Wednesday 25 January 2017

I'm thinking about Fogo again...

A quote by John Grierson, in my ever-running thoughts on Fogo Island...

"Propaganda shows a way by which we can strengthen our conviction and affirm it more aggressively against the threat of an inferior concept of life, we must use it to the full, or we shall be robbing the forces of democracy of a vital weapon for its own security and survival. It is not just an idea : it is a practical use of modern scientific warfare".

From "The Nature of Propaganda"


Thursday 19 January 2017

Two quotes from Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes

“a specific photograph, in effect, is never distinguished from its referent (from what it represents), or at least it is not immediately or generally distinguished from its referent (As is the case for every other image, encumbered from the start, and because of its status – by the way in which the object is simulated): it is not impossible to perceive the photographic signifier… but returned a secondary action of knowledge or of reflection”[1]

“it is as if the Photograph always carries its referent with itself, both affected by the same amorous or funereal immobility, at the very heart of the moving world: they are glued together, limb by limb, like a condemned man and the corpse in certain tortures; or even like those pairs of fish (sharks, I think, according to Michelet) which navigate in convoy, as though united by an eternal coitus”[2]

[1] Barthes, Camera Lucida, 5.
[2] Barthes, Camera Lucida, 5-6.

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Freud's 'Three Essays' and the Critique of Heteronormativity

"Lecture and Discussion: Re-reading Freud's 1905 edition of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality

This book presentation is devoted to the newly translated and annotated English edition of Freud’s 1905 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (Verso, 2016)."

I immensely enjoyed attending the lecture by and questions with Philippe Van Haute and Herman Westerink last night at the Freud Museum in London regarding their new translation of Freud's 1905 version of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. What most resonated with me was their re-reading and presentation of this early version of these texts by way of a contemporary understanding of important issues concerning psychoanalytic theory on infant sexuality as well as urgent concerns today on heteronormativity. Unlike his predecessors, Freud in 1905 suggested that heteronormative or procreative sex constituted a form of sexuality developed in puberty in such a way that is culturally determined through distinctions such as normal and natural. On the contrary, infantile sex is autoerotic and not directed toward an object, but rather concerned with sensual and physiological sensations of for example, pursing lips on a nipple whilst being breast fed. 

This proved to be interesting to me for a multitude of reasons. One main concern is that it presented a version of child sexuality that I felt was unproblematic and attentive to the actual experience of infant sensation. This is opposed to an alternative Oedipal or perhaps literal reading of some of Freud's other theories, which I feel risk projecting adult sexual experience onto children, which I feel to be wrong and potentially dangerous. 

Another aspect I enjoyed was the notion that sexual drive or, as Van Haute and Westerink wished to distinguish, instinct, is relational so that the parent might not even know that he or she is being confronted (though not as a direct object of drive) by an infant's drive, or I would extend, energy. 

With regard to heteronormativity, the notion of a polymorphous, non-object based drive, but also one that is non-procreative and thus 'perverse' is an urgent issue in today's opening of sexuality and understanding of sexual experience in an expanded manner that is inclusive and rejects human sex as limited to reproductive instinct. Freud presents four examples of such kinds of perversions: sadism, masochism, masturbation and inversion (or homosexuality). 

What was particularly interesting was the historiographical research conducted by Van Haute and Westerink, wherein they were able to determine at which moments Freud went back and altered his original statements in the 1905 editions of these three essays and were able to trace at which point he was influenced and encouraged to change or add elements to the texts, which ultimately were more in conjunction with much of the precursive research on sexology that he originally had wished to undermine and depart from. Reading his 1905 essays through the contemporary and relevant lens of Van Haute and Westerink allow for an estimation of Freud as just as challenging and subversive as we like to think he is, not only for his own era, but for our own conceptions of sexuality today.  

Sunday 8 January 2017

Francisco Afonso Chaves at MNAC, Lisbon

"THE PARADOXAL IMAGE" at Museu Nacional de Arte Contempornea do Chiaso, Lisbon.

I was delighted to have discovered the stereoscopic photographer and "Azorean naturalist" FRANCISCO AFONSO CHAVES (1857-1926) this week in Lisbon.

A wall text on "seeing landscape from afar":

Some images:

("Sperm Whale", c. 1890)

(An exploration of movement, similar to the experiments in photography by Muybridge)

(The images that most struck me)