me, kdg
Kim de Groot is a design researcher with an MA in new media. She is part of the lectoraat Communication in a digital age and teaches new media at the Willem de Kooning academy Kim's research deals with the inverted relation between image and reality. Moving from representation to the performative, from the visual to the infrastructural, images are no longer created to represent a reality but to manage it. Kim examines images as informational objects and traces the relations between image, event and media.



vlf exhibit at wdkavlf exhibit at wdkaIn our networked society, images are no longer only visual surfaces that represent a reality. The image being digital, exists of data and is described by metadata. The digital networked image is a data repository but what does it look like? Can its data be involved in its design?
Consisting of data, the digital image is readable and manageable by the network. It facilitates connections to be made between people, camera's, files, keywords and more. People have become aware of the image as a tool, of its multiple uses and benefits, besides its singular aesthetic richness. Also the tool itself has evaluated from being a supporting and constructive context to becoming an organizational method. Think about web applications such as Flickr, YouTube or Vimeo. In these contexts, images are not created by the application but are organized and managed by it. In Flickr for example, groups of people are connected to each other through images, they are the glue of the network.
Even the camera is involved in this image management since it is part of the networked chain of events within Flickr and YouTube. Although the camera literally creates images, it is inextricably linked to the agenda of the organizational method of the tool. An example is the digital camera that comes with a YouTube capturing mode. 'Shoot, easy upload and share!' is the advertising slogan. No more DIY digitizing, resizing or encoding in separate software, the camera does it all for you. Camera and application merge; they exist as one tool.
Another example of a networked image-to-tool situation is one of mobile phones that support direct uploading to the web. In that case, the image taken is not just a nice photograph, it is a tool that organizes a person's online presence. It answers popular questions such as; where are you? and what are you doing? (the most prominent questions Twitter users try to answer daily) The image performs the functions of a tool.
A camera phone image of her dog’s poop in the metro configures the future of a Korean girl at the moment the image is being recorded and instantly uploaded to the web. Very soon after this image moment the girl's personal information is published on the web and results in an online hate-campaign. It makes the girl leave her university. Networked images allow for the management of power relations inscribed to it by software.
The image as tool is a result of the social productivity stimulated by web-applications as well as by the easy access to recording devices such as mobile phones. The fact that both tool and image are digital and networked levels the borders between them. Within digital networked images you will not only find traces of the tool but a tool in itself.
Striking is that the process of images becoming data and a tool, is almost completely invisible and mainly an indexical back-end process. At this point it is the designer that can and should question the tool from a visual point of view. What do digital tools allow us to see? How can the tool be made visible? How to integrate the aesthetics of the tool in images, in design? How can digital tools be challenged and help to expand the concept of visuality? It seems that VLF, a collective of three designers from Paris, has decided to give it a go!

tool image
In the work of VLF a virtual world of data and tools meets the visual and especially perspective. Being inspired by cubism they try to further develop the concept of (multi) dimensionality by using software, a digital tool. Four to five dimensional objects or hypercubes, linedrawings and images of virtual perspectives in the form of paint are the result. All start from one concept; materializing a virtual perspective, that of the tool.
What you are looking at in VLF's work is the tool. The tool at work but also designers challenging a tool and finally designing tool images. A tool image is an image that integrates a tool's characteristics and potentials as well as the aesthetic of the tool. It shows how it is being produced. The question is, can the drawings be re-produced, can the hypercubes and its virtual dimensions that are produced by the software, really exist as an object?
VLF manages to do this by painting 'impossible perspective' on top of the existing faces of a possible cube. In that way the virtuality of the tool and of an impossible shape is actualized through its materialization in paint.

The line drawings of the hybercubes, that are created with an Adobe Illustrator filter, show how much the cubes include the tool and its impossible perspectives. The drawings and cubes are informational, enabling the viewer to read and understand them. To understand them is a challenge since the drawings and cubes do not refer to any kind of reality outside of them. It is a reality that has its starting points in the virtuality of the tool and is a reality in itself. A reality in which all images and objects refer to each other and are a multiplication of one and the same concept.
My reading is that first of all, the drawings are a tool for constructing a cube with impossible dimensions and finally a material version of a hybercube. At the same time the drawings are a tool for understanding how the hypercube is a visualization of perspective, a point of view in itself. It shows how the cubes are not an object but 'a way to look at it', a materialized or almost freezed moment of virtual sight. Finally, without the material hybercube it is impossible to perceive the perspective that is constructed by the tool since it is flat, it simply doesn’t allow certain views.

the surface of design
What is intriguing about VLF is their curiosity for simulating perspective and multi-dimensionality from the point of view of a flat or 2D profession: graphic design. Working parallel to the conceptual construction of cubism VLF soon hits the surface of design. A surface that can be explained in two ways. One is the literal and material surface of the image as a flat plane. Second is the hybrid surface of design, the interface, which is inextricably linked to an engine, an entry point into the back-end of the machine and into data. Seemingly a place where data and tools meet the visual.

Two images are emblematic for the way VLF deals with these two kinds of surfaces. One image is a photograph of the raw hypercube, the object 'under construction', standing in the wood workplace of the Willem de Kooning academy. The second is the same image but transformed in Photoshop. Grey tones are added to some of the faces of the object. In that condition it simulates dimensions the hypercube does not materially possess but virtually. It simulates the paint as 'perspective' on top of the faces of the cube.
The first image is an image of a reality, that of a multi-dimensional object in space. The second is an image of virtual perspectives and dimensions. Moving back and forth between these two images I realize that it will be just touch that will help people to understand what exactly they are looking at. When touching a flat surface that implies a certain perspective, you have to conclude it is just an image you're seeing, an image of perspective, one of the many images that are displayed in the drawings on the walls.
The layer of grey paint interfaces the object's construction, it is a reference to the tool in the object. On a visual level any kind of reference to the object being a figurative representation is taken out by the grey color. The hypercube is a representation of its construction, it shows how it has been produced within the context of the tool. The grey tones represent the dimensions the tool allows the cube to possess, virtually. What is interesting is that the virtual dimensions are being materialized by a layer of paint; the physical hypercube is annotated with virtual but visual information.

The work of VLF is based on conceptual images, dealing with the potential of materializing virtual perspective by imaging it. How flat is software? What perception is possible within a software and can this be materialized? It is at the exchange level of the tool and the visual that designers should take on these challenging questions. The challenge to find out where and how the tool enters the visual and rearranges the relations between virtuality, visuality and materiality. It is through the tool that allows the designer to find new potentials of the visual.
The software turned out too flat to walk around the objects or show all parts of it and according to VLF you have to be able to move around an object to really know it. Only by moving the objects themselves its multiple dimensions can be shown within the context of the tool. By building the hypercubes and exporting an image of perspective as a layer of grey paint into the material world, VLF allows the viewer to both experience its material and virtual dimensions at the same time.
Bringing together the grey paint as the 'image of perspective' and as the interface to the tool, I start to wonder, is this a multi-dimensional object I’m admiring or am I actually walking around an image?

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website VLF:

The exhibition has travelled from Rotterdam, Willem de Kooning to Aix-en Provence and is now running until July 31st.

Kim de Groot is a new media designer, teacher at the Willem de Kooning academy for Crosslab and researcher of Imaginary Property at the Jan van Eyck academy. Kim's research project deals with the inverted relation between image and reality. Moving from representation to the performative, from the visual to the infrastructural, images are no longer created to represent a reality but to manage it. Does the organizational role of images take over the significance of their visuality?