Jacques Perconte
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  31 juillet 2018  
Somaini, Antonio, Necsus.
Resolution: Digital materialities, thresholds of visibility
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Resolution: Digital materialities, thresholds of visibility

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by Francesco Casetti and Antonio Somaini


Often used as a synonym of ‘definition’, the term ‘resolution’ indicates the quantity of detail a raster digital image holds, and may refer to image resolution (the size of a digital image file), display resolution (the total number of pixels or the pixel density of a digital visual display), or optical resolution (the number of image sensor elements in a digital camera). Resolution may be increased or decreased, and its various degrees determine not only the visual appearance of an image, but also the conditions of its production, storage, and circulation. As a way of measuring and controlling visibility, resolution raises a whole series of aesthetic, epistemological, and political implications, and may be tackled from the different perspective of media theory, media archaeology, and visual culture theory. Reaching back to McLuhan’s reflections on the low definition of the television screen and on its analogies with mosaics and pointillisme, this introduction examines the question of resolution in a number of film, media, and artistic practices from the 1960s to today.


During the early 2000s, the widespread diffusion of digital visual technologies, begun a decade earlier, brings to the foreground once more the question of resolution with its various aesthetic, epistemological, and political implications. Artists, photographers, and experimental filmmakers tackle it from different viewpoints, focusing in many cases on the status of pixels and on their visualisation. Making pixels visible becomes a way of exhibiting the materiality of digital images while at the same time emphasising the fact that degrees of resolution determine thresholds of visibility, as we can see in the work of figures such as Thomas Ruff, Jacques Perconte, Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl, Eyal Weizman, and Thomas Hirschhorn.


Compression formats are also at the center of the work of the French experimental filmmaker Jacques Perconte, whose work can be considered, among other things, as a way of revisiting the traditions of Impressionism through digital means. Working meticulously on the different ways in which one may sabotage or hack the well-functioning of compression formats – a practice which in its more popular, widespread, and often repetitive forms is known as datamoshing – Perconte produces films which often begin by positing a camera in front of some kind of natural, atmospheric, environmental scenery. As it happens in films like Chuva (Madeira) (2012) [Figs 1, 2], which begins with the grey view of a storm over the sea and turns into a pulsating landscape of colored pixels, the images filmed with the videocamera begin gradually to be distorted and destructured, producing all kinds of restless, glitch-like, pixelated compression artifacts, and transforming the screen into a matrixial field whose plasticity – whose capacity of generating forms by aggregating and disaggregating pixels – appears to be limitless.

Figs 1, 2: Jacques Perconte, Chuva (Madeira) (2012), 2K Scope 24p film, courtesy of the artist.

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