Alternate Realities PDF
Written by Alejandro Malo   

 

Reality is no longer what it used to be and for some time now, it has ceased to be the way it is portrayed. Throughout the last century, the belief that matter and reality shared a precise correspondence crumbled as it was attacked on various fronts. First physics put us face to face with the relativity of time and space, then the social sciences showed us that language determines the way we construct our perception of the world, and in the final decades, technology has been enveloping us in spheres where virtuality in many ways seems to be more immediate and in different senses more real than the material presence of that same entity that is represented. An example of this is the friend on the other side of the world with whom we can speak through a social network or a videoconference, and it seems much more real than our neighbor, with whom we will probably never exchange even a good morning.

 

However, although since the time of rock painting, human beings perceived and communicated reality more as something feared or desired, and not from a materiality that is always incomplete and illusive, photography continues to evoke the expectation of objectivity. At the same time it allows it to occupy a privileged place as a result of its verisimilitude, it subjects it to particularly harsh demands concerning its capacity for representation. But what happens when that same reality is constructed, just as nowadays, more as a territory of shared subjectivities? How can this everyday virtuality of ours be captured in images in which each evocation allows us to go back over the disturbing mysteries and surprises of childhood, each scene tells us some fantasy charged with symbols, but whose moral goes beyond us, and each corner opens doors to improbable, if not impossible, landscapes?

 

 

The two ways of life

Fading Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost since its origin, the language of photography has been served by highly diverse resources to allow for the representation of these particular corners. Since Óscar Gustav Rejlander constructed his allegory “The Two Ways of Life” (1857) with more than thirty negatives, Henry Peach Robinson presented his image of “Fading Away” (1858), also the result of multiple negatives, and several photographers developed the system suggested by Hippolyte Bayard (1852) of using negatives with different exposures for landscapes, photos ceased to be the testimonial result of what the lens had captured in front of the camera. If we add to this the exercises of staging that these same creators carried out and the work of women in the following decade such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Lady Clementina Hawarden, it is easy to understand this long tradition in which the image creates imagination and our everyday referents are mixed, thanks to each new technology, in illusive scenes, frame by frame, of some story, or where dreams assume an almost tangible materiality.

 

Lady Clementina Hawarden

 

Just now, our daily life is saturated with “hard” data from all corners of the world, each time a tragedy shakes our monitors and at each moment when we are trapped between the vertigo of ongoing novelty and the immense magnitude of the happenings in the world. Just now, but perhaps as many times before, it becomes equally important to return our gaze to these alternate realities that open up a space of fantasy to us and invite us to imagine.

 

I don’t know, maybe I’m trying to convince myself that imagining together with others is a way of building a future for everyone. And also, why not, I like to think that this is an invitation to imagine, from the perspective of photography, a more dynamic, more open space that reinvents itself and that with enthusiasm extends itself, with new energy into this young century whose technology continues to make progress in leaps and bounds.

 


 

Comments (3)
  • Anonymous  - Society of the Spectacle
    The following is from "Society of the Spectacle" by Guy Debord, published in 1967.

    In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.
    The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be reestablished. Reality considered partially unfolds, in its own general unity, as a pseudo-world apart, an object of mere contemplation. The specialization of images of the world is completed in the world of the autonomous image... The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living.
    The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as instrument of unification. As a part of society it is specifically the sector which concentrates all gazing and all consciousness. Due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is the common ground of the deceived gaze and of false consciousness, and the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of generalized separation.
    The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.
    The spectacle cannot be understood as an abuse of the world of vision, as a product of the techniques of mass dissemination of images. It is, rather, a Weltanschauung which has become actual, materially translated. It is a world vision which has become objectified.
    The spectacle grasped in its totality is both the result and the project of the existing mode of production. It is not a supplement to the real world, an additional decoration. It is the heart of the unrealism of the real society. In all its specific forms, as information or propaganda, as advertisement or direct entertainment consumption, the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life. It is the omnipresent affirmation of the choice already made in production and its corollary consumption. The spectacle's form and content are identically the total justification of the existing system's conditions and goals. The spectacle is also the permanent presence of this justification, since it occupies the main part of the time lived outside of modern production.
    Separation is itself part of the unity of the world, of the global social praxis split up into reality and image. The social practice which the autonomous spectacle confronts is also the real totality which contains the spectacle. But the split within this totality mutilates it to the point of making the spectacle appear as its goal. The language of the spectacle consists of signs of the ruling production, which at the same time are the ultimate goal of this production.
    One cannot abstractly contrast the spectacle to actual social activity: such a division is itself divided. The spectacle which inverts the real is in fact produced. Lived reality is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle while simultaneously absorbing the spectacular order, giving it positive cohesiveness. Objective reality is present on both sides. Every notion fixed this way has no other basis than its passage into the opposite: reality rises up within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real. This reciprocal alienation is the essence and the support of the existing society.
    In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false.
    The concept of spectacle unifies and explains a great diversity of apparent phenomena. The diversity and the contrasts are appearances of a socially organized appearance, the general truth of which must itself be recognized. Considered in its own terms, the spectacle is affirmation of appearance and affirmation of all human life, namely social life, as mere appearance. But the critique which reaches the truth of the spectacle exposes it as the visible negation of life, as a negation of life which has become visible.
    To describe the spectacle, its formation, its functions and the forces which tend to dissolve it, one must artificially distinguish certain inseparable elements. When analyzing the spectacle one speaks, to some extent, the language of the spectacular itself in the sense that one moves through the methodological terrain of the very society which expresses itself in the spectacle. But the spectacle is nothing other than the sense of the total practice of a social-economic formation, its use of time. It is the historical movement in which we are caught.
    The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than "that which appears is good, that which is good appears. The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly of appearance.
    The basically tautological character of the spectacle flows from the simple fact that its means are simultaneously its ends. It is the sun which never sets over the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire surface of the world and bathes endlessly in its own glory.
    The society which rests on modern industry is not accidentally or superficially spectacular, it is fundamentally spectaclist. In the spectacle, which is the image of the ruling economy, the goal is nothing, development everything. The spectacle aims at nothing other than itself.
    As the indispensable decoration of the objects produced today, as the general exposé of the rationality of the system, as the advanced economic sector which directly shapes a growing multitude of image-objects, the spectacle is the main production of present-day society.
  • Anonymous  - A reality is out there, but what is it?
    We are essentially self-aware, biochemical, neural networks. The reality that we think we see "out there" is actually a construct in our mind and is based on the sensations that our various sensory nerves send it. We probably would not know about photons if we could not see. A color that a color blind person can not see does not exist for them. Define the color blue to a blind person so that they see in their minds eye exactly what you see in yours.
  • Iván Camacho Anguiano
    Tan objetiva es una foto en blanco y negro como una foto en color y como una radiografía. Pero nuestro aparato sensorial condiciona nuestra percepción del mundo y determina las pautas en las que ésta es posible. El mundo percibido; es decir, nuestra percepción del mundo, es la consecuencia de al menos dos factores: nuestro aparato sensorial y el mundo exterior. Lo que pensemos y digamos del mundo no depende sólo de él, sino también de nuestro sistema conceptual, que selecciona, condiciona y determina los aspectos del mundo que tenemos en cuenta, en los que pensamos y de los que hablamos.

    Para el sentido común, un enunciado es verdadero cuando corresponde con la realidad. Pero esta realidad está estrechamente ligada con los sentidos, ya sea haciendo uso directo de ellos o magnificándolos por medio de instrumentos. Se trata, pues, de una realidad sensorial, construida a partir de hechos y observaciones pero, estos hechos son realmente interpretaciones de nuestras observaciones y percepciones sensoriales, no son los hechos en sí mismos. Así, una de las evidencias más grandes proporcionadas por nuestros sentidos, que el Sol sale y se mete, es falsa. O más exactamente dicho, tiene 500 años de ser falsa. Antes de eso, el movimiento solar, además de evidente, fue una verdad demostrada por grandes astrónomos y filósofos. Las verdades científicas son siempre temporales, provisionales. Por eso, más que un saber puntual o específico, nos interesa la forma en que se llegó a él. Nos interesa más la ciencia como manera de pensar, que como cuerpo de conocimiento.

    La ciencia como forma de pensamiento, como modelo que guía los actos, es un sistema que, como todos los sistemas y modelos creados por el hombre, tiene sus limitaciones. Es indispensable marcar las limitaciones y tenerlas claras antes de proceder a realizar cualquier investigación científica; de este modo sabremos que sólo podemos aspirar a aclarar una parcela delimitada de conocimiento. El conocimiento científico, en su conjunto, será siempre un conocimiento asintótico del universo: podremos acercarnos tanto que creamos que sabemos todo, pero siempre habrá una posibilidad de que venga un nuevo conocimiento que haga obsoleto a todo conocimiento anterior al mismo.

    Actualmente sabemos que sólo podemos estar seguros de que algo es falso, nunca de que algo es verdadero. Tanto Goedel , en la prueba matemática , como Popper en lo que respecta a la prueba científica, han demostrado que no hay sistema lógico o científico que soporte todas las contrastaciones. Esto significa, por un lado, que no existe conocimiento absoluto: todo saber es relativo, sectorial, delimitado, provisional; y por otro, que esta provisionalidad hace que la ciencia sea ágil y adaptable, siempre a la busca de nuevos saberes que complementen lo que ya conocemos del universo.

    Dice Feyerabend que “no existe ninguna idea, por antigua y absurda que sea, que no pueda mejorar el conocimiento. Toda la historia del pensamiento está subsumida en la ciencia y se usa para mejorar cada teoría particular.” Así, completaremos nuestro trabajo con un acercamiento a las corrientes intelectuales que proponen que realmente no existe un único método científico; o, al menos, que no tiene la rigidez que algunos pretenden sino, al contrario, hace gala de flexibilidad y trasgresiones a sí mismo. Echaremos también un vistazo a la ciencia del futuro, sus posibles formas y lo que esto traería como consecuencia.

    ¿Objetividad? ¿Qué tal "intersubjetividad"?

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