Photography &/as Digital Media

Julia Child Remixed by John D. Boswell (melodysheep) for PBS Digital Studios.  (will discuss with the Bourriaud…and enjoy.)


Jeff Wall, Photography and Liquid Intelligence –

Wall begins his essay using the imagery of the exploding milk in his piece Milk to describe how photography can be utilized for embodying unpredictable natural forms and movement – the “infinitesimal metamorphoses of quality.”  This movement he describes as “liquid”, relates/contrasts to the “dry” institution of photography through photography’s processes of the wet/water – the liquid chemicals that are harnessed for photography’s creation.  This “liquid intelligence” speaks to photography’s history, ” the echo of water in photography evokes its prehistory.”  The “dry” of photography refers to the mechanical aspects – the shutter, lens, equipment, technological modifications, etc.  The advent of digital technologies in photography marks a displacement of the water and an expansion of the “dry.”  Digital technologies replace the archaic processes.   Although he states this change directs photography into a “generation of electricity”, Wall’s own opinion of this is comme si comme sa…he doesn’t think this drought’s affect is good/bad….but it will change the histories to follow.  He is curious how this will play out.   I can understand Wall’s point of wet versus dry in terms of process but I do get a bit mixed up when he starts to talk about the subconscious – and in his example of Solaris, the ocean studying the human experimenters and how that can be related to photography’s liquids studying us.  I get a little stuck on the metaphor .  “The ocean is itself an intelligence which is studying them in turn” and his final sentence, “In photography, the liquids study us, even from a great distance.  Working through it I can see the people from their pasts (in Solaris) being like the old liquid processes.  So perhaps the “dry” generation of digital technology still echoes memories of the liquid processes of the past and new ways are created that have been inspired by the old processes  (?)


Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 5.20.36 PM
Jeff Wall, Milk 



Jorge Ribalta, “Molecular Documents: Photography in the Post-Photographic Era, or How Not to be Trapped into False Dilemmas,”

Ribalta begins his essay by referencing William J. Mithcell’s 1992 statement that photography is dead — displaced permanently but paradoxically, liberated.  This liberation.  Ribalta questions why this is so, and is not convinced by Mithcell’s analysis believing that the same questions come up for photography regardless of this belief in the afterlife…that not much has/would change.  He asks what has caused this afterlife, this “post-photographic condition”?  Answer, digital technology – a death/loss of materials – the ceasing of producing photographic analogue cameras, papers, chemicals.  This he states has “forced photographers to reconsider their relationship to their own materials” through new forms of experimentation, crossing between analogue and digital.  It has also opened up a whole new realm for amateurs by making photography more relaxed, disposable, & instantaneous.  No longer do photos need to be printed, no longer to people need to create photo albums…all is stored and modified privately, digitally…causing negatives and prints to become nearly obsolete.  This has shaped the term “post-photography”, “a cultural transformation is involved in the technological decline of chemical photography.”  Photography tho “dead” remains a culture and actually Ribalta emphasizes, it “explodes into culture.”  Kaboom.  The “photographic is born”.   Ribalta references Gilles Deleauze and Felix Guattari’s term ‘molecular’ to describe the photographic….which he doesn’t go into any explanation of what that means immediately…still a bit confused about it.

So by making the liquid intelligence nearly obsolete, digital technology creates a “crisis of photographic realism” as digital will always be an imitation of the real, the analogue.  Ribalta questions there can be a cultural and political photography without realism.  “The loss of realism means the factual liquidation of photography’s historical mission in modern culture.” It’s interesting considering the Wall use of liquidation, that in this case Ribalta is using it as an elimination.  He continues to underline that without realism, particulary documentary,  photography is pointless (dead) because the real (the analogue) connects to photography’s history.  Without this connection to history Ribalta asks how can photography remain connected socially/politcally/culturally?  This is the challenge in the digital generation, a challenge that elicits new ways of creating….and calls for a “bidirectional critique of representation” to go beyond the modernists and to invent “ways to deterritorialize photography, of producing practices in which realism is reinvented.”

Ribalta revisits the idea of “molecular” in this reinvention challenge…”A molecular realism involves overcoming the opposition between documentary and fiction and reinventing documentary methods based on the negotiation of the relationship between author and spectator.”  A molecule by definition is, ‘a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction’…so it seems they are relational, so the importance of using molecular in Ribalta’s way is the bond (relationship) noted above. I am not convinced I have that right, but I’m trying to work it out.

Ribalta offers Jo Spence’s work as an example.   Her “process oriented work emodies possible alternatives to the limits of an institutional critique confined to the museum, and opens a space that is still under explored.”  How?  She specifically is focused on her spectators being in a counter-public sphere (Ribalta exemplifies i.e. women’s groups, therapy settings, community centers).  I looked up Jo Spence’s work and am still somewhat unclear how to connect the work to this description, mainly because the images are not telling me what/where their context is…so I’m not going to post an of her work because I can’t fully defend it as Ribalta describes.

In his description of the survey at the Museu D’art Contemporani de Barcelona…Ribalta loses me.  He asks, “how do we use critically and polemically that structure in a post-photographic era” …speaking to the structure of universal language.   If realism is necessary…but persists “with or without us”…then why all the fuss?


Nicholas Bourriaud, “Post Production”

Postproduction is not a sequel but a sort of continuation of Bourriaud’s essay Relational Aesthetics because of the artistic scene described. The common denominator (theme) for this is the inter human sphere – relationships with people, communities, groups, networks, etc. “Relational Aesthetics was content to paint the new sociopolitical landscape of the nineties”  Posproduction was written in the early 2000s, and deals with more of the changes and modes of production. He states, it seeks to “establish a typology of contemporary practices and to find commonalities.” by looking at many of the same artists discussed in Relational Aesthetics and new artists.  Postproduction is more about form and the themes of rethinking & reexamining in relation to creation.  Postproduction reveals how artists are questioning the notions originality, “newness” and going beyond old ways of appropriation by shifting from the idea of ownership to collectivity/sharing.  “more and more artists interpret, reproduce, re-exhibit, or use works made by others or available cultural products. This art of postproduction seems to respond to the proliferating chaos of global culture.”  Bourriaud uses the example of DJs and the programmer as cultural object selectors and recreation using preexisting works.  And he attributes much of this collective hive mind to the culture of the Internet.   He sums up an outline of postproduction with five main points.

  • Reprogramming existing works: artists use works already made and change their context, usage, etc.  For example Riirkrit Tiravanijahs Untitled (Playtime):Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 12.11.35 AM
  • Inhabiting historicized styles and forms: using the ideas of for example minimalism, pop, conceptual.  Sarah Morris (right) for example creates paintings in the modernist fashion, referencing paintings like Mondrian (left) for example
  • Making use of images: for example taking scenes from movies and changing them or only taking parts of or adding music/voice over original sound.
  • Using Society as a catalog of forms: taking cultural graphics or advertising like logos, phrases, jingles, packaging
  • Investing in fashion & media: looking to visual culture for inspiration Vanessa Beecroft fuses/references performance & fashion photography.Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 12.27.54 AM

The commonality in this typology outline is the use of “already produced forms.”

“The artistic question is no longer: ‘what can we make that is new?’ but ‘how can we make do with what we have?

They Remix.  With this in mind Bourriaud focuses on the DJ as artistic re-mixer.  Ownership is “abolished”…DJs for example loop already composed pieces of music to create new versions or completely new songs with that hint of history intermixed.  “The remixer has become more important than the instrumentalist”

Going back to my question about realism in Ribalta’s pieces, there is a quote in Bourriaurd’s essay I found compelling: “Art must concern itself with the real, but it throws any notion of the real into question.  It always turns the real into a facade, a representation, and a construction.  But it also raises questions about the motives of that construction”  …by placing in other contexts.

Going back to the Julia Child remix at the top of the blog post, you can see different uses of re-invention — the artist John D. Boswell (melody sheep) takes different clips from Child’s wide retrospective of television segments and mixes, loops, repeats, edits, etc to make a completely different piece that is, as a form, something totally different than the original works use and intention.  Also the music is curated in a way that is edited and most likely sampled and not “original”.

Below is a video about a specific drum loop that has been used by many people, for many different usages than the original.

Photography &/as Digital Media

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