The Obscure Image 
Simba Ncube 

[ Question ]
            How can the obscure forms of an image challenge our conceptions of current mass media, though a contemporary lens?

[ Reference Point ] 
               Obscurity within images refers to the intentional use of visual elements such as blurriness, distortion, glitches, visual abnormalities or concealment to create a sense of ambiguity or mystery. By obscuring certain details, the viewer's curiosity is triggered, and they are prompted to engage more actively with the image, striving to decipher its hidden meaning. Thus, these visual elements disrupt the passive viewing experience, shifting the viewer from a casual observer to an active participant.

Two key thematics I investigated within this project are the poor image by Hito Steyerl and Mass Media statements from Walter Benjamin. The concept of the poor image by Hito Steyerl is driven by the obscure image. By deliberately distorting, blurring, or concealing visual elements, the obscure image operates as a metaphorical device to disrupt conventional modes of thought and perception. The absence of complete visual information forces the viewer to concentrate and fill in the gaps using their imagination and cognition. This process stimulates critical thinking, as the viewer unravels the obscured elements to construct their own interpretations.

Walter Benjamin argued that the advent of mechanical reproduction, such as photography and film, fundamentally altered our perception and experience of art and reality. Benjamin contended that mass media severed the aura of authenticity and uniqueness associated with traditional artworks, replacing it with a proliferation of reproducible images. This flood of images, he argued, leads to a "distracted" mode of perception, where individuals became passive consumers rather than active participants. Benjamin's insights highlight the potential for mass media to shape our modes of thought, influencing our attention, perception, and engagement with the world around us.

One method I explored relied on visual elements of the obscure image, to challenge Walker’s statements with perspectives from Steyerl’s poor image that embodies the mechanical reproduction of mass media.  Colour was another method I explored. In the 1960s, colour TVs were initially seen as distractions, and black and white TVs were favoured. The monochromatic aesthetic of black and white was believed to evoke a sense of timelessness and focus the viewer's attention on the narrative. Colour was perceived as visually stimulating but potentially distracting from the storytelling. Over time, as colour TVs became more prevalent, filmmakers and television producers began to harness the expressive possibilities of colour, realising its potential to enhance narratives and evoke emotions. This shift in perception transformed colour television from a distraction to a method that aids the viewer to concentrate