Tag Archives: Roi Kuper

Indexicality and the Depiction of Time

I came across a rather interesting paper on indexicality entitled Indexicality and the Depiction of Time on the Radicality of Vanishing Zone by Liat Lavi. The paper specifically addresses works by Roi Kuper, namely Vanishing Zones and Atlantis. I have made some brief notes on the paper and I’m hoping some of these ideas will feed into my assignment.

  • Indexicality refers to the direct relation that a photograph has to reality. A photographic image is a physical trace of the world it depicts.
  • Photography is also symbolic – builds on interpretation. Is usually hyper-iconic – bears an extreme resemblance to the object it represents.
  • Iconic nature of a photograph is not separate from the indexical nature. There is a relationship between the indexicality and the iconic nature of the photo (strong-indexicality).
  • Examples of strong-indexicality – myth of Butades’ daughter – traces the contour of her lover’s face on the wall as he prepares to leave for battle; Saint Veronica who wiped off the blood and sweat off Christ’s face with her veil as was left with an imprint of his face on the veil.
  • The manner in which these myths combine icon and index together serve two purposes: (1) to bridge the divide between the real and the  representation, and (2) to overcome time and defy death.
  • Although straight photography conveys a sense of timelessness, every photography that is produced measures some element of time, as there is no zero exposure time.
  • “Straight-photography … functions out of time by capturing a durationless moment, by reducing the present to a temporal vanishing point” (Lavi). Apart from fixing reality in time, photography also toys with the idea that a “temporal presence could be given eternal form(Lavi).
  • There are two very different ways of dealing with time:
    • time as a succession of momentary, durationless states
      (presentism – only the present moment exists)
    • time as eternal and fixed (4 dimensional – time in all its entirety already exists)
  • Change is illusive and difficult to capture
  • “When photography is abstract, it is primarily judged through this abstraction and regarded as a reaction to the all-pervasive strong-indexicality that is photography’s (‘true’) nature” (Lavi).
  • Photography is either indexical (natural, realistic and in sharp focus) or anti-indexical (vague, blurred or manipulated in any form)
  • This dichotomy affects how time is perceived in a photograph. An indexical photograph “captures a durationless moment and transposes it out of time by giving it eternal form” (Lavi). The anti-indexical image seems to operate outside of time.
  • How can change be captured? Long exposure provide one solution, but run the risk of erasing any moving object in the frame. Only stationery objects can be captured. I would argue that capturing the blurred smear of people or moving objects might constitute change as the traces of their various positions of their journey might be visible so long as the exposure is not too long.
  • Another way of capturing change is re-photography. Examples of such projects are David Taylor’s Working the Line; Zane Williams’ Double Take and Mark Klett’s After the Ruins. Re-photography is using found photos or stock images taken quite a long time ago and then rephotographing the same location from the same view point and presenting them side by side. When differences are very slight the viewer has to work harder to discern the change in time.
  • Lavi concludes his paper by stating that “photography seems unable to capture time as change” (Lavi). He cites two works by Roi Kuper to support this: Vanishing Zones and Atlantis. Both bodies of work are about the passage of time. From the artist’s statement for Atlantis:

The rays of the sun breaking on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, spread before the eyes of the viewer, erase a stretch of water, hide but also indicate an enveloping place that repeats 23 times while only the sparkles on the water vary.

Roi Kuper (Atlantis)

Atlantis project by Roi Kuper
  • Vanishing Zones is an entirely different project. Kuper made these images by printing the images, then separated the paper layers and saved the emulsion, then he contact printed it to create a new negative and reprinted that, repeating the process. He also scrunched up the prints and re-flattened them out or buried them in the garden for weeks, dug them up, washed them in water and rephotographed again, until parts of the original image were erased and eventually crumbled entirely.
  • The images in Vanishing Zones “capture a ‘chunk of time’; they transmute the photograph into an organic entity, giving form to the wrinkled and scarred body of the photograph” (Lavi).
  • Time operates on memory, sometimes distorting or hiding our memories.
Reference List

Lavi, Liat (n.d.) Indexicality and the Depiction of time on the Radicality of Vanishing Zone [online] Available at: http://www.roikuper.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/vanishing_zones_liat_eng-libre-1.pdf [Accessed 28 July, 2017]

Mikulinsky, Romi (n.d.) “And yet, what existence, really, does it have, the past”? On Roi Kuper’s “Vanishing Zones” [online] Available at: http://www.roikuper.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/vanishing-zones-Romi-Mikulinsky.pdf [Accessed 29 July, 2017]