Bullett Media: The most buzzed topic—what comes up when you Google your tumblr—is the brief cock shot in that art video you posted of your getting dressed. What was your reaction to the internet’s focus on your penis almost exclusively?
Michael Stipe: That was the same year, 2009. Again, it’s exactly like MichaelStipe.com—I took a bunch of still images and put them together and created a moving film that again, loops on itself. I mean, I guess, there was a little more chatter about it than I expected. I looked at it as an art piece. Of course I knew that people might freeze frame, but if people want to look at my penis, I don’t have a problem with that. [Laughs.] It raises a kind of more interesting question, which is where we are right now in terms of what the still image has become. We’re at this very fascinating moment in the history of photography and representation, where the still image is disappearing and becoming something very different, that is, a moving image that we will now be able to freeze frame. That’s what gifs represent in a primitive way. If Susan Sontag were alive, or Marshall McLuhan, they’d have a lot to say about where we are, and where this is all going. Over 100 years the photograph went from being this amazing thing that seemed impossible, to being something that was positive proof of an event occuring; and then we realized images could be manipulated to the point that now, with new technologies, everything is manipulatable and the still image is beginning to—like many other things, with the advent of digital and existing technologies—disappear. Our idea of what a still image is has now becoming very different. It’s almost like a scene in Blade Runner where they zoom in on a certain part of a photograph or, I think there’s another scene, where we’re looking at a still image and it moves slightly. Now I’m starting to sound like a science fiction geek…
BM: Science fiction geeks are great. It’s interesting too because a lot of the flat images we are looking at are on a screen which has a dynamism to it.
MS: Yeah, backlit, and you are in control as to how you interact with it. When you go to one of those pages that are largely gifs and you’re looking at, say, 80 images with each of them moving, how does your mind and your eye and your memory regard those single images? Are they to be seen as a still image that happens to be moving? How does a 12 year old, who is younger than the technology that we’re talking about, and has lived with it their entire life, view that? That’s what we’re talking about.