For DIS Magazine, Rob Horning reflects in Fear of Content on content online in relation to the content of artworks in Susan Sontags essay “Against Interpretation”:
Sontag thought that “to interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world,” but the pox of internet content overwhelms by demanding too little of the intellect, by not having enough substance.
While we think that certain premises of the text, like:
to live our lives as art; that is the promise of personal expression as public documentation. The self is a content farm.
leave out the conditions of this “public” online, corporations like facebook & google offering privatized/commercialized versions of the public (there is a web we have lost!), we think that linking the question of content to the question of online content by connecting art production and usership is a good direction, so we posted this comment (we did twice, DIS keeps on deleting it) to the piece:
Inside the digital layer of the society of the spectacle – the like-economy – we valuate each other on an aesthetic level, this constitutes a terror of appearance. It would only make sense not to interpret here if the aesthetics would not be one of representation.
As an online surfer, it makes more sense to approach everything as flow, as surface, as performance to interact with. To reclaim the means of interpretation enables the deconstruction of representation, these powers of the reader are what turns masks into faces (opposed to “The mask is the face“ as Susan Sontag writes), not the power of style but the power of interpretation.To interpret the poetics of the face, instead of short-circuiting one’s own means of translation, would mean to ask all the questions that Sontag rejects. This also means to not let art seduce you, but instead claim the art as a means of liberation, of other ways of expressing content and of understanding content, ways of speaking and ways of seeing, ways of context hacking. It makes art more tangible than in the system of experience that Sontag describes. These processes of art in social media can become aesthetic technologies.
Sontag’s high-culture approach focused on style consumed by stylish beings leaves out the zombies of low-culture. But exactly the zombie approach of the pale prosumers that walk slow with big gestures and grimaces, who open up their own skin, who touch the inside of others, who eat another being’s face, who alter and deconstruct everything and everyone, this active invovlement in aesthetics and the active interpretation with a detourning of all surfaces constitutes the possibilties of militant interpretation. The mask is not the face, but the face is the fragile mask together with all the glitches that open up the mask to interpretation.