Sometimes you need to get away from the conventions of realism a little bit

June 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Afterword has posted the text of Pasha Malla’s Trillium Book Award acceptance speech, which is well worth reading, especially as it makes a point with which yr. humble correspondent could not agree more:

Lately I have been reading a book by Lawrence Weschler about the visual artist David Hockney. The title, fittingly enough, is True to Life. Hockney’s work is concerned with capturing human visual experience and accordingly addresses the failures of photography and photo-realism. People do not, after all, see in fixed-perspective snapshots and moments, but fluidly, over time. With this in mind, in the 1980s Hockney made a series of collages, inspired by cubism, meant to address not what we see, but how we see it. “Hockney’s collages,” writes Weschler, “are a record of human looking. It is exactly the point that an automatic machine could not possibly have generated them.”

For David Hockney, standard photography fails to capture human experience; if unimaginatively used, a camera is only an “automatic machine,” better to be tossed into the uncanny valley. And I agree: what we really need from art are not mechanistic reproductions of the real world, but more expressions of our experience upon it and how those experiences make us feel. And to do that, sometimes you need to get away from the conventions of realism a little bit.

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