A line in space and time.
In many ways, the picture, titled Revolution, is representative of my subject material. It is a turning point for me that defines my criteria for this project. It conveys the fundamental abilities of the camera to record light and capture time, in this case, most glaringly as a line. Yet on analysis, this picture also becomes self-referential. According to the language and capabilities of photography as a medium – translated from Greek, ‘photography’ means, writing with light.
In terms of the formal qualities of this work, it measures duration; the length of time the shutter was held open; the inevitability of day turning to night; and, the line of light itself, like a slice – a perfect scratch through the image. It references the trace of time that all photographs capture; something that was. While nothing more than a trail of light from a passenger airplane, it has been evidenced; but in reality, it no longer remains.
Importantly though, here is a still image that describes time in motion in a way that can only be seen with the aid of photographic process. Moreover, something undetectable; the remnant evidence of an aircraft flying at dusk is traced, etched and detected. I am fascinated by this idea; of something undetected;
something lying in wait; a presence or a state revealed and made real through photographic process; something a machine has helped to reveal, to create an experience of wonder, or even a new paradigm with which to re-read into the real world.
Giving body to the idea of art bringing something new, or forth, into the world, philosopher Martin Heidegger in his book, ‘The question concerning technology: and other essays,’ believes the essence of art is involved with the creation, or revealing, of truth. However, Heidegger does not mean truth as in ‘correctness’ or a realistic depiction of something. He points out, it is the ‘bringing forth’ of truth – something that is concealed in the materials or the artifact, that the artist brings into being.
(Heidegger, 1977, pp.11-12)
“Bringing forth’ brings hither out of concealment, forth into un-concealment. Bringing forth comes to pass only insofar as something concealed comes into un-concealment. This coming rests and moves freely within what we call revealing (das Entbergen). The Greeks have the word alethia for revealing.” (Heidegger, 1977, pp.11-12)
Although one could apply this analogy, metaphorically and literally, to the process of sculpture; where the artist reductively chisels away from a rock to reveal something that was not previously there, Heidegger is not so literal. In an artwork, Heidegger says, ‘truth is set to work’.
Writer Babar Bolt explains this process as a “transitional moment when our assumptions about the world are brought into crisis, and we are able to see the world in a new and unique way.” Therefore, it is the “[r]evelation that happens through the encounter with an artwork, not the art object that is the work of art.” (Bolt, 2011, p.41).
One of the ways that photography ‘sets the truth to work’ and increases our vision, is through its inextricable link to time. This could be either in the time past of photographs; giving us insight to the twists and turns of history; or, through the camera’s perfunctory mechanical linkage to time. Fast and slow shutter speeds respectively conjure up frozen visual instants, and slow-motion blurs, allowing us to quietly speculate or reel in disbelief. However, do these hard facts and dreamy worlds of duration serve to reinforce our perceptions of time or destabilize them?
The description that writer and photography critic Susan Sontag gives, where “every photograph is a slice of space as well as time” (1977, p.22), is such a truism that it is hardly worth mentioning – or is it? Frozen, the photograph is an irrevocable time capsule from the moment it is captured; and yet it is also a slice, in terms of there being nothing sequential before, nor after it. Yet real time – time outside of photography – is a little harder to measure or explain than the seemingly concrete and chronological series of fragments and memories that photographic imagery stacks upon each other.