Before I can write anything about the photographs in Anna Püschel’s “Layers of Reality”, I have to address the concept she means to investigate. Along with a psychological researcher, a psychoanalyst, a neuroscientist, and a philosopher, Püschel writes in this volume on the topic of synaesthesia, which most simply can be thought of as a mixing of senses. The phenomenon can be experienced in many ways, but Püschel is mostly concerned with the
What fascinates me though is how the expanded definition of synaesthesia used in “Layers of Reality” is how representational realism, and dualism, has become the reigning position of our age; many today find the descriptions of materialism comforting. To be fair, Püschel’s investigation is not so much about consciousness, her investigation is into perception, and my concern about what it implies could be mine alone. I admire a stratum of
Drilling down and transcending sensory concerns could be prerequisite for another kind of photography, that didn’t engage in separations, and categorization. There are many like-minded but individual arguments on this side of the coin. I recently started what seems like one of the best books I have ever read, “The Man in the Roman Street”, written by a historian named Harold Mattingly. He has a chapter called “Language and Forms of Thought”, where he argues that consciousness is not completely knowable from its parts, even if it is perceived to be made up that way. I also think of the author Tertullian, who wrote that Aristotle asked for an animal’s sacrifice on his deathbed, decrying the dependence on the physical, and qualia, in Aristotle’s thought. Beyond that, I have thought about how sources from varying traditions commend something unlike the modern focus on sensation. The Bhagavad Gita, for instance, says that an enlightened person, in sensing, always knows that they actually do nothing at all. It makes me wonder what that attitude yields in terms of photography, and I think of Alfred Stieglitz’s “Equivalents”, an oft-cited paragon of photographic abstraction.