It is over 50 years since Joseph Kosuth’s conceptual work One and Three Chairs (1965) challenged its viewer to locate the “real” by choosing between an object & its visual or textual representations (Juzefovic, 2013). Replacing Kosuth’s chair with a DVD, this piece restates his question at a time when our experience of the world is actualised & often distorted through digital representation. Once a widespread tool for artists & curators, the DVD is in the rearguard of physical media, as artefacts & archives are increasingly, in Lessard’s words (2009) ‘dematerialized’.
Three plinths sit along a gallery wall. To the right is a speaker, playing audio of the artist reading academic texts, manuals & advertisements extolling the robustness & fidelity of the medium. In the middle is a DVD, its gold colour recalling trophies won by recording artists in the CD era; objects now sold as novelty gifts. On the left a screen shows a video of the same disc in situ, shot on 16mm, &, like Kosuth’s photograph, in black & white. The frame is still but imperfections - dust, grain, weave - confirm the medium as film & echo the DVD’s dying role distributing movies. The tension between analogue & digital forms suggests the longevity of the former over the latter. In mainstream & creative life, people increasingly embrace traditional forms such as vinyl records (Yochim & Biddinger, 2008) & film photography, while new technology hastens the obsolescence of once dominant digital media.
As with Kosuth, the question is where meaning is created: In the description or the object defined by it. The hubristic words coming from the speaker helped define the DVD & assisted in its success. But the viewer sees the hollowness of these words: DVDs only acquire meaning when imprinted with the digital traces of an artefact. Speeding towards disuse, it is emptied of that meaning, yet sits on a plinth as a museum-piece, destined to present its own storage & display issues for curators in the future.
Chivers Yochim, E. and Megan Biddinger. (2008) ‘It kind of gives you that vintage feel’: vinyl records and the trope of death.
Juzefovic, A. (2013) Creative Interactions Between Word and Image in Modern Visual Culture. Limes: Borderland Studies, Vol. 6(2), pp. 121-131.
Kosuth, J. (1965) One and Three Chairs. [Chair, photographic panel, text panel.]Museum of Modern Art: New York.
Lessard, B. (2009) Between Creation and Preservation: The ANARCHIVE Project. Convergence, Vol. 15(3), pp. 315-331.
Holmes, P. (2018, September). One and Three Discs (after Kosuth). Presented at Creative Legacies: Collaborative Practices for Digital Cultural Heritage