Art in the Age of Immediacy

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We are increasingly becoming dependent on reproductions through digital mediums to create meaning. Yet how do such reproductions become a means to mediate a full understanding of the context and creation of a certain thing?  Theories presented in Irvine, Bolter and Debray will provide a framework to understand how art and all forms of cultural expression can be represented in an interpretive framework or interface (Irvine). In Irvine’s Malraux and the Musee Imaginarie: (Meta)Mediation. Representation and Mediating Institutions, the theory of a musee imaginare becomes an abstract, ideal meaning-making system introduced by Malraux. The idea behind such a system governs the very essence of what makes a museum; the selection and arrangement of artifacts in some organizational way. Malraux has a rather political argument for the use of reproductions; to advance democratic principles. Museums become an interface to transmit some idea across, whether it be democratic principles for Malraux or a
“cultural encyclopedia” for Umberto Ecco (p. 6).

Bolter’s Introduction: The Double Logic of Remediation introduces the concept of the wire as the “ultimate mediating technology because the wire is designed to efface itself, to disappear from the user’s consciousness” (Bolter, p. 3). The author introduces the notion of a “double logic of remediation”, a culture’s contradictory imperitives for immediacy and hypermediacy (p. 5). The same idea can be applied to western visual representation. The examples that Bolter uses is a 17th century painting, photograph and computer system. They are all different in some capacity yet all attempts to achieve immediacy by ignoring or denying the presence of the medium and the act of mediation. They all seek to put the viewer in the same space as the objects viewed like in the case of the painting using atmospheric perspective for example. Such an illusionistic idea recalls the concepts presented in Debray’s Transmitting Culture where the author states that transmission is a “telecommunication in time”, “transmission takes its course through time, developing and changing as it goes” to make culture. In essence, is the author stating that anything could be transmitted through time without any boundaries? How does this play into the cultural component?

If I could try to tie all these readings together, it would go as follows. A musee imaginarie creates a certain message from the selection of the artifacts involved that transmit something through time about that specific artifact, creating something of cultural significance. Because everything is immediate and humans in this era crave immediacy, there needs to be some sort of way to organize and make meaning out of art and all forms of cultural expression. Art and cultural forms of expression can only be fully understandable if the theories surrounding them stay current with the times, with how the world has changed. One does not view a 17th century painting the same way now as they did when it was created. There is a shift in knowledge that arises with the advent of new technologies. As stated by Debray, “every major reshuffling of major reshuffling of technologies of the letter- in rough chronological order, means a corresponding change of saddle for the citizenry” (p. 23).


Martin Irvine, “André Malraux, La Musée Imaginaire (The Museum Idea) and Interfaces to Art“.

Régis Debray, Transmitting Culture, trans. Eric Rauth. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000.