A world like this one, just a little different
“A rabbi, a real cabbalist, once said that in order to establish the reign of peace it is not necessary to destroy everything nor to begin a completely new world. It is sufficient to displace this cup or this stone just a little, and thus everything. But this small displacement is so difficult to achieve and its measure is so difficult to find that, with regard to the world, humans are incapable of it and it is necessary that the Messiah come. Benjamin’s version of the story goes like this: The Chassidim tell a story about the world to come that says everything will be just as it is here. Just as our own room is now, so will it be in the world to come; where our baby sleeps now, there too will it sleep in the other world. And the clothes we wear in this world, those too will we wear there. Everything will be as it is now, just a little different”. G. Agamben, The Coming Community
First of all, one must make a distinction between photography and image. The photograph refers to a certain scale, to a relationship with the body, to the point (in space and time) where photography and everyday life meet, of all people and of all things. In the limit, one could say that a photograph is an object. A special object because it regards other objects , but an object nevertheless: it is exposed, hanging or projected on a surface; it is in our homes, on the dresser, on the bedside table or on the wall. It can be a portrait, a landscape, a driveway but the photograph is always conditioned into becoming a thing. Not the image: the image can be a concept, an intuition, a vision. In the limit, and using a Benjamin’s metaphor referring to Baudelaire’s poems, photography is a house of images.
In this essay, we are interested in photography, or rather, the photography of Daniel Blaufuks. Because his world isn’t constructed with images stolen from the everyday, nor is he interested in registering things as one sees them, that is to say, his work is not focused in the survey of visual elements that continuously populate our field of vision, nor is it in the visual clichés. His relation is with a world that runs deeper, closer to the origin, to the unconscious, to the nameless. Blaufuks’s Blaufuks’ gesture is no stranger to the expectation of redemption: the world he constructs is a promise of order, beauty, intensity, sensibility and harmony.
In this world, everything is as it is in our world, just a little different. There, which is how Benjamin designates the promised world, is the presentation of something that belongs to the sphere of intuition and memory. And this is the fundamental connection with the work of Daniel Blaufuks: what one expects is rooted in memory, and that is why photography is such a powerful tool in the knowledge of what can never be known: the promised world. Blaufuks’s Blaufuks’ work is a promise in the sense that the images he renders real can be shared, communicated, experimented, they are entrances: to a point of view, to an experience, to a community. A time and space based community emerges through his photographs: men and objects are almost like we know them in our shared life, just a little different. And it is in that slight difference, which is at the same time a gap and a chasm, that the space where Blaufuks’ work
sis born, the pace where he places the camera and over which his gaze is suspended.
The world created by the artist wants to save another world, to prevent its dissolution in the silence, in the absence of image, in the absence of shape. That is why the idea of album or atlas is so fitting to him: it designates the effort to secure a certain understanding of the mysterious nature that the world always possesses. And photography is the place where things and images settle in a unit of meaning, an indiscernible unit, compact and subsisting, which remains operating and powerful: it continuously projects its consequences and its shadows on what exists.
Referring to his own activity, Blaufuks writes:
“Photography is a space. Photography is a memory. Photography is a text. Photography is a postcard.
Memory is an image.”
Space, memory, text, postcard and image seem to be placed on the same level, as if one could move directly from one to the other, but the sameness is only apparent. Each element contributes to the construction of a field where photography emerges under a new light, clearer, more exacting and reaching further. Photography is space because it is power, the place where meaning occurs and where the current existence of what is presents/presented becomes once again potency, and because of that it is special: a place of metamorphosis, magic, transformation. It is a special space, because it is above all opening. Photography is never closure, but rather a threshold: it draws a boundary line beyond which everything is a little different, even if everything looks the same as here. The definition of photography as space and note that we are not speaking of the space of the photograph affirms its own nature, its singularity as technique and expressive tool.
Photography is memory, because it fights forgetfulness: the physiognomy that draws from time the characterization of the so-being of the moment, captive to a remembering activity, to remember the dead, to honor the legacy one receives and to render account to the days that go by. In the limit, photography as memory is in/at ou is serving sem of the service of that which demands not to be forgotten, which cannot be forgotten, which must not be forgotten. Therefore, it also has an ethical, political and moral task to perform.
It is a text, and its so-being requires that it is read. The metaphor of reading is very convenient, both regarding the relationship established between photography and the world, and the subsequent relationship established between its visitors and occupiers and the photograph: we read the photograph because it transforms the world into reading matter. To be text is to demand a never ending activity of decoding and intelligibility that provokes and puts in action the entirety of the individual’s powers of intelligence and sensibility. It is about canceling the passivity and entertaining nature that photography can have. It is not about a manifest, but rather about creating the conditions where it can be seen.
Another aspect must be highlighted if we are to look at photography as text. By demanding to be read, photography demands the presence of an other, it demands community, sharing, meeting. This reading game has rules: only he who knows the language can read, the one who learned the grammar, who knows the meaning of the words, who can establish a living community with the text. The difference is that photography is made of images, and one believes that there is no need to learn to see. Blaufuks’
swork is exactly the opposite: it highlights the need to learn to see, to know where to place oneself in order to create a place where the one who gazes and the photograph can meet. Because, in the limit, reading is not only to recognize the existence of another voice, of another life, of an other, but it also establishes the possibility of meeting an infinity of others. The world the Messiah will bring has the same nature: it isn't a complete break with the world as we know and understand it; rather, it shares our nature, our clothes, our homes. What is surprising is that all of us can recognize and identify that world, because it refers to something we carry inside: it has the nature of evidence.
Photography is a postcard because it reminds us of what is far away, it shortens the distance, cancels the absence. To be a postcard is to assume the composite character, organized in the different layers and materials of the photograph: constructed with prefabricated images to which specific, intimate elements are added. In the postcard picture one projects and constructs the unique character of the individual, and thus of the postcard infinitely reproduced and serialized becoming something singular and conquering its aura.
Finally, to claim that memory is an image is to re-state that a whole life, the whole world and all the things have a place in the image: that anything can compose an image, a symbol, an allegory. And that the image refers to the core of all possible thought. The world that is to come is also an image that is engraved in the sensitive core of the complex phenomenon of hope, reconciliation, and concordance. The work of Daniel Blaufuks presents, constructs and promises images, and in this activity he uncovers the difference between things, the folds that hold the gaze together with time.