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”
New updates on this website:
– About, Contact, Bio, etc. revised and updated, a bit wordy but I don’t care.
– Inclusion of Washed Out Exhibition in Stockhom, Sweden, last chance to see it on Wednesday March 2nd from 12 – 8 pm. With special new artworks by Laercio Redondo and Konsthall 323
– New projects for 2011 pending to be posted here – this is what I am working on at this moment.
– SP Arte
– Stockholm is great, Berlin even moreso. Singapore is a nice memory and hope to return soon.
(I have a studio to rent in Rio de Janeiro by the way)
How is it possible to “curate” Youtube? Among millions of choices, of an endless stream of hours of new footage everyday, how can we develop curatorial slants and selection filters in this flow? Youtube has decided to ask personalities to give their 5 best youtube clips, and Pedro Almodóvar gives his selection below. But does his selection say something about Youtube culture?
He chooses a Godard clip and a couple of songs that are meaningful to his oeuvre and meaningful as general cinema and music culture of a particular generation, but how are they meaningful to Youtube culture? There is a difference between selecting clips of bits of films and songs from the past and choosing clips that actually position Youtube and networking culture uniquely in the history of media, and why not, of cinema. I get the feeling that this selection could have been done in any other context, in the context of a television show or a video store, for the Godard and Brel clips can actually be found in other sources of media. The Internet here is functioning merely as an archive.
As far as network cultures go, Almodóvar’s selection is curious, but hardly revealing of the Internet itself, and of interest to those who know his own films and aesthetics. Of course, the way Almodóvar articulates his choices is interesting to see and watch. Apart from reblogs, retweets and facebook postings, one may get lost in the quagmire of youtubings, where users spend, as Lev Manovich once wrote, more time getting lost and trying to make decisions on what to click on the Internet than actually enjoying content.
But his last choice is interesting and relevant in a more reflexive way of understanding Youtube and its structure. The short film “Vecinas Valencianas” has been reenacted countless times on Youtube and thus stands out as a feature of web 2.0. You know when an idea is powerful when you have hundreds of people dedicating energy to filming reenactments of it and posting them online. It means that this film stuck to networking culture.
In celebration of Youtube’s 5 year old existence.
From the novel Platform, Michel Houellebecq writes on contemporary art
Most of the artists I know behaved exactly like entrepreneurs: they carefully reconnoitered emerging markets, then tried to get in fast. Just like entrepreneurs, they had been at the same few colleges, they were cast from the same mold. There were differences, however; in the art market, innovation was at a greater premium than in most other professional sectors. Moreover, artists often worked in packs or networks, in contrast to entrepreneurs, who were solitary beings surrounded by enemies – shareholders ready to drop them at a moment’s notice, executives always ready to betray them.