MFJ 52 Introduction

Presence emphasizes the primacy of experience over analysis.

We are fascinated by the question of why people enjoy visual media – moving pictures, images, colors, the interplay between sound effects and music. But before we take on why maybe we should consider how. It starts out with a feeling – an impression – a smile or a twitch of the intestines. But those fleeting impressions are easy to forget, and are quickly forgotten, as we march (or stumble) forward, toward meaning.

The acknowledgement of presence emerges from a fundamental respect for authorial intentions, paralleled by a questioning of the extent to which intentions can be realized, and an understanding that intentions are often discovered during the processes of production. Presence rejects meaning as removed from experience, as filtered by inductive techniques, as emerging from wild searches for pattern and desperate reaches for conclusion. Presence rejects meaning as distinct from the art object and its impact.

In emphasizing presence we abandon what Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht describes in The Production of Presence as “a worldview that always wants to go 'beyond' (or 'below') that which is physical." (The Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey). Gumbrecht: "The word 'presence' does not refer to a temporal but to a spatial relationship to the world and its objects."

Presence is the transformation of a spectator's heartbeat into a pulsating light show; the flash of an artist's animation through the window of the subway; the daily experience of a Norwegian scholar in New York's Celluloid City, and captured moments of a video game reorganized into a time-based memorial for a close friend.

Presence, not meaning.

Grahame Weinbren

Jessica Ruffin

November 2009