Writing about a Project - The Visual Experience
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Following a tweet by Alan Rapp I was yesterday reading Edgar Martin‘s statements (or – better – what he said responding to Rebecca Horne questions) on his last work, beautiful astro-photographs currently in display at HotShoe gallery in London.
The statement is the following:

“One could argue that this work seeks to communicate ideas about how difficult it is to communicate. My images depend on photography’s inherit tendency to make each space believable, but there is a disturbing suggestion that all is not what it seems. The moment of recognition that there is something else going on, the all too crucial moment of suspended disbelief, is the highest point that one can achieve. This process of slow revelation and sense of temporal manipulation is crucial to the work. Above and beyond this, in having to shift between the various codes, the viewer becomes acutely aware of the process of looking, of the reconciliation required between sensory and cognitive understanding. As you rightly say, it is difficult to know for sure if what you are looking at is a photograph. However, they are photographs. I would prefer not to reveal straight away how they were produced or what it is that you are looking at. But let’s just say, for now, that I bypassed the camera altogether.”

I like planet pictures and these are no exception. But I’d like to talk more on these words rather then to the photographs per se.
It’s not the first time Edgar writes a-bit-difficult-to-grasp-at-first texts. Same thing happened last year after the big querelle about his (supposed-to-be) altered photographs published and then put offline by the NYTimes and being, at least, clearly “revisited”.
At that time, reading his words, and not being a native English speaker, I got the feeling of “understanding” some of the concepts behind, probably because our common (Edgar is Portuguese) latin way of speaking and arguing and – to some extent – the difficulties we face, coming from different linguistic roots, to express in english hard-to-tell concepts. Same did not apply for most of the community who reacted to that words with a chorus of “what does he really mean”?
From Majikthise:

Martins also responds a greater length in a completely incoherent and insufferably pretentious essay. The main thrust seems to be that this whole incident reflects photography’s inadequacies rather than his own.

To me that text looked a lot as a bad “latin”-to-english translation.
In the same date I was reading Joerg post about “writing on photography” where he smartly demonstrate how a sentence, holding a great deal of content in domain, turns in something barely comprehensible in another, and, in particular, when is “forwarded” to the general audience.
It’s plain to see (and it is a difficulty I also often face) that writing a full-of-meaning statement – in English -on a body of work is very complicated for at least two reasons: (1) Domain addressed / target audience and (2) latin (or generally semantic rich languages) to English translation requirements.
So my point is to suggest everybody lost in the same challenges to “Keep it simple stupid” and, as it always should be with images, let them speak for you. A complicated statements filled up with hard to grasp concepts is the worst introduction to great work.

Massimo Cristaldi



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fabiano Busdraghi May 23, 2012 at 18:23

Hi Massimo,
this is a great post. I am almost bilingual in French, my Spanish is quite good, my English is far to be perfect but still enough to communicate and I'm fluent in Chinese for basic conversations. Yet I have the feeling I'm unable to really communicate in a language other than Italian. Yes, I can write comments like this one, but a statement, or even a critical article, is extremely difficult for me to write, in English, but even in French. No matter if my level is much better and French is still a Latin language.

The solution? I don't think there is one… but anyone who has children, should arrange for them regular home-stays in English speaking country, they will thank you in the future!

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Edward Rozzo June 2, 2012 at 07:03

Couldn't agree more. I am basically an American speaking Italian, so my Italian is far from perfect and my English should be perfect (or almost), but writing in any language is such a mixture of feelings, understanding, grammar and interpretation that ANY written piece is almost impossible to translate in its entirety. That's why I NEVER write in Italian without someone correcting my piece and I must admit, it's always necessary. Then, as you say, translating is practically impossible, you can only try and capture the sense of what someone wrote and never really "translate" a written piece into another language, culture or mind.

This is why is so difficult to discuss on a multi-cultural level. The definition of meaning is a subjective question and the competent use of grammar is not the only ingredient.

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