I have been meaning to post this for a while but keep forgetting. While working on this particular part of the course I visited the Detroit: Unbroken Down exhibition at the Side Gallery in Newcastle. Making the most of an increasingly rare visit to the Toon I also popped in to the Baltic to see their latest exhibition about migration and refugees. Though not specifically a photographic show, there were a few photographs in the exhibition, which was otherwise multi-media and multi-disciplinary, two of which are by Wolfgang Tillmans. One in particular caught my eye as an example of the “Point”.
The photo that struck me is “Lampedusa” from 2008, showing the wreckage of boats used by migrants to reach the eponymous Italian island:
What caught my eye here is the Point, the Punctum in Barthes’ terms, created by the small block of concrete and bent wire in the foreground. Too unformed in its own right to amount to a shape, it is an inconsequential detail that in itself does not add anything to, and is indeed materially unrelated to the wreckage of the boats. However it seems to me that it helps to animate what might otherwise be a rather flat, static image. As Tillmans has clearly decided to include the patch of beach in the foreground as part of the composition – classic rule of thirds – presumably he made a conscious choice to include the bit of terrestrial, rather than maritime, debris. It is both compositional element, and Barthes’ punctum. Powerful image in its own quiet way!