Photos: Long Shadow I-IV
by Beauchamp Art
Collaboration with Aaron Griffin
These various works feature various photographs taken from a screen displaying Aaron Griffin’s ‘To Cast a Long Shadow’ and the surrounding discussion, done as a form of open-source collaboration with Aaron.
Along the photographs, three short films were also made:
Long Shadow [Moiré] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCEXUcLYES8
Long Shadow Decaying – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buVoee5i2xk
Long Shadow Hand Projection – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYQc9THldWg
However, all of these would probably be more accurately described as an animated pictures, (two with sound) rather than a ‘film’, given the lack of narrative and structrualist, palindromic composition of the first and last; the primary being the most successful of the three videos, the other two being considerably briefer; such as the second which was an animation of the original images Glitching, the third a projection experiment.
This Long Shadow series began with an extensive comment on a Facebook post uploaded by Aaron, in which he asked anyone who could see the post to “download, swap, share, interrupt or destroy” the image he provided, entitled and captioned To Cast a Long Shadow. To express my intention, I proposed that I was to “reprocess the hell out of” the image, implying I would expose it to some of the means of processing imagery in my recent work. To which a peer, Henry Driver, replied with a sardonic suggestion for a process, involving ironically used retro means; faxing and sending it “over dial up internet in a storm”, a self-parodying suggestion that infers a means of corrupting the image in keeping with Aaron’s original call. I then replied with a lengthy comment featuring a list of increasingly ridiculous suggestions for means of altering the image, such as turning it into jam, feeding it to a dog, sampling its bark, then a number of technological means of mediation, and a reference to Pavlov’s dog, Morse Code, and conflicting means of translation and transcription.
These flippant suggestions were deliberately designed to contrast to the seriousness of the original piece, which was a captioned image of the suicide note of Aaron’s father (used with permission from his family), which gave my remediations a cruelty and malice that could be seen as quite an inhumane treatment of a sentimental item, as presented in the form of an online digital representation, explicitly to be altered in a open-source format. Rather that the alterations done to images in the public sphere without the images makers consent, as a form of “meme-art” [Archey, 2013: 127]
However, the processes I actually used were more critical of the media and technological aspects, and intended to be more serious lamentations on the image. After Glitching and rephotographing the images (as shown in Long Shadow I-IV) I then sent a link to the images I had created back to Aaron, which he then posted on his page, sharing the link from the external image source. He also produced a response to my images created from his, by taking a section of the glitched text that I had photographed from the screen; applying a border and a caption: “Daddy’s Little Lamb”, in reference to the word at the centre of the image. Thus forming part of an two-way remediation; the representation of one medium in another; “a defining characteristic of the new digital media,” thereby explicitly acknowledging the “experience of mediation.” [Bolter, 2000: 45, 74]
Thus putting into action Thomas Lawson’s advocacy for ‘dialectical re-duplication’; “turning the means of the mass media against themselves by reappropriating their images, styles and conventions of representation. Irony, aesthetic distance, ambiguity and contradictions are deliberately cultivated to reveal the hollowness of the stereotypes imposed upon us by the media and to hinder rapid assimilation.” [Walker, 1994: 115] However, in this case, the images used were personal rather that mass media subjects, so it is the dilution of personal meaning that is subjected to the remediating; re-duplicating processes. Thus drawing attention to the distortions and deviations that rapidly reproducible and highly malleable digital media can enable.
Moreover, much as new media objects are constantly in flux, like the “meme” originally described by Richard Dawkins as “subject to continuous mutation, and also to blending.” [Dawkins, 1976] the multifaceted nature of the individual must also be address; especially when discussing these images which concern themselves with blurred lines of the self and sentimentally, touching on how “no one has only one identity, in the sense that everyone must, consciously or not, identify with more than one group, one identity. [Lawler, 2008: 3] In other words, the representations, of images, the self or other subject, is prone to (unconscious and innumerable subtle) variations due to environmental conditions and the affects of the pragmatics of the discourse they are part of, as well as the means through which is has been mediated.
In summary, this whole series, which began through an online discourse engage with the effects of repetition, remediation; as well as decay and the loss of meaning, as the initial and final outcomes are seemingly so distant from what they may communicate; through throughout they are intended to deal with the issues surrounding “repetition, reproduction, and authorship” that Aaron originally intended the works to tackle.
Photos from a screen displaying Aaron Griffin’s ‘To Cast a Long Shadow’.
Rather than magnifying the image in order to enhance it, the visual amplification corrupts the image and its sentiment.
The glitching of the images is not shown within these image, and thus may seem as if the process of downloading the image had corrupted the files, rather than having been manually altered by me; randomly deleting and modifying the image code.
In these, there are hints of the Moiré effect over some sections of the images, especially over the white areas, in which the three colour cells in the RGB sub-pixel would be illuminated, which when displayed at a low resolution, cannot be rendered cleanly on the screen, or interpreted fully by the camera – the compensation results in the shimmering optical illusion of the strips of shifting colour; which I would then focus on for the later images by repeatedly rephotographing parts of the images displayed at a very low resolution/scale.
The glitching of the images was the first step towards distorting the picture, and the majority of the distortions caused by text-editing the files resulted in small incremental distortion, that gradually eroded the legibility of the handwritten and typed text, resulting in some sections being totally unreadable, and in other sections small ‘sprites’ were created. These peculiar renderings that consist only of a few pixels in the original image, but when rephotographed, they were magnified, though did not reveal an more about the structure of the image, only that it had started to come apart; like pot holes in a tarmac road surface.
“A glitch disrupts the data behind a digital representation in such a way that its simulation of analog can no longer remain covert.” [Manon, 2011]
However, towards the latter half of this process, the images became totally disrupted; a non-distinctive amorphous amalgam of colour blocks, which can only partially be seen ‘through’, with greatly reduced the transparency of the media. Thereby emphasising the interference of the media of the digital image through its flaws and failings, which rather than erasing the presence of interface, “so that the user is no longer aware of confronting a medium,” [Bolter, 2000: 23-24] highlights it, making the mediation the focal point.
Anton ‘Vade’ Marini supposed that technology tends to make so many assumptions, and is so strict about those assumptions, that when they go wrong “they fail in catastrophic and interesting ways” [Khaikin, 2014] However, it could be supposed that the inevitable failings of technology as a result of its assumptions is a far too anthropomorphic statement, and that it is the human error that is evident in discrepancies of machines. By exposing the mechanics of the media, one reveals the person behind the machine: embodying human fallibility; their cells and fragile composite parts.
Photos from a screen displaying Aaron Griffin’s ‘To Cast a Long Shadow’, re-photographed, and exploiting the moiré effect of the pixilated image at low-resolution.
These came about whilst examining the previous images within a browser that display small scale icons of each of the images, compressing them so that they could be browsed and managed more easily than if every single picture was displayed at maximum resolution simultaneously – in order for both the user and the computer to be able to process the images more effectively. However, there is no such thing as perfectly ‘clean compression’, something is lost at every stage; it is a reductive process. Such compression is necessary for the fluid function of all multi-media websites, and only selective elements may be High Definition or uncompressed (such as for profit television streaming websites) thus “lossy compression is the very foundation of computer culture, at least for now.” [Manovich, 2001: 55] Information has to be filter for the sake of function; whether electronic information for digital representation, or sensory information being limited for processing in the brain; to prevent the overload.
Nevertheless, the effects of such compression is not inherently negative, as it can produce interesting optical effects, in the case of these photographs, where there was previously a small amount of the moiré, the repeated exposure resulted in it being hyperbolised.
These images are typical of the visual representations of representational progress, following directly in the spirit of Seurat and Lichtenstein, questioning the media by positioning it in the foreground; not simply undermining the image but reclaiming it for new purposes; that of Modern and Post-Modern self-criticality as a means of further the cultural understanding of human interaction, which is intrinsically linked to the act of mediation. This came after the development of the camera, and before that the one-point perspective and obscura; or any extensions of the eye through the inaction of the hand and the creation of even the most primitive representation; both as a mirror and window to the world through which people could attempt to understand better the world around them. As the analytical philosopher Stanley Cavell explained, “photography overcame subjectivity in a way undreamed of by painting, a way that could not satisfy painting, one which does not so much defeat the act of painting as escape it altogether: by automatism, by removing the human agent from the task of reproductions” [Cavell, 1979: 23] Though importantly in Long Shadow, an aspect of the world is not simply be recreated, as Walter Benjamin noted in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, (from which much of the debate surround the role of media stems, including Cavell’s line of enquiry) “In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. […] Photographic reproduction […] can capture images which escape natural vision.” Here, the action of reproduction is being repeated, and the subject magnified again and again not simple to illustrate the mechanics of the image, but the action of noticing and the decision to examine and consequently distorting that is thus being shown through photography; generating abstraction through representation.
Every image is a panel in the corridors of cyberspace, though it is not severed from this physical realm, but is an extension of it, and with these images, such “a graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system.” [Gibson, 1984: 67] as enabled by modern technology is ultimately flawed, and prone to further failure; further deviations from a transparent representation of reality.
Photos from a screen displaying Aaron Griffin’s ‘To Cast a Long Shadow’, using the Moiré to such an extreme that the text and image content is obscured into an RGB prism-colour abstraction.
The near total abstraction through reprocessing and a hyperbolic level of moiré disrupt the expected mundane images represented on the screen, and thereby could be seen as a critical response to the “the ‘dailiness’ of ordinary, everyday interactions on screen,” [Scannell, 1996] and how the remarkable interactions with technology may become seemingly inconsequential; a necessary ignorance to avert an overload of autistic-like hyper-awareness, and as a general means of coping in the face of the sublime scale and intricacy of means of representation. A sustained ignorance must be upheld, with lapses in distraction coming through the media interface slipping into view; much as a death witnessed before one’s eyes may seek to remind the individual not only of their own mortality, but the sheer incomprehensible number of deaths that occur constantly (this analogy is not choice at random, but is directly provoked by the original source material; a suicide note).
In the face of such calamities, distance must be established through defence strategies; ignorance, denial, humour. For example, I could not respond to the original post with total seriousness, because to do so would only invoke solemnity and stagnation, by making light of the subject (through the second extended reprocessing comment) I am thus distanced from it and can thereby attack the image (which may contain sentimental value) in order to produce something new from the material, without a feeling of gilt.
The subsequent abstraction also sever the subject from the viewer, as the original content can barely be made out, unless (somewhat ironically) the images are viewer at a small scale. Should the pictures be enlarge, then the viewer may only be able to distinguish the areas of red, green and blue to the darkened areas without colour, and be aware of the contrast but not the content or meaning. In essence, they loose there meaning, and their sentiment, they could be anything, any image. With the clearest sections of two being just about decipherable, reading “Text an … will be” and another “lamb”, though this is more easily understood when seen in conjunction with the previous images. However, the majority is lost in the ether of digital rendering; slipping through the cracks of understanding wretched in the medium through remediation; producing such as intimate examination of the image surface that it has become meaningless; staring at the dots rather than the lines between them. Such extreme deconstruction of a subject may often result in a total destruction of meaning. When decontextualised, or rather, recontexualised (as nothing can exist without context or contrast, otherwise how might it be designated as existing?) new meaning is established. In this case, the message from a father to his family becomes a magnified grid of sub-pixels, an inhuman; impersonal system of micro-lights void of useful information, dissolved into a meaningless spectacle.
This is probably the most effective selection of images for concluding this series, though they share many of the same visual qualities and thoughts as the Long Shadow [Moiré] film
Photographs of a screen display a sardonic Facebook comment describing a ridiculously hyperbolic processing technique for an image.
Although some of II and III feature rephotographed sections of the comment on the Facebook post rather than the main image itself, this series is more a continuation of I than a sequel to III so I part 2/b may have been more appropriate, but a cumbersome subtitle, and the suffixed [Comment] carries the necessary information. This issue of subtitles is a pedantic one, but is frequently problematic with any multiple series of works. Especially with multi-media works that are not specific to one outcome, location, or format (as opposed to mixed-media, which would involve several media in one outcome; however, frequently both apply)
Henceforth, this series could not only be decreed as a furtherance of the discourse initiated at the genesis of Long Shadow, but also serves as an explicitly direct acknowledgement of the role of dialogue and exchange in art, the unavoidable need for cross pollination in the otherwise sterile creative environments an individual may seek to occupy in order to ascertain a personal inner means to an artist epiphany or revelations. An inexcusable romanticism of an impossible scenario, as no action can happen in the total vacuum of a isolated creative state; for without the connectivity to previously establish means of analysis and understanding, new ideas cannot be effectively understood, and their relationship to historical precedents must be taxingly recognized.
This is especially true for new media works such as this that pride themselves on their awareness of the surrounding media and consequences of connectivity, and how such “new media objects are rarely created completely from scratch” and it is this very interconnection and integration of existing materials is especially enigmatic of the contemporary practitioner, for whom they function themselves as a medium. In the post-industrial landscape, “the Artist was no longer a romantic genius generating a new world purely out of his imagination; he became a technician turning a knob here, pressing a switch there – an accessory to the machine.” [Manovich, 2001: 124, 126] So it is a necessity for the contemporary artist – or any active media user – to seriously consider their actions as a result of mediation; the mind as a thoroughfare for the ideas of others, the body a non-place that the mind occupies along side the equally intangible cyberspace; where total self-reflection would mean total self-annihilation.
(Much as the Total Perspective Vortex in the Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which allows the user to see the entire universe at once, in relation to oneself, thereby causing the individual’s head to explode, [Adams, 1978] an example taken from the world of science fiction, but an effective illustration of the information overload; though intergalactic rather than idiosyncratic.)
This analysis does not conclude here, it has simply paused; it can be continued, rewound, or copied at any point.
- Adams, Douglas. (1978) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [Radio Series]. BBC Radio 4. United Kingdom
- Archey, Karen. (2013) Beginnings + Ends. Frieze Magazine. #159
- Cavell, Stanley. 1979: in Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard. (2000) Remediation: Understanding New Media.
- Dawkins, Richard (1976). The Selfish Gene: Chapter 11. 1989 edition: Oxford University Press. UK.
– http://www.rubinghscience.org/memetics/dawkinsmemes.html – Accessed 9.2.2014
- Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard. (2000) Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press. Paperback edition. London, England: 26
- Khaikin, Lital. (2014) The Radical Capacity of Glitch Art: Expression through an Aesthetic Rooted in Error. Redefine Magazine (Online)
- Lawler, S. (2008) Identity: Sociological perspectives. Cambridge: Polity.
- Manon, Hugh S. & Temkin, Daniel. (2011) Notes on Glitch.
– http://worldpicturejournal.com/WP_6/Manon.html – Accessed 26.11.2013
- Gibson. 1984: 67. In Bell, David. (2007) Cyberculture Theorists. Great Britain. Routledge: 2
- Scannell. 1996. In Bell, David. (2007) Cyberculture Theorists. Great Britain. Routledge: 37
- MIT Press. Paperback edition. London, England: 26
- Walker, J.A. (1994) Art in the age of mass media – a reader. London: Pluto.