To open to civilization the only part of our globe which it has not yet penetrated, to pierce the darkness which hangs over entire peoples…” With these words the “King of the Belgians”, Leopold II. welcomed the participants of the “Geographical Conference” that took place in September 1876 at the Royal Palace in Brussels. Only nine years later nearly one million square miles in central Africa, an area that Joseph Conrad once called “the blankest of all blank spaces”, has been named the “Congo Free State”. For the next 23 years it was the private property of Leopold II. During that period at least 8 million people lost their lives under a regime of terror and exploitation.
I was very impressed with Hito Steyerl when I listened to her lecture in Former West. Mischievous, bold and uncanny, her delivery was impeccable and she made no compromise, neither personal nor theoretical. Known for her writing and her video work, this is an artist who is as much a thinker as a doer. Why should there be a distinction? Today we think through making…but then again, when was art ever different?
This text on this week’s e-flux journal is a defense of the “poor image”, something I have used continuously in my work, and a practice which extends far beyond the strategy of appropriation of archival photos on the net, as was my practice years ago, to something that we all experience and see everyday. in fact, “the poor image” is our everyday connection to the world of images, which, you may not have noticed, has a deep effect on us, even if we see “poor images” as a distraction rather than as contemplation, thus making the distinction between ‘internet stuff’ and higher forms of art. These boundaries are really no longer sustainable given the influ of images we see and access everyday. And this is also no novelty. But a reflection on it is still quite current. So here it goes:
In Defense of the Poor Image
The poor image is a copy in motion. Its quality is bad, its resolution substandard. As it accelerates, it deteriorates. It is a ghost of an image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea, an itinerant image distributed for free, squeezed through slow digital connections, compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, as well as copied and pasted into other channels of distribution.
The poor image is a rag or a rip; an AVI or a JPEG, a lumpen proletarian in the class society of appearances, ranked and valued according to its resolution. The poor image has been uploaded, downloaded, shared, reformatted, and reedited. It transforms quality into accessibility, exhibition value into cult value, films into clips, contemplation into distraction. The image is liberated from the vaults of cinemas and archives and thrust into digital uncertainty, at the expense of its own substance. The poor image tends towards abstraction: it is a visual idea in its very becoming.
The poor image is an illicit fifth-generation bastard of an original image. Its genealogy is dubious. Its filenames are deliberately misspelled. It often defies patrimony, national culture, or indeed copyright. It is passed on as a lure, a decoy, an index, or as a reminder of its former visual self. It mocks the promises of digital technology. Not only is it often degraded to the point of being just a hurried blur, one even doubts whether it could be called an image at all. Only digital technology could produce such a dilapidated image in the first place.
Poor images are the contemporary Wretched of the Screen, the debris of audiovisual production, the trash that washes up on the digital economies’ shores. They testify to the violent dislocation, transferrals, and displacement of images—their acceleration and circulation within the vicious cycles of audiovisual capitalism. Poor images are dragged around the globe as commodities or their effigies, as gifts or as bounty. They spread pleasure or death threats, conspiracy theories or bootlegs, resistance or stultification. Poor images show the rare, the obvious, and the unbelievable—that is, if we can still manage to decipher it.
Where the discourse of curating spans beyond the white-box institutional space, now it’s time for social media to be a place of exhibition and discourse about art. I have recently heard of Chris Marker’s island on Second Life, and now Sean Smith, aka sportsbabel, the only sports philosopher I know, has put together ” A tribute to Speed and Politics”, a Facebook album transformed into an online exhibition for all to share and see. Why not take advantage of the reach and potential of Facebook to spread ideas? In the torrent of your status feed, you will see a link to this incredible selection, of which I am proud to be a part of with the work “Bicicleta, folha-seca e algo mais”. Enjoy!
You can see it here
This is a beautiful life story of Ahmed Basiony in the article “At the frontline of the arts and revolution”.
Read the article in Nafas Art Magazine
Having recently moved from Asia, my knowledge of the Middle East and of its art scene is very limited. It saddens me to know about this incredible new media/sound artist only now. It is heartbreaking to see his Facebook page and to read his very last statements before he was fatally wounded by the police in Cairo.
For me this is incredible material for one of my projects called ‘Blackout’ – exactly about art and revolution, but how new media and the culture of new media shape a new language of affirmation of the self and of society. I am looking for sheer poetry in what Agamben calls ‘states of exception’. Basiony is an inspiration.
Collaborative video and music. Blending authorship and distribution strictly via net and creating social gatherings all over the world. Some might say it’s a viral thing. For me it is a clever way to create alternative circuits for art making, art viewing, and DIY distribution. As with any self-financed project coupled with a great idea, this is by no means a new way of promoting a film, but it’s all in how you present it to the public and what they can do with it. The eye is on the public.
My interest is in this networked aspect but also the title is enticing. I am now writing a project about islands – this definitely goes onto my list of top references.
“An Island is an unconventional music performance film and an abstract documentary about a band and an island. The running time is 50 minutes.
An Island will premiere February 1st 2011 around the world through what the band and director call Private-Public Screenings. Anyone can host a Private-Public Screening and the rules are very simple. The screening needs to be public, have a minimum capacity of 5 people and free entrance.”
Is the film any good, though?<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/18622678″>AN ISLAND – 3rd TEASER – Vincent Moon & Efterklang</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/rumraket”>Rumraket</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Network light painting in Norway. Beautiful.
Considered to be one of the earliest pieces of conceptual art, Robert Rauschenberg one asked for one of Willem de Kooning’s drawings and deliberately erased, making it his own. It marked the difference between two different generations in American art, from abstract expressionism to the beginnings of conceptualism in the US.
In a similar gesture de Kooning’s Wikipedia entrey has also disappeared.
And this is the piece, “I erased de Kooning“