Mind full object-oriented photography: it’s all just a bit weird
For thoughts on stereoscopic imag(in)ing, see here..
Sixty seconds. Looking through the phone screen to the world. Breathing. In. Out. The phone moves slightly. The rhythm of seeing, being with the object in focus. The light dances. The objects connect to each other and the light and the phone and me. This is object-oriented photography (OOPh). This is mind full imag(in)ing: part practice-research and philosophical exploration, part creative commentary and part mindfulness practice. Imag(in)ed in mobile and through Instagram, it begins and ends with “objects”, the weird material mesh of things.
OOPh draw on the work of philosophers developing an object-oriented ontology (OOO) and the turn to the material. Following Graham Harman’s account of a panoply of objects – real/unreal, human/unhuman, concrete/abstract as well as Tim Morton’s ecological mesh where these objects at different scales refract and reflect in a complex Indra’s Net mesh, OOPh approaches the world as flat.
For these philosophers everything is an object, even Subjects. The material things I photograph, the phone I hold, the chip inside, the software that runs the camera app, the wireless network I post through, the server that holds the ones and zeroes, the lawyer that negotiated Instagram’s sale to Facebook, the memory of the Sally Mann book in my mind as I hold my phone, the EULA on the Instagram page, the conflict minerals in the phone sensor, the dancing electrons in the leaf governing its decay, the Like button protocol, the wind rustling the hairs on my arm, the capitalist system that pays the wages that bought the phone and allows the time to photograph, the famous photographer fantasy still active from when I was a child, the Instagram influencers, the undersea Internet cables and the sand on a Cornish beach. Up and down the hierarchies we like to use to map our complex world, from the small the large, the micro to the macro and back, the real to the abstract, for OOO, all objects are in play. All are worthy of attention. All are power full. As they connect and fail to connect, configure and reconfigure the mesh, those power relations change. From the ‘tiniest’ electrical charge across a camera sensor to the ‘largest’ political-economic system of surveillance, all the objects dance and demand our attention. Following Jane Bennett’s exploration of ‘vibrant matter’, these objects are approached as material. Quantum fluctuations, undersea cables and server farms, lawyers and photographers are presences. Real. Present.
But for OOO, these complex refracting objects are inexhaustible. We can never fully reach let alone imagine or image their nature, vibrancy or reality. All is just slightly ‘weird’.
Photographing them does not ‘capture’ them because nothing ever can. Just as we can never see every side, we can never access every dimension, they always escape our powers of perception, description, imag(in)ation. It is not just the myriad of connections and the complex depths of their reality that makes them unreachable. It is not the Russian doll-like nesting of objects within objects that makes them inexhaustible, it is that they have a reality and presence beyond us, beyond even each other. They are real but weirdly so.
There can never be a decisive moment, only ever indecisive moments.
As photographers we are always strangers in a strange land, alien visitors.
OOPh celebrates and explores that strange land.
OOPh is an exploration of as well as commentary on that weirdness, that unreachable, unimaginable nature of things. Following the philosophy of the flat ontology where I am object in play not Subject outside, I am not the auteur of Creative decisive works but object with uncreative, indecisive moments. I, the charge, the camera sensor, the cable, the molecule of silicon, the litter and glove, the breath and the muscle twitching and tiring are weird sisters dancing in the mesh.
The sixty seconds we spend together are a performance, an improvisation the I and other objects jamming an image.
OOPh explores the nature of imaging and the weirdness of objects. It comments on Instagramability and our changing culture of imaging and imagining – imag(in)ing. It investigates contemporary seeing. Its sixty second encounters on Instagram, are the traces of the imaging. Not photographs but the trails left by OOPh.
But OOPh is more than photography or philosophy or even cultural critique, it is a mindfulness practice.
Its respect, even affection for, objects is mind full – full of mind. In those sixty seconds I am present with that panoply of other objects. There is no hierarchy or separation, no past and future. There is just this. And this. And this. The slow weird engagement with the quantum dance of things is like the focus on the breath. It is a refusal to fall under the spell of thought but also an engagement with thinking. It is both a moment stepping outside but simultaneously a plunge into. It is an escape from the world thinking but a deeper connection with it. It is all just a little bit weird.
OOPh is a way of seeing and being, a way of composing and improvising, a way of practicing and researching
OOPh is imaging and imagining
OOPh is weird.
And OOPh is not mine because there is no I to have it.