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July 23, 2007

Is Anyone There?

rodchenko at the telephone 28.jpg This morning I can't get this photograph out of my mind. It's Rodchenko's "At the Telephone" (1928); there's a print at MoMA in NYC. I once thought of it as "just" an extraordinary example of the "New Vision", of a stark, photographic formalism. But in a class discussion a while back Justin Eichenlaub pointed out that it was taken just as Stalin's state-sanctioned paranoia was emerging. The photographer is not only looking at the worker from a new angle. He is also secretly surveying her, perhaps eavesdropping. A whole burgeoning culture of surveillance is represented here as well as a formalist aesthetic of defamiliarization. Perhaps that's why I can't stop myself from recalling the image over and over today. Really, no-one is anonymous anymore. Our continuing freedom to do and read and say what we want is now predicated on our remaining of complete practical insignificance to the State.

Posted by njenkins at July 23, 2007 07:58 PM

With the exception of interspersed quotations, all writing is © 2007-09 by Nicholas Jenkins