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The Analog Revisited: Questioning the Technical Image in a Digital Age, Again

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Organizer: Renee C. Hoogland

Co-Organizer: Erin Edwards

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In Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1983), Vilém Flusser defines images as “significant surfaces” that “make comprehensible” something “out there” in the four dimensions of space and time; images paradoxically make the world comprehensible by reducing it to a two-dimensional abstraction. As such, images operate in the realm of magic, mediating between humans and a world in which we merely “ex-ist.” Yet, the rise of what Flusser terms the “technical image,” in its endless reproducibility and ubiquity, threatens to transform images from “maps” into “screens” that we no longer “decode” but simply accept, so that our lives become a “function of [our] own images” and “imagination turns into hallucination.” Flusser died in 1991, before the digital revolution would irreversibly overwhelm the domain of images, but, like Jean Baudrillard in “The Precession of Simulacra” (1981), he anticipates an increasingly visualizing culture in which digital technologies fundamentally change the image and its function, as humans no longer distinguish between “reality” and representations of reality.

In contrast, Jacques Rancière, in The Future of the Image (2003), rejects the idea that contemporary reality is “devoured” by media and synthetic images, such that there is nothing but images. Refusing to conflate a “certain idea of fate” with a “certain idea of the image”–-a conflation that defines our current cultural climate in decidedly “apocalyptic” terms–he instead asks: “[A]re we in fact referring to a simple, univocal reality? Does not the term ‘image’ contain several functions whose problematic alignment precisely constitutes the labour of art?” Rather than regarding technical images as “screens” that turn our imagination into hallucination, Rancière posits that images, as “aesthetic acts,” are “configurations of experience that create new modes of sense perception.”

This seminar seeks to explore the complexities of the photographic image in the wake of the digital turn. How does the digital force us to reconceptualize analog photography? While the digital image has, in effect, effaced the necessity for a pre-existing “reality,” the presumed indexical function of the photographic image has by no means disappeared—technical images continue to organize, if not generate, our shifting modes of perception. How do we reconsider analog photographs, given that they can and are likely to show up on a variety of digital platforms? How do we re-view technical images that make the invisible visible, given that current imaging technologies generate new visualities as such?

We welcome proposals engaging with a wide range of technical images—past and present—approached from any critical and/or theoretical perspective. Topics might include queer in/visibilities; object-orientation; human-nonhuman relations; and the affective, haptic, and other sensorial aspects of the technical images in their aesthetic and political dimensions.

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