Secret Agent

Berlin, Februar 2019

A capitalist society requires a culture based on images. It needs to furnish vast amounts of entertainment in order to stimulate buying and anesthetize the injuries of class, race, and sex. And it needs to gather unlimited amounts of information, the better to exploit natural resources, increase productivity, keep order, make war, give jobs to bureaucrats. The camera’s twin capacities, to subjectivize reality and to objectify it, ideally serve these needs and strengthen them. Cameras define reality in the two ways essential to the workings of an advanced industrial society: as a spectacle (for masses) and as an object of surveillance (for rulers).

— Susan sontag, the image world 1973

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Distant Land

There were ants in the bathroom. They came crawling out of the gutters and cracks in the walls, probing searching, forming roads along the tiles of  the floor. He  slept wide  into the open day. When he  woke, all frights walked in the  blazing sun  without their clothes.

In the lobby  an islam preacher, white robe and beard, the staff of a pilgrim; 

A guy making humming, whistling  noises  and flipping pencils with his fingers, two in each hand, very quickly, eyes  turned  upward, staring at the ceiling.

Distant land, the clock.

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All We Ever Know Is The Obvious

California, July 2016

America will always be a mystical place, with photos just being an additional layer on the pop-image constructed by countless films, songs, movies, tv-shows, news-flashes that form the fabric of what we mistakenly perceive to be the USA. 

But there is no inner core to it, nothing we can unwrap and suddenly find the Being of America, it is only layers wrapped in layers of images of places that remain imaginary. 

Maybe its different when you live there and the shop on the corner is an actual shop where you can buy stuff instead of a stand-in. But I doubt that: 

What then is the Becher-project? Vectors of obscurity and mystification vs. Clarity and Enlightenment 

Photography as a vehicle of enlightenment; in the very same moment, it also widens the gaps that enlightenment leaves in its wake: Is there really any revelatory impulse in the endless parade of  Gas Tanks? Or is it just a reminder that the world surrounding us will always remain an impenetrable mystery, no matter how hard we look at it? 

The dialectic of enlightenment as it manifests in photography; the clearest, most objective way of depicting something only heightens our awareness, that the world will always remain unreadable.  While the most mystifying way of showing something often falls flat and reminds us that all we ever know is the obvious.

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What Is Our Condition?

Anomie is our condition, Anomia is our curse, Anomaly is our profession. Or to put it another way: our scabrous individuality consists of trying to name our condition.

–e.m. cioran fall into time

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At Least We Do For A While

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be “interesting” to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference wether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by a the fireman in priest’s clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or the moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Or at least we do for a while.

— Joan Didion, The White Album

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This Constant Slipping

what is the visual fabric of memory? A lack of precision, leaving holes to be filled in; an ongoing fight against the indexicality of the image: Not showing something, only reminding me of something the picture does not show.

this constant slipping…

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Surface Tension

Our deductions from the surface to what lies underneath are usually wrong and photography, as the art of surface, is especially vulnerable to this fraud of looking. The projection of complex circumstances onto a flat plane is misleading; in order to get onto paper or onto the screen, the light has to travel through multiple surfaces, that all leave their mark and tell their own story. The lens-plane, the emulsion/the sensor, the chemical plane of the developer, the scanner, the plane of digital manipulation with its vectors of bending and shifting light, revealing and obfuscating with the same gesture… Yet somehow I still believe that the picture tells some kind of story about what is underneath all these surfaces. I am naïve in that way…

But the dilemma is: I only have the pictures to tell me about the world. The flat world of the TV is in turmoil, yet outside my window, everything is dead calm: So, how is the world then? Scratching the surface only reveals another surface and the idea, that all these surfaces together hint on some kind of meaning is only hypothetical…

The images are a result of this confusion: deliberate misunderstandings, being vulnerable to suggestions, being easily susceptible to these voices of the surface…

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