Emergence of a term, prehistory
My research in the context of my dissertation began in 2011 and referred primarily to the photo art originating between 1990 and 2015. I noted the sequence of technical innovations in the field of photography (starting with Photoshop 1.0) in a time bar and assigned them chronologically to the successful photo art. The extent to which the photo art market profited from the respective latest technical innovation is immediately apparent, although it is hardly “photographs” in the traditional sense that are shown here, but instead digital photo graphics, meaning computer graphics, which are retroactively digitally (lat. digitus = finger) processed by hand. The initial material is thereby no longer of necessity recorded by the artists themselves. The artistic creators instead increasingly tend to use extraneous material, such as found images from existing archives.
This “euphoric phase of digitalisation” reached its zenith in 2007 with the sale of millions of large-format specimens of photo art on the art market and in the major art auctions. However, the mood seemed to sour simultaneously. Advertising also increasingly presents itself digitally for cost reasons. It is becoming increasingly difficult to survive as a professional photographer. The images in the advertising campaigns are collaged together by post-production people, thus demoting photographers to suppliers of material; the photographer as chronicler and author, and the individual portfolio appear to be drowning in a sea of digitally distributed photos offered for use. The first arrests of whistle-blowers took place with the founding of the whistle-blowing Internet platform Wikileaks, which publishes documents and information on the unethical behaviour of governments and companies.
In my research work, I consciously explored the negative trends of this phase, including as motivation for an introduction to the subsequent, new development phase: the post-digital phase, a phase of critical reflection on the present and on current art following the “Post-Snowden Afterglow” (transmediale 2014). Important here was to proclaim the end of the “euphoric phase of digitalisation” and to provide an alert artistic analysis, meant to contribute to hindering the simple continuation of the to date more or less uncritically accompanied large-format photo art.
Here, I initially referred in my critique to works from the cultural sphere that were familiar to me. I saw myself as being manipulated by certain works, on the one hand by their inadequate labelling and insufficient explanation of the artistic strategy, as well as by their affiliation with the aesthetic of advertising. I was interested in differentiating art from propaganda because I experienced myself as emotionally and cognitively entangled in my own work in the various segments of image production. At the start of my studies, I learned how to perform the initial functions enabled by Photoshop 1.0 and was able to finance myself at an early date with image processing orders and continue with my independent artistic work. Taking photographs, exhibiting, researching, writing, as well as visiting art exhibitions and festivals.
In my dissertation, I explained the origin of the term “post-digital” and its significance for new artistic strategies and discussed this with examples with reference to photography. At the same time, various authors of Kunstforum International examined the term in two volumes: “Postdigital 1” (vol. 242, 2016) and “Postdigital 2” (vol. 243, 2016).
“In the discourse of contemporary art, ‘post-digital’ is increasingly establishing itself as an umbrella term for any art that reflects today’s information technology-industrial-political complexes and regimes in any way. ‘Post-digital’ thus also becomes an umbrella term of genre designations like ‘post-Internet’.1 (Florian Cramer)
1 Cramer, Florian: Nach dem Koitus oder nach dem Tod? Zur Begriffsverwirrung von „postdigital“, „Post-Internet“ und „Post-Media“, Kunstforum volume 242 “Postdigital 1”, 2016, page 54