One Archetype


Just a few quick responses to Kevin Zucker's essay for Paddy Johnson's IMG MGMT series, where artists are posting and analyzing collections of images (so far):

1. After the Christian-Medieval-Corporate mysticism of the Saul Chernick and Kevin Bewersdorf posts, Zucker turns to the Jungian mode of image analysis with "20 Archetypes," a collection of test images (and sculptural models) used for improving imaging and scanning technology--simple, centered forms, outdoor scenes, etc. The essay is both informative and depressing.

2. Zucker's conclusion:

These objects and images (and others like them) have a profound but hidden impact as the building blocks of an increasingly complex vocabulary of digital forms. As future developments in imaging technologies expand on their current capacities, these sorts of mundane archetypes will stay, at least metaphorically, ingrained at their basic levels. In the same way that the 19th century pop song "Daisy Bell" remained at the core of the "dying" HAL’s regressing memory in 2001, the visual artifacts shown here will remain part of the evolutionary memory embedded in the methods machines use to process and describe visual information.

3. The boilerplate objects and images used by the digital imaging technicians, who are not generally thought of as artists, and collected by Zucker for his essay are the soul of mediocrity: Pottery Barn knickknacks, Playboy foldouts, unimaginative nature photography. If these are the hidden infrastructure of entertainment and advertising in the digital era, as Zucker suggests, then HAL save us all.

4. In the history of photography, at some point the artists wrested the medium from the technicians and scientists who were using it and said "Thanks, guys, we'll take it from here." With digital imaging this has not happened because corporate teams, not individuals, are doing most of the "experimenting." The result is lifeless rubbery horrorfests like Shrek.

5. Digital art still has not found its Karl Blossfeldt or its Alfred Stieglitz, thus Pixar today continues down the unbridgeable Uncanny Valley gap of trying to reproduce nature with more and more heavily faceted cones and cubes. Our movies and advertising still resemble Zucker's archetypes. These tropes are not so deeply buried.