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  • From: marcus AT
  • To: "Percy list" <percy-l AT>
  • Subject: [percy-l] Hockney and images
  • Date: Sat, 29 Mar 2008 06:30:47 -0600

I think the recent posting about Prof, Greene's theories of
perspective and the linear imagination were interesting.
Perhaps those arguments need to be adjusted by David
Hockney's discussions of images?

Marcus Smith

Pictures and power

Whoever controls images has great social influence. Did the
camera damage the church's popularity?

* David Hockney
* The Guardian,
* Thursday March 27 2008
* Article history

This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday March 27
2008 on p35 of the Comment & debate section. It was last
updated at 07:26 on March 27 2008.

Michael Curtis, one of the founders of Hollywood and
director of Casablanca and many swashbuckling Erroll Flynn
movies, tells a story about seeing his first bit of cinema
in about 1908, in the Cafe New York in Budapest. He recalls
what fascinated him: it wasn't the film itself but the fact
that everybody watched it. He realised not everyone goes to
the theatre, not everyone goes to the opera, but the cinema
will attract the masses. By 1920 he was in Hollywood - which
was the sticks then, compared with Budapest - but California
had the money, the light, and the technology. He was right.

Now let's go back 350 years, to Neopolitan scholar
Giambattista Della Porta, who published a book, Natural
Magick, about optical projections of nature. He was a
renaissance man: scientist, playwright and showman. He put
on shows using optical projections (simple to do) and was
hauled before the Inquisition by the church.

The church at that time was the sole purveyor of pictures.
It knew the power of images, and Della Porta would have
noticed, like Michael Curtis, how people were attracted to
that optical projection. They still are.

The church had social control. Whoever controlled the images
had power. And they still do. Social control followed the
lens and mirror for most of the 20th century. What's now
known as the media exert social control, not the church, but
we are moving into a new era, because the making and
distribution of images is changing. Anyone can make and
distribute images on a mobile phone. The equipment is

We do not have debates about images. The world of art is
separate from the world of images, but the power is with
images, not art. An obvious problem is seen. The world of
images claims a relationship to visual reality - television
and cinema - but this claim cannot now be sustained. We will
get more confused if we don't think about them.

For instance, the NHS published an image of a boy (it could
have been a girl) with a fish hook in his mouth. "Don't get
hooked," it said, for the anti-smoking campaign. There were
protests at the disturbing image, which had been seen on
television and bus stops. It had to be withdrawn.

The image looked like a photograph, and by that I mean the
idea that an event took place in front of a camera at a
particular time and place. If this had been true, the
photographer should have been prosecuted - depicting cruelty
to another human being is against the law in Britain under
the Obscene Publications Act, obviously meaning there is a
difference between painting and photography because
paintings of the crucifixion are "allowed".

No one was prosecuted. Why? Because no one believed the
event actually happened. It was made with an application
such as Photoshop. People are now prosecuted for owning
images. How do we know they have anything to do with

Parliament will discuss depiction, but not art. We are in a
confusing time. The decline of religion in Europe is seen as
part of the "scientific" revolution. I have begun to doubt
this now; it is quite likely that it's to do with images.
The decline of the church parallels the mass manufacture of
cameras. They are deeply connected. I noticed on a recent
tour of Italy that not many Italians went in the churches to
see pictures. They see them at home, not made by Botticelli
but by Berlusconi. Think about it.

ยท David Hockney this week donated his largest work, Bigger
Trees Near Water, to the Tate; it will hang at Tate Britain

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