Vox Populi, Philadelphia
“Just about everything has been Photoshopped,” a voice-over intones in the precise diction of a talking clock, riffing on Susan Sontag’s famous quote about photography. Onscreen, we see a notorious image of Iran’s 2008 missile test, which was manipulated to disguise the failure of one of the four missiles to launch. (“Iran possesses the ability to Photoshop images!” a breathless The Daily Show correspondent announced when the images were released.) In Laric’s video, the image is followed by a few of the many parodies that were created by Internet users, each offering its own twist.
Oliver Laric’s Versions (2010) takes up the idea that there is no such thing as original or copy, but instead a series of endless modifications with no identifiable point of origin. This way of thinking may be prevalent in the age of the remix and the mash-up, but Laric’s compendium of quotes and images cites several examples that predate Photoshop by centuries, such as a religious statue defaced by iconoclasts during the Reformation. Their attempt to destroy an icon resulted in the creation of a new icon – that of the faceless statue.
Versions does not ask us to mistrust images, as the iconoclasts did. Rather, it suggests that we should trust in the image as a fabrication, manipulation, or fake. By considering the process of construction and interpretation that lies behind every ‘version’, the image can allow us to see the world in ways that the naked eye can never perceive.