La foto como policía del arte / Heriberto Yépez

The Photo as Art Police

The relationship between the writer and photography tended to be retrospective; we knew of a consecrated or dead author through his old photographs; the Internet drastically modified that relationship and today we know the photographs first and then (perhaps) the literary work of writers.

Serious problem: photography is the Great Normalizer, and being photogenic is proof that everything is OK: you love, enjoy, work, consume, rest, exist, wear, sell obeying each clause of the social contract.

A portrait is always the certification of an obedience to control; the police embedded in the retina. The change in the relationship between literature and photography has turned out to be one more factor in the normalization of the writer that characterizes this age of verbal arts.

Note, for example, the function of the photo in experimentalism: writing can desire to be non-communicative, to elude realism and passive-reading; but the person who writes experimentally, on the other hand, wants to be recognizable, real, transparent, present, communicable, familiar thanks to his/her photos.

This is the great inconsistency of experimentalism and all literature today. Its addiction to photography reveals its surrender to capital.

Photography has made commercial literature more commercial and experimental literature more acceptable.

Being a writer today means appearing in photographs. If there’s an announcement for a reading, book or event we’ll see a photo of the writer. Participating in the literary means appearing in a photo.

The book matters less; the main genres are album and pic.

Photography is the most reactionary art of our time; it’s at least 100 years behind contemporary art. However, contemporary art depends on the patronage of the portrait.

The writer becomes a “personality”; the text is merely the product sold by the “celebrity.”

While the book is in crisis, the figure of the writer, on the other hand, has become more relevant.

It’s no coincidence we now have writers who don’t write and are famous in the spectacle of the Humanities.

We’ve arrived at the moment when no radical innovation of artistic form will happen without a radical critique of the spectacle.

The absence of radicalism in the present literary, theoretical and artistic moment, in general, is evidenced by the naturalization of the photo as the author’s calling card.

Photography is the pillar of the spectacle. But through his use of the portrait, the writer undermines the distance, the estrangement of art.

The photo is the writer’s signature with the classes in power and with consumptive taste. The portrait expresses his affinity with those who dominate and his attractiveness and accessibility for consumption.

If the writer refuses to break the photographic contract, writing, nonetheless, will break its contract with the writer.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Archivo Hache, Suplemento Laberinto, Milenio (México D.F.), 14 March 2015 }

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