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Monday, February 10, 2020

ASX

American Suburb X is a weird mixture of stuff. On the one hand, it's an "archive" which is a nice way of saying "it's a big pile of plagiarized material" which material is often pretty good. There's also contemporary content, there are people writing reviews and things for it, and some of those things are ok.

And then there's Brad. Brad Feuerhelm. Is he a robot, an industry in-joke I don't get? Or is he a real person? If real, is he some lunatic living in a cabin in the woods with 200 cats and a half tonne of meth? Or is he actually a real industry person that people take seriously? The last is what appears to be the case, but I am starting to question it. He's written most recently on something something Dorothea Lange. I honestly didn't get past the first paragraph, but he seems to be talking, as everyone else is, about "recently unearthed works" by Lange. I don't really care. Lange is fine, but dredging through people's castoffs is not a particularly interesting passtime.

Here's the first paragraph, though. Three sentences. I'm pretty sure that what he's trying to say here is when we look at pictures taken some time ago, we see them in new ways. Let us take a few minutes to mock the idiotic word salad he has produced instead.

History generally presents itself to the future in visual terms that signify the distance between the two points of time from its creation and its re-purposing and its re-examination. The fallacy in photographic terms of historical representation and its distribution of intent are intertwined between reason and audience over the passing of linear and political time. Time and the changes that govern its passing, in ideological order or other affect the way in which we unpack or re-evaluate the historical image.

Let's take a shot at making sense of this shit. First sentence:

History generally presents itself to the future in visual terms that signify the distance between the two points of time from its creation and its re-purposing and its re-examination.

Dropping some adverbs and adjectives, just try to get a handle on the subject/verb/object business, I think the sentence comes out as:

History presents itself to the future in terms that signify the distance between two points of time.

Obviously History does not actually present itself so we ought to read this idiomatically, in the sense that we, in the future, do or will see history, do or will understand history, in this way. What way?

Backing up we see this phrase: in visual terms. Does this mean that we understand history in visual terms? Or does it mean that, while we understand history in many ways, the visual terms are the ones Brad would like to discuss? It's anybody's guess! He's made such a hash out of his lede that you can't tell! Whichever it is, the visual terms are the ones we're apparently interested in

Whatever the status of the visual terms on which, through which, we understand history in the future, those terms apparently signify something. What?

the distance between the two points of time from its creation and its re-purposing and its re-examination.

To be honest, it's not clear that its even has an antecedent here, but the only candidate in play is History so let us proceed on that basis. History's creation I guess is... when the stuff happened? And the other point in time is when History gets re-purposed and re-examined.

Ok, so guess we can assume that some history is re-examined or re-purposed some time after it happens? But isn't that kind of.. always? I'm pretty sure Brad means now here, or, whatever time we look at pictures from the past and attempt to make sense of them. The gap he is lugubriously laboring toward is, likely, the gap between then and now.

So the claim is that, the visual terms on which we understand history somehow signify that gap, that interval between then and now? Or whatever the interval Brad means is?

This is just gibberish. It sounds erudite and so on, but when you actually attempt to force the sentence to mean something, it simply falls apart into meaningless garbage.

Onwards. Sentence #2, my favorite sentence:

The fallacy in photographic terms of historical representation and its distribution of intent are intertwined between reason and audience over the passing of linear and political time.

Again, let us start be clearing the modifiers away to get to the skeleton of the sentence. The verb is are intertwined which is plural, but the subject appears to simply be a fallacy, which is singular. It's possible we're looking at a grammatical error, and the sentence parses as:

The fallacy are intertwined between reason and audience.

Or possibly the fallacy and the distribution are together the subject:

The fallacy and its distribution of intent are intertwined between reason and audience.

I guess the latter might be the idea here? So the fallacy of historical representation, and the distribution of its intent (I have no idea what the antecedent of its is here, it could be goddamn near anything — fallacy, distribution, and representation are all in play) are two things, which are intertwined between two other things. Is this some sort of net suspended between reason and audience? This visual makes no sense.

Apparently this happens over the passing of time, but not merely time, two different kinds of time. The linear, and the political.

Ok, so, pretty sure this one is just gibberish too. Again, any kind of examination of what it actually means causes it to collapse sobbing in a pile of ambiguous antecedents and verbs in vain search of a subject. Even after you shotgun-marry pronouns to antecedents and verbs to subjects, it still comes out as something are intertwined between something (else?) over the passing of time which doesn't actually mean anything. Does one even intertwine between things?

Sentence three, the home stretch:

Time and the changes that govern its passing, in ideological order or other affect the way in which we unpack or re-evaluate the historical image.

Crush it:

Time and changes affect the way we unpack or re-valuate the image.

We could be looking at a singular subject and a plural verb, yielding Time affect the way we unpack etc but let us generously assume the Brad has matched his plural verb with a plural subject. Don't worry, it doesn't help to assume the other way around (try it if you like!)

I have no idea what the changes that govern its (Time's?) passing might even be. Doesn't time just kind of... go? Without a lot of governance? What on earth is supposed to be in ideological order or other I have no idea. The changes are possible, but also this prepositional phrase could be modifying the governence itself. Either the changes are in order, or the the way the changes govern the passing of time take place under the aegis of ideological order (or other). There's no way to know.

This one, while grammatically a mess, does seem to be desperately trying to convey meaning, to wit, Time changes the way we interpret pictures.

So, 2.5 for 3. Way to go, Brad.

And now you know why I didn't make it past the first paragraph.

11 comments:

  1. I think every one of Brad Feuerheim’s sentences is a perception of its own materialisation.
    Iain

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every one of Brad Feuerhelm's sentences and their conceptualization in visual terms while also a fallacy is as a perception of its own materialization of the historicization of the reader's sense of intention and indigestion.

      Gotta have the feral bands of prepositional phrases roaming around looking for something to modify, by force if necessary!

      Delete
  2. Not THAT Ross CameronFebruary 11, 2020 at 3:12 AM

    Wow. I tried reading it. I read the words. They left an impression. But beyond that, I don’t think I’m the intended audience. I have no idea who would be, as it only gets worse, and more dense.
    I suspect Brad is projecting his own thoughts(?) / impressions onto the book being reviewed. But the book isn’t being reviewed, it’s just something for Brad to hang all this off.
    One last thought - it’s almost as if the structure is all backwards. It starts with the conclusion, and then goes on to elaborate on whatever he is trying to say, and trying to explain the concepts he introduced at the start. Did someone pay for this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Brad does't have anything to say, and is writing in a cant which serves mainly to signal his deep involvement in Serious Art rather than to carry meaning, and secondarily to conceal the fact that there's almost no content in the writing.

      I did actually read the review, and it says:

      "We look at photographs one way in the time when they are made, and differently later. Artists who work with archives of things retask them, sometimes politically. Sam Contis has retasked Lange's photos into a critique of Trumpian America."

      which isn't long enough, and is also almost certainly stupid and wrong, but you'd never know it, would you? But it's ASX and therefore Serious and so you dumbly retweet it without having read it, and the whole thing becomes a self-licking ice cream cone.

      Except that eventually all players realize that nobody's reading anything, and they all start newsletters because those are the new thing.

      Delete
  3. Nice deconstruction. ASX five years ago maybe was a hot mess, since gone jaded.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I had a similar reaction to another review by Feuerhelm: http://blakeandrews.blogspot.com/2020/01/howl.html. Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks he's full of it. As awful as his writing is, I'm surprised that few others have called him out on it. Maybe no one's paying attention? Or (the worse alternative) people are in fact paying attention, but are unable to see through the smokescreen. Anyway, thanks for the post, and the fun blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hah! Nicely said. I swear I have swung past your blog now and then in the past but it has somehow fallen off my list (I refuse to bookmark or otherwise track things outside my own head, so things... vanish)

      Delete
    2. And as for why everyone swallows it without a peep, I assume it's because nobody actually reads it. I have a strong sense that in the Serious Photo Critical Academic Community there's a lot of retweeting and citing one another, but very little actual reading of one another.

      I kinda have a handle on how many people read my site, and according to alexa.com, my teeny tiny little read blog has... rather more traction than many of the "Imprtant Critics" do. In some cases a LOT more traction.

      Many, but not all, of the "Important Critics" are just frontin'.

      Delete
  5. Best don yer hip waders, here's a fresh today steaming pile:

    https://americansuburbx.com/2020/02/a-conversation-with-tim-carpenter.html

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    Replies
    1. I take a lot of pictures like those. The difference is that I delete them.

      Delete
  6. https://americansuburbx.com/2020/10/martin-bladh-karolina-urbaniak-the-torture-of-the-100-pieces.html

    ReplyDelete