Technical-imagination and Video-utopia vs. the Death of the Image
“We live in hell”, so said Pasolini in an interview that was filmed only a few hours before he died. This can be understood in the Flusserian sense that the world and being-in-the-world become the epitome of hell when the meanings of symbols that surround us become unreadable. When this occurs, symbols signify nothing else apart from “themselves”. In a totalitarian mass society in which one constantly babbles, communication becomes its opposite and instead of connecting us with others it leads us into isolation, despair and meaninglessness. Vilém Flusser believed that it was possible to overcome our post-historical crisis only if we change our communication structure. On the other side of the technocratic totalitarianism of depoliticized consumption, he thought it was possible, by way of technical-imagination, to glimpse at establishing a democracy in a profoundly new sense of the word. Flusser defines technical-imagination as “the ability to make concepts out of images, and then decipher these images as symbols of concepts. This new ability is what students had in mind during May 1968 when they spoke about l’imagination au pouvoir, and if they didn’t, then they should have.“ Flusser hazelly catches a glimpse of the resistance to the synchronization of the supermarket and cinema in mass culture in the so-called elite communications. However, a fundamental question imposes itself – how to remove the fatal obstacle that separates elite culture from mass culture, and how to create an altogether new dialogical form? The current communication structure offers previously unimaginable possibilities for the creation of new human connections, new human beings and a new society, but their potential obviously remains utopian. What is the future of the film medium in this constellation? “This somewhat ancient art form finds itself hovering between photography and video, consistently surrounded by new forces which relentlessly transform it” says Raymond Bellour, who similarly to Flusser, catches a glimpse of hope in what he calls video-utopia – that is, video-art as a trace of the utopia embodied in art – in the specific form of the end of art as utopia. With these ideas as a starting point, this presentation will examine the problematical relationship between film and video under the pressure of the logic of profit. Film authors have in the past decades opened themselves towards new ways of using and working with the image, which ostensibly offers the viewer a critical insight into their production, distribution and usage. One can argue that film or rather video-art has become the most represented discipline within the field of contemporary art, bringing about works that combine the expressive potentialities of art-film, film-essay and the openness toward experimentation. However, the following question emerges – in what way and to what degree do these works truly offer new modes of representation and thus change the meanings of the ever-bleaker world we live in, expand our senses and transform our symbolical relations? Or, to put it in Flusser’s words: “how may we, by using these codes, create and transfer information in a thoroughly different way, in order to give life an altogether new meaning?” If socially engaged art is a thing of the past, what does this “almost art” (Mallarmé), this post-modernist mode of resistance bring to the fore?