Svetlana Boym, “Off-Modern Manifesto”
Roberto Greco
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“1. A Margin of Error

“It’s not my fault. Communication error has occurred,” my computer pleads with me in a voice of lady Victoria. First it excuses itself, then urges me to pay attention, to check my connections, to follow the instructions carefully. I don’t. I pull the paper out of the printer prematurely, shattering the image, leaving its out takes, stripes of transience, inkblots and traces of my hands on the professional glossy surface. Once the disoriented computer spat out a warning across the image “Do Not Copy,” an involuntary water mark that emerged from the depth of its disturbed memory. The communication error makes each print unrepeatable and unpredictable. I collect the computer errors. An error has an aura.

To err is human, says a Roman proverb. In the advanced technological lingo the space of humanity itself is relegated to the margin of error. Technology, we are told, is wholly trustworthy, were it not for the human factor. We seem to have gone full circle: to be human means to err. Yet, this margin of error is our margin of freedom. It’s a choice beyond the multiple choices programmed for us, an interaction excluded from computerized interactivity. The error is a chance encounter between us and the machines in which we surprise each other. The art of computer erring is neither high tech nor low tech. Rather it’s broken-tech. It cheats both on technological progress and on technological obsolescence. And any amateur artist can afford it. Art’s new technology is a broken technology.

Or shall we call it dysfunctional, erratic, nostalgic? Nostalgia is a longing for home that no longer exists or most likely, has never existed. That non-existent home is akin to an ideal communal apartment where art and technology co-habited like friendly neighbours or cousins. Techne, after all, once referred to arts, crafts and techniques. Both art and technology were imagined as the forms of human prosthesis, the missing limbs, imaginary or physical extensions of the human space.”

  1. Short Shadows, Endless Surfaces

Broken-tech art is an art of short shadows. It turns our attention to the surfaces, rims and thresholds. From my ten years of travels I have accumulated hundreds of photographs of windows, doors, facades, back yards, fences, arches and sunsets in different cities all stored in plastic bags under my desk. I re-photograph the old snapshots with my digital camera and the sun of the other time and the other place cast new shadows upon their once glossy surfaces with stains of the lemon tea and fingerprints of indifferent friends. I try not to use the preprogrammed special effects of Photoshop; not because I believe in authenticity of craftsmanship, but because I equally distrust the conspiratorial belief in the universal simulation. I wish to learn from my own mistakes, let myself err. I carry the pictures into new physical environments, inhabit them again, occasionally deviating from the rules of light exposure and focus.

At the same time I look for the ready-mades in the outside world, “natural” collages and ambiguous double exposures. My most misleading images are often “straight photographs.” Nobody takes them for what they are, for we are burdened with an afterimage of suspicion.

Until recently we preserved a naive faith in photographic witnessing. We trusted the pictures to capture what Roland Barthes called “the being there” of things. For better or for worse, we no longer do. Now images appear to us as always already altered, a few pixels missing here and there, erased by some conspiratorial invisible hand. Moreover, we no longer analyse these mystifying images but resign to their pampering hypnosis. Broken- tech art reveals the degrees of our self-pixelization, lays bare hypnotic effects of our cynical reason.

  1. Errands, Transits.

  1. A Critic, an Amateur

If in the 1980s artists dreamed of becoming their own curators and borrowed from the theorists, now the theorists dream of becoming artists. Disappointed with their own disciplinary specialization, they immigrate into each other’s territory. The lateral move again. Neither backwards nor forwards, but sideways. Amateur’s out takes are no longer excluded but placed side-by-side with the non-out takes. I don’t know what to call them anymore, for there is little agreement these days on what these non-out takes are.

But the amateur’s errands continue. An amateur, as Barthes understood it, is the one who constantly unlearns and loves, not possessively, but tenderly, inconstantly, desperately. Grateful for every transient epiphany, an amateur is not greedy.”

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