“The person who has never climbed a mountain has never lived. He merely vegetates on a level plain. What he lacks is the third dimension, the dimension of the sublime.”
– Vilem Flusser, quoted by Michael Najjar 
In 2008 Michael Najjar travelled to Argentina to climb Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas. While there he photographed the mountain and its surrounding peaks using an analogue camera; these photograph later became the basis of his 2010 series high altitude. In this series, the line of these already imposing mountain ranges is altered so that they no longer follow their natural path but instead trace the rise and fall of a number of the world’s stock indices – including NASDAQ, the Dow Jones, the DAX and the Hangseng. One image, perhaps the most potent of the series, deals with one single company: the infamous Lehman Brothers bank, the collapse of which is widely attributed as the trigger for the 2008 financial crash.
In a previous post,  I finished with a quote from a New Yorker article by Craig Mod, in which he suggested some different types of data that might be gathered and ‘pinned’ to the ‘back’ of a digital photograph. Amongst the data he suggested we might collect were “location, weather, even radiation levels […] social status and state of mind”, in other words data drawn from sensors and from social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  I made the point then that there is a huge difference between data taken from a sensor and data from taken from Facebook, the first is reliant on measuring some kind of physical quality; the second, the expressions of people. I stand by that point, but now I want to examine the two in a little more detail. Continue reading
Any discussion on the index, no matter the context, must at some point refer to the writings of C.S. Peirce who, as I noted in my first post on the index, outlined three principle types of sign: likeness (icon), indication (index), and symbol. To recapitulate: an icon is a sign that conveys an idea of the thing it represents simply by imitating it (as in a drawing), an index is a sign that shows something about its referent on account of being physically connected to it (as in a footprint), and a symbol is a sign that has come to be associated with its meaning by usage (as in words).  Continue reading