The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images. (1)
The thing that (unexpectedly) happened was the realization that some of my artworks are almost unconsciously rising from the frustration with the commodification of everything in our lives – from objects to health and our innermost feelings. Specifically with the product or the object -something easy to quantify and put the price to. I had a taste of the product allure and creating digital objects – through the startup I was the founder of, and, aside from the excitement of the startup life, it felt wrong in its immense capitalist pressure of creating profits as early as possible as well as creating and pushing products as fast as possible. If you just have a look at the rate of updating software and hardware – the violent process becomes even more obvious.
Understood in its totality, the spectacle is both the result and the project of the dominant mode of production. It is not a mere decoration added to the real world. It is the very heart of this real society’s unreality. In all of its particular manifestations — news, propaganda, advertising, entertainment — the spectacle represents the dominant model of life. (2)
I have also walked the path of advertising, for more than 10 years, and have left it for the similar reasons as I did the startup – it felt aggravating, empty, celebrating consumerism, shallowness and endless circle of production and consumption. It was manipulative and felt like a dragon eating its own tail. It existed for the sake of itself. Outside of the “advertising world” and the restrictive speed of living, one could have a soft, not-productive, wild language, ideas, visuals, playfulness.
The first stage of the economy’s domination of social life brought about an evident degradation of being into having — human fulfillment was no longer equated with what one was, but with what one possessed. The present stage, in which social life has become completely dominated by
the accumulated productions of the economy … all “having” must now derive its immediate prestige and its ultimate purpose from appearances. (3)
What happened to the visual and other-than visual?
The visual, being very close to cognitive is now our dominating way of getting information that we “trust”. The terror of the visual and its speed of appearing and disappearing is visible in our social media addictions and our deepened inability to control our urge for recognition and “popularity” within the spectacle.
The dominant organ of sensory and social orientation in pre-alphabet societies was the ear- “hearing was believing”. The phonetic alphabet forced the magic world of the ear to yield to the neutral world of the eye. The man was given an eye for an ear… Rationality and visuality have long been interchangeable terms… (4)
But once you manage to focus on many of your senses and slow down to take in the messages, the process of creation starts developing day in and out. The inner deadline, as one of my painter friends, calls it – is initialized. The new questions are not about creating within this commodity scope but against it – asking you to stop, slow down, think, feel, experience with all your tastebuds. This question (this space) is still open.
How do we “clean up” our inner visual, audio and information cache?
How do we go beyond the memes, the binaries – how do we approach the commodified visual language and have it be reborn?
The beautiful part of the research is actually the unexpected path it can lead you on. I have started with one product-oriented research and critique in mind but realized that my pure interest does not lie in adding more to the ever-growing product talk. Instead of going towards this project, I was constantly looking back to my art practice of non-material, activist and (however lame it may sound) poetical art pieces.
The decision to go forward with research and the
*This is a research blog within the scope of work for the final Computational Art and Theory project 2019
(1),(2),(3) Debord, G. (1967), Society of the Spectacle, [online] theanarchistlibrary.org, accessed March 22nd, 2019.
(4) McLuhan, M. and Fiore, Q. (1967), The Medium is the Massage, Penguin Books, London
Cover image – Woods. Live concept by ketworks.com