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Post-historical now

October 1, 2012

Instagram filters make digital images look like photographs from the past. It casts a shroud of forged historicity on the ahistorical immediate digital image with an after life of a few seconds, before buried under more recent posts, tweets, etc. It is the passage of time that bestows authenticity to the photographic image, makes it appear as a relic, gives it the aura that it took away from art in the first place (a la Benjamin). Time obscures the facts, referents become unclear, people forgotten, places varnished with ruinous visage. Descriptions of some of the available filters include:


Effect: Gloria Gaynor-level ’70s flair

Use for: Photos that call for in-your-face nostalgia (particularly useful now that Facebook is Timelined)

Lord Kelvin

Effect: Super-saturated, supremely retro photos with a distinctive scratchy border

Use for: Photos that call for actual nostalgia


Instant digital historization devaluates history, brandizes it, turns it into something attainable, reproducible, available at the touch of a finger. The over abundance of snapshots, the over documentation of life shrinks history between the immediate past and the instant future and thus filters are made available to account for the nostalgia of the immediate past, the remembrance of the day before.

Source: theglobalmovements, Instagram

In Photographer as Sage, Boris Gorys discusses the photographic work of Alexandre Kojève, Russian born French philosopher, statesman and one of the founders of the EU, and photographer. According to Groys, Kojève believed we are living in a post-historical condition. His theory of end of history differed from most other similar concepts, as for Kojève end of history was not located in the future, but rather we have already been living in post-historical conditions since the French Revolution, only “we are not fully aware of this condition yet.” According to this concept of history, photography then is not fixating a moment in the constant flow of time, rather it represents an immobilized, arrested time (thus Kojève only photographed monuments of the past). It is an already historisized condition that is represented via photography. As such, the fascination with instant historisication of the everyday, for the immediate past to look like a distant moment in time, is a symptom of this post-historical condition.

Still, while the everyday post-history begs for appearance of obsolescence, other situations demand an unhistorical urgency in face of humanitarian conditions. The question is how the contemporary visual condition accounts for this post-historical moment and the demands of images that ask for immediate response. How can we respond to a contemporary event, located in the past?

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