Friday, February 18, 2011

silent speech 2

In his The Future of the Image, Jacques Rancière, criticizing Barthes, uses the term "silent speech" and also mentions Diderot's Lettre sur les sourds-muets, and that'swhy I've ended up reading Diderot. So now I can tell where Rancière's "silent speech" is from. In the 19th century, the viewer no longer read the code words in the paintings as the 17th century's people did. The 17th century Dutch paintings were "rediscovered" by the 19th century French artists and critiques, since both centuries saw the birth of many social types and the social mobilization, and both peoples were curious about what was going in their societies. But in rediscovering, the 19th century viewer saw the Dutch paintings in a different way.

What Rancière always emphasizes the relation between writing and the images. For him, the exchange between them is important. The 19th century writers "imitated" the Dutch paintings in order for them to confer what Rancière calls "a new visibility."

As I've understood--when we say that the Dutch painters painted the details of their mundane lives, to some extent we are rather expressing our own interest in the details of our own mundane lives. And so did the 19th century viewers.

For the 19th century viewer, an image as a silent speech carries two things: one is not spoken, written, or code words to be translated, but still language in Diderot's sense; the other is sheer presence of the image. And this sheer presence of the image is not the medium. Rancière's criticism of Barthes is that Barthes obsesses with an idea that a photograph is the skin peeled off from the original and mistakes it for sheer presence of the image. A painting can carry the sense of "what has been," artistic image is always a procedure revolving around the relation between the "visible" and the "sayable," and whether an image is art or not is determined by the viewer and the image. But, Barthes ignores all this, and doing so he may mourn the past notion of autonomous art, Rancière says.

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