NXT creatives

Helena Schmidt

HKB - Hochschule der Künste Bern

Untitled (The Poor Image)

Untitled (The Poor Image) consists of 14 juxtapositions of text and image. The framed digital prints are installed in a horizontal succession crossing two walls. The work is the product of an extensive process of collecting. All of the images were found on the internet; Helena created a web tool (helenaschmidt.com) where people could upload pictures which they considered to be poor images. For the artist it was important to collaborate with the anonymous internet community to gather an image-based answer to the question of what a poor image might look like. Simultaneous to this, Helena asked various writers to create texts also ensuing from the term ‘poor image’. Working with this accumulation of pre-existing imagery and texts is seen by the artist as a form of artistic research. She was particularly interested in the value of randomly combining pictures and words/sentences. The 14 sets in the installation are a selection out of countless possible combinations created by a digitally-based random generator. By juxtaposing images with text fragments, each pair develops a life of its own thus creating new meanings. The artistic gesture of collecting and re-combining makes the archive of ‘poor’, ‘trashy’ and ‘borrowed’ internet images an independent and self-sufficient piece.

Artist Statement

At the beginning of the development, there was the idea to create a visual archive, collected from other people. I didn’t know what would happen to the material. When I read Hito Steyerls essay ‘In Defense of the Poor Image’ I realised that the meaning of poor in German differs from the one intended by Steyerl. While she is speaking about pictures with low resolution or bad quality, I translated it to ‘armes bild’ (impoverished image) for my online collection tool.

How do we treat imagery that we pull off the internet? How has the value of the image changed? Does the idea of a poor image exist? My work is deals with those questions both in an artistic and scientific way, without providing a conclusive answer. Despite the broad and complex process that lead to the work, I wanted the final piece to stand on its own.