The Face: On Richard Avedon
I just saw the Richard Avedon show at SF MoMA. I was cautious, afraid I'd see celebrities. But what I saw were faces — human faces that can't help but bear themselves, that can't help but bear their history and their now.
Avedon's subject is not celebrity at all. In fact, it doesn't matter who's who. What matters is the image — which is to say, the face. This is Avedon's subject, over and over and over: the phenomenology of the face, the way affect lines the flesh and flesh is always and already affected, affective.
The face is the recording screen, the site of consumption and production, where the world enters and where the body plays it back according to its necessarily particular metabolism.
To see face after face, face upon face, faces with faces with faces, is to witness Leibniz's great monadology: each monad is the entire universe but from its perspective. Walking through the museum show, I saw the entire universe, inflected just so, in frame after frame.
The face is mesmerizing. There is something so humbling and inspiring about seeing the human face, again and again, knowing that it is making its portrait of you as you look: each image creates your image, your face.