Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Image Speed

Capitalism likes everything fast; it increases its' subjects marginal propensity to consume and creates dissatisfaction with what they do consume.  Case in point: the nitwit who no longer buys print books, preferring his Kindle and the cloud:

 -I have over 800 books on this thing!  I could load your entire store onto it.

-How many of them have you finished?

-What's your point?

It takes time to choose physical objects, whether books, record albums, shirts or paintings, and time to interact with them.  Some times, as with fancy new-wave French food or remote cactus gardens, things that exist, as Benjamin says, "at a unique point in space and time," one has to physically go to them to interact with them, and that journey becomes part of what I'll call, for lack of a better phrase, an attending process.


"You travel all the way to Olympia to look at the work of Phidias, and all of you regard it as a misfortune to die without having seen such sights; and yet, when no journey is required and you already have the works in front of you, have you no desire, then, to view them and to understand them?" (Epictetus, Discourses, trans. Robin Hard)

Twitter, Instagram, Flickr etc. are meant to be ephemeral. There will always be a new community-favorite cat picture tomorrow.  But I think it is at least theoretically possible to use these new "fast" forms for critical ends, to chip away at the mandarin autonomy of the worst "slow" high art.  (Compare with Pop's challenge to second- and third- rate Abstract Expressionism). I think it is also worth considering the notion that whereas early-modern capitalism supported the exhibition, if not always the development, of autonomous, "slow" works (Louvre; MOMA; Pasadena Museum of Art), late capitalism actively impedes "fast" autonomous art by maintaining an infrastructure only meant to support slow art.

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