An image as big as an advertising poster with contents that are partially pixelated, but which lead the thoughts to a terrorist act, a car bombing, somewhere in the world. Because this is how we most often consume images of violence and death – from a geographic distance via a news medium or on a computer screen while surfing the net. Thomas Hirschhorn is one of the more famous names in contemporary art, known for his criticism of how technology and media affect our reality and our perception of reality. His acclaimed series Pixel-Collage is represented here at Konsthallen by image number 37. Though arguably one of the ‘nicer’ images in the series, it still arouses a vague feeling of discomfort in the viewer.
Saturation is the word that best describes the flow of images we have access to in contemporary society, not least in digital media. The Internet is filled with them, and of the uncensored images that traditional media spares us from, either by not publishing them at all or by pixelating the worst parts to protect the victim’s identity and privacy. These include violent and truly horrific images of war victims in Syria, Gaza or elsewhere where conflicts increasingly affect the civilian population. Not least the children, whose silent voices are heard in Anri Salla’s work in the same exhibition space. Thomas Hirschhorn asks all of us standing in front of this image to consider what this flow does to us as human beings. To consider how violence and advertising sometimes merge in this flow and make us indifferent and desensitized.
Looking at images of violence is not the same thing as immediately seeing the whole picture. In his artistic process, Hirschhorn wants to lead us into a breakdown of this massive flow that cannot truly be seen when only viewed in pieces. He wants to make us step out of our blind habits of consumerism and really See. It is in these individual events that a real victim of violence becomes visible, but at the same time becomes, as a representative example of the atrocity, something universal. Hirschhorn’s series of images challenges the human duplicity in us all, which wants to see the ghastly and gruesome but at the same wants it unseen. The horror is thrown back as an indigestible monstrosity. Thomas Hirschhorn wants this to become an image wound in us that can then heal the sick of the blindness we all suffer from in contemporary society’s flow of images.