A Self-Referential System
Six Kodak slide projectors stacked one on top of the other, leaning against each other, standing next to or across from each other, their light bulbs pouring luminosity through their lenses onto a non-existent screen. No slides of a past vacation with friends in a faraway culture, no pictures from a family reunion or examples of masterpieces for a lecture on the history of art. Only light - pure, blinding and unfocused.
Each projector thus refers to nothing but itself and the other projectors. This curious System of self-referentiality denies the projectors the functionality to which these machines owe their very existence. In the absence of a projection, the tool itself becomes the object of analysis. Not the projection, but its source, the projector, becomes the center of attention. Baudrillard suggests that the post-industrial consumer no longer desires objects for their function, but rather for their abstract qualities, achieved through the manipulations of advertising and display. Such marketing strategies are, of course, directed more at motivating the consumers desire for a particular lifestyle than at praising the unique utilitarian properties of the consumer object. The Marlboro Man, for example, is not the icon of particular brand of cigarette, but rather of way of life, a Weltanschauung; and Lagnese ads tell us more about our obsession with oral sex than they do about the unique and special qualities of that particular brand of ice-cream.
As Allan McCollum has observed in relation to his own ”Perfect Vehicles‘, the common, everyday, utilitarian object becomes an object of art through the Suspension of its utility. That is to say, “it is filled with meaning and value only after it is emptied of its substance. Thus its privileged status must be maintained according to a tacit agreement amongst the social body (…): that the object should not be used for what it was intended.“ In Six-Pack-Six, the tool becomes the product. The immateriality of light is directed back to the materiality of the machine which produces it. The function of the projectors is no longer to throw light onto a distant surface, but rather only to enlighten itself.
Through the denial of its function, the projector attains autonomy. The medium is the message.
The altered functionality and exchangeability of the projectors (or a work of art, or a can of beer, or a human being) lies at the core of Six-Pack-Six. Each projector is unique and individual. But it is not the individual who is of interest here. On the contrary, attention is focused on the relationship of one pro- jector to the other, on the system behind their placement in the group. The individual projectors sacrifice their singularity in favor of the whole, fluctuating between individuality and anonymity. Although each is an individual, the projectors only function in association with the others. Its meaning is only clear in the context of the whole. The shiny new projectors are thus metaphors for the human condition and the role of the individual in the context of society. Each projector has its own individual character, its own unmistakable aura. This is, however, qualified by the presence of the other projectors. The projectors function only within the system, whereby the system is dependent upon each individual projector. Were hut one projector missing, the entire system would collapse.
The so-called new media, the apparent trend toward the immateriality of art in the post-industrial age of the Internet, is dependent upon a series of tools and apparatuses. Every projection needs a projector, each Website exists only with a computer, all paintings require a paintbrush. But what happens when the tool becomes the work of art? A beer can is merely a container, hut without this container the beer inside would he useless. By drawing attention to the tools of the trade, Six-Pack-Six demonstrates that light is a medium which can he formed. It is a sculpture in the Beuysian sense of the term. But without the projector, it remains formless and unfocused, a chaotic phenomenon which flows out in all directions. Six-Pack-Six draws our attention back to the tool, the reigns which guide and control the otherwise formless medium. Each projector exists for itself and acts as a support for the other projectors. Despite, or to be more precise, because it has been denied its function, the projector assumes a “privileged status“, a position of autonomy and authority. The projector exists because it exists. No further justification is needed. The medium is the medium.