undergrowth? stain? blot? speck? disgrace?

Teju Cole’s Google’s Macchia in The New Inquiry is an inspiring blog posting on several levels: a nice exposition of ideas about directions in contemporary photography, a meditation on activities that I’m only beginning to notice

…the various artists who have appropriated Google Maps’ Street View and Google Earth, extending the practice of found imagery and the readymade to the images discovered on the computer screen. These Google-based photographic practices are forms of counter-surveillance, and in part what they do is show that a photography of ideas can accommodate different kinds of images…

and a lovely example of the power of the blogging medium. And the post delivers something I didn’t know:

In Naples in 1868, Vittorio Imbriani published a pamphlet entitled La quinta Promotrice. In this now almost forgotten text, he advanced a peculiar theory of art that centered on the color patch or, in Italian, the macchia (the word literally means stain or spot). According to Imbriani, the macchia is “the image of the first distant impression of an object or a scene, the first and characteristic effect, to imprint itself upon the eye of the artist.” It is, in other words, the total compositional and coloristic effect of an image in the split second before the eye begins to parse it for meaning. Imbriani was writing against the academic idealists of his time, who were obsessed with categories of style and execution. “Every painting must contain an idea,” Imbriani wrote, “but a pictorial idea, not just a poetical idea.” And for him, this pictorial idea was a matter of “a particular organization of light and dark from which the work takes its character. And this organization of light and dark, this macchia, is what really moves the spectator… Equally in music it is not the attached words, the libretto, but the character of the melody that produces emotion in the listener…”

I did a bit of searching around macchia, starting with wiktionary, and was directed (by Google, natch) to this from Dale Chihuly’s website:

…Since the Renaissance, macchia has been associated with a sketchy way of applying the initial color to a drawing or painting… In the seventeenth century, macchia designated the special quality of improvisational sketches that appear to be nature’s miraculous creation rather than mere human work… encapsulate[s] the concept of the spontaneous outpouring of artistic sensibility…

Says Cole,

I am now using Search By Image for my own personal color studies, for my own understanding of the color patch, and I don’t know what might come of it. I’m watching to see what other photographers and artists can create using this latest manifestation of Big Data. As usual, they will have to navigate between the Scylla of copyright issues and the Charybdis of “that’s bullshit, not art.”

Much to chew upon here.

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