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The Future of the Image | Week 1

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  • Today’s lecture is about introducing this module, The Future if the Image, and introducing you to some of the broad theoretical ideas that will be unpacked over the course of the next few weeks.It is the case that most images pass by and through us so quickly that we scarcely notice them. But some of them demand more attention, and even the trivial or overlooked ones have this potential waiting to be tapped.A key element in any or all visual representation, from an advert to a painting, a film to a photograph, a sculpture or an installation, is the interplay between what we see and how it relates to us.Part of this pleasure and knowledge production is the image’s capacity to blur the real and the unreal for us.Key to the Future of the Image is that it provides a critique of our culture of visuality, in which the image has replaced the commodity as the main object of desire. This idea of the immateriality of the image is one that will underpin all the lectures.
  • The Future of the Image:The title of this module is taken from the French philosopher,Jacques Ranciere’s book, which, as the title suggests is driven by an enquiry into the nature of the image.Rancieredevelops a new concept of the image in contemporary art, which for example, shows how art and politics have always been intrinsically intertwined.In this book he attempts to undermine all claims for the purity of genres, for instance between the visual arts (ranging from film to painting, photography and theater) and language, a very postmodern approach. Rather, he stresses the relationships between forms, the porous nature of their borders, and the ambiguity and inter-changeability of their defining characteristics. Rancière is interested in the image of the future (which is the image of contemporary art) A single image can serve a multitude of purposes, appear in a range of settings, and mean different things to different people.
  • Images, according to Rancière, are not simply frozen representations of reality, but operations. Nor are they limited to the visual, as Rancière reminds us: "The visible can be arranged in meaningful tropes; words deploy a visibility that can be blinding".This lecture will explore some of problems of locating and discussing images in contemporary culture, by asking: Where are images? What are images?
  • According to Ranciere there are two dominant stories of the image, firstly, there is no future, digitization has eliminated the image, there is nothing now but code, 0s and 1s,alpha, numeric cybers, the code becomes transparent. So if the future is code, there is no image.
  • The second dominant story is that the image is, and will be, everything, there is nothing outside the image, the world is drowned in images, in simulations and simulacra, this is the story that was made famous in the 1980s by Jean Baudrillard. These are the allor nothing versions of the story of The Future of the Image. This module examines the idea that there must be third story to be told.
  • The unpicturable refers to whatever is conceptualized by the maker or the initial viewers, but not in visual form. The unpicturable is the conceptually amorphous realm of  experiences that are understood to be outside the capacity of representation. They arewhatever matters in the image’s meaning, but is not itself visual.Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida: Elkins is skeptical of Barthes’ optimism about photography’s ability to adequately capture the world.What constitutes the unrepresentable today? Turning to the information society, wemight askif and how something might be unrepresentable in a world saturated by data and information.
  • The way we relate to imagery is changing. In recent years, with the mass of mobile phone camera, instagram, the internet and so on, we have captured multiple versions and multiple images of events both private and public. Our current situation has evolved to the point where anyone can reliably watch anyone else do most things.Yet with such visuals we also see a questioning of the image and its authenticity through a series of complex theories and arguments.There exists a constant struggle between the subject of the gaze and the veracity, or the reality, of the image, one example of this is the resistance to what is being seen, the visual disbelief of what is unfolding before our eyes.
  • James Elkins asks us to reconsider the way we treat visual images, both in theory and in practice.“despite wide disagreements over the effects and nature of ‘visual culture’, it is not often noted that what makes twentieth-century [and the twenty first] culture so different from that of the past centuries is not only the quantity of images, or their ostensible effects on literacy, but the kind of images we create and consume.”
  • Has there been a social and cultural shift to the visual, over against the verbal and textual, in the past 50 years, and has it been accelerating in the past 10 or 20 years?
  • In the domain of visual images, those of fine art form a tiny minority. Those of us in Western industrialized cultures live in a multimedia environment in which mechanical and electronic images, text, and sound are an almost constant presence, particularly in the mass media.The term mass media has been used to define those media designed to reach large audiences perceived to have shared interests.The "visual culture" approach acknowledges this reality, of living in a world of cross-mediation--our experience of culturally meaningful visual content appears in multiple forms, and visual content and codes migrate from one form to another:print images and graphic designTV and cable TVfilm and video in all interfaces and playback/display technologiescomputer interfaces and software designInternet/Web as a visual platformdigital multimediaadvertising in all media (a true cross-media institution)fine art and photographyfashionarchitecture, design, and urban design
  • The opening questions of the title will be answered below with a number of theses calculated to counter commonly held received ideas or mistaken opinions regarding visual images and imagery.WHY DO THIS MODULE?the pervasive deluge of images proliferating in the mass media of advanced capitalist societies' culture industriesThe overwhelming intensity of visual image production, reproduction, transmission and dissemination in global mass media networks resulted in extreme degrees of visual saturation,
  • THE PICTORIAL TURN, this refers not just to images, but to every two- or three-dimensional object itself, or its reproduction as photograph or film, that has been intentionally produced or displayed, basically ALL material culture, obviously this includes all art.With the pictorial turn – we have witnessed a shift towards a visual or image culture, whereby systems of information and modes of communication ate increasingly dependent on the image, rather that the text. A shift in the way we access, exchange and generate knowledge through visual communication has arguably changed the very nature of knowledge itself. The pictorial turn is often misunderstood as merely a label for the rise of so-called visual media such as television, video, and cinema. There are several problems with this misunderstanding. First, the very notion of purely visual media is incoherent and must be dispelled. Media are always mixtures of sound and sight, text and image.Secondly, the turn towards the pictorial is not confined to contemporary visual culture. It is a trope or figure of thought that reappears numerous times in the history of culture, usually at moments when new technology of reproduction, or some set of images associated with new social, political, or aesthetic movements, has arrived on the scene. Historically, for example, the invention of artificial perspective, the arrival of easel painting, and the invention of photography were all greeted as pictorial turns, and were seen as either wonderful or threatening, often both at the same time. In other words, The pictorial turn is not meant to describe only our contemporary situation, it is intended as a reminder of the perennial problem or anxiety we attach to the image.
  • Pictorial TurnIn analyzing the “pictorial turn” in his book Picture Theory, Mitchell begins with the important assumption that although it has been established that we are living in a culture of spectacle and surveillance, we still do not have a clear understanding of the essential nature of pictures, their relation to verbal language, the ways in which they have effect on their viewers and the world, their historicality, nor their future implications. 
  • the turn to idolatry is the most anxiety-provoking version of the pictorial turn, often often grounded in the fear that masses of people are being led astray by false images, whether it is an ideological concept or a charismatic leader. As this example illustrates, pictorial turns are often linked with anxiety about the ‘new dominance’ of the image
  • What’s the difference between a picture and an image?you can hang a picture, but you can’t hang an image”The picture is a material object, a thing you can burn or break, physically destroy or deface. An image is what appears in a picture, and what survives its destruction – in memory, in narrative, and in copies and traces in other media. The picture, then, is the image as it appears in a material support or a specific place. This includes the mental picture, which appears in a body, in memory or imagination. The image never appears except in some sort of medium or other, but it also transcends media, what can be transferred from one medium to another. e.g. sculpture of the golden calf appears first as a sculpture, but it reappears as an object of description in a verbal narrative, and as an image in a painting. It is what can be copied from the painting in another medium, in a photograph, or a digital file and so on. An image, then, may be thought of as an immaterial entity, a ghostly, appearance that comes to light or comes to life in a material support.
  • What do images, and we take this to mean ALL art and material culture, want?W.J.T. Mitchell challenges the idea that images are mere “signs” or “inert objects” conveying some particular meaning for a viewer’s consumption and analysis.Rather, he argues that images have “lives of their own” “as animated beings” with “desires and drives of their own”. So this will be our starting point.
  • The notion that the image stares back, is advanced and explored by Elkins, who emphasizes image power as the uncontrollable effect or hold that images have on the imagination of spectators.
  • Mitchell remains inclusive, even pessimistic, about the ability to “break” images.He is looking for a method to examine what images are doing within a particular context.We may not gain power over images, but we may be able to understand them better.Much more needs to be known about how we understand images
  • In Picture Theory W.J.T. Mitchell tried to distinguish three different kinds of metapictures: First, the picture that explicitly reflects on, or "doubles" itself, in which the production of the picture we are seeing re-appears inside the picture. This is most routinely and literally seen in the effect of the "mise en abyme,"
  • Second, the picture that contains another picture of a different kind, and thus re-frames or recontextualizes the inner picture as "nested" inside of a larger, outer picture.
  • Third, the picture that is framed, not inside another picture, but within a discourse that reflects on it as an exemplar of "picturality" as such. This third meaning implies, of course, that any picture whatsoever (a simple line-drawing of a face, a multi-stable image like the Duck-Rabbit, Velasquez's Las Meninas) can become a metapicture, a picture that is used to reflect on the nature of pictures.
  • Mitchell argued for a "pictorial turn”, registering a renewed interest in and prevalence of pictures and images in what had been understood as an age of simulation, or an increasingly extensive and diverse visual culture. However, in what is often characterized as a society of the "spectacle" we still do not know exactly what pictures or images are, what their relation to language is, how they operate on observers and the world, how their history is to be understood, and what is to be done with or about them.The Spectacle – despite the name – does not describe the distraction of people from the ‘truth’ of their circumstances through the deployment of visual imagery.
  • Rather, it is a critique of the relations between people driven by the production and exchange of images, accelerated by a culture of visuality in which the image has replaced the commodity as the main object of desire.
  • Representation refers to the use of language and images to create meaning about the world around us.These systems have rules and conventions about how to express and interpret meaning.Do systems of representation reflect the world as it is, as a form of imitation, or do we construct the world around us through our use of the systems of representation?Social constructionists argue that systems of representation do not reflect an already existing reality so much as they organize, construct, and mediate our understanding of reality, emotion, and imagination.However, the distinction can often be difficult to make.
  • Representation is not the act of producing a visible form, but the act of offering an equivalent – something that speech does just as much as photography. The image is not the duplicate of a thing. It is a complex set of relations between the visible and the invisible, the visible and speech, the said and the unsaid. It is not a mere reproduction of what is out there in front of the photographer or the filmmaker. It is always an alteration that occurs in a chain of images which alter it in turn.
  • The Society of the Spectacle is a work of philosophy and Marxist critical theory by Guy Debord. It was first published in 1967 in France.the (Society of the) Spectacle is not about is the deception by intent or delusion of a mass audience, rather the proposition is that something has changed in the political economy of the planet (unevenly, but profoundly). Whereas the driving force in social relations was once the physical commodity - making it, owning it, buying it, trading it, destroying it, conserving it - now the "it" is less important than the image of the "it". Of course, the material world has not dissolved, but the driving force of its relations is now to be found in the circulation of images and ideas. Have a look at the art market - the 'dematerialisation of the art object' made it possible to trade in concepts. There may be some material symptom - a jewel-encrusted skull, a tent, a neon text - but what is dominant and what is for sale and what producer, marketer and consumer are organising themselves in relation to is the image. This is not necessarily a decline, but it is a change.
  • The creation of an image through a camera lens always involves some degree of subjective choice through selection, framing, and personalization.Despite this, photography has historically been regarded as more objective than painting or drawing.The combination of the subjective and objective is a central argument about photographic images.
  • So far in VC you have been made aware of…The tensions between visual and verbal representations are inseparable from struggles in cultural politics and political culture. Issues like ‘gender, race, and class,’ the production of ‘political horrors,’ and the production of ‘truth, beauty, and excellence’ all converge on questions of representation.The common wisdom has it that spectators are easily manipulated by images, that a clever use of images can deaden them to political horrors and condition them to accept racism, sexism, and deepening class divisions as natural, necessary conditions of existence.
  • The interaction of pictures and texts is constitutive of representation as such: all media are mixed media, and all representations are heterogeneous; there are no ‘purely’ visual or verbal arts.[Picture Theory’s] major aim, however, is not merely to describe these interactions, but to trace their linkages to issues of power, value, and human interest.We care about representation when it goes wrong, andwe don’t notice when it works well.
  • The concept of representation often implies that there is an original present that the re-presentation is to represent. Our only way of grasping what is present is to represent it in epistemological or aesthetic forms. What does it mean to represent something?To represent can mean to be a representative. To represent can also mean to make something present again, to copy or interpret it. The impossibility of objective representation means that we always must choose what to represent, and therefore we are always responsible for that choice. Mechanical reproduction changed the meaning and value of an image and, ultimately, the role images play in society.For instance, the invention of photography coincided with a cult of originality.Thus the value of the one-of-a-kind art work is derived from its uniqueness and its role in ritual.This aura of the image is a quality that makes it seem authentic because of its unique presence in time and space.
  • Many copies can exist of an image, of which their value lies not in their uniqueness but in their aesthetic, cultural, and social worth.The original, however, is more valuable, in both financial and social terms, than the copies.Some argue that the higher value comes not from the uniqueness of the image as one of a kind, but rather from it being the original of many copies.Through reproduction, an image can now be seen in many different contexts.
  • Since the 1980s, the development of digital images began to radically transform the meaning of images.Analog images bear a physical correspondence with their material referents and are defined by properties that express value along a continuous scale, such as gradation of tone.Digital images are encoded with bits of information and can be easily stored, manipulated, and reproduced.A “copy” of a digital image is exactly like the “original.”The digital image gains its value from its accessibility, malleability, and information status.
  • Immateriality of the imageThe contradictory notion of the moving image as immaterial (projection, video signal, etc), yet dependent upon material objects (projector, monitor, etc) is central to this exploration of the form of mediation

The Future of the Image | Week 1 The Future of the Image | Week 1 Presentation Transcript

  • THE FUTURE OF THE IMAGE Deborah Jackson
  • THE BOOKS DRIVINGQUESTION IS THE NATURE OFTHE IMAGE. RE IS INTERESTED INTHE IMAGE OF THE FUTURE(WHICH IS THE IMAGE OFCONTEMPORARY ART)
  • IMAGES, ACCORDING TORANCIÈRE, ARE NOTSIMPLY FROZENREPRESENTATIONS OFREALITY, BUT OPERATIONS.NOR ARE THEY LIMITED TOTHE VISUAL, AS RANCIÈREREMINDS US: "THE VISIBLECAN BE ARRANGED INMEANINGFUL TROPES;WORDS DEPLOY AVISIBILITY THAT CAN BEBLINDING".DOUGLAS GORDON, SELFPORTRAIT OF YOU + ME(SIGNORET), 2008 View slide
  • MATTHIEU LAURETTEAPPARITION: JAQUESRANCIERE IS SO COOLAT PERFORMA AT WHITEBOX IN NY (2009) View slide
  • ARE SOME THINGS UNREPRESENTABLE?
  • OUR CURRENTSITUATION HASEVOLVED TO THEPOINT WHEREANYONE CANRELIABLY WATCHANYONE ELSE DOMOST THINGS.
  • “DESPITE WIDE DISAGREEMENTS OVERTHE EFFECTS AND NATURE OF „VISUALCULTURE‟, IT IS NOT OFTEN NOTED THATWHAT MAKES TWENTIETH-CENTURY [ANDTHE TWENTY FIRST] CULTURE SODIFFERENT FROM THAT OF THE PASTCENTURIES IS NOT ONLY THE QUANTITYOF IMAGES, OR THEIR OSTENSIBLEEFFECTS ON LITERACY, BUT THE KINDOF IMAGES WE CREATE AND CONSUME.”JAMES ELKINS, THE DOMAIN OF IMAGES(1999)
  • HAS THERE BEEN ASOCIAL AND CULTURALSHIFT TO THEVISUAL, OVER AGAINSTTHE VERBAL ANDTEXTUAL, IN THE PAST50 YEARS, AND HAS ITBEEN ACCELERATINGIN THE PAST 10 OR 20YEARS?
  • IN THE DOMAIN OF VISUAL IMAGES, THOSE OF FINE ART FORM A TINY MINORITY.
  • WHAT IS AN IMAGE AND WHAT IS IMAGE POWER?THE PERVASIVE DELUGE OFIMAGES PROLIFERATING IN THEMASS MEDIA OF ADVANCEDCAPITALIST SOCIETIESCULTURE INDUSTRIES. Jenny Holzer
  • PICTORIAL TURNTHE PICTORIAL TURN ISNOT MEANT TO DESCRIBEONLY OURCONTEMPORARYSITUATION, IT ISINTENDED AS AREMINDER OF THEPERENNIAL PROBLEM ORANXIETY WE ATTACH TOTHE IMAGE.
  • PICTORIAL TURN WE STILL DO NOT HAVE A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF PICTURES, THEIR RELATION TO VERBAL LANGUAGE, THE WAYS IN WHICH THEY HAVE EFFECT ON THEIR VIEWERS AND THE WORLD, THEIR HISTORICALITY, NOR THEIR FUTURE IMPLICATIONS.
  • PICTORIAL TURN PICTORIAL TURNS ARE OFTEN LINKED WITH ANXIETY ABOUT THE „NEW DOMINANCE‟ OF THE IMAGE Barbara Kruger
  • WHAT‟S THE DIFFERENCEBETWEEN A PICTURE ANDAN IMAGE?YOU CAN HANG APICTURE, BUT YOU CAN‟THANG AN IMAGE” Damien Hirst Golden Calf (2008)
  • WHAT DO PICTURES WANT? W.J.T. MITCHELL CHALLENGES THE IDEA THAT IMAGES ARE MERE “SIGNS” OR “INERT OBJECTS” CONVEYING SOME PARTICULAR MEANING FOR A VIEWER‟S CONSUMPTION AND ANALYSIS. RATHER, MITCHELL ARGUES THAT IMAGES HAVE “LIVES OF THEIR OWN” “AS ANIMATED BEINGS” WITH “DESIRES AND DRIVES OF THEIR OWN”.
  • "I KEEP A PHOTOGRAPH, IT BURNS MY WALL WITH TIME...” – DAVID BOWIE THE NOTION THAT THE IMAGE STARES BACK, IS ADVANCED AND EXPLORED BY ELKINS, WHO EMPHASIZES IMAGE POWER AS THE UNCONTROLLABLE EFFECT OR HOLD THAT IMAGES HAVE ON THE IMAGINATION OFDave Sherry SPECTATORS.
  • PICTURE THEORYMITCHELL REMAINS INCLUSIVE, EVEN PESSIMISTIC, ABOUTTHE ABILITY TO “BREAK” IMAGES.HE IS LOOKING FOR A METHOD TO EXAMINE WHAT IMAGESARE DOING WITHIN A PARTICULAR CONTEXT.WE MAY NOT GAIN POWER OVER IMAGES, BUT WE MAY BEABLE TO UNDERSTAND THEM BETTER.MUCH MORE NEEDS TO BE KNOWN ABOUT HOW WEUNDERSTAND IMAGES.
  • MISE EN ABYME:THE OBJECT DEPICTED WITHIN ITSELF FIRST, THE PICTURE THAT EXPLICITLY REFLECTS ON, OR "DOUBLES" ITSELF IN WHICH THE PRODUCTION OF THE PICTURE WE ARE SEEING RE-APPEARS INSIDE THE PICTURE
  • SECOND, THE PICTURE THATCONTAINS ANOTHER PICTUREOF A DIFFERENT KIND, ANDTHUS RE-FRAMES ORRECONTEXTUALIZES THEINNER PICTURE AS "NESTED"INSIDE OF A LARGER, OUTERPICTURE. Alasdair Gray
  • THIRD, THE PICTURE THAT IS FRAMED, NOT INSIDE ANOTHERPICTURE, BUT WITHIN A DISCOURSE THAT REFLECTS ON IT ASAN EXEMPLAR OF "PICTURALITY" AS SUCH.METAPICTURE, A PICTURE THAT IS USED TO REFLECT ON THE NATURE OF PICTURES
  • THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLETHE SPECTACLE – DESPITETHE NAME – DOES NOTDESCRIBE THEDISTRACTION OF PEOPLEFROM THE ‘TRUTH’ OFTHEIR CIRCUMSTANCESTHROUGH THEDEPLOYMENT OF VISUALIMAGERY.
  • THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLERATHER, IT IS A CRITIQUEOF THE RELATIONSBETWEEN PEOPLE DRIVENBY THE PRODUCTION ANDEXCHANGE OFIMAGES, ACCELERATED BYA CULTURE OF VISUALITY INWHICH THE IMAGE HASREPLACED THE COMMODITYAS THE MAIN OBJECT OFDESIRE.
  • REPRESENTATIONREPRESENTATION REFERSTO THE USE OFLANGUAGE AND IMAGESTO CREATE MEANINGABOUT THE WORLDAROUND US.THESE SYSTEMS HAVERULES AND CONVENTIONSABOUT HOW TO EXPRESSAND INTERPRET MEANING. Mark Wallinger State Britain (2007)
  • REPRESENTATIONREPRESENTATION IS NOT THE ACT OF PRODUCING A VISIBLEFORM, BUT THE ACT OF OFFERING AN EQUIVALENT – SOMETHINGTHAT SPEECH DOES JUST AS MUCH AS PHOTOGRAPHY. THE IMAGEIS NOT THE DUPLICATE OF A THING. IT IS A COMPLEX SET OFRELATIONS BETWEEN THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE, THEVISIBLE AND SPEECH, THE SAID AND THE UNSAID. IT IS NOT A MEREREPRODUCTION OF WHAT IS OUT THERE IN FRONT OF THEPHOTOGRAPHER OR THE FILMMAKER. IT IS ALWAYS ANALTERATION THAT OCCURS IN A CHAIN OF IMAGES WHICH ALTER ITIN TURN.Jacques Ranciere, The Emancipated Spectator, trans. by Gregory Elliot (London:Verso, 2009), pp. 93-94.
  • THE SPECTACLE
  • THE MYTH OF PHOTOGRAPHIC TRUTHSwedish Fredrik Saker paints driving licence picture http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20739778
  • PROBLEM OF THE IMAGEThe common wisdom has itthat spectators are easilymanipulated by images, that aclever use of images candeaden them to politicalhorrors and condition them toaccept racism, sexism, anddeepening class divisions asnatural, necessary conditionsof existence.
  • REPRESENTATION
  • Mark Leckey - "Made in Eaven” (2004)THE CONCEPT OFREPRESENTATION OFTENIMPLIES THAT THERE IS ANORIGINAL PRESENT THAT THE Jeff Koons, Rabbit (1986)RE-PRESENTATION IS TOREPRESENT.
  • MANY COPIES CAN EXIST OF AN IMAGE, OF WHICH THEIR VALUE LIES NOT IN THEIR UNIQUENESS BUT IN THEIR AESTHETIC, CULTUR AL, AND SOCIAL WORTH.Sherrie LevineAfter Walker Evans (1981)
  • DIGITAL IMAGE ENGLISH LANDSCAPE PAINTINGS BY DAVID HOCKNEY...MADE WITH AN IPAD David Hockney The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011
  • IMMATERIAL WORLD