What happens when artistic analogy […] arrives at the indiscernibility and interchangeability of analog and digital? […] Indeed, what happens when digital modes become more popular or preferred […]? In the visual and spatial arts, analog modes of representation historically did the heavy lifting of artistic analogy, despite crucial digital mediations. Now, though probably not for the first time, the emphasis has changed. In fact, the equation might appear to be reversed. In visual/spatial configurations, digital modes constitute analogies.
In Massimo Vitali’s Riccione Diptych of 1997-two nearly three-meter-high C-Prints behind Plexiglas, creating a panorama seven meters wide-we see the beach at Riccione, Italy, frequented largely by locals, at two different times of day and from two distinct but overlapping standpoints. It takes a while to notice these facts of temporal and spatial disjunction between the two photographs in part because the panorama, despite the literal separation of pictures, appears unified; it seems to be continuously correlated with one single Augenblick at Riccione. Moreover, even it the mise-en-scène stages discreteness, disjointness, differentiation, and discontinuity, the technology of imaging is classically analog: Vitali used big Deardoff camera (favored by photojournalists) positioned on a specially constructed platform, several meters high, from which he took the pictures.
A close inspection of the two photographs reveals people at the beach who have related themselves-correlated themselves-to Vitali’s act of photographing them: they are staring at the camera. One wonders how long it took for the others-most of the people in the scene-not to stare at the photographer on his giant podium. In digital processing, of course, it would be possible to eliminate anyone looking at the camera. Indeed, it would be possible to generate everything digitally in both pictures. The supernaturally sharp, bright, wood, and deep vista does seem a little faked, like a postcard or poster that has been touched up, whiter by airbrush (analog) or software (digital). Vitali says that he began his series of Italian beach panoramas in horror after the popular election of Silvio Berlusconi in August 1994: “I was in a state of shock… I suddenly decided to observe my countrymen very carefully.” The photos replicate Vitali’s understanding of Berlusconi’s point of view, analogizing a sanitized, complacent view of Italian normalities. At the same time, they reveal the inner conditions and disturbances of that normality: its cosmetic fakery, sexual innuendo, commodified leisure, deluded sense of affluence, and rigid conformism. That the “digitality” of the social correlates-the inherent exchangeability and desired interchangeability of the beachgoers and their ilk-is represented in analog mode secures these twinned analogizations, especially in the subtle collation-disjunction of the two images: we see pliantly that all of this fakery is real.