The digital Pot
You can't fire me, I quit!
Is something I often think to myself, though not once was I either quitting or being fired from a job. It's just this impulse, a desperate attempt to take control of a situation that was always already out of my hands. It is, I think, one of the impulses behind collecting.
The short film Salvation by Noah Harris and Andy Biddle maps
history, in particular human history, through a stop motion catalogue of kitsch, suggesting an inherent connection between objects and the human condition. It’s a penchant for possession that has translated to, maybe even intensified with, the digital age - considering the digital hoarding in 2020s defining video game: Animal Crossing.
The web has lost much of the murkiness that accompanied the excitement of its invention - the thill and unease captured in early representations like the anime 'Serial Experiments Lain' (1998) - but it retains at least some of the vastness, tangle and even mystery that the name 'web' implies.
Just as I might have stumbled upon curiosities in a museum, antique shop or garage sale, I can rifle through the draws of Instagram. Hyperlinks followed in such quick succession they turn a stumble into a continuous fall.
In a way, images are the objects of the 21st century. A new way to collect.
Most of my hoarding is digital, which is maybe an expression of circumstance: financial, spacial. Or evidence of an anxious post-modern condition, a desire to eventually disappear completely. But it's also a practice enabled by this new democratised landscape, a new ease of access that, my agoraphobia notwithstanding, allows me to experience that which I might otherwise not. And it blurs the boundary between what is mine and not mine. [butterfly meme: is this mine?] I can browse the online catalogue of the British Museum, I can download these images of their artifacts, and just as quickly these objects were stolen from their native cultures, these images belong to me now.
There may be power in simply looking. Emily Dickinson's poem 'Before I Got My Eye Put Out' speaks of looking upon something as a form of ownership: The Meadows, mine. The Mountains, mine - but to take a picture takes us further. Not take a picture as in photograph something, but as in taking an image, someone else's image, as our own. An image may be a copy of an object, mere representation, but it is also its own original.
I can't steal the Mona Lisa. What is this, 1911? And the blurry wonky picture I could take on a phone would only be a reference, and allusion, a copy. But this blurry wonky picture taken by a stranger? That I can steal as fast as you can say 'right click, save as'.