week 12: The digital

Jeff Wall, “Photography’s Liquid Intelligence”

In photography, the liquids study us even from a great distance.


Jeff Wall. Milk. 1984. Silver dye bleach transparency (Cibachrome); aluminum light box. 

Jeff Wall splits photography into two sides, wet and dry. ‘Wet’ photography or described by Jell Wall as liquid intelligence. It is linked to water and that connects photography to the past. Wall also uses liquid intelligence to talk about natural forms in photographs. Wet or liquid is represented in photographs through natural forms. ‘Dry’ relates to the optic and mechanical side (lens, shutter) or technological intelligence. There is technological intelligence and liquid intelligence. The change from wet to dry is neither good nor bad necessarily, but it alters the “historical consciousness of the medium.” When wet is removed:

The symbolic meaning of natural forms, made visible in things like turbulent patterns or compound curvatures, is to me, one of the primary means by which the dry intelligence of optics and mechanics achieves a historical self-reflection, a memory of the path it has traversed to its present and future separation from the fragile phenomena it reproduces so generously.


Jorge Ribalta, “Molecular Photography…”

Ribatta finds it problematic because the same issues may still be posed in the post-photographic era. “Post-photography means that a cultural transformation is involved in the technological decline of chemical photography.” This decline of analog photography signals the death of photography disjointed from traditional medium. Photography is dead and the “photographic” or to use Ribalta’s phrase, photography become “molecular.” Digital photography changes the relationship between photographer and the photograph. The indexicality of the analog photograph has been stripped by digital photography. The question is how does digital photography now show the real? Without realism, photography is irrelevant. A photograph loses its power when we no longer believe it. This is connected to the historical discourse on photography’s vital role “truth” as a document, indexical. For Ribalta, it is still possible, however a new set of rules or challenges are set up because of the amount of easy manipulation that can happen to a digital photographic image. It has to redefine realism. Realism is something that we need; it is what gives images relevance. Realism will continue with our notice or without, so he claims that photography will find the happy medium in portraying realism because our culture is based around images.

'I have been certified as mildly insane!' 1992-3 by Gillian Wearing OBE born 1963 'I like to be in the country' 1992-3 by Gillian Wearing OBE born 1963 'Everything is connected in life...' 1992-3 by Gillian Wearing OBE born 1963 'I signed on and they would not give me nothing' 1992-3 by Gillian Wearing OBE born 1963 'I'm desperate' 1992-3 by Gillian Wearing OBE born 1963

Gillian Wearing

Signs That Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say


Nicholas Bourriaud, “Post Production”

Post production is a technical term from the audiovisual vocabulary used in television, film, and video. It refers to the set of processes applied to recorded material: montage, the inclusion of other visual or audio sources, subtitling, voice-overs, and special effects.

Post production in Bourriad’s definition are artworks created from preexisting works, partially as a response to the over-saturation or increase of access and supply to objects, things, ideas. Bourriad uses music creation as a parallel to address to post production and detournement in artworks. Using terms like, crossfader, pitch control, cutting, playlist, to speak about the different ways artworks or forms are mixed to create something new. Bourriad outlines some tactics artists used post production with examples:

  • reprogramming existing works
  • inhabiting historicized styles and forms
  • making use of images
  • using society as a catalog of forms
  • investing in fashion in media

DJ Mark the 45 King uses pre existing products to create his own. “Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new combinations… Anything can be used…One can also alter the meaning of these fragments in any appropriate way.” (Guy Debord)

Each form or material has its own history. When mixed with other forms, a conversation between the elements is created; “objects already informed by other objects.”  The new art is created with the analysis of how they coexist by considering their original histories and their new contexts. The arrangement of these objects matters. For instance, an artist could use a “simple” chair to make a piece; also one could use Rodney McMillian’s Chair and the resulting piece would include the history of that object and the context it was created.

David Oresick – Soldiers in Their Youth

“I’m not stealing all their music, I’m using your drum track, I’m using this little ‘bip’ from him, I’m using your baseline that you don’t even like no fucking more’.”





Digital technology has become the default equipment choice in photography. I am increasingly having to defend my use of film (image creation) mainly because of cost. Post-production (output) in digital photography is a different consideration.

My criticisms of digital technology:

  • default, after-thought
  • digital aspect ratio
  • reliance on auto features (light meter, focus, white balance)
  • Not utilizing the capabilities of the equipment (software, hardware, glass/lenses
  • immediacy (screen)
  • speed of taking an image (amount of time to set up)

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