Sunday, 19 October 2008

...A pause in the pit before accelerating again

I was waiting for the arrival of full 1920 x 1080 plasma screens at a reasonable price before I bought one. After all, I’ve been looking at images on the best possible display equipment for some time now - why should I therefore compromise my viewing experience with less than the full HD rasta ? (Albeit that I had a 26 inch cathode ray tube with a lot more tonal range than plasma and the viewing experience was pretty awful.

I’m shocked because with only a up-rezzing function for PAL images (720 x 576) and no HD in sight until next wednesday, already the impact of the large screen in my living room is immense. Simply put, the rush of excitement any cameraperson gets on recording an interesting image is now fully delivered through the screen to the viewer.

Baudrillard talked about the ubiquitousness of the image - he was however, through the time he wrote in and therefore via the delivery of images through the technology of the time, hobbled by a lack of vision.

So far, in my study and the idea that resolution increases engagement, I must now deal with the impact and scale of the image in peoples living rooms. I disagreed with the art market structure anyway, that placed contemporary art away for the less educated and the alienation that the gallery produces so that my work was to be delivered in public space with due attention to engagement. Now it seems, the old imperative to bring art into full public and private space, the dream of the early 2nd generation video artists, is back with a vengeance. To qualify this, the first generation from Naim june Paik up until around 1978 where in the UK the academy determined sculptural and painterly concerns in a re-mediatory way for the artist to deal with, was the gauntlet that the second generation of television children who became video artists had to take up.

We, the second generation, understood McLuhan with his Global Village directive, we understood the offering of strange and wonderful moments on TV so that the audience was first confused then delighted at how something so strange could appear on the set in the corner. We were reviled by the academy and it wrote us out of its histories which it is still writing. Now the pervasive imperative is upon us, as characterised by Spielberg’s Minority Report, with it’s personal tracking and then the system of recognition offering each of us an ‘individual experience’. By individual here, the notion of a personalised greeting, knowing that each one is mass produced is laughable and therefore completely un-individual. This notion of individualism is characterised in a terrain as described by De Board’s Society of the Spectacle. If the narrative of your individuality is mediated by a herd agreement to be collectivised into mass messages simply appended with your code number - Terry Flaxton or 84fg42tvf5PIH834df45O9JkiD (and its digital equivalent in 0’s and 1’s - then that is something to be avoided if we subscribe to the notion of individualism at all. The self is changing and has always changed. We seem to be the centre of a set of self-interests and more importantly a set of reflective interests. A contemplative function which enables us to change.

So my changing at this moment is to re-address the idea of the work of art within the electronic landscape. I’m not interested in the interactive nor the pervasive. Both of these notions have a deeper key to engagement than they seem capable or willing to articulate. Last night in discussing the issue a friend articulated the idea of ‘art’ as being and enhancing factor for the ‘individual’, that whatever it was it had a function of enlightening the mind of the receiver, the viewer of the work. I loosely subscribe to this idea with a few caveats. I am concerned that the ‘I’ that looks is a universal I embedded within a local system, the ego. Utilising that simile then you look beyond the local and apparent construction of the system as identified by the facilities of the system and try to look outward to the wider system that it is embedded within. Loosely speaking we have to look to the mathematics of chaos theory to try to grasp that idea. Whatever conclusions you might come to if you go along with this, there is the possibility that the artist might speak to the viewer utilising the medium and its form to create the ‘words’ of the message.

So, apart from resolution and what it does, there is display size and impact. You could argue that if Baudrillard were right we’d so become desensitised to this element; Except that we’d take that on and work with what’s available to maintain the poetic commentary on our condition. Tarkovsky understood that the poetics of poetry (a conundrum in that idea) that is, the poetic logic of poetry, the remembering of moments in the world with the benefit of compassionate hindsight was a logic that had a complete fit with the cinematic medium.

Now the cinema, the impact-full viewing experience (that I think is not dependent on being within a group of people) is available to those rich enough to be able to obtain the large screen for their home environment. This number will grow until it is available for everyone. When high resolution images fill those screens then deeper engagement will be the norm. The political problem in this is that those in power may seek to use this engagement in ways that all our writers who warn of the downsides to technology (Orwell and Huxley) and the writers of the Matrix (as derived from french 70’s insect laden technological fearing comic books). Of course we are always on the look out for those tendencies - and it can be argued that those that seek to enslave and those that seek to retain freedom are the twin poles and governors of the human condition. Pulls from both sides maintain a central course with a veering then a correction, every so often to one side or the other.

As for the developing technology of electronic cinematography and how that fits into this understanding of display size and its impact in the mix, that is the study I am now embarking on in my next series of works.

...And yet I saw the end of Nostalgia again, on a tiny little screen on a laptop on Utube. The slow moving tableau of strange people, the still yet moving image, the man that sets fire to himself as a gesture towards freeing all of us in a final act of sacrifice. An image so powerful that no amount of resolution nor size can add or detract to. There is much to investigate here also.