We are video addicts, the numbers say, we watch 1 billion hours of Youtube videos every day, and we upload 400 hours of video to Youtube every minute. Yes, every 60 seconds. The average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes! (1) It comes together with scrolling on Facebook and Instagram, reading online articles, using search and sharing our own content. If the day has only 12h of waking time, it seems that we spend a few hours in front of various tech products that embody ‘important-for-us’ experiences (if we exclude the time spent working on your computer). The problem with the ‘spectacle’ is that it’s staged, separated (easily branded) and it is distancing us from our own senses.
But then again, senses are proclaimed to be unreliable after their hyper-productive day(s), so let’s give them something ‘we are sure they want’. Wikipedia entry on Situationist International gives an interesting overview, citing Guy Debord’s works:
Drawing from Marx, which argued that under a capitalist society the wealth is degraded to an immense accumulation of commodities, Debord argues that in advanced capitalism, life is reduced to an immense accumulation of spectacles, a triumph of mere appearance where “all that once was directly lived has become mere representation”. The spectacle, which according to Debord is the core feature of the advanced capitalist societies, has its “most glaring superficial manifestation” in the advertising-mass media-marketing complex.
We are not living the moment – we are formatting it to fit the media in which we live in
How is that reflecting on our art practice? At least two of my friends who are photographers have confirmed that they pre-format their photographs to fit the ‘desired’ Instagram ‘look’. It is because most of their business comes from that network. And most of our affirmations outside the immediate circle come from there as well. The shiny rectangle and the square are like a shrine we go to every day, not just to see it, but to ask it about the way we should live our lives, dress our daughters, motivate ourselves or boil our vegetables.
The Medium Commodifies – The Burden of Digital
The entanglement of media, data, and money is an unbreakable bond. And it is made quite visible and burdensome in the ‘digital media’. Pipiloti Rist made an excellent comment on our tutorial fascinations (specifically related to appearances) with her ‘beauty’ video: Be Nice To Me.
With the ever-present screen between ‘me and you, ‘Pipilotti points to beauty standards set on the social media (along with the beauty tutorials on how to become ‘specifically pretty’) and our constant need to watch, to be fed visual clues until they literally become counter-productive. We are in the field of appearances vs meaning and appearances vs real experiences.
This is rather important for computational artists dealing with various byte-media. No matter how many followers we might or might not have, we are really not influencers. We are the ones influenced by the ‘baggage’ of the medium we choose to express ourselves. The more aware we are of it, the better we are of.
The images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream in which the unity of that life can no longer be recovered. Fragmented views of reality regroup themselves into a new unity as a separate pseudo-world that can only be looked at. The specialization of images of the world evolves into a world of
autonomizedimages where even the deceivers are deceived. The spectacle is a concrete inversion of life, an autonomous movement of the nonliving. (1)
If I ‘feel pretty’ on my exhibition opening, would it matter if I did not post it online along with my face?
(1) Debord, G. (1967), Society of the Spectacle, [online] theanarchistlibrary.org, accessed January 16th, 2018.
Cover video – Pipilotti Rist: Be Nice To Me