What's an Image?

[an exerpt from a much longer thingamajig]

An image is not an image of. Or, rather, it is also an image of. 

An image, like a word, is a way of going, of taking up the world — a face, a sunset, light, sadness, love, ambivalence, things — and assembling them just so. Like a word, an image selects, inflects, arranges, and prioritizes. This is not to say that an image is not intimately enmeshed with the thing in the picture. Of course it is. A picture of me is a picture of me. But it is not solely a picture of me. It is another me, another thing in the world, another way of going. The image of me is simultaneously a reading of me and its own thing. 

An image is not a re-presentation. It is a repetition. An image of me is me again and anew. Neither the image of me nor this me is the real one. Or, rather, we are both real but in different ways. Obviously, an image of me is not covered under the same legal jurisdiction that I am: tear the picture of me in two and you will not be arrested for assault (but you may for damage to property). An image circulates in its own network of economies — legal, financial, interpretive. This network intersects the network that is me. Together, we inflect each other more or less depending on the node within the network, the junctures of the diverse economies. 

In any case, I am suggesting than an image is not a derivation or a supplement of the real. In the logic of repetition, there is no original, no master term: we are always already supplemental. Or, to put it more affirmatively, everything is a point of origin, everything is the center of its world — just as it is a periphery in another word. All the terms are repetitions that inflect each other. Isn’t this the way of fame — that the relentless image making of a person changes that person?

An image, like any thing, is a multiplicity, a more or less elaborate network of affects, effects, speeds, intensities. It is a metabolic engine. A camera doesn’t as much capture the world as it does digest it and reassemble it. An image maker, then, does not make a picture of the world. He proliferates the world, making more and more of it. 


dustygravel said...

We are still the center of the universe for the moon, a bit more humble of a position. And this earth of ours, are we not drawn to it, as it is too the sun?
Another copernican revolution.

Daniel Coffeen said...


roca de carioca said...

Images digest, reassemble, and unhinge spaces.

Images can be to spaces like leaves are to a tree. Like a tree leaf possesses a tree’s DNA, an image of something possesses the visual material (light redigested, reassembled, and refracted (“re” because the tree does it before the camera)) of the same substance it encapsulates, and even more—an image also releases the context of that something in that moment.

I’m thinking of a bunch of polaroids for some reason (the speed of their process, maybe?)—polaroids of a tree. But they are already polaroids of trees because of the repetitive “proliferation” of which you speak, yesno? And I think they unhinge the world, too, in a way.

They unhinge the world of the tree, scattered all about in a viewing on a table or a floor or a board, by repeating the tree and presenting a multiplicity at once of that tree’s treeness in a place peculiarly separate from the tree’s limited space it usually takes up.

It unhinges the tree’s world by extending it further, similarly to how all these leaves falling from trees are doing this time of year. In our shuffling through the crunchy tree leftovers that decorate the sidewalks, we confront this seeing, this repetition, this proliferation of which you speak—the same proliferation an image maker also unanchors for the substances of its images.

Also, how can an image be made without a camera? Or, images aren't limited to pictures and film, right?