Emergent Convergence

Informing Contexts

Week 6 Reflections, MA Falmouth University

The Context

Our global society is indulging in generic algorithmic behaviour; we are predictable in that we take many more photographs each year than the one before shared on platforms which model our mode and mood.  We do this on an ever increasing scale. Whilst predictions vary, here are just two; in 2017, between 1.2 – 2.5 trillion photographs will be created. (cited http://mylio.com/true-stories/tech-today/how-many-digital-photos-will-be-taken-2017-repost  https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/tmt-pred16-telecomm-photo-sharing-trillions-and-rising.html ).

The facilitated mutual online sites that host individual (and corporate) interactions, which are collectively termed social media, are dominated by image and video based forums, the numbers of which are astonishing.  For example, the topical market flotation in New York of Snap Inc, owners of Snapchat, had 161 million daily users at the end of 2016, 10 million of which were in the UK. It is calculated that some 10 billion daily video views are made via the hosting of this site.  Thus I calculate that is some 3.65 trillion video views per annum.  (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/02/snapchat-ipo-valuation-evan-spiegel-bobby-murphy-snap-inc)

Critical Analysis

From the earliest trace left around the cave painters’ hands humanity has sought to capture and leave a mark.  Seen as a precious, preserved moment of imprint we contrast this with the flushing stream of images and in the case of Snapchat, an evaporation of the image after 10 seconds.  The act of seeing and making the image is in an instant; made and lost.

Walter Benjamin noted we can make pictures at the speed of speech. “For the first time, photography freed the hand from the most important artistic tasks in the process of pictorial reproduction tasks that now devolved upon the eye alone. And since the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was enormously accelerated, so that it could now keep pace with speech”. Benjamin W. 2008. The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media.  Edited by Michael W. Jennings, Brigid Doherty, and Thomas Y. Levin. Harvard University Press. London, p20

We should question if our visual scan and memory capacity begins to respond to this exposure or over-exposure of imagery by converging many into an indistinct morass of muddled medium.  A shallow veneer; an endless frameless, formless, froth.  An image convergence.

Benjamin bemoans the plethora of images and its impact on art…”The simultaneous viewing of paintings by a large audience, as happens in the nineteenth century, is an early symptom of the crisis in painting, a crisis triggered not only by photography but, in a relatively independent way, by the artwork’s claim to the attention of the masses. (Ibid, p36)

But Baudrillard deepens the analysis to a greater level of concern  “We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning”… “Everywhere socialization is measured by the exposure to media messages.  Whoever is underexposed to the media is desocialized or virtually asocial”. Baudrillard J. 1981. Simulacra and Simulation.  Editions Galilee p79.   He observes that whole concepts, places and people are now crafted, a development from the uncanny of deceit of “the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept.  Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. (Ibid p2)

The writer Andrew Robinson in 2012 applies Baudrillard to society “Hyperreality is a special kind of social reality in which a reality is created or simulated from models, or defined by reference to models – a reality generated from ideas. The term has implications of ‘too much reality’ – everything being on the surface, without mystery; ‘more real than reality’ – too perfect and schematic to be true, like special effects; and ‘para-reality’, an extra layer laid over, or instead of, reality”.  He posits the idea that “an entire culture now labours at counterfeiting itself” by suggesting that “there is an ideology of exhuming, documenting, rediscovering the real – from reality TV to the preservation of historical artefacts and indigenous groups – which according to Baudrillard, simply reinforces the process of killing and then simulating. What is preserved is never what it would have been without intervention. We constantly recreate and relive bits of the past and present which are now simulated.  The real has become our utopia, that we dream of as if of a lost object”.  https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/in-theory-baudrillard-9/.  He powerfully implies that much of what we show is a myth built on a deceit.

A Practice perspective

Being part of the ‘sea’; I am increasingly aware that my practice as an interplay between the ‘every day’ walk, dwell, look, shoot and the planned and considered series (see my previous post).  The former tends to be instantaneously shared primarily on Instagram.  That platform is actively used daily and is presently seen as a key ‘store front’ to my practice.  I am now regularly saving a format of my series images for use on Instagram to demonstrate the broader aspects of my work.

Creating myths; my series work captures the ordinary, the unseen, the neglected and the abandoned.  The overarching theme is ‘re-seeing’.  I thus tend to regard my work as the antithesis of the myth-creating, but I shall be mindful of slipping into myth making as I regard it as a negative outcome.