HAL FOSTER VISION AND VISUALITY PDF

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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. No part of this book may be reproduced in anv form without permission in writing from the publisher and author. Edited transcripts of these discussions together with prepared texts were presented in the first volume of an ongoing series of publications called Discussions in Contemporary Culture.

The series is intended to record aspects of the organized discussion events held at Dia from time to time, primarily at its downtown space at Mercer Street, New’ York. The symposium w’as generally an exploration of modes of vision; the presenters explained dif- ferent w’ays in which what is seen is revised, through various so- cial, psychological, and biological filters, before it is perceived. Characteristics of different models of seeing are shown to evolve historically, and recently in reaction to models specifically asso- ciated with the principles of modernism.

Foster Hal Ed Vision And Visuality 1988

Most but not all of these analyses centered around the production and perception of visual art. Hal Foster, who organized the symposium and edited this volume, explains in his preface something of the topicality of new critical attention to theories of vision.

We are grateful to Hal Foster for his work on this book and for his conception and organization of the Vision and Visu- ality symposium, which was attended by a diverse and, as is evi- dent in the discussion portions of this book, keenly engaged audience. We also thank the five participants in the symposium for their excellent presentations that day and for their helpful vii texts.

We look forward to a series of events in centered around critical discussion and to additional volumes of this pub- lication series.

Although vision sug- gests sight as a physical operation, and visuality sight as fosfer social fact, visipn two are not opposed as nature to culture: Yet neither are they identical: With its own rhetoric and representations, each scopic regime seeks to close out these differences: It is important, then, to slip these su- perimpositions out of focus, to disturb the given array of visual facts it may be the only way to see them at alland this little book suggests ways to do this for the modern period.

Thus the general project in which it partakes: To complicate matters, there emerged in the symposium a criticism of this general critique, and a call for an alternative to the search for alternative visual regimes. But why this topic, or these takes, now? It is, however, no se- cret that several strong critiques of modern ist models of vision have developed: Here, in turn, Martin Jay points to cracks within traditional perspective — conflicts in practice, paradoxes in logic e.

For Jay, each practice extends beyond its own historical formation: Jonathan Crarv also rejects anv reading of Cartesian per- spectivalism as consistent or continuous. In fact, he locates its theoretical displacement in the early nineteenth century, with the shift from geometrical optics vishality a physiological account of x PREFACE vision — from the paradigm of the camera obscura, of a veridical vision of bipolar subject and object, to the model of the body as producer of a nonveridical vision relatively indifferent to worldly reference.

Immediately this history estranges familiar others: Moreover, one is left to wonder at the sheer perseverance of perspectivalism as an epis- temological model. However, rather than celebrate the phys- iological account — as, say, a precondition of the modernist autonomy of the visual, or abstractly as a basis for a new fosteg dom or a higher truth — Crarv refers it to the construction of the modern subject, the reconfiguration of vision, of the vusuality, of the body as objects of science and agents of work.

Inciden- tally, this discussion implies a crucial theoretical caution for art history: In her paper, Rosalind Krauss explores an optical uncon- scious in modernism, here as tapped by Duchamp, Ernst, Giacometti, and others.

In her portrait of Picasso, this dysmorphic aspect of vision is exposed in an oeuvre celebrated for its formal invention. With Norman Brvson, vision is again regarded as corro- sive— to subjectivity.

Vision and visuality by Hal Foster

In its guise as the gaze of the other, vision, according to Sartre and Lacan, decenters the subject; vet in this scheme, Bryson argues, the centered subject remains residual — in protest, as it were. This threatened remainder leads Sartre and Fosteg variously to present the gaze in paranoid terms, as an event which persecutes, even annihilates the subject. In certain Eastern philosophies, Bryson maintains, the decentering of fpster subject is more complete.

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More importantly, it is welcomed rather than resisted; thus the gaze is not regarded as a terror. This has significant consequences for the construction of subjec- tivity and its spaces, for viduality conception of art and its techniques, some of which Bryson explores. He does not, however, pose this other tradition as an alternative foser to our appropriation which was nonetheless a contested tendency of the discussionbut rather as a way to denature our habitual practices of the vi- vizion — to prepare, in short, a politics of sight.

For, finally, it is not that the gaze is not experienced as menace in our culture, but that this menace is a social product, determined by power, and not a natural fact. These accounts she mentions Jameson, Deleuze and Guattari, Lyotard present postmodernism in terms of a crisis in social to- tality; whether celebrated or lamented, this crisis is often figured x i i PREFACE in terms of a breakdown in psychic life: Rose questions this use of psychoanalysis; specifically, she argues, no sooner is its notion of schizophrenia evoked than its negativities evaporate: No one set of preconditions governs this range of argu- ment; there are, however, discourses held in common.

Certainly the entire discussion draws on analyses of the subject and the image derived from poststructuralism and psychoanalysis; in fact, vision is investigated as a structure instrumental to the dis placement of both these terms. In this regard, the feminist attention to the psychic imbrication of the sexual and the visual is especially important, as is the semiological sensitivity to the visual as a field of signs produced in difference and riven by de- sire.

One hesitates to speculate on more worldly conditions; they will be specific to each reader. The same is true of the visual technorama which envelops most of us with new technologies of the image and new techniques of the subject-in-sight.

The critique of perspectivalism, the concern with corporeal vision, the analysis of the gaze — these things are not new.

Decades have passed since Panofsky pointed to the conventionality of perspective, and Heidegger to its com- plicity with a subject willed to mastery; years since Merleau- Ponty stressed the bodiliness of sight, Lacan the psychic cost of the gaze, and Fanon its colonialist import.

Yet significant dif- ferences distinguish the present discussion; one is its partial questioning of these prior analyses.

Thus Rose asks what positive terms are set up by such critique e. Such questioning is not visualtiy to correct modern analyses of vision but precisely to keep them critical — to not turn partial tendencies into whole traditions, plural differences into a few static oppositions. On this point, too, there emerged a critique fostdr the search for alternative visu- al ities, whether these are to be located in the unconscious or the body, in the past e.

The World Paw Homage to Spain, Beginning with the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, modernity has been normally considered resolutely ocularcentric. The invention of printing, according to the familiar argument of McLuhan and Ong, 2 reinforced the privileging of the visual abetted hv such visuaality ventions as the telescope and the microscope.

But what precisely constitutes the visual culture of this era is not so readily apparent. If so, the scopic regime of modernity may best be understood as a contested terrain, rather than a harmoniously integrated complex of visual theories and practices.

It may, in fact, be characterized by a differentiation anx visual subcultures, whose separation has allowed us to understand the multiple im- plications of sight in ways that are now only beginning to be ap- preciated. That visino understanding, I want to suggest, may well be the product of a radical reversal in the hierarchy of visual subcultures in the modern scopic regime.

Before spelling out the competing ocular fields in the mod- ern era as I understand them, I want to make clear that I am presenting only very crude ideal typical characterizations, which can easily be faulted for their obvious distance from the complex realities they seek to approximate.

I am also not suggesting that the three main visual subcultures I single out for special atten- tion exhaust all those that might be discerned in the lengthy and loosely defined epoch we call modernity.

But, as will soon be- come apparent, it will be challenging enough to try to do justice in the limited space I have to those I do want to highlight as most significant. Let me begin by turning to what is normally claimed to be the dominant, even totally hegemonic, visual model of the mod- ern era, that which we can identify with Renaissance notions of perspective in the visual arts and Cartesian ideas of subjective rationality in philosophy.

For convenience, it can be called Car- tesian perspectivalism. That it is often assumed to be equivalent to the modern scopic regime per se is illustrated by two remarks from prominent commentators.

The first is the claim made by the art historian William Ivins, Jr. With full awareness of the schematic nature of what follow s, let me trv to establish its most important characteristics. Brunelleschi is traditionally accorded the honor of being its practical inventor or discoverer, while Alberti is almost universally acknowledged as its first theoretical inter- preter.

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From Ivins, Panofsky, and Krautheimer to Edgerton, White, and Kubovv, 11 scholars have investigated virtually every aspect of the perspectivalist revolution, technical, aesthetic, psy- chological, religious, even economic and political.

Despite many still disputed issues, a rough consensus seems to have emerged around the following points. Even after the re- ligious underpinnings of this equation were eroded, the favorable connotations surrounding the allegedly objective optical order remained powerfully in place. These positive associations had been displaced from the objects, often religious in content, de- picted in earlier painting to the spatial relations of the perspec- tive canvas themselves.

This new concept of space was geo- metrically isotropic, rectilinear, abstract, and uniform. The basic device was the idea of symmetrical visual pyramids or cones with one of their apexes the receding vanishing or centric point in the painting, the other the eye of the painter or the be- holder.

The transparent window that was the canvas, in Alberti s School of Piero della Francesca. View of an Ideal Cirj, I? Courtesy Art Resource, N. Significantly, that eye was singular, rather than the two eyes of normal binocular vision.

It was conceived in the manner of a lone eye looking through a peephole at the scene in front of it. The participatory in- volvement of more absorptive visual modes was diminished, if not entirely suppressed, as the gap between spectator and spec- tacle widened.

The moment of erotic projection in vision–w at St. The marmoreal nude drained of its capacity to arouse desire was at least tendentially the out- come of this development. By then the ra- tionalized visual order of Cartesian perspectivalism was already coming under attack in other ways as well. In addition to its de-eroticizing of the visual order, it had also fostered what might be called de-narrativization or de-tex- tualization.

That is, as abstract, quantitatively conceptualized space became more interesting to the artist than the qualitatively differentiated subjects painted within it, the rendering of the scene became an end in itself.

Alberti, to be sure, had empha- sized the use of perspective to depict istoria, ennobling stories, but in time they seemed less important than the visual skill shown in depicting them. What Bryson in his book Word and Image calls the diminution of the discursive function of painting, its telling a story to the unlettered masses, in favor of its figural function16 meant the increasing autonomy of the image from any extrinsic purpose, religious or otherwise.

The effect of realism was consequently enhanced as canvases were filled with more and more information that seemed unre- lated to any narrative or textual function. Cartesian perspectival- ism was thus in league with a scientific world view that no longer hermeneutically read the world as a divine text, but rather saw it as situated in a mathematically regular spatio-tem- poral order filled with natural objects that could only be ob- served from without by the dispassionate eye of the neutral researcher.

It was also complicitous, so many commentators have claimed, with the fundamentally bourgeois ethic of the modern world. Separate from the painter and the viewer, the visual field depicted on the other side of the canvas could become a portable commodity able to enter the circulation of capitalist exchange. In many accounts, this entire tradition has thus been subjected to wholesale condemnation as both false and pernicious.

Looked at more closely, however, it is possible to discern internal tensions in Cartesian perspectivalism itself that suggest it was not quite as uniformly coercive as is sometimes assumed.

He criticizes those who naively identify the rules of perspective established by its theoretical champions with the actual practice of the artists themselves. Equally problematic is the subject position in the Cartesian perspectivalist epistemology.

When the former was explicitly transformed into the latter, the relativistic implications of perspectivalism could be easily drawn. Even in the nineteenth century, this potential was apparent to thinkers like Leibniz, although he generally sought to escape its more troubling implications.

These were not explicitly stressed and than praised until the late nineteenth cen- tury bv such thinkers as Nietzsche. If everyone had his or her own camera obscura with a distinctly different peephole, he gleefully concluded, then no transcendental world view was 22 Finally, the Cartesian perspectivalist tradition contained a potential for internal contestation in the possible uncoupling of the painters view of the scene from that of the presumed he- holder.

Interestingly, Bryson identifies this development with Vermeer, w ho represents for him a second state of perspectival- ism even more disincarnated than that of Alberti. Although I cannot pretend to be a serious stu- dent of Vermeer able to quarrel with.