“Deceptive Evidence”

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Our discussion last Wednesday along with a few of the posts below correspond to Pinney’s idea of objects as “deceptive evidence” (263).    We often examine art and objects in context, assuming that they will be examples/representations of their time and place, but sometimes this may be deceptive.  Pinney quotes Quinet when describing art of Venice that perhaps should have represented the political regime and tension, but instead looked as though “these [men’s] ardent imaginations can only have flourished in a regime of excessive freedom” (263).  The photo from 9/11 is alarming to viewers because we expect it to show the scenes and emotions of other photographs from that day, yet it looks as though it were taken during a time of peace and confidence.  The reaction that the people IN the photo had to the critique of their afternoon was very interesting– they pointed out that pictures can be deceiving, even mentioning that snapshots have the ability to make mourners at a funeral look as though they are at a party.   Pinney goes on to state in his article that “we assume the image will somehow embody the moment; we form a judgement of the moment and then read into the image what we have already determined ‘by other means'” (264).  Historians and museums may be obsessed with the presentation of objects in time lines, mapping out history as sequences, but as Pinney quoted Kubler “the date of a specific art object is less important for its interpretation than its ‘age,’ meaning its position in the sequence to which it belongs, and that these sequences have time schedules all their own” (264).   It would be nice if we could discuss the idea of contemporaneity in class as it relates to the images we have been discussing.  How can we be cautious and recognize that placing an object in context does not always reveal meaning about the object?

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One Response to ““Deceptive Evidence””

  1. saetazen Says:

    Pictures can certainly be “deceiving”, but (perhaps fortunately) so can be our attempts to determine the extent of that deception. Deception is only troubling in so far as it destabilizes our understanding of the proper place of things, not only in time and space, but also in “classificatory system” (Pinney, p. 260) that allows us to separate pure from impure, objects from subjects, and truth from falsity (cf. Pinney, p. 257). With the slightest push, the tension present in the photo from 9/11 seems to come back to life and spread to its current surroundings. In this sense, the need to delimit what is deceptive (in the shape of establishing what the photo really shows) indexes a tendency to fix the loose stitches of our classificatory grid and reestablish a proper “suture” (cf. Pinney, p. 262). “A snapshot can make mourners attending a funeral look like they’re having a party” only works as an excuse if we presuppose that funerals and parties are antithetical, that there is no place for slippage between the two situations, between the role of a mourner and a partier, or between the role of responsible citizens engaging in “civic debate” and the laidback resilience of being “American”.

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