Photo-futurology et al

Posted: February 22nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Adam | 4 Comments »

A recent visit from a good friend prompted the creation of an impromptu, non-virtual Flickr set on my apartment wall. A collector of found images, my guest is most interested in family snapshots and poorly printed or otherwise novel postcards. Most pictures bear the scars of water damage, poor print process, time, or all three. All told, some 150 images were uploaded to my non-multitouch interface viewing surface with eraser-putty and artist tape. The concept behind all this was merely to see all the images next to each other, without their being any contextual relationship in their placement, so as to examine their collective attributes. In the course of this process, a number of interesting and contemporarily-relevant questions arose.

1). As our visual memory is increasingly replaced by photography and the amount of photographs we take keeps apace with booming imaging technologies, are we diluting our cerebro-visual faculties? Is the imagination becoming little more than a Rolodex for a pool of external photos, or will the proliferation of LCD screens and image-sharing networks work to the benefit of collective creativity?

2). Assuming whatever entity out there that is spidering the Infobahn and backing up every page and image (there is such a thing, right?) survives the apocalypse, what will our descendents/aliens make of our digital leavings? What picture will the MySpace portraits and Flickr sets of nations paint for future archaeologists? Will they think we are vapid, trinket-obsessed, globalized zombies, or will the weight of billions of jpegs preserve us as remarkably as the pyroclastic flow of Vesuvius?

3). What is the importance of things that suck? Some years ago, before Irony bore so heavily down on popular culture, the avant-garde contingent adopted the role of its anti-heroes as a kind of performative critique of normative society. Inevitably, the trappings of this playful yet effective role-reversal were stripped of their conceptual fabric, diluted and re-sold en masse to the public under the “Hipster” trademark. Despite having lost some of its inertia, does the purposeful and conscience adoption of the “sucky” aesthetic still hold an important place in the conversation of contemporary culture?