An except from Virilio, P. (1994). The Vision Machine. (Trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington, Il; Indiana University Press, pp. 1-2.
‘The arts require witnesses,’ Marmontel once said. A century later Auguste Rodin asserted that it is the visible world that demands to be revealed by means other than the latent images of the phototype. In the course of his famous conversations with the sculptor, Paul Gsell remarked, apropos Rodin’s ‘The Age of Bronze’ [available to view here] and ‘St John the Baptist’ [available to view here] , ‘I am still left wondering how those great lumps of bronze or stone actually seem to move, how obviously immobile figures appear to act and even to be making pretty strenuous efforts.
Rodin retorts, ‘Have you ever looked closely at instantaneous photographs of men in motion? .. . Well then, what have you noticed?’
‘That they never seem to be making headway. Generally, they seem to be standing still on one leg, or hopping.’
‘Exactly! Take my “St John”, for example. I’ve shown him with both feet on the ground, whereas an instantaneous photograph taken of a model performing the same movement would most likely show the back foot already raised and moving forward. Or else the reverse — the front foot would not yet be on the ground if the back leg in the photograph were in the same position as in my statue. That is precisely why the model in the photograph would have the bizarre look of a man suddenly struck with paralysis. Which confirms what I was just saying about movement in art. People in photographs suddenly seem frozen in mid-air, despite being caught in full swing: this is because every part of their body is reproduced at exactly the same twentieth or fortieth of a second, so there is no gradual unfolding of a gesture, as there is in art.’
Gsell objects, ‘So, when art interprets movement and finds itself completely at loggerheads with photography, which is an unimpeachable mechanical witness, art obviously distorts the truth.’
‘No’, Rodin replies, ‘It is art that tells the truth and photography that lies. For in reality time does not stand still, and if the artist manages to give the impression that a gesture is being executed over several seconds, their work is certainly much less conventional than the scientific image in which time is abruptly suspended. … ‘