The image exists only in the moment it hits the retina and yet the image itself does not exist. There is a connection and a transfer of energy or an interpretation by the viewer which renders the image in its true state intangible. The computer-like changes of a file to something interpretative to the brain makes any image merely a mirage, not to mention, that the image itself is not concrete and is itself ‘created’ through the physical process of the body as well as the psychological processes of the brain.
Physics too suggests that matter is not solid, as previously thought and 99% of what we term matter is actually space, held together by named objects like: phonons, magnons, excitons, majoranas, wehl fermions, wave slaves etc. which themselves are simply words given to what scientists only hypothesise exist and are not matter at all; they too are creative metaphors to express something unexplainable. Truly, we live in either in multiple dimensions or the reality we call real is simply a veil, a shadow image of what is ‘perhaps’ there. Science also talks of ‘substances’ like dark matter which really are not mater at all. It is not even energy. Neither is there really such a thing as a vacuum. Gravity cannot explain it either, for what would there be to ‘bend’ if there is only empty space? Physics now refers to a ‘partial vacuum’ as describing anything as empty or nothing is problematic through the developments in quantum physics with it’s theory, that vacuum is a ‘state’ with the lowest possible energy and not necessarily ‘empty’ and they have also discovered particles or ‘beings’ that ‘hop in and out of existence’. All this begins to sound rather like dream theory or religion to someone like myself who is admittedly not a scientist but fascinated by these discoveries:
‘In quantum electrodynamics this vacuum is referred to as ‘QED vacuum‘ to distinguish it from the vacuum of quantum chromodynamics, denoted as QCD vacuum. QED vacuum is a state with no matter particles (hence the name), and also no photons. As described above, this state is impossible to achieve experimentally. (Even if every matter particle could somehow be removed from a volume, it would be impossible to eliminate all the blackbody photons.)
QED vacuum has interesting and complex properties. In QED vacuum, the electric and magnetic fields have zero average values, but their variances are not zero. As a result, QED vacuum contains vacuum fluctuations (virtual particles that hop into and out of existence), and a finite energy called vacuum energy. Vacuum fluctuations are an essential and ubiquitous part of quantum field theory. Some experimentally verified effects of vacuum fluctuations include spontaneous emission and the Lamb shift. Coulomb’s law and the electric potential in vacuum near an electric charge are modified.
Theoretically, in QCD vacuum multiple vacuum states can coexist. The starting and ending of cosmological inflation is thought to have arisen from transitions between different vacuum states. For theories obtained by quantization of a classical theory, each stationary point of the energy in the configuration space gives rise to a single vacuum. String theory is believed to have a huge number of vacua — the so-called string theory landscape.’[i] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum%5Bi%5D)
Then there is the replicated image. Whether in art or photography, the replicated image is, as Baudrillard suggests, a ‘simulacra’. Not only does an image mean nothing or everything, but an image is a framed moment. It captures or replicates nothing outside of that frame or the space in front. Often, it does not even capture the space behind it. Even film cannot adequately capture every aspect, although technology tries to move us closer and closer to that all uncaptured image which nonetheless is a mere replica. Every moment that passes beyond a moment is no longer existing. Splitting and re-splitting time and spaces between time mean, even mathematically, that all is infinite. The frames are not only physical, they were paradigms and they are fluidly changing through the perspective or multiple perspectives of the viewer(s) in the present. Even the photographic memory is only photographic and loses the essence of the real.
So what of the family photograph? Does it truly capture time or does it capture nothing? The still 2D image of a 3D or multidimensional existence is inconsistent and unreliable. It is combined with the ever fading and incorporeal memory of that image as stored in the brain. That memory too contains nothing of the true image of the time but pressed with added emotional dimensions it rounds off the 2D image to some extent. Nevertheless, a memory from on member of a family can contain nothing of the image of another member. The viewer perspective makes meaning only for that viewer and that can alter through time and processing. Thus processing of an image is ongoing until or at least we believe, until death. A shared response to the image (photograph) can both trigger memory and sharpen the initial moment captured but it can also degrade that very same captured moment.
Memory cannot therefore make an image more real as memory itself is problematic. Furthermore, a family portrait for example, shown to another family, means nothing except for what is viewed in terms of the ‘aesthetics’ or the subject or object. There is therefore, essentially a space between subject/and or object and image projected. Nothing but the moment exists but that exists in the past. Some philosophers will argue, however, that the past still exists and is existing alongside the present and the future but we cannot contemplate or capture this in art unless perhaps we think of cumulative culture. As a society we accumulate, we hoard, we venerate what we consider ‘art’ and this accumulation exists alongside present interpretations and expressions of our reality. It is both the ‘beginning and the end’. It is as if nothing is something if images continue to exist in both the physical culture and a philosophical eternal. Simply because our physical minds cannot exist in both the past, present and future is irrelevant if we are in it all. Therefore, it is ultimately the question of the eternal. An eternal space where everything ‘matters’.