In autumn 2010, I reread the fifty-four issue-books of positions for its use of images. This essay demonstrates that where the image's gestures animate, supplement, and haunt the written text, we find the edge of our critical practice. Journals, like framed shots, have their limitations. What is worth analyzing in social life remains abstract (for example, changes in ways of thinking), intractable (such as shifts in class power dimensions), and invisibly structured (capital in various manifestations). Without sustained effort to materialize analysis (in written and oral language; in images, still and moving; in diagrams and tables), no critique or even understanding, would be possible. Even then, visual information remains a gesture toward larger problems “beyond the frame.” I argue that discursive constitution through cultural performativity describes the journal's critical mission. An image does things that text cannot, but I think it does them best in conjunction with, and close by, words, so that there is the possibility for mutual interruption and dialogue. In print form, images work in specific ways, so part of my thinking concerns the digital future. After considering the creative ways images have inhabited the journal's “books,” I introduce ephemeral embodied performance art and the concept of “relational aesthetics” to discuss documentary filmmaking today. I suggest useful analogies from current art making. How might we reimagine the performance of our writing and reading labors in the future production of the journal, which will be online and likely no longer on paper?
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Angela Zito; Reading as Watching: What We See and What We Get. positions 1 February 2012; 20 (1): 241–265. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-1471559
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