AN IMAGE functions as a stage upon which the logic of the image is dismantled through a series of objects, talks, screenings, performances, and reading groups by Thom Andersen, Armen Avanessian, Jonathan Beller, Enrique Castro-Cid, Sally Cruikshank, Black Radical Imagination, Harun Farocki, Alan Gutierrez, (Human) Learning, Barbara Kasten, Oliver Laric, Deborah Levitt, Heinrich Mueller-Dataphysix Renormalon, Gerald Nestler, Sondra Perry, Suzan Pitt, Alan Poma, Seth Price, Lucy Raven, Oskar Schlemmer, Manuel Shvartzberg and The Otolith Group. Exhibition design inspired by an archival interpretation of ARQUITECTONICA‘s Pink House. Curated by Domingo Castillo & Natalia Zuluaga.
…The development of computer vision techniques seems to indicate a turn towards what we could call ‛post-human operatively:’ while the imminent task at hand is to perfectly simulate how humans see and make sense of the world, the ultimate goal are fully autonomous systems of image creation, analysis and action, capable of substituting human observers and operators altogether. But by then we will need a radically new definition of the image (or have no more need for it).1
The reality we live in, Hito Steyerl contends, consists of images. Images surround us; they are part of our environment, second nature: they are three dimensional objects and forms. This is because at a certain point images “have started crossing the screen and materializing.” During a talk in 2013 on political agency and photography at The New School, Steyerl charted the ways in which images have made this crossing and, in the process, have been transformed. They have been transformed, bruised, affected by crossing over into our reality. They have crossed over and have begun to catalyze events.2 Underneath Steyerl’s assertion is the suspicion regarding the power of images that has haunted culture and society since the beginning of historical time. Idolatry, iconoclasm, iconophilia, and fetishism, all of these were rooted in an anxiety about a world overrun by images. The suspicion that they may, as W.J.T Mitchell describes, “finally destroy even their creators and manipulators” has guided much discourse around what images say, what they want, and what they do.3 One need only, as Mitchell reminds us in What Pictures Want, “invoke the names of [Jean] Baudrillard and [Guy] Debord to remind ourselves that the image as a pseudo-agency, a power in its own right, is alive and well. Martin Jay reminds us that the history of theories of visual images, indeed of vision itself, is largely a history of anxiety.”4
Today, in the wake of developments in digital technology and computing, what images do has been normalized into a process where images are5 codified and executed as the basis of new systems of value6 by a variety of stakeholders.7 Miami, for example, is a place where past, present, and future have been rendered and informed by the proliferation of these imaging processes. Sultry sunsets, pink flamingos, and glistening bodies aren’t just images that fester here, they are imaginaries that motivate geopolitical and colonial fantasies of a Latin American capital or the nirvana of Boundless Markets™.8 Here, advertising and architectural renderings fuel real estate speculation, class divides, racial inequality, false centers, and shadow economies; flattening the once polar distinctions between the virtual and the actual along the way. The logic implies that images move capital, mirages of abstraction mediate into form.
AN IMAGE reflects and attempts to mimic this logic in order to reveal how images mutate, supplant, or intersect with reality and scale their effects across a gamut of impact zones and temporalities. The title, borrowed from Harun Farocki’s film under the same name, references an acute awareness of these image logics and as a result the exhibition—in the shape objects, lectures, screenings,reading groups, and the texts in this volume of small format—highlights the inherent political project at the core of this observation. The purpose of this investigation, then, is to rethink the notion of the image and its impact in order to speculate on what can be done, catalyzed, and produced with images. That is, to contemplate retooling even the anxiety surrounding vision. In this way, AN IMAGE explores how mutating, scaling, and retooling the image isn’t just at the disposal of a few stakeholders. Instead, the exhibition proposes that images are coded by different cosmologies in order to reconfigure the politics of visibility and presence.
1 Ingrid Hoelzl, “The Operative Image: An Approximation,” The New Everyday: A Media Commons Project, February 3, 2014 [http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/tne/pieces/operative-image-approximation].
2 Hito Steyerl, “The Photographic Universe II | Photography and Political Agency? With Victoria Hattam and Hito Steyerl,” YouTube, April 24, 2013 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqQ3UTWSmUc].
3 W. J. T. Mitchell, Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 23.
4 W. J. T. Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 96.
5 The teleological and ontological designations of the image have been sought after for a long time in a never-ending quest to answer what images do and want. Much art historical discourse has oscillated between the ontological distinctions of picture and image. They have focused on the image as a contained, delineated, limitful thing (material or immaterial) that does instead of a process of doing; a process that delineates spatiotemporalities advantageously. Here, the image is neither Hard (John Haugeland) nor Soft (W.J.T. Mitchell). So what, then, could the logic of the image be? We could think of it as a hard material image that is the result of a disembodied process; it is a process where the image softens in order to recompose itself as something else ad infinitum.
6 A system of valorization could be understood as the effect of several cross-cutting systems—such as culture, real estate, hospitality, finance—which establish, maintain, or assign value.
7 Stakeholders: For us by us + all of its non-anthropocentric considerations.
8 See [https://ayrni.wordpress.com/#jp-carousel-2530]; [https://ayrni.wordpress.com/#jp-carousel-2532].