Bempostinha 64C, Lisbon
The Crossroads Finders
ABCC’s proposal is called The Pathfinders, in the sense of “those who open up new tracks.” The purpose is to emphasize the complex nature of digital images, found between the military connotation that came along the very first steps of modern computation, on the one hand, and the notion of experimentation or even of the “avant-garde,” on the other. Furthermore, this project extends the horizontal, collective activity of the studio of the Alexandre Camarao and Bernardo Simões Correia duo, which launched in 2018 a programme on artists and their work processes and poetics.
In the invitation email that was sent to the group of 45 artists, ABCC asked for “three images that have been created through digital means (computer, cell phone, tablet)”. No other criteria presided the project and, unsurprisingly, the artists responded in a heterogeneous manner. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to discern common artistic concerns, which we will address below.
It is worthwhile to notice that the mentioned “instruction,” although apparently innocent, reflects the generalised perception of what constitutes a “digital image,” i.e., a computer-produced, screen-presented image. However, this was not always the case. According to the pioneers of modern computer science, for instance, the expression “digital image” referred to the punch cards of old, as well as number lists or even images produced by printers that were not necessarily previously presented on any screens. In fact, that which is considered to be the very first digital image, Russel Kirsch’s son’s photo, was produced via scanner.
Since then, it is the screen that became the long-lasting interface of digital experience, which, phenomenologically speaking, is the surface that is the guarantor of the life, the movement, and the performance of digital images. Perhaps it’s too soon to conjecture about its longevity. But there can be no doubt that it is its squareness (a distant cousin from the classical canvas) that organises our perceptions and even our emotions. Both the screen (a visible face) and its non-optical pure code (an invisible face), unknown facets for laypeople like us, who don’t know much about it. Paraphrasing Villém Flusser, “We are, for now, where technical images are concerned, illiterate people. We do not know how to decipher them.”
Therefore, digital images have an open definition, and the gadget and intelligence ecology that upholds its everlasting technical improvement, with its infinite virtualities, is vast. The Pathfinders explores such multiplicity without pretending to push for a supposed digital art. In fact, that’s a very foreign notion to this project. These 45 pathfinders are not following a single track, but a variety of them, always in close connections to their respective, individual work processes. A digital image can either work out as an auxiliary for any given process, or can embrace a poetic, expressive value of its own.
One of the “functions” of digital images that seems to be present in many of these proposals is the fact that they have been constructed/conceived to look like something else, that is to say, they are remediated, meaning the process through which the specificities of any given medium migrate to another medium. How so? By migrating from the digital to the realms of painting, of analogical photography, of technical drawing, of tapestry, or of text, and so on, in a kind of mechanism of synaesthesia “confusion,” which, ultimately, is false and illusory, but that is undoubtedly able to amplify the ability to represent and, complementarily, to imagine and reenchant images themselves. Thus, even if the idea of the loss of man is a constant in the philosophy of the technical or of digital images, the element, at one time absent and present, in The Pathfinders is the good old hand, the always-present tactile dimension of the manipulation that it is visible here. There are paths that act out rather like crossroads.
Aires de Gameiro
Bernardo Simões Correia
Catarina de Oliveira
Daniel Rios Rodriguez
Maria Ana Vasco Costa
Pedro A.H. Paixão
Pedro Sousa Vieira
Tomás Cunha Ferreira