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The Distinctiveness of the IMAGEs [1988]

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 November 2022

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Summary

The image is distinct in being an image.

In the place of language, there is only language, in whatever form it may take.

The image does not become language.

Language is not transformed into image.

There may be symbiosis between language and image.

But symbiosis is association, not confusion, and one that is lasting and mutually beneficial.

The Man that we are is lichen, alga and fungus, that is, in this case, image and language.

That said, what becomes of the image, if we admit that the image eludes being language?

It's a question of language approaching what it might be like to be an image, of language believing that it grasps the image, understands it, assimilates it.

This having been done—and it's a decoy—there remains the image, still just as enduring; the fungus didn't appropriate the alga; the Man—that we are—is lichen.

If I write that Man is lichen, lichen in this case is not image.

It's a plant or, to put it better, an organism made from an alga and a fungus; perhaps a promising monster, as they say in biology.

Likewise human beings, who are promising—if they happen to persist instead of destroying themselves?

It can also happen that language flows into the image; it's thus that the being—human that we are—becomes a tree.

Believing is enough.

I have sometimes said:

– ‘Image is what is not seen (by the self ).’

This comment didn't make the task any easier for the image taker who happened to be here.

That said, I suggested he regard his camera as not being able to take movement, movement being what is seen.

I had gone to tell him that image and movement were of the same nature, movement— in cinema—being caused by what is called retinal persistence.

Who knows what ‘persistence’ the image—that everyone sees even though it is not there—develops from.

What I say to the image taker:

– ‘If the image is not there in—in or on—the film, there is no point looking to take—so to speak—images, since it's understood that images will capture themselves, as it were, just like flies on pre-war sticky paper.’ You just need to find the glue.

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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