SM Thesis outline draft

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Salvador Miranda
Thesis outline draft

Description
I am interested in discourse as a material practice, and the relationship between history and evidence. In particular, I am interested in the fabrication of physical artifacts and objects that are used to attest to a particular history or reality. This takes the form of religious relics, forgeries, fake news, or manipulated photography and how these artefacts enact an objective history and subsequently bring into being (or become the reality of) the present. I would like to further explore this kind of material intervention as it relates to the justification of power structures and to propaganda.

In the case of lens-based media, Levi Strauss speaks about photography as providing the semblance of evidence rather than evidence itself, and how photography is used to establish an ideology (ideology as an objective reality that does not permit any other viewpoint). Similarly, Alain Badiou speaks of the need for the semblance of the passion for the real, where one’s passion for the real must be staged in a fiction or public theatre for it to be accepted as evidence of the real (i.e. Stalin show trials). This ties in closely with Vilem Flusser’s thesis that images have established themselves as the causes of events, rather than their illustration or documentation. Where images were once illustrations to orient the individual in the world, the viewer now uses their world experience to orient themselves in the image; the image itself becomes the source of reality. Flusser argues that this brings about a peculiar situation where logical discourse or political consciousness (as a product of linear or written consciousness) are no longer helpful for our orientation, suggesting a post-history. Boris Groys compares the digital image to the Byzantine icon. The digital image is provided by data, which is invisible to us, and to which we entrust faith that it offers us a true representation of its content. A pseudo-religious leap of faith is suggested in our relationship to the contemporary image hightening the mysticism and magic surrounding images. In this case, the image becomes the concrete reality and the world becomes its pretext (what would have been once called idolatry).

Images claim to reveal the world but in the act of limiting what they illustrate, they also hide it. Flusser identifies this as the inner dialectic of the image. When an image’s ontology becomes the source of reality while also being a fabrication, what does that suggest for our understanding of the world? In the context of the above, images become their own source of political power.

Methodology
Short film that takes up the above as its subject. Not sure about its content or form. As far as form is concerned, I’m interested in pursuing artistic strategies that enact their own propositions rather than merely representing them. Stephen Wright calls these 1:1 practices that are “both what they are, and propositions of what they are” as a mode of action to overcome processes of representation that obstruct our direct engagement with the world (Write, 2013, p. 276). I am interested in this as a strategy of dissemination and knowledge production that moves beyond the gallery. I am further interested in examining their potential to be used for socially engaged work including the re-appropriation of public space, the decentralization political activity, and the subversion of capital-driven markets. This strategy has of course been criticized for jeopardizing the principle of the autonomy of art, but even art’s autonomy as a question interests me. Some examples include the video/film work of Yael Bartana and Christoph Schlingensief.

I am similarly interested in the works of artists who engage in the creation of alternative narratives and fake news, explicitly presented to an audience as fact. Having received several labels including Parafiction (Lambert-Beatty, 2009) and Overidentification (BAVO, 2007), these practices attempt to intervene in public discourse often through direct participation and by introducing fiction experienced as fact. As fictions experienced as fact, they leverage how belief operates on the audience; as believed fictions they produce something rather than just describing it. This in turn is problematic given the current condition of fake-news, alternative facts and post-truth, and whether it is appropriate for artists to contribute to misinformation, regardless of intentions. Can fake news and post-truth be used by artists as effective strategies for knowledge production or activism? Examples include the work of the Yes Men, Michael Blum, and the Atlas Group.

Motivation
Understanding contemporary image, its role in world-making, and its divergence from its historical role as scientific and evidence-based documentation.

Resources
Theoretical: Alain Badiou, Boris Groys, Vilem Flusser, Pierre Bourdieau Artistic: Borges (Tlon Urbis…) Umberto Eco (Baudolino), Yael Bartana (What if Women Ruled the Wolrd), Christoph Schlingensief (Auslander Raus) Jordi Colomer (Unete!)