Hanz Au Lok Hang; Diana Morena Buser; Karen Hau Ka Lam; Allison Hun Yun; Linda Lai; Chung Lee Kai; Jelena Pavlovic; Thomas Schärer; Katarina Stefanovic; Birk Weiberg; Joanna-Yulia Wierig; Winnie Yan Wai Yin
The increasing ubiquity of live video feeds from all parts of the world has a similar effect as the legendary Blue Marble photo, which NASA produced and distributed in 1972. In both cases one’s immediate perception of the world is challenged by images that suggest different scales. But while the orbital view has remained a privileged one, the possibility to see in full color, motion and real time what is happening at the other end of the world has become available for everyone who is equipped with a computer or smart phone and has access to the Internet. Satellite transmissions of foreign correspondents on television used original backgrounds to attest themselves credibility. And the fact that these sites were often added by technical means changed little about this. Today live video has turned into a casual add-on for private conversation over Skype. Google Streetview or Google Earth deliver images of even the remotest parts of our planet. The fastest growing part of the internet are (moving) images. We seem to have access to as much visual information as any generation before. As different international protest movements in the last years have shown, this also has a political dimension because of the affective power and the solidarity, but also the control and misuses that may come with it.
Reflecting Locations is a research project with students from Hong Kong and Zurich that reflects on the ways that such dispositifs shape our understanding and our imagination of places where we have never been. Which mental images do we develop of the “other” (places)? On the basis of which information, projections and imaginations? How are these mental images related to media images we are getting of the physical and historical world? And what are the effects of the confrontation between mental images, media images and a physical presence on the “real” site where images (or in the case of compositing parts of them) have been shot?
Starting points for this inquiry are on the one hand the artistic practices of the participating artists and on the other hand historical trajectories that can offer alternative view on the implicitness on contemporary media practices. One of the relatives here is the genre of ethnographic cinema, which pursues the scholarly method of participant observation of more or less familiar cultures/ethnicities by audiovisual means. This is contrasted with the practice of commercial Hollywood cinema to engage small teams (so called second units) to produce moving backgrounds for studio sets. In the course of second unit practices two locations, two perspectives are merged into a single moving image. The emerging images of “the other” are necessarily projections or collages and not or only partly a result of an involvement with the other. This is exactly what the ethnographic cinema strives for. But also here previously conducted research, assumptions, and scales of values take effects. The filmmakers inscribe themselves through their perspectives, formal decisions, and selections into their images of the other. Both practices of dealing with the other have sustainably informed our visual memories when it comes to the represented places and people and may serve to bring our contemporary forms of audiovisual telepresence into question.