A prompt for image- and language-makers
Via bell hooks, Teju Cole, and Leslie Hewitt
Wendy’s community: We hope you are taking care of yourself & your loved ones, we hope you are doing the needed work to transform yourself and your communities, and we hope you are taking part in resistance however you are able.
This week, bell hooks, Teju Cole, and Leslie Hewitt inspire us to think about the limits of the image and of the transformative potential of thinking those limits otherwise.
Via Leslie Hewitt:
From The Photographer’s Playbook, Aperture Foundation, 2014
"Respond to the following:
Give in to the fact that you have inherent biases that are part of your geographic, cultural, and sociopolitical position. In place of photographing any subject in particular, create a series of lists consisting of single words or set phrases to begin the process of mapping your subjective desires and discomforts as an image constructor. Perhaps this act of creating lists could for a short while replace the impulse to record/document with a camera what is outside of oneself, as a site that reflects a set of conditions that are often rendered invisible."
Via bell hooks
Art on My Mind (The New Press, 1995)
“Our capacity to value art is severely corrupted and perverted by a politics of the visual that suggests we must limit our responses to the narrow confines of a debate over good versus bad images. How can we truly see, experience, and appreciate all that may be present in any work of art if our only concern is whether it’s a negative or positive image?...We can liberate ourselves and others only by forging in resistance identities that transcend narrowly defined limits. Art constitutes one of the rare locations where acts of transcendence can take place and have a wide-ranging transformative impact."
As Teju Cole writes in “A Photograph Never Stands Alone,” “Images make us think of other images...All images, regardless of the date of their creation, exist simultaneously and are pressed into service to help us make sense of other images. This suggests a possible approach to photography criticism: a river of interconnected images wordlessly but fluently commenting on each other.”
In Art on My Mind, bell hooks speaks to the politics and the limits of criticism within a binary. She invites us to consider the space of the image as a liberatory one, in which “experiencing art can enhance our understanding of what it means to live as free subjects in an unfree world.”
Leslie Hewitt’s photographic exercise invites us to think that limit, first, from within ourselves.
What resistances can be thought and felt across images? What potential liberatory power is found between them? How can we, as image- and language-makers vision a politics of liberation from within the river?