beyond representation?

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In concluding Picture Theory WJT Mitchell raises the issue of representation  and what lies beyond it. This picture by casually, krystina  is not just a representation of reflections in a window--it points, or refers, to what lies beyond this particular representation. It suggests that something lies beyond this object (a picture) that seems to stand before us, a thing  standing for something else. The "something else", as suggested by the light in the background,  is some form of transcendence.  

There is a tradition that makes a distinction between visual representation and what is represented. However Mitchell also mentions the aesthetic tradition that holds there is nothing outside representation. Is this picture a way of emphasizing the unpresentable?

altfotonetcasually.jpg

Are there different visual ways of allowing the unpresentable to be put forward?

Mitchell says that this is the tradition of the aesthetic sublime, which posits a realm of a negation, of  radical otherness,  and unknowability. The sublime located in pain, death transcendence and the unknowable, is precisely the unrepresentable.

If representation is understood in terms of  patchwork quilt that is torn, folded, wrinkled, covered with accidental stances and traces of the bodies it has enfolded--which is what Mitchell suggests--- then what lies "beyond representation" now lies within it as a blackhole or along its margins.  

3 Comments

Gary, have you read Stephen Shore's "The Nature of Photographs" in it he talks very succinctly of, mental modelling, which i think you are alluding too here.

"mental modelling" sounds like something happening in your head as you produce the picture. Is that right? I haven't read Stephen Shore's "The Nature of Photographs".

I'm thinking more along the lines of the picture, or series of pictures (a set in Flickr's terms about, say Melbourne in the early morning), not saying all that can be be said. There is something that is still unpictured, as it were. Often what is unpictured is as important as what has been pictured.


Pleased to see an image of mine considered in this particular context. I feel that a more 'poetic' approach, i.e. one that arises from the contemporary but transcends into a more 'universal' realm has been largely missing from the post-modern aesthetic. Will there be room for it in this post post-modern 'contemporary' era? (I have a problem with the 'contemporary' label....what comes after 'contemporary'? or does it mean that from now on it will always remain 'contemporary'?


Thanks s2art for directing us to Shore's writing. I will check it out There is also Bachelard's "The Poetics of Space", but perhaps that is old hat now.

Mental modelling - my guess is that it also refers to what is happening in the brain of the viewer.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Sauer-Thompson published on February 16, 2009 9:57 AM.

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