Terminology

Andreas van D├╝hren/Bill Beckley

AvD: Imagining that it was just by chance that photography was invented before cinematography, and considering the new technology's merging the hardware (reconciling two art forms which had been fundamentally distinguished rather according to conventions than by nature), by that neglecting the durational criterion as something arbitrary (as each single picture needs its time as well as any sequence, and video doesn't know any sequence, only stream) one may say that each photograph has always been just a still – regardless the mere circumstance of the concerned film's being shot already or being some reality to be recorded, that is: due to be reflected, anyway.
BB: Photography had to come first, because each frame is a photograph, otherwise there would have been nothing to work with.
AvD: I was not really up to correcting history. I'd rather refer to recent developments (technically, conceptually) which, to me, suggest »photography« as the principal term, covering each of those disciplines which have been distinguished for a long time (and for some good reasons, for a while): photography, cinema, video. In the future, more and more evidently, these may be understood as branches of one new art.
BB: We move around. We might take a piss or give a kiss. My observance does not take place through a medium. It is, as far as I can tell, reality. If I want to express any reality – my observance, rather – through a medium other than photography, I can get out a pencil and paper and depict one of those actions – in the case of a kiss: extending arms, puckering up ... and I would have cinema. To make this action look realistic, I would have to draw about twenty-four drawings for each second of so-called time. This could take days. But if I had a camera, and the camera had a crank on it and a way to take twenty-four exposures per second, then I could perform this task more expediently. Of course, many stories have been told through animation. But I do not think the issue as I understand it here is one of animation versus photography. The issue seems to be contemporary photography’s relationship to cinema and video. In order to have cinema, you first must invent a camera (lens/empty space/film plane) – and film (an emulsion sensitive to light that can somehow be fixed or preserved) – and then invent a camera with a crank to crank the film through. Now that I think of it, every still camera has a crank but in cinema the cranks move faster. Traditionally, in still photography the emphasis was on freezing a moment in time, not creating time through the illusion of movement. Some sort of light bulb always helps. With still photography, the photo usually hangs quietly on the wall while you move towards it. Moving on to the next photograph involves taking a few steps in that direction. With cinema, after you are seated, except for the popcorn, you sit motionless and let the mechanics of the film projector bring you the illusion of movement. With cinema what is actually moving is the film around the reels. But that movement is out of sight, behind you, where the illusion of movement is in front of you. It’s only when the film is over that you move from your seat. Photography, cinema and video are, I agree, branches of a new art, and the perception of these three mediums changed rapidly in the late sixties and early seventies with the emergence of conceptual art.
AvD: My starting point –rather vague, I admit – was the assumption that with the general digitalization (of the mere mode of recording) the different ways of drawing with light have conflated to an extent that we are forced, as well as enabled, to reconsider what is really specific – as those specifications and differentiations we had been used to (the single image or a sequence of images, the plain truth or the truth 24 times per second; still or moving, the frame in our hands or ourselves being exposed to a screen), suddenly became almost irrelevant, in order to define what's the matter of photography … with another conflation, that of viewer and maker, might make us more aware of what's elementary: a concrete technique of reflection on/of reality.
BB: So-called reality is obviously experienced differently by different species, as if each species is a medium in itself. That’s too much to get into here, and in any case, giraffes don’t carry cameras. Assuming Berliners and New Yorkers are the same species, we can speak about the way different mediums portray reality for humans. The mediums at issue here are analogue photography, analogue cinema, digital photography and video – also painting? Photography crops images differently than painting. The experience of a cropped photograph may have been tantamount to a beheading. (See Jeff Koons’ Woman in Tub – a contemporary cropping. This cropped sculpture originated as a cropped photograph.) Like a guillotine, photography cuts off heads, as well as arms and legs, depending on how and where you point the camera. Painters didn’t do this very much until they were influenced by photography in the nineteenth century. Since photography was originally analogue and the objects portrayed were at least partially responsible for images conveyed, it was naively assumed photography was truth, which explains the preponderance of ghosts and fairies in early photographs. With painting, you made a mark here, another there, and the gestation of it all takes place in actual time, sometimes hours, sometimes months, even years, though what is portrayed is merely a moment. With photography, capturing an image takes less than a second.(Although sloshing the paper around in the developer as the image magically appears, takes longer.) With digital photography you snap the photo, but then after, you do something here, do something there, similar to the way you make a painting. And of course, digital photography often is painting as pigments are jetted to paper. A moving camera captures multiple images per second, and ultimately the experience takes place in actual as well as metaphorical time. The »matter of« photography was some sort of emulsion sensitive to light on plate or paper, until fixed by something called a fixer. The matter of cinema was the same, but with many more still images involved and the need of a mechanism of actual movement to experience it. (I realize these last few sentences are in the past tense.) These are just a few of the ways the mediums of photography, cinema and video related to each other in the past. In 1964, Marshall McLuhan published Understanding Media, implying that each medium, because of its matter (photography = bits of grain, video/TV = pixels etc.), had its own message, i.e. massage technique, hot or cool, regardless of what content it portrayed. (He also predicted the Internet thirty years before it existed.) The Medium is the Massage followed in 1967. Presently all – photography/cinema/video – are commonly expressed through digital technology (pixels) homogenizing matters of the various mediums. (This goes for musical recording and these sentences as well.) So a question is, does this homogenization explain the current phenomenon of photography/cinema/video’s emergence as an Über-medium. It was the mediums of literature and music that were digitalized first, simply because these mediums needed less digital memory than the mediums of photography and video. Photography’s ascendance and acceptance as an Über-medium in art began with the surrealists and expanded in the late sixties, early seventies with conceptual art, an art that married language and photography decades before the digitalization of all media.
AvD: As there is a lot of pointing out as well as summarizing in your explanation, I think I should try to stick to a few points. To me it seems most intriguing what I sense is the relation between/of art, medium and reality. While imagining myself as an almost blind-faith modernist I've got the feeling that one of the main criteria (and weapons) of modernism – claiming the specific of any medium resp. discipline as inevitable for a profound understanding (and handling) of each art form – has turned out to be at least blurred. And I guess there is one simple reason: the ambition to distinguish the disciplines/forms of art (aside from just establishing different faculties within the academy) was mainly driven by the wish to maintain a clear attitude towards what is not art in the first place – reality, as a state of affairs, before it is taken as a sujet. As the classical subject-technique-object relation (meant to promote some sovereignty of the human subject) has changed through an increasing »massage«-effect of technique (medium) on the subject (human), the question »Who is the boss?« has arisen. In fact – as I believe – it's reality at the first state which, through the overruling effect of medium, has changed to so-called reality, bringing upon a merging of reality and medium – at least questioning the consistency of those distinctions we were used to make. (Of course, in order to realize and understand something you have to separate and connect properly. So, distinctions have to be made; only, it seems, the whole context needs to be re-organized!) The provoking impact of photography – as a new super-term – is at first, that its implications may help us to re-define that subject-technique-object relation, as a matter-of-art. If I may jump here – you used the word »crop« in a discipline-specific sense, though suggesting that there is also some, yet other, kind of cropping in painting. I agree, but I'd add that »cropping« is just another word for »selecting« or »cutting« – to be subsumed as »montage«; and this, I'd say, is the crucial maneuver of any creative process. So, by forcing us to re-adjust ourselves towards reality – mainly through apostrophizing the act of reflection – photography might support a re-organization of the whole thing called »art«. (And, if I may anticipate one possible result: Painting was the key discipline, because it was the most complex one, its understanding requiring the greatest intelligence. Photography might have become the new key discipline, for the very same reason – only that we are still almost illiterates in this respect. That's why some people, like the two of us, try to figure out some new terminology.)
BB: When I was a child I snuck into my parent’s bedroom one afternoon and rummaged through the drawers. Tucked under socks and folded T-shirts were a couple of pastels, one of a dog, and another, a parrot. My carpenter dad was an amateur artist and his art my first memory. He hadn’t framed them or hung them on the wall. He hid them away. The dog and the bird seemed more real to me than the socks. (But you can’t beat a toasty woolen pair on a cold winter’s night.) There in my parent’s bedroom five years after conception, it was clear to me about art. Socks: no, pastels: yes. Those were simpler times. Subject (terrier/technique-pastel/object) a thin piece of chalky paper – quite different from an actual Jack Russell. So who is the boss of subject/technique/object? I would rather not think of it as employment opportunity – boss and employees – rather a three-way, where each partner has her or his way with the others and vice versa. Fifty-one years after the sock-art incident, on a bright morning walk with my six-month-old son, I watched the World Trade towers fall. Coincidently, that day I carried a video camera and filmed everything after the second plane hit. Soon terrorized office workers high-tailed north through the intersection of West Broadway and Prince where I stood with my son and his stroller. That evening I walked south toward the disaster, and what I saw was a profound heap of smoldering wire and steel, gothic arches of lower stories piled together with the grid-like sections of the tower’s upper floors. Human ash filtered down through the jumble of steel and wire – an hourglass of death, obviously the intention of terrorists. The intention of art is life, it’s one way you can tell the difference. (Postmodernists put the emphasis on the viewer or addressee, not on intentions that created the message, or even the message itself. So like you, Andreas, I too may be a blind-faith modernist. We take bits of reality and culture and regurgitate them through media. If it’s a good response it gets saved, and if it touches our humanity we may call it »art«. What we have now is a shinny new tower in lower Manhattan, mixed with memories and millions of photographs. This ménage reminds me of The Exactitude of Science (a story by Jorge Luis Borges inspired by a Lewis Carroll story called Sylvie and Bruno Concluded) where, desiring exactitude, the mapmakers of a country produce a map and obsessively enlarge it until it covers the country. Rains fall and winds blow, and the map becomes the country. This is the circumstance of photography/cinema/video and our world today.
AvD: I wished I could come up with a story like that (of a child sneaking into the parent's bedroom – actually my parents didn't keep an official bedroom; we were all sleeping around the place). More precisely one should call your story an »anecdote« – a not officially edited bit of history, something between rounded up gossip and evident fact. This seems to be the contrary to Borges' map and its totally covering what it was supposed to merely represent. I'd like to make three points: 1. The state of affairs nowadays may be characterized by the problem that we almost cannot distinguish the map from the country anymore, and that this map functions sufficiently enough to make us believe there is no country at all. 2. That problem is something turned into a gift of any artist's life, driven throughout a lifetime by an ambition of creating his own representation of what he thinks is true (including his reflections, doubts and errors, in order to make it more authentic), kind of coping with what is not himself and trying to top anything else with himself ... 3. In fact, and practice, the artist is doomed to concentrate on just a bit of the whole thing, trying to save an exactitude in detail (and, by the way, forgetting about himself) and, with that exactitude, a quality similar to truth itself, which otherwise could not be realized. Making another point: Instead of »artist« I could have put »anyone«; only that the artist managed, more or less, to turn the same fatality into a profession – making him something like a professional human being. And if I may add even this: La région centrale by Michael Snow just came to my mind, as a good example of what I was trying to say.
BB: I would like to step aside for a moment and give a brief personal history of photography & art as bedfellows – rather than separate contexts. I feel obliged to mention surrealist photographers who were making photo art in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This includes Man Ray, Maurice Tabard, Dora Maar, Hans Bellmer as well as the photographs of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. I will not go into a detailed history, because we are looking for terminologies of the present and future. Surrealists were responsible for photography’s debut as art. But I don’t think I or Dennis Oppenheim, Vito Acconci, Bill Wegman, Gorden Matta-Clark or Louise Bourgeois, my early friends in New York, were very much influenced by the surrealists. (Maybe Bill Wegman was – he named his Weimaraner »Man Ray«. And Gordon knew about surrealism since his dad was Roberto Matta, one of surrealism’s main descendants.) Besides surrealism, there were other provocations. Like some of those friends I  felt literally and metaphorically boxed in by minimalism. I respected minimalist painters, especially Frank Stella, Brice Marden and Robert Ryman, but I asked myself: Where do you go from here? Modernity’s space had all but disappeared. So had representation. With these painters there was no apparent referent. Stella famously said: »What you see is what you see.« Jasper Johns figured it out to the extent that, keeping with none illusionistic space and the required flat plane of the canvas. Johns at least allowed himself reference – nothing less than the American flag – as well as targets numbers and maps, all flat to begin with. Flatness, (masculine space, as Dave Hickey brilliantly stated) obviously had something to do with modernity’s evolution  – at least with most of the artists who made it into modernity’s story. Art was up against the wall, so to speak. Artists such as Michael Heiser, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria, Richard Long and Peter Hutchinson took their work literally out of the box, out of doors (circa 1968/69) into what came to be known as »Land ...« or »Earth Art«. (At the time I was a student at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia with Steven Greene – previously the teacher of Frank Stella – and Italo Scanga – previously the teacher of Bruce Nauman. One day, in March '69, I drove up the Delaware, with the idea to walk across the water dripping white latex paint and, of course, photographing the process. It might have been a subconscious reference to Jackson Pollock and Jesus Christ, not necessarily in that order.) For many artists earth works were not only a reaction to minimalist aesthetics, but also a reaction to the volatile political atmosphere in the United States precipitated by the Vietnam War – the consequent drafting of men – as well as to the movements towards equality for women and African Americans. Desert holes as art (not just holes in the desert) and seemingly unsalable photographs thumb-nosed the establishment – supposedly undermining the existent gallery system. For some artists at the time there was aversion to objects, because an object can be sold in a gallery. The »fetishization of objects«, as Benjamin Buchloh put it, was deemed immoral. (I didn’t go that route. I thought a photograph was an object, albeit a thin one.) Earth Art was soon followed by Body Art – Bruce Nauman’s Myself as a Fountain, Vito Acconci’s Seedbed, and Dennis Oppenheim’s Reading Position for Second Degree Burn. Like surrealism, conceptual art encompassed several mediums – photography, film, literature and sculpture. I believe photography, as documentation of Earth  Art and Body Art, came through art’s back door. Photographic documentation was necessary. (Hiring a painter to document what was defined by any kind of action, that is duration, would have been ridiculous: If you pick an X of daises in a field as Richard Long did, in weeks the rest of the daisies will die away – no more X, no more art. If you shovel concentric rings in snow across a frozen river as Dennis did, eventually the snow will melt. I often wondered if Dennis meant this great piece as a reference to Marcel Duchamp, the godmother of conceptualism – putting Duchamp’s snow shovel back to work. Too bad I forgot to ask him.) So, these images had to be preserved in some way – brought back indoors, so to speak – and the obvious candidate was the medium of photography. Photography became conceptualism’s validation. Photography raised its hand and said: »Hey Dudes« (they were mostly dudes), »take me. I’m here, I’ll save the art.« And so photographs started appearing in art galleries, as documentation of Land and Body Art. Soon artists said: If we can hang photographs as documentation, well then, what the fuck, why not do photographs directly as art. Forget snow shovels and frozen rivers! So-called Story or Narrative Art, evolved as a somewhat illogical offshoot of conceptualism, where the photograph and the writing was the art, not documentation of something else. We sensed – nostalgically I believe – that the great narrative of modernism was coming to a close. So why not write a short story that went nowhere, to hang on the wall. You have to put something there. (This was before flat screen TVs.) For narrative artists, the story was the object – later a missing link to the so-called Picture Generation, where appropriated photographs were definitely considered objects, otherwise how could you think about appropriating them? My own epiphany came that cold day in March. Looking for a place to cross the river I accidentally came upon Washington’s Crossing, and I thought: Shit, what a coincidence! With gallons of paint strapped to my belt, half way across the river, I tripped and fell under, released the ballast (the paint) and let go of the camera. Left with no documentary proof, just the story, I thought maybe that was enough. In the late seventies and early eighties another group of artists, Cindy Sherman, Sherry Levine, Jenny Holtzer, Richard Prince, Louise Lawler, Barbara Kruger, went straight to the photograph, which by that time was a full-fledged medium in the heretofore men’s club of art.
AvD: There are a lot of names and circumstances in your »personal history«, naturally. I allow myself to select a few bits. Surrealism definitely is a topic (if not a realm in itself) I can relate to easily. When it comes to photography, strangely enough, to me this relation doesn't seem to be very fruitful. Surrealism is primarily an attitude, trying to (re-)induce poetry into phenomenology – and putting these words, I'd almost say that they are most appropriate to describe what makes a good photographer (cinéaste … trying not to forget). Fact is that the surrealist ideology derived from German idealism – and as you may remember, Nietzsche said that all Germans are Hegelians. So, I should sympathize. Yet we have to consider that some of the greatest pioneers or masters of photography didn't care much about the surrealist movement – just to mention one contemporary: August Sander had nothing to do with it, for the sake of both, I suppose. And one may have the suspicion that most of the surrealist artists, when they made use of the fairly new technology, were at least tempted to »just make use of it«, even if it might have been in the most daring way. (I'd like to make two exceptions: Man Ray, as one of the devoted innovators; Dalí, as one of the most intelligent global players of the XX. century, who's practice of  »just making use of ...« always showed some result we still have some difficulties to cope with.) Then there is Jasper Johns. His move (almost a coup – or a scoop) was the equalization of the image carrier and the subject, supposing »content« as »one«, the real thing. He could even do without pointing out that what you see is what you see; he could afford to keep quiet, as it was all too clear what you saw. (It doesn't matter that his coolness became lame since the 80's; he did his job, and that's fair enough.) The first Flag is a sufficient starting point for any discussion about »What actually is an image?« And, instead of »actually« you may put »really« – between these two we'd find a great part of the truth.
BB: I am only saying that although there was a connection to surrealism with various friends at 112 Greene Street Gallery, in particular Matta-Clark, and although the surrealists did bring photography into the context of painting and sculpture, surrealism’s influence was much less a motivation than the necessity, through photography, to break out of the box that minimalist sculptors and painters had created. Minimalism was a very regimented, Apollonian movement. Even its founder, Frank Stella, had to find away out of it. My response to minimalism motivated me to do what I did more so than any influence of surrealist photography. I do believe this breaking out of the box was a motivation for those friends I mentioned. We never talked about surrealism or so-called fine art photography. I did learn how to develop photographs, and I had a little darkroom in my loft. Vito asked me to photograph him biting himself. Biting is a kind of printmaking. It makes an impression. It is interesting to note where on the body one can bite oneself. There are places that are inaccessible to one’s mouth. Others that are not. Then he asked me to print a few of the photographs. I said: »Sure, bring me ten sheets of paper.« So he bought a pack of twenty-five sheets, pulled ten out of the box, and brought them to me, not realizing the paper was sensitive to light. There are a couple of things we might understand from this anecdote: Biting oneself is not surrealism, it is real. Secondly, for conceptualists in the early seventies, like Vito and Dennis, photography was a means to an end. Of course, for Mapplethorpe photography was an end in itself. That worked out quite well. In moving to the present, whatever the present may come to mean, I want to go back in time to the Greeks, and in particular their concept of apodicticity. This supposes that some propositions are self evident, demonstrable, and in short, logically certain. Interestingly both minimalism and photography reinforce the notion of apodicticity. Minimal art provided a system, proposed a dictum – and followed it through to its logical conclusion. The adherence to a system is evident in the early Black Paintings of Frank Stella (I love them still.) He begins with a black stripe that follows the outside edge of the canvas, and moves inwards with every stripe reflecting the original stripe and outside edge of the canvas. No deviance! This approach is also evident in the floor pieces of Carl Andre and the sculptures of Donald Judd, where every element has a logical relationship to every other element in the work. Likewise, every element in analogue photography, every form, is assumed to have a logical relationship to whatever it represents in reality. Do you see how Stella’s black paintings and analogue photography are similar? Everything within the painting is an analogue of the painting’s outside edge. In photography of that time everything is thought of as an analogue of so-called reality. The reason for this presumption is obvious. Light bounces off an object; the lens of the camera focuses the light onto an emulsion inside the camera and burns that emulsion relative to the darks and lights of the subject. The subject is responsible for what you see on the film and what you see on the print. Of course the big difference between the Black Paintings and photography is that with the Black Paintings the system is closed onto itself (except for the titles like Bethlehem’s Hospital and Arbeit Macht Frei). But with photography, clicking the shutter opens one up to whatever there is in the outside world. From the beginning, there were many ways to lie with photography – through cropping, dodging the print in the developer, and through multiple exposures, to name just a few. Of course photography is a system of signs, and semiotics is the study of signs. In Theory of Semiotics, Eco’s proposes semiotics as this: »Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign. A sign is everything that can be taken as significantly substituting for something else. This something else does not necessarily have to exist or to actually be somewhere at the moment the sign stands for it. Thus semiotics is in principle the discipline studying everything that can be used in order to lie. If something cannot be used to tell a lie, conversely it cannot be used to tell the truth: it cannot be used to tell at all. I think that the definition of a theory of the lie should be taken as a pretty comprehensive program for a general semiotics.« Like minimalism’s supposition of absolute truth – how do you argue with a Black Painting? – suppositions of photography’s truthiness were similar. Then along comes digitalization. Even a non-professional – the woman or man on the street – is aware of imaging possibilities. (We may designate them as apps and Photoshop.) Photography now easily distorts, and Photoshop etc. can totally undermine what was once considered photographic truth. If we want to trust what we see in a photograph or video, it is not the medium that is ultimately accountable for the message, but the medium’s source or context – the website, the newspaper, the commentator, the gallery. (This gets complicated, because in this context it’s art.) These days, the bottom-line building block in almost everything except painting is the pixel. (I would love to know what Marshall McLuhan would have to say about this.) Digitalization may be the reason why there is such an incredible divide between so-called political truths – left and right –  because in undermining suppositions of truth via digitalization, resultant hardcore assumptions try to compensate. Art and literature never needed hardcore truth, and that’s why fiction and poetry are most sophisticated and supple examples of language. It’s also how twentieth-century painting completely discarded the pretense of representation; see Rothko, Still and Barnett Newman. Perhaps for a deeper truth? Or better yet – the sublime. So I have read on a West Coast website, called Extreme Tech, that the future for imaging (photography/language/cinema etc.) is glowing bacteria biopixels. The living organisms they are experimenting with are e.coli bacteria, most commonly found in the lower intestines of warm-blooded organisms (especially humans). Now these bacteria are not always the bad guys that kill you if you swallow infected tomatoes. E.coli produce necessary vitamins and prevent the growth of certain other pathogenic bacteria. The e.coli bacteria are easy to grow in a laboratory where they have served as the host for work done with recombinant DNA. In this case, the researches have added a certain protein to the bacteria’s biological clock that makes them light up. Bacteria actually pass molecules between themselves (if we can imagine bacteria having a self) to coordinate and trigger behavior. Biochemists house these bacteria on computer chips and can program them to light up en masse in predictable ways. But since bacteria are living organisms and living organisms are known to evolve, one can imagine, as I am now, the e.coli quickly evolving into sentient beings. They might not have arms and legs – who needs them? – and they might have to stay skinny since their home is so thin. But with all that electrical nudging they might soon start to think on their own. We all know that e.coli bacteria can’t be trusted (they can be killers in a can of Campbell’s Tomato) so they might develop enough sentience to successfully rebel in front of their programmer’s eyes, as they have for millennia rebelled against their host’s stomachs. And if they can think on their own, soon they might compose poetry or even move around enough to change the arrangement of whatever image they are programmed to represent – there’s always aesthetics, particularly with receptive bacteria. For truth and photography then, where would we be?
AvD: I'm sure that my uneasiness about your connecting apodicticity and minimalism is mainly due to my lack of knowledge of ... I wanted to say: minimalism; instead, I should say: the theory of minimal art. And maybe here, through this differentiation, I can run for cover. As far as I understand, minimalism (or, to stick to what you're referring to: minimal art, as it came to some peak at the end of the 60's) is rather a method than a theory, trying to reduce the elements of a particular piece of work as far as possible and, by doing so, pointing out these elements, especially the material and the process, as something similar to what otherwise would have been the subject (sujet), in order to figure out the internal – or, ideally: inherent – conditions and relations as constitutive for this particular piece and, through this explicitness, even literality, achieve something like an abstract of the essence of art itself ... which makes it difficult for me, right now, to suppress a certain tongue-in-cheek impulse to say that this abstract is as good as any allegory!? So far, so good the minimal art. I can only suppose that the concerned theory, for its depending on words, took too much advantage of the explicitness – abusing what was specific, for the good of its own distinctiveness and turning it into something like the ten commandments, discreetly reducing those to three rules of the game. So, while thinking that minimal art may be vaguely associated with something like modal logic, one could understand the respected theory as apodictic, in a rather colloquial sense. Having stated this I can leave photography aside, which in my perspective is inevitably indicative – whatever a particular photograph may depict, even if that would be nothing but blackness of the night, as this blackness, in order to be recognized, would have to be surrounded by something else than night. I don't want to neglect your report on future imaging. Trying not to understate what seems to be a research with some thrilling results, I wonder if any new kind of being, capable of lightening up and – to a certain extent – even of enlightening themselves (if not their selves), would have a choice aside from being an entity (supported by some kind of a mind) as well as a medium, perceiving and, at the same time, influencing other entities, which the former are confronted with, and so having to deal with the problem of reality – just like human beings. In order to save their identity, they would have to distinguish themselves from what they are confronted with – showing a certain tendency towards designing it, even creating new forms ... meaning, they would find pleasure in maintaining some subjectivity, turning any object into some sujet and producing objects even more interesting, which they might call »pieces of work« (of art). And they would believe to be gods, capable of adding a certain protein ... But, this is practically what you were saying. »Where would we be?« Maybe in the hands of those beings; and they would call us »video cameras«.
BB: Did you know that Cecil B. DeMille filmed the scene of Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea in a Paramount Hollywood parking lot? It wasn’t really the Red Sea. (Wasn’t Moses either.) God wrote the original Ten Commandments in stone, but since he wasn’t cooperating with Hollywood in 1956, DeMille had to build a large trough in the parking lot, spill the water over it, and run the film backward to give the illusion of waters parting. If an audience still exists today for commandments, the scene would surely be done digitally – plastic computer screens are less messy and more cost effective than troughs in Hollywood parking lots. While Moses was up on the mountain, his people took time out for an orgy. (The second most famous cinematic orgy is in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.) Now orgy scenes are a bit more graphic these days, and performed by hundreds of thousands of extras, with Iphones, Galaxies, Sony’s and Canon’s – all over the world. I would imagine that DeMille’s inclusion of this orgy scene, along with the Red Sea parting, contributed to the film’s box office success. With the inspiration of The Ten Commandments I will attempt to bring together terminologies of »lies« and »intimacy« through the medium of cinema. (See commandments seven and nine! Actually, as I think of it, the ninth commandment, »Bring no false witness against they neighbor«, doesn’t mention anything about method acting.) Eco was simply stating that you are not locked into what is actually a state of the world as you are stating it – through painting, photography, whatever; any sign system has to be at least independent of states of the world, though not detached completely. I have tried to think of words that would be less problematic than »lie«, such as »untruth«, »falsehood«, »that little white thing« and so on, but for the purpose of our discussion … So I am going to lie now, using a sentence from Bertrand Russell: »The king of France is bald.« Nothing stopped me from writing it. I didn’t choke up. My hand didn’t cramp. On top of that, it does make sense, i.e. signify. It’s just not true – no king of France at the moment, so »bald« is irrelevant. With the same English I can also say: »The president of the United States is African American.« This is true as I write. And if the English language was not capable of uttering: »The king of France is bald«, one would not be able to utter: »The president of the United States is black«, either. Or for that matter: »The Chancellor of Germany has light brown bangs.« What does all this have to do with cinema? Presently I am working with little black squiggly things (letters) that ordered in a particular way give you the idea that the king of France is black – whoops – that the king of France is bald. There is no discernible logic as to why these irregular squiggles signify: The Chancellor of Germany has light brown bangs. These squiggles don’t look like bangs. Bands are quite straight. These black squiggles simply represent sounds in the English language. But even the sounds do not have any discernible audible relationship to what they mean. So the sounds and the words have a life of their own, just like the chancellor of Germany has a life of her own. She is not free to do anything at all however. Neither are words or photographs. In order to make sense there are certain cultural conventions. Now photography at least was different than language – or painting -- because as a sign system, it had relied on objects that did exist at the point in time when the shutter was snapped. Photography seemed at first to depend on these objects for its entire existence. But almost as soon as photography emerged as a medium, photographers found ways to lie, as well as to tell the truth. It is possible the lie was for a larger truth, or maybe the photographer was being deceptive for personal gain. Nevertheless, photography replaced painting as the harbinger of truth. This is all old stuff, Andreas. What I am really interested in is that the popularization of imagining apps, the knowledge that any image can be shuffled around iconically, so what will be the next harbinger of truth? Will anything step in and take photography’s place? In the meantime we have to depend on context. If we don’t want lies, we must trust the source. But sometimes in films like Fantasia, Triplets of Belleville and Some Like it Hot, to name a few out of thousands, we don’t care if it’s true. We care if it’s good. And that is why context has become so important, and perhaps why political contexts have become so polarized. Let’s all hold up in our castles and shoot arrows. How to segue into orgies? Check out Czechorgies.com. You’ll have to join up to get the full Monty. There you will see more people in orgy mode that in DeMille’s or Kubrick’s versions, and they are all doing it for free. It is not film history. So while Cecile is up on a ladder giving instructions for the orgy scene, a girl in the cast is having a chat with her girlfriend. So Cecile says: »Hey can’t this wait till after we shoot? What were you saying that’s so important? We are here making film history.« And the girls shoots back: »I was saying, When the fuck is that old bald guy up there on the ladder gonna give us a break? I’m hungry.« Not missing a beat, Cecile shouts through his megaphone: »Lunch time!« Intimacy and truth. Two things here: 1. Because of easy digital manipulation, photography has lost the edge it had on factors of truth. This might not matter as much with art, but it does matter in other areas of human discourse, like murder investigations. What, if anything will take photography’s place? We still have to believe in something, don’t we? Will it come down to simple faith? The resurrection? Because of easy digital manipulation what was heretofore considered intimate – intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus etc. – is out there everywhere. It’s so common it hardly seems transgressive. I am not scandalized or taking a moral stance (I am not against orgies or digital photography), just wondering what is intimate these days, or if that’s all irrelevant. I once had an affair with another artist’s wife. I really liked and respected his work and told her so. She said: »Oh don’t worry, he doesn’t care what we do, as long as we don’t have an intellectual conversation.« So we never discussed Wittgenstein.
AvD: Though being quite familiar with film history, I have to admit that the one thing immediately coming to my mind whenever DeMille is mentioned, is his performance in Sunset Boulevard – not one single image, he produced as a director. I might have missed something, but I always had the suspicion that he mainly was an impostor. (An impostor can be very charming, and usually he does have something to offer; otherwise, he wouldn't be successful: that »something« breaks ground for what he has to suggest, and for what we are supposed to believe him totally.) Which leads us to the matter of lie and truth. The first example you gave, is significant enough: I would say it was not the image (the sequence of images) showing »Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea«, which was lying to us; it was the suggestion (given with the whole context of the all too well-known story, the dialogue, all the other sequences etc.) that this someone doing something was Moses parting … which was a lie, a fabrication, manipulation, or whatever we may call it. Someone (any enfant sauvage, just coming from some black forest) who wouldn't know anything about Bible, Jesus, DeMille, film making, extras etc. would just see what he sees – and, by that, might get the most authentic impression of DeMille's work. I always tend to think that this attitude is most appropriate – at least ideally – whenever being confronted with something supposed to be a piece of art, knowing all to well that what I suggest as an ideal constellation, is mere ideology, and that within one second reflection starts, with all the knowledge, prejudices, education, memory and references. What I try to point out is, that no image can lie – as long as we take it for what it is: an image. If a particular image depicts George Bush sen., and this image includes an insert, saying: »Read my lips!«, then this image is, at first state, a manipulation (being an obvious montage), though we all know that the guy did say that, and that what he suggested turned out to be wrong. But the image would show something no one ever really saw; it would insinuate something many people went on to think: that the guy is a liar – which might have been true. The question whether that image is a lie or not, can be answered only depending on whether it is supposed to be a piece of art and whether we come to the conclusion that it's smart or silly, beautiful or just a drag – which is something we can not discuss here, as we are not in the situation of seeing it. Context – this wonderful word – also means: Someone who had a look up to the Sistine Chapel ceiling, at Michelangelo's painting of God reaching out to ... in 1597, supposed he was a Christian, probably didn't have any doubt concerning the authenticity of the mere narration; and his being overwhelmed by the impact, the image might have had on him, he might as well have been confirmed in his religious believe – which, we can assume, was the main purpose of commissioning Michelangelo. When I – myself never having believed in God for one minute in my life – had a look, I didn't care about the narration being true or false; I saw an image – while being influenced, of course, by the whole building, something I knew about Michelangelo, and perhaps feeling connected with that unknown »someone« in 1597. Before drifting away too far (by giving examples like: When a police officer, misreading my identity card, says to me: »Born 1980?«, I can restrict myself to: »No.«; when recently sweet Maya, before switching to body language, noted: »You can't be older than 34«, I thought showing her my identity card wouldn't fuel our enterprise, and so preferred saying: »I think I know what you mean.« To be honest, I don't particularly like examples – or, to be more precise: stories, supposed to give an example; they give me the feeling that someone, suggesting he already knows the plain truth, treats me like a child who'd need the candid version.) I would like to stick to what seems to me the issue of significance. I believe: You can lie only within one and the same language; you can lie only in that particular language we call »language«; in order to lie, you need at least two, I'd even say three, words. Only what is supposed to state a fact, can be objected to as a lie; only language can have the function of giving an information, and abuse a particular formulation for the purpose of misleading; so it can be informative (»The president of the United States died yesterday.«) as well as mere formulation (»April is the cruelest month ...«). Any other kind of language – that is, any other way of expressing oneself or depicting something – is media, which by definition includes construction (made obvious by media itself, as something different from language itself, as originally we can think only in words, sorry!): it is produced, and it produces – there is always some making of ... Different from any phenomenon (rain – which may be understood as produced, but not by someone), every image is obviously made by someone. Neither the phenomenon nor the image lies; not the rain, as it doesn't make any statement signifying anything, and not the image – even, if it shows something like rain while I happen to see it in bright sunlight –, as it doesn't claim to state anything but itself, signifying nothing but, for example, »Rain, painted by ...« and here comes the signature, or »I'm a masterpiece«. So, every image is an obvious artefact – its authenticity depending only on its form, which makes me believe, or not, that the artist knew what he was doing and that what I think he did corresponds with what he thought – leaving both of us aware of a difference, to be filled up with misunderstanding or fame. This long and winding elaboration may have the one good (side-) effect of – for example, by saying : »Before drifting away too far ...«, and then doing exactly what I supposed myself not to do – insinuating the idea of an artefact. (As a piece of art it would be a mess; but on behalf of referring to you, I didn't want to come up with a poem.) Anyway, I did not give any information; I was just combining words in order to express myself and to explain something – and to make an impression. This impression may support a higher ambition – that, instead of being all too intrigued by any lie this new key discipline of art, photography (including everything from one frame to endless stream), might tell us, we'd be better off with trying to figure out some truth it may newly enable us to see. I would like to think that it is even what makes digital disposition dangerous – its power of manipulation – that might make it suitable for putting a specific accent on the artificial plus its relation to what is supposed to be the real. In this sense, moving images – with us being aware of them as technique – might relate us most adequately to our original language. This, I admit, is a rather abrupt conclusion. I hope, it also works as a hypothesis, you could relate to. And if I may add this: Referring to the big fuss made of the great mystery of the smile of La Gioconda – what the woman might have thought right at the moment she smiled while being painted –, Valéry said: »She might have thought, Leonardo thinks instead of me.« Which, I think, can be read as: This smile does not express any thought of that woman, but what the artist was thinking, when he painted it. There is no woman, it's a piece of work.
BB: Yes, Mona, what a piece of work you are, your smile is frontal nudity! Back then Amish folk in my hometown didn’t want their picture taken because they knew that the light of their smiles was responsible for igniting grains of silver halide. It gets into every crevice, every follicle, like giving away one’s soul. Or so they thought. Today I call the elevator to ground level Wooster Street, SoHo. A shop on the third floor caters to brides. Often I encounter entourages of mother, daughter, and prospective maids of honor, who have recently purchased a gown or two. Here intimacy is assumed. It is the hours after wedding photographers have all gone to sleep. Actually every time I get in the elevator I hallucinate, »The bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even ...«. Duchamp’s Étant donnés (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas) reminds me of pubic-hairless pornography. Of course, it is not pornography, and neither is Courbet’s The Origin ... or Manet’s Olympia. We can cite images of pornography – the thousands available online. They are hardly Manets, but they get the job done. I remember when a film called I am Curious Yellow came out. People lined up around a New York City block, because the film contained what was then already called »frontal nudity«. All the fuss was about a fuzzy triangle of pubic hair shot from across the street. Now it seems like everyone online is naked. Not complaining. Of course the number of online voyeurs far outnumber the number of online participants. Wonder when the scales will tip. Do we have need of a single other in a more intimate way than we know the throngs? A mole on the length of labia? I am not taking a stand here against the presence of cameras in close proximity to orifices. To separate these you would need an organization more efficient than the SS. Why would you want to try? Intimacy is haven from horror – horror of the sublime. Loosing oneself to a single person is preferable to loosing one self to the uncountable and uncontrollable many, even if the particular individual is unpredictable. I am waxing romantic here, lapsing into nineteenth-century smaltz. You don’t like that, do you? There is a passage in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, where the principle character, Hans Castorp, receiving treatment for tuberculosis in a Swiss sanatorium, falls in love with a fellow resident. Called to the medical offices for an X-ray, he stumbles on an X-ray of his love interest’s lungs. This photograph has a profound effect on him. I imagine its result was erotic, because X-ray photography was new back then. It was certainly not pornographic because pornography is only skin deep. It usually cuts off a few millimeters behind lips, labia, or anus – never as deep as a lung. What am I looking for here? A sense of self? In James Joyce’s The Dead, Gabriel’s fragmenting psyche is seen through flakes of snow softly falling on the banks of the Shannon. At a dinner party his wife hears an old Irish melody that reminds her of a boy she once loved. Gabriel realizes his belated affection for her is not the love his wife shares with Michael, a boy long dead. Gabriel’s psyche shatters. Art is redemptive as long as it’s good. These days it offers an alternative discourse to the defunct and adjunct discourses of contemporary life. Joyce’s story contains quiet references to Calvary. After all, he was Irish. I am a fan of nude beaches, particularly the sands on beaches near Perpignan. But I’m not a nudist – I’m only naked. Sorry, I meander here from grains of suspended silver, to grains of sand and beaches, to flakes of snow in Ireland, to the grain of Joyce’s voice: »A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.«
AvD: It's hard for me to discuss the Mona Lisa (the painting); in order to see it first, I would have to make my way through forty people raising their hands, armed with mobiles, and trying to capture something like an image of something they seem to avoid looking at. I assume it's not anything frontal they're afraid of, rather the sublime, that is, some provocation telling them to change their lives, instead of just taking a few days off. Or, one may think, that any real thing – anything not mediated, weakened and distorted by comments and legends, translated into the same confusion ruling the minds of (excuse me) most people – nowadays has the impact of something obscene, if not frightening. I've made the experience that the most simple sentence – its mere content as harmless as: »The space is not somewhere out there; planet earth is part of it« or, »The sugar is right next to your left hand; please give it to me!«, but stripped bare of any appeasing »You know what I mean«, or »Okay?« – can make people scream as if Alien itself had suddenly confronted them with a heavy-metal smile. It's just too much – anything formulated as restricted to pure matter is like passing the irreversible sentence of brain salad surgery. In this sense – which would only refer to the classics – the overwhelming impression of something more powerful than human nature, the sublime, can be imposed on us by a nude. And turning back to our issue – if, as Mussorsky suggested, the art of the future will be made by speaking statues, then photography (again, understood as the embracing discipline) might be a most appropriate medium for figuring out a smile, for example, in a way that there wouldn't be any need for an insert ...
BB: So perhaps the medium is the massage. With any massage has to be a masseuse. So where is the naked massagee? She channels reality too – through her eyes, ears, nose, tongue and flesh. Each person is a medium as each medium is a species. But unhappily, we are the only species with a camera. (Actually a monkey’s selfie just went viral.) The mechanics of photography, in particular the ability to change lenses helped me understand that my experience of reality was shaped by the lenses in my eyes. Our lenses are roughly equivalent to a 50mm lens in a 35mm camera. Leica used readily available cinema film, for their early rangefinders. In order to match the camera’s spatial relationships with our own, we needed 50mm lenses for these cameras. But we humans could have just as well been born with the equivalent of 28mm lenses in our eyes or perhaps 200mm lenses. We would experience reality differently then as our arms reach out to hug a friend. Photography aspired to reality – from grainy black and white through successive innovations, various emulsions that made color photography possible and more life-like. (An African American friend of mine pointed out that Kodak’s emulsions were adjusted for optimum realism in white folk’s skin color.) But with any medium, realism is only a style. Along came digital photography. I once argued that I would acknowledge it when pixels were smaller than grains of film. Pixels now are incredibly small, and their relationship to photographic grain is irrelevant. In fact photographers often add noise to give the photo texture that grain once supplied. Digital photography has progressed from a comfortable replication of reality in two dimensions, to high definition TV, to super high definition TV and to 3D television. Google glasses allow outside images to intermix with the images channeled electronically. Oculus Rift is a box-like game contraption that covers the upper part of the face and obliterates reality. (Don’t use this device while standing near a precipice.) Otherwise, it’s really cool, or so say my sons. All of this is happening through the Über-medium of photography, both still and cinema. May we call interactive gaming devises »cinema«? We have holograms (in conceptual art early on with Bruce Nauman and later with Alexander McQueen.) But although holograms have come a long way since then, still they are caged. What if they could walk around the room? Then at least we could test if they are reality or not by shaking their hand. If we feel nothing but our own embrace, we can know that see-but-no-touch is a symptom of the medium. May we think of Phillip Dick’s – via Ridley Scott’s – replicants in Blade Runner as a logical extension of this progression? At least replicants can be touched, even fucked without the intermediary of a plastic screen. Plato held sight as the highest sense. It is the most distancing and therefore the most mediated. A gaze holds things apart for contemplation. Aristotle went against Platonic doctrine by regarding touch as the medium of note. But the medium of sight predominates contemporary western culture, and photography of one sort or another is its principle medium. Besides family photos and the possibility of proof in legal plights, photography has also given us pornography. I am not morally against pornography. Actually, I like it sometimes. But I’ve always had a problem with Puritanism. Pornography and Puritanism have one thing in common. They inhibit the sense of touch. The Shakers, a nineteenth century sect, that for obvious reasons survived barely into the twentieth, didn’t allow touch even in marriage. Their pillows were blocks of wood. Similarly, pornography offers the experience of touch through flat screen monitors – smooth, glossy, homogenous surfaces, where everything from the warmth of lips on an unshaven cheek, to a slippery dick, to labia’s soft spongy comfort, is reduced to the cold, hard, indifferent piece of plastic we ironically call a touch screen. Yes, photography is the Über-medium and sight the Über-sense. The sense of beauty is the pleasure of sight. Stories often follow this track: I see someone walking. I take them at a glance. I want them closer. In minutes or years they may be close, so close they surround me and obliterate my sight.
AvD: Speaking of realism and beauty, I tend to think that realism is not merely a style – ike naturalism, suggesting a social or scientific relevance and, in most cases, ending up in clichés – but an attitude one can keep towards anything given, equalizing any matter (as an arbitrary sujet, without anticipating any particular result), and which can be translated even into technical terms: Bresson, for example, since 1950 until 1983, used only the 50mm lens (which may have forced him to develop a certain montage) – with this almost stubborn objectivity having the effect of a constant inner vision ... also, that beauty is not necessarily connected with sight; you can hear it as well: a voice on the phone, or anything from Bach to Bird – as the notion of beauty is one of integrity (in a merely formal sense, and to a degree that one could even state that form and beauty were synonyms). I admit that these explanations sound a bit academic. But I can take up one of your examples: Blade Runner – I don't sense this as a particularly beautiful nor realistic piece of work; A Space Odyssey definitely is, the latter focussing in every second on the actual matter – the apes or the 18th century interior – without shaping it according to an all-over design, though saving a coherent view – which is neither HAL's nor the one of a mere cinematographer (or set designer), but of an artist; and you can find this point of view with Barry Lyndon as well as with Lolita ... which could lead me to the issue of pornography, but only by means of semantics, not in terms of visual arts; and so it won't. One final statement: Reality is the momentary realm of what's given; within one second perception takes over, and in order to re-establish reality as a quality, this perception – turned into reflection – has to be used for discovering an idea. As a formulation (like this) it's not much more than trivial; as a practice – turned into a profession – called »art«, it sometimes is difficult.
BB: Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. Of course, it’s not all touch-screen. We can have it both ways. Like the Beatles, people can still hold hands, find places to fuck, and go to the theater, all in one night. So what if the fiddler you pay is a touch screen taxi TV. But I wouldn’t want to watch Apocalypse Now in a taxi, certainly not on an iPhone. Those screens are too small for that content unless it gets smaller to fit. Nineteenth-century painters, Thomas Cole and his student Frederic Church, painted the sublime as vast expanses of nature, volcanoes, waterfalls – frightening and beautiful – on large canvases. Church took his paintings on tour, charging admission in tents where he showed them. For The Heart of the Andes he surrounded the painting with exotic plants brought in from the Andes. He equipped the paintings with curtains, darkened the space and lit only the image. People plunked down their quarters and sat quietly for a while, then filed away. Only thing – nothing moved (except for the audience). The waters still. We can call this »Pre-cinema Americana«. After the horrors of the Second World War, the sublime returned to American art with abstract expressionists. Rothko and Newman painted the sublime as vast empty spaces on vast and empty canvases full of life. (You know the MOMA didn’t allow photographs for quite some time. But with smart phone cameras they have completely thrown in the towel. You know the paintings most photographed? Warhol’s, Campbell’s Soup Cans.) In his essay Turned Upside Down and Torn Apart, my friend Tom McEvilley suggested that our contemporary sublime is the world-wide homogenization of cultures loosing their edge, »blurring into a big, vague, more or less sameness«. The universal digitalization of media is responsible for uniformity not only in the easy and expedient way content is spread from culture to culture, but also through the homogenization of all media into pixels. So if McLuhan was correct in predicting the Internet thirty years before it happened, is he correct with: »The medium is the message«? If he is, then we are all getting the same message – with photography, cinema, video and music and these little black squiggles we call »mails«. This can’t be right, can it? Really. It may follow logic, but it cannot be true. Isn’t it still possible for cultures and mediums to have separate identities, different content? If not, then what is responsible for the deep political divide, the fundamentalism on both sides? How can opposing bastions of content be using the same media? Somehow I think this is a stupid question for me to ask, and I need more time to think it through. Western culture embraced multi-culture in self-defense. The recognition of other ideas and customs is now morphing into one continuous blur. But wait a minute; I say to myself, Bill, how can you possibly make that statement with pseudo-nations like ISIS around, who periodically behead. Except for their internet presence, ISIS seems to be from a different millennium. Maybe that’s their online message. You know they actually tweet? Okay guys, you go behead, I’ll go tweet. I wonder what the beheaded might think the moment after their head is severed. Brief regret? Anyway a beheading involves an actual head, neck, body, blood, knife and last but not least a beheader. A controller in Las Vegas guides drones and cameras to their targets remotely, and their targets are not only beheaded, but be-necked and de-balled – torn apart. But these photographic images are not as effective as the images of ISIS’s beheadings. An ancient cultural practice, the beheading is disseminated digitally over the net for most of the global village – with much more impact than a puff of smoke in a drone attack. A drone attack is death at a distance. A beheading is in-your-face. I told you earlier that I found a couple of pastels in a drawer, drawings from my father. Sometime later, my father found a cardboard box of old photos in his father’s house, well preserved from seventy years before – of him and his brother at ages six and four. His father passed them to his son, my father to me, and soon my sons will see. The sublime comes down/To the spirit in space/The empty spirit. We have pictures to fill the voids of Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Youtube, and Vimeo. You may be on all of these websites, I haven’t checked. They do have a lot of void to fill. I see you are not in any of my dad’s photographs. But I am sure he would have liked you. Never mind, those photos are way before your time. Who are you then, my Mademoiselle Mystery Media Mum? I know for sure you are not pixels because I have probed and kissed you, not necessarily in that order. To be sure, I have taken care to leave no evidence – no footprints, no curly hair in bathtubs, no stains on sheets, no photos on hard drives – yes, the perfect murder. But I don’t want a perfect murder. I want an imperfect medium. You exist for me both as a spirit-ghost, and in lucky moments, flesh! You are not a fantasy; you are more real than any other medium I have known. Funny, I usually don’t photograph media. I usually use media to photograph stuff. I want to photograph you. I want to see you naked. Typical isn’t it? Fucking guys – just like bachelors with brides stripped bare, they want to get you naked – so do the girls. Photography is the perfect ploy. Take it off! It’s for art, they say. But if I am lucky, nudity will become art, like Olympia, The Naked Maja, or David without his Goliath. Oil and Stone, now there’s a couple of mediums for you. I have not snapped a shutter anywhere in your neighborhood. I swear to god. So what will I tell my grandchildren, you lovely goddamn daughter fucking son of a bitch – I’ll have nothing to show. We can fix all that. Let’s deep-freeze some sperm. We can keep it in a secret refrigerator like the CIA. But what if there’s a blackout in New York City? Careful planning will fix all that. We will purchase a generator that turns on automatically, just like we do when the lights go dim, or better yet, in broad daylight. Then one day when you are ready, you can throw the concoction into the developer, slosh the tray, and see what pops. Don’t forget to dip the fix. Be my gal and brew our mix. Here is the recipe: My ashes, my sperm, your egg or two. What shall you call her, Genevieve, Nancy, Annabel, or Lou? She’s yours to name, and yours to do.