Design transforms technologies, techniques and artistry into economies and philosophies of meaning. Do it with intent.
American Academy in Rome

American Academy in Rome

SimagiPorticus / Erik Adigard &  Jesse Jones / AAR 2013
part of our SIMAGE project

This multimedia installation conceived for the American Academy in Rome builds a case for an “empire of image” that has survived all other empires and is today a mechanical, industrial, social and even autonomic force. It has mutated from the permanence of mosaic walls to the mobility of paintings and then from industrial engraving to celluloid. Today, one could argue that the confluence of mobile social media and networks has irreversibly changed the nature, the value and even the ontology of image.

Images are no longer just pictorial, they coalesce into an environment, an ecology and even an atmosphere. They can appear like passing snowflakes or like a meme of tsunamic proportions. Image has both imploded and exploded. Overwhelmingly abundant, it is less valuable than ever before, but has nonetheless supplanted the power of traditional language systems and is changing culture in profound ways. This phenomenon didn’t exist as recently as ten years ago and yet it evokes the idea of Rome.

By the time of Augustus Rome became known as more than a city, it was both empire and cradle, by force and by image. Coming in the lineage of Greece it also carried the flame of civilization. Like Rome, image grew into empire, and like Rome it has fell into glorious ruins, but the civilization remained. The Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, respectively stand for ongoing ideas of the empire, the cosmic and the divine.

Where roman walls have fallen new ones have risen for the old city gates to stand for. The gates close and open the city while images call for frames and screens. Gates and frames remain when cities and images turn to dust. We abandon cities and forget images—that is because they stand for (or against) ideas. Frames and gates do not. We tare down walls and burn images when throwing gates and frames would be so much simpler. What is wrong with us?

Images stand not unlike walls, houses, temples, palaces, jails and megalopolis. We have never made, owned, edited, published, appeared in and shared so many of themes. Images are everywhere static, moving, luminous, long or fleeting. They multiply, disseminate, migrate, besiege, sprawl, invade, prevail and occupy.

Images are blending into all things and also blending into each other when there is sufficient semantic affinity, hence forming distinct image swarms.