Jimmy Owenns’ “Photographic Diary”
Jimmy Owenns’ work “Photographic Diary”, from 2001-2002, still functions today as an interactive site which addresses our fascination and obsession with visual culture. The themes which are addressed range from Debordesquian visions of our immunity to the spectacle of news imagery, to Marshal McCluhans ideas of technology used as an extension of our senses in our attempt to comprehend our world.
The aesthetic appearance of Jimmy Owenns’ work “Photographic Diary” speaks to every viewer through the familiar image of the open diary whose pages and images the viewer can access interactively. The worn appearance of the diary lends an almost tactile aspect to the image, adding a sensory layer to our perception as we navigate through the site. The scotch-taped image is another detail which adds a home-made element in a medium which otherwise lacks any crafty aspects. The image which begins to move when clicked on cannot fail to captivate the viewer, bringing to mind the magical portraits from J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarths. In this on-line diary, two related media converge – the photographic image, and the moving image, or film, consisting of individual stills. The latter is brought to light in one “series” of motion blurred (a la Wong Kar Wai) portraits of a woman, which when viewed one after the other become film-like with larger intervening gaps emphasizing the area where film and photography overlap.
In this work, the idea of the image as a window is expanded to multiple frames, each one available to the viewer as a journey into another dynamic world. Along with personal diary-like image entries, is a page dedicated to the all too familiar twin dower destruction, shown from many perspectives, and when activated together they form a multi screened account of those disturbing events, providing a plethora of perspectives for us to immerse ourselves in. The presence of these images evokes a spectacular aspect to the work, reminding us of the power of the image to bring forth visually a historical event, and at the same time, its failure to move us since the very act of repeated viewing through a news-resembling media only serves to alienate and detach us further from the truly horrific ramifications of that happening. The presence of those images in the diary seem somewhat incongruent alongside the other images, but serve to provide a shared subjective experience for the viewer. Although the form of this artwork demands an individual and isolated interaction with the screen, when everyone watching this work from his or her terminal has an association to the event depicted, a sense of “imagined community” is cultivated, providing a way for all viewers to connect on an (imagined) common ground.
While the work may be considered old, it still works when viewed today. The artist’s choice to include recent news events does not date the work, but rather addresses the gripping hold which visual culture has on us.
Owenns’ work shows numerous images of eyes, cameras and surveillance cameras from varying perspectives. The repeated imagery of lenses in various forms serves to remind us of the dynamic between the viewer and what is being viewed, and who is the object of the gaze. It addresses our fascination with the visual sense and the technologies which enhance that sense. Owenns also playfully includes images of hands which then move when activated as a comment on how not only is the visual sense being extended, but the tactile one as well…it almost feels as if our hand is on the screen as we use the mouse to click the image, thus creating a quirky interconnection of our visual and tactile perception.
The format of the work provides a very accessable on-line art experience for the viewer in a media which can sometimes be very inaccessable and lacking overview. Site designers seem to sometimes forget that they are competing for viewers in an almost limitless medium, and it is too easy to simply move on for lack of an adequate hook. The viewer is far less likely to linger over a site trying to decode a cryptic entrance when fully aware of how many sites are out there, awaiting their perusal. This impatience and compulsion to browse characterizes the medium. In the work of Owenns, the diary which is meant to provide an almost quaint and old-fashioned aspect, the “reader” place is easily located, and the “photos” are easy to navigate through and locate, as is travelling back and forth in the site.
“Photographic Diary” shows photos including paradigms from travel, news, and sports.These images offer a dynamic kaleidoscope of interactive viewing which touches on many theoretical aspects of visual culture, while using the medium of on-line technology to engage the viewer, and provoke thought.