SimagePorticus, A media installation at the American Academy in Rome, May 2013

SimagePorticus / American Academy in Rome

SimagePorticus, A media installation at the American Academy in Rome, May 2013

Erik Adigard & Jesse Jones, composer
American Academy in Rome, May 2013
8mn Sound + video installation, 15m long  /  »installation clip

SimagiPorticus builds a case of Rome as cradle for the modern image, which is today a mechanical, industrial, social and even autonomic thing. It has mutated away from the permanence of mosaic walls to the mobility of paintings, or from industrial engraving to celluloid. And today, one could argue that the mix of mobile and social media has irreversibly changed the meaning, the value and even the force of the image.

Images are no longer just pictorial, they coalesce into an environment, an ecology and even an atmosphere. They can appear like passing snowflakes or like a meme of tsunamic proportions. Image has both imploded and exploded. Overwhelmingly abundant, it is less valuable than ever before, but has nonetheless supplanted the power of traditional language systems and is changing culture in profound ways. This phenomenon didn’t exist as recently as ten years ago and yet it evokes the idea of Rome.

By the time of Augustus Rome became known as more than a city, it was both empire and cradle, by force and by image. Coming in the lineage of Greece it also carried the flame of civilization. Like Rome, image grew into empire, and like Rome it has fell into glorious ruins, but the civilization remained. The Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, respectively stand for ongoing ideas of the empire, the cosmic and the divine.

Where roman walls have fallen new ones have risen for the old city gates to stand for. The gates close and open the city while images call for frames and screens. Gates and frames remain when cities and images turn to dust. We abandon cities and forget images—that is because they stand for (or against) ideas. Frames and gates do not. We tare down walls and burn images when throwing gates and frames would be so much simpler. What is wrong with us?

Images stand not unlike walls, houses, temples, palaces, jails and megalopolis. We have never made, owned, edited, published, appeared in and shared so many of themes. Images are everywhere static, moving, luminous, long or fleeting. They multiply, disseminate, migrate, besiege, sprawl, invade, prevail and occupy.

Images are blending into all things and also blending into each other when there is sufficient semantic affinity, hence forming distinct image swarms.

This phenomenon calls for a new term in the blurry lexicon of ‘image’. One could call such a metabolism “simagi”—with “sim” referring to Simultaneous and Similar. As such a simagi stands for the merger of images into manageable typologies.

A simagi can be adaptable, organic, diffused and fragmentable: it can be made of fixed or shifting images, it can be temporary, performative and operate at all scales. It can be constrained or open to mixed pictorial expressions. A simagi is plural, atmospheric and continuous, in that way it reflects an evolution away from deterministic forms.

Empires can turn into vampires as too many walls can turn into dead-ends. The new architect may first need to be an iconoclast and the simagi a ram to tear down the gates.”