Johnny Herbert is a British art writer living in Oslo. He has been commissioned to write a piece relating to the exhibition Ingenmannsland. His text Resolution´s Cut is an independent response to the works shown in ingenmannsland - nomannsland.


Resolution’s Cut

Taking the word “resolution” for a walk, there are two uses of it we might read together: one in which it is a formal (judicial/political) agreement which seeks to act to solve a conflict (e.g. Khartoum Resolution); another wherein it refers to the level of detail in an image that is then processed by a specific technology (“high resolution image”…etc.) Read together, with an eye on its other uses, it is possible to infer that resolution articulates thedetermination of a separation (to then be resolved), determination here being   the identification and agreement upon a shared understanding – between people or between data and machine – which can then be acted upon to make things “complete.” In Enlightenment philosophy, on which so many (involuntarily) rely, the main condition for understanding is prior understanding; imagination feeds understanding but remains under its jurisdiction: this testifies to widespread anxiety of the new, different (“other”), and irresolute.

In technology, increased resolution works towards an increase in definition and fidelity (high-definition and high-fidelity), terms now entangled with assertions of quality when solely based on information quantity. These terms also imply a language of recognition, reliability, and faithfulness – we can apparently trust media technologies because they are “slaves” to reproducing a given source (e.g. from the “master”). Soon to be imperceptible, such trust will then have to be automatic: the handling of greater amounts of information by machines is leading to the possibility of being immersed in a world in which a media’s resolution has exceeded the capability of human brains to perceive its work (e.g. virtual reality); technology desires to become transparent and disappear in experience. Here, it can be said that in the development of technology the “determination of separation” is also the very production of that separation, or it loses our trust.

Weaving together these two senses of resolution, a divergence emerges pertaining to the extent that (a) resolution produces the separation(s) to be resolved, but let’s keep walking: 

The initial notions of determination and separation can be imaginatively everted (turned inside out). Work in science has for years been inventing theories that unground perspectives on how we understand the world. One such principle is that of nonlocality in particle physics, also called “action at distance” and mocked skeptically by Einstein as being “spooky actions at a distance.” He was wrong. Nonlocality is the principle by which measurements of a property of a particle (such as position) instantaneously provide the measurement of a related property (such as momentum) of another particle, regardless of the distance between the two. Giving a lie to conventions of determination and separation by violating the fundaments of causal, localisable determination and therefore linear temporality and spatial separation, nonlocality asserts that we are entangled with everything. Happening on a quantum level, the challenge for us in the wake of this principle is thinking and imagining the radical alterations to how we think of the world and the infrastructures supporting certain other types of worldview.

Imposing the earlier rendering of resolution as the identification and agreement upon a separation to then be resolved, at best resolution becomes a kind of cut: in terms of law and politics, a resolution is then a violent operation within the social entanglement by way of conservative and conserving assertions of identification and separation; in terms of technology (and its political intertwinement), within its already pretty spooky operations (e.g. the recent use of holography in political election campaigns to enable politicians to “appear” and give speeches in many places at once) resolution is then an abstraction producing a public space and time counter to the principle of nonlocality; the politics of public governance are intimately bound to resolution’s rhythms (speed and intensity) and their propagation. The cut of resolution is, then, the refusal to re-imagine our (technological/political/judicial) infrastructures and institutions in light of the principles of science. Nonlocality demands a non-linear conception of history and, with Walter Benjamin, a recognition that the dead “have a claim” on the present. “Subjects”, and therefore “the other”, are cuts within sociality, abstractions that are made “real” by infrastructures: simpler for it, but what about our decomposed, disintegrating sociality?

This text, particularly the definition of nonlocality, is indebted to the work of Denise Ferreira da Silva, work to which I am enthusiastically indebted, knowing that she’s indebted too and knowing that we don’t need to pay because “credit is a means of privatisation and debt a means of socialisation.” (Fred Moten & Stefano Harney, The Undercommons).

Johnny Herbert