Tuesday, January 10, 2012

invisibility i

Today - Day 1 of Lisa Bitel and my grad course on Arts and Technologies of the Invisible - which was an interesting collision of different approaches - she coming from History and Religion, and me from English and Art History (though truly, we need a cognitive psychologist and a magician or two, to).  Next week - we're all bringing in Something Invisible - or that signifies or seeks to represent - invisibility, in order to talk about it through James Elkins's The Object Stares Back.  So it's a week, for me, of trying to photograph invisibility.

So ... one might argue that things here are pretty visible, despite the darkness: a spiky cactus, a geranium, a spiral staircase, the lights of our dining room - very over-exposed, because the picture itself is a long exposure, without flash (my current fascination with flash photographs, indeed, is with what they don't show - with the darkness they produce).  And why could I take this photo at all?  Because the security lights had come on - and yet (and this was true four or five times this evening) I was never quite in time to see the moving presence that set them off.  Last night, it was a skinny cream cat, and earlier - smelt but not seen - a skunk.  Tonight?  Maybe the same, maybe the raccoons, maybe Spotts the evil Bengal kitty, maybe a possum, maybe ... So our first, common or garden, non-metaphysical kind of invisibility nonetheless has a very close relationship to the uncanny - something that unsettles the ordinary; that makes one realize that something is out there, in the darkness, unseen.

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