Sunday, September 2, 2012

Visual Studies

Our second Intro to Visual Studies class of the semester will be, of course, on "What is Visual Studies?" - a question that I've said that I'm very happy to see addressed through more questions, rather than through the establishment of crystal clear answers.  I'm not at all sure that I know how to answer it - though I guess I'd go with the idea of visual studies being the study of visual culture, and visual culture being - pace Gertrude Stein - that which is seen.  Which leaves one in precisely the same place. I stole that quote from James Elkins's Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction, and here's another, all ready to be applied to today's image: "It is one thing to be interdisciplinary, in any of the meanings of that word, and another to relinquish disciplines long enough to let the image find the right mixture of approaches."

But here's a double problem: what is the image?  Is it the peeling, partial former flier pasted to a door by the Silver Lake dog park, or is it my photograph of it?  ... in which case, my activity of taking the photo was definitely framed by thinking of Thursday's class.  If that's so, then this is a curious amalgam of pedagogical intention and the aesthetic (would I have chosen to take it without the mottled sea-green background, complete with rust?).  And what does one do with the illegible, where any original purpose, polemical or provocative , is long since departed?  And is there any point in trying?  Are some images more eligible, somehow, for analysis than others, and what determines this?

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