DISCOURSE: PROLETARIANS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
In situating this work along a chronological continuum, Invincible Thoughts sits somewhere within the period of post photography. The photographs are therefore encumbered by a preoccupation with photographic distortion, and attempt to resist the corrupting forces given rise by unrestrained digital image dissemination.
I argue that photography itself has fallen prey to the technological advancement of the photographic process. Through the advent of digital photography, the mythos of analogue is wilting. The mechanical process of non-digital photography is pretty straightforward; light is seared into light sensitive material, capturing an image. Semiotically, however, this process is imbued with a spectrum of complexity as infinite as the analogue process itself. Analogue photography creates a unique physical assemblage of a moment in space and time, a frozen (often instantaneously) referent of reality existing continuously in the physical realm. Therefore, an analogue photograph is at once bound to and free from temporal constraints, and it is infinite in its physicality.
While resembling analogue photography aesthetically, the process of digital photography operates at the other end of the semiotic spectrum. The crucial point of difference stems from the capture method. In digital photography, light is not frozen by physical means, but rather it is interpreted through the binary language of computer code, via a camera’s sensor. There is no lasting physical connection. Unlike its analogue counterpart, a digital camera produces only an image, not a photograph, and this image can never be truly embedded in physical inscription. From here we can label digital images as only ever being as deep as the pixels on a screen.
Instantaneous, seductive and ultimately shallow, the ease of producing and sharing digital images has lead to the gross dissemination of photographic imagery. This is not in itself a positive or a negative scenario. The issue lies with the general lack of recognition for the fundamental differences in capture method. Simply put all photographic images are viewed as photographs, without much regard for the fundamental distinctions between the methods of capture. The line between digital and analogue has therefore become blurred and relevant, and as digital photography consolidates its dominance, the analogue photograph is becoming homogenised and subjugated.
This is one of the major forces at work in the post-photographic period.
Invincible Thoughts attempts to operate at the intersection of these arguments. Realised through both digital and chemical means, the conceptual framework responds to the decline of semiotic power in analogue photography, while also attempting to embrace and unify the fundamental differences between both capture methods. It is a doomed endeavour to resolve the disparities between the digital and the analogue.
In terms of practice, the process entails immersing digital prints of analogue photographs into an alcohol solution, which dilutes and displaces the inks sitting on the photographic paper. These chemically altered digital prints are then allowed to dry, preserving the chaotic analogue reinterpretations. This process of image degradation, a sort of controlled visual entropy, radically alters the semiotic codes within the images. But does not (and can not) deplete their syntactical strength. In undermining and reinterpreting the original aesthetic qualities of the photograph, the tactile, tangible hallmarks of analogue process take centre stage, demanding scrutiny.
Ultimately this symbolises a call to arms in support of the analogue photograph. The indelibly physical qualities of analogue photography are reinforced with a robust semiotic framework forged from both analogue and digital re-imaginings. What was once so easily colonised and subjugated by the cold sophistication of digital processes now takes on new iconic resonances, as analogue processes are elevated to the point of sublimation.
Invincible Thoughts speaks of Xinjiang through a language of semiotic disruption that is both digital and analogue in conception.