This essay considers how written language frames visual objects. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s response to Raymond Roussel’s obsessive description, the essay proposes a model of criticism where description might press up against its objects. This critical closeness is then mapped across the conceptual art practice and art criticism of Ian Burn. Burn attends to the differences between seeing and reading, and considers the conditions which frame how we look at images, including how we look at, and through words. The essay goes on to consider Meaghan Morris’s writing on Lynn Silverman’s photographs. Both Morris and Burn offer an alternative to a parasitic model of criticism and enact a patient way of looking across and through visual landscapes.
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