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Friday, June 30, 2006

Surface Meaning

Posted by on June 30 at 12:39 PM

This remarkable image, which is part of a collection of images taken by Michael Burns, a local photographer:

And this remarkable passage from Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche’s last book before madness:

“The fatality of one’s being cannot be derived from the fatality of all that was and will be. No one is part of an experiment to achieve an ‘ideal person’ or an ‘ideal of happiness’ or an ‘ideal of morality’—it is absurd to want to discharge one’s being onto some purpose or other. We invented the concept ‘purpose’: in reality, ‘purpose’ is absent… One is necessary, one is a piece of fate, one belongs to the whole, one is in the whole—there is nothing which could judge, measure, compare, condemn our Being, for that would mean judging, measuring, comparing, condemning the whole….But there is nothing apart from the whole!”

These two things (one image/a part of a paragraph) are brought together by nothing else than the surface of my desk.

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Charles I love your posts. So dreamy and poetic. You are a local treasure.

Applicable here doubly, as the photo is of the lighting embedded in the walkway at the northwest end of Seahawks stadium.

There is no "I" in T-E-A-M.

The most arbitrarily related two things on my desk are a box of Men's Pocky, and a business card for a Guinea pig rescue society

Serious question, Charles.

What about that photo do you find remarkable?

I'm not trying to be critical of Michael Burns'work by asking that...and perhaps I'm just being too linear with this...

...but I see a snapshot of a public art installation.

Granted, the additional context put upon it by the addition of the text makes for an interesting synthesis...nicely done, Charles... But, in your opening line, you consider the photograph itself to be a "remarkable image" in and of itself...

As happens too often, I think I worry that I'm missing something obvious when it comes to artistic criticism and commentary...and I'm trying to see through your eyes, here.


PS--And, again, no disrespect to the artist isn't a bad image by any account...I'm just curious as to why Charles finds it "remarkable"

I've got a Gatorade bottle full of water and some unfinished needlepoint. Not nearly as poetic as Charles, I'm afraid.

actually, PGREYY, it is the clouds in the back that i find to be magical, to be the point of transference (out of present time into other time).

Certainly fair enough, Charles. :)

I went looking through Michael's other photos on his site... There were any number of images there that I truly enjoyed--he has a good sense of contrast, of picking up interesting lighting, angles, curves...and many of the images are quite arresting.

I appreciate you satisfying my curiosity regarding what you found so remarkable about this particular image...and your take on it now certainly influences and fleshes out my own take on it--which is why, I think, one should always go WITH someone to see art...and discuss what they've seen.

Yes, anyone's reaction to art is inherently personal and valid...but that reaction can certainly be informed and refined by the consideration of others' reactions.

So...thank you,

I think what PGREYY is too nice to say is that Graves' work is kind of bad.

If the pictures on his website are any indication, I think it's a fair thing to say.

Sigh. Burns, not Graves.

Michael Graves designs plastic shit for Target, right?

Oh well.

Well, A Nony, thank you for thinking of me as someone nice...

...but actually, I was being honest when I said that there were images on Michael Burns' site that I enjoyed. The black and white photo of the Pyramids with the light racks, some of the landscape photos, the monorail track photo, the chisel & mallet photo, and I keep going back to the gasoline station photo.

There are some that I don't like--I think that's fair of anyone looking at may not appeal to you, you may not see what the artist sees in it, or you may see what the artist sees in it and you don't happen to find that valid.

For example, Michael has an image which is dominated by the Dixon's furniture sign. To me, it looks like a snapshot of an interesting sign...but nothing more than that. Maybe that's all that is...and if so, I feel like shrugging and clicking on the next image.

...and that's why I asked Charles what he saw in the image that he used. Because I walk over those lights regularly on my way home from sporting events...and they make me smile--they are an oddly entertaining work of public art. But in Michael's image of those lights...again, all I saw was a snapshot of a work of public art.

I had a feeling that Charles had seen something in the photo--either in composition, use of source lighting, or he felt a context for the image that I wasn't feeling when I looked at it--that he would think that it is remarkable...(or, maybe he wasn't familiar with that stretch of sidewalk outside of Qwest Field...that was my other alternative projection on the subject.)

Whether or not I agree with Charles and his take on this photo is relatively insignificant--I don't think you can be "right or wrong" about art. But now, my opinion on this particular image is better informed because Charles shared his take on the image...

And that's a lot of public discussion about one piece of art,, props to Charles for sharing it.


PGREYY: understood. I wasn't really trying to imply that my opinion is your opinion.

That said, I think that the vast majority of the 60+ images on Burns' website are derivative and boring. More objectively, however, many are also technically bad. The photo above, for example, is needlessly out of focus (he was shooting a stationary piece of public art -- couldn't he be bothered to fetch a tripod, or set the camera on the ground?)

That said, I don't let self-professed art critics slide on issues of artistic relativism. I have to wonder why Charles chose to spotlight this guy, when there are so many great photographers in town who could use the exposure.

Urghh. Please mentally substitute the second "That said" for a connecting phrase of your choice (I wish I could see more than a few lines of context in this teensy little text window....)

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