Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Verasermophobia


The verasermophobes have spoken, and we are not the better for it.

These are the ones for whom the discussion of Truth represents a very real fear.

Of course, one shouldn't be surprised at this turn of events, since posting a highly opinionated statement, on a website devoted to a particular sub-genre of photography, does not lend itself to the exercise of the higher faculties. One only need review the sad history of photo.net's philosophy discussion forum to see that the outcome was virtually predetermined. Added to this eventual outcome was the perception that linking the post to one's personal blog was nothing less than a cheaply disguised attempt at Internet marketing.

It started with a rather naive blog entry, whose intent was to speak about the importance of media artifacts in the breaking of the spell of the New High Technology Priesthood. Meaning that the only verifiable truth that can be discerned through mediation is the artifacts themselves; everything else is a byproduct of mediation.

What the verasermophobes heard was someone using the 'T-word'. At which point their brains shut down and they began operating in dino-mode: attacking the very usage of the term, rather than attempting to discuss the merits of the argument posited.

I believe what this phenomenon reveals is a sad state of affairs in the field of Media Studies. Rather than seeing an ever-widening swath of understanding of the effects of mediated data in the culture at large, we are now witnesses of the debilitating effects of propagandizement. One need only challenge the 'conventional wisdom' pertaining to the effects of mediation upon the culture, and the demigods of propaganda raise their ugly heads.

What we are witness to are not the voices of a few paragons of the media elite, but rather the multitudinous voices of the propagandized masses, rising up in unison to deliver a common judgment, intoned as if from the very Collective Unconscious.

The structure of the dominant paradigm is patterned, empowered and reinforced by the sociological effects of a highly mediated technocracy. Available to the power elite are vast spectra of highly interconnected channels of mediation, veritable formats for universal command and control. It should therefore come as no surprise that alternative, off-center and underground media would represent, not merely some universal alternative to the dominant media, but would represent a direct challenge to centrist authoritarianism.

What is surprising is the apparent naiveté of many of the practitioners of pinhole photography, with regard to the power available to them through an alternative photographic paradigm, to grasp the significance of the art and craft they practice in undermining the common usage modes of two-dimensional imagery.

Pinhole is a subset of a 'do-it-yourself' ethic that discards the necessity of riding the 'technology treadmill', replacing the reliance of creative expression upon Global Capitalism with a self-determinism that, at its root, is ultimately a very American, individualistic trait. The 'DIY' ethic is of utmost importance in this highly mediated age because it undermines the very foundation upon which rests the ever-expanding structure of what now appears to be an emerging Global Fascism, which now is being manifest as a complex alliance between governmental, nationalistic interests and Global Capitalism.

The 'crux of the biscuit' (to dissect a metaphor from Frank Zappa) is not the 'what' of Truth; rather, it is the nature of the channels of data and information that we are constantly exposed to; it's the 'how' of Truth: how do we receive a highly constructed and mediated version of reality: how do we formulate our inner conclusions and assumptions concerning the nature of the contemporary world around us: how do we internally filter reality in the context of contemporary culture: how do we see?

What the verasermophobes seem to be concerned with is the possibility that someone might posit an absolutist statement purporting to be Truth Incarnate. It is the very existence of the possibility of Absolute Truth that disturbs them. The irony of the moment is that their opinionated objections to thoughtful musings on the nature of mediation are in themselves the very revelation of that universal close-mindedness that the threat of Universal Mediation points to. It is as if all the discrete lines of communication have been absolutely compromised by a hidden enemy. It is not the Merits of Truth that are under argument, or even whether such conclusions can even possibly be found; rather, it is the means by which interpersonal and social discourse can proceed unhindered that is in jeopardy.

It comes as no mere coincidence that the rise of global mass communications has occurred concurrent with the development of new technologies that enable universal mediation; such forms of mediated discourse are themselves the catalysts and channels of global thought control. Forms of alternative distribution of written thought, such as the mimeograph machine, have been replaced with the personal computer/printer, resulting in little or no real grass-roots socialization. This is ironic, given the potential that access to personal self-publication provides. Cultures that have actually taken to the despised media of the hand-distributed mimeograph are seen to be engaged in real front-lines warfare with the agencies of Global Fascism, whereas more highly mediate cultures despise such simplistic approaches, instead choosing forms of discourse inherently compromised by the very nature of the media chosen.

Hand-in-hand with despised media, such as mimeographed publications, are despised visual media such as pinhole photography and other alternative photographic processes. The power that such alternative media possess has little to do with the commercial nature of the fine art gallery, and has everything to do with unmanipulated visual fact. Rather than being a marketed product of the commercial gallery, pinhole photography should be a media of documentation of, and creative opinion making on, the culture-at-large. Sadly, in many instances it has become merely another tool of post-modern nihilism, rather than a last bastion of unmediated fact. The sad fact is many of pinhole's adherents and proponents have bought into the commercial art-world paradigm, rather than seeing it for what it is: unmediated visual fact.

If it were possible to discern Truth from Non-truth in the realm of the visual arts, pinhole is the one medium capable of doing so. What is not important for the moment is one's version of, or opinion about, truth, but rather the truthfulness of the medium itself; its veracity. And that's the truth.~

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~Joe

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