|The artifact dematerializes from the discrete physical object to the veritably infinite and fuzzy-formed set of memetic iterations.|
On the Artifact:
Herein, “artifact” refers to the leftover, the by-product of some human activity. We might call that activity “the creation of art”, but we may as well not, and call it instead the worshipping of a god, or the solving of a problem, or the contemplation of an essence. The artifact herein is a discrete object, which means there is only one that is consensually recognized by most observers, and any re-interpretation or reproduction is measured against a standard, or the ‘original’. (The reproductions will not be considered artifacts, only the original.)
Starry Night, in this case, is a physical painting, and there is only one. “Starry Night” (the idea of Starry Night), on the other hand, can exist in a re-interpreted or reproduced form, either physical or non-physical – existing, for example, in the mind of the viewer who interprets it. Regardless, whatever its permutation, “Starry Night” still comes from or is measured against a zero-point, that being the discrete artifact of Starry Night, which was created by a specific person at a specific time and location (with all the specific socio-cultural parameters they indicate).
A macro image series (MIS) is not discrete. She Knows* is a set of iterations, and when trying to trace “She Knows” back to its origin, one is confounded. There is no single creator, and no specific time or place at which it was created. The nature of a meme-set (shorthand, here, for MIS) is that it is collectively created. Reciprocally, She Knows and “She Knows” are one and the same. So, not only does a macro image series not have an origin in the material world, per se, but it never really comes into a physical existence at any point**. In trying to pin-down its essence, one is confronted with myriad false kernels, a shell game where the eignemother we seek is hidden under both all and none of the shells.
*She Knows is not a Macro Image Series proper, because it usually doesn’t have an embedded caption, but is rather an internet-meme of the family Rage Comic. Both a Macro Image Series and a Rage Comic are internet memes, but the former just sounds better. Further down the taxonomic highway, all internet memes can be more appropriately classed as meme-sets, distinguished as such by their predominant mode of transmission being the internet.
**MIS are not meant to be printed our or even stored electronically – as evidenced by the extreme difficulty one would face in attempting to find a specific instance of a meme (such as Philosoraptor’s “if money is the root of all evil, why do they ask for it in church”), although the difficulty in finding it may be more of indexing habits/search algorithms. They are never meant to be fixed; they are meant to be absorbed by the viewer, modified and passed-on, all within the technologically-mediated environment of the internet (as opposed to the passing-on of cave painting via the very high-entropy system of the cave ritual).
There is no finalized, formalized version of an MIS. Instead, any example of She Knows is an iteration – a modified copy that has no single source, and one that does not represent the meme-set in its entirety. When speaking of artifacts as discrete objects, the MIS is confusing.
Perhaps it is best to avoid altogether use of the word consciousness within a spectrum of kinds of consciousness. In this presentation, “consciousness” refers to an autonomy residing in an individual, and could otherwise be called the ‘self’ or the subjective consciousness. Unconscious, then, means there is no autonomy (no ‘self’). The artist does not operate under its own control. Something else (genetic programming, a deity, a collective unconscious) does the art-making through the artist. Quasi-conscious simply functions to make explicit the attempt to avoid the label of consciousness proper. Meta-conscious simply demarcates the shift beyond the unconscious.
Maybe the Egyptians and the Greeks were conscious, maybe they weren’t. But when Velazquez paints himself in his own painting, Las Meninas is definitely an example of a conscious act emanating from the individual entity performing the act. This certainly yields the term “meta-conscious”. By the time we get to the MIS, despite it’s correlative to any Folk Art that came before it*, we have reached co-creation – a kind of collaborative consciousness, or collectivized consciousness. [disambiguate: collective unconscious.]
*Folk Art is very similar to the MIS, except that it is iterative only by the defaults set in its physical transmission and not necessarily by the agents of the transmission themselves. “Folk Art” seems to only exist within a culture that doesn’t have the means to reproduce its artifacts with high fidelity. (Early Hip-Hop, for example, isn’t usually considered a folk art, though it would surely fit most of the criteria). Folk-Artists aren’t necessarily trying to change the form of the piece, or, at least, it is unverifiable because they couldn’t not change a piece that by its transmission brings with it enough changes (mutations, perhaps) to make attempts at fidelity futile. MIS-makers, on the other hand, are very consciously trying to change the MIS; it’s inherent; it must change, by its definition.
The word “platform” can be thought of as an information system, and the two in question are mimetics* and memetics [link to disambiguation]. Mimetics is based on the transmission of information by mimicry, and it is ultimately the body that does the mimicking (even in the sense of somatic simulation emotional theory, see Damasio). Thoughts are involved, and perhaps can be said to have the supremacy, but in the end, the origin and terminus must exist in the material world.
Abstract Art marks an inflection point between the two platforms. Most [European] art prior to ~1900 uses people to communicate ideas (e.g. reference to people, not people in themselves, that’s obvious). Meta-physical things, like Religion, were still expressed using stories that figured anthropomorphic characters. Anytime [a reference to] a human body is used to convey information, we have mimetic transmission. When there is no body, there is no mimetics.
The appearance of artists painting themselves in their own work, and even of still-life paintings (in the case of Vanitas substituting for the body as the main character), point to a shift away from the body.
Black Square, or
simply non-representational art as a whole, marks the deactivation of the mimetic process, the ‘human-copying’
process, and the activation of the memetic
process, or ‘idea-copying’ process. Also note the coincidence of (take a deep
breath here) post-human, non-human information-copying systems (i.e.,
computers) in relation to the platform shift.
*the terms are very easily confused because meme- is a conflation of “mime-“ and “gene”. Also, note that mimesis is the more accepted term; mimetics is used instead to purposely emphasize the difference between the two (which, in this case, is only one letter).
[note: this presentation was intended for delivery to a high school philosophy class on the subject of ideology.]
In conclusion, a final thought:
Art is not just an ideology; it is a lens through which we can see the ideologies themselves; it is a thing that makes the invisible world visible to us.
Art leaves behind evidence of our activities, and from this we interpret the essence of the human condition at the time of its creation.
As the artifact dematerializes; as the content of the imagery loses direct visual reference; as the artist goes from being a god-spirit, a muse, an unconscious artist, to a very meta-conscious art-maker, to a point when there are many artists co-creating the art; we can at least say one thing – the human condition, and thus its ideologies, change over time.
And in the end, it is you, either individually, or collectively, that dictate where it goes and what it will become.
Julian Jaynes’s Software Archeology
[random post script/news]
Additive manufacturing as a possible solution to fight destruction of the cultural record
phys.org, 2015 Oct
Archaeological concepts such as the real, virtual, and authentic are becoming increasingly unstable as a consequence of archaeological artefacts and assemblages being digitalised, reiterated, extended and distributed through time and space as 3D printable entities. A paper recently published in Open Archaeology argues that additive manufacturing technologies, known commonly as 3D printing, have the potential to redefine the nature of archaeological entities in the digital.