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IMAGE as LOCATION Revisited: The Conference

The Berkeley Center for New Media was thrilled to partner with Books in Browers, the Cultural Services of the French Consulate, Goethe-Institut San Francisco, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, and swissnex San Francisco to produce Image as Location, a Bay area festival exploring people, places, and images. Featuring artist exhibits at Gray Area and swissnex, a remixing competition with winners shown at the Goethe-Institut, and a one day conference drawing together the incredible array of international experts in this field, Image as Location was a nexus for critical discussions on how images shape our understanding of our environment by allowing us to access the inaccessible.

From BCNM Director, Greg Niemeyer:

Peter Brantley marked the image as a location of a story, and Emmanuel Alloa showed how the image is at the threshold of location. Xavier Lucchesi revealed inner landscapes of the body, striking a tense chord between intimacy and disembodiment. Kristen Lucas and Joe McKay celebrated embodiment through the joy of ilinx (dizziness) with their resolutely physical and freely rolling Tablet Tumbler.

The construction photos of Pelican Bay that Monica Lam used to open her talk on journalism in inaccessible locations reminded me of Donald Judd sculptures from Alloa’s talk, and her closing comment about a Supermax prison inmate who has not seen the moon in 16 years reminded me what a profound joy it is to be able to see and access the world freely, if we chose to look.

Steven Johnson followed with a bright account of successful innovations, and left me wondering if “blitzlicht” really did eradicate poverty and if air conditioning was overall a great idea or an invention that exacerbates the very issue it was supposed to relieve by way of power, coal and global warming.

Michael Naimark followed Johnson’s elegant presentation with a complex and thoughtful approach to visual innovation from his magical and radical “Dislocations” to the immersive isolation of the Oculus Rift. The question of image as document or escape, liberator or oppressor was whimsically picked up by Regula Bochsler‘s trip to the surreal world of Apple Maps in flyover mode, and the deeper point she left us with is that those who control maps control the way we find our way. Never disoriented, Jérôme Delormas presented us with a stunning account of “Gaîté Lyrique” where he reappropriates the corporate digital imaginary for civic purposes.

Kristen Whissel illuminated the film “Gravity” with a rich analysis of the orbital disaster as a metaphor for unmoored consumers fighting for more grounded selves. Her images of space and capsule brought back to mind the images of prison and the invisible moon over Pelican Bay from Monica’s talk.

Drawing on his profound experience in New Media scholarship and archives, Oliver Grau urged museums to preserve new media art, because new media art provides a cultural context for the profound shifts that information technologies trigger in many communities.

Elizabeth Kessler heroically gave the last lecture of what turned out to be a great day. She discussed two types of images, the ones we sent to places we can never reach in person with Voyager 1 and 2, and the ones we pry from the sky with the Hubble telescope and its image correction pipeline. Extending both the political momentum of Whissel’s talk and Alloa’s philosophical claim of the “atopic nature of the image” at the beginning of the day with her juxtaposition of the “Pillars of Creation” Nebula and the Manifest Destiny paintings of Thomas Moran, Kessler completed the question of “Image as Location” with the notion that the atopic power of an image can help us claim a space we are not in.

In this way, the many suppositions, delusions and cover ups of our image-warped worlds become a matter of taste, thought and choice, rather than options in the effects menu, and a liberation. BCNM thanks both the speakers and conference participants for enriching us with vital new thoughts about the state of the image as a screen, revealing some things and obscuring others, masking presence with abstraction, and claiming spaces we never can reach. The [day] illuminated the vital importance of discerning image and location.

Check out the photos below:

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