What’s the thing?

April 4, 2018

What’s the thing of Mälarhöjdsbadet? Is it the power line from above, is that what characterises and identify the site from above, say an aircraft on 12 000 meters above sea level. Or is it the picture in the local press? Or the images we find on instagram with the hashtag mälarhöjdsbadet? Or is it basically the name? Is the name the thing of the site? The name tells us that it belongs to Mälarhöjden, which tells us that it is nice, clean, calm, segregated, expensive. To conclude, the thing has a value, only by its name.


“The image is the thing in which senses merge with matter.”


Hito Steyerl writes about image, identification, participation. The text is, in a way, positive towards the images and what they do, or actually what we do do with the images. We participate in the images, and therefore identify with the object . She writes about the movement from object to subject and then object again.


“Traditionally, emancipatory practice has been tied to a desire to become a subject. Emancipation was conceived as becoming a subject of history, of representation, or of politics. To become a subject carried with it the promise of autonomy, sovereignty, agency. To be a subject was good; to be an object was bad. But, as we all know, being a subject can be tricky. The subject is always already subjected. Though the position of the subject suggests a degree of control, its reality is rather one of being subjected to power relations. Nevertheless, generations of feminists—including myself—have strived to get rid of patriarchal objectification in order to become subjects. The feminist movement, until quite recently (and for a number of reasons), worked towards claiming autonomy and full subjecthood.”


Back to the image. Or the images. Even though the image can seem clean, clear and one-sided, its not. Steyerl continues:


“So then how about a specific thing called “image”? It is a complete mystification to think of the digital image as a shiny immortal clone of itself. On the contrary, not even the digital image is outside history. It bears the bruises of its crashes with politics and violence. It is nothing like, say, a carbon copy of Leon Trotsky brought back to life through digital manipulation (though of course it could show him); rather, the material articulation of the image is like a clone of Trotsky walking around with an ice pick in his head. The bruises of images are its glitches and artifacts, the traces of its rips and transfers. Images are violated, ripped apart, subjected to interrogation and probing. They are stolen, cropped, edited, and re-appropriated. They are bought, sold, leased. Manipulated and adulated. Reviled and revered. To participate in the image means to take part in all of this.”

Steyerl, Hito. ‘A Thing Like You and Me’ in e-flux Journal #15 April 2010 http://www.e-flux.com/journal/15/61298/a-thing-like-you-and-me/

Grosz, Elizabeth. ‘The Thing’ in Elizabeth Grosz, Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space, 167–83, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.


/Andrea Bodelsson

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