American Academy in Rome
SimagiPorticus / Erik Adigard & Jesse Jones / AAR 2013 (a part of SIMAGE project)
This multimedia installation conceived for the American Academy in Rome builds a case for a new sort of empire that has survived all other empires. It is the “empire of image” that we know today as a mechanical, industrial, social and even autonomic phenomenon. It has mutated from the permanence of mosaic walls to the mobility of paintings and then from mass produced engraving to pervasive celluloid. 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 occurrence didn’t exist as recently as ten years ago and yet it evokes the rise of Rome.
ROME, CITY, EMPIRE & IMAGE
By the time of Augustus, Rome became known as more than a city, it was empire and cradle, and brute force and dazzling image. Coming in the lineage of Greece it carried the flame of civilization. Along with Rome, image had grown into an empire, and like Rome it fell into glorious ruins. However the image of 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.
GATEWAYS & FRAMES
Where walls have fallen, virtual ones have risen. Gates open, close and frame cities while images appear and fade on walls and screens. Gates and walls remain when cities and images are gone. We abandon cities and forget images when they stand against our ideas. Frames and gateways do not stand for anything, therefore we keep them.
Ultimately, images reappear. They do so to reflect everything we make: people, houses, temples, palaces, jails and megalopolis. We have never made, owned, edited, published, appeared in and shared so many images in so many static, moving, luminous or fleeting forms. They multiply, disseminate, migrate, besiege, sprawl, invade and occupy. Images are blending into all things. Above all, they seek semantic affinities, hence blending into each other to form image swarms. They even coalesce to reveal new gates.