Jordan Backhus

Reflections : theNEWMEDIAReader

[ Nomadic Power and Cultural Resistance ]

The article coins the present, post-modern social condition as liquescence (adj. 1) becoming liquid; melting 2) tending toward a liquid state). Society (especially in the United States) has restructured (and, in many ways, abandoned) the traditional bureaucratic, power-based framework that fills the pages of our nation’s history book. Like the Scythians, a horticultural-nomadic society, the modern individual is now a nomad, free to wander the electronic net, crossing boundaries without opposition from government or rule. The revolutionary — at one time the oppressed — is now the artist. The article presents many encouraging theses for thought. I think most immediately of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History Of The United States.” The book aims to redefine and restructure history through the eyes of common people and by far-too-often forgotten historical events. History, as we know it, is framed by the events of political and economical elites; and this has always, from the beginning of history itself, been the case. Take, for instance, Herodotus’ “The Histories” of antiquity; each story is centered around a hero, a villain, and/or a bellicose event. As explained in his article, history, as we know it, is moving away from the arenas of political agenda and power structures; if today’s society is a community of nomads whose history is defined electronically, how will the structure of our written and spoken history change? Will the chapters be headlined with technological innovations rather than with wars and its heroes? Or will the heroes of our time be those whose presence is strongest on the electronic net: YouTube stars and Instagram pseudo-celebrities?

[Surveillance & Capture]

Most recently, I have become fascinated by modern-day security surveillance and (tangentially) the dramatic effect easy access to capture has changed self-portraiture. Our portable phones now act as the artistic medium; through Instagram, FaceBook, and the like, one is able to display their easy-made representation of life or self-portrait (#selfie). The article works to define surveillance and capture and their particular difference and uses; it makes me think (all too clearly) about traditional portraiture and its evolution in time. Through studies in the realm of the various plastic arts, I have learned a valuable lesson about the ontology of painting and sculpture, and most specifically the photographic image. The process of art and its creation invites what I choose to call the “mummy complex.” Take the religion of ancient Egypt (as one can easily discover at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), which, aimed against death, saw survival as depending on the existence of the corporeal body beyond death. “Death is but a victory of time,” as Andre Bazin so eloquently put (in his book, “Que’est ce que c’est le cinema?”). To preserve the body through embalmment is to snatch it from time and hold it into life. This idea is also seen in the caves of Lascaux, in which prehistoric cavemen imprinted animals on the cave walls to immortalize a successful hunt or religious sacrament. It is seen, too, in Renaissance and Medieval Art; take Le Brun’s painting of Louis XIV. Alas, the plastic arts and their so-called psychology invite preservation through representation. Today, I fear this may not be true. in modernity, is representation synonymous with preservation? I am starting to think we are exhausting our means of representation when the mediums of representation are no longer exclusively artistic or specialized, but rather too easily available and practiced.

One thought on “Reflections : theNEWMEDIAReader”

  1. Hi Jordan, I know this post is not for p-comp but I have a comment anyway. I’m curious as to how social media as a “democratization” of mass media fits into your surveillance/selfie concept?

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