photo essay

Connection and Amplitude

by Mariela Víquez & Pablo Hernández

In this reflection, Mariela and Pablo invite us to consider the inherent paradox of virtual spaces: deepening into them requires us to abstract ourselves from our immediate surroundings.

We live in a curious time, in which, through a diversity of gadgets, devices, interfaces and programs, we create, use and inhabit virtual spaces of communication, at the same time that, with a total absence of certainty, we ignore the nature, origin, character, functioning, efficiency and convenience of the essential mechanisms that are imposed on us by them. This leads to the point where the will seems to be in question, or at least at the center of a great tension. Hence, we do not fully convince ourselves if it is a matter of techniques that we use as instruments for our needs and interests, or if rather we are instrumentalized by the needs and interests that the development of these techniques imposes. What seems to be clear is, precisely, that there is no coincidence between both modes of need and interest. This should be, according to the social sciences, our most general point of departure: how a material and time-space relationship, between subjects and objects, becomes structural, and even super-structural, paying tribute to different modes of need and interest, in a determined framework of power and coexistence. But such a general matter is not what we want to refer to now. Starting from this condition it is possible to detach a reflective line, seemingly more precise: the one that would explore the relationship between amplitude and connection in these virtual spaces of communication.

 

Let's do the mental exercise of carrying out this reflection based on the fact of reading this text and observing the images that accompany it. What we have in our hands is just that: an apparatus, a device, an interface, a set of operating programs. As we look at the images and read the text, the amplitude and connection of our experience becomes paradoxical: our body concentrates on achieving the necessary configuration for an efficient and comfortable relationship with the apparatus and with the respective device; the operations of our mind are synchronized with the rhythms of the corresponding programs involved in the platform we use to see and read, through the specific skills necessary to achieve so; the perceptions, apperceptions and impressions that will shape our sensibility depend on the power of isolation we are capable of in order to abstract ourselves from all the rest of the environmental stimuli and get to concentrate as mere users of a technologically mediated virtual space. That is, in order to achieve, in virtual communication spaces, greater connection and amplitude, a concentration of experience that separates us from our immediate environment is required. Our capacity to see and to read, under these conditions of relationship, unfolds as part of something that we could call, along Vilém Flusser, the subjectivity of the operator.

 

It is thus, inhabiting the subjectivity of the operator, that we see and read. We see and read as operators and we ask ourselves: is this a conquest of greater connection and amplitude for vision and reading? Are we more connected or better connected thanks to the subjectivity of the operator through which the world is revealed to us today? Do we achieve a greater amplitude of our experience of the world through it?

 

As Walter Benjamin had already said at the beginning of the twentieth century, the only way to know if behind an action, a situation, an occurrence or an event, if behind a mere life event there is also an experience, is if it comes to be narrated and communicated as experience, that is, as part of a contextual whole of co-existence in which what one lives can be accumulated as an experience for those who have not lived it, and this thanks exclusively to the intensity of the narrative and communicative form of its mediation. 

 

Therefore, the amplitude of our experience and the connection we reach with the events and facts of the world do not depend on their quantitative character, they are not a matter of quantity. It is not about having more amplitude, for example, using distance to see more or to read more. It is not about increasing the number of connections, for example, adding and gathering more and more things inside the frame to achieve greater intensity of vision, or adding nouns and adjectives between words to achieve a more comprehensive reading. In relation to seeing and reading, the amplitude and connection may lead us to see more closely the detail, the minimum and even the smallest, to insistently and repetitively read the same paragraph, sentence, word and even the signs of punctuation. The amplitude and connection in seeing images and in reading texts depend on the intensity of their components and their resulting composition, they depend on their mediation and performance as a cultural form.

 

As in Mariela Viquez's photographic images, this text, in its own way, aims to be only the insistence on a tension that can lead to paradox. While the virtual spaces of communication are offered and proposed as alternatives of greater and better amplitude and connection, the technologies that support them and the operator's subjectivity that they involve seem to isolate us from the immediate environmental context in which we live to diminish the amplitude and connection of our bodies and sensibilities, maybe even our lives. Sometimes, these paradoxical situations occur in which a moment of great connection and amplitude of consciousness and existence implies a greater isolation from virtual spaces of communication, while, at other times, in order to concentrate much more on a virtually ample connection, we must isolate ourselves from the immediate environment in which we breathe and move.

 

It is not about looking at these photographs and lamenting the solitude, isolation or self-absorption of the contemporary urban subject, it is a matter of thinking about our own visual experience when looking at these photographs as part of the same world in which we find ourselves now. It is, with these photographs, and perhaps also with this text, about giving continuity to what we see and read, better still, between what we see and read, but also to give continuity between our lives and the place we inhabit, the spaces that we surround ourselves with, the bodies we collide with. It is not about looking, as if through a window, at what happens to the distant others while we ourselves, when looking at these photographs, end up being very similar to the photographed persons we look at. Perhaps it is also about something simpler: to ask ourselves the question what will I do with what I have seen and read, what will I do when I leave the device, when I stop acting as the operating subject and return to the real space of existence and cohabitation. These other questions, in the same way as the photographic images with which we operate at this moment, those of Mariela Víquez, are ways of questioning ourselves about the experience. The first step is not to try to abandon them or replace them, nor to face them as essentially pernicious and hostile, as this would suppose a great ingenuity, much less to consider them as mere representations. Every image and every text have as much value for what they represent as for what they make us participate in. The first step is to treat and work them towards a better understanding of the contemporary dimensions of experience, of community and of coexistence, and to ask ourselves before them: what to do?

 

Finally, why should we fear the paradox of the image and the word if it can lead us to reflect with a greater connection and amplitude intensity?

CREDITS

Photography

Mariela Víquez

 

Text

Pablo Hernández

 

Editing

Wimblu

 

Dinamarca & Costa Rica

 

Published in March, 2018

Volume 1, Issue 9

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