Persistence of Vision

Rod Slemmons

After nearly twenty years of exponentially widening availability digital imaging technologies, fueled by thousands of university computer art courses, it is interesting that the technology, in the hands of serious artists, has so quickly become transparent. Those that have incorporated its possibilities compelling and imaginative ways, have generally continued the explorations of appropriation and collage begun in the first third of the 20th century by artists like Kurt Schwitters, Paul Citroen, Hannah Hoch, and John Heartfield, and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. Aesthetic breakthroughs and poetic invention, as usual, occur in slow, steady steps, much more related to world events like war and economic depression than to improvements in the technology or process of picture making.

When digital technologies hit the photographic world, a very high percentage of artists who use photography were trapped in teaching jobs in universities. Because they couldn't get away easily, they had to find more interesting ways to photograph instead of more interesting things to photograph. What appeared at first to be a limitation ultimately resulted in an exponentially expanded field of photographic practice. There was a renewed interest in mass media as subject, and perhaps related to this, autobiographical modes based on a new self consciousness about being a visual artist in world blanket bombed by imagery.

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