The Snow Globe: a critical (re)engagement with onscreen life
Produced by: Jude Marcella
This project aims to address the experience of screen based media, flatness, recommender systems, and the learned inertia and disengagement they invoke. My response as an artist and individual is an attempt to intervene in my own habits, or become more present with myself through the production process. There is also a speculative endeavour to reintroduce a sense of contextual richness, situatedness and materiality to a ‘flat’ experience.
This subject is too expansive, with too many possible approaches and research methodologies, to be wholly considered as a ‘matter of concern’ to the critical technical practice tradition; but at the same time it is of vital concern to myself and thus I must try to interrogate it.
“Because critical theorists don't muse upon sophisticated objects, they cannot see them as what Latour calls matters of concern, something more akin to works of art or works of social and historical significance. For instance, philosophers such as Martin Heidegger would consider a handmade jug to be a matter of concern, but a can of Coke made in a factory is only an object, a matter of fact. Matters of concern are those endowed with political meaning or aesthetic significance.”p.41
screenshots from The Snow Globe
Anxiety and the affective network
In Lacanian psychoanalysis, desire and drive each designate a way that the subject relates to enjoyment. Desire is always a desire to desire, a desire that can never be filled, a desire for a jouissance that can never be attained.
Jodi Dean and Slavoj Zizek have very helpfully theorised about what might empirically be observed as dopamine addiction, behavioural and mood disorders emerging from social media use. ‘Affect, or jouissance in Lacanian terms, is what accrues from reflexive communication… Every little tweet or comment, every forwarded image or petition, accrues a tiny affective nugget, a little surplus enjoyment…’
Writing in 2010, Dean presciently observes that ‘[t]hese affective links are stronger than hypertextual ones, as the hypertextual aspect of (the corporatised/privatised internet) have been systematically obstructed and the horizons on which the average person might surf are ever narrowed.'
What Dean calls ‘blogging anxiety’ has at once driven and hindered the extent of my research. I am motivated by the shame that paralyses me.
I want to feel contextual richness and space. Hypertextuality alone doesn’t satisfy this.
Writing in 2010, Dean presciently observes that ‘[t]hese affective links are stronger than hypertextual ones’, as the hypertextual aspect of (the corporatised/privatised internet) have been systematically obstructed and the horizons on which the average person might surf are ever narrowed.'
I happened across a couple of early cinema accounts on Instagram, and the images broke through the 'film' of inertia and disillusionment on my brain. It was this, and the passage in Shard Cinema in which Williams describes the visceral multi-layered experience of watching the first filmed beheading scene (The Execution of Mary Stuart, 1895) which drove me to handle some of these special, uniquely expensive (to reference Steyerl) images in my work.
I could have studied any number of early filmmakers, but George Melies’ work is abundant, accessible, and contains many generally accepted cinematic ‘firsts’, such as the first use of a dissolve transition in Cendrillon. I haven’t seen a particular amount of attention given specifically to early cinema in contemporary art, or seen it used in different contexts/commentary with regard to new media or post internet culture. I think early cinema is highly important now as much as ever, and in this case, outside the context of traditional film media. A century on, I feel we have undergone a similar but more subtle and complicated cultural and aesthetic shift to that of the invention of photography, and that these relic images perhaps hold a position similar to that which paint did, at the time of their emergence.
The value I am placing on these films, given the material nature of the low-resolution, variously watermarked mp4 files as 'the medium through which they are embodied', is also in a large part a response to Hito Steyerl's seminal essay In Defense of the Poor Image. 'Obviously, a high-resolution image looks more brilliant and impressive, more mimetic and magic, more scary and seductive than a poor one', she says, and indeed if higher resolution copies of these films were available I would probably use them. But the reality of the images is not reduced, but transformed.:
'The poor image is no longer about the real thing—the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities. It is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation ... In short: it is about reality.'
The Snow Globe
The Snow Globe is a game built in the Unity engine. The player enters a museum and can watch looping clips from different Melies films that are both mounted on the walls and floating unanchored through the air. Each film has a different soundtrack attached to it which can only be heard at proximity. The piece aims to give an embodied affective engagement with the media contained therein.
There are other aspects of the game which I have not yet been able to implement, such as a mark-making controller with which the player's engagement would be much more apparent, and triggers to change the gallery building's geometry to appear as the theatre sets seen in the films.
The title of the piece is suggestive of the diorama imagery and mimetic themes that are emerging in my practice. I thought it was whimsical and thought provoking. It is also a world that exists literally behind glass.
fullscreen game: https://simmer.io/@meminine/the-snow-globe
1] Bogers, L and Chiappini, L (2019) ‘The Critical Makers Reader: (Un)learning Technology ’, INC No.12, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, p.41
Dean, J. (2010) ‘Affective Networks’ MediaTropes eJournal Vol II, No 2, 19-44 (accessed: 25/04/2020)
Harbison, I. (2013) ‘After Earth’, Flatness, 10/01/2020, http://archive.flatness.eu/after-earth.html (accessed: 25/04/2020)
John Hanhardt, Marvin Heiferman and Lisa Phillips, 'Image World' (1989) New York: Whitney Museum of Modern Art), MH p.17
Williams, E. (2017) ‘Shard Cinema’, Repeater Books, London.
Khovanskaya, V, Bezaitis, M, and Sengers, P. (2016) ‘The Case of the Strangerationist: Re-interpreting Critical Technical Practice.’ In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS ’16). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 134–145.
Kuss, E., (2016). 'Depression Among Users Of Social Networking Sites (Snss): The Role Of SNS Addiction And Increased Usage.' [online] Elynsgroup.com. Available at:
Campt, T. (2017) ‘Listening To Images’ Duke University Press.
Ranciere, J. (2007) 'The Future of the Image', translated by Elliot, G, Verso.
Galloway, A. (2012) 'The Interface Effect', Polity Press.
Jagoda, P. (2016) 'Network Aesthetics', University of Chicago Press.
McGuire, S, Martin, M and Niederer, S. (2009) 'Urban Screens Reader', INC No.5, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam.
Steyerl, H. (2009) 'In Defense of the Poor Image', e-flux Journal No. 10