Citizen as artist: daydream or future reality?
Manifesto for aesthetics on small devices. With the technology at our finger tips, where are the artisans of the new digital age? What aesthetic criteria will they be judged by?
This is the age of the usual. We are asked by a conservative government (in 2005) to return to a simpler mind. We are asked to re-evaluate our lives, digitize our experience and qualify our existence. This is the end of the data age and the beginning of the real-y digital age. An age as rich with the data of daily life, as the data of our online purchases. An age where lives are lived on the internet, by documenting our experiences and annotating pieces of it. There is no more mystery to being online, no secret identity to protect. Existence happens both online and off. The internet evolved from 8-bit icons, into real pictures, into moving ones. Digital life looks like real life in 72 dpi and full color.
Each man, now, has their own movie camera. Almost one hundred years from the Man With the Movie Camera (1929) by Dziga Vertov. The film maker recorded the streets of Moscow, highlighting the life of every man. His unique point-of-view provided an artistic voice for people lost in bourgeoisie theater and painting. He translated the streets of Moscow, with help of the new technology— film, into art. His art was reality through the filter of the artist/citizen. He was doing nothing more than re-conceptualizing his global environment. This new era upon us is similar to the technological revolution of his industrial age. Are we creating art as we post our personal knowledge, experiences and photos online. Will artisans of the “Status Revolution” emerge from the data mines?
Seldom are we encouraged to stop and ponder the importance of our own seemingly mundane actions. Art thrives in society by bringing to light those moments of pontification. It thrives by creating outlets to reflect the world. The cell phone can act as mediator in this relationship. The desire to create is often times immediate and the moment fleeting. Artistic creation is sometimes solitary, sometimes collaborative, but all of the times it brings ideas to light. This melting of the minds and lightening of the ego can be achieved by encouraging active daydreams, creating art from the world at large and thinking aesthetically. The daydream project begins with a manifesto— encourage the creation of art with the tools of the modern digital age.
Technology seeks to broaden the minds of the individuals who use it. New marketing trends push towards creating on the, “every-man” level; create, compose, cut and edit. World citizens rich with the ability to perform these tasks aren’t grasping the role of artisan or crafts-person. Still in a society where the ability to make surrounds; few are moving from the role of consumer into the role of producer — although most still retain the role of critic. Along with the tools for creation, is there a similar discourse on the aesthetics of how to create. If everyone can be an artist, why isn’t the world rich with new artists? The ability to record and the ability to create seem to be at odds.
To better understand the manifesto, first we must discuss the nature of photography and videography with mobile devices. The screen size is quite small and the environment intimate. This makes for more personal recording and viewing platform. The resolution is low, on even the best devices. Since portability is of the essence, resolution isn’t important. The creating and viewing platforms are micro in scale. Given this, there must be new ways to discuss the aesthetics of mobile media.
Mobile devices provide quite a few technological barriers that encourage creating new protocols. The frame speed on video (in 2005) is 12 frames per second, which creates more of a flicker effect. The calibration for exposure, white balance and zoom are mostly manual. The videographer has little to manipulate on the camera so an understanding of light and shadow must be expressed. The direction of the light, distance from the subject and the subject itself must all be carefully chosen. Video on a mobile device feels like a step back in time, peering into a quarter zoetrope and watching the images flicker, but with over saturated color.
The content must be considered. Close-ups and micro images work well on a small screen. The user doesn’t want to squint when viewing the clip. People are best pictured with face and torso instead of full body, since the screen doesn’t allow for the wide-screen aspect ratio. Choices of objects that speak to the psyche will make for more meaningful video clips. Color is essential since the saturation on mobile devices is enhanced over resolution. While the surrealists used black and white film because of technological restraints, mobile media should be vivid. If color is eliminated then it must be used to enhance the content.
The cut is created by the user or the recording limits of the device. Typical documentary techniques can’t be used since the device can only hold video clips up to 2 minutes in length. The shots need to be short and full of meaning before switching to the next. Clips will be best viewed on the go, a bit here and a bit there, each time compounding the meaning of the subject. The surrealists in their manifesto encouraged life affirming accidents through the juxtaposition of images. This moving image juxtaposition lead to the typical Hollywood cuts every four seconds. While a good rule of thumb, on mobile devices the length should be longer to allow for the added distraction of the user’s environment.
The mobile device is personal, intimate and a digital extension of the person’s life and consciousness. By this nature the media’s content should be personal. To avoid any lewd references to the adult entertainment industry, personal can encompass the psychology of the relationship between user and viewer. The intimate relationship that occurs when an object is examined on this personal level. It can be the macro focus of ants walking along a sidewalk or leaves being crushed underfoot. The characteristics of the recording devices dictates the subject matter. Small screens and personal size leads the mind to want personal, inspiring and compelling video. If Marshall McLuhan’s “medium is the message,” the message of the mobile device is personal.