New York/Truth

Eons ago — about 10 years — when George Bush was president, I wrote with dismay about how reality was becoming more and more a relative concept, untethered from facts, infinitely malleable. I quoted a Bush administration aide who said:

”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

This was was from Time magazine, which still exists, despite the vast dispersion of the media across the internet in an information space that freely mixes social media and journalism, where rumor and fake news compete — and oftentimes win — over factually based reporting and observation.

Last week Time’s cover features only the text Is Truth Dead? This is where we are now. A dangerous con man was elected president on a wave of lies, disinformation, and willful ignorance. We are in big trouble.

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about photography and its relationship to truth and  reality. You hear a lot about how Photoshop has undermined the credibility of the image. You hear terms like “post factual.” There are deeply mind numbing discussions about semiotics and the indeterminate nature of meaning — and truth. These themes make wonderful parlor discussions, and graduate school theses.

They are irrelevant right now. We are in an emergency. We need to employ words and images as we understand them — to drill down to what is essential and knowable in practical terms.

I’m sick to death of hearing things from
Uptight short sided narrow minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic psychotic pigheaded politicians
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth

— John Lennon

UPDATE:

Case in point. I just received an email from a photography organization in the Netherlands promoting their next exhibition, Simulacrum. The basic premise of the show is that reality and manufactured reality are becoming indistinguishable. This is hardly an original concept — a curatorial container for a bunch of artists using technology to create alternative realities. I am not interested in this. I am interested in what artists have to say concretely and coherently — including those who make use of new technology. When we get waylaid by aesthetic and philosophical strategies that purposely blur the difference between truth and untruth in images and language, we run the risk of becoming complicit with the shape shifters and charlatans who seek dominance of our institutions and who currently occupy the White House in Washington, D.C.

Get real!

http://www.noorderlicht.com/en/photogallery/expected/

Simulacrum
What is real, what is artificial? The border between the two is beginning to fade. In the visual language of the advertising industry, the border between real photography and digitally calculated models is almost indistinguishable…  It’s becoming somewhat of a challenge to distinguish between images that represent reality and images that depict reality. This theme lies at the heart of the exhibition: a Simulacrum stands for a simulation that takes the place of the reality it stems from.

 

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