Abstract

This article considers the influence of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1838 novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket on contemporary artist Pierre Huyghe’s 2005 video installation A Journey That Wasn’t, a documentation of the artist’s journey to the Antarctic and its subsequent reenactment as a performance in New York City’s Central Park. Whereas cinema has been attracted to the graphicality of Poe’s writing, his ability to create compelling images in words, A Journey distinguishes itself from that tradition. This article employs a close reading of Poe’s definition of graphicality in order to expand the critical interpretation of Poe’s neologism and relate it to contemporary debates about the nature of representation in art’s documentary turn and artistic research, both genres that emerged in the mid-1990s and to which Huyghe’s project relates. It argues that graphicality is a theory of representation specifically positioned against objectivity as the sole means of producing shared knowledge. It demonstrates graphicality’s relevance for A Journey, which is concerned with contemporary debates surrounding art and film’s relationship to science and knowledge production.

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