X-Ray film

David M

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We were talking about things that last. Hence the choice of something old. We might choose some Holbein drawings... Unimaginably perfect workmanship, but there, on paper, are real people. Not as old as Egypt, of course.

I wonder about this test of lasting. I don't suggest that this is true, but it might perhaps be re-stated as a desire for robust materials and sturdy construction. We do seem to see a kind of spell cast over very, very ancient objects. Some people can be amazed at a few circles scratched in a rock.

I had to look up Tim's Vermeer. Thank you. I haven't seen it, but I have read the Hockney book and others. He's a practicing painter, not a critic, so I give his word greater weight. His reconstructions of differing spectator points in the same painting are very suggestive. It may be that Vermeer used his (alleged) optical device to sort out tricky perspective problems, rather than for the whole paining. Close examination shows that Vermeer's brushwork is really quite loose. Step back and it morphs into reality. It took me a while to appreciate him. One day it clicked. How could I have been so blind?
 

David M

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I tracked it down.
Very interesting film, but not a thriller. I’m astonished by Tim’s persistence.
Everything seemed to work just as he predicted. As critics have said, the result is not quite a Vermeer, but on the other hand, Vermeer’s video-editing and code-writing skills were notoriously poor.
It seems possible to me that Vermeer could have used his devices for the geometric objects, but painted the figures by normal means, thus keeping his methods secret. (The film makes the point that secrecy about methods was commonplace.) Painting realistic figures was well-understood in his time. The foot of a conventional easel is shown in the mirror above the virginals. Although Tim seems to have constructed a solid booth, a curtain would have sufficed and could be easily removed.

That word “time” reminds me of something.
Your question: “what lasts?“ is clearly inadequate to explain greatness completely, but not wholly inadequate. May I suggest something? If a work, of whatever kind, exhibits what we might call greatness, it should be able to survive being viewed through a variety of critical spectacles. It must go in and out of fashion (Bach, Vermeer himself, Pugin?) and survive. Fashions come and go over a long cycle, so this process necessarily takes time, but time is not the arbiter: it’s critical approval from varying sources.
As you will see, this is a very half-formed theory, but I submit it as a possibility.
 

thronobulax

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I tracked it down.
Very interesting film, but not a thriller. I’m astonished by Tim’s persistence.
Yeah, that really jumps out at you- 10 years of single minded fascination on just one small issue in the arts world.

That word “time” reminds me of something.
Your question: “what lasts?“ is clearly inadequate to explain greatness completely, but not wholly inadequate. May I suggest something? If a work, of whatever kind, exhibits what we might call greatness, it should be able to survive being viewed through a variety of critical spectacles. It must go in and out of fashion (Bach, Vermeer himself, Pugin?) and survive. Fashions come and go over a long cycle, so this process necessarily takes time, but time is not the arbiter: it’s critical approval from varying sources.
As you will see, this is a very half-formed theory, but I submit it as a possibility.
I am suspicious of critical reception as a measure of much of anything. Formal critics, at least, tend to be insular and incestuous self-proclaimed keepers of cultural "truth". This has nevermoreso than today been the case as "woke" ideology absolutely decimates art, truth, beauty, and culture with its manifest stupidities and overreach. One of the few critics for whom I have great respect is Roger Kimball. If you want to read a stunning condemnation of contemporary arts criticism (and learn a fair bit of classical art along the way), see his book The Rape Of The Masters. It is a superb (and infuriating) read.

Similarly, at any one moment, I am suspicious of arts fandom. Arts fandom is always very much a product of the moment and largely without any real context. Andy Warhol was extolled to be one of the greats when what he was really doing was cheap tourist posters. Jackson Pollock is venerated as a great 20th Century artist. While I admit to finding his work pleasant, it has the arts depth of a shower curtain.

On the other hand, when an artefact finds resonance across time and culture in the hearts of many people of diverse backgrounds, that, I think, speaks to your thesis. Bach may have been a German Protestant church musician, but his work finds contemporary interpreters of great skill not just in the West, but across Asia, Russia, and the former Soviet nations. Clearly, there is something in Bach's writing that touches us irrespective of language, culture, or history. I rather think this will not be the case, say, for the Beatles or Jay-Z...

In the case of Photography, I wonder how much of any of this stuff will have the kind of timeless and cross cultural appeal in the larger span. There are obviously pieces that will appeal on historic grounds (Atget and Brassai leap to mind) but how much photography will survive just as "art" I wonder ...(But I still archivally process all my work ;)
 

David M

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Ah, yes. I wasn’t quite clear.
By “a variety of critical spectacles” I didn’t mean “the spectacles of a variety of critics.” I meant viewing by a variety of people with different cultural backgrounds. A kind of obstacle course. Not perfect, of course.
I probably think even less of current destructive critical language that you do. Most of it seems to be simply an excuse to promulgate the writer’s views on sociology. It forms part of curricula nowadays, which is worrying for the future of thought.Most of it might equally be written about string or safety pins. I might even have a go at it.
I could rant on. And on, but nobody deserves that.
 

thronobulax

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Ah, yes. I wasn’t quite clear.
By “a variety of critical spectacles” I didn’t mean “the spectacles of a variety of critics.” I meant viewing by a variety of people with different cultural backgrounds. A kind of obstacle course. Not perfect, of course.
I probably think even less of current destructive critical language that you do. Most of it seems to be simply an excuse to promulgate the writer’s views on sociology. It forms part of curricula nowadays, which is worrying for the future of thought.Most of it might equally be written about string or safety pins. I might even have a go at it.
I could rant on. And on, but nobody deserves that.
Feel free to rant, you will find me a fellow traveller ;) The Kimball book is a terrifying look into the modern arts academy and the harm that has been done by the various "theory" schools like postmodernism and deconstructionism. (The current "woke" movements are little more than these bad ideas dulled down for the villagers with pitchforks.) I do recommend the book because it is by turns informative, irritating, and deeply amusing.

Not to go too far afield from 5x4 photography and art, I'd suggest that the "current destructive critical language" isn't really driven my sociology. It's driven by deeply held radical political ideas more than anything else. Among them, is the elevation of the tribe over the importance of the individual. See, for example:


Ah, yes. I wasn’t quite clear.
By “a variety of critical spectacles” I didn’t mean “the spectacles of a variety of critics.” I meant viewing by a variety of people with different cultural backgrounds. A kind of obstacle course. Not perfect, of course.
I probably think even less of current destructive critical language that you do. Most of it seems to be simply an excuse to promulgate the writer’s views on sociology. It forms part of curricula nowadays, which is worrying for the future of thought.Most of it might equally be written about string or safety pins. I might even have a go at it.
I could rant on. And on, but nobody deserves that.
Feel free to rant, you will find me a fellow traveller ;) The Kimball book is a terrifying look into the modern arts academy and the harm that has been done by the various "theory" schools like postmodernism and deconstructionism. (The current "woke" movements are little more than these bad ideas dulled down for the villagers with pitchforks.) I do recommend the book because it is by turns informative, irritating, and deeply amusing.

Not to go too far afield from 5x4 photography and art, I'd suggest that the "current destructive critical language" isn't really driven my sociology. It's driven by deeply held radical political ideas more than anything else. Among them, is the elevation of the tribe over the importance of the individual. See, for example:


https://www.artfixdaily.com/news_feed/2021/05/10/1161-in-a-first-only-artist-collectives-are-shortlisted-for-turner-pri

These "collectives" are replacing the artist with agenda. It's really sad.
 

David M

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I was using the word sociology to avoid saying politics. Too easy to conflate that with, shall we say, disputes over governance. There is overlap, of course.
Perhaps we are now straying somewhat from Large Format, interesting though it is to discuss wider problems. We seem to be on parallel courseS.
 
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