[Writer, b. 1947, Endicott, New York, lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.]
I’ve often said the best pornographers were raised Catholic, which gives you an intense sense of taboo. I know I have it, as did Mapplethorpe and Warhol, and so does Madonna. Without taboo, you can’t get the supercharge of porn.
Computer enhancement has spread to still photography in advertisements, fashion pictorials, and magazine covers, where the human figure and face are subtly elongated or remodeled at will. Caricature is our ruling mode.
Young people today are flooded with disconnected images but lack a sympathetic instrument to analyze them as well as a historical frame of reference in which to situate them. I am reminded of an unnerving scene in Stanley Kubrick’s epic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, where an astronaut, his air hose cut by the master computer gone amok, spins helplessly off into space.
The visual is sorely undervalued in modern scholarship. Art history has attained only a fraction of the conceptual sophistication of literary criticism. Drunk with self-love, criticism has hugely overestimated the centrality of language to western culture. It has failed to see the electrifying sign language of images.