Reading Digital Art in the Age of Double-Coding


Session Title:

  • Theories of New Media and Society

Presentation Title:

  • Reading Digital Art in the Age of Double-Coding




  • Abstract (long paper)

    Against the background of the collapsed dichotomy between high and low culture as well as the concept of postmodern double-coding (allowing surface and in-depth perceptions to occur simultaneously), the essay offers a close reading of a classical example of digital art: Der Zerseher (Iconoclast) by Joachim Sauter and Dirk Lüsebrink (1992), an interactive installation where viewers (observed by hidden eye trackers) deconstruct a painting (presented on a screen) by looking at it. Beyond the facile claim that the work reverses the power hierarchy between painter and onlooker, the essay discusses the irony that (if we understand perception as an autobiographical act) the image cannot be de-viewed on a semantic level if it deconstructed on a physical one. The essay finally reveals the artwork as a commentary on art history and connects it to aesthetic discussions about the end of interpretation and the culture of presence. Against the prevalence of technique over content and meaning often in place in digital artworks, the essay ends with a call for an “erotics” of interpretation.

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