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The Best Is Yet To Come

April 30, 2012 Comments off

Animated gif is not a video, and is not a still image. It is closer to a moving still image, it is an image that moves rather than a moving image. The animated gif is the image of anticipation. It stands in between linearity and cyclical, it is the meeting point of the two concepts as one disrupts the other, without which it would not be comprehended. The animated gif is propelled by an unsatisfied desire, lacking that which could come just right after the cycle repeats again, a desire that film fulfils, and the still image represents. It shows how the event is unrepresentable but always anticipated, and the animated gif is this the image of this infinite deferral.

k-u-n-s-t-k-a-m-m-e-r, object5, ca 2011

“I wish something would happen, but, really maybe I really do not wish for something to happen, but rather I wish to wish for something to happen,” this is how animated gif gives form to ad infinitum as in k-u-n-s-t-k-a-m-m-e-r’s Cyber Object5, infinity on a table, becoming cold, becoming hot. The animated gif is a presence that is constantly resumed by instant past and instant future, it is an open window to the shape of time, the look of now as it always becoming and already elapsed. Starring at the inbox, the email that never comes, comes, and never comes again. The page that will load, never loads, loads again. The Best Is Yet To Come by Silvio Lorusso, is a never-ending loop of preloaders, animated gifs of the look of waiting online, before the content sweeps them away, unless there is a glitch, an interruption, occurred rebuffering. In  The Best… the event becomes an iteration of that which precedes and follows it, difference in and of itself. If I could only wait enough, if there was enough time, everything would change, and I have all the time in the world to wait. A recent study by TubeMogul evaluated 192,268,561 video streams over a two-week period and found that 6.84% encountered rebuffers that caused playback to freeze. The study concludes 378 million rebuffer events occurred during the two-week period and with an average rebuffer time of five seconds, humans spent about 60 years looking at the revolving rebuffer symbol, waiting for the best to come.

pointing to things of interest

April 25, 2012 Comments off

Majority of videos posted online could be summarized as pointing to things of interest. Videos of rockers rocking out on stage, children crying, performances, skateboarders falling, car crashes, cats doing cute things, babies doing cute things, dogs in action, people having sex in unlikely places, food, violence, etc. These images are index fingers pointing to what we find interesting and want to share with others who might also find them interesting. What used to be a mere gesture of the hand, has turned into pointing a lens and hitting a button, and it could instantly be “shared” with friends online.

Experts pointing to the video of beating of Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, youtube still frame

Interest becomes the currency of the web, quantified by likes and dislikes, thumbs up and thumbs down. In her article Merely Interesting, as part of her larger project exploring minor aesthetic categories, Sianne Ngai writes “far from being an ahistorical abstraction, the interesting is a specifically modern response to novelty and change (which is a noticeably irrelevant issue when it comes to the beautiful)—and, more precisely, to novelty as it necessarily arises against a background of boredom, to change against a background of sameness.” Further, discussing Ed Ruscha’s Various Small Fires and Milk Ngai notes “…the judgment of interesting is underwritten by a realization that the object is meaningfully different from others of its type—an emphasis on the general and schematic that only superficially seems to contradict its concomitant emphasis on difference.” John Baldessari’s A Person Was Asked to Point (1969), is a series of photographs of a male hand “pointing to things that were interesting to him.” He later made the series Commissioned Paintings (1969), where hired amateur painters, painted images of a hands pointing to things. Ngai notes that these works are instances of merely interesting conceptual art’s prompting the look of public exhibition as such. “The problem of providing interesting subject matter . . . was solved by a series I had just finished which involved someone . . . pointing to things that were interesting to him,” Ngai quotes Baldessari.

John Baldessari, A Person Was Asked to Point (1969). Color photos mounted on
museum board

While due to [financial, technological and temporal] constrains of the medium, film was more associated with intentionality; sentimental, political, aesthetic or otherwise, digital has made it possible to simply point to things of interest.

April 23, 2012 Comments off

In Teen Image, Seth Price talks about the phenomenon of hoarding, as a type of artistic internet list-making that strips the list of its organizational function and turns it into an aggregation of seemingly random items. Scrolling through these hoardings of images is both exciting and confusing and the ultimate effect is, writes Price, “what the fuck am I looking at?” Further, Price writes while the ever-increasing fragmentation of experience and the divorce of phenomena from context is a common place critique of contemporary mediascape, hoarding on the other hand is a public presentation of performed, elective identity, demonstrated through what appears to be generally blank frenzy of media. Here the artist, as a subjectivity with an intention behind what seems to be chaos, gives significance to an otherwise a mess. But it is hardly the artist as the only remaining force of intentionality, so the question is while not all internet generated hoardings are art, why the experience of net-navigation nevertheless still looks like going through a random stack of cards in a thrift shop? One could only go as far as youtube.com to see that there is either a relationship between everything that could possibly be captured on camera or take the format of a youtube supported video-file, or rather, there is no relationship and that one thing leads to the other in form of a chance operation. But of course that is hardly true, at least in case of youtube and most other [popular] online interfaces. While the user’s searches are used to personalize ads, keywords and tags generate content. The videos that appear on the right bar on youtube if you look at syriandaysofrage page are usually (or at least were for a while) all from heavy metal live shows. This of course hardly surprising since most probably metal music shares similar tags with videos of torture and murder of civilians. The right bar of the dailymail.co.uk page reporting on the recently unearthed of the video of the beating of Anastacio Hernandez Rojas by twelve US border guards, is adorned with images and links with pictures of various celebrities. Similarly, it doesn’t take that long on huffingtonpost.com before asking “what the fuck am I looking at” and “why the fuck am I looking at these?” If cosmetic ads interrupted news broadcast, the web gives much less screen time to unsponsored content.

Categories: main

April 18, 2012 Comments off

New York based artist Artie Vierkant’s Image Objects address this online mutation of the exhibition object although in a more roundabout and complex manner. The images are first produced digitally, then rendered into UV prints on sintra and eventually the (official) documentation of the pieces is again altered digitally, not accurately presenting the physical object. Vierkant highlights the ambiguous location of the work between the physical space of the gallery and the web. Already in his essay Dispersion, Seth Price points to a similar ambiguity with regards to the “Daniel Pearl Video” noting that since it does not exist outside of the internet, it may not be correct to call it “video.” Vierkat takes this a step further by putting forth a work that questions the ontological distinctions of the work’s location.

Artie Vierkant, Image Objects (left) Monday 25 April 2011 8:01PM (right) Monday 25 April 2011 11:01PM, (altered) Wednesday 20 September 2011 3:25PM

In Phil Chang’s Cache, Active at LAXART, a series of photographs some contact prints of negatives, some photograms were printed on unfixed expired photographic paper. The photographs encompassed various pictorial traditions of portraiture , still life, landscape, abstraction, and appropriated imagery, all faded to a monochrome with the light required to view them in the gallery. They were printed on expired photo paper and were not chemically fixed to last the exhibition lights. Contrary to the work of the 17th century dramatists, these pictures faded, over-exposed to the light that made them visible but similar to them their lifespan was defined by light. Regardless of the particular significance of the work in the canon of photographic theory, or its being an iconoclastic commentary on the move from mere representation pictures to [abstract] art, they provide a [rather metaphoric] take on the relationship between [media] exposure and visual meaning production. It is images’ “exposure” as “public exhibition” and sense of “situation with regard to sun or weather,” that ultimately makes them invisible. The images are the “spam of the earth,” the visual excess, by-product of the universal dominance of exchange value that make representation invisible through over production. What makes the work visible/consumable is what eventually erases the works’ features. It is the exchange value that eventually undermines the works’ use value and makes it useless, the commodity renders insignificance all features of a thing as long as it is sold, to paraphrase one critic’s commentary on the exhibition.

Phil Chang, (left) Two Sheets of Thick Paper on Top of Two Sheets of Thin Paper, Unfixed Silver Gelatin Print, 2010; (right) Monochrome Exposed, Unfixed Silver Gelatin Print, 2012

But while such critical assumptions could be valid considering the work’s presence in the gallery, they are immediately dismantled in the works’ representation on the internet. Ironically, in an article that argues the works’ significance as a critique of capitalism, the un-faded picture is featured at its most clarity together with the monochrome and it is the process that is absent but described in the text. While the images fade out in the gallery space, they preside on the web and after the exhibition is dismantled (if not even while it’s on view) they become the work even though its destination was not the web initially. However, this is not unique to these works, (and this text is not a critique of these particular works) even if it particularly affects their reception, and thus their meaning significantly. The life of Chang’s images on the web point to the problematic of identifying the location, and destination of the work in the age of global connectivity. The work’s assumed contingency upon the spatial presence of the observer within a defined pocket of time is dependent on the availability of its digital rendering online.

Youtube still frame, Formation of Sham Al-Yasmeen battalion - FSA, Published on Apr 18, 2012 by SyrianDaysOfRage

In a video posted on youtube, a group of Syrian insurgents declare the formation of their group. What stands out is not necessarily the formation of a new revolutionary battalion in the midst of what is bordering a civil war, but rather the laptop placed in front of the groups leader making the announcement. The video—if we can call it video as its physical existence is in question— makes it clear that the group is constituted as an online entity as well as a physical one and possibly in spite of it. The leader (or representative) of the group while reads the text directly from a word processor, could also be addressing another group of viewers via videochat. The declaration of the formation of the group is inseparable from the meme that its contributing to, one might suggest that it is prompted by it.

from the wave to the gunshot

April 16, 2012 Comments off

In Mobilizing Shame, Thomas Keenan recounts how in the presence of news cameras of BBC and ITN (Independent Television Network), Serbian policemen looted and destroyed the Albanian village of Mijalic. Keenan further closely analyzes a line in the ITN video log: “looters out of house waving to cameras.” Keenan writes: “The wave announces—it performs, it enacts—that there’s no hiding here, nothing in the dark, nothing to be ashamed of. And it demonstrates this for the very instruments that are known for their revelatory abilities—the wave says, ‘expose this, this that I am exposing for you.’” The article looks at a how shaming is used as a humanitarian instrument through revealing to the global community the atrocities of the perpetrators. There is a belief (still prevalent) that exposing the deeds that are done in the dark would put an end to them. That  ‘wave’ questions this argument notes Keenan, not by arguing against exposure all together, but that shame is a social contract that hinges on acceptance of certain conventions and will not function beyond the radius of those principles. But at the same time, the ‘wave’ needs to acknowledge the very same principles to function beyond them. If those [universally accepted] social conventions are completely dismantled, then the ‘wave’ will lose its significance entirely. Thus the wave does not function outside of the shaming principle, but rather within it, it further underlines it to reach out for an exterior space of shamelessness.

In Syria, the situation is a bit different: the cameraman and the victim have merged into one single entity, in the absence of international newscasters. The ‘wave’ is for an outsider viewer, for spectators of the global news media who receive the message in form of a ‘wave’, a gesture directed towards them, in recognition of them, catered to them. The same message to the Bosnians themselves was more than a mere gesture of the hand. In the youtube video Man Films His Own Death, a soldier shoots the cameraman down as he is filming the shelling of a neighborhood in the besieged Syrian city of Homs. There are similar incidents, including the death of citizen journalist Basil al Sayed captured on his own videocam. Arguably the social contracts of journalism are not held to be credible when it comes to citizen journalism. The professional journalists are mediators of a message that citizen journalists are the bearer of. The presence of the camera has no effect on the actions of the Syrian army, as it does not prompt them to ‘wave’ instead of shooting. Here the exposure functions outside of the category of shame (from kem “to cover”). The Syrian army is shameless, but not in the sense that the Serb soldiers were, as it is not reliant on that particular social contract at all. If the gesture hinged on the contract for it to perform, the shooting of the cameraman is unburdened by it.

to and from abstraction

April 10, 2012 Comments off

Indigenous reporting has profoundly transformed the landscape of journalism. Transmitted directly from site of production, the images have inundated all possible venues of distribution and reception, from television to social media to even radio (it is not uncommon to hear the sound of videos on radio). This phenomenon has effected the traditional methods of framing, selection, inclusion and exclusion, dissemination and positioning of images and has opened up the possibilities of representation to unprecedented extent. The formerly excluded from frames of representatbility, ‘technically’ have now the means of representation previously unavailable to them.  Other than the larger social/political implications of this visual tsunami, and consequent theoretical battles, the production and reception of the image itself has fundamentally changed. This is due to the fact that the move to and from abstraction and the various aesthetic categories and genre distinctions it entailed are rendered untenable.

youtube still frame, (04-09-12) Killis Camp | Turkey | Assad Forces Shoot Across Border, Turkish Soldiers Take Cover

Documentary, journalism and all modes of representation that relied on the technical images’ claim to truth, generally refrained from formal abstraction (unless the footage was produced under particular circumstances, and was usually highly edited or left out of the final cut). Sharp pans and tilts, rapid zoom in/out, swinging the camera around, running with camera running, instant cuts, etc, in various combinations all belonged to the experimental realm or formal investigations.

youtube still frame, (04-09-12) Killis Camp | Turkey | Assad Forces Shoot Across Border, Turkish Soldiers Take Cover

In the new images, digital zoom inserts pixels into reality.  Rapid zooms can turn buildings and landscapes into lines and plains, zoom out into buildings and landscapes again. War zone pans into the picturesque tilts into monochrome. Pixels could suddenly turn into rubble, and cobble stones and gravel can at once turn into pixels. Interview turns into conversation to commentary to narrative, into rambling, murmurs and shouts, into jokes, into orders. The camera makes no distinctions between the stretcher and the barbed-wire, the sniper and the runaway sneakers, crying babies and the food dispensers. These instantaneous moves from representation to abstraction and vice versa are now commonplace in big and small media and the viewers have easily accepted this type of imagery. By exposing the pixels, [digital] abstraction moves to data and back, the person working the camera and the camera at work.

youtube still frame, (04-09-12) Killis Camp | Turkey | Assad Forces Shoot Across Border, Turkish Soldiers Take Cover

 

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sum of which exceeds the whole

April 4, 2012 Comments off

The videos from Tahrir Sq, up loaded on the internet from any given day during the revolution could potentially provide the raw material for a multi-channel synchronized installation. There is sufficient footage of events across the globe with much less intensity that lend themselves to similar endeavors. The footage of an explosion of a mosque in Syria is available from a multiplicity of angles, all showing the flames and the smoke, while none show the explosion from within.

Hassan Khan’s The Hidden Location (2004) is a fifty-two minute four channel, synchronized video installation consisted of sixteen different sections one after the other. The piece challenges the allochronism of representation in contemporary art, and while this position entails immediate political implications, it addresses the uncoeval positions of the viewer/reader and the work of art on view. The Hidden Location on the one hand provides a medium consciousness where the viewer becomes an active agent in the process of montage and produces sequences according to his/her positions in the space. While on the other hand it questions the same agency as it makes clear the subject’s asynchronicity with the object of study at any given time. The latter questions the primacy of the temporal category of presence or rather makes visible the process of mapping of presence, commenting on how it is already implicated and/or is informed by experiences of the recent past (a passing remark to question the primacy of the eye). The reconstruction of the event thus requires synchronicity, experience of something at a given time, and asynchronicity, the privilege to revisit it, as you can watch a piece like The Hidden Location multiple times during an exhibition.

Hassan Khan, The Hidden Location, 2004, 4 channel video installation, installation view

One of the internal tensions of the work is that it questions both the idea of a privileged position AND a multiplicity of view points. If a panoramic view was to lead to in-depth understanding of a particular phenomenon then a combination of surveillance and counter surveillance could resolve the phenomenological discrepancies that propel the global media sphere that relies on visual and/or contextual interpolations. The desire for such panoramic vistas could simultaneously cause a political stalemate, where politics becomes the management of the archive of the visual, a multiplicity of parts the sum of which exceeds the whole.

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