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The Museum of Vestigial Desire


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A word is worth a thousand pictures. But wasn't that obvious? Why is the contrary is considered common wisdom? When I see a picture, I don't know where to look. From the corner of my eye, I can already scrape all the information. What after? What do excavate by peering, staring piercingly into the image? Any analysis and philosophical extrapolation I can of course muster by leaning back on my memory. The physicality, materiality of the visual is overrated. It is a desperate crutch that needs to be cling to, else the very world risks extinction. If presences can be stored in documents, what is present anymore?

Words are known, felt, understood. But utilised brazenly. Like fragile money, damaged minds, fraudulent memory, text needs protection. "But you don't wanna get involved" (Protection, Massive Attack, 1994). The glory of your exemplary but impoverished fragments of text remains only as long as words themselves don't explicate.

Only as long as sentences do not know their own meaning. We do rely on translation, text mining and semantic repurposing to communicate and comprehend. When translation remains more a means to multiply meaning than produce it. When you say that "a picture is worth a thousand words" - you add to a stack of lies. Pictures are arrays of data. They are stops, blockades, obstacles to reading. Reading of course is more dangerous than seeing ("scanning"). Dangerous because the syntax, the outline can actually transmit. You can see, shelve the memory of seeing away, and still not know what you saw. If you talk about reading the image, I will leave the room.

Reading visuals is not only a privileged witchcraft. It is like writing Chinese in English. Sure, you can read, but in the act of translation resides the substance. And translation is historically the one true witchcraft, the one true fabrication. The extrapolation. And even more so when images are being translated to text. Recursion: encrypt, decrypt, encrypt, decrypt. In this recursion maybe meanings are born. Would you accept a language that relied only on magic for being understood and only in translation it became accessible? Would you suspect the translater of being in collusion, of being complicit?

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