We’re living in the hope and the risk that our gaze might one day have captured everything, leaving nothing uncaught, nothing unnamed, nothing unaccounted for. If we were to reach this point of total saturation, then what? Completion, annihilation, silence?
The thrill of the gaze is also its threat: that looking might wholly incorporate, alter and deplete the object of our regard to the point that what we see is no longer the thing in itself but the pale trace of its absence. Such is also the thrill and threat of language: the intimate taste of the thing's name in our mouth persuades us we are holding the thing up close when we are holding only its name – a name, moreover, that provokes the thing itself to recede into the distance in its move to evade our regard. (If you can get behind the paywalls, Pinheiro Machado’s Nothingness and the Work of Art and Schwenger’s Words and the Murder of the Thing are compelling treatments of these ideas.)
Capturing a thing by its image rather than its name promises a more immediate means of total incorporation, particularly given the increasing ubiquity of the digital camera in the contemporary world. In his recent essay Photopathologies, Anton Viesel explores the prospect of absolutely replicating the earth through photography – extract below:
“Where now we see the Eiffel Tower appear on flickr only intermittently from a limited number of different perspectives each day – relying as we do on the imperfect and inefficient recording devices that individual tourists now constitute – we will after the final development of an infinite photography see it appear continually from every possible angle every moment of every day. What is more, the surfaces of the Eiffel Tower themselves will have been activated as a stream of tiny photographic machines, each of which records what passes before it. The visual data, collected from innumerable devices, will be fed into self-replicating storage machines that monitor their own surfaces and so the narcissistic turn will be complete.
The new photography, still only in embryo, is a form of creativity that is at heart anti-humanist. All specifically human intervention has been erased, whether conscious or unconscious, willed or automatic. Instead, the endpoint is the absolute replication of the world, the tautology of truth, things are as they are.”
Tags: Observer and Observed