basic ideas

imagination + machine = imachination?

Since Renaissance the image production is more and more influenced by machines. The imachination project asks for the experiences made with images changed by machine interaction.

Imaging has become a complex process - especially in disciplines like astronomy and particle physics. The final visual output is the product of an elevated division of work. So experts from various disciplines (like mathematics, information science, engineering, physics) contribute and influence the pictorial end of the chain. This cooperation means also that different ideas “what an image should be” are part of the pictorial result.[1]

This kaleidoscope of different pictorial conceptions is the playfield of the Imachinations. They want to explore those variaous views. The dialogue with the chain members wants to bring light in how the imaging chain is linked together.

Fig. 1. scheme of the chain of computer based imaging

early labor division in imaging: the studio of Rembrandt

The division of work is nothing new in the imaging history. E.g. the studios of Rembrandt were real picture factories. Rembrandt was more a supervisor leading his staff than a painter. But there is major difference between Rembrandt and the contemporary astronomer. Rembrandt did have the overall view of the whole imaging chain knowing each step of the drawing and painting process. [2] However the astronomer has anymore a detailed overlook, he is a specialist knowing just a part of the imaging procedure.

editor of the last complete compendium of photography: Dr. Joseph Maria Eder, (Vienna, 1855 - 1944)

This process of fragmentation is caused by the ongoing machination of the imaging process. In the history of visual machination there had been two crucial events causing this division: the invention of photography and the application of computers. Those events had been also cuts in imaging politics by disempowering the painter, who had the monopole on the elevated imaging practice. In a certain way photography democratized the creation of images, because the production of images was anymore a question of the skills. But photography even complicated the imaging process. For the comprehension of the whole process you needed the correspondent knowledge in physics and chemistry. So principally the process still could be managed.[3]

Finally the computer marks the end of a holistic understanding of the imaging process by a single person.[4] So creating images implicates the participation of a complex system of interaction between experts and machines It has to be taken into account that a steady stuff of at least 50 specialists is needed to run an observatory like Paranal (ESO/Chile). . This is not only a quantitative but also a qualitative change of complexity. Refering more to military techniques Paul Virilio talks about a change from passive to active optics.[5]

So imaging became a system of machine and man. To stress this interplay of human imagination and machine I use the notion of “imachination”. The point of the imachination is not to oppose man and machine but to see them related in a steady exchange.

Fig. 1. history of imachination: a history of rising interplay of human imagination and machine

A new achievement of Renaissance was the mathematization of space by perspective. Today this development of mathematization ended in the digitaliziation of images in single picture elements (pixels).

The history of imachination is not only a development of interplay between man and machine but implicates also a rise of formalization and mathematization of space. This process began with the application of the central perspective in the middle ages. This tradition of formalization of space was continued and automatized by photography. The completion of this process is the computed image pixel or vector, just mathematical coordinates with colour values, a pure res cogitans without extension.

Is Vilém Flusser right when he postulates that computer scientists have taken over the political power ?

Vilém Flusser [6] draw the conclusion that the power of the images belongs now to them sitting at beginning of the imaging chain. It is evident to say that informatics play a decisive role how an image output results, because they know how to treat the codes of formalized images. Nevertheless I can’t follow Flusser who says that therefore the information sciences have taken over the power. This still reflects the classical monopolistic view in imaging politics of a Renaissance artist, which assumes that the image monopolist overlooks the whole process. But this is definitely not the case in the imachination. Imachination finally means a network like [7] imaging with doesn’t know anymore a king discipline in imaging!

more than just an accident: the invention of the WWW at the CERN

The concept of imachination has severe consequences for the conception of the work in sciences. E.g. following this concept of imachination it is no accident but just a necessity that a new kind of communication, the World Wide Web, was invented at a physical mega institution like the CERN. [8]

So imachination means a complete new kind of image and the understanding of its creation.[9] Imachinations are no inventions by a single congenial subject but a collective pictorial product joining machine interaction and a broad spectrum of transdisciplinary knowledge. &The experimenter is not one person, but a composite.”[10]

theoretical links

- ethymology of imachination based on literature and the WWW (more...)
- further approaches to the notion of imachination (more...)

[ 1] Still 100 years ago there existed an imaging chain in astronomy. The author describes the aesthetical implications of the communication between the Lick observatory and the heliogravure studios, between production and postproduction. Soojung-Kim Pang, Alex: "'Stars Should Henceforth Register Themselves': The Rhetoric and Reality of Early Astrophotography." British Journal for the History of Science, 31 (1997), 177-201
[2] Alpers, Svetlana: Rembrandt als Unternehmer – Sein Atelier und der Markt, Köln 1989
[3] Josef Maria Eder probably was the last person having a holistic understanding of imaging techniques at the outgoing 19th century.Eder, Josef Maria: Ausführliches Handbuch der Fotografie, 4 Teile (1891-96), Halle a. S. 1922
[4] Demchak demonstrates the organizational problem of machination in military organizations. Demchak, Chris C.: The power of the Phenomen, in: C.D.: Military Organizations, Complex Machines, Itahaca, NY 1991.
[5] Virilio, Paul: La machine de vision, Paris 1988
[6] Flusser, Vilém: Für eine Philosophie der Fotografie, Göttingen 1983
[7] Flusser, Vilém: Vom Subjekt zum Projekt. Menschwerdung, Frankfurt 1998
[8] Gillies/Cailliau: How the Web Was Born. The Story of the World Wide Web, Oxford 2000; Berners-Lee, Tim; Fischetti, Mark (Contributor): Weaving the Web, the Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web, San Francisco 1999
[9] The naming of Chapter 6 is meaningful: “The Electronis Image: Iconoclasm and the New Icons”. Galison, Peter: Image and logic – a material culture of microphysics, Chicago 1997, pp433-552
[10] Thorndike, Alan M.: Summary and Future Outlook, in: Shut, R.P (editor) Bubble and Spark Chambers: Principles and Use, New York 1967, pp. 299-300; quoted from: Galison, Peter: Image and logic – a material culture of microphysics, Chicago 1997, pp. 431