Sebald: siting image with text

Excerpts from Sebald’s obituary in the Guardian:

‘Sebald doubted whether those who had never experienced Theresienstadt or Auschwitz could simply describe what occurred there. That would have been presumptuous, an appropriation of others’ sufferings. Like a Medusa’s head, he felt that the attempts to look directly at the horror would turn a writer into stone, or sentimentality.

It was necessary, he found, to approach this subject obliquely, and to invent a new literary form, part hybrid novel, part memoir and part travelogue, often involving the experiences of one “WG Sebald”, a German writer long settled in East Anglia. He was reluctant to call his books “novels”, because he had little interest in the way contemporary writers seemed to find all meaning in personal relationships, and out of a comic but heartfelt disdain for the “grinding noises” which heavily plotted novels demanded. “As he rose from the table, frowning …” was precisely the type of clumsy machinery, moving a character from here to there, which Sebald mocked.’

‘Sebald, who was a devoted photographer, used images in his novels. Sometimes they were found objects, postcards, or something from an old newspaper. He was an exacting customer at the University of East Anglia copy shop, discussing what might be done with his images, adjusting the size and contrast. The photographs appear without captions and acquire meaning from the surrounding text. We read those enigmatic images through the story which Sebald provides, and then, later, come to the suspicion that they were something more (or less) than an illustration or documentation of the story. The way he handled visual images was characteristic of the way he wrote, determined not to make his point in an assertive way, but with implication and suggestion.’


Satyagraha by Philip Glass

‘Satyagraha’ – a politico-philosophical concept of non-violence translated as opera. In this opera, Satyagraha is not illustrated or ‘conveyed’ as a didactic concept. Through the medium of opera, the audiece actually encounters Satyagraha as itself in opera form. Satyagraha is thus ‘presented’ or exhibited rather than represented. Jean Luc Nancy writes in The Ground of the Image:

The image is outside the common sphere of presence because it is the display of presence. It is the manifestation of presence, not as appearance, but as exhibiting, as bringing to light and setting forth.

For “image” above read Opera, Sculpture, Painting, Photograph, Peformance, Film, etc.

satyagraha,  (Hindi: “insistence on truth” or “zeal for truth”) Mohandas K. Gandhi, known as Mahatma (“Great Soul”), Indian nationalist leader. [Credit: Ann Ronan Picture Library/Heritage-Images]concept introduced in the early 20th century by Mahatma Gandhi to designate a determined but nonviolent resistance to evil. Gandhi’ssatyagraha became a major tool in the Indian struggle against British imperialism and has since been adopted by protest groups in other countries.

According to this philosophy, satyagrahis—practitioners of satyagraha—achieve correct insight into the real nature of an evil situation by observing a nonviolence of the mind, by seeking truth in a spirit of peace and love, and by undergoing a rigorous process of self-scrutiny. (From Encyclopedia Brittanica) 


RCA Onion Discussions: Residencies – Building Dwelling Thinking

Dear All,
This week is the very last week of our Onion Series where we will look at the topic of Residencies. We have as our very special guest Penny Thompson, the Chief Exec of the General Social Care Council where I am currently the Artist-in-Residence.
Well-rehearsed by now, you will know that this Wednesday's discussion will very quickly cover the practicalities of the residency, and move on to thinking about the implications of having an artist who is residing somewhere. Particularly, we will think through what happens conceptually, spatially and to relationships in a building, location or organisation in which art resides.
  japanese tea house fujimori terunobu coal.jpg
 Fujimori's Teahouse
To help us along the way, I am attaching Heidegger's essay 'Building Dwelling Thinking'.  It is a very interesting reflection on the nature of dwelling and its relationship to building and buildings.
In particular, the idea that the relationship of a person to space is dwelling. And for the General Social Care Council and me as their Artist-in-Residence, the fact that another definition of 'Bauen' (Old English/High German word for dwelling or building) is to cherish, protect, preserve and care.
I have extracted parts from the essay for those of you who don't have time to read all of it. And I will spend 10 minutes at the start of the session summarising the essay.
Looking forward to seeing you all at our very last session! 
6.30pm, 6 April 2011
RCA Sculpture Seminar Room
15-25 Howie Street, SW11 4AS
'Building Dwelling Thinking'
from Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter, Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1971.


We attain to dwelling, so it seems, only by means of building. The latter, building, has the former, dwelling, as its goal. Still, not every building is a dwelling. Bridges and hangars, stadiums and power stations are buildings but not dwellings; railway stations and highways, dams and market halls are built, but they are not dwelling places. Even so, these buildings are in the domain of our dwelling. That domain extends over these buildings and yet is not limited to the dwelling place. The truck driver is at home on the highway, but he does not have his shelter there; the working woman is at home in the spinning mill, but does not have her dwelling place there; the chief engineer is at home in the power station, but he does not dwell there. These buildings house man. He inhabits them and yet does not dwell in them, when to dwell means merely that we take shelter in them. In today's housing shortage even this much is reassuring and to the good; residential buildings do indeed provide shelter; today's houses may even be well planned, easy to keep, attractively cheap, open to air, light, and sun, but-do the houses in themselves hold any guarantee that dwelling occurs in them? 

What, then, does Bauen, building, mean? The Old English and High German word for building, buan, means to dwell. This signifies: to remain, to stay in a place. … When we speak of dwelling we usually think of an activity that man performs alongside many other activities. We work here and dwell there. We do not merely dwell that would be virtual inactivity we practice a profession, we do business, we travel and lodge on the way, now here, now there.  bauen, buan. bhu, beo are our word bin in the versions: ich bin, I am, du bist, you are, the imperative form bis, be. What then does ich bin mean? The old word bauen, to which the bin belongs, answers: ich bin, du bist mean: I dwell, you dwell. The way in which you are and I am, the manner in which we humans are on the earth, is Buan, dwelling. To be a human being means to be on the earth as a mortal. it means to dwell. The old word bauen, which says that man is insofar as he dwells, this word bauen however also means at the same time to cherish and protect, to preserve and care for, specifically to till the soil, to cultivate the vine. 


What the word for space, Raum, Rum, designates is said by its ancient meaning. Raum means a place cleared or freed for settlement and lodging. A space is something that has been made room for, something that- namely within a boundary, Greek peras. A boundary is not that at which something stops but, as the Greeks recognized, the boundary is that from which something begins its presencing. That is why the concept is that of horismos, that is, the horizon, the boundary. Space is in essence that for which room has been made, that which is let into its bounds. That for which room is made is always granted and hence is joined, that is, gathered, by virtue of a location, that is, by such a thing as the bridge. Accordingly, spaces receive their being from locations and not from "space."

Man's relation to locations, and through locations to spaces, inheres in bis dwelling. The relationship between man and space is none other than dwelling, strictly thought and spoken.

The Greek for "to bring forth or to produce" is tikto. The word techne, technique, belongs to the-verb's root tec. To the Greeks techne means neither art nor handicraft but rather: to make something appear, within what is present, as this or that, in this way or that way. The Greeks conceive of techne, producing, in terms of letting appear. Techne thus conceived has been concealed in the tectonics of architecture since ancient times. Of late it still remains concealed, and more resolutely, in the technology of power machinery. But the nature of the erecting buildings cannot be understood adequately in terms either of architecture or of engineering construction, nor in terms of a mere combination of the two. The erecting of buildings would not be suitably defined even if we were to think of it in the sense of the original Greek techne as solely a letting-appear, which brings something made, as something present, among the things that are already present.

Building and thinking are, each in its own way, inescapable for dwelling. The two, however, are also insufficient for dwelling so long as each busies itself with its own affairs in separation instead of listening to one another. They are able to listen if both building and thinking belong to dwelling, if they remain within their limits and realize that the one as much as the other comes from the workshop of long experience and incessant practice.

We are attempting to trace in thought the nature of dwelling. The next step on this path would be the question: what is the state of dwelling in our precarious age? On all sides we hear talk about the housing shortage, and with good reason. Nor is there just talk; there is action too. We try to fill the need by providing houses, by promoting the building of houses, planning the whole architectural enterprise. However hard and bitter, however hampering and threatening the lack of houses remains, the real plight of dwelling does not lie merely in a lack of houses. The real plight of dwelling is indeed older than the world wars with their destruction, older also than the increase of the earth's population and the condition of the industrial workers. The real dwelling plight lies in this, that mortals ever search anew for the nature of dwelling, that they must ever learn to dwell

Definition of ‘Ekphrasis’

If the dialectic of word and image is central to the study of media, then the term ekphrasis (alternatively spelled ecphrasis) must also be a crucial part of understanding media as the intersection of verbal and visual. Few pieces of media jargon have as long a history or as considerable an evolution as ekphrasis. The conflict of word and image in media can be better understood by tracing the history and evolution of ekphrasis, which embodies the practice of both elements. 

The word has undergone such change, in terms of definition and usage, that even the Oxford English Dictionary provides little information. Ekphrasis has taken on such specialized meanings over the ages that the only way to pin down even a cursory understanding of the word requires knowledge both ancient and modern. The Oxford English Dictionary does provide a definition, from 1715, for ‘ecphrasis’ as “a plain declaration or interpretation of a thing.” The second reference, from 1814, is similarly abrupt indicating some shift in meaning over the course of about a hundred years when ekphrasis is characterized by “florid effeminacies of style.” While not inaccurate, this definition is hardly recognizable against the panoply of meanings ekphrasis has covered and continues to cover in debate today. More usefully, the Oxford English dictionary does break down the etymology where ‘ek’ means ‘out’ and ‘phrasis’ means ‘to speak.’ ‘Out to speak’ or ‘to speak out,’ the word takes its original meaning from ancient Greece. [1] 


Translation Discussion

 Brief notes of our discussion with Brigit Connolly on Translation between object and language:

In translation, something (an ‘X’) is carried across, between languages, or between object and word. But there is an Aporia, i.e. something cannot be translated, something cannot pass through.

Translation is not the same as Interpretation.

Ekfrasis – one medium is being used to represent another.

It is important that the statement recognises within itself the impossibitlity of summarising.

For Benjamin, the work of art demands to be continually translated. It exists in a state where the task of translation can be repeated on the work of art.

If the work of art is fully translatable, i.e. no more translations came come of it, it then ceases to be a work of art.
Read more on the Press Releases page, as well as to download the additional texts that we looked at and read from.