Although we are technologically on the brink of a new enlightenment, technological developments dramatically change our frames of thought. Technology of our time so to say delaminates last few millennia and reveals an utterly different universe; the name of this limitless freedom is, Virtual Reality, which is increasing every passing day. It spreads like a virus in everywhere; just like the times when telephone took the place of telegram, and television took the place of radio.
Psychiatry claims that the first complexity of psychosis is the Christ Complex. Today’s complex can be a “Cyber Christ.” Cyber Christ is a nickname that I gave for us who live under the siege of electronic image with almost a myth status. Everything and everybody in this land of limitless freedom are definitions of a brand-new emotion that we can be anywhere in any time. Cyber Christ is a projection of us who live in the world that we do not know what future will bring yet; we live in network representations, in which codes and models depend upon fake images, imitations, and copies.
The thought that made Christ an image composed of things he experienced from historical perspective, overlaps with the knowledge of universal humanity; today this thought functions in the same way as technology, which renders desire and joy in a fictional way: Putting experiences in images.
In our day, like many phenomena “Cyber Christ” is becoming some sort of reverberation of the past. As many other things, the image of Christ is not feeding from its own resource, too. We can argue that even though the effect of its recourse continues, the image itself has already stayed distant. In the past it was possible to trace spiritualism, medicine, and optics; in other words, secret track of the unknown through the photographs; however, today through software, sharing, and technology images bring us to a certain point that disallows the unknown. In this world, which was enlightened through the codes that form the world, there is no place that eye does not see in the darkness.
These codes and pictures/images that are continuously produced, every time lead images to create a new ‘now’. As a result, social memory and thought do not benefit from real -historical- events anymore; rather, they benefit from the images of them. Images, in a way substitute the reality itself.
At this point we can think that an optical sub-consciousness is formed in all of us. The ways how we communicate with each other –independent from the physical environments- are provided through the digital processors and networks; so, we can call this as a new level of nature and consciousness. Our optical sub consciousness tends to store the information and electronic waving of this virtual environment, not our normal life.
On the other hand; our historical memory is becoming increasingly indistinct, we are squeezed by the image bombardment, and we constantly live “at present”. On the one hand we bring the strength to neutralize the reality, and on the other hand we cause to deep disappointments.
In effect, this period, as I call ‘the period of images’, is a determination of the fact that all our secure boundaries, which we rigidly rely on, become indistinct. (From religion to politics; and from art to economy). For instance, in our day visual and printed media are established upon repetition of the images that they produced; this causes to obliviousness rather than creating a memory. While our lives are being made pellucid through the reality shows and newscasts; the bunch of images constantly covers what has been said or done in reality. The period of images kind of throws away the contexts, messages, historical phenomena, politics, and ideologies related to the past…
The “Cyber Christ” complex, which is the first complex of psychosis, overlaps with the point that has lost touch with reality, deprived of the historical consciousness, and human behavior and frame of thought pulsing with strong desire to be in another moment and place. Just like the uniqueness of existence; substances of virtual world are now shapeless and unique.
Referring to the beginning; contrary to what is believed, maybe our aspects and this new life style that we have discovered recently, are not new at all. Maybe we are not discovering the new aspects of our brain, but awakening the most ancient ones. Maybe this technology is a similar way –good or bad- that illusionists and alchemists have been using to reach the potent ‘power’ for centuries. Human being might have lost this information. Yet, today along with the virtual reality everybody lays claim in this area.
Within the system that we live in, charged incorporeal substances contact us through television, video screens, and networks; in to the bargain, with what kind of information will new prophets of the virtual world and their miracles act? How will the complex of “Cyber Christ” shape the new “divine power” under the complexities of information without resources, and the world of images?
The world of cyber-space that is covered with fantasies and pleasure, subjects us to a physical dissolution in front of reality. In this incorporeal world of subjects, we are interacted with each other; and we live without our own faces by using nicknames and without the need of our physical bodies
Our eyes, which require to be closed in physical world, keep us awake in the virtual media. Screens are never turned off. They always keep producing pictures and images. This window to the world leads to a physical disengagement of listening, feeling, and reacting. While producing the most violent images, it tends to ignore their physical effects. At a certain moment when viewers confront a real war, which is presented through a video game, they become estranged to their moral reactions. In a way screen transforms into the reality itself.
For this very reason the war of the new world order is fought through images. While images are designed through programs without needing a reality, they are rapidly marketed for consumption via the channel of media.
This is one of threatening sides of the attempt to make images visible, which has been the aim of art from day one. The simple reason is that images are not representing our lives and environments anymore. Today images are reshaping all aspects of our lives.
At this point, photography lets observation to undertake the mission of seeing, and it lets limitless distribution to undertake the mission of recording. As a result, it was switched to an intricate level based on matrix and models that are incompatible with almost all types of reality.
It is a wonder if this power of manipulation, which is hidden under the bases of the art of photography; and; this extensiveness are possibly saying new things about the evolution of humanity?
In those layers, which were built in our virtual media, we are still unconsciously contributing to this huge metabolism’s circulation and neural system. In this live and breathing structure, millions of users are transforming their physical bodies into network of informatics. The cell structure of bodies are replacing with electronic codes and signals. While in daily life, bodies in front of screens are becoming functionless; our real egos are merely reduced to a functional simplicity.
In this age, the momentum of modern thought is in such a point that our act of perception, interpretation, and internalization, which have continued for ages; are broken with the conceptions of time and space. At this point, along with media’s stronger and faster usage of mass communication mediums, every moment, event, and news were taken apart from their genuine reference points and threw to emptiness. These information, moments, and events, which are far away from their own reference points, are disappearing within their network connections…
This limitless zone of freedom that cyber space has; atomizes the mosaics of social, cultural, and traditional structures and programs itself to produce “more real” pictures and images than their non-original originals. Today, in a period that history is short-circuiting, extremeness of visuality loads individuals more information than they can take and captures concepts like democracy. It leads them to break with their contents and lose their transcendent values.
Today efforts of getting rid of this empty simulations and attempts to re-embrace the meanings of nostalgic concepts (freedom, democracy, peace, art, etc) that came back during postmodernism, seem to be doomed to be unsuccessful. The reason is that in order to form history there is no time left for events to be developed independent from media and mass communication mediums.
While the world is experiencing the breakup of a new century, we are living in this new era by forming “expressions” a bit of everything. We try to fit our lives in one hour periods even in one minute periods while we are shooting a glance on the news papers, books, magazines; and surfing on internet and answering our mobile phones.
Within this futuristic traffic jam, countries are uniting and splitting almost with the same speed. Happiness, sorrow, and rage are so short-lived. On the one hand the number of art and artist is rapidly increasing; on the other hand the saying, “we live in the most developed age” becomes so hollow and nostalgic…
We are able to learn only a tiny little part of future, no matter how imaginative the artists and science fiction designers are.
For example, it is a mystery if a thousand years later Picasso’s products will still be attractive and artistically valuable? If movies of directors such as Kubrick, still be popular to watch? Or, will it be possible for icons like Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and Elvis Presley to sustain their popular identities?
It is worth remembering that only until 20th century, art was based on remembering a “thing” (let alone dreaming). The most important feature of art was to “truly” reflect the most “valuable” thing of a society; and the aim of this reflection and representation was to immortalize it.On the other hand, thanks to the invention of camera, for the first time, the questioning process of “representation” started in the area of art. That is; the procedure to transfer what is seen to the work of art, was not appreciated anymore because camera was perfectly successful to do that. Therefore, the function of artist was the same with the camera.
As a result, maybe the biggest breakup of the history of art took place and art got rid of its heavy body, the obligation to represent. Consequently, the artist had to question and define the concept of art by creating new areas for himself.
The concept of “talent” should also be changed for the artists, if painting what is seen was trivialized. If a tiny little machine was the most talented one regarding imitation, then would an artist become a camera, too?
Along with the invention of photography the period that stimulates impressionism and the well-known “ism” movements were started. One of the pioneers of this attitude was Marcel Duchamp, he said that, “if a machine can do the job of an artist, then artists should abandon this attitude”. He further supported this idea by putting a urinal at the center of an art gallery. As a result, the common thought that “artists should be talented” lost meaning. The fact that technological products are more functional than hand made products, brought about a (hidden) resentment. If human beings cannot produce as perfectly as a machine, then they should embrace and defend their flaws. At this point Manet’s formal carelessness in his art (random brush stroke) and heterodox attitudes towards social morality can be seen as the symptoms of this case. Perhaps this was one of the most important reasons that Duchamp selected urinal as the most offensive object.
Furthermore, the outbreak of the world wars and their devastative atmosphere led artists to cry out the irrationality, meaninglessness, ridiculousness, and contradictoriness of life. Dadaists were trying to avenge upon the machines by painting weird and grotesque machines. On the other hand, pop art artists were sometimes popularizing and sometimes folklorizing the daily life. The doctrine of surrealists was based on the idea that there is another world beyond the one that we live in and it is much more real. Futurists went beyond and argued against traditional forms and institutions; and even supported the idea of war.
At this point modern art transformed into a platform, in which maybe the craziest figures of its history were changing their opinions. Names like Dali, Picasso, Magritte, Chagall, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Warhol, Beuys, and Carl Andre always came to the fore due to their life styles and work of arts.
Until 20th century, interaction of all these formal elements in art and cracking of concepts deep inside brought about the atmosphere loss in the work of art. Along with the technology, considering an artwork within the mass-production process was started to be in question. As a result, a work of art was not required to be in its original place anymore, it was possible to see it in everywhere.
When a work of art in a museum became visible on books, t-shirts, reproductions, and calendar pages; then it was not “unique” anymore, and its message would change (beforehand the artwork was “unique” in its original place, it created an atmosphere -aura- for itself and that atmosphere would affect the meaning of the artwork). On the other hand, once the place was changed its meaning would change too; hence, that artwork would be evaluated differently wherever it was seen. The meaning of La Jokond (Mona Lisa) in a museum was not the same anymore with the meaning in a butcher store. Work of art was leaving the meaning relationship with its first place, and it started to change its meaning in every new place that it showed up.
Modern art was breaking the common traditional patterns; it was refusing the composition and detaching the form from the content. Late in the 1980’s a new spirit of art was emerging Postmodernity. Postmodernists refuted what modernists claimed, the unity of meaning within the work of art, and argued that an artwork does not have a meaning as a whole. Instead of modernists’ “innovative” attitude advocating the idea that humanity will progress; postmodernists claimed that the progress of humanity cannot form step by step, it is not possible to analyze history from a horizontal and developing perspective, it should be analyzed homogenously.
Today this limitless world of creativity, which opened with classical photography a hundred years ago for these naughty children of art, reopens in front of us, the digital photographers. This 140-year adventure that followed impressionism along with the invention of photography; today, witnesses the alliance of digital photography and paint. This is a new formation, which emerges through the combination of drawing with light (photography) and color, drawing with light. In a period that the motto is “everything has already done”, maybe we are entering to a period that this respiratory system and vital points of art are repaired and the circle of art and the mass of community are included.
What is art? Who is artist? These questions have been asked and discussed for centuries. This simply depends on the framework, within which one questions what art and artist are. From the perspectives of 14th century enlightenment and Marxism, it can be seen that modes of production are important. That is, if modes of production have social benefits, then that person is immediately entitled as artist. If that ideology does not entitle him as artist, then he is not valuable for that ideology at all.
Above all, it is of importance to state that art exists within a society; and, an artist depends on that society in terms of finding his sources. It is a wonder if through this popular opinion art and artist emerge as the society imposes?
In other words, if society wants to see an artist as a construction worker or a businessman, then, should an artist become as one of those? It is doubtful…
It is necessary to observe society in reference to the point that artists emerge from within society. How is society described? Which society is the one that art and artist are interested in?
First of all, society has the problem of system. In order to form a society it is necessary to determine the production system, bureaucratic system, and cultural structure. Art and artist emerge as two concepts moving within this system and gear wheel. Is it necessary or unnecessary for art and artist to free from this gear, to be opponent of it, or go out of this gear as a whole? If it is necessary, then how and for what reason will it be possible?
The fact that art moves within the society system unconditionally, will link it to an ideology in due course and the artist will become representative of an ideology or product of it (just like Marxist artist, artist advocating values of universal or traditional culture). How and according to whom will this be determined? If it is in a system, then will this system determine those?
The counter argument is that it will be indispensable for art to become a political entity. Another problem may occur within this political structure. If it is accepted that an artist exists within a political structure, then it is a question mark if this artist perform government’s art or the opposing party?
At this point the artist will be in the same system no matter if he performs according to the government or the opposing party. What is important here is art and artist stay out of the system if they have the power and will to criticize the social structure. Is this really possible?
If an artist (or a work of art) wants to dissociate himself from the government or structure of the opposing party, then a tension will arise between him and the structure of society. This has been experienced and it is still being experienced in each area of the history. That is, an artist, who will pursue a chaos, will slowly digress from that system.
What is the importance of all of these? Why should an artist digress from this structure after all?
First of all, we will see that the realities of life that we perceive as “reality” exist within that system. We live on these realities that were recommended, imposed by this social structure and system. We need to get up every morning and take certain transportation vehicles and reach our work places at certain times. If I refuse certain obligations that this system brought about, and claim that they are parts of the system, and I want to digress from the system; then, I need to throw myself into the complicated and chaotic form of human relations.
How come these human relations are that complicated?
Maybe there is no language. Maybe we do not use sentences, through which we can communicate, on purpose. We do not do the things that we have to do every morning. We try to determine our needs otherwise. If I start to deal with my needs individually, according to myself, remove language and succeed in applying this approach in each and every area of life; then, I can totally digress myself from this chain of relationships. In other words, I would throw myself into a chaos. Then only then, my realities start to differ from yours, and a problem of reality emerges. Your problem of reality can be solved more easily, because you had already given the solutions beforehand (as the government and opposing party you can figure these out in yourselves).
At this very point the reality of art and the reality of society start to differ from each other. Given the fact that the less an artist wants to be in government and opposing party; that is, the less he approves realities of system and operation of social system, the more artistic reality he has.
Artistic reality emerges as a form that goes beyond the society, looks down to the society, creates alternative forms to it, and suggests alternative communication styles. There is a utopia of artistic reality and it exists as an alternative of the social reality. It is important to ask why artistic reality exists as the alternative of social reality. Therefore, there is a certain point targeted for the sake of the salvation of humanity. This salvation is one of the points that modernism aimed. Essentially the main idea was to develop modernism within such an ideological framework that anything it advocated would be for the sake of the salvation of humanity. However, after a certain point those promises of modernism became futile. Projected concepts and their definitions were actualizing but people did not exactly experience the same way when they felt those concepts as utopia. The utopic emancipation of value judgments did not transform into a new value.
With reference to the original questions; how and in which context artists will be evaluated in terms of asking who is stronger and who is a bad? If they are spoken about within the same system and modes of production are determined by the government and opposing party within the same system, then what will be changed at all?
Modern societies are built upon dualities. If I say white, you would say black; and if I say woman you would say man. It would be similar when I say government and you refer to the opposing party, but everything will always be spoken within the same system. After the emergence of popular culture, when postmodernism started to question these dualities and this system, the concepts of art and artist started to transform into different forms. It is a wonder if after questioning all these values created by modernism, is there still a chance to develop utopias along with the critics of postmodernists? If a work of art is deprived of its utopia and ability to produce an alternative social structure, then what can it present as new and different?
Today, “reality” is manipulated. This restructuring process is, surely, designed in accordance with the needs of dominant classes. Within the density of this information flow, social amnesia is increasing like some sort of virus.
In this century, the absolute dominance of images and knowledge started to shift from news papers, magazines, and books to the digital platform. This change of space is the biggest movement of change after the invention of printing press. In 1000 (BC), communities were living in physical space simultaneously; and around the years 1400 (AD), along with the invention of the printing press, they reduced the movement of information independent from body. Information was circulating the world in the form of a written text. Between the years 1847 and 1950 (AD) together with the inventions like telegraph, telephone, fax, and television, the transportation speed of information increased; and everyone could easily reach a certain information once accessible only in particular times and space. Today, through the usage of internet and multimedia tools, transportation speed of information reached to speed of light; and information became changeable according to individual’s different speed and direction.
Information exchange of individuals, transferred from atom sizes to “bites”, became undetermined, variable, and fluid.
Throughout this long journey, information moved away from -real- space to a –possible- space; and transferred from -actual- space to the space of -thought-. Information that spreads over from –limited- area to –limitless- area is now in a virtual space. To be virtual means that individual’s being is something else. In other words, in a way, it is the potential of carrying all the features of reality itself. All information circulating in this network undergoes a change with other information within this network.
Photography has also been affected by this huge revolution since the day it was first invented. It transforms into a kind of simultaneous mass medium; and its mission is to transfer images (although previously its function was only to catch the images). While pictures are codified as 1-0-1-0, they can even deconstruct the images as well. Today we do not know anymore what an image, which was created by formula, is in reality.
In this era, as long as more information is added to the extent of image; the boundaries between past and future, and digital world and real world, become more chaotic and complicated. While formerly photographs represented lost moments in a certain time period; today, they are representatives of past, future, and present. They are calling (through digital codes) to pass beyond the physical world. They are not only dissolving the “meaning”, but also the material world.
This visual bombardment, which is composed of images, creates an endless ‘present’ in our minds that cannot meet the needs. While on the one hand it manifests the things that we do not want to see, on the other hand it creates a social alienation. With reference to an artificial world, images become capable of creating their own realities. For this reason our epoch is–instantly- dominated by images, rather than knowledge.
The term ‘virtual’ was first used at the beginning of 18th century in optics so as to describe an object’s reflected image. The reflected image of object is not separate but part of a complementary mechanism.
The major reason for images to be virtual is the fact that they are distant from both viewers and users, and this distance gives the impression that one can accustom to it any moment. Today the concepts ‘virtual and real’ are in a similar relationship with each other. Images of movies that we watched, voice of music that we listened are results of a process in our minds that we can barely control. The thing what creates the feeling of difference in ourselves is our capabilities throughout the process that continues with experiences.
In this age, images in digital medium are, in fact, nothing but a series of electrical charges. These charges are ready to modify and change at any moment. While e-mails, multimedia images, and visuals are transferring from one continent to other, they lead the space to a kind of break and resolution.
This change tells that today the description of “virtual” is different than reflected image (optics) of an object that was made during 18th century. Images are not used only to reflect the world (like in the case of optics) any more. On the contrary, they are designated to be in a status that shapes our lives, social environments, relations, and us. Along with the concept of virtual reality and in time, our thoughts were moved to a transparent position with our perceptions as well as experiences. We can claim that we started to become both the vast audience and the transmission network itself.
At this point, in conjunction with the speed of technology, photography, which is not functional anymore, resembled to virtual reality. In a way its reality was vanished within these virtual networks. The fact that photos taken by a photographer are codified and transferred from one processor to other (from computer to television or mobile phone) affected the image of photography. Contrary to what is believed, “reality” is not loud and clear any more. Its image, on the other hand, became purely synthetic due to the digital codes and successive codes.
Along with computational processing, the concept of “nostalgia feeling” had a chain reaction. The absence phase formed by the classical photography was taken over by the scene, in which everything must be seen and even produced.
This era imposes some sort of “meaning” bombardment on religion, policy, economy, social relations, and news. Each individual connects with each other through digital networks and transforms into an image transmitter. However, in this traffic images do not educate and inform the individuals. In order to be informed, they just lead the individuals to become a huge network. Today it became impossible to reach a certain reality based on these images.
This enormous introversion brought about desensitization and the desire to act. In the middle of this excessive meaning and excessive meaninglessness, individuals started to live with sudden internal shakes particular to the system.
This may be the first harbinger of the concept of artificial intelligence. Today, in this adventure, in which people had imagined to build a stronger machine than human being, this might be the first real flirt that human beings experience with virtual reality. While artificial memories increase their hegemony in our lives; our bodies, languages, and thoughts transform into unnecessary functions.
Within the new world order, while on the on hand the period of all revolutions and revitalization mechanisms are closing; on the other hand, the virtual universe, by which people connect with each other through closed circuits and digital networks, is making the distance between humans and “physical realities” more and more transparent….
Until 20th century the most important feature of art was to “truly” reflect the thing that society sees as “valuable”. Along with the invention of photograph the unity of imitation-representation and space-meaning in painting, disappeared. Photograph art that once caused to the emergence of new art movements; in due course, has deprived the painting of being unique by taking pictures and replicating it. By doing so, it enabled a work of art to be visible not only in its original place, but in many places.
It was now possible to print a work of art in a museum on calendars, posters, books, and t-shirts. The work that was “unique” in its original place loses meaning once its image is replicated and place is changed. The meaning of the work is no more same with the one in the museum; it gained a disparate meaning within daily life. For example, the meaning of Da Vinci’s painting La Jakond in a butcher, is not same with the one in museum any more. Intermingling of these meanings brought about the discussions on the effect of copy on its original.
News papers, magazines, computer and television screens superseded photograph, which was once effective on the image of the work of art and able to reproduce it. As a result, today, the dominance of images in our lives jumped out of the dimension of art and emerged within daily life. Images started to show more reality than they represent (they even show the ones that we do not want to see). Contents of the images are spread out through the screens that are under the hegemony of technology and media corporations. This bombardment of image is composed of a reality, in which images supersedes the original, like in the case of painting. That is, it can be argued that a reality, of which content is twisted, started to dominate our lives.
(Today public opinion researches determine policy, tests determine advertisements, consumer forums determine songs in radio, questionnaires determine the end and posters of movies, ratings determine television shows).
Maybe the biggest change that has ever been experienced from past to present is the fact that today the control, production and distribution of images are transformed into digital processors, artificial memories, and technological communication mediums.
“While 2 Barbie dolls are sold in every 2 seconds; every day 2.8 billions of people work for less than 2 dollars. Also, while one million Coca Cola productions are sold per hour in the world, there are two millions of unemployed in Europe. “
While constructing contents of such real news, which make comparisons of two different poles; and distributing visual templates, power and control are not coming from the source of the news anymore. The fact that control of images is out of our power, constantly decreases and changes the density of this reality. Intermingled images and their continuity lose the significance of the news in process of time.
In this sense, technological progress of image production gives us a risk warning about its political, religious, and economical structures as well.
The facts that we cannot find anything to see among this plethora of images and nothing leaves mark on us, emerge as a result of the fractal structure of this system. Therefore, art, which produces images far from reality, becomes a projection of this system.
Past has the features of documenting reality as it is and using it as evidence; these are transformed into a power of manipulation in modern period. Photography does not deal with the contents anymore its scope is the image. It started to change the meaning and substance of “essence” by reproducing reality.
Because of the bombardment of images people are alienated from themselves; and nowadays they experience deformation in their perception of reality. The short but rapid history of photography drives our memories into a corner through the development in media network and technology.
And we are only at the beginning of this century….