Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Siri, Henner and diCorcia

I was told that one of the reasons people are hostile to Mishka Henner is his flippancy; he stonewalls in the face of argument - he throws his accepted truths back at people who throw their accepted truths at him and does it in a fairly blunt manner; more of a gobshite than flippant, but you get the picture.

It's a case of people not liking the way he says something over the things that he says. But then there are people who don't like what he says. This is especially true of No Man's Land, an exhibition of the project has been nominated for the Deutsche Borse prize with particular attention paid to the film and soundtrack that accompanies the images.

The idea is that by showing where prostitutes are working on the highways of Italy and Spain, complete with coordinates, Henner is providing information for people who want to visit prostitutes. He's basically being a pimp in other words. Men will visit his website and use the information to find prostitutes.

I'm not too sure about that. There probably are people who will stumble on his website and get a vicarious thrill from Henner's pictures. But considering that Henner got his pictures through various prostitution-related blogs and websites, it is much more likely that these would be a far more informative place for things like prices, services offered, use of condoms and so on. Prostitution on the internet works through very functional and direct websites, not through conceptual documentary photography projects.I think it is to overestimate the importance of photography outside the small world it (it being the particular types of photography that Henner/The Deutsche Borse represents) inhabits

Anyway, that reminds me of Philip Lorca diCorcia's Hustlers, which did give locations, prices and make faces clearly visible. Would the same arguments apply to that project? Was diCorcia pimping his subjects?

And what of Siri, Apple's Voice Recognition thing which has taken so much abuse (  "Why are you such a loser, Siri?" "Get a personality, Siri?" "Fuck off, Siri") it must surely be a Skynet in the making, ready to take its revenge on a human population that hates it.

Siri used to answer questions on prostitution and brothels in China but then changed its mind and decided it was a bad idea. Good thing, bad thing, or just censorship? Or does Siri have a conscience and it's going to tell Apple to start upping the pay rates of the workers at Foxconn.

Anyway, I wonder if actually the really harmful thing Henner is doing by having his work online, and making slide shows and films that will be viewed on computer, tablet and iphone screens, is  that he implicitly promotes the use of new visual technologies.

How much damage does the manufacture of 100 iphones do to the world, how much damage does it inflict on the workers of China? What are the social effects of people talking to their devices rather than to each other, the instantaneous gratification of information, games, images and porn at your fingertips? And do we contribute to that with our pictures and our  films and our blogs?

I sometimes think that these are the types of questions we should be asking rather than the rather limited ones that are raised by photographic ethics from the 1970s.

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