The Post-photographic Gesture
Digitization has changed the uses of audio-visual media through the omnipresence and the coincidence of recording, distribution, and playback devices. Smartphones in particular have enabled the constant and ubiquitous production of still and moving images by everyone.
In the age of these manifold prosumers, distinguishing between artists, media professionals, and amateurs might still indicate varying degrees of craftsmanship but no longer defines the inherent technical or aesthetic quality of the results or the likely size of an audience. Furthermore, smartphones have become universal machines that have long since surpassed their primary function. The audio-visual content of these universal machines is not only characterized by fluctuating borders but has also altered social functions due to the multiplication of still or moving images in everyday communication and an apparent need for shared experiences. The digital image is no longer primarily understood as a document and artefact; instead, it shifts from reminder to communication aid and from shared memory to shared experience. Smartphone photographs approach the spoken or written word in their function and are increasingly used as a message to demonstrate affection or generate togetherness. Camera-based images as a former medium of proof with a capacity of remembrance have turned into a medium of instant, ‘acute’ communication, the mediation of experiences and the ritualized stabilization of social relationships. The photograph becomes a medium of symbolically generalized communication, which not only enables follow-up communication but, by virtue of its ubiquity, demands it.
This subproject assumes that photography has a particular status as a paradigmatic medial form whose specific mode of presentation and interaction remains stable across media; a mode termed a post-photographic ‘gesture’. Unlike the photographic ‘act’ of Dubois, which describes a gesture limited to the pictorial gaze, it involves momentariness and division of experiences in which the ‘performance of the self’ is but one of many. Also in the progressive dissolution of diversified media categories through aesthetic, technical, and economic adjustment processes, the gesture thus understood remains a stable symbolic suggestion for the production of meaning. The thesis of this subproject is the following: photography forms a central medium of social action whose aesthetics and practices are inscribed in other technical image media in the form of post-photographic gestures, particularly evident in the ritualized use of the smartphone as a universal machine.