Although my practice is not technically rooted in photography, my methods for curating my most recent project ‘The Imaginary Museum’, deal with the impact of photography on the production, collection, and dissemination of art through images. These ideas originally stemmed from the Andre Malraux quote “The history of art is the history of what can be photographed.” This field not only includes the images produced in this manner, but also the material culture of technologies and the networks that facilitate the spread of particular images.

Such ideas of the ‘mimetic’ and ‘viral’, were also discussed by philosopher Vilém Flusser through his ideas of a ‘telematic society’: “His innovative writings theorize -and ultimately embrace- the epochal shift that humanity is undergoing from what he termed “linear thinking” (based on writing) toward a new form of multidimensional, visual thinking embodied by digital culture. For Flusser, these new modes and technologies of communication make possible a society… in which dialogue between people becomes the supreme value.” As such, Vilem Flusser’s book, ‘Towards a Philosophy of Photography’ provides an interesting insight into the various strands of this topic.

Towards a Philosophy of Photography
Flusser introduces the book as a working hypothesis intended to provoke further investigation: “This book is based on the hypothesis that two fundamental turning points can be observed in human culture since its inception. The first, around the middle of the second millennium BC, can be summed up under the heading ‘the invention of linear writing’; the second, the one we are currently experiencing, could be called ‘the invention of technical images’… This hypothesis contains the suspicion that the structure of culture – and therefore existence itself – is undergoing a fundamental change. This book attempts to strengthen this suspicion and, in order to maintain its hypothetical quality, avoids quotations from earlier works on similar themes… Thus the intention of this book is not to defend a thesis but to make a contribution – informed by philosophy – to the debate on the subject of ‘photography’.” (Flusser, 2000, p. 1)

The book is separated into a collection of essays detailing the similarities and differences between traditional and technical images, the definition of the apparatus, the distribution and reception of photographs, and why a philosophy of photography is necessary. The original German text was written in 1983 and the English version was published by Reaktion Books in 2000. However, despite being over 30 years old, the text has proved remarkably prescient in light of the emergence and increasing dominance of digital technologies.

Defining Images
Flusser defines the quality of photography through four concepts: image, apparatus, program, and information: “It is an image created and distributed by photographic apparatus according to a program, an image whose ostensible function is to inform.” (Flusser, 2000, p. 34) He describes the abstraction of the world into two-dimensional space, and the subsequent decoding of these images as fundamental to the process of photography. The process of ‘imagination’ required to project two-dimensional symbols back into four-dimensional space and time also suggests that there is “no such thing as naïve, non-conceptual photography [as] a photograph is an image of concepts.” (Flusser, 2000, p. 15)

Although traditional images (painting) and technical images (photography) are defined respectively as pre-historical and post-historical (Flusser, 2000, p. 4), they both require the viewer to understand the image as symbolic rather than objective. As Flusser describes “with traditional images, we recognize easily that we are dealing with symbols. A painter, for example, is interposed between them and their meaning… If we wish to decipher such images, we must decode the coding process which has occurred “in the head” of the painter. With technical images, however the matter is not that simple. It is true that, here also, a factor is interposed between the image and its meaning, in this case a camera and the [person] using it… The factor is the black box.” (Flusser, 2000, p. 5)

The Photograph
The theoretical nature of photography is particularly apparent in the use of black-and-white photographs, where the images are abstracted and the colours removed. However, as Flusser describes, “[colour] photographs are at least as theoretical as black and white. The green of a photographed field, for example, is an image of the concept ‘green’, just as it occurs in chemical theory, and the camera (or rather the film inserted into it) is programmed to translate this concept into the image.” (Flusser, 2000, p. 18)

Photography, unlike other types of technical images, is also defined through its method of distribution. Originally these images were limited to paper copies and other printed means of distribution. However, since the emergence of the Internet, the reproduction of images has increased exponentially. Even with most printed copies, “their value does not lie in the thing but in the information on their surface. This is what characterizes the post-industrial: The information, and not the thing, is valuable. Issues of the ownership and distribution of objects (capitalism and socialism) are no longer valid, evading as they do the question of the programming and distribution of information (the information society).” (Flusser, 2000, p. 22)

Further info:


As I’ve discussed previously, the link between culture and technology goes beyond the material nature of machines and networks, to the historical thinking processes that facilitate these developments. In addition to Aby Warburg and Walter Benjamin, Vilém Flusser was another scholar dedicated to understanding the impact of image networks; an idea he referred to as ‘telematic society’.

Telematic society
The Artpool Art Research Center in Budapest has developed a continuing programme of telematic art to explore and understand how technological developments have impacted on artistic production. In their introduction to Telematics, they aggregate content from various sources to explore the concept: “The word telematic derives from ‘tele-communication’ and ‘Informatics’. It addresses our world-wide, instant connections through machines. That connectivity has led, and continues to lead to the emergence of new patterns of communication, new power structures, and new ways to realize values.”

The concept of the Telematic society has also been labelled as both the ‘Knowledge’ and the ‘Information’ economy, to describe the ways in which digital and technological advancements are changing traditional models of capitalism. More importantly, these developments are having a significant impact on the ways that we generate knowledge and navigate information. In particular, “connectivity through the electronic networks induces telenoia, a life-affirming sense of mind-at-large.”

Telematic art
Telematic (or Net) art describes the amalgamation of telematics and art, through a conceptualisation of the networked environment: “In telematic art, meaning is not created by the artist, distributed through the network, and received by the observer. Meaning is the product of interaction between the observer and the system, the content of which is in a state of flux, of endless change and transformation… The sensory output may be differentiated further as existing on screen, as articulated structure or material, as architecture, as environment, or in virtual space.”

Telematic art creates a space without hierarchies, and with multiple connection points, what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as the Rhizome. These working methods also subvert ideas authorship and ownership as practiced in more traditional capitalist and art market models. In such cases “the artist or author [becomes] a complex and often widely distributed system, in which both human and artificial cognition and perception play their part… The value of interactive and telematic media in this context is immediately apparent, since the widespread diffusion of ideas and the enrichment of individual and collective work are the defining attributes of such media.”

Telematic art in practice
Practitioners employing telematic concepts and technologies have been producing work since before the emergence of the Internet. Practitioners included artists such as Eduardo Kac who produced “radical telepresence and bio-telematic works” in the 1980s and early 1990s. Kac’s “visionary combination of robotics and networking [explored] the fluidity of subject positions in the post-digital world. His work [dealt] with issues that [ranged] from the mythopoetics of online experience (Uirapuru) to the cultural impact of biotechnology (Genesis); and from the changing condition of memory in the digital age (Time Capsule) to distributed collective agency (Teleporting an Unknown State)…”

Another early adopter of telematic art was artist Paul Sermon, who installed telematic workstations in galleries and at festivals: “These workstations, consisting of clusters of Macintosh computer terminals, were connected via modems to what was then the European Academic Research Network. These telematic events involved a large number of contributors from around the world and questioned the authority of the artist over representations made in networked environments. The last of these projects, Texts Bombs & Videotape (1991), simulated the TV newsroom scenario in an interactive satire of the role of the media in the Gulf War.”

Further info:


My visit to gallery camp at Derby Quad has rekindled my interest in the use of technology in art. This ranges from the depiction of technology as a metaphor, as with the alchemical imagery of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even’, through to more literal translations.

The use of technology in art practice has become more visible since the first examples of Net Art in the 1990s. However, these artworks have predecessors in collaborations between the humanities and technological developments stretching back to the early 1900s. These early examples focused on artistic responses to military technology, as well as new developments in computing to aid humanistic scholarship.

This week I have been looking at one particular example of artists and technologists working together to produce new works and to showcase ideas and scientific developments. The project was called the Art and Technology programme and I first became aware of it at the conference ‘Imaginary Exhibitions’, which was held at Henry Moore Institute, Leeds in November 2013.

Art and Technology, LACMA
The Art and Technology project at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Southern California (or LACMA, for short), ran between 1966 and 1971. Its curator, Maurice Tuchman, was interested in developing the links between art and industry, as well as building on artists interests in technological advancement through movements such as Futurism and Vorticism.

In his project report, Tuchman is quoted as saying “Much of the most compelling art since 1910 has depended upon the materials and processes of technology, and has increasingly assimilated scientific and industrial advances. Nevertheless, only in isolated circumstances have artists been able to carry out their ideas or even initiate their projects due to the lack of an operative relationship with corporate facilities. Our objective now is to provide the necessary meeting ground for some eminent contemporary artists with sophisticated technological personnel and resources.”

His colleague Jane Livingstone however, was aware of the differences between the utopian vision of the early 20th Century avant garde and the cynicism of artists of the 1960s. At this time, many artists felt a sense of alienation which they attributed to the appropriation of technology by business interests. In forging connections between art and industry, she hoped to ameliorate these fears and allow artists to develop their ideas through access to increased funds and material capabilities.

Project plan
Tuchman and Livingstone invited proposals from artists, who would then be paired with businesses who shared similar interests or working methods. 40 different companies (including those from the IT, Aerospace and Defence industries), contributed funding and expertise on the basis that they would benefit from the research and development of the artists. They would also own any potential artwork produced from the project, although artists were not compelled to produce an exhibitable product as part of their collaboration.

The curators solicited proposals from 76 artists in total, however by the end of the four year collaboration, only fourteen artists were exhibited in the final exhibition at LACMA. This was due to a number of factors, including artists failing to submit proposals, having proposals rejected, choosing not to produce a tangible object, or leaving their collaborations early due to “irreconcilable differences”.

The artists/technologists included in the exhibition were: James Byars, Jean Dupuy, Oyvind Fahlstrom/Heath Company (‘Meatball Curtain’), Newton Harrison/NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (Illuminated, gas-plasma-filled columns), R.B. Kitaj, Rockne Krebs/Hewlett-Packard (‘Day Passage’ using laser technology), Roy Lichtenstein/Universal Studios (‘Three Landscapes’), Boyd Mefferd/Universal Television Company (Strobe installation), Claes Oldenburg/Disney/Gemini G.E.L. (‘Ice Bag’), Robert Rauschenberg/Teledyne, Inc. (‘Mud Muse’), Richard Serra/Kaiser Steel Company (‘Five Plates and Two Poles’), Tony Smith/Container Corporation of America, Andy Warhol/Cowles Communication (‘Rain Machine’ using holographic printing), and Robert Whitman/Philco-Ford Corporation (‘Mirrored Room’).

Legacy of the Art and Technology project
Apart from the forward thinking nature of the initiators, the project was also praised for its evaluation. This evaluation was in the form of a detailed report which doubled as an exhibition catalogue. The report, entitled ‘A Report on the Art and Technology Program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’, detailed discussions and plans made between the artists, curators and organisations, creating an extensive methodology for producing future art and technology collaborations.

Further reading:


After thinking about the role of digital and other new technologies in arts and culture I decided to attend Gallery Camp. As the Gallery Camp website explains: “The aim of Gallery Camp is to create a legacy of new collaborations, opportunities and products, inform current and future policy programming and services and across the arts and cultural sector, with hot topic areas including: Getting arts organisations to embrace digital art form; Programming to get the public closer and more hands-on to art (including children and young people/older generations); Sharing art, enabling access for those unable to reach venues; Open data, crowd-led engagement and the implications for IP; Digital opportunities for arts into health.”

History of Gallery Camp
Gallery Camp was founded in 2013 by Birmingham-based innovators Dan Slee and Tim Wilson. The first event was held at the New Art Gallery in Walsall on 9th September 2013 and was supported by Arts Council England, Futuregov, and IEWM. Developed as an open conference format, sessions were pitched on the day, and included demonstrations of new technologies including Leapmotion, and discussions around other forms of gestural and interactive technology.

Other contributions had included presentations about the importance of 3D printing in galleries, the role of digital in improving access to galleries, and how museum professionals can better work with crowd sourced interpretation and community archives. After running their first meet up, the Gallery Camp team discussed possibilities for development, and organised a making event at Birmingham City University in order to capitalise on new connections, ideas and collaborations developed at the previous conference.

This year’s annual unconference was held at Derby Quad on 23rd September 2014, and invited artists, curators, producers, technologists and others interested in engaging with technological innovation in the arts sector. For Gallery Camp 14, the organisers combined the discussion and making activities and participants chose which sessions they wanted to attend. I decided to focus on the practical activities as they had organised some MakeyMakey sessions and I was keen to get to grips with the technology after writing about it in my artist blog last year.

The MakeyMakey sessions were delivered by Ashley James Brown, a Computer Scientist who works as a creative coder, technologist and sound artist. His biography describes his practice as producing memorable playful experiences through “creating interactive objects and environments, hacking and repurposing devices, crafting code and working at the intersection between art, technology and design to uncover and reveal new potential I have been making audio compositions, games, experiences, data visualisations, exploring contextual awareness, understanding artificial intelligence, working with electronics, pervasive media, mobile applications, challenging data/privacy and crafting beautiful (and not so) objects that makes people smile.”

The MakeyMakey sessions began with a basic introduction to the technology, which consists of a simple arduino board which works by plugging into a computer. For smaller or more portable versions, it can can also be used with Raspberry Pi. The system is designed to create an interface between the physical and the digital by producing a circuit between organic materials. This means that any conductive object can become a control pad to produce a digital effect. ie. bananas used as piano keys to make sounds on a computer.

Obviously, this can have some drawbacks when wanting to produce longer term installations so other materials can be use to complete the circuit such as metal tape or conductive paint. I was particularly interested in the possibilities for conductive paint as it can be used to create wall-painted ‘wires’ which can be painted over allowing people to touch particular parts of the wall to produce an effect. I am interested to see what might be possible through printing with conductive paint as this could also produce interesting possibilities for interactive objects.

Further info:



My investigations into art historical networks have led me to consider their use within Post-Internet art, and how this can be considered a return to premodern prosumer culture. Some of these ideas are discussed in the book ‘You are here: Art after the Internet’ by Omar Kholeif, which is a collection of essays designed to question the effect of Web 2.0 on the production and dissemination of art practice. Rather than presenting a definitive description of the Post-Internet phenomenon, the aim of the book is to understand these ways of working, particularly in relation to questions around authorship, commodity, and authenticity.

In his introduction to the collection, Kholeif suggests that the internet allows an alternative space to the one that institutions currently provide, and therefore produces a different kind of artistic expression. He also proposes that this increasingly self-referential turn is the ideal platform for a genre that is defining itself even as it is being created. (Kholeif, 2014, pp. 12-13)

The New Aesthetic
As a term that is fast becoming a synonym for art ‘after’ the internet, ‘The New Aesthetic’ is also a discrete project in and of itself: “The New Aesthetic is a term coined by James Bridle, used to refer to the increasing appearance of the visual language of digital technology and the Internet in the physical world, and the blending of virtual and physical. The phenomenon has been around for a significant period of time and referred to in different forms, for example by the likes of cultural theorists such as Norman M. Klein.” (Omar Kholeif, 2014, p21)

As Bridle explains, the New Aesthetic utilises the vernacular of the network that it is investigating. Produced as blog posts, YouTube videos, and Tumblr reblogs, and incorporating all the social aspects of the medium such as likes and comments, “it is as much [a] work as criticism: it does not conform to the formal shapes – manifesto, essay, book – expected by critics and academics.” (Bridle, 2014, p22)

The impact of the network
Bridle’s academic background in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence has influenced the ways in which he understands these image networks and the structures they are inevitably bound up in: “the processes of capture, storage and distribution; the actions of filters, codecs, algorithms, processes, databases, and transfer protocols; the weight of data centres, servers, satellites, cables, routers, switches, modems, infrastructures physical and virtual…” (Bridle, 2014, pp. 22-23)

For Bridle, a close reading of the Twitter avatar of Eric Schmidt, which features the Google executive chairman in a flak-jacket “is a spur to investigate the circumstances of the photograph and the self-preservation of the corporation. It was taken on a visit to Iraq in 2009, when Google promised to digitize what remains of the National Museum’s collection, raising further questions about the digitization and subsequent ownership of cultural patrimony, and of Google’s involvement in political activity and international diplomacy through its Google Ideas think tank, which actively supports a programme of regime change in certain parts of the world.”

Despite calls for a manifesto of the New Aesthetic, Bridle insists on the inherent qualities of the network to be retained by refusing to define it in those terms. As he states:  “the New Aesthetic may be considered a work, a conversation, a performance, an experiment…” (Bridle, 2014, p27)

Art after Social Media
Online image networks are of similar interest to contributor Brad Troemel, in his essay ‘Art After Social Media’. Here, he defines the artist’s use of social media as a paradoxical rejection and reflection of the market, where capital is defined by shares and likes which can potentially be traded for more conventional forms of market success. (Troemel, 2014, pp. 41-42) Troemel suggests that the internet poses three challenges to art historical narratives, specifically notions of authorship, ownership, and context. (Troemel, 2014, pp. 37-38)

As a natural successor to photographic mediation of the work of art, art after social media is both produced and defined by the network, thereby divorcing it from its context and author. The sharing of images and ideas online can allow contextual information to be stripped from artwork, producing so-called ‘orphan’ works. (Troemel, 2014, p39) However, this commons style dissemination also creates increased opportunities for artists who are “strategically [managing] perceptions of their work – transforming it from a series of isolated projects to a streaming feed that transforms the artist’s identity into a recognizable brand.” (Troemel, 2014, p40)

The term Post-Internet Art developed out of the rise of social media and online networks, as a way of distinguishing itself from Net Art and other art forms that were beholden to particular technological formats. However, although modern technologies have exponentially increased the possibilities for artists to produce and disseminate works to a much wider audience, Post-Internet Art as a mode of thinking and making (as opposed to a genre or medium) can be understood as the type of networked thinking employed by pre-Internet scholars such as Aby Warburg and Walter Benjamin. Furthermore, this method of relational production has more in common with methods employed in the pre-Enlightenment era, rendering the internet as a non-modern space.

Further reading:
Postmodern Currents: Art and Artists in the Age of Electronic Media (1989)
Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (1997)
Imagologies: Media Philosophy (1994)
Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality (2002)