Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part I)
In Ruscha’s 1966 book, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, the viewer encounters a more provoked dialogue between image making processes and this narrative-content divide.
Despite the fact that the content chosen for this work has the vague indication of linear reading – one drives or walks up and down the Sunset Strip; one interacts with the businesses and people that fill this public space – this does not necessarily indicate the presence of linear narrative within the context of Ruscha’s intentions.
What is highlighted throughout all of his books is the interaction with pure content. The specific conversation between title and image in Every Building on the Sunset Strip self consciously recognizes its relatively limited descriptive power through syntactical summarization of visual content – the title describes the conceptual boundaries of what the viewer will encounter with the visual content. Within these boundaries, the viewer will not expect to be presented with content outside of the Sunset Strip. What is viewed is what has been explained textually.
Rather than seeking, photographing, selecting and editing a single idealized image to represent the etherial idea of the Sunset Strip (or individual groups of images, as in Nine Swimming Pools), he shares it with the viewer linearly in its entirety. In this way, the individual images coexist on a single seamless image-platform to be viewed at once as a sort of general overview of the subject through a myriad of unfolding views. The group of images dance around the line of being considered a single idealized image since we, in a sense, experience it as such. However, the process by which the work was made puts it in a separate category from our previous example.
It is not a qualitative process, per say, but quantitative.
A poignant qualitative counterpoint to his quantitative approach, in respect to image making processes, can be found in Carleton Watkins’ 1865 stereoscopic image From The Best General View, Mariposa Trail. Though the initial intentions of these examples are arguably distinct from one another, the latter highlights the aforementioned concept of choosing a “single idealized image” to represent the chosen subject matter. In other words: choosing the Best General View. The conversation between title and image here are prevalent, like Ruscha’s work, in the sense that we are textually explained the parameters of how to view the image.
The content within Nine Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass may also fall into the category of a qualitative process since it contains a grouping of idealized, though seemingly arbitrary, images that point to the concept of a subject matter. Though Every Building on the Sunset Strip is also made up of a grouping of individual images, they are images composited to represent a single “object” (the Sunset Strip) through a multiplicity of views rather than singular views of a multiple “objects” (nine swimming pools and a broken glass).
By extending the canvas of these images to create one overarching representation of this “object”, both Watkins & Ruscha have created an improbable image not yet seen at the time. They create “photographs” of something that could not otherwise be photographed. If this image is improbable, it makes other individual images of specified views seem a little more probable, a little more recognizable – allowing them to be more readily adapted to the viewer’s previous experience with the subject matter. Improbable images make that interaction a little more difficult since the image making process presents a new way of viewing.
To be continued in:
Repetition, Iteration, Re-Iteration (Introduction – Part III)
*Ideas found within this posture of thinking are inspired by and informally quoted from Vilém Flusser.