A substantial portion of this century's cultural history has been forged in the struggle for primacy waged between the book and the film, between the newspaper and the television, between the word and the image. Yet, it would be ill-advised to overestimate the antithetical nature of these pairings. We understand the necessary slippage that occurs between the categories. We admit to the many hybrid, "intermedia" forms that exist in the interstices without regarding them as the bastard children of this or that unnatural coupling. The quandary facing theoretical inquiry is not how the individual work of art comes to mimetically carry the mark of society's contradictions, but rather how this fact results in the proliferation of works, of genres, of media. To historize the relationship of word and image is not to "picture" the relationship (in either its static or moving form) but to consider that which is "not in the picture." And then to ask, as Joshua Schuster has in another context: "What happens when the history of an object or event continues only by the absence of that object or event?"
This issue explores several "marginal" mediums and situations where image/text interplay is prevalent but which are not typically addressed in discussions too often dominated by the "majors": painting, sculpture, architecture, film, television, the novel, etc. Against these historical genres, we array an open set of non-genres: the artist book, the assembling, the archival dossier, the zine, the samizdat work, mail art, comix, fluxus, and so on....
Here is where we find perhaps a more viable tradition, if not necessarily an clear alternative, then a subaltern/ative.
1 "Photography as
Translation," Conference paper delivered in conjunction with the
exhibition, Photography After Photography, ICA, Philadelphia,