The Age of Enlightenment facilitated great progress in sciences at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. These included, inter alia, metrology, evolutionary theory, and hygiene. As a result, the 19th century became the era of the telegraph and the railways, the era of the human sciences crowned by the theory of the origin of species and sea navigation, which led to the discovery of all lands and the colonization of the poles.
The 20th century consolidated and built on these materialistic achievements, taking them to a new level. The reality measured in time and space was recorded by the method of analogue signals, which had their own oscillation period and were extended in time. Surrealists used this reality as a foundation for their work, searching the exact measures for the immeasurable: the subconscious and the dreams.
Six-year long efforts to measure the Paris meridian arc, through bases in Melun and Perpignan (which Salvador Dali liked to emphasize), in the 1790s brought about a new unit of length: the meter. In France, and then in other European countries, standard meters were introduced. The positive analogue world believed that the meter’s exact value can always be reproduced by investing time in a repeated complex analogue measurement.
The 21st century has moved from analogue ideals to speculative ones. The digital pulse has replaced the analogue signal. The digits have eliminated the key analogue function of time, and time is no longer taken into account. A digital signal can be reproduced in the same form at any given moment: in the present or the future. The traditional areas of knowledge which the humanity has drawn (Who am I? — An artist, doctor, etc.) are less and less visible. The boundaries between poetry and metrology, medicine and genetic engineering, hygiene and religion are blurred: everything that has originally been about time and the analogue signal is now converted into the digital media, which makes many replacements (and substitutions) possible. The standard meter of today is no longer a platinum bar the size of one forty-millionth of the Paris meridian, but ‘the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second’. This is the official definition of the meter.
What is happening to the analogue disciplines and to people in the digital era? Today, when the ‘new digital reality’ arises in both science and art, we can’t just regret the departure of the analogue world. The ‘new real’ gives rise to a new person, who can compute and reproduce, but loses analogical thinking. Today, the artist goes to the museum not in search of an original ideal, but in order to reflect on the time soon to be lost.