Moniza Alvi

Be­ing Alive & To the Birds

The London Magazine - - NEWS -

be blind to their mean­ings’. Though this state­ment might be made about al­most any mean­ing­ful art­work (and Hustvedt does rather pre­emp­tively blame any reader who does not ‘get’ Cole’s book), her point is that ab­sence is here treated as a kind of pro­found pres­ence.

From shaded eyes to the ubiq­ui­tous cov­er­ings and canopies of Cole’s pho­tographs, what is not vis­i­ble takes on a greater im­por­tance than what can be seen. It is thus that Cole’s book, for this reader, comes to be about on­line cul­ture even as it es­chews it. A sole ref­er­ence to In­sta­gram serves to high­light the un­nerv­ing dif­fer­ence be­tween an on­line ‘fol­lower’ and one in real life: two of Cole’s im­ages re­veal him fol­low­ing an un­known woman in New York. In a very real sense, the book is a re­turn to ex­pe­ri­ence ‘away from key­board’, as the writer and artist Legacy Rus­sell puts it to­wards the end of The Dig­i­tal Critic. Though the in­di­vid­ual pho­tographs in the book do not al­ways hold strong ap­peal on their own (and might some­times prompt you to ques­tion the book’s over­all mer­its, or even its price tag), they do, silently, add up to a re­mark­able so­cial com­ment. Here is a se­ries of snap­shots of the world, our world, as it ex­ists and con­tin­ues to ex­ists out­side of, and in spite of, cul­ture on­line. It stands apart from the new sphere of con­sumerism di­ag­nosed by Barry’s es­say, and in­stead faces the old realm of faded bill­boards and signs that sim­ply read ‘CARS’. In a pe­cu­liar sense, there­fore, it is hard to imag­ine a more po­tent act of ‘dig­i­tal crit­i­cism’ than this book.

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