Los Angeles 12:53 PM: a steak topped with pieces of pineapple, three girls showing off their necklines, a black convertible sport car and a black mug shot in low-angle. São Paulo, 4:53 PM: a manicure seen close-up, a SpongeBob cup, a diamond tattooed on a thigh and three friends drinking champagne. Tokyo, 4:53 AM: a Lego boat, a high-speed train, Mount Fuji erupting and a traditional town hit by floods.
What is all this? “This is now!” is the name of a website launched by three Australian developers from Lexigal Gap. It uses real-time geo-tagged locations to gather photographs posted on Instagram, the application which enables users to take pictures, apply digital filters to them and post them on social networks – mostly on Facebook, which bought the application last April for $1 billion. Do Instagram users have a clue where their pictures end up? Probably not.
Once on the « This is now! » website, all you need to do is click on the name of a city to watch this constant flow of life tidbits, short experiences left by internet users from all over the world. The developers’ goal is to “to capture a city's movement, as it flows.”
Victory of space over time
This constant stream of images is exhilarating. Where does this feeling come from? From the ultimate victory of space over time. Instantly, you can be everywhere at the same time, without the need for a storyline or narrative. The subjective becomes the norm, while history disappears: reality loses its substance, and becomes an infinite number of self-portraits, portraits of others.
Thirty years ago, philosophers and sociologists announced the end of the post-modern era. They believed that the existential model based on authenticity was bound to disappear. It would be replaced by an aspect of a world which "loses its depth and threatens to become a glossy skin, a stereoscopic illusion, a rush of filmic images without density" wrote Frederic Jameson. Jean Baudrillard referred to it as “the ecstasy of communication,” a compulsion to exist on every screen. “Am I a man or a machine?” he asked in 1990. « This anthropological question no longer has an answer.»
“This is now!” would be perfectly suited for a contemporary art biennale. But it was not created by artists or at least that’s not how its creators define themselves. Their project does not pretend to carry the anticipatory and prescriptive meaning of art. Instead, it only reflects a sort of Weltanschauung (world view), which is already outdated. Post-modernism is no longer a mere concept. “This is now.”
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