[ISEA96] Poster: Niranjan Rajah – Locating the Image in an Age of Electronic Media

Poster Statement


As East Asia accelerates from medieval culture and consciousness, through a compressed period of industrial modernization, into the communications era; the convergence of living sacred traditions and information technology presents a deep ontological engima. Starting from the premise that the ‘image’ is an index of the ‘locus of reality’, this poster session will attempt to ‘locate the image’ in an age of instantaneous communications, virtual reality and hypermedia.


In etymology, the word ‘image’ is linked with the Latin ‘imitari’, which is the root of the word ‘imitate’. In the Medieval view the likenesss between any thing and any representation of It must be analogical. Here, ‘analogy’ is ‘similitude’ in the sense of ‘simile’ rather then that of ‘simulacrum’. Medieval representation imitates the idea of the thing and not its substance.
From the Islamic standpoint, the law of all phenomenon can be symbolised geometrically in the way that space, seen as extension, is created by unfolding through the dimensions and can be ‘folded up’ again, leading back to the point of unity. The confusion caused by sculpture in the
round, chiaroscuro, perspective and other illusionistic representations in the process of folding up explains the prohibition of images in Islamic art.
The image of a Hindu devata, latent in canonical prescription, must be inwardly visualised by the icon maker in an act of ‘non-differentiation’. This inner image is the model from which he proceeds to execute in a chosen material. The viewer in turn applies his or her own ‘imaginative energy’ to the physical icon, ‘realising’ the devata within the ‘immanent space in the heart’. All images are interior and reality itself is imaged within consciousness.                                               In modern consumer capitalism everything that was once directly lived becomesrepresentation as images proliferate outside of the viewers control. This ‘spectacle’ has been described as capital accumulated until it ‘becomes an image’. It is the ‘televisual’ image of our desires; of desire itself. It alienates us as it permeates our consciousness. In works like ‘Theme Song’ (1973), Vito Accoinci assaults the limit of this image. He implicates the viewer and paradoxically
compounds the alienation of a medium that promises interaction but does not permit it.
Today the ‘alienation of the spectacle’ has dlssolved Into what has been called ‘the ecstasy of communication’. There is a ‘loss of private space’ and simultaneously, a ‘loss of public space’. This is the ontology of Paul Sermon’s ‘Telematic Dreaming’ (1993). With electronic interactivity,
the body appears to be situated wherever ‘its effect is’. Enabled by ‘mircotechnology’, consciousness has left the physical body and merged with the image in an interactive

  • Niranjan Rajah, Malaysia, Lecturer in Art History and Theory, University Malaysia Sarawak

Full text p.116-117