Art was created pretty much the same way for millennia: Grab something that makes a mark and go to town on a wall or piece of paper. In the 19th century, though, artists were presented with a plethora of new tools and mediums to work with, from cameras and film to audio recording devices and projectors. Today, such objects are considered fairly out-of-date, demonstrating the increasing speed with which technology becomes obsolete.
“The constant progress of technology can be simultaneously good and bad for art,” says photographer Max de Esteban, whose series, Proposition One, examines the phenomenon of rapid obsolescence in technologies used to create or document works of art.
Proposition One looks like a collection of X-ray scans of moderately outdated devices, like a Super 8 camera or a cassette deck. In fact, the images are produced with a normal camera: The photographer deconstructs each object, photographs each layer individually (after spray-painting them white), and then reconstructs the images digitally. “By eliminating the objects’ individual peculiarities, each photograph becomes a generic symbol of decay and death,” he writes.
De Esteban uses terminology associated with death–”trauma, decay, decomposing organic bodies”–to cloak the work in surgical distance. By using the language of medicine (and the trope of X-ray imagery) to describe art-making devices, he conflates their obsolescence with human death.
So in a way, each image is a little memorial. Says de Esteban, “I want to show their insides, their souls.”