G. W. F. Hegel on photography

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aricmayer, Jul 12, 2004.

  1. "This kind of knowledge (photography) seems to be the truest, the most authentic, for it
    has the object before itself in its entirety and completeness. This bare fact of certainty,
    however, is really and admittedly the abstractest and the poorest kind of truth."

    ---From G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, on the emergence of photography
    out of the camera obscura's use in painting.

    There have been many threads in this forum on truth and the legitimacy of photography as
    art. When I read this I thought it was an interesting counterpoint from one of the great
    philosophers. Has the evolution of photography to where we are today proven him wrong?
     
  2. "...This bare fact of certainty, however, is really and admittedly the abstractest and the poorest kind of truth..."

    I'm going to try to respond to your question as I understand it, which of course may differ from your intent in posting it. If "photographic truth" if taken to mean an unbiased depiction of reality, then "artistic truth" could be taken to mean which aspects of reality a particular individual deem to notice, and which aspects he chooses to ignore. A depiction of reality becomes "artistic" when it if filtered though our own individual collection of preoccupations and selective judgments. A motion picture records reality at 24 frames per second. The decision of which of these frames represents "The Decisive Moment" is purely an individual artistic one, but that decision (which frame to choose as most important artistically) may overshadow even those questions that pertain to what was actually being filmed.
     
  3. I think if you suspect Hegel of a plastic (soul) consciousness), you could easily interpret exactly what he is saying, and it is, truly, quite beautiful-and many other things, transcendental, spiritual....Holy Cow!and Gee Whiz! Well, that's my take on it,anyway and oh, breathtaking.
    I ran a quick Google to see if I could find something to back up my understanding, and what I think Hegel means here...I don't even want to say "I think...", but that I know! I am no Hegel scholar...I just understand his attachment to this idea of plastic being, through many other readings and conversations.
    In fact, strangely, I ran across a photograph on photo.net today, which I was compelled to remark on because it was the first photograph that seemed to approached that plastic need for being...how strange, just today, and you bring up Hegel!
    (I will see if I can find that photograph on the site, and leave a link to it here.)
    For all the great questions concerning the origin of the world ? concerning the whence, the whither, the wherefore of created nature and humanity, together with all the symbolic and plastic attempts to solve and to represent these problems have vanished in consequence of the revelation of God in the spirit; and even the gay, thousand-hued earth, with all its classically-figured characters, deeds, and events, is swallowed up in spirit, condensed in the single luminous point of the Absolute and its eternal process of Redemption (Erloessungs-geschichte). The entire content, therefore, is thus concentrated upon the internality of the spirit ? upon the perception, the imagination and the soul-which strives after unity with the truth ? and seeks and struggles to produce and to retain the divine in the individual (Subjekt).​
    and....
    For all the great questions concerning the origin of the world ? concerning the whence, the whither, the wherefore of created nature and humanity, together with all the symbolic and plastic attempts to solve and to represent these problems have vanished in consequence of the revelation of God in the spirit; and even the gay, thousand-hued earth, with all its classically-figured characters, deeds, and events, is swallowed up in spirit, condensed in the single luminous point of the Absolute and its eternal process of Redemption (Erloessungs-geschichte). The entire content, therefore, is thus concentrated upon the internality of the spirit ? upon the perception, the imagination and the soul-which strives after unity with the truth ? and seeks and struggles to produce and to retain the divine in the individual (Subjekt).
    ...the source of those quotes here.... from Selection from Hegel Lectures on Fine Art
    I think there is a substantial amount of information about his ideas of "the abstractest and the poorest kind of truth."
    Quickly, I am enclosing two paintings for comparison, one is real, and one is not real. Simply so. This is the plastic reality, the richest kind of truth......(well, if you go on a plastic binge it is,....but I like it, but then I'm also a great fan of Anselm Kiefer, as painter and photographer.) (...a page from the web museum of his paintings)
    So you see, both of these painting are in what we call the real world, that is, if you set fire to them, they would burn, if you left them sitting in water, most likely they would rot. That's not the kind of reality that Hegel is speaking of.......
    008ph3-18754084.jpg
     
  4. does it really matter if it has or not?
     
  5. Here is the photograph I was telling you about. It's by by Tim Bolotnikoff.
    But can I explain what I mean? (That is a question to me, not to you....) The plane that is formed by the nude's chest, and just slightly above, the side of her face,produces..no, defines...calls attention to a surface which speaks of a volume of space above that plane. That plane, let's say, is bounded by another...and another, so that the space becomes the shape, it becomes a universal reality, kind of, a solid form which we can all identify...by what? Our beings. There is a reflection of our solid being, in the solid space that is formed. Or, if you want to say "soul" instead of being, fine.
    Now, would anyone like to discuss the wave particle theory? Just teasing.
    (Once someone asked me to imagine this ....and if anyone has heard this before, and can give me a reference, I would like that......
    Imagine a dot.
    Now move the dot. What do you have?
    A straight line, right? Now move the line.
    What do you have. A plane.
    Now, move the plane, and what do you have?
    A cube, rectangle....... Now move the rectangle.......)
     
  6. Imagine a dot. Now move the dot. What do you have?

    i still have a dot, where the hell did a line come from?
     
  7. (The prior is perhaps phrased wrongly, should read "add a dot, then connect the two")

    Anyway, the philosopher in question was probably part of an artistic world where being in the presence of a thing made it real. We're very used to enjoying the world in absentia via the internet and television as well as magazines. Hegel is perhaps speaking from a place (and time, he died in 1831) where that is the exception, not the rule.

    I don't know that he's wrong, I just think it's a bit much. I may say for instance, "Fusion energy has created such a glut in the workforce, that we all are approaching obsolescence". But we don't yet have a practical application of fusion. Similarly, when the point made by Hegel was penned, we didn't have a practical application of photography. (To nay sayers: Bitumen of Judea on Pewter exposed for a day through a pinhole, is hardly practical.)
     
  8. Wow! You guys still worrying about camera obscura?
    Hegel, "The Phenomenology of Mind"
    I gotta ask, how do you guys even find the ability to make an image?
    One, reasonably, would figure one's photographic maturity should have moved past these moot points of photography, camera obscura and the need for reality in photographic art by now. By now your thoughts should be about content of image.
    The wonderful world of photography, being what it is today, with Photoshop CS, digital cameras, printers and all the corresponding equipment and programs that are readily available, you'd think bringing the ideas in your mind to fruition would be the main concern, not what some dead guy has to say.
    It's almost as if, like making the child sacred, the act of climbing into the head is going to some how stave off the inevitability of death. I don't care how sacred you make the child (eternal youth) or how much one rattles around in the brain, denial via ignoring; we all dead men walking.
    Time is limited, the bio-clock is ticking so the real questions to be asked should revolve around, "What have you done to advance your personal photographic think today?" and "Have you made any effort to bring these unique images to the table?"
    What Comes After
    Wishing all well in your photographic efforts as the sands of time quickly run out of the hour glass with no one standing by to flip the glass over as the last grain comes crashing down.
     
  9. Time is relative. Time is going nowhere...or, uhhmmmm "be here now"......might have triggered more memory valves...Hegel is speaking of the moment (You might want to catch up on your Ouspensky and Gurdjeff, also),and yes, we should move from philosopher to philospher as we would a photographic exhibition, or as we move from photographer to photographer, from movement to movement, with slight curiosity, and trying not to step into the potholes of centuries....eons....take the biggest chunk, whatever it is.
     
  10. Hey Gardner, Check out GRANT'S photographs in the Leica forum under the post entitled "24 hour shoot a rama"posted 7/12 and then shut up about the participants on this forum not shooting.
     
  11. Hey John:)

    Grant is not the sum total representative of the forum.
     
  12. What color is the dot?
     
  13. Funny watching him tapdance away from that claim, eh?
     
  14. You know, I never thought about the color of the dot before.
     
  15. Belle Deux, thank you for your well articulated response (all ?deux? of you.) I really think
    you hit to the heart of Hegel?s concern. When I read his work and the work of Walter
    Benjamin, all written at the dawn of the revolution of photography, I keep seeing this
    genuine concern that the plastic qualities you well articulate are being lost in the blunt
    record being born in photography. Now that we culturally swim in a sea of images that
    numbers in the trillions, I personally think it is important to keep those concerns in mind.
    It?s always good to see an articulate thought refer to specific images as well. I think we
    need more of that.

    Also, I?m happy to find another Anselm Keifer fan. His work sits right in the heart of that
    plastic sphere you very well articulate. Have you seen his work at the National Gallery in
    D.C.? It blew me away.

    Thomas, once again, thank you for your genuine concern about our creative selves. Rest
    assured that I and many others here still manage to find plenty of time to do our work in
    spite of any reading or philosophical musings that you may see referred to in this forum.
     
  16. Aric wrote
    Thomas, once again, thank you for your genuine concern about our creative selves. Rest assured that I and many others here still manage to find plenty of time to do our work in spite of any reading or philosophical musings that you may see referred to in this forum.
    You might want to retouch upon the sarcasm of my comment. Why? I didn't refer to anybody finding the time as that was not the concern of my comment. I do like how my comments are so quickly taken out of context:)
    Wishing all well with their photographic efforts.
    As to what I consider to be the original intent of your question, the answer would be yes, he's been proven wrong as artistic photography has evolved past the plastic and with the advent of digital, has moved well out of the rhelm of the real and into the world of ideas as opposed to simple representation of what's in front of the lense.
    Well, not all of the time:)
     
  17. Why do the moderators delete postings from this forum without deleting the entire thread. Very bad editorial judgement.
     
  18. Stinking Footrot has a point.
     
  19. (Merci Beaucoup, Aric)
    <P>
    Thank you for the mention of Walter Benjamin. I hadn't heard of him ever, I think, and he looks like a good source for reading. But I can't quite agree with the quote above....because that is only one approach to photography.....there need not be a psychoanalysis to live, and the psychoanalysis usually, comes after the photograph!
    <P>
    But I am about to give up all my old philosophies (and predjudices?). I still think they are very important, and certainly, it is important for language and conversation to have points of reference. But I have come to realize that it seems impossible to live a "philosophy", no matter how attached one becomes to it, and I sort of base that new philosophy of mine on the teachings in theatre of Stanislavski. He basically says at one point, that the actor, in studying his character should wear the clothes of that character, walk like the character, speak like the character..all these things while you study the play. Then, when it comes time to walk on the stage, when you perform, you should throw all those rehearsed things out the window, because they are ingrained now, and you have become the character you play. You don't have to, you shouldn't have to think, about what the character might do....you have ...well, walked more than a mile in his shoes......figuratively speaking.....
    <P>And the same with different philosophies of art/photography...learn them, live them, then throw them away and 'become'.
    <P>(I think I might have seen the Anselm Kiefer painting you are talking about...when I saw it, it was at the end of a long hallway...I think. I wish you could see the sculpture in the St. Louis Museum of art.....it is a giant sculpture in glass......it is huge sheet of glass bound together then, it seems, bashed into....one corner is missing, and there is glass all over the floor. It was a wonderful experience to stand beside it!)
    <P>
    But back to the philosophy again, I heard someone say the other day (and I do not remember the source) that "The Sabboth was made for man, not man was made for the Sabboth." And that is the way I look at philosophies.....they are made for man...if one fits, wear it, but man seems to need a freedom to roam in thought, try several on, and play with them for a while.....but his heart will fill the "way" of his being.......and so will the camera!
     
  20. You make a good point. The making of the art comes before all theory, criticism, analysis
    and history. Philosophy is useful for placing the work in context and in a field of ideas, but
    cannot tell one how to go forward. That's the great mystery, for a truly new work will come
    about on its own terms and will offer new perspectives for discussion and theory. The
    discussion and theory then becomes useful after the fact in making the value of the work
    consciously available to a broader audience than would otherwise get it. Of course all
    writers have their own agendas and seek out work to support or dispute based on those
    agendas.

    If you want classic Benjamin, check out his essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of
    Mechanical Reproduction." It's probably what he is best known for.

    http://bid.berkeley.edu/bidclass/readings/benjamin.html
     
  21. Aric wrote
    You make a good point. The making of the art comes before all theory, criticism, analysis and history. Philosophy is useful for placing the work in context and in a field of ideas, but cannot tell one how to go forward.
    Now there's a good argument against education:)
    Education gives one a clue what the road in front of them might look like. Theory, criticism, analysis and history sheds light on the roadway so as to help one see the path before them and also gives one a compass by which to guide themselves. "I'll take "Clue" for a thousand Alex.":) As arrogant as some here might find me, I'm heavily dependent on self-education to aid me in getting to the next step, what ever that step might be.
    A question; Why have art institutions and course work in contemporary trends in photography if it doesn't help give one a clue which way to go? Is education all for not?:)
    Maybe I'm misunderstanding your above?
     
  22. In part it has to do with a process of valuation for work that is made. As I said, "Philosophy
    is useful for placing the work in context and in a field of ideas..."

    Education can teach you the technical/craft aspects of art making. It can expose you to
    the work of many kinds of artists you might not otherwise get to know. It can
    teach you what has been written about them, why they made the work they did and how it
    has been important to the development and progress of culture. All of this you can find on
    your own. Maybe in an educational program you might find it more quickly.

    One difference between going it alone and studying formally is that in a formal program
    you will be forced to learn about art and theory that you may not like or even recognize as
    art. In doing so you will find value in something that you initially would not. This is a good
    process to go through because it leaves one much less able to be dismissive about others
    work, or much more articulate about why they dislike it so much.

    Ultimately, though, one of the fascinations that institutions have with art has to do with
    arts ability to bring some of the unconscious aspects of society to the visual/experiential
    realm. Once it is out there as a "work of art", critics, philosophers etc. can argue its
    meaning and its merits, and in the process make the work more accessible and more
    meaningful to a broader range of people. In doing so, what was created by the artist
    becomes conscious for a larger group of people.

    As an artist you don't really need to know all the above to create, but in the sturm and
    drang of our culture wars, it does help to be able to place ones self and where one stands
    in relation to what is going on around you. In that way an education can be useful,
    however one goes about getting it.

    There is a fine quote from Robert Henri about art school in which he says, "There are two
    types of students, there are those who use the school, and those who are used by the
    school." I imagine that those who use the school will go further.
     
  23. There are no truths, only beliefs.
     
  24. Truths don't have to be perceived to be real.
     
  25. I think it's appropriate here to quote Dorothy Parker: "You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think"... t
     
  26. Too true, Tom. Screw culture. Wanna fight?

    (Please, try the veal. I'll be here all week.)
     
  27. The people's willingness to fight is a defining characteristic of a culture. So don't be so quick to discount aggressive behavior.
     
  28. D. Poinsett said
    "There are no truths, only beliefs."
    Spoken like a true freshman. I hope you have a lifetime ahead of you in which to learn the difference.
     
  29. "There are no truths, only beliefs."

    As close an approximation to reality as I've seen.
     
  30. So it's an opinion that the Sun rises in the East, sets in the West, gets dark when there's no light and death when no life where life once existed? :)

    "Hey doc!" "Is there life in this rotting corpse?" "In my opinion, that all depends on if it's a government program or not." :)

    I just want to make sure that I understand this idea of opinion Vs truth.
     
  31. Physical concepts are a creation of the human mind. Never underestimate the power of belief. It is the essence of art.
     
  32. So if I understand you correctly, without the human mind, the universe ceases to exist? :)

    Wow!

    If that's what this thread has become, I think I'll go back to being the worst photographer on the net:)
     
  33. "Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, how ever it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility of the meaning of such a comparison."

    Albert Einstein, 1938
     
  34. Well tie a chain around my ankle and throw me overboard:)
     
  35. If it helps, I walked away from this sort of nonsense back in 78. Reality exists, with or without your permission. Reality is the true master of life, we just have to learn to become it's unwilling servant for serve we will.
    008ub0-18862784.jpg
     
  36. I'm glad the Hegel board is still up and running...I found this the other day and wanted to add it to the conversation.
    It comes from the preface of "Time Out of Mind, the Diaries of Leonard Micahels 1961-1995".
    Occasionally when writing about an incident it became a story, or while describing the gesture of some friend it grew into a character only vaguely like the friend, as if sentence rhythms and the myriad relations of words had a life of their own, and, like a dream, language speaks (to)us more than we know. At a deeper level of consideration, it must seem that everyone except children is susceptible to the beauties and corruptions of form, and not merely in storytelling. Plato thought this susceptibility was the erotic highway to truth. Mathematicians talk about the allure of formal beauty or elegant proofs. When revising a sentence for the sake of a more pleasing sound, I sometimes found, - suddenly - that it made better sense. This seems to me inexplicable, but then how we say anything at all, let alone write it, isn't wasy to explain."​
    I think this has to do with the truth Hegel was trying to get at. And it's real. It's very real-you can almost touch it, maybe you can touch it.... It is simply part of the human ability to create-creativity is something that does follow us around a lot!
     
  37. Ooops. I posted before I read. What a beautiful Einstein quote, D Poinsett!
     

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