Shimmering World, University of Manchester, 2014

This paper will present new research into recent art practices that respond to the digital and/or Web2.0 technology. It will consider a number of trends in the production and distribution of art, inclusing the use of what I call ‘semi-automatic’ images, generated through algorithms, outsourcing and the purchase of stock images. It will focus on this example of stock imagery and effects in recent art, both as a critical statement concerning the historical narratives of digital technology as a high-res, self-correcting system of representation, and also as a practical response by young artists to the technical requirements of galleries and publications. It will consider the pervasive links to corporate aesthetics, and the constitution of artist-as-brand, thinking about this intertwining of artistic and non-artistic visual registers.

Crucially, however, this paper will argue that such new forms of image production emerge in parallel with an attempt to formulate a ‘digital materiality’ through the reclamation of the notions of contingency and fallibility in relation to the digital image. The stock image, it seems, exists in tandem with the ‘poor image’. This paper will therefore situate the shimmering wolrd of images in an artistic context which also explores and exposes dirty server farms and labour conditions; anachronistic low-res image forms such as the GIF; and embodied forms of perception. As such, this paper will offer tentative parallels with art historical treatments of this supposed opposition, such as Pop’s critique of the ‘real’ of abstract expressionism through the location of the ‘real’ modern experience in the Spectacle of the everyday, and will consider what is at stake in the theorisation of a ‘digital materiality’.

Shimmering World Conference

University of Manchester

April 25th 2014

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