Monday, 5 October 2015

Picture Post No. 5 Tabernacle Reflections

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t that what they seemed to be neither will they becme what they might appear to become.'

Piazza Vetra, Milan, November 2014
Picture credit: Antonio Borrani

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t that what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'
Posted by Tessa den Uyl

The expressive imagery necessary to bring some kind of sense to our lives is compromised by the production of other, competing images. This neutralisation of the grace of the image brings with it some transformations in our perception.

If we can say that every image offers us various possibilities for interpretation, placing itself before our thinking, then we can see images as providing a kind of balancing pole for our lives. This balancing element is rightly placed between the image and the viewer - like a bridge where imagination is free to flourish, for the bridge is the space of the unforeseen.

We might say that the very instability of the bridge provides the movement for our imagination. It is by using such bridges that human beings can deal with their existential selves.

Yet what happens when the unforeseen becomes foreseen?

When things are taken away from their natural environment and placed somewhere else, change occurs. When change occurs by a manipulative act, it is very much possible that the next act upon that will function to enforce that first one.

An image that originally handed to us a multiplicity of possible interpretations, offering to give sense to our lives, becomes meaningless. The image is placed behind the thought.


  1. There seems to be a great mixing of distinctions in the photo. Perhaps, though, that drives (some of) us to be more thoughtful, just as clear-cut distinctions once did.

  2. Dear Thomas,
    Maybe I don't follow your comment...

    You mention a difficult word: distinction. Thus I question; on which do we place those distinctions? Into our knowledge? For example, the image of Christ I can see from a protestant or a catholic point of view, however that is not somehow my point of view, it is a learned view, in short, the meaning has not derived from my proper imagination. The question is wether we are capable to place the image into ourselves without having codes to define the signification for a personal meaning we might give to the image. Then the term distinction would change for we would no longer draw distinctions upon purpose, but rather in regard to experience and maybe that is something we lack in regard to images....

  3. Tessa, I think I just found one reason why I'm having problems understanding your essay. It is the question of the "various possibilities for interpretation", of the "multiplicity of possible interpretations". This is something I've heard often, but without really grasping it. It's not your essay in particular. I admit that I never dared to asked! How is the picture of the christ, for instance, open to that many interpretations, more than, say saying the word "Christ" or "Justice" or "proletariat". Words too, in fact many signs are open to interpretation, and at the same time seem to be relatively strongly tied to a fixed set of meanings. We can attach a personal "flavour" to a picture, but aren't we always aware of the tension between the subjective and (what appears to be) the objective?

  4. Bonsoir Perig,

    Your observation is correct if you stick to literality but it is not that literality is the thing. So there is a space in which rationality is not the only response to find meaning with which we can see and experience. Imagination can let us step out of predetermined nominations that externally influence our internal meanings. We are able to perceive beyond our horizon; it is not until your horizon that you can see; it all starts after that horizon, it is where your thought starts because you enter that space you thought off you would have come to the threshold of your knowledge and creativity, instead you pass it, you step over your own horizon. This doesn't mean you don't know how to distinguish red from blue, in society you are cultured, but in your imagination you can be uncultured, you're not bound to those nominations any longer. Permitting this, there is a way to find meaning that is not pre-established. It is in the event of the return of things where our imagination can re-create a new meaning to our life.

    For example, imagine your own story for the beginning of the world, many person's say they can't imagine their own story, but of-course one can, it is a certain psychological restriction that keeps you from imagining yourself for you don't want to let go of seeing what you've learned to see. So this is a step to find different interpretations but also think of a description that in one culture has a completely different meaning (and thus feeling and experience) than in another culture; this demonstrates that human being has the capacity of plural interpretation.The truth, so to say, is never there.

  5. sorry, an extra note: purpose tends to make things small, thats how it obtains what it wants, but in your imagination there is no purpose, you don't have to exploit that imagination and things can flow (lets say) in large.

  6. Tessa's comment makes me think about the different perspective that comes from attempts to see the world anew as a unique individual, and that which comes from an effort to be part of a larger, cultural group? Religion epitomises this, I suppose. The appeal of organised religion is that we don't need to imagine the beginning of the world - not our place in it.

  7. Dear Martin,

    As so many things we don't need to imagine. I'm surprised the image of Christ seems to overshadow the other elements in the image; the post wasn't focused on that image alone! It tells more about us then about the image, doesn't it? Where does this preference for fragmentation come from?

  8. Sorry Tessa, it was long for me to respond because I had to finish my working week (in those circumstances I am just good to browse stuff... trying to calm down (translation work is hard on the nervous system)). But because it is very impolite not to aknowledge, I will share some impressions (in the hope to get clearer thoughts later).

    I don't really believe that attaining a state of unculture brings us to "meaning that is not pre-established". Let me take two paths to explain this. The first is the trait of high sensitivity, a recently proven application of Jung's theory of innate sensitivity. A study showed that those with high sensitivity (Elaine Aron + HSP are good keywords to learn more) tended to see the same thing in a picture, regardless of their culture, while those who were normosensitive ("normosensitive" : is this my neologism? I don't remember), those who make up 80% of animal (here, read: human) populations, saw those pictures in accordance with their specific cultural frames of references.

    This suggests that seeing things by yourself, by being less cultured, brings more, not less contact with a preestablished meaning -- in the case of this study, the prestablished meanings in the pictures appeared despite the huge cultural difference, that's impressive.

    The other path is closer to your example. Considering "your own story for the beginning of the world" you might want to try hypnotic regression. It is an excellent mental state to let go of cultural frames and constraints. What is striking for those who are scientific enough to follow the evidence is that people who regress (under hypnosis or because they are children, or for some other peculiar reason (life events, predispositions)) will talk about realities that are of the domain of the verifiable -- that's what we call reincarnation research. Things that people see in this remote past can be verified. And only the most dishonest paid skeptics will find a way to criticise those facts. Of course we haven't got to the beginning of the world, but you get my drift!

    For these and other reasons I tend to disagree, with "The truth, so to say, is never there.", quite on the contrary, cultural deconditioning gives access to solid truths, in my view.

    Another set of reasons comes from psychedelic research (the common patterns of psychedelic experience) -- I guess I could be called a Platonician? Or a hippie.

    Now this is still very far from the initial discussion -- but as I said, that's all I can say this evening, and I hope you'll forgive me for that!

  9. Dear Perig,

    From your point of view I don't disagree with anything you say. It is how we enter into a discourse, and where we place description that creates different interpretation.

    I do not think we can truly invent or imagine something that isn't there already (seen in the whole of a universe). What we can do is to draw associations that are less common.

    We tend to respond consonant to templates and are able to ignore experience that is not conform with a prescribed format, ignoring that we can place thought in different associations then how we're used to. Somehow, first you have to let go of the thought you believe, for if not you will place your thought back into associations you’re used to draw and terms like cultured and uncultured are taken literally. When you’re doing a test, and somehow you’ve created that test into a template, you’ve already triggered certain outcome of the test. In that way pre-established meaning is strengthened, for the outcome is placed in advance onto something pre-established.

    Let me try to give another example for what I refer to as becoming 'uncultured.'

    Let's say an artist states: "It is impossible to create something to then be nominated to be comprehensible for others. It is an extreme violent idea that people request of something that was created without rational boundaries, to have it made understandable into those rational boundaries. What is into the creation is undone into the cultural mind. Calling art a culture, being a cultured person in this way looses its high standing nomination for at the end it is only responding to itself.”

    I don’t have answers Perig, I’m searching in how, if we pose thoughts upon other thoughts, we can pose those thoughts in different drawn associations, but then in how to translate that into our language and make it comprehensible, turns back to what the artist states above. Language is a beautiful tool we have, but also limits us within reason until we don’t know how to use it in a better way.