[-empyre-] Camera Obscura

Cortez, Beatriz beatriz.cortez at csun.edu
Thu Jul 28 15:00:35 AEST 2016

Thank you very much for your messages. I was very excited about the different ways in which Christine, Johanna, and Aviva approach the concept of Camera Obscura, and I am so excited about Christina's Transborder Immigrant Light installation!

In my case, rather than considering the different types of light that might evoke different realities, or tracing the data of their trajectories, my interest is to consider the possibility of letting go of a manifest vision that is linked to modern reason and humanism, that is, to explore the possibility of evoking a new vision.

Deleuze, when engaging with Henri Bergson's ideas about memory as well as the image, spoke of the virtual, which for Deleuze was a type of potentiality that was not material, but real, and that allowed for multiple possibilities for the creation of the new. The piece functions within a duality. On the one hand, the spectator will view different realities reflected upside down in the camera obscura chamber, denaturalizing our traditional understanding of reality. On the other hand, a camera obscura parallels the mechanics of the eye. It generates an objective perspective in bi-dimensional format of the way the three-dimensional image is perceived by the retina. As spectators of the images generated by the all seeing eye of the camera obscura, the viewer will be placed in the position of the one who surveys. This will also evoke the all-seeing eye of a panopticon, where the possibility of our being under surveillance at any moment emerges, immersed as we are in what Deleuze called societies of control, in the disciplinarian societies described by Foucault, and in more contemporary surveillance regimes with access to advanced technological tools. However, the surveillance that takes place through the camera obscura generates an image that is upside down, de-naturalizing the perspective of the watch person, and putting into question what an image is, how we interpret it, and how we assign meaning to it.

As a result, my attempt is to create another type of vision through the inversion of images that move through space and time, a vision that in some ways parallels what Marx/Sellars/Brassier argue. In other words, I am interested in the possibility of achieving a vision that deconstructs the normalizing transformation of images into objects or concepts embedded within Western reason (manifest image), emerging instead the possibility of perceiving the building as a platform that is moving through space and time, and thus, seeing the world as difference: as shapes, as shadows, as colors, as negative spaces, and as surreal manifestations of other possible worlds.

As the world appears in front of our eyes in moving visions of an inverted reality that disarticulates our normalizing understanding of the world, the construction of the transcendental identities that are the foundation of Western philosophy has the potential of being deconstructed, as it no longer makes sense in a world that is in constant motion, made of inverted landscapes, of shapes, shadows, and moving visions that invited the viewer to become part of other possible changing identities or nomadic possibilities of being in this world.

Here's a list of some of the works that I cited:

Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. N. M. Paul and W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990.

Braidotti, Rosi. Nomadic Theory: The Portable Braidotti. New York: Columbia, 2012.

Brassier, Ray. "I Am A Nihilist Because I Still Believe in Truth. Ray Brassier Interviewed by Marcin Rychter." Kronos 1 (2005). Online.

Brassier, Ray. Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction. London: Palgrave, 2007.

Deleuze, Gilles. Bergsonism. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone Books, 1991.

Deleuze, Gilles. "Post-Script of Societies of Control."  October 59 (1992): 3-7.

Foucault, Michel. "Panopticism."  Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.  195-228.

Marx, Karl.  "The German Ideology."  Literary Theory: An Anthology.  2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.  653-658.

Sellars, Wilfrid.  "Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man."  Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind. London: Routledge & Kegan, 1963.  1-40.

Spinoza, Baruch.  The Letters.  Introd. Steven Barbone, Lee Rice, and Jacob Adler.  Trans. Samuel Shirley. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1995.

Spinoza, Baruch.  The Ethics: Ethica Ordina Geometrico Demonstrata. Trans. R. H. M. Elwes. eBook.

Beatriz Cortez, Ph.D.
Professor, Central American Studies
California State University, Northridge
(818) 677-3585

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