Ecology of the imaginary

Muntaka Chasant, Burning sheathed cables to recover copper at the Agbogbloshie e-waste landfill near the center of Accra, Ghana’s capital city (detail)


After this long summer break I would like to resume from the central theme of this blog. That is, from that discourse already undertaken around the images and the impact they have on the constitution of our imagery and, therefore, of our experience, determining many of our points of view and the “form” of our thinking itself.

I had already written about how my generation had grown up under the powerful influence of a predominantly visual information, brought by different media (, and how the same child school education, from Comenio onwards, has made use of the picks of images in the course of the educational activities of the various disciplines, even in the absence of a prior linguistic-expressive literacy with respect to visual grammars.

In several interventions, then, I have tried to prove the foolish use, by some fringes of art, of images that meet only market criteria that change them into further instruments of colonization of the imagery of individuals and becoming, finally, antithetical to the art itself. Or at least to that idea of art enshrined in Romanticism which, following the abandonment of the client, assigned it a role of planning and human emancipation, of which today there does not seem to be any trace. And so I had endeavoured to trace the historical reasons for the betrayal of that role and of today’s drift (,,,

For these reasons, many of the internal interventions in the blog focus on the expressive grammars of the image. In a world invaded by images and visual media, the dissemination of this grammar is a tool for restoring democracy. Democracy decayed as a result of a new illiteracy induced by information that cannot be decoded by most because it consists of images whose language has not been transmitted at school.

From the early seventies of the twentieth century an ecological-environmental thought has made its way until it became an emergency. The historian Giampiero Carocci attributes this thought to the internal mutations of the period between 1945 and 1973, characterized by the technological and economic explosion of the West following the Second World War, an aspect that will increasingly mark the gap with the geographical areas of the Third World, given also the growth of the population and well-being of the West. A welfare based on the industrial practices of the Fordist-Kynesian model which ended with the economic crisis of 1972, but which, in fact, determined the start of the ecological alarm. From the early seventies, the so-called Information Age with its immaterial goods, by now the flagship product of capitalism, imposes itself. Crisis that allows its replacement avoiding the stagnation of the market following a decayed interest. A process made at the expense of ‘entire nations and geographical areas and which has as a consequence an increasingly massive and rapid migration.

This ecological-environmentalist thought, so widespread today, risks sinking if it does not take due account of the visual and constitutive identity of the new generational imaginaries. Both the Fordist-Kynesian model mechanical industry and the digital industry typical of the Information Age impose their products through advertising images, but first of all because they are premised on the creation of a socio-cultural fabric permeated with iconic symbols transmitted through television, social networks, comics, cinema, videos and musical costumes, fashion, art, in short, through the multiple declinations that images can assume and that constitute the imaginary of the market sensitive to that product and, therefore, the market itself, which has become immaterial and only “cultural”. Culture, in all its forms, merging into the typical process of information-product, participates in the colonization of the imaginary rather than in its liberation.

This imagery of frenzied consumption, imposed by the visual media, has led to the resulting pollution. For this reason it is necessary to develop an ecology of the imaginary, requiring particular attention and ethical effort from image operators: whether they are filmmakers, cartoonists, artists, TV or internet operators, stylists, illustrators (especially those devoted to children’s illustration), designers, cartoonists. Here I am not referring only to the subjects of their work or the type of their clients, but to the formal heritage that they spread. This formal panorama, which becomes a form of thought, constitutes the economic fabric of that frenetic and ruthless industry and economy that burns entire geographical and social areas, plunging them into poverty, but also human and moral areas that plunge into despair. That formal heritage is the “physical” identity, visible and attractive, of that capitalistic-material economy and at the same time our form and mental vice.

Since it is not plausible to be able to change the substance of things without a substantial change in our thinking, there is an urgent need for an ecology of the imaginary that leads to a different “form” of thought, which today coincides with the increasingly standardised media forms in order to better fulfil their task as goods.

For these reasons, the much praised “professionalism”, in the field of visual arts, too often forces operators to promote trivial and stereotyped forms that produce, or rather reproduce, ideas and thoughts as trivial and stereotypical. Forms and thoughts that are harmful because they are polluting material of the widespread imagination.



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Web sires

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