Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Sensitivity of Time: The Doubling

The Sensitivity of Time: The Art Of Photography
By Tianyu Xie

You may listen to this piece of music, while reading the blog.

Sun emerging, wisps of light touches the pitted surface of those flagging stones. The bracing chill air turns into a thin film of mist, moist and immaculately clean. Gradually, it withers away, revealing the peeling wall of clay blocks and creeping over the black terracotta tiles. There is this green hint of moss, as well as, the aroma and the sound of the past. Someone is opening the creaking wooden door. The water drops drip from the eaves and hit the little pools on the ground. I smell the aging mystery of the incense, which also intermingles with a taste of Buddists’ veggie dishes. A drenched gloominess is immersing into capillaries. At that time, I feel the coolness, eve a little bit cold, and irresistibly, I am drowning in an abysmal.

This illusionary feeling of lost is never unreal but a doomed destiny of man. Following Foucault, we trace down the genealogy of episteme from Renaissance, to Classic Period and eventually, the modern science. An obscure and bitter theme unfolds before our eyes, which is a little bit pessimistic, but still enchanting, “Man and His doublings.” Human beings are confined by their finitude—the length of life, the ability of language, the wealth, and so on—and struggle in-between “empirical” and “transcendental” in search for knowledge. Each of us is actually the “King” in the famous painting “Las Meninas,” who was assigned in advance but was also excluded for long. We are the enslaved sovereign, an observed spectator.

The doubling of man has become this intangible phantom, swirling in and around our mind. He whispers that smoky abracadabra and sometimes, puffed, an antiquated oriental potion. We are deeply possessed and our mind start to revolving, a piece of waltz playing on and the expansion skirt turning into flowers of life. This kind of dizziness germinates and develops, in particular, when an eccentric photograph unfolds itself fully in front of us. We see it, listens to it, touches the sliding face and then close our eyes, to feel it. “…Sensorial experience is activated at the moment of a transcorporeal encounter; this is an encounter among human bodies, between human bodies and the bodies of other beings, and between human bodies and objects, things, and environments…” (Hamilakis). A sensorial touch on the picture triggers a hallucinatory experience of temporal-spatial travelling.

Photography, just brings about this transcendental and transcorporeal experience. As an abstraction of time and space, the scene, the objects and the figure, seems to be frozen in that particular temporal-spatial framework. Although, it seems “…the detaching of the remote region from its original isolation, …, can well be defined as the ‘loss of its aura’, as Benjamin characterizes the aura and its loss in his essay…” (Schivelbusch), by mirroring the “doubling of man”, does not induce a loss of “aura” but evokes a regeneration of it. Light and shadows interlacing, gestures and expressions stay in a motionless movement. We look into it, mirroring back a reflection of our memories, thoughts and imagination. Deeply immersing into that moment, which was captured by the lens and screened through the filter, a transcendental experience of temporality and spatiality is emerging. Then, we feel lost, in our time and space.

“…A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it. He enters into this work of art the way legend tells of the Chinese painter when he viewed his finished painting. …”(Benjamin). Therefore, by posing oneself in front of the photograph, man is floating in a dialectically billowing sea of time. Past, present and future, all entangle with and penetrate into each other. Juxtaposed with the essential doubling of man, the art of photography sets off a poetic flowingness of the past, demonstrating through an illusionary sensorial experience. Till that moment, we see how past has slipped into present and even further into an unknown future. The “aura” of originality is getting obscured, emitting this ivory yellowish halo. Our believed control of time and space dissolves and fades away; while that terrifying but familiar dizziness follows up.

Feeling photographs, we are teasing out as well as deconstructing the once-frozen temporal-spatial setting of the scenario, of the objects and of the figures. However, at the same time, the bewildering magic of photography draws us into its work, into that spatiotemporal staggering place. Temporality, experienced on the boundary between the empirical and the transcendental, turns into an obscure myth, strings of past, present and future interweaving and swirling sensitively.

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