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ESSAY: “Fidelity to the Image” | Robert Longo | God Machines

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“To have fidelity to the image.” This is how Robert Longo recently described the way he thought about making the kind of art that he does.  It’s a statement that requires greater attention now that this trilogy of works, what I understand as the God Machines proper, take as their subject the holiest sites—St. Peter’s in Rome, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Ka’ba in Mecca—of the globe’s three dominant monotheistic religions, all of which, at one time or another, have manifested iconoclastic policies toward some kind of imagery and demanded utter fidelity toward another.

But what does it mean “to have fidelity to the image”?  It is not at all self-evident what the relationship between the two critical terms, “fidelity” and “image,” might be.  Notice too that it is “fidelity to the image” and not “fidelity to an image.”  The latter is more apposite to the worship of icons, for which the indefinite article is key, because the image, in this case, is merely a meaning-bearing token (picture) of a certain meaning-securing type (Jesus or Mary or the Saints).  The definite designation of “the” image, however, means that it is the token in which Longo is interested—or rather, to which he is committed, for this is the sense in which “to have fidelity” makes sense.  But what does it mean to be committed to a token?…

PDF of the full essay.  Purchase the catalogue here.

Written by Jonathan T. D. Neil

May 19th, 2011 at 8:31 am