Qualified, basic and technical media

p { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }In the last post I described how a painting was used in two different ways in exhibitions at the City Museum of Oslo. In this post I will introduce one aspect of a media model developed by Lars Elleström, as a tool to describe the use of the painting. One of the things I find most useful with Elleström’s model is the way he has split up the term medium into three categories, qualified media, basic media and technical media. Instead of trying to find one clear definition of what a medium is, he has acknowledged that we use the term medium for a group of things that we might need to differ between when theorizing it.
When we talk about media, we often talk about specific media genres, like newspaper, TV-show, movie, radio program etc. Sometimes we also include artistic media like painting, sculpture or art photography. This is what Lars Elleström calls qualified media. That means there is a conventional understanding of how the medium is used and what it looks like, and how it has developed through history. Elleström use this term to avoid confusion with what he calls the basic media, which is written text, still image, moving image, three dimensional form etc. Qualified media always consist of basic media, but basic media do not necessary need to be qualified media. Both qualified and basic media need a technical medium to be ‘realized’ or ‘displayed’. A newspaper needs paper, a TV-show needs a TV, a novel needs a book, and a dance needs a body.
So, let’s try to use these terms on our example, the painting. The original painting is a qualified medium, a painting, realized through the technical medium paint on a canvas, built up by the basic medium still image. This is not so interesting on its own, but what happens when the painting is turned into a digital copy, enlarged and printed on a wall? Now the qualified medium is not so easy to name, but maybe it is mostly understood as a wallpaper. This wallpaper is realized through the technical medium print on wallpaper. The qualified medium wallpaper represent the technical medium paint on canvas which mediates the qualified medium painting. Elleström explains that technical media mediates basic and qualified media, while basic and qualified media can represent anything, including technical media or other qualified media. The qualified medium painting represent a suburban exterior, while the qualified medium wallpaper represent both the qualified medium painting and the suburban exterior.
To just use the terms do of course not reveal anything new about this example, but I think it is interesting to be able to describe precisely what role the qualified medium painting do have in the wallpaper version. Another interesting question is which aspects of the qualified medium painting and the technical medium paint on canvas is the technical medium print on wallpaper able to realize? And what does it mean for our experience of the wallpaper that we understand that what is represented is the qualified medium painting? How to use Elleström’s model on exhibitions is something I will discuss in my thesis, so this is just the first steps to try how it can work. The terminological division between qualified, basic and technological media is only a small part of the model and I will try to use other parts of it in other posts.

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