Digital: Digital Miscellaneous
by Beauchamp Art
This screen capture was taken after accidentally opening the Info tabs for all of the footage from a recent filming session, each of which was stacked neatly onto of its precursor, with each having to be closed individual. It seemed a fairly literal means of representing the overwhelming amount of information that lays just below the surface of any file, rife with data and meta data that never may see the public eye, or even the eye of the user.
The content of the videos is made secondary to the formatting and file information for each clip, so the unseen is foregrounded, the media may be critiqued, and what is regally accepted as background information, noise, becomes a wall of attention standing before the uses, with the small breaks revealing other glimpses of the desktop smothered by the small windows. The icon indicating the memory card from which the files were being imported peers in the though the top right corner of the image (like a postman glimpsing through the crack in the letterbox as he post through the handfuls of benign spam mail).
Whilst reading an online article from one of major UK newspapers, I noticed an apt typographic slippage, where the spacing between the letters of ‘secret’ was doubled, inconstantly so with the kerning for the rest of the text. This seemed fitting given the topic of the article was GCHQ’s surveillance program, the gaps between the letters implying something had been removed or as if there were a hidden subtext Rather than ‘reading between the lines’, it could be said that one must ‘read between the letters’, in other words, what is being said may itself be fairly meaningless or obvious, but what is being not said may be of considerably greater interest.
“GCHQ’s work must remain secret”, why is this assumption being made, do the speaker not feel the need to justify t? If a government has to establish rules to prevent questioning of its own actions and authority, does this not thereby undermine the validity of its actions? It presumes that the reader is already willing to accept the “nature” of the institution before he proceeds to make the latter half of the statement, thereby bypassing the need to question his initial stance, to question the nature of GCHQ to then understand its actions from a more informed perspective.
As this came after the news that “GCHQ unlawfully spied on British citizens,” finding that for several years the mass collection it had been amassing “contravened Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to a private and family life. It also breaches Article 6, which protects the right to a fair trial” [Griffin, 2015]. When a government institution is breaking its own laws, then the first thing that must be done is to question its nature, or no genuine progress towards greater transparency and accountability can be made. Though this is undoubtably the intention of the speaker, brushing of the potential for criticism with a casual remark.
A synopsis of the appearance of political activity through passive interfaces; my hand can participate in the workings of democracy without a thought having to be processed, a twitch of the wrist and I can give the impression of being involved without having to contemplate the wider political ramifications. Such responses could be seen to be more conducive to producing a complacent population than the saturation of apathy into the public sphere; as apathy indicates an unrequited frustration, complacency makes change seem unnecessary if the status quo says it should be so.
Moreover, one of the potential issues of these forms of ‘direct democracy’ (or at least systems and interfaces that present themselves as representing greater public involvement with democratic action though highly mediated and privately run online organisations) is that not only does “the electronic town hall allows for speedy communications and bad decision making” [Shenk, 1997: 11], in that the appearance of a representative majority may be indicative of a un-representational parliamentary system of symptomatic of the mob rule that result from the “spiral of silence” where “those who think they hold minority opinions often self-censor, failing to speak out for fear of ostracism or ridicule” [Hampton, 2013].
In the circumstance of the ‘Sign the Petition’ button (as with ‘Like’ and ‘Share’) on Facebook, people will only engage and make use of these functions if they believe they will be supported by their peers and not result in a negative response. Similarly, the ‘Comment’ function enables individuals to express a (highly compressed) opinion, without the need to establish validity, as CP Scott, the 1921 Guardian editor noted, “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Regardless of a states’ relation to reality, simply asserting a claim may give it undue standing, and it cannot be unsaid (without retrospective Orwellian censorship) nor forgotten.
This short film features a rapidly scrolling screen displaying my Tumblr dashboard, and the sheer near-infinity of the constantly updating content, so that the only conceivable way to consume and respond to all of what is seen is to apply the same attention hierarchies that are constructed of screen, so that as the world could be seen to be racing by, the viewer picks out moments when the scrolling stutters as more is loaded (like a train stopping to pick up more passengers as one looks out of the window in a half-awake daze). The title not only refers to the flow of data through social media, and the collapsing of distinctions between on/offline content, where “the factory/studio/tumblr blur with online shopping, oligarch collections, reality branding, and surveillance architecture” [Steyerl, 2013], but also was in response to the backing up of files en masse; evidencing the need and piety to archive for the increasing fear of the loss of data/info property.
The background image being used here is a more recent photograph of the landscape used widely as the default background for Windows XP computers, entitled ‘Bliss’. The modern rendition of the landscape is autumnal and comparable less Arcadian, so made for an satirical desktop background for a computer running Windows 8.1.
This simply involved applying semi-transparent title’s to a picture from a peer’s Instagram after we had a trip to the beach, in order to make the image look like an album cover, or possibly an apocalyptic book.
Image by Jeanette Bolten-Martin
After observing a headline on the New Statesman’s website reading ‘How do you make a film about a dictator?’, I placed a screen capture alongside the IMDB page for The Iron Lady, a bio-pic film about Margret Thatcher. Thereby implying a correlation between the two, particularly the comparison between the Iron Lady and the Iron Curtain, a phrase associated with the post-WWII Soviet territories in what is now Eastern Europe, thereby inferring that Thatcher may be considered on par with Stalin, which was intended to be an inherently hyperbolic satire (and inaccurate to the political background of both individuals, though they both endorsed the authoritarianism of a strong centralised state-held power).
A quick typographic exercise in protest to the sustained involvement of Rupert Murdoch, head of News Crop, in the world of media. This was made around the time of the election with one of the News Corp owns papers supporting both the Conservatives in Britain and SNP in Scotland, reflecting their hypocrite endorsement of anything that will keep them in a position of financial power and security.
Taking a recent advert from Tumblr that began appearing in the dashboard (aka Newsfeed), I overlaid the simple phrase onto the neutral background of the template.
A basic comparison of the GCHQ building, dubbed ‘the Doughnut’ and the symbol for radioactive materials, suggesting that both have great potential to cause harm and contaminate the population with destructive material in the instantaneity of the Atomic Age.
After seeing a post on Tumblr describing Barack Obama as ‘The chillest president eve, I felt it necessary to follow this up with a selection of images relating to the USA’s ongoing military Drone program and its affects on the civilian population and their response to the sustained state-sponsored assault, including one image of a burning effigy of the President with an American flag on its front.
This screenshot depicts a juxtaposition of images seen on The Independent’s website, where Osama Bin Laden and David Cameron are seen adopting the same hand gesture with one hand raised, positing a comparison between the two; proximity suggests association. Given that Chomsky is mentioned alongside the pictures, it is worth considering his idiom, “everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” This may suggest that whilst Bin Laden’s terrorism was only observed in the context of forgone policy, Cameron’s domestic strategy perpetuates terror against the civilian population. Again, to refer to Chomsky, “The official definition of terrorism […] is unusable as the actions of many of the large military states active internationally are undergoing such processes of terrorism against other nations and on themselves as a means of exerting control over one’s own people” [Chomsky, 1997: 21].
S.C.U.M. Manifested features an image of all the recently elect Conservative MPs stood together, with David Cameron in the foreground, where I superimposed that title in the same typeface and setting as a publication of the SCUM Manifesto, by the radical feminist Valerie Solanas in 1961, so borrows the acronym ‘Society for Cutting Up Men’, to infer that the Tories are the manifestation of a society based on violence (though whereas Solanas used ‘man’ as a gendered term, here it is being used to refer to all sexes).
Moreover, this relates to recent anti-government protests, where the phrase Tory Scum featured prominently, but also could be seen as a subversion of the dehumanisation of the people at the lower at the end of the economic scale through Austerity measure, where the poor have their finances assaulted whilst the rich are protected. Thereby establishing greater inequality, and an apartheid state where each extreme is dubbed ‘scum’, sub human, der Untermensch.
A quick poster mocked up using the image of a a friend posted on social media in anticipation of going to see Mad Max, with a comment regarding the image’s dramatic quality. I thus put together this basic design, using Heiti TC as the typeface, linking it in with other more serious works. The text was multi-layered and set to be semi-transparent, using some of the colours of the background, spreading out slightly to reflect the connotations of ‘Dozy’, remediating the cinematic trope of using staggered imagery to represent dizziness, intoxication, or other devolutions of the senses. The large ‘Z’ was then placed across the images to cut across the face, and form a border at the top and bottom of the image. There were also a number of minor colour and lighting adjustments, adding a darling gradient radiating from the centre of the image, highlights added to the eyes, and so forth.
This image was made in response to seeing a number of people’s Facebook profile pictures with political logos or slogans attached to them, as a form of endorsement that requires minimal activity, demonstrating a form of passive consumerism of political involvement. Such phenomena could be seen to illustrate the most minimal way of making a contribution to the workings of a flawed political system, but one which is very public (like giving one’s loose change to a homeless person then proceeding to tell everyone in the imitate proximity of one’s good deed). Though this can be a useful was to promote a cause, it also could seem a half-hearted attempt to appear engaged; only consuming and republishing existing propaganda materials rather than attempting to question and critique an issue at stake. This was made using my then current profile picture, and overlaying a translucent light-grey layer and the text at a fixed height but with varying kerning, slightly reposition so my eye would come through the capital ‘R’. This also makes a slight allusion to Deafheaven’s Sunbather album cover.
- Chomsky, Noam. (1997) Media Control. Seven Stories Press. 2nd Edition. USA.
- Griffin, Andrew (2015) GCHQ spying on British citizens was unlawful, secret court rules in shock decision. The Independent [Online] <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/gchq-spying-on-british-citizens-was-unlawful-secret-court-rules-in-shock-decision-10028306.html> Accessed 17.12.2015
- Hampton, Keith. (2013). Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’. Pew Research. [Online] <http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/26/social-media-and-the-spiral-of-silence/> Accessed 14.11.14
- Shenk, David (1997) Data Smog. Harper Collins, Abacus. London: UK.
- Steyerl, Hito (2013) Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead? E-Flux [Online] – http://www.e-flux.com/journal/too-much-world-is-the-internet-dead/ – Accessed 7.10.14