An act of analog rebellion

“In a world of deafening images, the quiet consolations of photobooks doom them to a relatively small, and sometimes tiny, audience. Photobooks are expensive to make, and they rarely recoup their costs. They are in this way a quixotic affront to the calculations of the market. The evidence of a few bestsellers notwithstanding, the most common fate of photobooks is oblivion. But it is precisely this labor-intensive and fiscally-unsound character that allows them to sit patiently on our shelves like oracles. Then one day, someone takes one of them off the shelf and is mesmerized by the silent and unanticipated intensity. (The experience of reading a novel, by contrast, is not so silent, for the reader is accompanied by the unvocalised chatter of the text.)

Time with a photobook is a wander off the beaten path, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t reach for one. This enjoyment cannot be dispatched with a “like” button. The photobook won’t send you ads based on how long you linger on a given page. It doesn’t track you (no one knows, for sure, how many times I have looked at Guido Guidi’s Tomba Brion). It is resistant to gossip and allergic to snark. Sitting with it, you have to sit with yourself: this is a private experience in a time when those are becoming alarmingly rare, an act of analog rebellion in an obnoxiously digital world. Sure, one could look at a sequence of pictures on a digital device, but to do so would be to indulge a poor facsimile like frozen pizza, instant coffee, or artificial flowers.”

- Teju Cole, In Praise of the Photobook, 2020.

Originally published 30/12/2020

Landscapes are stories

“Q: How can the medium of landscape imagery be used to tell stories?

A: Landscapes are stories, we just need to learn how to read them. And there are many, many stories – waiting for someone to come along, and give shape to them and find an appropriate means to tell them. Part of the fascination for me is allowing a place to reveal a complex web of narratives, through a slow and patient engagement, and as it does so I am struggling to find a form, a structure, with which to articulate some of what I have found. My works always bring texts together with the pictures – captions, short stories, essays, lists – which is a reason why books are such a rich way to bring study together.”

- Jem Southam, in an interview with Drake's.

Originally published 15/12/2020

As I became invisible

“You see, ten years ago when I first came to the city, I had a job on the West Side as a pushcart vendor. In order to get my license, I was told to go to a certain municipal office, to approach a particular window and to pay a small bribe to a teller.

On most days, I would roll the cart from a parking garage to the same spot on Ninth Avenue, near the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel. I sold roasted peanuts and sodas in front of a discount electronics store and a used furniture outlet. Sometimes I was sent to other locations depending on the weather, or on other vendors, or on factors I didn’t understand. But mostly I parked in that same spot. And for a while that patch of sidewalk became my own.

I sold peanuts, I stood behind my cart and, after a few weeks went by, I became a fixture to some. And to others I became increasingly invisible. I discovered that simply by standing behind the cart and selling, I had put up both a wall and a window from which I could watch what happened on the street, on the block, on that long corridor of businesses and passers-by. And as I became invisible, I started to see things that had once been invisible to me.”

- Jem Cohen, Lost Book Found, 1996.

Originally published 7/12/2020

Un lloc d'exploració ideal

“A la meva literatura he anat a parar sempre a la perifèria, ja sigui interior de la persona, ja sigui externa. La literatura es mou bé en els espais perifèrics. Fent un volt pels entorns de qualsevol ciutat, el desordre i l’acumulació donen idea, més que de deixadesa, de poca fe en cap mena de valors. En el cas d’un escriptor català, potser assenyalin, a més, la consciència d’un món i una llengua en dissolució. Tot paisatge és cultural i, doncs, moral, i qualsevol representació és simbòlica. Potser la perifèria ens resulta tan inaccessible justament perquè ens descriu la realitat que envolta i de la qual és filla, millor i tot que els centres fixats i estàtics, i que en definitiva són aparadors hipòcrites. Si vivim moments de canvi, si tenim consciència d’una crisi de valors -un sentiment paradoxalment perenne-, el territori ambigu de la perifèria, que es mou al seu gust, seria un lloc d’exploració ideal.”

- Toni Sala a Paisatg-e, Butlletí bimestral de l’Observatori del Paisatge, 2010.

Originally published 1/12/2020.

Imagine el horror

“Causa melancolía lo que se queda inacabado, pero lo muy acabado y completo puede dar horror. El Escorial, por ejemplo. Un edificio pavoroso. La basílica de San Pedro en Roma. ¡Ese baldaquino terrible con sus columnas salomónicas de bronce dorado! Para corregirlos haría falta al menos un milenio de abandono, o un terremoto de escala importante, un incendio. La proliferación de la vida orgánica entre los escombros. Las columnas derribadas como los troncos de árboles colosales que se dejan sin retirar en los parques americanos. Los gatos en el Coliseo. Colonias multitudinarias, genealogías de gatos que se prolongan a lo largo de los siglos, como las de los patriarcas del Génesis. Tallos espléndidos de hierba entre las piedras, higueras locas en las grietas de los muros, todo creciendo con esa fertilidad de la lluvia copiosa y el calor húmedo de Roma. Imagine el horror de un edificio como el Coliseo recién terminado. Toda la vulgaridad de los mármoles y de los dorados, como un casino de Las Vegas copiado del Coliseo. Con un gran letrero luminoso en lo alto, o mejor un nombre en letras macizas sobredoradas: TRUMP.”

- Antonio Muñoz Molina, Un andar solitario entre la gente, 2018.

Originally published 25/11/2020

Gimnasia de ojos

“Hay un tipo de cine y televisión que atrofia la vista. Nosotros tenemos 30 y tantas funciones de la visión, pero dos básicas: la fóbica, la de los hechos que están pasando, que puede medirse por movimiento de la pupila, y la contemplativa, llamémosla así, que es percibir el mundo como un cuadro. En cambio, en el cine norteamericano miden el movimiento de la pupila y piensan que el tipo que está viendo la película se está aburriendo, distrayendo, y no es que se esté distrayendo. Solo está mirando otras cosas que le llaman la atención. El tipo puede ser un zapatero y quizás prefiera mirarle los zapatos al protagonista, ya que eso lo lleva a un recuerdo. Es normal. Bueno, el asunto es que estos músculos se están atrofiando. Por eso en Francia y Estados Unidos ahora hay profesores de gimnasia de ojos, quienes practican movimientos laterales de ojos”.

- Raúl Ruiz, citado en Poéticas del cine

Originally published 18/11/2020