I am a longtime fan of Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow Up about the swinging fashion photographer played by David Hemmings who becomes a witness to the aftermath of what may or may not have been a murder. Blowing up his negatives he sees fuzzy things which seem to point to a crime, things that only the camera saw.
But it is not so simple: the invisible becomes visible, but what is its meaning? Can the photographer trust the “vision” of the film? Can he trust his own vision? Or does he, and everyone else, have an intuition that transcends the visible… why else does he decide to pick up a non-existent tennis ball at the end of the movie and throw it to a bunch of mimes who need it to finish their game?
The short story on which it is partially based, Las Babas del Diablo (The Devil’s Drool) by Argentinean writer Julio Cortázar, is linguistically more sophisticated, interrogating language while questioning perception, and its subset photography. The story has a wildness that the movie never attained. The story begins:
“One can probably never know how this has to be told, if in the first person or in the second, using the third person plural or constantly inventing forms that would be totally useless. If it were possible to say: I they saw the moon rise, or: the back of the eyes hurt us me, and above all: you the blond woman they were the clouds that continue running before my thy his our your their faces. Damn.
“Once we have begun to tell it, if one could go drink a bock somewhere and the typewriter (because I use a typewriter) would go on by itself, it would be perfection.”
Now Barcelona artist Joan Fontcuberta has come up with a new take on it all, “Blow Up Blow Up,” where he explodes the negatives considerably more than the photographer in the movie, until it is the scratchy, grainy character of the actual film itself and the (dubious) information that it contains which become the subject of scrutiny. From the age of pixels it’s a particularly invigorating idea to resurrect and question surface.
The exhibition is just opening at the International Photography Festival in Arles, France.