Authority, overrated if you ask me.

The Eye
The Eye

I created the image above, Transference in 2001. It was intended originally as a recording of a performance when I discovered I could create an image of an eye with my hand and a flashlight. I had lot of opportunity to perfect my shadow play during the frequent electrical blackouts that the seedier neighborhoods in Washington, DC were prone to at the time. I recorded it digitally, transferring it to a VHS cassette then filming the VHS version off of a TV screen with a super8 camera, only to be transferred back to a digital format by a processing lab and compressed as a quicktime file and finally as an  animated gif created by another aritst. This process was not premeditated but actually necessitated by the varying circumstances of what I had available and what I wanted to use the image for. But it became more meaningful to me with each transference from the original performance of light and shadow.

I decided to begin this posting with that description of my artwork because the Baudrillard and Benjamin writings contributed to my understanding of art making as a photographer. I was not sure how these writings would resonate with me today, especially since the focus of my work has changed so much in form, venue, audience and intent. I found that they still resonated powerfully with me and brought up several very timely issues I wouldn’t have found relevant at the time.

At present, the idea of authenticity, I believe is more important than actual authenticity. One could almost say that there is a cult of authenticity on the internet. Various groups grappling for that aura of authentic which would separate their thing from another thing, prioritize it and give it more cultural worth or monetary value or ideally both. Since the internet does not allow for any substantial separation between personal and commercial, art or ad, everything bumps up against each other and all boundaries are permeable. And this has only become increasingly obvious as all media is essentially digitize-able and into miniaturized unites of code. Every whole work is now modular and remix has become the dominating form of cultural creation. Unfortunately, a works aura is now highly political and largely determined by copyright lawyers. The idea that a work of art once it is technologically reproducible becomes part of a market and the meaning of value and authenticity change in this context.

Who can claim authority in this space? Credibility, in a space where definitive authority is becoming more difficult to attain, goes more and more often to those who are capable of making new links between things visible. Essentially, this is what creative people have always done only now it does not require any material connection. Making exciting connections rather than original works becomes the creative act. Artists have always culled from many references to create what was considered new, scientists build upon many theories and experiments of the past to come up with new propositions. The modern idea of authority may have been developed as technologically reproduced images became commonplace but it is clearly undergoing radical change as technological reproduction permeates every aspect of media creation and distribution.

Forming Habits For Succesful Living

Forming Habits For Succesful Living - Detail

What matter who’s speaking, someone said what matter who’s speaking

-Samuel Beckett

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One Response to “Authority, overrated if you ask me.”

  1. Thanks for this really great example. I saw it last week in my Google Reader, but now looking at it on the page itself, I am even more impressed. This is truly a case where a picture is worth a thousand words (not to take anything away from your words).

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