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A sunset stretches as far as we can see, yet we can open our phones and the limits of our terrestrial view expand. We are then able see every view of this same sunset and we see it as our own. Today digital media's interjection into life has changed our everyday experience, it acts as a post grounding us in limbo. We live on a digital stage where an undulating curtain dictates our changing horizons and the opacity of our bodies in space. How much of us is here or there? We are now both performers and viewers simultaneously. A mushy place between reality and particular fictions we’d like to experience. Our bodies are responding to this with a contemporary ailment known as Stendhal Syndrome. Stendhal syndrome also known as Stendhal's syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that can cause rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion, hallucinations, and deep feelings of loss, sadness, or anxiety when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly when viewing art. Andrea Fraser writes about her experience with Stendhal syndrome in her text Why does Fred Sandback’s Work Make Me Cry?(2004) Fraser explains that while viewing old master works in europe she began to weep. What caused this was not the work itself, but the physical realities surrounding it i.e. the water stains on the wall next to the paintings, or the cracked and unrestored frames. She fell prey to a nostalgia provoked by an external uncontrollable chaos. In those stains and those frames the timeline of the paintings becomes visible. A shocking vastness is revealed by these imperfections. Each year is catalogued by a crack or the bleed of water stains which records storms and leaks like the rings of a tree trunk. She felt “a” nostalgia for “a” loss of “a” history which was not hers. And again the digital fights back as cracks and water stains on old walls in old museums or libraries are hidden and discarded by the “virtual tour” saving us from pain. It’s a push and pull. We now are only partially where we stand as the undulating curtain hides and reveals both qualities of the physical place we might be for a moment and the extended world beyond the walls, hills, or treeline of our immediate coordinates. So when we see the real thing we faint, we cry, or we feel our stomach churn.
The photographer Gilles Peress while commenting on his time spent photographing the Bosnian genocide defined the sublime as “when the chaos outside is greater than the Chaos within.” Today this chaos is constant as our access to both tragedy and beauty is equally overwhelming regardless of our locations. We stimulate ourselves to the point where the chaos is now always greater outside. Today, we condense experience so that it is difficult for us to recognize the difference between tears brought on by the experience Peress describes vs that of Fraser. A sublime reality has left us in limbo floating amongst a blurry present. We are dividing ourselves between locations, realities, myths, and tragedies. Constant exposure to the sublime has left us ambivalent and numb to singular and focused experiences. This example of the sublime should be looked at as a framework for understanding a destruction of hierarchical value in media content and experience of such content.
Locations are replaced by potentials. This effect takes a toll on the understandings of time as virtual spaces often hide particular histories - a result of digital limitations - thus covering up the imperfections of their own realities. Such forms of experience make it impossible to see what is physically in front of you in total clarity, and simultaneously expand our vision. This creates a blurring. The blur saves us from collapse. We are floating for a moment between things neither fully embracing or shunning this new technology. Or maybe we are in freefall. Maybe we are - being consumed by this new experience - falling due to our lack of traction in the physical world we inhabit. Eventually we’ll smack into the earth below. Maybe even more apt is the joke about the outfielder who wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger, and then it hit him.
This installation, They’re Taking Pictures of Taking Pictures She Said (2016), uses the Romantic myth of The Wanderer as a tool to explore the laws of the expanded digital landscape. Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Sea And Fog (1818) introduces the Romantic character standing alone on a cliff. Today that character is replaced by someone unable to be in one place, constantly pulled from one location to another across screens and networks. A sort of everyman whom the viewer can freely associate with. Today the Wanderer is just a type of guy. Maybe it’s someone crossing the street while staring into panoramic images halfway around the world on their screen. This is a proposal for the digital becoming the real. As our technology grows stronger the blurriness will dissipate, just as the sun might burn away the Wanderer’s fog. One day the baseball is gonna hit us in the face and we might not be able to tell the difference between the physical and the digital.
They’re Taking Pictures Of Taking Pictures She Said
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Casnoff, Macklin Mckee, "They're Taking Pictures Of Taking Pictures She Said" (2016). Senior Projects Spring 2016. 439.
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