February, 2011 Archives

This painting, regarded as the most important work by the German surrealist Richard Oelze, argues its subject – presence of expectation – by destroying our expectations about what we see. Fedoras turned toward ominous sky give us a clue: we think that there must be something important up there that everyone is seeing. Our observation of the sky, however, reveals nothing. This pushes us toward a different interpretation: that the people are expecting something. As a result, our initial impression of absence is replaced by a sense of foreboding.

I think that there is a marked difference between experiences of waiting and experiences of absence. Compare hearing the footsteps of someone who is about to enter the room (expectation without an experience of absence) and seeing that someone is missing from the room. But maybe the difference is not intrinsic, and sometimes, our anticipation of an object essentially involves experiences of its absence.

Expectation

William Eggleston’s photographs are nostalgic and subtle. They are about the mundane without glorifying it. He calls it “a democratic way of looking around: that nothing was more or less important.” Is this photograph merely a memory of the mundane – of cotton candy and going to county fairs? Since you are on this blog, you are likely to be looking for absences and may notice that one cotton candy is missing. Could it be that this photograph is not really about a row of cotton candy, but about an absence of one? Is it inviting our imagination to come up with a story about why it’s gone? Maybe, there was a kid who was saving up for one and got his treat at last. Or maybe, the business was slow that day and no one was buying them. Or is absence of one cotton candy just as mundane as was its presence?

Cotton Candy

Antique statues are rarely preserved completely – we often see them missing heads or limbs. So, this particular absence comes by a surprise. That something is missing becomes evident once we follow Venus’ gaze and see her arm position. What exactly is absent is harder to figure out (I thought it was a musical instrument). What kind of an absence do you see?

Spoiler alert: here’s the original description of Venus of Capua from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Italy: “Aphrodite partially disrobed, her arms raised to hold a polished shield in which to gaze at her reflection (missing).”