Sunday, July 07, 2019

Before and After the Image

A critical text where Daney expands on his concepts of the image and the visual. It was on Steve Erickson's old website (published at a time where no texts from Serge Daney were online) but it has since found its way to JSTOR. So I'm referencing it here with the first few lines and a link.

Before and After the Image 
The distinction I have made between the image and the visual is entirely pragmatic. It simply seemed practical to call on to two different words. There is also the fact that the word "visual" is often repeated in the vocabulary of the media and "artistic directors" of newspapers. The visual is both reading and seeing: it is seeing what is given to read. Someone knows how to read the press when he can decipher the visual of a newspaper very quickly, even in the case of a newspaper without photos, like Le Monde. Perhaps we are going towards societies who know better and better how to read (which is to say: decipher, decode, acquire the reflexes of reading) and less and less to see. I call "image", then, what still relies upon an experience of vision, and of the "visual" the optical verification of a procedure of power, whatever this may be (technological, political, advertising or military), a procedure which only requires, as sole commentary, a “receiving loud and clear”. Obviously, the visual concerns the optic nerve, but is not for all that an image. 
The condition sine qua non for there to be an image is, I think, alterity. Every culture makes something of this more or less empty category, the category of "there’s some otherness" (to paraphrase Lacan). 
First published in Revue d'études palestiniennes, issue 40, Summer 1991. Published in English in Discourse, vol. 21, No. 1, Middle Eastern Films Before Thy Gaze Returns to Thee (Winter 1999), pp. 181-190. Available from JSTOR here. I think another English translation of this text might be in the exhibition book for Documenta X.

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