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February 9, 2012

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Since the invention of photography (the first technical image) in 19th century, there started a gradual shift in the relationship between art and images at large. Cameras soon became a household object, and remembrance freed itself from historical significance. Technical history of photography involves the acceleration of the time of production—from eight hours in Nicéphore Niépce’s View from the Window at Le Gras (1826) to fragments of a second—and the shortening of the gap between the production and reception of the image. The shorter these two processes, the more ubiquitous technical images become.

The image, after being subsumed under art since the Reformation, freed itself from it. In the contemporary age of digital hyper realism, image regained some of the features it held “before the age of art”. Images are no longer guarded by the laws of aesthetics to be produced, evaluated, and distributed. Images of surveillance and science for instance, operate outside aesthetic categories. Before the Reformation, images had power over human beings: they could redeem, punish or praise them. Now in the age of technical image, they define possibilities of presentation, movement, and action. Seen from this perspective, in both of these instances, pre-Reformation and post-photography, affect human life.

a) Archetypical image, image as value

The new image is not a manifestation of god in visual form, as in the images before era of art, but rather, in the words of Vilem Flusser, images have become models for their receiver’s actions. Flusser argues that it would be a mistake to assume images are windows through which we can interpret the world outside. Rather, the process of signification is reversed and the world is becoming subordinate to the image. Flusser writes, “human beings forget they created the images in order to orientate themselves in the world. Since they are no longer able to decode them, their lives have become a function of their images; imagination has turned into hallucination.” His work is a plea for a philosophy of photography, where through visual literacy man once again manages to interrupt what he calls the “apparatus” (which camera is one example of) A philosophy of photography is necessary for raising photographic practice to the level of consciousness and this practice gives rise to a model of freedom in the post-industrial (where information becomes currency) context. But apocalyptic visual studies aside, through this type of image, visualization and valorization become one and the same. Economy and manifestation of culture become inseparable in a process of mutual validation. [02/09]

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