Provenance: web search, speculation
An artefact can imply an item derived from human production (a vase, a museum piece, evidence of cultural production); and yet, the word may also be invoked to describe the scratches and distortions that emerge illicitly on screens (for instance, a greasy fingerprint applied to a roll of film stock may lead to an ‘artefact’ on the film, which becomes explicit after the film has been processed into a two-dimensional, linear cinematic experience). The term therefore carries an oscillation between its existence as a product of either human intentionality or of inadvertent consequence.
The latter meaning can also imply a schism in transmission; in a radiography context, the Oxford reference dictionary defines it as ‘an artificial blemish appearing on an image suggesting a defective technique or image receptor as opposed to the true appearance of the patient: an artefact indicates something that is not really there.’
This meaning nods towards the potential artifice of this and other texts. It accepts that they may pose a distortion between the people, events, situations that I reference and the representations of them that you (the reader) receive. The variables involved in the word ‘artefact’ also reflect the promiscuity of my thought process as I have produced and related one artefact to the next; haphazard and loosely associative.
The actuality of the artefact itself, which is not the mischaracterisation of a referent, but is a ‘thing-within-itself’ (hermeneutically considered). For the artefacts of screens — derided in the way that low-resolution, ‘poor images’ have been — artefactuality offers a return of agency. As Hito Steyerl asserts of the poor image, it ‘is no longer about the real thing — the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities. It is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation. In short: it is about reality.’