Image is Virus, 1983
video, colour, MP4
In the video work “Image is Virus”, Dalibor Martinis (1947), one of the pioneers of video art in this part of Europe, continues his preoccupation with the social system and broadens the scope of his attention from the field of public (state) television (“TV Timer”, 1973, “Nature Morte”, 1974, etc.) to the area of global commodity production and communication. The video is a collage of recordings of the Radio Television Zagreb’s main newscast, television commercials, interiors of department stores and office buildings, archival footage of military activities and testing of state-of-the-art weaponry, quotes taken from arcade video games and pornographic films. It starts with a question about the nature of reality written in the background of the video image: “What is reality? There is no true or real reality. Reality is simply a more or less constant scanning pattern.” Is reality, then, something independent of our perception, or is reality the way in which we perceive the world and accordingly interpret the things and phenomena around us? For Martinis, there is no dilemma: it is the latter. The phrase: “The word precedes the image, and image is virus.”, which appears at one point in the video, points to another area of interest for Martinis: is the hyperproduction of images, brought about by technological development, threatening our ability to perceive and distinguish reality from illusion? Martinis found an inspiration of sorts in the novel “The Ticket That Exploded” (1962) by the American writer William S. Burroughs. The novel became popular in the 1980s, mostly thanks to the New York art scene, which, having experienced the new wave of media and economic globalisation under the Reagan administration, found in it ideas that could be applied to different social situations. Laurie Anderson, a popular musician and artist, who recorded the song “Language is virus” in 1986, also found inspiration in the novel.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: still image from the video © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023