What do images want? Towards an Ontotypology of the Image in the Age of Digital Envisioning

The technology of our private portable screens has silently engendered a new visual presence, a technical image, that reaches out to all other kinds of screens, including the traditional screen of painting. The way an image appears to us through digital formats, is more aptly described as an envisioning, facilitated by light emitting diodes that irradiate the eye, while at the same time beckoning touch through an interactive surface.Villem Flusser claims that these ‘technical images' are technically not images, but symptoms of electronic processes driven by a convergence of visual observation, conceptual categorisation and computing touch. Consequently the technical image is not like anything that has preceded it, from the cave to the cinema, since envisioning is facilitated by a swarm of electronic points in a state of decay, closer to a yawning emptiness than a physical presence. In this paper I will develop an economy of the contemporary image by way of Flusser and Friedrich Kittler, arguing that technical images have moved out beyond all previous means for understanding images, cutting aesthetics, philosophy and contemporary art off from the previous age of images and their productive or communicative projects.
As such the contemporary image is caught somewhere between being and non-being. The image as semblance Mark Titmarsh University of Technology Sydney PO Box 123 Broadway NSW 2007 Australia mark.titmarsh@uts.edu.au is less than a being because if semblance were to fully resemble its model then it would no longer be an image but that indicated being. At the same time any kind of 'appearing as non being' given by the image has its own kind of being that cuts across the division of beingnon-being. The result, by way of Heidegger is that technical images bring all visualisation into an essential closeness, a deseverance, that does not make images more intimate or understood, on the contrary, images become conceptually and phenomenally distant like looking glasses, equipment to be looked 'through' but not 'at'. By treating images in this way, as optical holes instead of dithering presences, something of the gigantic nature of our global technologies of envisioning are revealed, bringing with them an annihilating distance flung to the greatest point of removal beyond embodied experiences and discursive formations.