Critique of a Dichotomy
When more recent studies examine the “visualization of the invisible,” they generally adopt, perpetuate, and consolidate a nineteenth-century terminology that even the historic protagonists themselves used to outline a set of open questions rather than to explicate their visual practice. This chapter shows that the classical division of the universe of photographic depiction into a visible and an invisible part is questionable or at least requires explanation. In this model “visible” and “invisible” are two states of the same object, alternating as one switches an electrical circuit from “off” to “on” and back. The phenomena in question are visible at some moments and invisible at others, but regardless of which of the two states they are in when we encounter them, they are always the same phenomena. The realm of the “invisible” is subject to the same laws that govern the familiar visible world, the only difference being that the phenomena it comprises are not—not yet—visible. But the process of visualization is not a translation into visibility, not a transfer that simply leaves the integrity of the object being transferred unaffected: Visualization means making something visible that was previously not present at all in this form.
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