Matthew Fuller
(c) 1995

It's the ersatz-pseudo-authentic-phoney-original-fake-reproduction-real thing

Software pirates and crackers already know this, and those who still cling to notions of property, of authorship, and of copyright are going to have to come to terms with or find a way to defeat it: the propensity of all digitally stored material is to reproduce infinately until it is made available to all who want it. Information migrates from machine to machine, disk to disk constantly and is done without loss of quality and without the need to pay fealty to an 'original producer'. This is an essential quality of this machinic phylum and any attempt to abrogate it will neccesarily produce either a celibate technology or find itself short-circuited, fast.

Cut and Paste, Smash and Grab

A digital image is always in-between itself, it is always pregnant with what it has been, might have been, might be. If you are prepared to fiddle with pixels for long enough it's potentially possible to reach any image from any other image and then go further. And finding things to play with isn't too hard. The intensity and the proliferation of images that are pumped into our every socket every day makes their reconfiguration in our minds, and hence their inability to dominate our thoughts, almost inevitable. So in terms of producing images, life couldn't be easier as the process has now almost become that of collating that which appears. Before we've caught the gist of one message the next is trying to shoehorn its way past our eyeballs, but to no avail: the day-glo pleading on behalf of starving lo-cal yoghurt in Africa has become contaminated with the latest in sports footwear comfort. Strap your scanner to the telly, wire up your vcr, stretch, distort, render, release contaminants onto non-descript photos vacuumed from the pages of magazines and newspapers. Pillage and process. Bringing the high gloss fruits of proprietary culture and the sclerotic arts of the media down to our level before we fire them back, infected.

The impropriety of these digital Frankenstein's monsters, patched together with flesh stolen from the image morgues of broadcast and print is that they stagger as convincingly and as menacingly along as the real thing. For the first time many people producing 'oppositional' imagery have access to exactly the same technology as, say, the big advertising companies. (Thanks to vicious controls on labour in the factories the gear is cheap and getting cheaper). The previously enforced style of radical penury no longer functions except to sell bank accounts and records. We now have a wider range of visual tactics possible in contesting the slick imagery that has become our world. Billboard "improvers" aren't just stuck with splurging spray-paint over their target. DTP software allows the perfect sizing and styling of lettering to infiltrate and redirect the target. Or, if you feel like helping out with a company's public image to the press, publicity can be released on behalf of your favourite corporation by mimicking the style that cost them all those thousands of pounds of design consultant's fees. The possiblities are there, though at present they often work by finding fissures in the information systems to squeeze into and expand. A problem that needs working on is the distribution of this kind of material.

Shoplifting in Cyberspace

An image is something that can be entered into as a plane of possibilty, a centre of dynamic exchange. As well as being always an in-between of itself it is always in-between people and as such is not just an image of a social agency, although it may be interpreted along a variety of ideological, aesthetic, technological or other vectors, it is a social agent, and within itself can be a micro-system of obscene, rebellious, facetious sociality. The strength of digital imaging is the ability to momentarily concretise alignments between stolen elements and turn them back against their origins or reorientate them for new purposes.

You can't disrupt the hypermarket of Truths by scraping the labels off the other dealers' cans and putting on others, nor stripping them bare in some entrails reading excoriation after pure untainted fact, nor even by whipping out the Barcode Battler in some chest beatingly tragic exercise in po mo complicity, but getting right in there (where?) and filthing up the sheen, feasting on the goods and burning out the till.