● Critical Writing on Poem, Line
★Seo Min-seok(Photo Critic)
Dances with Wolves, a 1990 American film directed by, produced by, and starring Kevin Costner shows how North American Indian tribes have a very unique way of expressing things. Their names include Stands with A Fist, Wind in His Hair and Dances with Wolves, the main character who befriended wolves. Their full names contain no family names. Animals, trees, and even stones act as their family so they have not needed any family names of their own. Their world is full of names. They give their hearts to everything that exists in the world and give them suitable names. This is why their own names have their own resonances.
Adam’s Language is a term coined by Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) in Uber Sprache uberhaupt und uber die Sprache des Menschen (On Language as Such and on the Language of Man), an essay featuring his early thoughts on the nature of language. The title sounds quite offbeat. It signifies that there is a general language (a language of things) and a language of man, alluding that language is not the preserve of men and all things have their own language. A thing can be created and recognized by its “saying.” There was a time when the spiritual nature of a thing was spontaneously disclosed only if its name was called. During this time, humans were not yet subjects and nature was not yet an object. As its name was given by discovering its linguistic nature, the name itself disclosed its nature, and humans were able to communicate with things and nature. However, humans lost this language when abstract concepts were created and adopted.
Photography Is Language!?
Humans who have lost “Adam’s Language” have undergone a history of degradation. While humans were intoxicated by this history, photography was invented. Language has evolved from body language to images, images to sound, sound to words, words to letters, and finally letters to video language. The onset of this video language is photography. Photography is a universal language that needs no interpretation or translation. The camera obscura is the departure point of modern photography. “Seeing is reading” photography says.
As Richard Rorty (1931-2007) pointed out, the history of Western philosophy is the history of predominant visual metaphors. “Seeing” (voir) is “knowing” (savoir). It’s not surprising that philosophical concepts such as reflection, speculation, and vison are associated with the perception of “seeing” etymologically. (Konermann) Theories (theoria) regarded as the results of most invaluable spiritual activities are appropriated from the territory of sight. (Jonas) Human history has mainly been inspired by the sense of sight, but a sight-centered culture is not an absolute condition in humanics. That is a historicized structure.
In Essay on the Origin of Languages (Essai sur l'origine des langues) Jeon-Jacques Rousseau lays out a narrative of the beginnings of language: language itself started from metaphors. As the origin of speech was emotion, humanity’s first speech was an analogy (metaphor).
Metaphor as Illness
In Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag (1933-2004) investigates social prejudices deriving from metaphorical expressions of diseases. For instance, tuberculosis has always been surrounded by romantic images. Tuberculosis is an illness poets, artists, and Bohemians suffer from. Tuberculosis patients consume themselves with agony and fever. As typhoid is defined differently as a contagious disease, this illness becomes something fraught with social prejudices and curses. When AIDS is defined with negative words such as modern plague, homosexuality, extramarital intercourse, and lewd sexual desire and some negative images are thus added to this disease, the word AIDS itself drives some to suicide as in the film You’re My Sunshine! What kills a person is perhaps not merely the illness. Horrible words humans have coined to define diseases might also impact the people who suffer them. Sontag argues “A disease is just a disease and something to be cured.”
We usually think that language expresses facts. The varying attributes of substance are shrunken or concealed when something is expressed in language. This is because language only underscores an aspect of reality through concept, analogy, or symbol.
In Metaphors We Live by, American cognitive linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson claim that the use of metaphorical expression is in no way accidental and our thinking process and concept system are rather entirely dependent on metaphors. If a language has stemmed from metaphors for life, we are still living our tough lives as both producers and consumers of metaphors.
Lakoff refers to an “image metaphor” and a “conceptual metaphor.” Zen-like, poetic expressions died out and a philosophical life, a life that is dominated by “concepts” in lieu of “images” that started out as abstract nouns, had begun to emerge. We feel as though metaphors in everyday life have disappeared when image metaphors are replaced with conceptual metaphors. A metaphor takes shape as one gets behind another or is replaced with another: one thing comes into conflict with another thing, one image with another image, and one concept with another concept. Primal and poetic zen-like metaphors, communions among concrete nouns, are possible only when they are sought out with difficulty as they are hidden behind conceptual metaphors.
▲ 엔지 양, Poem & Line No.17, 12.1x18.2cm, Pigment Print, 2016
▲ 엔지 양, Poem & Line No.18, 12.1x18.2cm, Pigment Print, 2016
▲ 엔지 양, Poem & Line No.22, 12.1x18.2cm, Pigment Print, 2016
Now Let’s Talk Again About Photography
Poem & Line talks about language and things.
“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something because it is always before one’s eyes.) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him. - And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and powerful.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889~1951
“A photograph is not a utility pole itself but is nothing but its image.” The desire to perceive, the viewer’s gaze, disappeared metaphors, the signified floating… Enzi. Yang’s photographs feature aspects that make us feel perplexed and embarrassed.