Monday, March 4, 2013

Art in the Age of Algorithmical Reproduction, or "Tragically Hip(stamatic)"

This winter I've watched now former friends literally pour their souls into wet collodion plate printing, and in the course of watching I've significantly damaged my internal organs by huffing the technique's requisite ether, bromide, silver nitrate, and etc.. It seemed not incidental that at the same time Hipstamatic (what a conflicted neologism that is) deployed their "Tintype SnapPak" app, which affords iphone users vaguely credible approximations of the process which consumed my gizzards and associates. I threw up just a little bit reading some copywriter's hyperventilations that this filter would ""capture the true essence of your subject with haunting clarity (of) this ancient lens." My instinctive reaction is to be revolted by something which will give one's breakfast at Denny's the patina of a Matthew Brady, but I'm inclined to reassess after this season's ongoing consequences. After grousing on Facebook, a photographer I greatly admire relayed this article from the Guardian U.K. whose author raised this point; "One of the problems I have with creative photographic processes and smartphone photo filters is that they are nostalgic, and place the aesthetic over the content. They also seem to surrender a large part of the creative process to the camera program." In this I recognized my own struggle to avoid mediating my own images- to the degree that any digital photographer can. I try to ask whether an image would have the same valency if it weren't rendered in some atypical color, or 'enhanced' by some other means. In many ways though, my work is stymied by the current glut of artificiality- I find it difficult to articulate a sensible alternative. A recent New York Times op ed by Christy Wampole titled "How to Live Without Irony" tried to account for photographer's (and who isn't right now?) attraction to contrivances. She noted that "nostalgia cycles have become so short that we even try to inject the present moment with using certain digital filters to “pre-wash” photos with an aura of historicity." It is no longer enough to merely hold a moment- we require our every quotidian doing to appear sufficiently hip. To me, this belief that your life as it happens is somehow insufficient, and the consequent obsession to augment it somehow is just sad and ultimately vapid. But so also is clinging to fossilized constructs like 'truth,' or 'authenticity' that are themselves nostalgic and often outright dangerous depending on who is enforcing the definitions. The questions raised have so addled me that they've only served to rekindle my inclination to go live in a yurt on one of Ireland's Skelligs until all of this sorts itself out. app: here. 

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