Daniel Rubinstein - The Latent Image: Hidden, Non-Transparent and Un-Theorised & Panel 5 Q&A
Twice Upon A Time: Magic, Alchemy and the Transubstantiation of the Senses
Conference held at the Centre of Fine Art Research (CFAR), 26-27 June 2014
Daniel Rubinstein - The Latent Image: Hidden, Non-Transparent and Un-Theorised
Truth must include error, otherwise it has no claim to be ‘the whole truth’ -Attila the Hun
This paper considers the ontological significance of magic in relation to the photographic image. Photography is the case in point because it is the contemporary equivalent of transubstantiation: the miraculous transformation of the Eucharist into the flesh and blood of Christ. As everyone who got a parking ticket based on photographic evidence knows, the miracle of the car being transformed into an image is validated and sanctioned by the state, making this form of religious belief just as pervasive as the one sanctioned by the church.
Like other articles of faith, most dealings with photography begin from a dogma: they share in the implicit and incontrovertible understanding that photographs are a medium that must be approached visually (think light: life-giving, pure and bright, will the sun lie to you?); they take it as a given that photographs are there to be looked at, and they all in agreement that only the practices of spectatorship can unlock the secrets of the image. Whatever subsequent interpretations follow, the priority of vision in relation to the image remains unperturbed. This undisputed belief in the visibility of the image has such a strong grasp on thinking that it imperceptibly bonded together otherwise dissimilar and sometimes contradictory methodologies, preventing them from noticing that which is the most unexplained about images: the precedence of looking itself. This self-evident truth of visibility casts a long shadow on image theory because it blocks the possibility of inquiring after everything that is invisible, latent and hidden, or in other words: magical.
Drawing on a number of concepts by Deleuze, Irigaray, Lacoue-Labarthe and Mandelbrot this paper aims to recover the ‘forgotten’ latent image and reposition it as key figure for the understanding of the way images operate and to suggest that the concept of latency is essential for a philosophy of the visual which does not wish to be bound to the metaphysics of identity.