Posts Tagged ‘jouissance

25
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Timothy H. O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs’ at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Exhibition dates: 7th April – 2nd September 2012

 

Timothy O’Sullivan, American (1842-1882) 'Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada
1867
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

 

Of all the photographers who accompanied the Western surveys of this era, O’Sullivan remains the most admired, studied and debated. This is a result of the distinctly individual quality of his seeing – his particular union of fact and point of view; his understanding of what it meant to make a documentary photograph. O’Sullivan’s work remains inspiring and instructive: the clues it holds – to the nature of photography, 19th-century visual culture and the construction of photographic history – challenge and enlarge each new generation of viewers. ~ Press release

 

 

About the only decent sized Timothy O’Sullivan photographs online are here on Art Blart – in this posting and one I did earlier of Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Although some of the photographs from the earlier posting are reproduced again here there are also four new ones, and for that we should be thankful for there are so few quality images to look at on the web.

Following my last posting where I ruminated on the nature of photography, we note that O’Sullivan’s understanding of what it meant to make a documentary photograph was embodied in his distinctly individual way of seeing. As the above quotation observes, this was “his particular union of fact and point of view.” With this in mind, the photograph I would like you to focus on in this posting is the last one: a prescient abstract expressionist photograph almost eighty years before their advent. The fallen beams remind me of huge ice crystals in a rock cave and then you notice the pick axe at top left and leg and booted foot at right. Hang on a minute, there is another foot tucked underneath!

To have the temerity to photograph this scene in this way and this point in time in the history of photography is outstanding. Imagine being O’Sullivan coming upon this vista, framing the cave-in with beams at left and right of the image plane and detritus at the bottom. He could have left it at that, but no, he hints at the presence of a man, out of frame, doing what exactly we don’t know. It is this plaisir and jouissance that give this photograph its pleasure and pain. The knowledge that we know this scene, as the subject knows himself or herself, gives the photograph its pleasure; the fact that we don’t know what is beyond the edge of the frame, who the man is and what he is doing, fractures these structures and challenges the readers position as subject. As the viewer transgresses the act of pleasurable looking, of enjoying the formal characteristics and textures of the photograph, doubt sets in – what is the man doing, why is he there? As we transgress the pleasure principle the painful principle of what Lacan calls jouissance kicks in. The viewer suffers a crisis of doubt and, conversely, the pattern of the fallen beams of wood and the axe now create a more threatening, claustrophobic atmosphere.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Timothy O’Sullivan, American (1842-1882) 'Pyramid and Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Pyramid and Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
1867
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Timothy O'Sullivan (American, 1842-1882) 'Geyser Mouth in Ruby Valley, Nevada' 1868

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Geyser Mouth in Ruby Valley, Nevada
1868
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc..

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan 'Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Canon about 1200 feet in height' 1873

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Canon about 1200 feet in height
1873
Albumen print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part, by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

The photographs made by Timothy H. O’Sullivan as part of the United States Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel, or King Survey, comprise an iconic and richly varied body of work. The first of the great post-Civil War Western expeditions, the King Survey was organised under the authority of the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers. Between 1867 and 1872, Clarence King, the geologist in charge, and his party studied a vast swath of terrain, approximately 100 by 800 miles, encompassing the path of the soon-to-be-completed transcontinental railroad, from the border of California eastward to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The survey’s official photographer, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, was talented, resourceful and imaginative. In four seasons with King’s group – 1867, 1869 and 1872 – he created a diverse body of photographs: geological studies, landscapes, views of miners and mining operations, records of cities and settlements, studies of the survey itself and self-reflexive meditations on his own presence in the West.

Of all the photographers who accompanied the Western surveys of this era, O’Sullivan remains the most admired, studied and debated. This is a result of the distinctly individual quality of his seeing – his particular union of fact and point of view; his understanding of what it meant to make a documentary photograph. O’Sullivan’s work remains inspiring and instructive: the clues it holds – to the nature of photography, 19th-century visual culture and the construction of photographic history – challenge and enlarge each new generation of viewers.

The King Survey of the Great Basin, from 1867 to 1872, was the model for the other “great surveys” of the 19th-century American West. Rare and iconic works by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, the King Survey’s official photographer, will be featured in an exhibition at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art from April 7 through Sept. 2. Keith F. Davis and Jane L. Aspinwall, respectively senior and assistant curators of photography at the Nelson-Atkins, organised Timothy O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs.

“There is good reason that O’Sullivan remains so influential after all these years,” said Davis. “Visually speaking, he was the world’s greatest poker player. He always kept his cards close to his vest. His images are at once boldly straightforward and deeply mysterious, a perfect combination of intuition and calculation. His genius lies, in part, in making such originality appear so effortless.”

There are 60 photographs in the exhibition. Nine were borrowed from the American Geographical Society in Milwaukee, WIS; and the remainder are from the holdings of the Nelson-Atkins. Accompanying the exhibition is a major book, co-authored by Davis and Aspinwall, with contributions by three esteemed scholars: John P. Herron, Francois Brunet, and Mark Klett.

“O’Sullivan continues to influence generations of photographers because of his purely individual melding of fact and point of view,” said Aspinwall. “He was a complicated character, a hearty adventurer, a photographic explorer and innovator, with a bit of the daredevil thrown in the mix.” The book emphasises the context of O’Sullivan’s photographs: his best known images in relation to the complete body of his survey work, the function of the photographs within the survey enterprise, and the scientific and cultural importance of the survey itself. In creating the book, Davis and Aspinwall became engaged in their own kind of “survey,” working from opposite ends of the subject back toward a common centre.

“Jane focused on the evidence of the photographs themselves, tracking down every view and putting them into chronological order,” said Davis. “I began with an overview of the history of western exploration and then attempted to describe the King Survey and O’Sullivan’s career in detail. The meeting point, the crux of the whole project, was O’Sullivan’s remarkable photographs.” Davis became fascinated with O’Sullivan’s work 40 years ago, and his respect for the richness and longevity of his work has increased over the years. “Someone once said that writing a biography usually entails a process of ‘falling out of love’ with one’s subject,” said Davis. “That’s absolutely not true in this case. This exhibition and book have resulted in a newer and deeper admiration for a truly one-of-a-kind photographic achievement. That’s O’Sullivan’s gift to us – and we want to share it. Timothy H. O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs gives visitors a new appreciation of the visual history of the 19th-century American West, while presenting some of the museum’s rarest treasures for public view.

Press release and text from the Nelson-Atkins website

 

Timothy O’Sullivan, American (1842-1882) 'Lake in Conejos Cañon, Colorado' 1874

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Lake in Conejos Cañon, Colorado
1874
Albumen print
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Timothy O'Sullivan (American, 1842-1882) 'Cottonwood Lake, Wasatch Mountains, Utah' 1869

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Cottonwood Lake, Wasatch Mountains, Utah
1869
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Timothy O’Sullivan, American (1842-1882) 'Shaft of Savage Mine, Virginia City, Nevada' 1868

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Shaft of Savage Mine, Virginia City, Nevada
1868
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Timothy O'Sullivan (American, 1842-1882) 'Cave-in, Gould & Curry Mine, Virginia City, Nevada' 1868

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, 1842-1882)
Cave-in, Gould & Curry Mine, Virginia City, Nevada
1868
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Opening hours:
Monday 10am – 5pm
Tuesday closed
Wednesday 10am – 5pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 9pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 10am – 5pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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21
Sep
11

Exhibition: ‘Juan Davila: The Moral Meaning of Wilderness’ at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield

Exhibition dates: 4th August – 1st October 2011

 

Juan Davila. 'Wilderness' 2010

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
Wilderness
2010
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

 

“The ‘Moral Meaning of Wilderness’ exhibition is a tour of the various approaches to the landscape: ‘plein air’ painting, studio landscape work, sublime landscape, historical evocation of landscape, modernity and the landscape, natural disaster, childhood memory of a landscape, woman in the wilderness. The ‘After Image’ works seem to refer to fantasies, inner space, unnameable objects, microcosm and immense space. Within the representation of “the land” one easily forgets that we are dealing with complexity and a field of projections. The political, the sublime, the moral stance, corporate destruction and the future of our environment come to mind.”

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Juan Davila 1

 

“In a state of grace, one sometimes perceives the deep beauty, hitherto unattainable, of another person. And everything acquires a kind of halo which is not imaginary: it comes from the splendour of the almost mathematical light emanating from people and things. One starts to feel that everything in existence – whether people or things – breathes and exhales the subtle light of energy. The world’s truth is impalpable.”

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Clarice Lispector 2

 

 

Simply put, this is the best exhibition I have seen in Melbourne this year.

Feminine jouissance is critical to an understanding of the work of Juan Davila (see quotation below). It is the jouissance of the Other: ineffable, incapable of being expressed, indescribable, unutterable. Also critical is an understanding of the meaning of ‘wilderness’ and ‘after image’.

Wilderness “is a relative term suggesting the perspective of a visitor or interloper for whom the landscape is wild and Other – for the landscape was neither wild nor foreign to its original inhabitants, at least not until its transformation through colonising, farming and displacement.”“An after image … is an optical illusion that refers to an image continuing to appear in one’s vision after the exposure to the original image has ceased.”4

The most powerful works are the Wilderness and After Image paintings. Grouped together in a room at the far end of the gallery, the effect of these paintings is to be physically surrounded by the nebula of the unconscious mind. The feeling is not dissimilar to being consumed by the abstract, elemental quality of Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies) at the Orangerie in Paris. Pair to more earthly landscapes (see images 2 and 3 below) the paintings are the closest experience in approaching the divine that I have felt in a long time. Their visual and noumenal ‘energy’ is superlative.

Robert Nelson observes that, “The after-image is a momentary body-memory – not intellectual but bizarrely willed – perhaps a bit like the recollection of a dream or the instant slip that uncannily reveals the unconscious. In monumentalising this trace, Davila delivers us to another ethereal zone: the breath of libido, buffeted by clouds of repression and misty internalised myths. As portraits of evanescent memory, they are wantonly memorable.”5

Indeed, they are memorable. I had a spiritual experience with this work for the paintings promote in the human a state of grace. The non-material, the unconceptualisable, things which are outside all possibility of time and space are made visible. This happens very rarely but when it does you remember, eternally, the time and space of occurrence. I hope you have the same experience.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to MUMA for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version.

 

“The term jouissance, in French, denotes “pleasure” or “enjoyment.” The term has a sexual connotation (i.e., orgasm) lacking in the English word “enjoyment”, and is therefore left untranslated in English editions of the works of Jacques Lacan. In his Seminar “The Ethics of Psychoanalysis” (1959-1960) Lacan develops his concept of the opposition of jouissance and pleasure. The pleasure principle, according to Lacan, functions as a limit to enjoyment: it is the law that commands the subject to ‘enjoy as little as possible’. At the same time the subject constantly attempts to transgress the prohibitions imposed on his enjoyment, to go beyond the pleasure principle. Yet the result of transgressing the pleasure principle, according to Lacan, is not more pleasure but pain, since there is only a certain amount of pleasure that the subject can bear. Beyond this limit, pleasure becomes pain, and this ‘painful principle’ is what Lacan calls jouissance.

In his Seminar “Encore” (1972-1973) Lacan states that jouissance is essentially phallic. That is, insofar as jouissance is sexual it is phallic, meaning that it does not relate to the Other as such. Lacan admits, however, that there is a specifically feminine jouissance, a supplementary jouissance, which is beyond the phallus, a jouissance of the Other. This feminine jouissance is ineffable, for both women and men may experience it but know nothing about it.”6

 

Footnotes

  1. Davila, Juan quoted in “After Image: A conversation between Juan Davila and Kate Briggs,” in Juan Davila: The Moral Meaning of Wilderness catalogue. Canberra: ANU Drill Hall Gallery, 2011, p. 53.
  2. Lispector, Clarice. Discovering the World. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1992, p. 122 quoted in Briggs, Kate. “Painting, an act of faith: Moments in the work of Juan Davila,” in Juan Davila: The Moral Meaning of Wilderness catalogue. Canberra: ANU Drill Hall Gallery, 2011, p. 8.
  3. Delany, Max. Introductory speech for “Contemporary Visions & Critiques of the Landscape.” Video of session. The Festival of Ideas, The Pursuit of Identity: Landscape, History and Genetics. The University of Melbourne [Online] Cited 21/09/2011. No longer available online
  4. Anon. “Afterimage” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 21/09/2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterimage
  5. Nelson, Robert. “Exhibition does not take air lightly,” in The Age newspaper. Wednesday, September 21st, 2011, p. 17.
  6. Anon. “Jouissance” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 21/09/2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jouissance

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974) 'A Man is Born Without Fear' 2010

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
A Man is Born Without Fear
2010
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

Juan Davila. 'After Image. A Man is Born Without Fear' 2010

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
After Image. A Man is Born Without Fear
2010
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

Juan Davila. 'Churchill National Park' 2009

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
Churchill National Park
2009
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

 

“The Moral Meaning of Wilderness features recent work by Juan Davila, one of Australia’s most distinguished artists. The exhibition sees Davila turn to the genres of landscape and history painting, at a time when the environment is as much a political as a cultural consideration. With technical virtuosity, Davila’s striking representations of nature achieve monumental significance, depicting beauty and emotion while addressing modern society’s ambivalence to nature and increasing consumerism.

The Moral Meaning of Wilderness represents a radical shift in Davila’s practice, whilst continuing to explore art’s relationship to nature, politics, identity and subjectivity in our post-industrial age. Davila pursues his exploration of the role of art as a means of social, cultural and political analysis.

While many contemporary artists turned away from representation of the landscape, due to its perceived allegiance to outmoded forms of national identity and representation, Davila has recently sought to revisit and reconsider our surroundings au natural.

His paintings are, at first view, striking representations of nature. The paintings, created since 2003, are undertaken en plain air, a pre-modern technique based on speed of execution in situ, and the use of large scale canvases characteristic of history painting. He has also employed other techniques such as studio painting and representations of the landscape with reference to the sublime, the historical, memory and modernity.”

Text from the MUMA website

 

Juan Davila. 'The Painter's Studio' 2006

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
The Painter’s Studio
2006
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

Juan Davila. '761 Wattletree Road' 2008

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
761 Wattletree Road
2008
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

Juan Davila. 'What About my Desire?' 2009

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
What About my Desire?
2009
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

Juan Davila. 'Australia: Nuclear Waste Dumping Ground' 2007

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
Australia: Nuclear Waste Dumping Ground
2007
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

 

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)
Ground Floor, Building F.
Monash University Caulfield campus
900 Dandenong Road
Caulfield East, VIC 3145
Phone: 61 3 9905 4217

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday 12 – 5pm

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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