by Duane Michals
Twin Palms Publishers, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jul 15th 2002
Questions without answers is an oddly naive collection
of photographs and text by Duane Michals.
The questions are universal: What
is language, what is luck, what is magic, what is consciousness, what is life,
what is humor, what is nothing, and so on.
The black and white photographs are accompanied with poems. For example, the poem in the section What
is Desire starts
Desire is a coveting need, an urgent greedy appetite
To acquire and consume to satisfaction
Unlike love which lives to serve,
Desire is self-serving and seeks its own reward.
These poems are thoughtful and earnest, lacking in sophistication. The photographs are playful and almost
childlike in their approach. Take the
ones concerning the question what is magic. In a series of images, a young man
in his twenties, wearing a white shirt and black bow tie and a top hat shows a
canary in a cage, covers the cage with a towel , and when he removes the towel,
the bird is gone. He then lifts his hat
to reveal the bird on his head. It is
hard to know how to interpret these images; is Michals simply having fun, or
whether he has something to say. These
images are striking but odd, and certainly they are very distinctive. The poetry lacks the same virtues, and is
hard to take at all seriously. The
humor in the pictures is appealing, and is unusual, and theres a quizzical
quality to the images that suggests Michals has ideas, but it is just hard to
figure out what they are. All in all,
this is a rather disappointing volume, lacking the directness and intriguing
narratives of some of his better earlier work.
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is
Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is
editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring
how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help
foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the