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Victor Burgin, “Office at Night (detail),” 1986


The Tate’s website features dozens of scholarly papers to flip through on those bleary, insomnia nights, although a few pieces relating to photography caught my eye, particularly the transcript of a talk that Victor Burgin gave in 2004 about “Office at Night,” his 1986 photographic installation based on Edward Hopper’s painting of the same name. In his presentation, Burgin travels from Hopper to Larry Sultan to online porn to Antonioni to Mary Gaitskill to John Wayne before getting bogged down in his own Lacanian theory, and eventually ends on a high note with an invocation of Philip Guston and John Cage. It’s a pretty good ride…

The hackneyed idea of ‘influence’ is not at issue here. I am not interested in the question of what one artist may or may not have taken from another. I am referring to the universally familiar phenomenon of looking at one image and having another image spontaneously come to mind. The images that come to mind are not only such things as identifiable paintings or photographs, or particular images or scenes from films. They may also be more or less vague impressions to which we cannot assign any particular origin. To these belong the ‘fixed images’, the stereotypes of ‘commonsense’ that are the common coinage of mainstream media – popular journalism, television sitcoms, and so on.

Read “The Separateness of Things”

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