The Power of Projection / the Projection of Power
Photographers have been transforming optical information since the beginning of the medium. Today's 35mm or 6x6cm frames are arbitrary shapes provided by manufacturers within which photographers abstract and then organize a small world. The tools we choose effect perception and creation.
The Persian Gulf War taught us a lot about the relationship between the "projection of power" and the "power of projection," i.e., visual projections. Television brought the war to the living room, while remote sensing systems brought the warrior to the war zone. The War was a colletive exercise in the promise and the horror of "distance learning." As we move from the realm of participant to spectator, we become more desensitized by the appearance of precision, purposeful violence.The computer has extended the transformative palette into new complex realms. Some artists have used these new imaging technologies to continue to create highly aestheticized objects in limited editions,
while others have begun to explore the grammar of the digital domain on a interactive level allowing the audience to more fully participate in the resolution of the art work. Digital imaging has encouraged the development of photographic works that fully accept the relative value of optical truth and offer images and information intended to inform or cajole an audience into consideration of a range of social issues. A new role for art may also play a part in the networked information revolution.
POLITICAL AND INFORMATIONAL REVOLUTION
In Billy Joel's song We didn't start the Fire, he provides a recitation of political and social transformation from the post-war period to the bloodless rebellions of 1989. The song sets a celebratory tone for looking at the accelerating process of change and the undoing of old political forms. By allowing for a more liberal exchange of ideas, glasnost established the foundation for the dissolution of an empire based on restraint of free thought. Throughout central Europe and into the former Soviet republics there was truly an "information revolution."
While technologically progressive nations like the United States congratulate themselves on the latest office tool, others in Europe and Asia have turned copy machines, computers, video tape and fax machines into both plowshares and swords. When the last vestiges of the Soviet army invaded Lithuania in 1991, the most strategic point was the television tower and loyal Lithuanians died defending it 4. In the recent upheaval in Moscow last Fall a television studio was the first target of the rebellious legislators.
The prescient 1960s book and film, "Seven Days in May" also centered on the control of television transmission. Recent populist revolutions have relied on more modest technologies. The paper chase in Tianamen Square in 1989 consisted of old fashioned mimeo sheets with text from new fangled fax machines. These revolutions against personal repression, ironically took place at the same time that elements within this country worked assiduously to suppress photographic works that offered alternative views. Many who praised perestroika and the upheaval in China and Eastern Europe were the same individuals who were quick to suppress expression at home.
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4 "Gorbachev's tanks". (Mikhail Gorbachev's military crackdown in Lithuania) New Republic v204, n5 (Feb 4, 1991) p. 8. Among the fifteen Lithuanians killed by Soviet forces last Sunday in Vilnius was one Rolandas Jankaukas. Two months ago this 22-year-old returned from a tour of duty as a submarine electronics specialist for the Soviet navy. He was shot dead by the Soviet army because he was part of a peaceful crowd defending a television tower in Vilnius, his hometown.