Thursday, May 5, 2011

3.3 billion
graduation project

My graduation project focuses on the following streams of events.
I wish to raise questions about the dominant roll of urban environment in our life, as it is an altering factor to our natural awareness and I reflect on the influence of the ongoing technological- information evolution, within these urban settings, in relation to the consumer society.
As an artist it is my aim to call attention to the underlying patterns of these complex issues to stimulate the viewer's perception.

Since 2007, for the first time in the history of human civilization over half of the world’s population lives in cities, which are responsible for 75% of all the energy consumption and 80% of all the pollution. 3.3 billion people occupy 3% of the Earth’s surface. Modern cities are slowly turning fiction into reality as our urban environment starts to resemble more and more the scenery of movies such as Blade runner and Johnny Mnemonic. Futuristic ideas dated in the past are our present in the now.

As the human proportion is diminishing in these 21st century metropolises man trades in nature and the native natural states for streets crowded with alienated individuals moving about in a maze of concrete blocks rising in some cases hundreds of meters above ground level. Locked in our new digital world of social networking society, observed and tracked by network providers and satellites we live in our synthetic freedom.
The major metropolises are overpopulated urban environments. They are the Atemporal battlefields of a decaying consumer society, which fights an already lost battle for survival in a state of crisis capitalism, like a terminal patient fights cancer.

The sight to the open sky, which once guided sailors and connected man to natural phenomenona is disapearing and our awareness is changing with it.
One might interpret the broken up sky as a metaphor for the loss of our first nature, which builds upon compassion, joy, wisdom, while some others might see it as a shimmering light of hope to find our way back.
In my photo series I chose for a visual language, which is echoing Malevich’s “Black square” and Rothko’s “Seagram Murals”, to mark the present turning point in our visual culture and to reach out for the basic human emotions.
I reposition myself as a photographer in the image capturing process by working with Google’s streetview. I place the mechanically made images in a new context after applying an inversed perception to them, which emphasize meanings that were even though embedded as potentiality within the original imagery, were  also in some ways suppressed by the informative nature of the intention with which these images were taken. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Artist’s statement

I welcome the new possibilities, which the digital era of the 21st century has opened up for artists. It granted new digital platforms for the photographic image to shift from one-way narrative story telling toward an interactive communication channel. The creative potentials, which came with digital photography, allow a greater artistic freedom to visualize conceptual ideas and they offer the possibility to engage the public directly by letting them interact with the images.

Time as an abstract paradigm and the relationship between technology and human perception, is the unifying thread within my conceptual work.
As an artist I am interested in finding simple ways to reflect on these complex ideas.
I wish to encompass digital media as an exploratory application of science and technology in order to push the boundaries of photography and human perception in order to construct visually immersive computer generated art.
I am reaching for a deeper level of consciousness to obtain full creative power by placing my focal point inbetween the physical reality and the intangible abstract world of ideas.

Our eyes enable us to see the world around us and wat we see we believe, in general. But in fact the only thing we see when we view photographs is the portal of the unescapable maze of our own mind that builds upon our unique experiences of the world.
I see the urgency in developing a view that approaches the underlying structures and ideas of our visible world from an unexpected angle.
It’s like looking at the world, with the experience of an adult, but through the eyes of a child, where fiction and reality, individual and the world are no longer separated.
Our reality is an abstraction, which is based on paradigms and on conventions. Questioning the obvious helps me to see and reflect on the world around me from a new perspective in my photography, which is a synthetic process. By this synthetic process I don’t simply mean the nature of the digital medium. It is the synthesis of concepts, form, and thoughtful choice of the selected medium, tools and visual language. Together they have the power to raise even the simplest subjects to a higher level, where they gain a greater level of significance.

When confronted with an image it must intrigue the viewers and reward them with something as they look at it. It should either give them a deeper understanding of a subject, or allow them to appreciate a common fact in a completely new way, to let them see the world anew.
I find, that in my photography the important thing is to see whether I can reinterpret the common way of looking at things by filtering an idea through my own mind frame.

Good art isn’t pre-digested. It raises awareness through its intangible statements and leaves you with a broader perception of reality.
Hence my conceptual work offers multiple access points to enter them on the cognitive level, as it is my aim to stimulate mental dialogues between the viewers and the image or to trigger questions.

Commercial photography, by now, has grown out to be the right hand of the advertising industry as they have the ability to tap straight into the heart of consumer society’s addiction for images. I call it the sinister industry because, based on marketing researches, they target the most vulnerable spots of the consumer’s mind, with pinpoint accuracy. They are mainly promoting the pursuit of momentary pleasures and feeding an infinite desire for cliches.
I oppose to strategies, which are using pre-digested media campaigns in order to generate profit. They stimulate greed and vanity, resulting in deformed self image, which is also one of the main reason why human intelligence is not really advancing at the moment.
Commercial platforms as channels of communication have a greater potential to reach and influence the social-behavior of the public these days than galleries or museums. Therefore besides art-galleries I’m interested in these platforms to promote a view that aims to fight back consumerism with its own weapon.

“ In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable, and help to change it.” / Ernst Fischer /

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Augmented realities

The meaning of augmented reality is computer-assisted extension of the way we perceive reality. This technology has grown out of research labs quietly into the public domain.

AR as an emerging technology was new about 4-5 years ago.
Now it’s a gadget for smart phones mainly, with a lot of undiscovered potentials.
It’s an extra artificially added layer carrying information. This information can be anything from simple data to animations, or like in Adobe’s Photoshop an extra, but this time to the naked eye invisible layer above the image.
We are in the early imature phase, it’s still relatively unknown, brute since we still need all kind of extras; applications, headsets, things which are not very obtainable for the masses. The further development of this technology is once again driven by the commercial interest of advertising through applications for smart phones. Layar, a Dutch company, is one of them.
It’s a new information toy-tool which feeds on our inpatience and addiction to instant access. In certain ways it is a manifestation of the present days atemporality merging the past, present and future in one single vison.

It will take a few more years before AR can reach a matured state where we stop seeing it as a new tech gadget and it will be integrated in our daily visual culture.
It’s a pre-sign of the future which actually has already started. Small steps like the integration of digital tools such as Photoshop are introducing us to this new era. This is the language of a multi dimensional networking society.

Futurity and this multi dimensional networking society is also a main topic in Michael Najjar’s photographic work called “Augmented Realities”. He describes himself as a Hybrid photographer. In search for material for his unsettling visual experiments he chooses some particular locations, like neurology labs or the Cryonics Institute in Detroit. We stand face to face with over sized photographic prints of storage tanks in which dead bodies are flash frozen in nitrogen with hope to be reanimated somewhere in the future when technology is ready for it. There is a plain simplicity in these pictures. In a way it is a modern documentary of the future which already exist within the present.
Najjar’s vision of the future confronts us with unnerving directness.

His series titled Netropolis is a portrait of the future City, which is a material depiction of information density. He has photographed mega cities such as New York and Shanghai from the highest vantage point of each city. He took pictures of the view in all four direction of the compass. He used computer algorithms to calculate the density of each picture before superimposing them as layers on the top of each other. The result is a seemingly chaotic view of what the mega cities of the future might look like. 

I don’t want my work to be justified by some sort of a product.
Controversy belongs to art.
Every time you offer another perspective you produce a controversy.
A lot of people don’t want to move their point of view; they don’t want to be disturbed by a new vision. People don’t like diversity.
So, every time you offer diversity you get into trouble.
                                                                                                 / O. Toscani  /

Monday, May 2, 2011

Atemporality and the creative mind

So, we are living a unique chapter of history in the present in which we are confronted with problematic post-industrial societies, with an era in which run-down political – economical systems and new inventions as digital social networks are simultaneously present alongside a fast paced developing technology.
We gradually grew into this present situation, in which we have a growing global disorder, a potentially failed global economic system, a world blinded by surreal advertising utopias stimulating the pursuit of some sort of material happiness, a transition to nowhere.
Human intelligence is not really advancing at the moment towards the summit, a definable advanced peak of civilization. Not yet, but I believe that this phase will pass and a new system will emerge from this atemporal social network culture. We won’t really have a choice.

Our world is changing and these changes are on autopilot. Systems controlling and driving systems and man needs to figure out the rules and values. We have to see where we are and where we are going.
Our discontent with the right now and right here brought us Atemporality where the past, present and future collided into each other, revealing time’s true nature as an abstract absolute paradigm.
Some people choose to dig their head in the decaying present to avoid unpleasant confrontations with reality and many are stuck with an antiquated analog mind frame as they try to hold on to a sentiment about past structures.

“History is not a science; history is an effort in the humanities. It’s about meanings, values, language, historical identity, institutions, culture. “
( Bruce Sterling on Atemporality at Transmediale 10 in Berlin, 2010 )
If we want to understand the dynamics of the Now and predict the trajectory of the social-technological expansion in the future accurately, we have to look at the events and their dynamics at the previous states. History is no longer a linear journey from point A to point B. The emerging network societies are expanding, mutating in all dimensions as the intricate system of information is becoming knowledge, which in return generates even more information within the same network.

So, what is Atemporality? And what does it mean to me as an artist?
Quoting Bruce Sterling one more time:
Atemporality is best defined as a problem in the philosophy of history.
What we can know about the past, and about the present, and about the future. How do we represent and explain history to ourselves? What are its structures and its circumstances? What are the dynamics of history and futurity? What has happened before? What is happening now? What is really likely to happen next? “

“ What is really likely to happen next?” I find this question fascinating in regard to photography and art.

Seth Godin in his book, "Linchpin" suggests that information technology and globalization will lead to creative jobs being the only ones left in advanced economies.
“This is the giant unwritten headline of our post-industrial economy. If your job isn't creative/interactive or local, it's probably going to go away.”

Crowd founding financed photographer Aaron Huey’s documentary project “America’s native prisoners of war” and he is using billboards and other advertising platforms to call attention to the problems of indigenous people in the US and around world. Projects such as this are a good example of dealing with social- economical crisis’s in the present by using contemporary methods and media to target unsolved issues of the past. Which, are still creating tension within societies in the present and with that delaying progress towards new, more improved systems.
Now, more than ever before the creative power within photography must be exploited to reach and engage people and to stimulate the mind, instead of keeping it hooked on the delusive quest of pursuing happiness. As this project also proved: commercial platforms can act as unexpected channels of intellectual value.

Digital photography as a medium is not just a temporal, fashionable, choice of the time for me. It is a lucid language, which let’s me visualize conceptual ideas based on an atemporal mindset. Photography and especially art has gone through enormous changes in the past, but it always had the human mind as a constant creative factor at the base. Now, as we are discovering the potentials of the digital era the human intentionality is getting reduced or completely taken out of the process. Generative art and computer assisted digital photography is based on computer software, on operating systems. As you learn about the new generation of programs they also learn about you and about your methods of work. Ridiculous as it may sound, but we are on the way to humanize the computers and software we use.
If I have a question these days, I use search engines which are also becoming more and more personalized. There are intangible algorithms embedded already within Google, Youtube and Facebook, which are keeping a close watch at my behavior and silently learning about my habits and personal interest.
Art, and in some ways photography, is no longer about having talent or an eye for aesthetics. These days everybody is an artist or a photographer. Websites as Flickr have became visual data banks of the world. By now practically everything has been photographed. Talent and the idea of the artist in the traditional manner is the past and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.
A creative society is the gateway to a future where a dynamic equilibrium between man and technology is maintained by a constructive society.
Practically everybody has a chance to participate. The tools are there. The information and knowledge is available, but even more importantly the freedom is there for the individuals to create, to express themselves in any which way. As for professional artists and photographers it all comes down to the content, to the underlying philosophy, intentions and the context within the work is presented.
By now we are accustomed to the once shocking visual language of art forms such as Surrealism from advertisements. We are no longer shocked by the ferocity of violence in the media or in computer games, let alone the imagery of wars in far away foreign countries.
In my opinion, right now, photography as a form of art matters more than ever.
It is no longer about simple one-way communication or about mirroring reality.
It’s just not enough. There is a need for good, non pre- digested art and for open artworks conceived by creative curious minds, which stimulate the situation awareness.
It’s this creative curious mind, which knows no limits and has the ability to look beyond the awe of the future that can help us to understand what’s going on in the present.
The digital age we live in has changed not only our image culture, but also challenged our perception of reality. We are freed of rigid structures and solid empirical reality. The digital medium is an adequate tool to reflect this new age, as photography has become a synthetic process again. Besides the decisive moment and the non-cropped frame of reality in front of us, now we can also present a constructed, synthetic reality, based on gathering and compositing information in the form of binary codes. This is an augmentation of photography with new multiple choices and not a limitation. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reality and the digital photograph

Our experience of time and matter is simply an illusion and our perceptions are based on assumptions. Yet, we still believe what we see and we believe our interpretation of what we saw. We don't even know that we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this interpretation is reality, but in philosophy it's called naive realism.
Philosophy has rejected naive realism in every century since Plato and yet most of the people still act on the basis of naive realism.

We guess at our best knowledge based on our paradigms, but as a matter of fact we are trapped in a shadow world. At the end our reality and our attitude towards this real world still resembles Plato’s cave with the only difference, that our shadows have depth, an extra spatial dimension.
Photography projects reality onto a two-dimensional plane. The resulting three-dimensional objects, the photographic prints, are showing us the two-dimensional projections of a three-dimensional world that exists in the fourth and higher dimensions.

However, the digital image, without printing it out, is virtually non-material since these pictures are based on electronic fluxes and on abstract binary codes running in the background. Our visual perception is behaving in a very similar way;
Our visual system allows us to assimilate information from the environment. The act of seeing starts when the lens in our eye focuses an image of the surroundings onto a light-sensitive membrane in the back of the eye, on the retina. The retina is part of the brain. It is isolated and it acts as a converter. It converts patterns of light into neuronal, electric, signals. The lens of the eye focuses light on the photoreceptive cells of the retina, which detects the photons of light and respond by producing neural impulses.


I guess, based on the non-material, binary character of digital photography we could theoretically say, that the digital medium is a more accurate representation of our visual perception and reality than analog photography. Where complex chemical processes were involved in creating a print of colors and forms, which themselves are simply different wavelenghts of electromagnetic radiation and vibrating particles.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Situation awareness

Man appreciated and feared all the power hidden within nature for centuries. Didn’t understand much of it, but what they did understand was a humble acceptance of the world, which wasn’t created by human hand, which needed to be guarded and taken care of. The imagery and its symbolism through out art history talks about this fearfulness, awe and hope. This was the state of natural awareness.
The discovery and stimulation of science and the birth of technology of the 18th and 19th century has transferred us towards the 20th century modern, industrial and post- industrial society, which gradually moved away from nature and granted us the technical awareness. Meanwhile, man exhausted nearly all the natural resources by the end of the 20th century.
With the arrival of the second millenium, the exponentially accelerating technology brought us the digital age, the last stop before reaching the Post-human era and singularity. This jump from analog to digital awareness means that there is no distinguished line between nature and technology anymore since they are both recognized as equal methods to create organic and non-organic matter. The characteristic of this period is that nearly every natural phenomenon can be explained by scientific models and can be replaced by a technical device.

Computers are becoming organic systems, which are no longer simply programmed, but are also self - learning. Microchips are using neuro networks to transmit information and, - to execute commands. The augmentation of human body, which started with adding simple, external hearing aids, eyeglasses and prosthetics to replace missing body parts, has continued with the experiments of implanting neuroprosthetics and with the usage of nanotechnology. The highly complex merger between technology and organic life forms has triggered a new step in human evolution.
We are becoming integrated with technology, beyond the medical needs to restore a healthy state, into enhancing our general capacity.
The first humanoid automata have been created by Al-Jazari in 1206.
Nearly 800 years later, since the early1960’s, industrial robots have been part of our life. But, the sci-fi concept of humanoid robots with artificial intelligence capable of learning, making decisions on their own, only appeared just now at the beginning of the 21st century. These robots resemble humans in a very precise manner.
In a way the futuristic concepts of the past are becoming a reality.
Technology is granting us - with the dream or nightmare depending on the individual’s standpoint – God- like powers. Man is becoming able to create life from dead, non-organic matter.

Photography’s popularity, our addiction to family snapshots and our desire to be The Photographer created a market for mass-produced consumer cameras. The manufacturers picked up on the popularity and the democratic nature of the medium because it meant profitable investment. And with the aid of colorful commercial photography they sold us the dream. The plan worked and the consumers wanted more, so the camera manufacturers invested even more in the technology, which has stimulated research and development in media technology. At the break of the new millennium it became clear that digitalism is the way of the future, so we entered the next level, the age of digital photography, which ironically rendered analog photography obsolete.

The transition from analoge to digital image corresponds to the changes in our consciousness. It shows similarity to the changes that are happening right now as we are stepping over from an analoge awareness to a digital orientated mindset. To the analoge awareness the world really existed, for the digital consciousness the world means overflowing information provided by search engines and interconnected social- network societies. It means non material, online cyber-realities, which are in every bit mirror copies of our physical reality. Lovers now sit at seasides in a binary world to watch a computer generated sunset while believers can visit the 3D model of their church in Second Life to confes the sins they commited in the material world to a computer program, to an avatar of a priest.

Gradually we reached the extreme opposite of a state of natural awarenes.
Technology is here because through evolution we learned to use our hands, which gave us freedom to manipulate matter. Our techno journey began as the early humans started creating tools based on their needs, but by the 21st century this process has been reversed. Now we create new tools for which we are generating needs.
We can find purpose for them, we can learn to use them, but these new tools are no longer based on our needs and most of the users have no idea how their new digital devices work or how they were produced.
In the early 21st century the financial interest, the greed of a junkie is the drive behind developing the new tools. The multi billion dollar industries investing in research and development of new technologies are feeding on man’s desire for long, pleasurable life and on man’s vanity.
The question isn’t anymore whether technology is good or not, but how can we upgrade our awarenes to match up with technology and to maintain a positive status quo.
The situation has resemblence to driving on a raceway. We can’t stop anymore, because if we try to do that the system will become completely unsustainable. Human population has reached a magnitude by now, that has led to the point that our civilization could no longer be sustained without technology.