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punctum

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According to wikipedia, the famous distinction in Barthes’s Camera Lucida goes something like this:


The book develops the twin concepts of studium and punctum: studium denoting the cultural, linguistic, and political interpretation of a photograph, punctum denoting the wounding, personally touching detail which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it.

Wounding, yes.

(From here…)

Not much older than my daughter, and there’s that, what is it on his overalls? An elephant? A chicken? The head of a cartoon dog or bear? Can’t stop imagining the scene of the purchase of these overalls, for some reason. Was it after the start of the war? Or mightn’t they be handmedowns from the older brother? Purchasing clothes for children: a ceremony of innocence so pure that it leaves “ceremony” behind altogether.

(Do you have the same feeling as me about this sort of post? Have you been here before? The stupidity of it, the hypocrisy of it? Big fucking deal, you and your tears in your office when nobody’s there! You and your goddamned blogpost! But, behind it all, what? Some sort of, what is it, faith that the sheer weight of images might one day, what?, smother all of this out? But you know that it is unlikely, maybe even impossible. Believe you me, I understand the uselessness of this post. No need to let me know.)

Written by adswithoutproducts

June 16, 2006 at 2:07 pm

Posted in america

2 Responses

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  1. I obsess over this whenever I’m gifted something I know I’ll never use by someone I dearly love; what effect will my neglect of the object in which they’ve invested my happiness manifest itself? What obligation do I hold to the object purchased as ritual, to what extent does the thought-that-count collapse into the actual object. What you do here is the sympathetic version, no? You imagine the set of relations necessary to clothe a child, then mourn the disappointment of a probability. I understand why you would do that, and in my black moods, I do it all the time, but it is emotionally paralyzing, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say it’s useless, then, so much as expressive (or re-expressive, as the case may be). A country of sympathetic, emotionally paralyzed people couldn’t prosecute a war, now could they?

    Scott Eric Kaufman

    June 18, 2006 at 9:52 am

  2. Hmm… I dunno. I guess what I was getting at, or what I was specifically feeling when I wrote the post is the pathetically innocent status of the logo on the kids overalls. The way we buy kids stuff with these markers of innocence, an innocence that we do not ordinarily share, but actuallly, at searing moments of parenthoodness, get to participate in.

    Or the fucked up fact that I buy clothes for my daughter with little animals stitched on it, I buy her cute stuffed animals and this weekend, in honor of the WC, a nice little soccer ball, in the reasonable expectation that she won’t be wearing said clothes to bury a sibling or a parent, won’t herself be buried with the stuffed animals or the soccer ball.

    Betise, on my part. Thickly. But whatever. It doesn’t necessarily stop with the blogpost. I’m working on the issue. Hopefully in a way that will add up to something better than an academic monograph. But probably will. I’ll try.

    If there’s one thing that defines what I hate about the country in which I was born, it’s the (and yes I know it’s a bit of a cliche to say it) eyes up to heaven, always manifesting a destiny, always bustling for a big project, a new story Written In Superlatives. I think we’re not much good, as a people, in the Simpler Things, the Ordinary, the Everyday.

    (I actually am OK with big projects, as long as we keep out eyes on the ground, out of the aerie…)

    On my old site I had a post which looks back from a bit of a distance at the negative reviews of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. And what you find when you look back at these reviews is that everyone seems to agree that the MOST offensive scene in the entire movie was the one with the kids on the swings (was that it? the ordinary life scenes) before the start of the war. Sure, this sort of scene has a certain propaganda value – there are other scenes that might also have captured the reality of Saddam’s Iraq, torture rooms and the like – but it is interesting to me that this scene would so consistently provoke criticism. As if there weren’t, like, kids on swings. Folks buying, what, toilet paper and shitty magazines at the corner store or whatever.

    When one, as I tend to do, find a sort of intellectual-ethical redoubt in the old chestnut about war being on behalf of the empowered, but bled by the unempowered, these scenes take on another resonance than they had for Moore’s critics.

    So, I don’t know. Perhaps some emotional paralysis, rather than media driven / intellectually competitive driven faux sophistication (rhetorics of democracy, rhetorics of just war, rhetorics of preemption, secret rhetorics of theological fulfillment) would have served our nation well, Scott.

    AWP

    June 18, 2006 at 11:28 pm


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