In order to get a solid grasp on how I’ll convey meaning in each image, I think it’s important to really flesh out the logistics of making them, and the academic contexts behind them. But first, I’ll need some kick-off ideas.
Inspired by Benjamin’s theory of ‘aura’, I’m interested in the question of whether a digital experience of an event constitutes reality or vicarious experience; ie, when we turn our phones on to film our family opening their Christmas presents, are we really experiencing it first-hand, or does the incorporation of an intermediary mode take away from the event’s aura?
I think a good way to contextualise this question is to frame it in an apt and familiar philosophical symbol – Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Here, Plato conjures the image of slaves eternally forced to face a wall upon which shadows dance. These shadows constitute their way of viewing the movements of the real world behind them. He uses this to demonstrate that mistakenness occurs when we only see a representation of the true image. Benjamin concedes that representations of things remove from their value, or their aura. Yet with our post-postmodernist epistemology, especially our firm distrust of objectivity, is this such a fundamentally wrong way of seeing the world?
So, my plan is to update the allegory for our modern context, thereby parodying our culture of hiding behind phones. To do this, I’ll replace the reflective cave wall with a camera on selfie mode. The slaves of the allegory will be swapped with a person taking the selfie, smiling into the camera while their background is smudged and blurred. The background itself – consisting of the silhouettes made to play against the cave walls in the original story – now will present important life events in the selfie-taker’s life.
This first draft is just a quick sketch planning the structure of my digital image. It took a bit of time to decide how I should frame it to include all elements of the cave scenario (the reflection, the person regarding that reflection, and the silhouettes to be reflected). Most visual representations take a side-long perspective, eliminating one of these key elements. To avoid this, I decided on a z-axis perspective, thereby placing the components in background, midground and foreground respectively.