The speed of image
Photo: Tanja Kanazir / Drugo more (Flickr gallery)
Today’s tools of image production have turned everyone into a producer, distributor and consumer of images. In the current condition of information overload, images are among the most transferred content: via instant messaging, social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, micro blogging tools like Tumblr, and services like Instagram and Snapchat. As art critic David Joselit noted, “The scale at which images proliferate and the speed with which they travel have never been greater.” (After Art, Princeton University Press 2012)
The impact of this condition on professional visual production and visual art has yet to be recognized, but it has been discussed by many scholars and artists. As early as 2002, artist Seth Price discussed online “dispersion” as a powerful alternative to official art circulation systems. Later on, artist and teacher Hito Steyerl wrote about the potential of “poor images”, the low quality version of an offline artifact that circulates for free on the internet, where it is shared, compressed, remixed, and often deprived of its links to the original author; and artist Brad Troemel talked about “athletic aesthetics” to describe the fast and quantitative approach to art production that artists adopt to maintain an online presence, where they are confronted with compressed attention spans and with modes of fruition that are totally different from those of a dedicated art space.
We can’t forget this when considering the work of younger generations of artists, who happen to be “users” of digital devices and participants in the social networking economy, even before being “artists”. Trained in art and design, “digital native” artist Dorotea Škrabo has grown up in this kind of environment. Before existing as an artist, she existed as a computer and smartphone user. To her, online image production is a performative gesture in a way that artworks can’t be understood as autonomous artifacts, but as traces of the artist; and “viewers” are not consumers of a finished artifact, but are an active part of an ongoing process.
In her new installation Please Do Not Take Photographs produced by Aksioma, Škrabo draws upon these premises. The show consists of two main pieces. In Let Them Eat Cake, images are printed on cakes. These edible treats represent a “snap” published on Snapchat, a phone app that allows a user to develop an intense dialogue with others through images. All posts are deleted from the user’s Snapchat story after 12 hours. The temporary nature of the pictures therefore encourages frivolity and emphasizes a more natural flow of interaction. The visitors of the exhibition are invited to take a piece of cake, offering a metaphorical, yet playful and engaging comment on the ephemeral nature of online images.
The second piece, Musée du Lowres, is a replica of the part of the Louvre where the Mona Lisa is exhibited. The central piece is a screen in a baroque framing displaying the artist impersonating Leonardo’s masterpiece. Mobile devices, loaded with several images, texts and emoji, are applied on the surface encouraging visitors to slightly mutate the artwork by swiping through their contents. Beside the centerpiece, a series of video snaps are displayed on mobile phones along with oversized golden-framed prints of their captions, ironically subverting the traditional relationship between visual artwork and contextual information.
The exhibition opens on Thursday 11 May at 8 pm, and will remain on view in Filodrammatica gallery until 26 May 2017. Admission is free.