Hito Steyerl “In Defense of the Poor Image” collected in The Wretched of the Screen from e-flux journal #10 11/2009. She leads us to recognize a tension in the distribution systems at play.
The circulation of poor images feeds into both capitalist media assembly lines and alternative audiovisual economies.
She earlier in the piece distinguishes between screenings and previews and in doing so contrasts intensity with contemplation. One is almost captured by the enumeration but something sticks if you slow down the reading.
On the one hand, it [the poor image] operates against the fetish value of high resolution. On the other hand, this is precisely why it also ends up being perfectly integrated into an information capitalism thriving on compressed attention spans, on impression rather than immersion, on intensity rather than contemplation, on previews rather than screenings.
Circulations to and by the many. Consumption by crowds. Although operating under the label “poor” we are far away from the notion of “encounter” found in Grotowski Towards a Poor Theatre.
Poor images are thus popular images—images that can be made and seen by the many. They express all the contradictions of the contemporary crowd: its opportunism, narcissism, desire for autonomy and creation, its inability to focus or make up its mind, its constant readiness for transgression and simultaneous submission.* Altogether, poor images present a snapshot of the affective condition of the crowd, its neurosis, paranoia, and fear, as well as its craving for intensity, fun, and distraction. The condition of the images speaks not only of countless transfers and reformattings, but also of the countless people who cared enough about them to convert them over and over again, to add subtitles, reedit, or upload them.
*See Paolo Virno, A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life, trans. Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito, and Andrea Casson (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004).
It’s the footnote on “multitude” that sends me off to read more and think more about le travail de l’image.
And so for day 1508