Materiality, Embodiment and Affordance

A new publication by Hans Dieter Huber: Materiality, Embodiment and Affordance in Paul Graham’s ‚a shimmer of possibility. In: ART STYLE. Art & Culture International Magazine, Vol. 4, Issue 7, March 2021 (Special Issue on the Material Image. Affordances as a New Approach to Visual Culture Studies), p. 135-157

In the text, the question of what a material picture is and what is meant by an image is discussed. We do not clearly distinguish whether we mean a physical object, a pictorial representation or a mental image that arises in our brain. The pictorial surface of a material carrier is the interface between the physical picture and the mental image. In contrast, our way of speaking of a pictorial representation works quite differently. Material picture and pictorial representation are structurally coupled. The representation cannot exist without a material carrier. The material picture embodies the pictorial representation like the actor embodies the role. The pictorial representation is only partially determined. It contains spots of indeterminacy that are filled up by the viewer’s imagination. Gibson invented the word affordance as a replacement for the concept of value. Affordances are what things offer a living being, what they ‘provide’ or ‘allow’ it to do. The fundamental problem with his theory lies in the attempt to construct a ‘direct’ and ‘unmediated’ approach to reality. The objectivism implicit in his theory oversees that affordances are neither ‘given’ nor ‘direct’ ‘properties of objects. Affordances are the result of active attribution and evaluation by a scientific observer. The photographic series of Paul Graham’s a shimmer of possibility exists in different materialities, namely as various photobooks and sequences of photographic colour prints on the wall, which provide different affordances. The photobooks and the photographic sequences are embedded into a space of potentiality out of which they are brought to actuality through a concrete process of aesthetic experience.