8) is a video where we can see the process of cutting and placement of a cut black sheet of paper in relation to the Alps, just as if it were an insert over the place, that afterwards is recorded. A game of fit and hide. In that process the position and scale of the artist, in relation to the mountains and the site, are put in evidence, and incorporated into the new frame, from where the landscape is partly hidden. There is a kinesthetic awareness that is revealed in that process in relation to the site, since a body shows its scale relation towards the mountains, also widening the eyesight scope that withdrew from the scope of the first framed landscape. However, even though there is a withdrawal from the prior landscape frame, widening the landscape sight and showing an operation that is being performed over it, the eye-sight that places the insets is somehow pointed out as always unreachable (probably that would be an operation for the mirrors, which could reflect the eye that sees, the camera that records). The same process is put in practice in the work Diagrama, 2013 (figure 9) from where a photograph is produced and is exhibited together with the cut paper. The photograph, which contains the image of the cut paper, is printed in the same scale of the actual paper below it, giving to the actual covering paper piece, the same importance as its representation. As a witnesselement of this expedition, it is presented as a tool, produced in the expeditionary practice, for not showing, instead of a tool that would expand the scope of information or details of the thing investigated. A relation with place is again established by the potentialities of the invisible, of blocking and of presenting a supplementary object for relation, that instead of enhancing the visibility of its formations, conceals it. Instead of showing, it masks. In that sense the center of the image from where the image normally structures itself is staged by an invisibility beyond recognition.

78 Green, 2002: 49 79 In relation to desire the artist also mentions the word Sehnsucht and explains that its meaning would indicate a kind of nostalgia of something that is intangible but that also points out to a kind of search and that would relate it to the past but since it is also a search of something (something which is vague) further also finding itself in the future. She says it could be somewhat translated as the desire of the desire, from the words "Sehnen" as yearning and "Sucht", of search or addiction. Being therefore a destructive and self-destructive force. (my translation) Camargo, 2004. 80 Camargo, 2004.



Stephen Melville nicely describes the trajectory of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of vision when he says: “Vision is the place where our continuity with the world conceals itself, the place where we mistake our contact for distance, imagining that seeing is a substitute for, rather than a mode of, touching—and it is this anesthesia, this senselessness, at the heart of transparency that demands 81 our acknowledgment and pushes our dealings with the visual beyond recognition”

Nevertheless, if there is a continuity, if there is an entwinement with the world through our eyes after all these fragmentations, enantiomorphisms, interruptions and repeatabilities, after the kind of seeing which is intercepted by opaque artifacts and perceptive operations that form a mediatic eye82 and presents each time an even more phantasmagorical reality, it would be more and more a discontinued continuity along interruptions and operations.83 If perception itself is already interrupted by that imagery, what then may interrupt the same thing that interrupts our perception? Black covered images as the ones of Marina Camargo remind me of laboratory processes where the black spot in a film would be the spot that received so much light that no light would be able to pass through it in the sequential step of producing the photograph. In that case, it would function as a block and would create an image with no interferences, totally white. It is a process of blocked and non-blocked areas then that forms a photograph. Of burning and not burning, in relation to the burned grains on the analogic photography. Or rather... of inscription and noninscription where the development for translation, in digital technology, would show itself in the data processing that elaborates again the image. This data, which is handled, is further handled, in another context of procedures and elaborations, always after the click. Marina Camargo inscribes again, while blocking, blocking in such totality that the image becomes somehow exhausted, filled, full, so full that it becomes an effacement, or maybe on the other hand it becomes an easement of an exhaustion, of what is already exhausted. Maybe there are things that we need to forget to see again, to create gaps in order to inhabit it in other way.

81 Oliver, 2008: 140 82 On a photographic and cinematized eye that blurs the clear distinctions of absence and presence, duration and discontinuity, distance and nearness by duplications and fragmentation, which is in exercise in Smithson's work, see also A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey: “Noon-day sunshine cinema-ized the site, turning the bridge and the river into an over-exposed picture. Photographing it with my Instamatic 400 was like photographing a photograph. The sun became a monstrous light-bulb that projected a detached series of "stills" through my Instamatic into my eye. When I walked on the bridge, it was as though I was walking on an enormous photograph that was made of wood and steel, and underneath the river existed as an enormous movie film that showed nothing but a continuous blank”. (Smithson, 1979) 83 “I presented some variations on the theme of spectrality that, far from being reduced by the rationality of modern technology, found itself, on the contrary, amplified, as if this medium (photocinematography, teleperception, teleproduction, telecommunication) was the very site, the proper element (also properly privileged), of a fantastical phantomaticity, of the phainesthai in its originary link with technê. The renevant is not confined to the culture of the manor house or to the spiritualism and fantastic literature from the last century. Every culture has its phantoms and the spectrality that is conditioned by its technology.” (Jacques Derrida interview. , IN: Richter, 2010: 39)



Figure 6 Marina Camargo Oblivion (Alpen), 2011 Intervened postcards



Figure 7 Marina Camargo Oblivion (Alpen), 2011 Intervened postcards



Figure 8 Marina Camargo Alpenproject, 2012 still-frame



Figure 9 Marina Camargo Diagrama, 2013



Lisa Oppenheim: behind the image

“The camera makes reality atomic, manageable, and opaque. It is a view of the world which denies interconnectedness, continuity, but which confers on each moment the character of a mystery. Any photograph has multiple meanings, indeed, to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a potential object of fascination. The ultimate wisdom of the photographic image is to say: “There is the surface – now think – or rather feel, intuit – what is beyond it, what the reality must be like if it looks this way.” Photographs which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, 84 speculation, and fantasy. (Susan Sontag, 1978)

The cut on an image that fosters a global pilgrimage, or that may foster a global fascination over a particular place, as in Marina Camargo's selected material for intervention, is left aside in this chapter to analyze an interference on a type of image which passed through other types of operations and for which we need to consider other aspects in relation to its cuttings. Still reflecting over an image as a thing that keeps echoing in time, allowing by its own existence a place to be inhabited, it seems significant to perceive its referent point as a memory, a point in time which comes back, from an origin that cannot be reached but replayed in new situations and contexts, bringing forward similarities and differences from that memory that is rather complex and whose operations are not apart from lots of relations that make possible its existence in new singular forms. 84 Sontag, 1978: 22-23



If there is a part of this chapter that is concerned with the presence of representational material, there is also the concern of the history of this medium85, along with the archival operations that intervene in its memory. Those subjects were specially aroused by a trace, which in this specific case, was not solely the evidence which is carried by light writing but the evidence of a cutting that was performed over the photographic material. In one of the videos that I had the chance to watch, as part of the application that Lisa Oppenheim produced for the Rijksacademi in Amsterdam, which is called Palmsprings, California, a small text inserted in the media and written by her could be read: “I came to this spot and was not quite sure where to place the camera. Had I positioned it on the other side of the highway as I first intended, a tall hedge bordering the golf course where the Bob Hope Invitational is held every year would have dominated the shot. How carefully the television crews covering the event must point their cameras as not to let the viewing audience see the endless sand 86 trap on the other side of the hedge.”

Oppenheim’s interest in the representation of places and the production of the gaze seemed to be present while watching her video. In another video called Palmdale, California what was tacit was her concern of how the development and the bulldozers were changing and modifying the natural environment and the desert of that place, which soon would not exist anymore. Her reference on how the image is produced and carefully framed for distribution, for what is given to be seen, reminds me in some aspects of Camargo's work on the choice of the images she selected. Her interest also seems to lie on the articulations that are behind the visual production and its further manipulation in the distribution, exhibition, and archiving processes. Questions on how places are produced by concepts, how concepts are produced by technology, and how places and hence perceptions are produced by technology come to mind. Somehow each question led to other questions and it started to make sense to remake the same by replacing some of those words with the word image, which are (even further nowadays) so imbricated with the production of place, as a dominium that creates a perception over the actual place, producing part of its significations and ways of experiencing it. How are images produced by concepts? How are concepts produced by images? Which technologies produce the images or perceptions themselves? Considering that a certain technology, a given method of production, makes perceivable its own ways of operating, it could be said that the same may present within its mechanics a whole sensible way of interacting with the world. Oppenheim's portfolio, located in her website, says that some of her works were produced along her interest on the “intersections 85 Christian Rattemeyer mentioned in relation to the interest of the artist: “Oppenheim's practice is always finely attuned to the possibilities of meaning that is revealed when the technical history of the medium is read against itself, opening fissures between the formal and the technological.” (Lisa Oppenheim portfolio IN: Lisa Oppenheim official website. Accesed at: ) 86 Lisa Oppenheim, 2004.



between the technological and the conceptual in the representational logic of photography”87, but even though her interest seems to locate itself in the problematic aspect of the image production, it also seems to touch on the problem of being affected by those images. In Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans, (figure 13) Lisa Oppenheim works on unpublished photographs of Walker Evans from 1938. The history of that material is that Evans was commissioned by the Farm Security Administration to document the Depression in rural America. Those images became an important material for the visual history of the Depression. Part of that legacy, archived in the National Library of Congress, suffered a cutoff, by means of preventing a part of that material from publication. The negatives that Oppenheim selected for her work are those that had holes punched through them as an administrative operation on that material. The director of the program for documentation of the American society at the time, Roy Emerson Stryker, edited some of those negatives, and rejected part of them to prevent publication, by punching holes in them and titling those as “killed negatives”. From this “unofficial” material, which instead of being totally discarded, was saved and stored, it was possible to put in evidence this violent act, which shows the operations that are present in the archival processes, from where Oppenheim responds.88

Publishing what was not supposed to be published, Lisa Oppenheim

somehow puts those holes as the central feature of those images, as a space of potential contemporary interpretation. The archiving procedures (which became apparent by that hole, becoming a black spot in the print produced by Oppenheim, by the materialization of that absence), seem to both enact and destroy memory, by the authority of the document, for showing “the way things are”. The negatives “punching” violence somehow put in evidence the operating procedures that are in that authoritarian system and more specifically in the operating procedures of the Farm Security Administration unit. It seems important to notice this system as a place of inscription and of undoing of certain made operations, as a play of alterations, which are not only performed by an abstract macro-structure but in a micropolitical structure among shared modes of practices and the agencies performed by people, which creates the constitution of the present itself, of history and of memory, as something that resides on substitutions and omissions. That relation points somewhat to a tension among the historical and the material, and to history as a material accumulation, through selections and derelictions. “As Derrida reminds us in Archive Fever, technologies of inscription and the undoing of certain protocols of reading, writing, and thinking that they occasion must be thought together, so that, in 87 Lisa Oppenheim portfolio IN: Lisa Oppenheim official website. Accesed at: 88 Merleau-Ponty suggests that we live in both. He says “Meaning is invisible, but the invisible is not the contradictory of the visible: the visible itself has an invisible inner framework, and the in-visible is the secret counterpart of the visible” (Oliver, 2008:135)



addition to the affirmative, gathering, preserving dimension of the archive, there is “the violence of the 89 archive itself, as archive, as archival violence.”

In this case, we are talking about a photographic archive which claims to bring forward an original scene, “the way things once were”. The special thing is that the reproduction that Oppenheim operates brings about indeed something that has a clear origin however in a different mode: ”whereas the photograph fragments and ruins space, the photocopy seems to preserve the original through an exact duplication”90. But a photocopy may also be seen as a photograph, a technology of light writing. Since the original is, in this case, the negative, the same becomes present in her work whereas normally it is a materiality that is taken for granted. The duplication of the censorship act within the negative, the duplication of that trace makes perceptive the negative itself as the origin, and breaking the transparency of the negative by the absence of part of it. In that way, instead of being the place represented, the origin is the negative and the censorship act. Instead of being the referent in its uniqueness singular moment, the original is the document that carries an act that is practiced over an existent produced structure which is intervened and brings a total different significance to that object, achieved by the production of an absence that echoes together with the representation asking itself to be read, to be somewhat filled, inhabited.91 What gives to the negative the sense of origin is, instead of a uniqueness, a performance practiced on it, making it singular because it was inhabited in that way, changing its “original” status of transparency of the world. Lisa Oppenheim’s obsession over the missing spot takes her on a hunt to capture a missing visibility. Therefore, she photographs places near the location, in order to bring back that missing dot. However, she does not try to produce a seam or to fill the hole. She produces other photographs where the hole becomes the visible spot and all that surrounds it gets totally covered with the same darkness that once belonged to that spot. New indecipherable areas are in place from an action that looks to that scene from what nearly seems a keyhole: an obsession located exclusively in that missing part, a part that belongs to what is already a part, a cut, a frame. A wholeness that is created inside a dot, a piece, something that the photograph in its entirety already is. Oppenheim’s photographed dot is a color photograph, something that puts in evidence the distance that there is from the black and white Walker Evans photographs. Time gets in evidence and the perception of an unobtainable present gets somehow stressed, just as Robert Smithson 89 Richter, 2010: XXVI 90 Hubertus von Amelunxen IN: Derrida, 2010: 4. 91 Hard for me was not to relate this missing point with a feelling of lack and hence a place where it could stimulate the desire of fulfilling the same in search of achieving what is there lacking ...“desire is necessarily referred to a missing term, whose very essence is to be lacking.” (Lomax, 1985: 267)



mentioned that “the future crisscrosses the past as an unobtainable present” or that a “double perspective of past and future that follows a projection”...”vanishes into nonexistential present”.


The double temporal perspective in Oppenheim's work creates an uncanny feeling in relation to the existence of a present, especially considering that it is through photography, a technology that puts in evidence change, death and entropy. The tension is then installed, between the referent and its disintegration between what is total and what is fragmentary, between the center and the limit which is installed over it, putting in evidence an edge between the past and the future of that past.

“As I cut, it is revealed that behind one image there is but another image. One representation but refers to another”...”As I cut it is revealed that there is no proper literal truth which has been masked by the image's front. Behind the photographic surface there isn't a sure and whole reality, a 93 substantial depth.”...“Behind the photograph there is no real object, only another image”...

The negative was already cut. But behind it there is not only an unobtainable present but also an unobtainable reality, an unobtainable object. It seems that the technology that produces photographic images also takes part in our perception. We look at things through images, which are full of concepts, the sort of mechanism that makes things possess an unreality. It is tricky to try a realism without a part of fantasy, as reality can easily be made and easily be broken.94

92 Roberts, 2004: 49 93 Lomax, 1985: 266-267 94 Lomax, 1985: 268



Figure 10 Lisa Oppenheim Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans (Church), 2007 Three hand printed black and white, and color photographs 9 6/8 x 12 1/2 inches each



Figure 11 Lisa Oppenheim Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans (Erosion 2), 2007 Hand printed black and white, and color photographs 20 x 9 6/8 inches



Figure 12 Lisa Oppenheim Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans (Field), 2007 Three hand print black and white, and color photographs 9 6/8 x 12 1/2 inches each



Figure 13 Lisa Oppenheim Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans, 2007 Installation view



CONCLUSION The exercise of looking towards, around, behind and beyond the photographic representation was something that was prompted by these chosen works in a manner that exceeded my expectations. The investigation gaze insistently pointed out to the physicality of photography, its technology, and the performances and performativities that are exercised in its process of production, distribution and reception, as a place for possible conceptualizations, which was put forward by a cutoff produced in those images. The artworks investigation was perceived as following a direction from an approach on places towards an approach on the photographic outcome itself. The first case looked at the “text” which was “gripped”, “extracted” and “translated” from the generative site. For example, in Smithson's work, a relation was established with the ways of reading and looking, proposing a deconstruction of the logics of landscape perception in a textual and photographic outcome and whereby the physical process of vision is put up into debate whereas the mirror is put as an object that induces a sort of disjunction in place. The second case looked into Marina Camargo's work, where material of the visual culture suffered a blockade and worked as a middle step for a reconnection with the landscape that the photograph was referring to, as a proposition to reexperience place. Within that process, the eye itself was perceived as a sort of media apparatus, socially implanted, which even though there was a process of subversion of the representation, the photographic material was needed in order to look back to things (as Smithson also showed in some of his works, specially in A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey). From this, a question arouse, in relation to how photography, photographs and photographic procedures mediate the relation from where the sense of reality is formed and how the “real” is constructed. In the third case, the impossible task of giving back a missing dot to a mutilated photograph showed itself as a generative place, in Lisa Oppenheim's work, also putting in evidence the operations that are present in the archiving processes. In that way, departing from Robert Smithson, through Marina Camargo and towards Lisa Oppenheim, the reflections departed from art pieces where the practice and presence are directly performed in actual places towards the focus on the performances that surround the images themselves. Displacements, fragmentations and absences became the spots of investigation in this thesis, revealing that photography and the systems of representation, may foster enactments and disruptions in the way we sense, regard and remember places, putting in evidence how photography and photographic procedures might mediate our relation with places. Even though, at the first moment, the second chapter seemed not to match with the central



theme of photographic cutoffs, especially because firstly, very intuitively, the central point was a relation of those works with the minimalist scene, it eventually showed itself as an important chapter for getting deeper in the subject. It also gave an anchor point to think about the effect that may be produced by an artwork and the possibilities that are there to be inhabited, and given to be unfolded by future operations, operations that put new significances in practice. Because of the short time that I had and that I personally needed for writing this thesis, some parts and responses that appeared on the exercise of reflecting and writing, by the unfolding process of the subject, may ask for further reflections and productions in a more precise and clear way. The understanding of the philosophical approach to the presence and time interruption has a much more extended bibliography which can make these reflections much richer in relation to the studies of Deconstruction and also to the study of the reality of the virtual which is touched by Zizek and was left outside this text. In the same way that the cuts, in the artist's work, functioned as a generative place, I perceive that the activations that this thesis put forward in my research create a fertile place for further reflections. This textual produced place, gives me the possibility of further spatializations.



BIBLIOGRAPHY - Bachelard, Gaston. La Po茅tica del Espacio. Fondo de Cultura Econ贸mica. Mexico, 1965. - Buchloh, 1993. IN: The Archive. Whitechepell Gallery. Documents of Contemporary art. The MIT Press, Massachusetts, 2006. - Campany, David. Art and Photography. Hong Kong: Phaidon Press Limited. 2004 - Dean, Tacita/ Millar, Jeremy. Art works: place. Thames & Hudson: New York, 2005. - Derrida, Jacques; Richter, Gerhard. Copy, Archive Signature: a conversation on photography. Stanford University Press. California: 2010. - Derrida, Jacques. Injunctions of Marx. In: Specters of Marx: the state of debt, the work of mourning, and the New International. New York: Routledge. 1994 - Doherty, Claire (Ed) Situation. Documents of Contemporary art. Whitechepell Gallery. The MIT Press, Massachusetts, 2009. - Flam, Jack (Ed) Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings. University of California Press,Ltd., London, England, 1996 - Foster, Hal. The Return of the Real: the avant-garde at the end of the century. MIT Press. United States of America: 1996. - Fried, Michael. Art and Objecthood, 1967. IN: Fried, Michael. Art and Objecthood. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1998: 148-175. - Graziani, Ron. Robert Smithson and the American Landscape. Cambridge University Press, 2004. - Heidegger, Martin. (2002). The Origin of the Work of Art IN: Of the Beaten Track. Cambridge University Press: UK. - Merewether, Charles. IN: Merewether, Charles (Ed). The Archive. Whitechepell Gallery. Documents of Contemporary art. The MIT Press, Massachusetts, 2006 - Oliver, Kelly. Beyond Recognition: Merleau-Ponty and an Ethics of Vision. (131-151) IN:Weiss, Gail (Ed) Intertwinings: Interdisciplinary Encounters with Merleau-Ponty. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 2008. - Roberts, Jennifer. Mirror-travels: Robert Smithson and History. Yale Universtity Press New Haven and London, 2004. - Smithson, Robert. (1979). The Writings of Robert Smithson. Essays with illustration. Edited by Nancy Holt. New York University Press, New York. - Smithson, Robert. A tour in the monuments of Passaic, New Jersey. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson. p. 94-103. New York University Press: New York, 1979



- Smithson, Robert. Incidents of Mirror-travel in the Yucatan. IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson. p. 94-103. New York University Press: New York, 1979 - Sobieszek, Robert A. Robert Smithson: photo works. University of Mexico Press, 1993. - Sontag, Susan. On Photography. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. USA, 1978. - Yve Lomax, 'Re-Vision', in Re-visions: fringe interference in British Photography in the 1980s [Cambridge: Cambridge Darkroom, 1985] IN: - Campany, David. Art and Photography. Hong Kong: Phaidon Press Limited. 2004 Pennsylvania State University, 2011.

Audiovisual material - Slavoj Zizek: The Reality of the Virtual. Youtube video. - Lisa Oppenheim: A Free Ride. Lisa Oppenheim. Application material for the Rijksacademy residency. Rijksacademy library. DVD. 10'10'', 2004 - Lisa Oppenheim: Dioptric; Oasis; Lili on Air. Lisa Oppenheim. Application material for the Rijksacademy residency. Rijksacademy library. DVD. 7'18'', 2004

Electronic sources - Gibart, Tony. Objecthood. Theories of Media. The University of Chicago. Winter 2002. IN: - Marina Camargo official website - Alpenprojekt. IN: Marina Camargo official web site - Oblivion-Alpen. IN: Marina Camargo official web site - Lisa Oppenheim official website. Accesed at: - Robert Smithson official website. Accesed at: (visited on January 1st 2013) - Balkin, Jack M. Deconstruction, 1995-1996. Accessible at: - Bhabha, Homi. Making emptiness. Accesed at: (visited on June 1st 2013)

Magazines - Brown, Bill. Thing Theory IN: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 1, Things (Autumn, 2001), pp. 1-22 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: Accessed: 12/12/2009 04:50



- Camargo, Marina. Os Lugares e as Coisas (ou notas sobre o esquecimento) IN: Revista Urbe 01/04 2011. Cultura Visual Urbana e Contemporaneidade. Cartografias Urbanas. Accessed at: - Wehr, Anne. Lisa Oppenheim. Harris Lieberman, New York, USA. IN: Frieze. Issue 128. January–February 2010: 126 - Lütticken, Sven. Lisa Oppenheim, Galerie Juliètte Jongma. IN: ArtForum. XLIV, N° 4. December 2005: 292 - Shore, Robert. Post-photography IN: Elephant, the art and the visual culture magazine. Issue 13Winter 2012/2013 - Cluitmans, Laurie. Lisa Oppenheim: tijdrekken reanimmert het verleden. IN: Metropolis M. N° 52010. Oktober/November: 40 - Deleuze, Guilles. Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines.(1984) IN: SubStance, Vol. 13, No. 3/4, Issue 44-45, pp. 7-19. Published by: University of Wisconsin Press Stable URL: Accessed: 19/04/2013 10:36



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Chapter 1. Figure 1. Enantiomorphic Chambers, 1965/ 2003.......................................................................p.17 IN: Robert Smithson Official Website. Accesible at: Figure 2 Diagrama sketched by Rober Smithon.......................................................................................p.17 IN: The Writings of Robert Smithson. New York University Press: New York, 1979 Figure 3 Yucatan Mirror Displacements, 1969 ..........................................................................p.25 IN: Sobieszek, 1993. Chapter 3. Figure 4. Martin Parr. SWITZERLAND. Alps. The Matterhorn. 1990........................................p.40 IN: Figure 5. Martin Parr. SWITZERLAND. 1990............................................................................p.40 IN: Figure 6. Oblivion (Alpen), 2011. IN: Marina Camargo official web site....................................p.46 Accessed at: Figure 7. Oblivion (Alpen), 2011. IN: Marina Camargo official web site....................................p.47 Accesed at: Accessed at: Figure 8 Alpenprojekt, 2012....................................................................................................p.48 IN: Figure 9. Diagrama, 2013.......................................................................................................p.49 Accesed at: Accessed at: Chapter 4 Figure 10. Lisa Oppenheim. Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans (Church), 2007...............p.55 IN: Figure 11 Lisa Oppenheim. Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans (Erosion 2), 2007............................p.56 IN: Online portfolio at Lisa Oppenheim official website. Accesed at: Figure 12. Lisa Oppenheim. Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans (Field), 2007..................p.57 IN: Online portfolio at Lisa Oppenheim official website. Accesed at: Figure 13. Lisa Oppenheim. Killed Negatives: After Walker Evans, 2007.............................p.58 IN: Online portfolio at Lisa Oppenheim official website. Accesed at:




Photographic cutoff  

This text was presented as part of the evaluation process to pursue a master degree at the Artistic Research Master course in the University...