Thought Scores / 3

Boko HaramA member of Boko Haram poses with his gun

I

I’m scouring the world for metaphors; suddenly their meaning has been problematized. My positive trouble with the word began when I read Teju Cole’s introduction to Ivan Vladislavic’s novel Double Negative. Cole finds that in Vladislavic’s writing, there is an impressive “facility with metaphor.” “Metaphors provide the observational scaffolding on which the story is set.” Gifted this idea of “observational scaffolding” I began to slowly come to terms with the function of metaphors, invisible as skeletons, inimitable in their rifeness, gallant in their assault. Metaphors, as Lisa Robertson mentions in “How to Colour,” “inflate an economy.” Language, stingy in its generosity, economical in its gestures, is inflated by metaphors.

II

I just wanted to say

That I’d had a dream

My lips were to your ear

I kept saying things

That made you smile

There was no end

/

Darling,

I’m

“pushed forward by your idiom

like a giantess opening a window sash….”

– (Barbara Guest)

III

Writing about photographic representation in relation to Boko Haram has made me interested in the metaphorical kinship between cameras and guns. Paul Virilio in Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology posits a relationship between the development of automatic weapons—the repeating gun—and the invention of cameras that took rapid-fire images in much the same way. In “Photographs of Agony” John Berger writes: “The word trigger, applied to rifle and camera, reflects a correspondence which does not stop at the purely mechanical. The image seized by the camera is doubly violent and both violences reinforce the same contrast: the contrast between the photographed moment and all others.”1 When I think of the photographed moment, I recall the distinction Berger made between the work of Paul Strand and Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had popularized the term “decisive moment” in his 1952 essay. About Strand, Berger wrote: “His method as a photographer is more unusual. One could say that it was the antithesis to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s. The photographic moment for Cartier-Bresson is an instant as though it were a wild animal. The photographic moment for Strand is a biographical or historic moment, whose duration is ideally measured not by seconds but by its relation to a lifetime. Strand does not pursue an instant, but encourages a moment to arise as one might encourage a story to be told.”2

 

 

 

“Thought Scores” are numbered on-the-go-ideas originating from ongoing research, readings, conversations, weblinks, controversies, etc. I am drawn to.

 

  • 1. John Berger. “Photographs of Agony” in About Looking (New York: Vintage International, 1991): 43.
  • 2. John Berger. “Paul Strand” in About Looking (New York: Vintage International, 1991): 47.

Emmanuel Iduma​ was born and raised in Nigeria. Emmanuel is the author of The Sound of Things to Come. He received an MFA in art criticism and writing from the School of Visual Arts, New York.