Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Mountain Itself

It’s an uncanny experience – to navigate throughout mountainous terrain, even in the most basic of manners (in my case, with the ease of a car – stopping to wander for short bits). Reviewing photographs and video made on-site a couple of days after the “fact” – adds a layer of remove, furthering the incongruities between experience and representation. Why does a mountain appear as a mountain?  How does it transform when you are upon it, or beside it – either in its space or with its image?

A good friend (a partner in crime of sorts in terms of this kind of thinking) serendipitously sent along a Merleau-Ponty passage in an email the other day, just as I happened to be out on my excursion along the Icefields Parkway. Thank you, Leigh-Ann…
"It is the mountain itself which from out there makes itself seen by the painter; it is the mountain that he interrogates with his gaze.  What exactly does he ask of it? To unveil the means, visible and not otherwise, by which it makes itself mountain before our eyes. Light, lighting, shadows, reflections, color, all these objects of his quest are not altogether real objects; like ghosts, they have only visual existence. In fact they exist only at the threshold of profane vision; they are not ordinarily seen. The painter's gaze asks them what they do to suddenly cause something to be and to be this thing, what they do to compose this talisman of a world, to make us see the visible."
MMP Eye and Mind, pp. 128
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