Inspired by Aske’s post, I decided to publish an old text of mine: an analysis of Kevin Carter’s infamous Sudanese girl photography. Just a minor contribution towards the design-art debate. The crucial question for me, off course, is: what remains of art in a fully ‘de-signed’ world?
Barthes defines trauma as a suspension of language, a “blocking of meaning” that disrupts the “natural flow” of representation. We cannot say anything about a traumatic event. And that is its very essence: the ineffability that functions as the limit of interpretation, the void that avoids any attempt of signification. In a sense, the traumatic event resembles the eruption of the Real in Lacanian psychoanalysis. It is that fracture in the Symbolic order that threatens the very “reality” of the event.
Ironically, the traumatic character of a photograph is usually “dependent on the certainty that the scene “really” happened”. Its unsettling power is situated exactly in that “analogical plenitude” traditionally tied with photography. If the photographic message has no code, then it becomes the “perfect analogon” of the “real” object. In a way, “the photo image IS the object itself”. Accordingly, it seems that this denotative perfection that characterizes photography can be inextricably tied with the traumatic. The emptying of the photograph from the layers of signification, somehow, presents the very possibility of the traumatic. The fact that nature itself is “caught” in the picture, recorded directly and without any verbal mediation, is in itself disquieting. In that sense, the assumed absence of a supplementary message would turn every photograph in a potential trauma. Continue reading