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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Processing Pink. How Pink is Pink? Escape the Echo Chamber.

Printed reproduction is not very accurate. That is, if you were to print the same image via a range of domestic printers (using home computing), the accuracy for ‘likeness’ is unreliable, essentially varied.

I tested this. I sent a PDF image of a pink star to a number of friends. My instructions: not to tamper with the image in any way (digitally), but simply print it as ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’. The following picture below shows the range of results. Different sizes, different colours - all printed out onto A4 paper.

Processing Pink (stars) at an art event in Shoreham by Sea (UK)
in 1998.

My main thoughts at the time, and which remain with me, concern our assumption that we all see the same thing, that we all assume that we watch the same image (quality) all at the same time (here I am thinking of digital or analogue moving images on various machines).

What I am getting at is that the collective experience in which we physically see things (especially via technology) is not as straightforward as we think. I wonder if you have ever seen a shop window in which the same TV programme is being broadcast via different tv monitors? The quality of image varies. For whatever reasons I can only surmise, - albeit the nature of the mechanical and physical features of the particular make and model, through to the default settings (perhaps altered) are aiding the variation of the picture quality.

It’s very obvious that we don’t really know what we are accurately seeing physically at the best of times. We are making conclusions and assumptions from our own physiological and cultural persuasions for example, from our adopted checklist of what is concluded as our norm. We make conclusions all the time, and these become our burden as much as our revelation. The ‘buzz word’ at the moment is a term called ‘echo chamber’. This is the means in which we reflect back our own self in the limited spectrum of seeing and hearing things, especially in relation to our use of the internet. ‘We are what we eat’ so to speak. The most alarming point in relationship to echo chambers is that the internet is a binary system of algorithms and cookies (no doubt much more besides) in which it prioritizes what we see and selects material that we ‘log’ and that we ‘visit’. The subtle and hugely dangerous fact is that we are skillfully manipulated in to thinking we are ‘free’ browsing – looking at material in which we are exploring, researching even. Unfortunately this is hugely misleading, as we enter in to a very narrow gaze.

Nonetheless, perhaps we have always been in the echo chamber, and occasionally breaking out (of our thoughts, of our customs). In this regard, I offer a contradictory thought to the one just posited. We always work within a tribe, a group or circle of people we have an affinity with. The trick, perhaps, and one that humans (can) do, is to jettison into new pastures and vary the mix, a little like the gene pool in which we swim, in which we re-engage the variation of ourselves. Every now and then, when we don’t mix well enough, when we are exposed to toxic shock, our DNA and our human condition alters and shifts. Some with tragic and devastation results of course. So the answer is to keep widening and mixing, moving and exploring, stimulating otherness and not locking oneself into the echo chamber of disease. From reading the Daily Mail through to sitting in the same barstool in a pub day in and day out, life restricts our relationship with ourselves, our brains, and ultimately our survival.

My project ‘Processing Pink’ was a reminder as much as a revelation in regards to the above. As a starting point in 1998, and as an artwork and experiment, its aim was to also elicit surprise and not just demonstrate a point. I am always keen to see what happens even when one thinks it will be one sure outcome. I find myself having to strongly remind myself that I have indeed adopted a prejudice mindset, fixed on belief systems etc… I have to explore and push myself into new corridors. I might be wrong, but I think this is the danger as one gets older (I am starting to realise…). 

More updates on further explorations and interventions soon. I'm seriously thinking of joining a flower arranging group just to change my world and my point of view. It's healthy. Escape the echo chamber as a matter of urgency!