Photography has the innate ability to capture a moment in time, offering revelations of a subject in details that are otherwise missed by the human eye. The frozen subject, when processed with alternative techniques, is stripped of the qualities of our reality, that familiarity and obviousness we take for granted; the image becomes imbued with an oddity, a glimpse of an alternate reality. Opposites are revealed in the negative; the purity becomes darkness, the punished turns serene, and the orgasmic transforms into the torturous. Photographic alternative processes not only transform the image; they also alter our perceptive interpretation of the photographic object.
The concept of the ‘splinter test’ —or, in a broader sense the utilization of a fragmentary sample as source material for a work of art— extends itself beyond merely presenting the artist with an opportunity to absorb and reapply the memories, thoughts, feelings, and psychology of the originator of a splinter. Utilizing fragmentary samples additionally allows the artist to communicate concepts to the audience in predictable, but often more unpredictable ways. The sample will always carry associations, both conscious and unconscious, in the mind of an audience member; the abject might actually carry symbolic-value for a particular individual; whereas cultural memes have often lost meaning; sacrificing the power of association for the banality of absolute familiarity, discomfort for absolute comfort, and grit for absolute perfection. Artists are able to reintroduce chance —not of process, but of effect— into their work and the audience is able to bring interpretations into the artists’ conscious mind that would have been completely unexpected otherwise. As artists, the goal should be transgression, revelation, and confusion —or over-complexification— popular appeal sentences one to death in the universe of simulation and the fate becomes one of irrelevance or inconsequence, such is the fate of being as safe as milk.
The sadist from Lars von Trier’s Nymph()maniac served as an anti-hero, a hybridization of contradictory qualities, a deuteragonist who brought Joe to life by inflicting harm upon her. K understood Joe as no other character in this film was capable, as K was the only man to sincerely serve Joe, as a sadist serving a masochist. Joe’s life long promiscuity was not merely a search for pleasure, but a search for pain; Joe was engaged in a life long expansion of a form of self-harm that many borderlines and histrionics could unwittingly recognize as their own struggle; a slow process of self-immolation by way of vapid sexuality. It was K who was able to recognize the protagonist’s drives, fulfill them, and provide Joe with the feeling she had been chasing her entire life—a feeling of ecstatic release, a symbolic bloodletting, an ejaculation of her pent up trauma as a sex addict. K may have been the only man to selflessly serve Joe, the only man to love her on her own terms—likewise, Joe may have been the only woman that K was able to love as a sadist.
The re-emergence of tribalism —the rise of the alt-right has formed a historical concurrence with opposing forms of ethnocentrism— a phenomenon fueled by the arena of social media, a space where the individual will is lost amongst millions of others’ individual wills, placed inside a chaotic mashup of signs. The solution to the loss of individuation —the chance to recover identity— is to form compartmentalized tribes based on collective attributes shared as consumers, as subcategorizations of a semiocapitalist lifestyle. Despite all efforts to run counter to mainstream conformity, all collective identities have become ‘alt’ groups of conformity, so to speak; functioning as alternative collectives, alternative groups of consumers with alternative agendas in a virtual world of apathy and nihilism —alternative users of social media formed into virtual tribes. Adopting the collective identity provides sanctuary within an echo chamber; adopting the collective identity allows one to maintain their individuation while conforming to the expectations and whims of alternative subculture. By rejecting society’s standards and adopting the standards of an imaginary outsider status, the members of these groups have denied themselves the right to free will by accepting the burden of radical belonging; our emergent tribalism is the product of fear in the face of mass extinction.