Photos: Data Leak [Attachment Wounds]
by Beauchamp Art
Photographs of a perforated body – a hole drilled in a finger nail: trephining to relieve the pressure caused by a subungual hematoma. Positive bleeding, opening the body voluntarily to allow it to heal. As Bosch showed a similar process in The Extraction of the Stone of Madness from 1494, even with 500 years of medical and technological progress, the traditional method was deems as the appropriate treatment, as was the application of an iodine patch to the (later) removed nail, along side a more modern trial of antibiotic drugs.
The photographs show the injured figure bleeding into a shallow glass of water, warping the image with its concave lens effect, alongside the fracturing of light and distortion of colour in the use of a basic magnifying glass to gather more visual information from the source; an alien finger mutilated in non-space; like some horror image or a David Lynchian flashback.
The images required a small amount of post production, mostly involving drawing out the object from the background by modifying the contrast, and increasing the red saturation whilst reducing the rest of the spectrum. However, as I set the white balance based on the colour of the water against a white background, I did not have to adjust the main palette too strongly, though this was a deliberately misleading choice tonal arrangement, as the true colour of the water was considerably more orange, due to the combination of the electric lighting and the diluted blood in the water, which meant to compensate the finger resulted in looking more unnatural; grey-blue and pink, adding the unnerving abjection of the images, and their benign malevolence.
If these images cause revulsion or curiosity, then the effect of the inhuman pictorial representation of bodily alienation evidences the viewer’s sympathy with the image; they are not simply phenomenologically engaging with it by mentally touching it, but also substituting the self within the image, so they envision their own sensation of discomfort; and their relationship becomes remediated; layered, as they become both spectator and subject, simultaneously looking at and looking out of the image back at the viewer. Though being shown photographically, the viewers’ familiarity with the semiotics of the representation format devolves into apparent immediate (as “Photography overcame subjectivity […] by removing the human agent from the task of reproductions” [Cavell, 1979: 23] though the human influence can never be totally absent, especally with digital reproducibility, post-production, and the constant recontextualisation of online redistribution), lending it a false sense of transparency; “so that the [viewer] is no longer aware of confronting a medium, but instead stands in an immediate relationship to the contents of that medium.” [Bolter, 2000: 23-24]
The viewer is penetrated by the image, as the finger nail was voluntarily violated. Nevertheless, the presence of the glass as shown through the refracted distortion of the image and reflected ambient lighting illustrates the distancing of the original subject to the viewer, through multiple layers of glass, much as “Meme transmission is subject to continuous mutation, and […] blending”: [Dawkins, 1976] slowly filtering and morphing the image with every transition between the mediums.
However, as the viewer is “flooded with images of the sort that once used to shock and arouse indignation, [they] are losing our capacity to react,” [Sontag, 2003:84] it may be worth considering that “Three out of four people [are] desensitized to images showing hunger, drought, and disease.” [Ritchin, 2013: 108] The banality of the image that is lost in the “data smog” and overwhelmed by the “sea of information” [Shenk, 1997: 16, 20] although “even in these days of too much imagery” photography can still have an impact, revictimizing the depicted people via imagery. [Ritchin, 2013: 144, 110]
The images, in spite of their insignificance within the exponential photographic archive of the internet creates “a library without walls” [Shenk, 1997: 20] as “color photography has created ‘museums without walls’,” [McLuhan, 1964: 128] even within these seemingly endless halls of representation the picture of pain may still cause an empathetic response, or an echo of the original suffering of the subject in its viewing, as the audience is invoked into being complicit in the content of the depiction.
The subtitle of the piece refers to a lecture I attended delivered by Dr Kathleen Richardson on Digital Social Networking: A Collective Out of Body Experience? referring to the distancing created between individuals who serve themselves from direct face-to-face communication, supplementing it with technologically mediated exchanges, in an era when “billions of our interactions take place away from the human presence,” and thus individuals may feel disassociated from one another when intercaing with “Machines can facilitate our social interaction.” [Richardson, 2014]
- BBC Africa Image Harming Effort, Says Charity Oxfam. BBC News. 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20842827 Cited in Ritchin, Fred. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen. 1st Edition. Aperture.
- Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard. (2000) Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT Press. Paperback edition. London, England.
- Cavell, Stanley. (1979) Cited in Ritchin, Fred. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen. 1st Edition. Aperture.
- 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
Richardson, Dr Kathleen (2014) Digital Social Networking: A Collective Out of Body Experience? (Lecture) Futurecamp 1: How We Act Now: Psychology and Behaviour in the Digital Age. Wysing Arts Centre. Cambridge, UK.
- Ritchin, Fred. (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen. 1st Edition. Aperture.
- Shenk, David (1997) Data Smog. Harper Collins, Abacus. Great Britain.
Sontag, Susan. (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others. Picador. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. http://www.imagearts.ryerson.ca/michalak/html/CD8320/Sontag,%20Susan%20%282003%29%20Regarding%20the%20Pain%20of%20Others.pdf Accessed [25.6.2014]