Uncertainty Multiplied

David Jiménez, Universos, RM Verlag, 2019

‘Uncertainty Multiplied’ is an essay included in David Jiménez’s book Universos, RM Verlag, 2019

An extract:

The fact that photography is still with us, after around 180 years, is a good enough indication that we have not yet exhausted its possibilities, and thus have not yet understood it fully. Something about it remains beyond us. Of all the inventions from the middle of the nineteenthcentury, photography is the one that continues to feel contemporary, the one that defies history, the one that still engages and perplexes us, and the one that still awaits comprehension.

Surely one of the reasons for this has to do with appearance. I mean appearance in three senses: how the world looks and means; how the world looks and means as image; and how photographic images are apparitions with an unfathomable mix of intention, automation, and chance. A second reason has to do with photography’s relation to time. The question of photographic time has always been at the centerof ambitious theories of photography, of various attempts to define its essence as a medium. But it has eluded genuinetheorization, just as it eludes the notion of what a medium is. Photography requires something beyond itself: the light that is reflected by the world. It gathers this light, and creates illusions. So the time and appearance of the photographic image are inseparable from the time and appearance of the world, yet they are clearly not the same.

By remaining an open question, photography remains fascinating, frustrating, and full of artistic potential. Indeed, whatever else they do, works of photographic art are proposals of what photography is or can be, what appearance can be, and what time can be. I suspect David Jiménez thinks along these lines.

Jiménez is one kind of embodiment of the artist as photographer-philosopher-poet. His remarkable books and exhibitions are intense, highly structured, but open-ended meditations. To engage with his work is to enter an arena of carefully calibrated impressions and suggestions. His vision and disposition are highly attuned, and there is clearly a mastery of technique here. But there is also a deep humility regarding what is not understood about the photographic image and its relation to the world. Jiménez is an artist of poise and confidence, in speculative pursuit of doubt and possibility.

Images, asthe philosopher Maurice Blanchot once noted, areessentially ambiguous. They figure what they cannot explain or account for. In general, however, the mass visual culture produced by photography has tried to minimize ambiguity, to tame it through repetition and explanatory captions. Photography has been domesticated and institutionalized in ways that give it useful functions. News. Advertising. Science. Surveillance. In other words, it has been made conventional. The fixing of the world’s meaning in imagery may feel oppressive or comforting, but it is never truly permanent. Nothing can eliminate the essential ambiguity. It is always there, threatening to emerge and disturb. Meaning is not made forever, and all photographs, however straightforward they may seem, contain the seeds of their own undoing.

The natural state of any photographic image is open and incomplete. David Jiménez has offered countless compelling examples, and it is clear that each one is its own distinct and enigmatic entity. But his art has no less to do with assemblage, with putting the images together. Diptychs and sequences are arranged across printed pages, or around walls. The results are rich and varied, but they are always multiplications of uncertainty. To place one image next to another can only ever be an act of suggestion, or perhaps of provocation. There can be no wrongs or rights. No agreed-upon meaning.

Presented with two images, a viewer derives impressions and thoughts from the encounter with each, and from between them. This “between” is spatial and temporal, intuitive and intellectual, unconscious and conscious. Images placedside-by-side often imply narrative, or a consecutive movement through place and time, governed by causality, but this does not appear to be of great interest to Jiménez. What he explores and offers us seems to have more to do with the suspension of place, time and causality. It gives his work the feeling of vivid apparition, like a lucid dream, with an internal logic at the limit of understanding. Whatever is happening in his images, and happening between them, is happening simultaneously and in some undefined parallel existence. Everything is up in the air, and occurring in a permanentmeanwhile.