An Elegy to the Screen
Georgina Vardy

 

 

Inspiration comes when i stare into the world and let my mind wander. It’s ironic, it comes when i look away from the screen. However, i must return to the screen so the product of this inspiration can come to fruition. Unlike the page, the screen allows me to erase all traces of my mistakes and misgivings. The screen, the screen- oh great monolith! Kubrick’s warning to us all. Long before uncle Elon and prof Hawkins came with their learned prophecies about artificial intelligence. Oh, Stanley! How he understood the fragmentary dimensions of human suffering, manifestations of our innermost perversions. But the screen is one that has been ever present in our milieu of modern maladies, doubly encoded as a source of distraction and inspiration. The relationship between the screen & the image is akin to the relationship between Dr Frankenstein & his creation (not accounting for the common misnomer that the monster himself is named Frankenstein). The screen itself is neither medium, nor is it message. It is a channel, a vehicle, a receptacle, a vacuum, a vessel. It is able to contain a three-dimensional world more so than the page or canvas could ever dream of. The page is flat and betrays its artifice immediately. The screen may be flat but it’s teeming with life, a network of signals and information buzzing within its borders. A cluster of pixels arranging themselves to form an image. Shining and vibrating, it summons us with its robotic siren song. Beep beep beep, beep beep, beep beep beep. Long live Morse code! The screen has allowed us to defy the laws of science. We can now be in two places at once, across space and time, through video calling. We can also share our immediate experiences with others in real time. And when we die we will live on in the screen like modern day mummies, eternally encased in portable LED sarcophagi. Although the screen facilitates experiences that the page or canvas cannot, it also curses the viewer with another layer of separation and distance from the image it encases (by image i mean whatever we see on a screen regardless of its form).

/skriːn/
noun
noun: screen; plural noun: screens

  1. a fixed or movable upright partition used to divide a room, give shelter from draughts, heat, or light, or to provide concealment or privacy.
  2. a flat panel or area on an electronic device such as a television, computer, or smartphone, on which images and data are displayed.

The screen separates whatever is contained within it from that which exists in our physical reality. It acts as both a fixed and movable partition between two worlds, material and immaterial. It is movable in moments of real time mediation and fixed in moments of exchange and exposition. The screen is a mirror. In its active state, a state of light, as a camera and in its inactive state, a state of darkness, we see ourselves reflected in its surface. This is the only case in which a complete state of blackness, darkness, which is in turn a complete lack of light, can reveal a clear perceptible image that is true to reality.  This is only case in which darkness acts to illuminate an image thus forcing us to confront our own reflection as the passive disciples of the screen. The screen that holds our attention captive. This moment of darkness exposes the screen’s ultimate weakness, its dependency on an external source of energy. And with this our own weakness is too revealed, that is our well-known dependency on the screen itself. The moment the screen loses its vitality, our hearts sink and panic sets in as we are left staring at an image of ourselves steeped in darkness. At this point we have no choice but to turn our attention towards the screen’s lesser valued prototype, the window.