Men become accustomed to listening to machines and talking to machines…no more face to face encounters, no more dialogue. In a perpetual monologue by which he escapes the anguish of silence and the inconvenience of neighbors, man finds refuge in the lap of technique, which envelops him in solitude and at the same time reassures him with all its hoaxes.
Jacques Ellul. 1954
For the first time ever, machines mediate human relationships and emotions. Digital microelectronics are bridging the distance between the subject and the object, incorporating the machine into our body and our unconscious.
Depicting technological objects that are pervasive in our daily lives, this series takes a new look at them by breaking away from the servitudes of monocular perspective and manufacturers’ intentions. These images uncover the consciously symbolic, sleek, colorful exterior design in contrast with the grotesque, dirty, inscrutable interior. Their external beauty hides unknown mechanisms of surveillance and control; their inside reveals experiences of suffering and exploitation.
And a bit more of background:
The quote (in italics) above is from Jacques Ellul, a visionary French philosopher who died in 1994 and one of the first who reflected on contemporary technology.
From a content standpoint, the project is a reflection on the new digital/microelectronics impact in our lives. These are images of the new technology that is modifying our subjectivity and our relationship with others (smart phones, iPods, computer games…). When you open one of these machines, their "dark side" becomes obvious: poorly manufactured and impossible to understand how they work. Mechanics have been substituted by microelectronics, that is, by language. But a language that is foreign, inhuman, and this new language is mediating our subjectivity and our relationships. A language that only few master and is "shaping an aristocratic society" as one of the images captions says. Captions are important in this work.
From a formal standpoint, this series continues the ambition of all of my Propositions: breaking with the key traits of traditional photography. In "Art Since 1900" (2004) there is a quote from Rosalind Krauss that says:
“At least for the time being, the traits long associated with photography — monocular perspective, realistic detail and, above all, documentary referentiality — remain natural enough to us so that any digital alteration of these terms still appears disruptive”.
I have taken these three traits as targets for destruction in my work. Proposition Three breaks away from "realistic detail" or, better, transparency and from "monocular perspective". The machines are barely identifiable, there is no focal point, but a sea of shapes. For more thinking about this, read my Personal Statement which discusses, in a controversial way, my views on contemporary art photography and in which the text is as important as the notes at the end.
The technique is a progression from my series, Proposition One. I shoot different layers of each machine, but this time I mix in a single image of different machines to create a much more complex and dense icon. Working with a very restricted color range, I give them a "cyborgian" architectural feeling. For the first time I add layers with simple geometrical shapes, reminiscent of constructivism and the experimental photography of the 20's and 30's.— Max de Esteban