The Synthetic Image


How to Cite

Dziekan, V. (2002). The Synthetic Image: Links. M/C Journal, 5(4).
Vol. 5 No. 4 (2002): Loop
Published 2002-08-01

Author's Note: The Theme of the Loop: Image, Exhibition and Networkability
In his contribution to the anthology, The Digital Dialectic, George P. Landow inventories a set of characteristics that define digital media. These defining traits result from a hybrid mixture of ideas relating hypertext writing to the visual language of collage. Included in this list is the quality of "networkability".1 It is through reading into this particular element that I will focus on the character of the digital image itself as multi-dimensional and how, by extension, this enmeshes notions of the image within a wider network of relations; of image to the imaginary, of vision to visuality, and of artwork to exhibition.

Underpinning this text will be my curatorial "projection"2—using the term as it is articulated by Ron Burnett as an active, interpenetration of the processes of vision, representation, technology and the imagination—of the digital image culminating in the exhibition, The Synthetic Image.3 The exhibition presents the work of thirteen artists working within the vectors that define imaging practices informed by new technologies. Exploring the relationship between the real and the virtual, the selected artists and artworks exemplify the crossover between a variety of digital and interactive media informed by other artistic traditions and individual positions on the role of the image in representing, simulating or creating realities.

The perspective of this project views the relationship between digital technologies and the image as a synthetic one. Recognizing the ability to double and fold in the malleability of the material from which the digital image is composed, the dichotomy of inside and outside collapses. Instead of conceiving, visualizing pixels as a solid, impenetrable grid, I've tried, rather, to recognize in this resulting surface the qualities of a fabric, as a mesh of interpenetrating, weaving fibres. Instead of the content of the image being contained in the "solid" pixels, it is implied in the "threads" of the screen holding together the field of relationships, looping like a closed electrical or magnetic circuit. The vectors of relationship bound the "empty" image; fastening, holding together and forming the picture.

In many ways my approach to this topic (as artist, curator and, in this immediate guise, as author) finds expression in the term "synthesis" defined as a "rhythmic coexistence of radically heterogenous and temporally dispersed elements".4 The virtuality of this thing called an "exhibition" is approached as a narrative space; a fluid, complex epistemological environment. The curatorial role makes evident the subtext of diverse strands connecting respective works and artists and collects them in the space of the gallery in an attempt to draw them into the "loop."

The exhibition/ installation operates by gathering together disparate components into what is as much a "context" as a physical and spatial realization. The choice and arrangement of artworks, displayed as printed images or encountered as fleeting emanations of light, creates channels of communication where meaning is more than implied, and can be likened to the type of referentiality associated with that of the image produced by projection and the apparatus of the projector itself. Considered in this way, even static images, fixed into pigment on paper, operate luminously, acting like beacons which together form a constellation of points creating lines of force, motion, influence and meaning; the exhibition itself is a loop structure which enfolds and encircles its incorporated range of (inter, hyper, meta and para) textual components.

The writing also parallels a similarly conceived and structured trajectory towards the metaphor of the loop. At its inception, I developed a graphic visualization of the textual content of this text, meditating upon the interrelationships of the synthetic qualities of the image fused with a mapping of theoretical positionings and the example provided through the exhibition itself. This diagram of sorts resulted in a narrative structure which collects the various themes (mesh, weave, wire frame, map, moire and screen) within the text's centrifugal sweep, overlapping with the artists' works comprising the exhibition, and made possible by the navigation structure realized by Leon Meyer. In exploring the formal possibilities offered by hypertext, multiple vantage points and intersections result from the folding and overlapping of image and text. As with crumpling the written page into a ball,5 synthetic qualities are realized.

Enter "The Synthetic Image".

To view this hypertextual essay, you will need to download the latest version of Macromedia Shockwave.


Author Biography

Vince Dziekan