The subject/object kerfuffle in European philosophy has kept a very great number of confusing expositors in business for a long time. Whether Hegel or Kant or Freud or Heidegger or Foucault, in the end you get the unmistakeable sense that a mind is a terrible thing to make up.
And so here we are.
After many years making audio recordings of musicians great and not so much, I came to know what kind of recording I like – the well made live performance. But it was not until practicing photography in a non-journalistic way that I realized why. It has to do with the subject/object, mind/matter division that has plagued Whitey since Sophocles.
When you take a photo, the mind meets the matter – the subject meets the object – at the location of the camera, and the camera makes an image. That image is not a memory, not a slice of time, not a record of the event (!) and certainly not a story. It is a photograph.
I have devised a mental exercise for myself in which I look at a photograph and try to see it without allowing my mind to identify any objects in the photo. Just lines and shapes and tones, but not faces or cars or whatever is recognizable. To see without recognition. While not very easy, it’s possible to an extent.
But I realized it is seemingly impossible (without powerful drugs) to do with sound and speech. Once a sound is heard, if it’s recognizable, it’s almost impossible to hear without recognition. Speech is the same way; if it’s in your language, you can’t hear it without meaning. If bottled as music or poetry there is some hope, as the thinking mind can be overcome by the unnatural or the absurd. But otherwise, you’re trapped.
Ah, mind of distinction, you’re a useful idiot!
This is why art must be of no use.
(assembly by Dina Knapp, photo by the author.)