Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

ThemesPhoto/ByteDocument and Abstraction
Document and Abstraction
Günther Selichar


1. «We are inverted utopians: while utopians cannot produce what they imagine, we cannot imagine what we produce.»

This sentence [1] paraphrases in an unusual way our relation to the tools which like prostheses are supposed to change and expand our physical possibilities and allow us a more complex treatment of the world’s phenomena. It is not the immediate view of the world that sets off the discourses, rather it is a medial, apparatively oriented view that supplies us with image products which present us not only with qualitative, but also quantitative challenges. The immediacy of information, the result of the delegation of our perception activities into the realm of apparatuses and mass media systems, has not only led us to new discoveries, enabling the sciences to experience a developmental thrust, rather it has also created a meta-universe which poses new problems due to its broad spectrum of possibilities and, above all, its context-related variants.

In my projects, the description of media systems or the strategies of their use takes place on the one hand in analytical and documentary photographicexaminations of aspects of the apparatus, in particular the monitor, and on the other hand in works which use mass media space and also thematicize it in part with the involvement of the public. The focus of my interest are the structural preconditions and peripheral conditions of media images, such as color codes, raster systems, or the interfaces at which they become visible.

One of these tools, photography, is part of and the foundation for today’s image machines, which currently focus our views and have subjected us to another way of seeing things. Before I come to my projects and the multimedia context in which photography is situated in the meantime, I would like to first recapitulate some of the questions regarding the apparative developments and the discussions related to the photographic medium.

In its history, this medium, product and driving force in the industrialization of the nineteenth century was subject to a number of revolutionary changes, which until recently belonged to a so-called ‹analog› translation process. The digitalization of recognition procedures that has been occurring for several years now has again brought up old questions regarding information acquisition within this discipline as well. Above all, however, the opening of its analog boundaries has cleared the way into a larger image universe, which in docking to other digitalized realms of the visual on the level of the standardizing numeric code now takes place on a more abstract, but also more trouble-free, platform.

The distinguishing characteristics of analog photography are on the recording level: rays of light fall through a lens onto a chemical carrier of a different size, where the image quality is predefined by the surface and the grain size, etc. In most cases this creates a ”negative,” an intermediate step on the way to a positive image. The way to this point already makes clear how many apparative factors influence the image creation process before a chemical process is initiated, in which by developing the negative only a preliminary stage of the actual image is reached. In the further course of work in the darkroom these parameters are multiplied to the effect that the quality of the positive image is subordinate to the qualities of the enlarger, its light source and optics, as well as thequality of the paper, the chemicals, all the way to time and the characteristics of the room (with large-format prints, e.g., the limits of handling the apparatus, the paper or the grain are quickly reached). The author ultimately brings the relevant decisions at the junctions of these processes into the image, which shows us that what we are dealing with here is a host of variables.

On the recording level, the distinguishing characteristics of digital photography are that the rays of light also fall through a lens, but now onto an image sensor that separates the light using an RGB filter, which then according to the respective intensity is converted by an analog/digital converter into digital information and stored on a hard disk. Essential parts of conventional photography are retained, such as the lens, the viewfinder, the autofocus, the shutter release and its associated automatic mechanisms; other parts, in contrast, such as storage, are transferred to another translating process. The original negative or positive has become one image, and as an open data structure that can be easily altered at any time the further conversion is dependent on an enormous reservoir of linkage and output possibilities (automation processes, by the way, that have become normal in digital photography have also been a part of analog photography for quite some time now).

If we disregard for a moment the further possibilities of altering the data record acquired in this way, high-quality equipment then supplies us with a computed image with the highest density, pure and without grain. The viewing and control level shifts more and more from the viewfinder or an instant chemical image (which naturally cannot correspond one hundred percent with the image to be taken) to the monitor and the instant digital image, which at the same time represents the result. This means that individual translation procedures are shortened or even optimized because they are controllable in all of their details without having to wait for the completion of miscellaneous developing procedures. [2] At the digital enlargement level, the automated laser process, which reduces manual handling to a few simple movements, creates extremely stable exposure conditions which cannot be achieved using an analog method, above all in large formats. Besides thetraditional output on paper, today, however, there are many image output methods which have opened up—or at least straightened—the border zones to printing processes or other digital distribution methods, each of which can be created from the original data record without having to revert to additional refraction methods such as an internegative or other copies. The possibilities of digital interaction with other media, however, undermine the independent status of the photographic medium and reinforce tendencies that were already laid out in the analog medium, but which for the most part still had to be applied externally (retouching, montage, etc); in the digital mode the production of the image and its possible variation take place on the same production level.

This comparison shows us that at least until the negative or the data record has been produced, comparable—if different—translation logics occurs that qualitatively can only be played off against each other with difficulty. The decisive point of their difference lies in the area of recording and furthermore the handling of negatives or data records, which in the digital can open up new spaces and close old ones due to their compatibility with other data records, their variability and fragility, but above all the inability to detect possible image alteration strategies. On the other hand, the variability in the area of analog darkroom work is far from the information passing directly into the printed image. Indeed, I would even say that this discussion also makes us aware of the instability of analog space: as an auxiliary construction, a simulation. Analog photography was never a real guarantee—despite the quasi ‹more stable› image result—against manipulation or propaganda; it showed what ‹was› in the spirit of Roland Barthes [3] and of as neutral a description as possible only under certain comprehensible conditions, otherwise it was storytelling, more interpretation and construction than documentation or deconstruction.

Manipulative strategies are above all also possible in the area of the distribution context: in media systems the fractures occur primarily there where ‹embedded journalists› administer us reasonable doses of not only war reports. Enlightened media consumption today, as the basis for judging all conveyed information, takes for granted that this arises from the context of ‹embeddedjournalism,› regardless of whether the reports spring from political, economic (corporate or stock market reports, for instance) or culture-industrial contexts. The contextual assignment of meaning is not a result of a digital image culture, rather it has been a decisive question as long as there have been pictorial creations. But marketing and public relations methods have penetrated so far into reporting or are applied in such a stilted way in advertising that clear recognition is often not possible, nor is it desired (if one thinks e.g. of the pseudo-scientific language of the cosmetics industry).

Photographs, analog as well as digital, operate with realistic, naturalistic, figurative elements, but their exact reference to reality is not revealed. By their being embedded in a certain context they are more clearly directed. (I would like to call to mind the famous speech made by the American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, before the United Nations Security Council in New York, in which by using photographs of some vehicles in a desert environment he wanted to prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the necessity for war against Iraq. Within the framework of this presentation it was completely irrelevant whether the images shown were of an analog or digital nature.)

A possible ‹residual value› of today’s photography—where possible transmission capacities of the medium are concerned—has developed further: The unique fusion of image and reference—the essential distinguishing characteristic of the photographic medium consisted in this ‹authenticity›—may continue to occur in the production of the digital image, but this distinguishing characteristic is only applicable under more restricted, significantly more fragile conditions. A form of image in which every single pixel can be altered stands in a different and more abstract relation to what is being depicted than a medium whose every film grain is much more stable; the complete relativity of a single pixel is a new quality and enables penetrating deeper into the images.

The social agreement is apparently one of giving preference to digital photography, and this is being fiercely discussed in photographic and media theory, often marked by melancholic separation difficulties. When the end of photography is talked about, one isreminded of the similar discussions in the field of painting. Or when analog photography is regarded as a subtractive medium (as does Baudrillard), and in contrast the digital variant is viewed as an additive one, like the medium of painting. Comparisons of this kind are very reduced if one considers the large number of variables in the analog photographic process and the many ways in which photography is used that are not distinguished by subtractive methods alone, and if in the digital process one obviously always starts out from the assumption that the possibility of the variation and addition of the data record is a necessary and unavoidable sign of the digital working method. In other areas, such as science, for instance, one has long since begun taking advantage of the possibilities offered by the new digital technologies in the fields of diagnostics, reconstruction or simulation, and surprisingly, the ability to manipulate the image results has not been given much priority. In medicine and archeology, to cite two examples, a high degree of trust is given to these technologies, above all, I believe, because the processes of image acquisition, interpretation and distribution are closer together and apparently subject to better social control. Or do you trust your physician less because instead of an analog, two-dimensional x-ray he uses a digital, three-dimensional imaging method? Rather, certain manipulation procedures using specific software or other strategies even allow the ‹neutral› data produced by the imaging machine to be interpreted in the first place, bringing to light certain symptoms. In the end we are faced with a paradox: The greater resolution density, data volume and detail accuracy of digital photography stand in the way of a higher degree of abstraction and greater scope of variation.

In the confrontation of the various distinguishing characteristics of these areas it becomes clear that one rapidly becomes lost in a whirlpool of questions that cannot be fully answered or that cannot even really be compared. Offsetting and settling the advantages and disadvantages shows us only one thing for certain: one system is being replaced by another where certain questions shift but are not completely eliminated. Another kind of description creates another difference.

The variability of the digital affects not onlyphotography, but also text, the moving image or sound, and finally every form of digital communication. Information has come under particular pressure since it has become a commodity and thus of commercial, economic interest. From this we can conclude that we have no choice but to develop a special competence to adequately describe and decipher these production and interpretation processes. Measured against the necessity of interacting with the world with the aid of machines, the urgency of meticulously observing and describing these tools is in any case great. In a time of narcissistic concentration on one’s own reflection in the media it is important that the self-reflexive eye does not become blind and that the technologies function within the framework of a transparent test arrangement. More than ever, the degree of transparency, trust and skepticism constitute the changing basis for the reliability of the information, or whether one allows a ‹document› to be just that.

2.1. «…from representative and informant to representation and information.»


«Sources» (1993/95), the first group of works, deals with the situation that a large share of our information is no longer accessible to direct experience. The current trade with images in the media world consists simultaneously of the most varied formal and technical expressions, for the most part interconnected and producing transmedia phenomena, mixtures of the most varied image-wise transport tracks, where it has mostly become impossible to look through at an underlying source. The question arises of whether the crossing of many thresholds of this kind does not to a certain degree change the disposition of these images with regard to content and whether in the extreme case the images’ reference is close to nil.

The apparatus contains both the users’ interests and strategies in their varied forms of application as well as the general conditions of the developers that have been transformed into technology—this is the gist of how Vilem Flusser sees it. Thus from the perspective of a common view of the different forms of mass media expression, what is required is a kind of ‹media deconstructivism› which peels off the surfaces to reveal structural preconditions: the apparative levels of the production of difference. [5] The works show ashedding of complex visual systems, which in everyday use are entangled rhizome-like and which overlap. Extreme enlargements from visual mass media, both moving and still, such as computer prints, photocopies, computer and television monitors, different print media, etc., show the microscopic structures, indeed the ‹handwriting› of media images one normally does not always see. One sees microscopic details from media images that no longer refer to the representation of the transported content, but rather demonstrate the formal structure of the transport tracks itself. The emergence of the media-technical apparatus makes it clear that everything it represents is affected by it. The «Sources» are documentary, indeed ‹scientific› photographs that show internal construction principles and address conditions of representation. Apparative views are directed towards precisely the same systems and enable working with the ‹abstract,› a kind of media archeology behind the narrative strategies. The images look like paintings, speak of new media, and yet they are photographs: reproductions of a ‹media grammar› that lie on the extremely narrow boundary between representational and abstract, which in the end shows that these kinds of categories may have become obsolete.

2.2. «In the cinema the viewer is attracted by the image, in television the viewer is projected by the image.»


«Screens, cold» (1997/2003), another photographic work I would like to address, deals with monitors, with electronic displays in the broadest sense in the way Jan-Luc Godard manifestly distinguishes them from the cinema screen. There is hardly an area of life free of screens of a whole variety of makes and sizes, from the cell phone to the wide-screen, 16:9 television—the screen has become the ‹window‹ of our society. The visual display is becoming the global substitute for seeing, the favored ‹logical principle› of information. Media filters such as fluorescent screens are at the same time funnels and megaphones.

These machines were photographed in such a way that because they were in a ‹cold› state they were able to reveal their surfaces. The transparent screen surfaces of these windows—interfaces between view and what is being represented—generally disappearwhen the equipment is activated. As practiced users of these technologies we have lost the knowledge that all of our movements of this kind are only borrowed movements. Only when there is an interference in the media drumfire does this matter of course collapse like a house of cards, brutally throwing our desires back onto ourselves. The loss of the picture makes us aware of the naked medium, the emptiness, the break which owing to a general state of chattering we are no longer able to endure. Han Magnus Enzensberger said the following about television in the 1960s: «One turns the set on in order to tune out.» [7] In contrast, a switched off screen refers to a vast amount of invisible things not being exposed at that moment. Even in its free time it has a clear presence: in that it shows nothing except itself. The screen becomes a nonactive and projection surface that carries the potentiality of a hot filling. «Screens, cold» are works in which one sees that one sees nothing at that moment. One may see that one sees nothing, but one also sees something one otherwise does not see. On the one hand, the referential readability is made more extreme because due to the digital scanner principle with a long exposure time (as in early photography) and highest resolutions, an individual image is produced whose detail information is superior to the analog photograph, which again brings up old issues of documentary principles. But what is decisive is that a stringent motif with regard to content is an obstacle to arbitrary occupiability. On the other hand, of course a photograph of this detail and this formal organization says something about the abstract, the reduced, but the indexicality is preserved. What interests me about these structures is precisely the border between abstraction and concrete, realistic representation, the optical illusion between high-resolution, documentary photography and painterly aesthetics. Thus changing the viewing distance results in different possibilities of reading a paradoxical link: between a reflection on reproduction equipment and a necessary original perception of the work.

2.3. «When I am photographed, I feel like a hostage; I immediately pretend to be dead.»


The third group of works I would like to address is «Exposures» (2002/2003), a work that on the one handhas very much to do with the executive medium itself. «Exposure» is a central photographic and cinematic term. On the other hand it concerns components of a media society that are sometimes voluntarily, often also involuntarily, at the mercy of media apparatuses. The machines which besides the actual recording apparatus are of great importance here are those of media light, which at certain moments constitute the basic requirement for being able to produce a media image. The lamps and flashes place us in a position in which we are unquestionably at the mercy of the person operating them, therefore ‹exposed.›

The wall separating public and private has become permeable. What also belongs to the active part of media existence is that we operate in a society in which media selfconfidence is becoming normal. Wherever a television camera or a microphone turns up today, people crowd around them. The ‹public grin,› the affected theatrical behavior, the ‹posing,› as Craig Owens calls it, the staging have become a collective method of conferring identity. In order to gain entry into the media machinery one must accept its rules of the game, which is demonstrated by the actor-like, more and more professional manner of the protagonists. On the other hand, if someone in the midst of a nasty argument in front of millions of television viewers no longer understands the instrumentalization of his or her misery, then the private sphere has been wiped out. Viewed in this way, the public sphere has become a giant stage for private fantasies that can be easily blown up by the media into something scandalous, although—or precisely because—they depict everyday dreariness. For celebrities who get caught in the gears of gossip journalism it is also a case of the difficult interplay between the user and the person being used. The passive form is to be found in paparazzidom, where people are literally hunted down with the camera and ‹shot.‹ «Exposures» attempts to address the ambiguity of being exposed, which is ever more determining our relation to media. Artificial sources of light, which come from the area of amateur videography as well as the field of professional studio lighting, therefore our artificial suns, are the subject. In the photoseries the spotlights are standardized at a uniform height, not to present a curious collection of equipment but to directattention towards the actual central elements of these machines. To me it seems like an interesting opportunity to also be able to direct apparatuses which arose from scientific thought at each other. They allow us to take up perspectives with the ‹third eye› otherwise not available to us. In «Exposures» it is this specific photographic apparatus that enables us to look into a full-powered flash in the first place, for without this auxiliary eye we would not tolerate looking into the light, but go blind instead.

3. «It cannot be discovered from the picture alone whether it is true or false.»


Technical images cover all of the niches of our present by means of television, the Internet, the newspaper, direct mail advertising and the giant billboard, which in the meantime drapes the entire fronts of buildings or lines streets of houses. We are supplied with the relevant calls at every corner, and are no longer left alone for even a moment. The original intent of propagating information once argued has become an advertising dictatorship, the mother of all battles for the consumer. Media ‹bait,› as has become the usual thing in the economy or the entertainment departments of information systems—the game, the quiz, the contest—is a form of what has become the everyday rehearsal of narrative advertising and sales strategies and thus a kind of ‹media fitness training.› In the case of an excess of information, meaning and context are the decisive factors. ‹Interactivity› and ‹feedback› then mean collaborating on a story, on an ‹image,› so that in the end consumers voluntarily adorn themselves with logos and demonstrate their agreement with a corporate philosophy. An unbelievable need for stories arises; although subjects transform themselves and visibly dissolve, the ‹I-share› and ‹self-marketing› become a survival strategy in the form of telepresence, and we all become publishers of new stories. It is the era of total publication.

«Roland Barthes remarked that the ‹bastardized form of mass culture is a disgraceful repetition›; the contents, the ideological schemes, the erasure of contradictions repeat themselves constantly; the forms on the surface vary: ‹More and more new books, new broadcasts, new films, various little stories, but alwaysthe same meaning.›» [10] The economization of life and our attention [11] creates a connection to function via a series of product and price, which reaches a narrative climax in the advertising strategies where the following applies: Story before product. The product has become unthinkable without the narrative context, whose purchase leads to a happy ending at long last. The commercial weaves the product to be sold into a story; it is given an aura and charged with meaning.

Advertising psychologists apply the available scientific insight—from empirical field data to subliminal messages—to achieve profit. The power consists in the repetition at the disposal of the strategies and which can be bought by the strength of capital. These dramatic connections continue smoothly over into the malls, the temples of consumption, where every absurdity is raised to the status of an ‹event,› but where one thing, however, is always the focus: the conveying of passive obedience. One finds an interesting indication of this—in this regard comparable with the content of many mass media—on the packaging of an American fast food chain: «At Burger- King you can expect a delicious meal as individual as you are.» [12] Political campaigns have also begun selling products designed by the same agencies that reach into their bags of tricks for margarine and the like. Paul Virilio once wrote: «The revolution of direct information is also the revolution of denunciation. Rumor is no longer a local phenomenon; it is becoming a global one. The broadly structured system of informers, regardless of its nature, becomes a true power.» [13]

Another consequence of this is that today information acquisition has never been more difficult despite the previously unavailable volumes of data. Program content is being increasingly projected as scenery that supplies the appropriate stage set for the advertising economy. A consistent leveling of the boundaries between editorial parts and advertising through ‹product placements› or so-called advertorials, or through appearances by television news celebrities in commercials (and in politics), which are frequently shown directly before or after their regular broadcasts—only to cite a few examples—reduces the different information qualities to a common level and also makes principle conflicts of interest apparent.Photography today has spread out into a mass media conglomerate; we find ourselves in a multimedia environment that is characterized by a ‹photographic regime,› as Michel Frizot calls it. Film, video, television, the Internet, magazines, posters are the carrier media in which we are communicated with. But it is above all the area with demand character, advertising, that is courting us in ever more subtle strategies and in an increasing number of variations (quite in the spirit of Virilio’s «logistics of perception»). The boundaries between advertising as information and manipulation as well as between politics and propaganda have proven to have become more permeable. And curiously enough, it is precisely those democratic countries which were originally able to develop into these constructions with the aid of a different use of mass media systems—which e.g. excluded one-sided economic availability—that have recently come under pressure.

4.1. «In order to discover whether the picture is true or false we must compare it with reality.»


«Suchbilder», a project that occurred in 1993 in public (mass media) space, was based on a simple puzzle that frequently appeared in European print media such as television program guides. In the ”spot the differences” game one is asked to compare an original image with one that includes ”mistakes” and to define the differences. These kinds of picture puzzles used to be drawn by hand; nowadays they mostly consist of photographs that have been digitally altered. It seemed to me that this popular puzzle was the right, simple metaphor for reception in connection with mass media, and so I decided to transfer it from the printed medium into a landscape setting where the public would be requested to interact. It was possible to work with the mass medium of television, and this led to a project that would otherwise correspond to the logistics of an advertising agency: there was an accompanying media campaign with commercials before the main evening news and clear instructions for a game with a chance of winning various prizes to be drawn on television when the game was over. The game and the accompanying contest consisted of participating in a media process in the sense of a joint looking, examining and documenting. Despite therather short playing period for a contest—two-and-a-half weeks—thousands of people visited the five locations, many of them actually participating in the picture puzzle game by filling out a contestant card. The large number of participants, however, was ambivalent; this efficiency was satisfactory in the sense of an artistic project, but also illuminating in the sense of its social significance for messages that are disseminated through the most important mass media. Manipulation by retouching is part of the history of mass media, in particular in photography. However, at least for specialists it used to be possible to detect such strategies on the image. In the meantime, under digital, microscopically pixeled conditions it has become impossible even for experts to see them. In 1996 I transferred the «Suchbild» model to another technology in public space and was able to realize the work «Suchbild—Who´s Afraid of Blue, Red and Green?» for the first time within the framework of the «Prospect» exhibition in Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle.

The technology I used was a three-sided, internally illuminated prism rotator. This equipment has three display sides that change in programmable intervals. A landscape motif was used, which was applied to the first display side. On the third display side there was the image of a landscape almost identical to the first one, but with differences. Between the two landscapes there was a striped surface in blue, red and green, which corresponds to the enlarged surface of a color monitor and makes reference to the technical parameters of image production or the primary color system of various mass media. The direction of movement was programmed in such a way that the first landscape image was followed by the striped surface, and then the second landscape image appeared. The prisms then turned backwards to the striped surface and to the first landscape image, where the direction was again changed to the striped surface, etc. This meant that the two landscape images could never be looked at one directly after the other, but were always interrupted by the monitor surface. Unlike in magazines, the two ‹spot the differences› images could never be seen beside each other. The comparison had to be done from memory. The picture puzzle that transformed in succession thus stood for moving mass media, although in this case it was enormously sloweddown to five seconds per display side. The short life of the information and the resulting uncertainty are diametrically opposed to a fashionable word that is used in an inflationary way in the media discourse: the creation of ‹sustainability.›

4.2. «The picture, however, cannot represent its form of representation; it shows it forth.»


I have been realizing works of the group «Who´s Afraid of Blue, Red and Green?» since 1989, and it has found expression in various media, amongst others in an Internet project of the same name. The point of departure of this work was the enlarged aperture grille of a color monitor based on an apparative eye. The title «Who´s Afraid of Blue, Red and Green?» is a variation on Barnett Newman’s famous «Who´s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?» (1966/70), whose four-part series of paintings made reference to the primary color system of painting in a radical and selfreflexive way at a time when painting appeared to be driven to an end in the history of Modernism by the prevailing developments in art. Due to the shifting of the primary color system within this pressing question—away from painting and towards the principle of the different mass media—the thought background into which the works of «Who´s Afraid of Blue, Red and Green?» are to be placed has changed. For the shaping of the idea in an Internet version, which was online in different preliminary stages beginning in late 1995, similar to the «Suchbilder» project I developed a game and a contest intended to initiate a media and creative process with the active inclusion of the public: The aim of the competition was to design a predetermined module online on the computer. The module consisted of a regular sequence of red, blue and green vertical stripes, and participants were asked to develop an animation out of fifteen individual frames that could then be run as a loop.

It was required to organize these fifteen individual windows in the order of their vertical stripes in such a way that an animation was produced for a large-scale monitor projection, for which each of the vertical lines could be set to either red, blue or green. The large number of theoretically possible variations provided enough leeway for individual designs and frames. After processing the fifteen frames, an animation wasautomatically produced by clicking the mouse. The users could either reject the animation or place it in a designated gallery. This gallery was always accessible to anyone interested and constituted the reservoir from which three winners were ultimately chosen, whose animations were shown for four months on the Times Square Astrovision screen always at the last minute of every full hour. After the deadline for submissions had passed, using a specially designed Web interface a tenmember jury made up of artists, curators and critics from the field of new media assigned points to the contributions and designated three finalists. With around 10,000 single visitors and 650 submissions from eighty countries, participation in the project was good and there were many beautiful results.

Like the ‹Suchbild-project›, this work was based on participative methods, and I placed the starting and final representation medium, the monitor, at the center of the examination. This was important both for the individual users in their work at their screens as well as for the presentation level on the screen at Times Square. Times Square presents a maximum density of how a large square enclosed by tall buildings can be ‹designed› with advertising. This location is a symbol for market crying, for advertisements concerned with clear messages, for the rapid conveyance of content and representation. Every available surface is used for (sales) messages; and as a rule, those who bring along the economic means can occupy these spaces. A condition for participating in the contest was a joint design process that may not have been dealt with with three clicks of the mouse, but did not, however, require financial clout. It was guaranteed that the ‹winning› entries would be presented at this location for several months, whose concentrated attention was normally sold for a large amount of money.

5. Media democracy

The much-cited media democracy is primarily characterized by the fact that it makes self-reflection possible. As soon as this is no longer available, the development of a mass medium and the society it reports on has entered a questionable phase. In this media universe, plurality, independence and comprehensible research are the guarantee that thedifferent ways of viewing things can get through and the ‹consumers› can paint a many-sided picture of the reported phenomena. Commercial and political instrumentalization showed themselves in the preparations for the war in Iraq in a way that was as disturbing as the sorrowful history of Italian democracy, where since Berlusconi first took office an excellent case study has been taking place that curiously enough has not yet triggered off any contradiction in the European Union in connection with anti-trust laws. This demonstrates in an alarming way how far the principle of media communication and public action have been able to be privatized and sabotaged in a democracy. The surplus of concrete, real is dissolving reality into simulations. The hidden, the undefinable is increasing and thus the ‹abstract› of a mass media society is being assembled behind this jungle of stories, this realm that eludes direct perception: reference is not primarily being made to what is being reported on, which for us is being presented in an increasingly abstract way because we no longer have direct access to it—the real in the spirit of Baudrillard—or to the why, which is becoming increasingly indissoluble and determines our lemming-like march into hypertrophy. Reference is above all being made to by what means and how—the technologies and apparatuses and their strategic occupation. And it is less the metaphysical element that is of interest than processing the factual [16] if the design of machines no longer reveals anything definite about their usefulness and the processes of digitalization take place in obscurity. One could exaggerate and say that in the meantime we are acting from a different perspective: for us, media are not the abstract experiences that hide the real, rather the media surfaces juggle the real and prevent our looking through to the abstract… «…Beauty possibly requires the slavish imitation of what is indeterminable about things.» [17]

© Media Art Net 2004