I have probably been writing more over the last few months than ever. But most of my work has been in emails to select groups of people. I'm finding that writing to individual audiences allows me to be more lazy with my thoughts, but to also rely on the assumptions and knowledge of others and the context of our previous conversations.
But I think it's only fair to start sharing some of this with you, especially because I need to start remembering things in preparation for upcoming examinations. From an email last week....
I have recently been watching Man with a Movie Camera and realising the complex relationship footage has with truth in light of the kinds of lives led by its subjects and audiences. In an industrial or agrarian society, where material conditions and activity are not only the prominent elements of life, but could be perceived visually, it's somewhat possible to use footage as Vertov suggests. His international language is not, as he presumes, film, but rather the international language of technology and labor, based on experience and inference. Without a way to recognize the signs, his film would merely be visual art. Certain formal themes would remain: those related to motion, form, perception, juxtaposition, and time.
But much would be lost, has been lost. But how would we depict life in white collar, developed societies? The visual no longer can address this, not just because our technology has become a series of general-purpose black boxes (signs are more powerful, less specific. What can a computer stand for?), but also because our work is very linguistic, and because we clothe ourselves in aesthetics. If Vertov were trying to depict London today, he would have to include diagrams, hypertexts, all kinds of models and representations, based on the international languages of science, statistics, and visual marketing, on landscape, on forms of experience (the play, the swim, the business report, the murder). We are people of signs
I think it's time I revisit Tufte, but think more broadly, in relation to form, art, and nonfiction.