Re: Images ad nauseum

Martin Cohen (mcohen@UCLA.EDU)
Fri, 5 Jan 1996 09:54:15 -0700

Michael Riley wrote:

>I guess it's time to move on -- this will be my last word on this, but I do
>feel a need to respond briefly to Martin Cohen's take on what photographs
>are. The equating of photographs and food is a weak one;

I only meant to compare as perceived objects vs. cultural meaning. If you
read up on the study of cuisine, I think you will see that food can be
approached as art.

>stemming from the
>ongoing confusion between photographs and the things they represent.
>Photographs are not their subjects, nor can they be purely indexical,

Food is not just nutrition to humans, it is companionship (com=with;
pan=bread; Latin), sacred symbol (comunion; Passover Seder foods, etc.);
life-history (Memories of Things Past); symbols and markers of ethnicity,
and so on, but it is also always food. Photographs are not their subjects,
but they are always images that consist of lightwaves perceived by eyes and
transmitted along nerves to be processed by the brain.

> but
>they are mediated representations and their "readers" are active. It all
>reminds me of the surrealist painter Rene Magritte's painting which depicts
>what looks like a pipe, together with the words "this is not a pipe."

The only reason Magritte's painting means anything is because what you see
IS the image of a pipe! Jacques Maquet has made a very good point that
meaning in aesthetics is by nature ambiguous. An artist who wishes to send
a clear and unambiguous message would be better off writing an essay. When
you see an image created by another person, your interpretation may be just
as valid as its creator's, even if it is quite different. But you see the
SAME image, regardless of what you chose to make of it!

Martin Cohen