Digital Reproduction of Art and Doubt

Iraq Bombing Triptych I

Iraq Bombing Triptych II

Iraq Bombing Triptych III

Authenticity is an unstable value when modes of reproduction can reconfigure both the form and content of a work of art.  At best, authenticity can only be asserted, not proven, one value among multiple others, including multiple authentic works–multiplicity- authenticity!  With the adoption and acceptance of digital production of art work, no mere traced line  remains to demarcate the difference between a work of the mark–the painting, or the sign–the drawing or the illustration.  If, say, we choose to digitally manipulate an image, we can allow the work at large to be its own mark–the thing itself, what we mean to show; alternatively we can allow the sign to stand for what we want to say.  The work that integrates the two types of representational art does so by an additional whim that the work be such and such.  It is no longer a function of the  conventionally understood impossibility of integrating the two forms.  (Consider what we can now do to an image or an inscription, things far removed from Magritte’s series, “The Treachery of Images, and the famous piece from the series, “This is Not a Pipe.)  The knots and bonds are cut: anything goes.

Free verse and atonal jazz also work within unfettered limits.  Any boundaries on the work are self-imposed by the artist-producer.  Atonal jazz examines the formal substance of jazz; free verse is the study of natural meter.  Similarly, now digital reproduction allows the artist to examine the formal “structure” of art; but, truly, such an examination subsumes the  history, content, narrative and goal of art.  What would we call such a study?  We might suppose that, a study of our history, of culture, of media and the values we all impose on our lives.  What heady nonsense we would then concoct!  At the end of our study, we incredulous strivers will strike fool’s gold of our own making.  For the feast is unending; and for that, unpalatable.

So we pick and choose our fights.  What do some of our images tell us some of the time?  What do we do when we claim to reifying the content of some image by working and reworking it repeatedly?  What does”The Falling Man” tell us, if anything?  I take erasure to be a universal phenemenon; though its study is, surely, a piece-meal one.  I want to say that every choice is a deletion of an alternative that, the next moment on becomes irrelevant.  But how do I plump this idea: does erasure leave behind some spectre of a path not taken?  How do I intimate that vacant and spectral path?  I may not be able to speak of such a thing in philosophy, but I have long forsaken wisdom cast in steeley logic for the unwound and abraded fabric of demonstrable doubt.

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~ by Faheem Haider on November 3, 2009.

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