The Vanishing Frame began as an attempt to understand the origins and consequences of a postdictatorial reality that was emerging in Latin America during the 1980s and 1990s, one that centered on the commitment to human rights as the primary position through which the Left articulated the concept of injustice and how to confront it. This political reality was as much a consequence of the state that inflicted abuses on its citizens as it was the upshot of international solidarity movements that sought to address and bear witness to these abuses.
How do we decide what factors are wheat and what are circumstantial chaff? Once we have, can we say that we are attending to history, or should we rather say that we are producing a carefully counterfactual story of our past history with the right features to motivate action in the present that suits our present sensibilities? Or, to put the matter in terms of the question I want to ask, does history provide evidence of historical consciousness (as opposed to antihistoricism) as a necessary condition of class-driven politics? This is the matter Adams assumes, and which I want to make explicit.
Doesn’t the image’s power lie in its proliferation of meanings? So what is the point of arguing for such autonomy? Is it possible to separate ourselves from all the forces that teach us how to act in a room with an artwork?
Another way of putting this is to say that the violence of the frame consists above all in making our lives as irrelevant as hers, and it’s in this indifference to our particularity (this allegorizing of its irrelevance) that I locate the politics of Kydd’s work.
The critic can embrace aesthetic attention to the specifics of “how” the work unfolds and still avoid any trace of formalism: art is a means of combining and re-orienting imaginative spaces that attach us to features of the world.
But the question is deeper: whether an illusion, on the order of some post-Cartesian misdirected agenda in epistemology, is a proper matrix for understanding the sort of suffering chronicled in the modern literature of loss, absurdity, alienation, meaninglessness and simple heartlessness. (For that matter, the larger question here: could McDowell be right that the Cartesian agenda is simply an illusion, to be recovered from, to be exorcised? Is not that image itself telling, as if it is something like possession, witchcraft? Could that be right?)
[T]alk of universal themes glazes the eyes because such themes always disappear when looked at closely. And they do so because they have neither formal nor phenomenal properties. But we needn’t be detained by themes in order to soften the habitual detachment of critical reading. Neither critical reading nor philosophical argument has to forswear literary experience; indeed it is likely such experience has a form illuminated by each.
[T]he Cartesian points to the source in the inner world; the behaviorist points to the embodied movements of the outer world; the classical expressionist points with the Cartesian to the inner determinants of content; the appearance emotionalist points with the behaviorist to the outward determinants of content. Simply put, both pairs of theorists have buried in their conceptual substrates a picture that they share in common beneath their more visible differences.
Walter Benn Michael’s “Neoliberal Aesthetics: Fried, Rancière and the Form of the Photograph,” published in our first issue, has generated responses from Michael Clune, Nicholas Brown, and Todd Cronan.