In Restaurant – U.S. 1 leaving Columbia, South Carolina (image-object) a TV screen retreats. In the corner of a seemingly deserted restaurant, the unmistakable rounded corners of a 1955 TV set stands alone. There is no human presence (we will talk about Frank in a moment). The bright screen and the burnt-out window, table edge and chair seat from a classic compositional triangle and are the only light and lively presence. The three frames on the contact sheet show Frank picking the image with the only other human, the aptly-named TV evangelist, Oral Roberts. This hyperreal figure talks to no-one, preaches silently into the light.
What haunts this image (unlike the punctum-prick of the decisive moment) is the flat monotony of the collection of things in the restaurant. The arrangement by the owner (and later by Frank), the congregation of chairs, the sacramental arrangement of napkins and condiments, the screen and its pulpit-wooden cabinet. These objects are connected but isolated; part but apart.
Restaurant – U.S. 1 leaving Columbia, South Carolina is clearly an object-picture. The objects here are flat. A mosaic of actants – TV, cathode-ray tube, light, an electron-beam representation of Roberts, chairs and salt cellar. Obviously Frank is present but the story is about those objects present to him and his camera. By necessity traditional photography is at some level a correlationist project. There is always the human. But Frank’s work draws attention to the fact that those objects have a presence and a reality beyond that human and what is more their puzzling withdrawal is not just from the human, from Frank or from us, but from each other.
From an object-oriented perspective, objects not only withdraw from the human, they withdraw from each other. It is not just that Frank (or we) cannot connect with the totality of those object, the sides we cannot see, the subatomic, quantum dance or the accidents of its particular instantiation. The objects themselves never fully connect. The real TV screen cannot encounter the real chair in some complete presence. If they could they would melt into some single unitary, indistinct thing. Rather they connect within a new object – the TV viewing object, the absent viewer-object (the object Frank seeks to ‘capture’). The real TV screen encounter the intentional chair, a dimension of its existence. Similarly the real chair encounters an intentional TV-screen, an instantiation of its flickering. This is not ‘potentiality’ or ‘process’. To address those objects in terms of process or potential is to deny their complete actuality in any one time or space. It is not that the TV screen is only potentially in connection with the empty chair. It is fully present. It is actual and real. Vibrant materiality and must be addressed (and photographed) as such. The screen and chair cannot connect completely but they are actual and real, not potential, presences. The ‘TV viewing-object’ they connect in is actual, real and present and it is that object-oriented photography imag(in)es.