Monday, August 10, 2009

"Our intense fear and loathing of the homeless"

Starting from a photograph in the New York Times, John Louis Lucaites helps us understand our problem here:


Charles Montgomery said...


I puzzled long and hard about the western cultural encoding of the coke and I still can't quite grasp it...

Your general point that art is culture specific is a good one, but also not a point that had previously been obscure? And in that context, your context for the coke seems forced.

I see it as a practical artifact and in no way a cultural signifier in any intentional sense of the photographed (victim) or photographer. I see her glasses the same way.

I'm sure Warhol did some coke-art. If not Warhol, someone else. Jesus, a slogan like "it's the real thing" is practically begging for an artistic stomping. The days of artists being behind us, it might still get a pop-stomping and must have done.

I would also note, contradictoraly (which spell check tells me is not a word) that sometimes glasses are just, well, glasses. I buy mine for about $1.50 US at an outdoors store by Cheonggyecheon river. God forbid a theorist should ever catch me in them!

And I'd leave it at that except that here in Korea people with perfect eyesight frequently wear clear-glass glasses to look more academic.

I just don't think that in cases of desperation people are necessarily (they often are and Korean literature is full of funny stories about that) looking the things that ease their lives as "signifiers." They are just the shit that gets them through.

The problem with theory is that it can ruin the best (or worst) reality. ;-)

I did love your analysis of the structural differences in this Madonna and the other Madonna that you identified after your brief foray into ocularity (where was the killshot scene at the end of the first Godfather movie?). And that picture of Orozco is freaking classic and in that case I think you can see the glasses used (by the photographer - I suspect Orozco is doing his work in his bulging eyes) as a cultural signifier of intellectual defense.

My reaction, as I think about it, may also be tinted by the fact the Lange photo is by far the most spontaneous of them all, and I say that even if it was posed for half a day. It is people caught in transit from nowhere to nowhere, and in all the other cases, I think the represented people were involved in their own personal capitalist transactions (e.g. an actor, some factory chick/model being payed to pimp the war effort).

heh.. but now I've typed too long..

Jonathan Morse said...

For the historical original of that Godfather shot, see And oh yes about Orozco, compare Charis Wilson Weston's statement about the experience of being looked at by Edward Weston, with or without the help of his camera. She compares it to entering a hypnotic trance in which she was focused entirely on her own beauty.