art 2004/2
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Troubles of Doubting Thomas

by Virginijus Kinčinaitis

Western culture tends to use pain to restore its shattered belief in the existence of reality. Torture is supposed to make reality reveal its substance, hidden under a shroud of religious, ideological or social fictions. For that end, the man has invented torture implements, bombs, hyperrealism and TV reality shows. Human mind, tortured by its own transience, longs for something real, something exciting by its reality and pain. It longs for the human body, the eternal subject of art throughout ages. Yet are we able to win it back? Is it possible when we no longer believe in our bodily integrity and independence of our consciousness? Disintegrated and dislocated, we can no longer trust our senses and experience we gain through them. What can we do about such an unpleasant predicament?
We can imagine also a different individual, an exalted liberal technophile. He is ready to sacrifice the integrity of his body for the sake of technologically expanded experience. He is giving up his isolated consciousness for the sake of the constantly changing, inter-subjective consciousness that functions as an open system. It is difficult to speak of the human body or the mind in the traditional sense, when physical location and time stop making any difference and the human mind and imagination settles in the virtual internet community. The effect of this new global, constantly remodeled society on an individual and his experience of reality has not been yet fully recognized. However, it is clear that the ‘effects of reality’ replace the nostalgia for one’s own and the world’s reality. The archetypal dreams and state-of-the art technologies merge to produce post-organic, cybernetic organisms. What messages can art send in this post-humanist realm? The advocates of digital media predict the expansion of visual activity into the global information realm. Unfortunately, the physical experience and human consciousness have parted company. We need to identify new realms from where we gain important experience, no less real, as it shapes our new identity.
Yet the concept of a different subjectivity and a different world is difficult to grasp. The contemporary art employs a wide range of strategies to cross the threshold of unreality and to regain the power of mastering and representing reality. Two extreme strategies of such an endeavor on the Lithuanian art scene are represented by a reborn academism, (represented by the painter Ţygimantas Augustinas) on the one hand, and on the other, the advocates of the digital media laboratories, Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas. Though their ways and outcomes differ radically (just as much as oil paints and digital codes), the impulse for creation or analytical study is generated by the anxiety over reality loosing its substance. One more thing has to said of the digital audiovisual media: it grants the power of constant transformation and simulation of the world. This power keeps stimulating the imagination of people in politics, mass media and advertising industry, artists and passive users, anyone who would be dreaming of changing the concept of subjectivity, social reality, of altering time and space. The analysts of mass media point out the self-contained nature of the mass media industry operations. The mass media does not give a mirror image of the world, rather, the events covered are organized into a certain biased chain. It is the manner determined by the necessity of the system to keep generating news for its own sake. It is naive to expect that the television set, the icon of our homes, is a source of information on the real world. Although the multiple screens, in fact, block the view of reality, the contemporary individual has no choice but believe in this variety of the world models.

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