Today’s News

            An article appeared today that generates a lot of speculative questions relevant in an odd way to understanding the aesthetics of visual culture after the end of art. In the “good ole days” it may have been considered as a human interest story. Currently it finds itself as a political news item. Waitress Offers Tip: Trackers Go Away written by Jessica Wehrman appears in the January 8 Columbus Dispatch. While serving lunch to one of the US senators from Ohio, a waitress noticed a man surreptitiously filming the senator as he dined. She tossed him out but he returned through an employee’s side entrance and once again continued filming using his phone (I guess “videoing” would be more accurate, yet this was totally digital, stored nowhere but rather only transferred in code). She confronted him, threatening to call police. In his haste to exit through the door, the waitress suffered an injury.

            Politics as usual. In this day and age of super pacs and lobbies (having the full constitutional rights of any individual citizen), trackers are equal opportunity muck rakers (or rather muck providers). They supply the data necessary for all those ads created in such bad taste. The amended US constitution guarantees the right to publish those ads. What’s questionable about that? No news there. Paparazzi have been sticking cameras in celebrities’ faces for as long as there has been dirt to be dug. Where’s the slant on the aesthetics of visual culture after the end of art?

            Speculate for an instant. Let your imagination roam. Just say that somehow something like this found itself before the US Supreme Court. Clear enough that one can pretty much disseminate just about anything, short of what could be deemed libelous or seditious. But this wasn’t a matter of publishing or distributing. The tracker was utilizing his hand held communication device to produce something, eventually to be reproduced. Consummate contortionist skills would still leave the strict constitutionalists looking like pretzels. Reproductive technologies during the time of the Constitution’s signing were all about printed (and disseminated) text and imagery. Producing the image was much as producing the word. Both originated from the pen of an author. Anecdotal accounts about the life drawing studio art pedagogy of Ingres had it that his students were required to study the live figure model on one floor, then had to go up to the studio on the next floor to draw what they had seen. In short, no recording devices were extensively employed at the time of our nation’s founders. The legalities of all this may be considered obtuse by legal scholars. But for students of visual culture, it is fascinating to grasp the distinction between the reliance on hand and memory with regard the art (and culture) of 200 years ago and the present emphasis on the utilization of reproductive technologies without any reliance on memory, let alone dexterity.  The intricacies (and distinctions in definition) of such cultural designations as space, person, or boundary become readily apparent without ever having to enter into any theoretical discourse.

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