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EPILOGUE TOWARD A THEORY OF THE HOMUNCULUS ARCHIVING THE SELF Why was archiving the self as figures on paper so valuable to Kahn and his readers? In a seminal article, Bruno Latour discusses the “advantages of the ‘paperwork.’”1 Images on paper, he argues, are “mobile,” can be easily transferred from medium to medium, place to place. At the same time, they are “immutable”; they retain their content and are easily retrieved and read. Pictures allow you to capture and fix—make flat—and then circulate some selected aspects of three-dimensional life. The advantage, Latour asserts, is that “there is nothing you can dominate as easily as a flat surface; there is nothing hidden or convoluted, no shadows, no double entendre.”2 Domination, yes, but not always easy, and not always total in the way that Latour makes out. Think of what an artist may hide in the shadows of a picture, or pictorial double meanings that may slyly mock a patron, or how a commissioned artwork may provide the artist the chance to play some private game. Even the most determined illustrators cannot intend, or know, all of the meanings generated by their own pictures. If the picture is the result of collaboration—as are all of Kahn’s pictures (and as are all pictures in a sense)—then inevitably there will be some power struggle within the frame of the picture. No single agent entirely controls the production. The reception of a work is even more difficult. A picture may be read in ways that its producers would not assent to, cannot agree on, cannot control. Yet by virtue of its fixity, as well as the larger set of conventions and ideological assumptions that govern its production and use, Latour has a point: an image is inscribed with some particular vision of how the world works. Some images, and some genres, do a better job of that than others. Kahn and his artists did a pretty good job of dominating 186 | EPILOGUE their pages with pictures. Who or what dominated within the borders of any particular Kahnian picture is more difficult to ascertain. Of course, domination goes beyond the picture plane and extends out into the material world, where it is political and personal. Latour tells us that the making of pictures is in part an “agonistic” struggle for power between rivals over interpretation, patronage, use, and profit.3 (Think of Kahn’s critics and rivals, the other authors trying to win over readers to their articles and books on medicine and science.) The picture is a bid for some kind of governance over, and exploitation of, readers. If readers want to see and enjoy the picture, then they have to accept some terms and conditions of use. While this may seem coercive , there is also mutual benefit and collusion. Readers ask to be dominated . The act of reading is a kind of willing submission to the book, article, or illustration. The author and illustrators know they have to please the reader and satisfy reader demand, creating a feedback loop. In that way, readers call at least some of the shots. Within the picture plane, all sorts of powers are at work. Using the examples of mapping and micrography, Latour emphasizes the advantages of “immutability,” of keeping things as they are, then limiting the mutation to one register or scale, which “may be modified at will, without any change” in the “internal proportions” of pictures.4 But changes in internal proportions may also be toyed with for effect. Kahn’s image practice depended largely on continually playing with the scale of bodies and body parts. (Alfred Döblin praised Kahn’s “unusually vivid magnifications.”)5 Microscopic parts are enlarged as photographic transcriptions or worked up as imaginative presentations; macroscopic parts, whole bodies, are reduced to the size of an illustration on a page. Reading the images with some degree of imaginative identification, readers scale themselves up or down, in part or in whole. Mobility is the other principal virtue that Latour assigns to picture making. From the fifteenth century on, print technology made it possible for images to be “reproduced and spread at little cost, so that all the instants of time and all the places in space can be gathered in another time and place.” Because images “are mobile, flat, reproducible, still, and of varying scales, they can be reshuffled and recombined,” “images of totally different origins and scales can be superimposed”—both within the frame...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781452915777
Related ISBN
9781517900212
MARC Record
OCLC
956584181
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-07
Language
English
Open Access
No
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