Over the last few months I have been storing images in the filing section of Instagram, all of which have a visual trope in common. Identity is obliterated or fragmented, and faces or bodies might be mixed with incongruous digital visual output. Putting aside the obvious influence of Surrealism/Dada and the long practised exploration in Postmodernism of fragmentation for now, these images seem more frequent of late and seem to be exploring how inner consciousness (might that be tautology?) is visible to outsiders. (My post about working with Lottie Ellis may be relevant. ) I have been thinking about consciousness and how it exists outside of us now that we have smart phones and other digital devices which store our inner thoughts, fantasies, fears and desires, effectively digitising who we are. Simply Google ‘mind transfer to a computer’ and you will be presented with many results suggesting it might be possible to transfer the contents of your head to a laptop by 2050. Of course there is no guarantee any of these predictions are correct – nevertheless it is a collective fantasy which is perhaps being expressed in the images I’ve noticed, if not reality, for the time being.
Whether or not Facebook will be able to resurrect us after we die using data they have stored over a lifetime at some point in the not so distant future, it is undeniable that we have become commodities due the information-technology revolution. Unless we live in the woods, and in fact, even those who do if they have a smart phone, people are now networked. And it is viewed as a desirable state for people to be so. “Today, the whole of society is a factory……By creating millions of networked people, financially exploited, but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history; the educated and connected human being”. (Mason, 2015, p xvi)
The consequences of the digital revolution are still unfolding as is the revolution. However, of relevance to me at this time for my own work is considering how individuals in society have embraced their commodification, or perhaps been forced to in order to simply get by (see developing Preliminary work – The clandestine camera, Exercise 1 in Menu) . Mason quotes in his book PostCapitalism “A single mum on benefits, forced in to the world of pay loans and buying household goods on credit, can be generating a much higher profit rate for capital than an auto industry worker with a steady job” (p20) due to the way the markets slice up debt and package it into smaller and smaller ‘bets’ that get shunted about the financial sector.
The history of consciousness
Commodification of people is just one aspect of digitisation which is creating huge changes to our existential being. Peter Singer in his book on Hegel writes, “Hegel accepted Schiller’s suggestion that the very foundations of the human condition could change from one historical era to another” (p 13) and the huge transformation occurring at the moment is also acknowledged by Mason. Without even taking into account the impact of any transhuman possibility. Singer goes on to describes Hegel’s view that history “presents its raw material as part of a rational process of development, thus revealing the meaning and significance of world history” – essentially as the human race gradually brings itself to consciousness. Hegel, he reports, says, “The history of the world is nothing more than the progress of the consciousness of freedom”. (2001, p 15) (So perhaps fragmentation is something to consider here.)
In a private conversation with an acquaintance, he suggests that the flaw in Hegel’s thesis is the supposed direction towards a singularity – total consciousness equals total freedom. “If he was right and thinking is a function of singularity then his realisation finishes the struggle (he being part of the whole)”.
It seems hard to agree that we have arrived at any sort of untethered freedom although human beings do seem to have become, or are becoming supremely conscious of themselves; the need for religion to explain who we are steadily diminishing, greater scientific knowledge about how we came to be bere in the first place, and exponential technological development helping us to do things we could only fantasise about not very long ago. What if we were to view the splitting of the atom as a possible point towards which we have been moving throughout history? Humanity reached a point where it was free to do whatever it chose to with the basic building blocks of life, and in fact chose to obliterate an entire group of people, dissolving something within us forever after. What if we view that as a pivotal point at which consciousness reaches a position from which it can no longer move forward and must do something else? Consciousness began to turn inside out on itself.
Sillicon Valley & LSD
At roughly the same time the Hiroshima bomb was being planned, a scientist accidentally invented LSD. Although, it wasn’t until the 60s and 70s that it was used regularly for ‘fun’, and especially by the forerunners of Silicon Valley. According to Emma Hogan writing for the Economist Magazine, 1843, LSD “dissolve[s] a sense of self” (2017, p97). It also, as represented in so much visual and aural art from the 70s, seems to take your sense of consciousness outside your own head. It is interesting to note how people in Silicon Valley (according to the article, still using LSD regularly, albeit in micro-doses) spend so much of their time and resources enabling all of us to export and store our inner lives digitally and externally with such ease, making vast profit in the process.
Self & Other
What has any of this to do with Self & Other? A new type of human being is forming, notwithstanding any number of techno-organic advances we already use, and will use in future. Technology masters are working on ways for our thoughts to be sent directly to our friends’ gadgets, which may in time be stored beneath our skin (Already here – I do hope they work out how to keep certain thoughts private!) Langauge as we know it is then changed fundamentally forever; I touched on this in A5 of UVC , “Lately, scholars, according to Amanda Bell of The Chicago School of Media have been looking ‘beyond binaried distinctions’ due to human integration with technology.” (Field, 2017; p6)
All of this impacts on the way we relate as individuals or collectively. Is the fully networked human, who is technologically augmented in order to exist in a digitally augmented reality likely to be different to the sort of human being we have been used to?
I have not touched on Hegel’s Master Slave dialectic here yet but will do in another post because there is quite a lot think about, linking to the passages we must look at in section 2 and I think this is incredibly important to the work I’m doing.
Below are a few of the images I have been saving, including one by my own tutor Wendy McMurdo. (And I wonder if John Umney and Stan Dickinson who have been working together in a similar vein should be here too?)
Yesterday was the last day of the IX Biennale Giovani at the MAM (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of the High Mantua). This was part of a 15 meters installation called "memory is a memory, that is a memory, that is a memory, that is…(Persistence of Hope)" Found photo covered with scraped off photographic material from another picture. #art #contemporaryart #newcontemporaryart #artcollector #experimentalart #artscience #kunst #artwork #artshow #experimentalphotography #liquidphotographs #abstractart #abstractphotography #filmsnotdead #arte #artcollector #artfair #artist #artphoto #photographer #fineart #artoftheday #londonart #artcurator #londonartist #installationart #huffpostgram #artgallery #installation #sculpture
Ignore what I said a few weeks ago. It seems that because of high demand the @saatchi_gallery 'selfie to self-expression' has been extended till the 31st July. So you still have a chance to see my work 👍🏼 this is the beautiful @sarahmaycock modelling for me, which I have then printed and woven, then re-photographed to turn digital again. I wanted to expire with Morden technology, and the pixel quality of mobile phones and other cameras, these pictures were taken on a mobile phone. The saatchi show is interesting but a little techno heavy and almost seems like one big advert for the Mobile phone. Still worth going even just for my work though ha! 💪🏼
Hogan, E. (2017). Turn on, tune in, drop by the office. [online] 1843. Available at: https://www.1843magazine.com/features/turn-on-tune-in-drop-by-the-office [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].
SINGER, P. (2001). A Very Short Introduction to Hegel. OXFORD: Oxford University Press.
Mason, P. (2015). Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. 1st ed. London: Random House, Penguin.
Field, S. (2017). What is reality, Assignment 5 UVC. [Blog] UVC Sarah-Jane Field. Available at: https://uvcsjf.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/assignment-5.pdf [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].
Banerjee, A. (2017). A US company has microchipped its employees – we should welcome this as progress and get involved. [online] Independent.co.uk. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/wisconsin-company-microchip-employees-robots-artificial-intelligence-data-three-square-market-a7874486.html?amp [Accessed 3 Aug. 2017].