I have noticed that there are a few recurring images in my archives of coastal erosion of the sand dunes in, and around, the Victor Harbor area of the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. Since these images are a part of The Littoral Zone they got me thinking about how to construct the series or as a book.
The initial thinking behind these images suggests that the recession of the sand dunes is due, by and large to storm surges which are causing the sand dunes to slowly recede, and that with climate change the sand dune shorelines around the Victor Harbor township and Hayborough will continue to recede. The categories associated with climate change assume that one of the consequences of climate change in the form of a warming world is rising sea levels and these, in turn, when coupled to storm surges cause the recession of the sand dunes along the coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
The other kind of thinking or the categories behind these discrete group of image is the assumption that a (self-conscious) photography as art is the voice of sensuous particularity against an abstract economic rationality. Photography as art is more than, and beyond, economic reason, the exchange value of the capitalist market, and photography as the avatar of modernity’s technological rationality, with its mechanical technique, automation and deskilling.
The images on the computer archive are fragmented, incoherent, ugly. I’ve noticed that I’ve recoiled from the photography and ugliness combination, and that recently I’ve endeavoured to make beautiful images of coastal erosion. Another example:
The question is: could ugliness be a photographic strategy in opposition to the beauty system? Could this be a means of seeking an authenticity for photography not dependent on either the easy attractions of the beautiful form, the seductions of pictorial illusion, or the controlling beauty in the rationality of corporate advertising. Could the path to regenerate contemporary art photography that is an alternative to a photography that is complicit with the long reign of instrumental reason be through harshness, brutality, fearsomeness, disharmony?
If so, then ugliness must be shown to have a meaning that is not simply the absence of beauty, if its role in contemporary art is to begin to have any significance. This implies the the goal of photography as art shifts away from beauty to something else— something that shifts the artwork away from just being a beautiful form and delivering pleasure to the ideal spectator/viewer. In other words, contemporary photography as art possesses goals independent of the beauty of the harmonious resolution of its material parts.
In modernism, for instance, instead of the material parts of the art work being for the sake of the integrated whole, the coherent whole becomes a vehicle for the disclosure of its sensuously particular parts. Dissonance, disunity, fragmentariness as forms underline the disintegration of authoritative wholeness, of harmony and resolution, and these fragments and dissonance appear as ugly.
But how to work in a series as a pictorial order? The usual way to do this is through philosophy’s logical arrangements in the form of a logical/conceptual subordination of complexity as in if x, then y; x because y; x necessitates y; and so on. Instead of this kind of logical syntax, the pictorial order or syntax could be disorganised or disordered though the images being placed side by side’. In this juxtaposition of images the images are set next to one another—xy—with the character of their relation to be elicited through reflective consideration of their respective semantic/material contents by the viewer.
This is the idea of parataxis, in which starkly dissimilar images or fragments, are juxtaposed without a clear connection, was one of the central mechanisms of modernist art. The significance of paratactical orderings is accepting disjunction or divergence and this in turn orientates us towards the object, and allows for a more open way of thinking that is different to the one of mastery and control. By dropping connectives and ordering devices, parataxis forces or permits each image to become a concrete particular whose relation to what is placed against it, adjacent to it, side-by-side with it, to become what is to be worked out by the reader/observer.
Would this possibility of a pictorial language that ceases to function as a form of coherence and rational order, that subordinates the multiplicity of the world to the liberal subject’s instrumental ends of mastery and control (knowledge as domination), enable an art photography to step outside the beauty system?