prologo - jorge luis borges
today we didn't leave the house until about 3 p.m. we set for brooklyn's cobble hill neighborhood to look for furniture for our host. we picked up another friend along the way.

she chose a simple, antique wooden wardrobe that fit right into the decor of her house. everyone, including the owner, had to help carry the lightweight but bulky wardrobe from the shop to the car. the boys ended up tying the wardrobe to the top of the car.

we took the wardrobe back to the house where our host cleaned it and started placing clothes in it. after she settled into a routine of that, the rest of us found other ways of occupying our time - one read his book, the other dabbled a bit into the computer, while i combed through her bookcase.

antonio machado
poesias completas - p. 93
orillas del duero
a la desierta plaza...

the poetics of space
swann's way
the post card, derrida
(i read this in college, but of course i didn't understand it) the history of sexuality
thorlichen on argentina
borges on thorlichen
the suspension of perception


Towards the middle of the 19th century there was for the first time talk of pictoral photography; the coupling of these two incompatible words must have been a scandalous oxymoron for those people, analogous to the silent music of St. John of the Cross or to Chesterton's nightmares of delight. Who could admit rivalry of alliance between the eternal art of painting and upstart photography, who could suppose that a puny, furtive apparatus, servile as a looking-glass and imitative as a monkey, incapable of omission or selection, could menace the supremacy of the human eye, the human hand and the legendary brush of Apelles, the more admirable for his work being lost? Launched in these terms the debated admitted only one answer, which it was customary to frame in words of irony and rage. Now we know and feel, though we are unable to define it, that the argument conceals a fallacy which must be speedily brought to light and exposed. Curiously, the just solution of the problem is suggested in a sentence in Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici (1642). The reads, “All things are artificial, for Nature is the Art of God.” If we substitute for the word God, today a very compromised term, the words spirit, élan vital or will (these latter in the sense given by Schopenhauer and Bergson), the opposition between natural and artificial, organ and instrument, is obliterated. Then we can grasp that the spirit, engaged in its millenary task of explolring or creating the universe, formed the organs of sense and then, through the working of the brain, the instruments and machines which are their projections. The microscope, the telescope, and the camera complement the human eye. Around 1868 Helmholtz defined the eye as a sort of camera, this is inversely a sort of eye and it is irrational to deny it participation in aesthetic activities. The camera sees rather more than the man handling it; behind an aesthetic function there is always a documentary one. Whoever abhors the machine should also abhor the body of the man. The same should be said of that other instrument, language.

The arguments I have indicated run the risk of appearing useless or superfluous; let us not forget that they were paradoxial when Samuel Butler though them towards the end of the last century. Let us now consider this anthology of images for which it is my privilege to write about in this prologue. The reader turning its enchanting pages in other parts of America or in Europa will have no suspicion of the subtle but very real difficulties which (Gustavo) Thorlichen has had to conquer. They are of psychological order, though there are those of physical order as well, since the Argentine territory is very extensive and in certain areas excessively harsh and primitive. Few regions of our planet have less of the visual than this. Consider the first case of the pampa. Darwin observed (and Hudson corroborated him) that this plain, famous among the plains of the world, does not have an impression of vastness on one regarding it from the ground or from horseback, since its horizon is that of the eye and does not exceed three miles. In other words, the vastness is not in each view of the pampa (which is what photography can register) but in the imagination of the traveller, in his memory of days on the march and in his prevision of many to follow. The pampa is not contained in one image; it is a series of mental processes. I have said the same of the overwhelming but almost invisible Buenos Aires, which is not in this avenue or that vista, but is borne on the consciousness by rows of low, rectilinear houses stretching out for leagues and leagues. The picturesque is the exception of this country and we as Argentine do not feel it. Hence the difficulty of grasping in a limited series of images these farouche and almost abstract realities, hence the singularity of achievement which Thorlichen has brought off with clarity, fervor and good luck.

Prologue, “La Republica Argentina,”
A book of photgraphs by Gustavo Thorlichen
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