The title of Mitchell's new book, What do Pictures Want? strikes me as odd. Pictures don't have desires. They are objects that convey meaning not animated beings with desires, needs, appetites, demands, and drives of their own like dogs. Pictured are not alive like dogs. They do not act in the world like dogs. Images are not living creatures.
Why is that people have strange attitudes towards images, objects and media? Why do they behave as if pictures were alive, as if works of art had minds of their own, as if images had a power to influence human beings, demanding things from us, persuading seducing, and leading us astray. Even more puzzling, why is it that the very people who express these attitudes and engage in this behaviour will, when questioned, assure us that they know very well that pictures are not alive, that works of art do not have minds of their own, and that images are really quite powerless to do anything without he cooperation of their beholders? How is that, in other words, that people are able to maintain a "double consciousness " towards images, picture, and representations in a variety of media, vacillating between magical beliefs and skeptical doubts, naive animism and hard headed materialism, mystical and critical attitudesThe usual response to this contradiction is to say that they--someone else-- is naive and superstitious whilst we are hardheaded, critical and skeptical. Someone else is generally the Other.