L’Univers Invisible

David Malin is one of the pre-eminent photographers of astronomical phenomenon. This book combines his photography with exquisite classical typography. I’ve somehow ended up with a version of this book in French (it was originally published in English) and I’m glad for it, even though I don’t read French. The text becomes further part of the image, and I can enjoy the thing as a purely visual experience rather than as a visual + literary one.

The book reminds me of the mythological origins of stargazing, of trying to read something from the stars. Malin himself is fascinated with the “interface between art and science” and that interface that they share is imagination. Science begins with speculation, it proceeds to answer a question. Questions are always a product of imagination, as the function of imagination is to make real a heretofore nonexistent thing – to fill in a lack. It took imagination for our antecedents to see images in the stars, as it took imagination to form a technique for creating photographic images of the stars.

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Personal, pictorial, political.

Inspired by this quote from the third introduction, Formalism and Structuralism, to the opus Art Since 1900 by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alan Bois and Benjamin Buchloch.

…the “Neoplastic” pictorial vocabulary that he had coined in 1920 and used ever since was transformed into a self-destructive machine destined to abolish not only the figure, as he had done before, but color planes, lines, surfaces, and by extension every possible identity — in other words, that Mondrian’s art elicited an epistemological nihilism of ever growing intensity. In short, if art critics and historians had been more acutely attentive to the formal development of his oeuvre, they might have earlier on grasped the connection he felt more inclined to make in his writings, from 1930, between what he tried to achieve pictorially and the political views of anarchism.

And thus the quote for today – a riff on the old feminist shibboleth that the “personal is political.” I also like the visually similarity between the two words, and so in my mind that becomes a weird justification for the slogan. It’s got a nice symmetry.

On a more serious note, there is a connection between “the personal” and “the pictorial” in our heavily mediated age. Pictures are political tools in the Trump age (though not because of Trump), and the personal is so often expressed in picture.