Rethinking the Bible and the Image

Rethinking the Bible and the Image:

Some questions and inclinations

(an excerpt)


1.Thinking once again about nineteenth century pictures of Palestine:   what inheritance do they form apart from a destiny?  What forms of attachment to this piece of earth—and the “place” it marks within ourselves—do these pictures confer?

2.  Before communicating any likeness of Palestine, the nineteenth century pictures we inherit communicate “photography” itself as a power to ordain “seeing” as instantiating, and “the seen” as a form of being-present.  I am asking:  to sustain the world in a boundless presentness while remaining in and of a particular time and certain process of making—is this not photography’s grand tradition, its most riveting conceit?

3.  Am I right to suspect that photographs do not place the world in the condition of memory so much as a state of speculative idling that passes for memory? 

4.  I look and I see:  a photograph that is a fixed arrangement of nameable things is at the same time a peremptory holding of the changes things undergo.  If the stillness in photographs is precisely the wonder of imminent but unspecified change, who and what is that change’s agent?  From where in the stillness of the picture does life resume?  Is there another image-form whose invitation to re-animate life so holds the invitation in perpetual abeyance?

5.  To the extent that a photograph is endowed with the fantasy of authenticity, am I wrong to say that it is compounded immediately with two paradoxes:  first, that the authentic in photography is on the one hand something to be pioneered, and not just received, and second, that the photographic authentic is partial to that which is typical, if not prefigured by some already-existing image?

6.  And should I not add a third paradox:  that what appears in photographs tells of whole worlds by a form of implication that acts like exposition, i.e. a perpetually-renewed but never-consummated expectation that as the image chases the world, the world will catch the image, so that nothing will be excluded?

7.  Who is at liberty to disqualify herself and himself from the inheritance a photograph imposes:  that its veracity consists in its being a totality that disappoints completeness constantly?

8.  Palestine, as its historical photographs offer it to us:  a place of decoyed prophecy, strangely draining myths of destinedness.  Is this place in these pictures not curiously pre-Zionist and post-Zionist at once, neither confirming nor denying nationalist claims and speaking whisperingly about the proneness of nations toward self-invention?  Or to put it differently:  does the Palestine of historic photographs shelter a subversive insistence that the land is truly “for” those communities that are equal to an imagination of its divisionlessness?  Is Palestine in historic photographs something unrecognizably whole?