03.12.2008. - 24.12.2008.

Sandro Đukić, "arch_001_089_output / 2008"

Taxonomy of technological transformation

The exhibition of Sandro Đukić is demanding. It’s demanding for the author, but even more demanding for the audience. Not as much by its form – although certain level of technological and visual literacy is requred – as by its content, more precisely by the issues it inquires and their heaviness. One of these issues is the nature of photography as a form of art in this, more and more, digitalized world. Althoug digitalization of photography began (in its rudimentary form) more than half a century ago, recent development of technology, with particular relation to lowering costs of personal computers, storage media and digital cameras, results in two important things.

Photography does not go through chemical processing anymore, which change its values. Not necessary in positive or negative way, but in its essence. Increasing megapixels are not necceserily technologically improving the quality of photography, but adversely excluding numerous possibilities the classic, anolog photography has to offer: from the moment of taking a photograph to developing and processing it. Of course, speed is obtained, as well as authenticity to some degree, but the question which remains unanswered (and often unquestioned) is what is lost. Question raised in mid-nineties by Critical Art Ensamble i Geert Lovink refering to information technology and digital communication is emerging in its new variant. The speed of information transfer, as well as its quantity and accessibility, is rapidly increasing, but time needed for processing remains the same – limited by human cognitive ability. Does the limitation go toward superficiality and prefering quantity over quality? In photographic discourse this question may be: Does increasing quantity of digital photographies leads to less time to observe, analize and process it visually and/or intelectually?

Sandro Đukić is going even further. In a way he is reversing the question that Benjamin asked in the 1930s (how has photography changed art?) to make it: how has technologicaly mediated art (applied as in graphic design, but also the art market) changed photography? More and more common artistic practices transformed what was essentially an art born in print into a salon art of single pictures on walls, often incorporated in some multimedia instalation in which digitaly taken photograph is digitaly presented or screened – never getting a chance to be present in its intrinsic medium.

What is in that proces changed in visual economy? The very notion of visual economy is developed from the work of Deborah Poole, and places emphasis on the organization of the production and exchange of images, rather than relying simply on an analysis of their visual content: The word economy suggests that the field of vision is organised in some systematic way. It is also clear that this organisation has as much to do with social relationships, inequality, and power as with shared meanings and community ... For Poole, a visual economy has three levels: the organization of production, encompassing both the individuals and the technologies that produce images; the circulation of ... images and image-objects; and the cultural and discursive systems through which graphic images are appraised, interpreted, and assigned historical, scientific, and aesthetic worth

By removing the images from their original contexts of production and circulation, and placing them into a gallery, the visual economy that produced these images is negated or obscured in favour of a more neutral sense of the photograph as raw material or a window onto history. Whit such an action single photographs, but also their whole (in the form of photography data-base) becomes repositioned in relation to the time/place of thir origin, and at the same time in relation to the time/place of their initialy intented purpose. That is leading us to (maybe) the crucial problem of digitaly mediated photography: the question of clasification, of taxonomy. That is the question more and more essential in many branches of information and library sciences (especially in the theories of so-called semantic web), but also unavoidable one for consuments of visual images, ranging from pornophiles probing the Net in search for a distinct fetish, marketing experts deciding on media campaign’s visual images, or common people trying to handle ever biger family albums. How to find what one is looking for in the seemingly endless piles of photos (not to mention that very often they are incredibly alike each other)?

Analogy with another problem of classification of visual material is almost inevitable. Every human fingerprints is unique (although the final scientific verdict is still awaited), but the clasification of them is a problem yet unresolved. In case of photohgraphy confirmation is much easier. Acoording to the laws of physics two objects can not occupy the same space in the same time, therefore, no matter how short exposition is, even bursted shooting allways will result with a set of very similar (to the point of concealment), but not the same photographs. System of clasification, however, can not benefit from such evidence, as analogy with the history of dactiloscopy unmistakably shows.

An important first issue is that any one image has varied content, which may be available either consecutively or concurrently to the same or to different viewers. These multiple ways of seeing have been discussed over the years, but it’s still a very open field. It is worth noting here the contrast with textual data. While textual data can have a multiplicity of content and meaning, in terms of the discrete elements of a query, the visual and linguistic content are homologous. The fundamental building blocks of text databases are ASCII character strings representing words that have a direct semantic interpretation.

In contrast, the pixel values making up digital images have no inherent significance. Considerable processing of the image is necessary even to infer the presence of a simple shape like a circle, let alone a complex object such as a tree. Direct comparison of image bitmaps can tell us only one thing about a given pair of images – whether they are identical or not. Nothing can be deduced about their similarity in terms of the objects they contain, or scenes they represent.
Art history and its pertaining theories are rich in narratological, iconographic, multidiscursive and other attampts of clasification of visual material, ranging from already classics like Panofsky to contemporary, technologicaly highly sofisticated theories of Ornager and Rasmussen (among others), however there is still no universaly applicable method of catalogizing photographies, other then on a very basic, bumpy level. Neither contemporary catalogization of image types nor more traditional iconography just aren’t a match to the problem.

Maybe the premier value of Sandro Đukić’s exhibition lay in the fact that, thorough playing with his own archive, thorough permutations and variations of its parts, excessing from one media to another, from one technique and technology to another clearly pointing to the problem itself. (Igor Marković)

Sandro Đukić was born 1964. in Zagreb. He graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1989. In period from 1989 to1993 he attended Art Academy in Dusseldorf (class of prof. Nam June Paik and prof. Nan Hoover). At the same academy he attended postgraduate studies (class of prof. Nan Hoover) in period from 1993. to 1994. Exhibited in Slovenia, Germany, USA, Italy, Serbia, Austria and Croatia and lectured at the numerous conferences dedicated to media art (Rijeka, Zagreb, Plasy). In 1991. he received Croatian Artist Association Award.

(1) http://www2.mmsu.hr/en/exhibiti
(2) http://www.d-a-z.hr/ostalo/predavanja/sandro-dukic-prostor-realnosti.htm