Art and Photography in Media Environments (book)

Art and Photography in Media Environments is the new book edit by José Gomes Pinto and Rui Matoso (Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon), in wich are colected the papers presented at the ECREA — Preconference: Art & Photography in Media Environments — November 11, 2014, hosted by Lusófona University.

The main goal of this Pre-conference was to think about new relations between art — in a wider sense — and mass communication technologies, approaching these intersections as a base that produces a broader thinking on the results of these encounters- if it is aesthetic, political, social, cultural, etc. Immanuel Kant formulates in his Critique of Judgment what he considers to be the vivid principle of the soul. This principle was tightly connected to art and for him art was a matter of representation, which incites to a deep thinking. Natural standards of art were conceived by him as being genius art. The connection to nature, natural process of art making were at stake in Kant’s point of view and marked the way art was thought throughout the last centuries. With the emergence of avant-garde artistic movements, Kant’s conception started to be criticized, and a hiatus between art and aesthetics opened since.

With the advent of new technologies, art started to be deeply connected with new media, which became the raw material for art practices. This media turn, now widely accepted is being currently enlarged with critical approaches.

Photography is a paradigmatic example of this new materiality. It has been regarded as the inscription of an image obtained not by human hand, but by the agency of light per se. Today with the apparition of coded digital images, photography, such as flm, expands. Analog photography is replaced by a virtual picture. Its perception has changed and the theoretical approach to it is also transforming.


Foreword: An introduction to Art and Photography in Media Environments (7)

Jule Schaffer | Photographic Images, the Holy, and the Sacred: Analyzing Realidades by the Photographer Pierre Gonnord (17)

Vendela Grundell | Friction as Tactical Experience — Interfacing Photographic Instances through Rosa Menkman’s Sunshine in My Throat (39)

Rui Matoso | Operative-Images and Phantom-Images — The Synthetic Perception Media in late Harun Farocki (67)

Patricia Prieto-Blanco | Understanding the performative power of family photographs through the work of John Clang, Liz Steketee and Trish Morrissey (93)

Maria da Luz Correia | The recreational image: from photographic amusements to video games (107)

Vinicius Souza | From Streets to Nets — The Trajectory of a Journalistic Photo (121)

Filip Láb and Sandra Štefaniková | “Just Click, Click and Click!”. Photojournalism in Print and Online Czech News Media (131)

José Gomes Pinto | Art and Primitivism. An approach to Carl Einstein Negerplastik (159)

Carlos Pimenta | Jorge Molder. The photographer and his double (173)

No-one can escape from the media. (Peter Weibel)

The sensorium of our everyday world is now produced in many media environments, which confgures also different media ecologies. It is a visible universe of proliferating images produced by all sorts of techniques and, as Jacques Ellul said, «no longer are we surrounded by fields, woods, and rivers, but by signs, signals, billboards, screens, labels, and trademarks: this is our universe» (Ellul, 1985, p. 156).

This universe of technical images, as Vilém Flusser named it (Flusser, 2011), is the vast landscape where the production, reproduction, dissemination and consumption of sounds, texts, flms and pictures rely on the storage capacity of our electronic digital devices, inside our pockets or somewhere in the ubiquity of the global computing clouds. In an epoch where social media, or affective computing, is so much embedded in the production of social relations, we can understand that the notion of cyberculture that emerged from the Gutenberg Galaxy (M. McLuhan, 1962)- as a new interdependence phase imposed by the electricity that recreates the world in the image of a global village-, has been recognized as noosphere (Teilhard de Chardin), semiosphere (Yuri Lotman) or cognisphere (Thomas Whalen), whose principal ability is to distribute the sensitive reality at home, which Paul Valéry already well foresaw in 19281.

Ecological thinking maximizes connections, relationships, like as we do in relation to networks we inhabit. The ecological state of mind was deep-rooted initially in biology and in green parties or environmental activism, but when we speak of our age we are referring to the interconnections that are far more generalized than simply biological connections.

We live in an «age of countless conspicuous interconnections» (Strate, 2004, p. 37), between hyperlinks, networks, protocols, algorithms, feedback loops and multiple screens. Since the digital photo is no longer the index of a natural referent in the world, but the production of a new reality amid others, to think about art and photography in the new media environments, or to understand the image in a post-media ecology, is to think that there is no longer any painting, any sculpture or any photography outside and beyond the media experience, as asserted by Peter Weibel (2012); consequently, in the realm of a post-media condition, all of the artistic disciplines have been transformed by the new media and the digital paradigm.

This post-medial ecology was, before the Internet, produced and theorized by authors like Franco “Bifo” Berardi or Félix Guattari, for instance in their common project Radio Alice2, wich can be considered as «the first experiment of deterritorialization of the telecommunication system, and of attack against the centralized media system» (Bifo, 2008, p. 31).

But, in accordance with two differents, but not isolated, spheres of reception, we must envision two pathways where images circulate, sometimes interconnected or layered, sometimes bifurcated or rhizomatic. One way we can simply designate as the post-media aesthetics explicitly referred to the field of arts and creativity. It is precisely in this context, where, on the level of aesthetics, the Web has established as a multimedia and hipertext document, that we most need new categories that can describe how a cultural object (computer) organizes data and structures the user experience of such data.

According to Lev Manovich (2001), these categories are now essential for the construction of a new information and aesthetic behavior whose substrate lies in the nervous system his ability to handle ubiquitous digital information and the corresponding neuroplasticity of the human brain to survive in simulated environments, as several sophisticated applications of the stereoscopic virtual reality.

The other pathway leads into the information and communication technologies, where telematic networks give us access to infnite image databases and cognitive data. This includes the mass media and the social media presence in the confguration and modulation of our daily life since the development of the internet on the 1990s, wich can be observed as a period of globalisation and capitalist expansion: a worlwide free trade market, fnancial governance and neoliberalism. Períod in wich the mediatic capture of social and individual attention, produces brutal effects on the sensibility and on the cognitive pathologies3.

When considering art predominantly in the sphere of image production, there is an hypothetical conflict between those two routes/layers mentioned above, wich as been delivered in the evolving feld of Bildwissenschaft (image studies) as a kunst vs. Bild (art vs. image) problematic4.

If we start from a semiotic point of view, as Peter Osborne (2014) asserts, «there are no such things as images as such, because an image is a ideological concept, and this is where the problem lies». Otherwise, in the context of a Kantian opposition of intuition (aesthetic) and concept (logic) «it is precisely the mediating quality of the image — neither aesthetic nor logic that is signifcant for art» (Osborne, 2014, p. 52–54). Anyway, we can postulate that is due to digital technologies of image production, dissemination and reception, that artistic or informational based images render explicit «the ontological structure of the image, as a relationship between a material embebed virtuality and a infnite multiplicity of possible visualizations.» (id.)

2. The term media ecology was born in the wake of Marshall McLuhan his Understanding Media5, and was first formally introduced by Neil Postman in 19686. A fundamental principle of media ecology, as Lance Strate defnes it, says that «a medium is a technology within which a culture grows; that is to say, it gives form to a culture’s politics, social organization, and habitual ways of thinking» (Strate, 2004, p. 3). But the notion of “media ecology” still a problematical term within media studies, for it has different perceptions in European and North American contexts7.

The North American interpretation refers to an interdisciplinary field of media theories comprising the study of media environments, and how this conditions alter human perception and behaviour . The European version of media ecology is more based on a materialist research of media systems as complex dynamic systems (id., p. 5). This two aspects of “media ecology” are like the two sides of a coin, or two layers of a medium, his contents and his protocols.

Matthew Fuller brings two more meanings for the media ecology term, one is the information ecology, a notion deployed as a «euphemism for the allocation of informational roles in organizations and in computer-supported collaborative work» (Fuller, 2005, p. 3); and the other one is linked with the literary studies in recent decades in, for instance, the writings of N. Katherine Hayles and Friedrich Kittler, such work makes «electronic or code-based logical composition and a developed theorization of interaction come into play with cultural analysis and production» (id., p. 4).

Nevertheless, Fuller points the work of Félix Guattari, namely in the book The Three Ecologies (2000), because the perspectives wich Guattari assigns to media are correctly understood as being profoundly political or ethico-aesthetic at all levels8. Aligning such political processes with «creative powers of invention that demand laboratories of thought and experimentation for future forms of subjectivation» (Fuller, 2005, p. 5).

This approach to a (post-)media ecology, wich permits us to explore the materialist energies in art and technoculture, has got his foundations in many other technical philosophers and concepts, such as the Deleuze and Guattari’s “machinic phylum”, Stuart Hall’s “encoding/decoding” or Gilbert Simondon´s “hylomorphism”, “transduction”, “ontogenesis” or “socio-technical ensembles”; and that´s why we agree with Michael Goddard when he defends that Fuller «injects a much needed materialism, politics and complexity into the term media ecologies» (2015, p. 2).

To help us to visualize this articulation of disparate elements, its ecological or networked condition, is also important remember Bruno Latour´s Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and his efforts to reassemble the social (Latour, 2005), or to the tracing of new associations and to the designing of their assemblages9.

We can observe this theoretic, but also pragmatic frame in every artístic and creative scene, such as artists organizations or creativity clusters, as places where the machinic phylum «provides a way of thinking through how elements of complex medial systems “cooperate” to produce something more than the sum of their parts» (Fuller, 2005, p. 6), in this sense media ecologies not only assemble both physical, technical and mental entities, but also transduces collective or transindividual subjectivation10, the production of subjectivity that is directly political.

3. From media ecologies to image and visuality, and more specifcally to art and photography in media environments, we can fnd in the following pages a rich and multiple group of papers that gives us to know different typologies of relationships between images and audiences within disparate media contexts.

Through the analyzes of the photographic work Realidades by the french photographer Pierre Gonnord, Jule Schaffer fnds a close conceptual and iconographic relationship between Gonnord’s photographic images and Baroque´s representation of the sacred. The paper examines the ways in which sacredness and strategies of sacralization are currently used in art photography.

In her article about Friction as Tactical Experience, Vendela Grundell focuses on interfacing photographic instances through the work of the Dutch artist Rosa Menkman’s Sunshine in My Throat. This friction, as Grundell argues, is an element of the digital flow, since digital environments are all about the flow of data and information.

The contribution of the flmmaker Harun Farocki to the understanding of how operative images works on the regime of the synthetic perception media is what is analyzed in Rui Matoso´s paper. The essay suggests that the fnal stage, the perfect crime, of visionic technologies would be the production of synthetic images not intended for the biological human eye, as hitherto, but for the artifcial vision — vision synthetically prepared by the cybernetic ideology of control.

Understanding the performative power of family photographs, as objects that have agency, through the work of John Clang, Liz Steketee, Sonja Irouschek and Trish Morrissey is the main focus of Patricia Prieto-Blanco´s article. What they tell us about social practices linked to these new ubiquitous technologies and their embodiment in diverse spatial-temporal coordinates?

The idea of the recreational image, since the early twentieth-century photographic environment to the contemporary video games, is the object of Maria da Luz Correia´s paper. Although they have different positions in the history of the technical images, they are both representative of this notion of photographic amusements, where playing is more important than the recording of play. As the author asserts in concluding the essay, fnally the ghosts of realism can be exorcised by the realism of the ghosts.

The paper written by Vinicius Souza presents an analysis of the trajectory of a journalistic photography titled Goodbye (Roosevelt Cassio), taken from the eviction of the Pinheirinho area in Brazil, showing its transformation from a traditional journalism/media product to the social struggles, and the appropriation and reinterpretation by different media ecologies and their political subjectivations.

The article Just Click, Click and Click!, presented by Filip Láb and Sandra Štefaniková, shows the results of a research in photojournalism across Czech news media. It investigates differences in photojournalistic practices, routines and newsroom organization in print and online environments. Examines how media professionals handle photography in print and online environments. And also maps the current state of professional photojournalism in the Czech Republic by describing professional practices, routines, responsibilities and norms.

An approach to Carl Einstein´s Negerplastik and to the relation between art and primitivism is the the starting point in José Gomes Pinto´s paper. Whereas in Einstein, aesthetics and politics are closely interconnected, the essay argues that art transforms vision as a whole, because the artist determines how we form our general images of the world. The question is that, for Einstein, African art was essentially a social phenomenon and, therefore, also of political importance for Europeans.

The following and last essay, writen by Carlos Pimenta, is a reflection on the concept of personifcation in the work of Jorge Molder, particularly in the photo series taken in 2003, entitled Circunstâncias Atenuantes (Extenuating Circumstances). The topic of the photographer and his double, and the idea of persona as a mask, has been one of the central themes in the development and characterization of his photographic work.


  • Bifo, Franco Berardi (2008). Félix Guattari — Thought, Friendship and Visionary Cartography. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Ellul, Jacques (1985). The Humiliation of the Word. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Fuller, Matthew (2005). Media ecologies: materialist energies in art and technoculture. The MIT Press.
  • Flusser, Vilém (2011). Into the Universe of Technical Images. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Goddard, Michael (2015). Ontogenesis before Ontology: Media Ecologies, Materialisms, and Objects. (retrieved 22–12–2015).
  • Guattari, Félix (1990). Towards a Post-Media Era. Unpublished text of October 1990, published in the journal Chimères, n.28, spring- -summer 1996.
  • Guattari, Félix (2000). The Three Ecologies. The Athlone Press.
  • Latour, Bruno (2011). Networks, Societies, Spheres: Reflections of an Actor-Network Theorist. International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), 796–810.
  • Latour, Bruno (2005). Reassembling the Social — An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford University Press.
  • Manovich, Lev (2001). Post-media Aesthetics. ( Retrieved 24.09.2015)
  • McLuhan, M. (1962). The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. University of Toronto Press.
  • McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. Canada: McGraw-Hill.
  • Osborne, Peter (2014). “Art” versus “Image” ?. In Text Zur Kunst nº 95 (September 2014).
  • Pasquinelli, Matteo (2015). Capital Thinks Too — The Idea of the Common in the Age of Machine Intelligence. (retrieved 22–12–2015)
  • Scott, David (2014). Gilbert Simondon’s Psychic and Collective Individuation — A Critical Introduction and Guide. Edinburgh University Press.
  • Strate, Lance (2004). A Media Ecology Review. Communication Research Trends — Volume 23 (2004) Number 2. California: Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture.
  • Weibel, Peter (2012). The Post-Media Condition. (retrieved 22–12–2015)
  • Valéry, Paul (1928). La conquête de l’ubiquité. in Œuvres, tome II, Pièces sur l’art, Nrf, Gallimard, Bibl. de la Pléiade, pp. 1283–1287.


1«Je ne sais si jamais philosophe a rêvé d’une société pour la distribution de Réalité Sensible à domicile.» (Valéry 1928, p.1284)


3 See: The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism (2013, Archive Books).

4 See: Text Zur Kunst nº 95 (September 2014), Bild vs. Kunst.

5 « “The medium is the message” means, in terms of the electronic age, that a totally new environment has been created.» (McLuhan 2003, p. 13 ). Simply put, it is the idea that the medium or communication technologies that we use play an important role in how and what we communicate, how we think, feel, and use our senses, and in our social organization, way of life and world view.

6«Postman did, however, provide a defnition of media ecology as “the study of media as environments”» (Lance 2004, p.4).

7See: The Media Ecology Association (

8The expectation in the transformative powers of the new media, are clearly understood by Guattari: «The element of suggestion, even hypnotism, in the present relation to television will vanish. From that moment on, we can hope for a transformation of mass-media power that will overcome contemporary subjectivity, and for the beginning of a post-media era of collective-individual reappropriation and an interactive use of machines of information, communication, intelligence, art and culture.» (Guattari, 1990)

9 «To try to follow an actor-network is a bit like defning a wave-corpuscle in the 1930s: any entity can be seized either as an actor (a corpuscle) or as a network (a wave). It is in this complete reversibility — an actor is nothing but a network, except that a network is nothing but actors — that resides the main originality of this theory. Here again, network is the concept that helps you redistribute and reallocate action.» (Latour, 2011, p. 800)

10 Transindividuality, in Gilbert Simondon´s theory, is a relation that is simultaneously and mutually constitutive of both the individual and the collective. This concept attempts to capture operational movement of a system in the process of individuation. Or as David Scott puts it: «Transindividuality is the purest expression of relational being, which is fundamental to Simondon’s ontology of ontogenesis. Instead of elements (particles or clouds of particles) as starting points, might we see each starting point only as a singularity, as only already a relation-to-another starting, which is then another relation-to, potentially, ad infnitum? Might we imagine that relations come frst and not the extremities of these relationships?» (Scott 2014, p. 42)

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Rui Ibañez Matoso is a researcher on new media and post digital technologies, ecological systems and cultural policies. (//