Friday, 12 October 2007

Happy Confusion

Megapixel is not the first conference concerned with HD – there have been a few before, but more industry based; the Megapixel at Anglia Ruskin University tried to include academics and artists to further discuss what HD might be, beyond the simple propaganda of the corporations with technology to sell.

A community that was involved for the first time was the Games industry and the contribution this sector made was a slightly neurotic occupation with photorealism – neurotic because underlying the simple fact that games had to get more photorealistic to satisfy a desire which the designers themselves originally encouraged. Beneath this was the real concern that though the spectacle had grown, the games play itself had diminished. Photorealism is simply a product of remediation and being so new, HD has to go through this stage before it finds it’s own aesthetic.

This concern also highlighted and revealed to me the unease throughout all sectors about HD. My own paper centred on the HD terrain, what it is, when there are so many differing identities, when the communities involved have no fixed definition. Also, what are the potential aesthetics of the medium? Malcom Le Grice proposed that the advent of digitality itself was the essential paradigm shift and HD was simply a refinement of certain tendencies that were evident within the 'operations', as Lev Manovich had termed them. Manovich himself called off at the last minute and Peter Swinson was drafted in to give the keynote speech. Swinson on his own admission is an unreconstructed film lover and so Megapixel, named within the popularist idiom, began with a paean to past technologies, which depending on your perspective is either appropriate or ironic.

Grahame Weinbren showed his self created HD system which he termed High Resolution – his most important discovery was the proposition of real colour information being equal to resolution information – previous systems of HD throw away a lot of the colour definition. His own art, as he himself admitted, dealt with the beautiful – this was, he said a result of age. Gone were the days of the more punk fascination for non-beauty.

On the whole the entire event was beset by modernist project issues and a deal of remediation which if one were unkind could be seen as gauche. But the High Definition content itself was fairly good looking given that to some extent an early conclusion one could make about HD is that its clean, clear surface is a sign of its 'transparency'. This ‘surface’ may just shake the tree a little and many artists who have survived on being true to materials may find little purchase here. Instead a deeper question will be posed by the advent of HD: Should the definition of what a medium is be changed, because in terms of the digital there is no tactile material to deal with, only a set of processes. If we redefine a medium only in terms of its processes - then the digital realm can come under McLuhan's law. For my own part I believe that this redefinition is necessary – the young understand this intuitively – we just have too wait for the oldies to come around - and 'oldie' now means anyone as young as 30.