Visual Residuum: Whatsapp Cinema

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Abstract:

  • This workshop proposes an experiment of minor archaeology with the participants’ personal media devices, in an attempt to discover what kind of visual residuum they might retain. The activity works as a crossover between group therapy session and cinematographic self-performance, in which the public will plug their mobile phones directly to a big screen and navigate their unfiltered content under the gaze of one another. By doing so, we mean to explore the imagery resulting from everyday practices such audiovisual annotation and instant messaging.

    The production of audiovisual media by personal devices has taken an undeniable political and aesthetic magnitude. On the one hand, it became instrumental for the demos that have been sweeping across the world since the beginning of the decade, by allowing for dissident coverage that challenges hegemonic discourse. On the other, it has given rise to manifold photographic practices that take to an extreme the idea of a cámera-stylo. Images are now often used as a means to take and send notes, hyperdocument everyday life, and produce ephemeral self-representations.

    It is tempting to acknowledge these phenomena as a renewal of traditional genres, such as photojournalism and self-portraiture. However, to consider them as mere “versions 2.0” of what was already being done might overshadow the fact that these images exist in a very particular condition within the dynamics of network communication. They are not made as visual totalities to be contemplated or interpreted autonomously.

    Rather, they are a collateral effect of our increasingly mediated social interactions: mothers wishing a good day; friends showing where they are; a love interest suggesting a date.

    In this context, pictures seem no longer to be performed as objects of memory but rather as fleeting speech acts, utterances delivered by instant messaging applications such as Whatsapp and Snapchat. Most of them are made to be forgotten, and indeed they are. Nonetheless, many remain carelessly stored on our mobile phones. Long after they have lost all original meaning, they might still be there, taking space among our family pictures: the noise of bare life piling over the decisive moments we have chosen to collect from it. These residual images are rarely made public; when they come to surface, it’s often due to an accident, the medial analogue of a Freudian slip.

    This workshop means to dive into this collective unconscious of contemporary visual culture. The organizer will work alongside the public in order to bring forth the construction of History and identity that takes place within their mobile archives, beyond the scrutiny of social media platforms. By the means of dialogue, we will try and make sense of these fortuitous collections, sharing what was not meant to be shared in the first play. On the way, we hope to spot the neglected aesthetics of photography as a means of sharing experiences.

    Details on how the participants should prepare and what to bring

    The participants should bring their smartphones / mobile media devices and come prepared to explore these devices’ audiovisual content. If they have any special AV adapters for their phones, it would be helpful if they could bring these as well.

    Participant background/profession/prior knowledge/age

    The workshop is meant for the general public. The target audience can be anyone who uses mobile instant messengers and/or is interested in multimedia social networking. Particularly, the activity will interest media students, academics, and professionals.