In his autobiography Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, Arnold Schwarzenegger recounted what he referred to, as the greatest personal dilemma he had ever faced. He had been offered his first major Hollywood role - a goal he had dreamed of for as long as he could remember. But in order for him to take the role, he was required to lose weight; his bodybuilding stature would seem even bigger on screen and would shrink anything else caught in the frame, including his co-actors. At that time Schwarzenegger had won the Mr. Olympia contest 7 times. His size and weight were his greatest assets. To lose the weight necessary to participate in the film would disqualify him from future bodybuilding competitions, the physical foundation of his success.
Schwarzenegger's lifelong pursuit was to become larger than life, but at the critical moment in which he would be broadcast – represented – through the machinery of image production, his real life largesse required shrinking, so as not to overpower the machinery itself. It was the path of this switch, and his ultimate acceptance of that infrastructure, that would eventually lead to his colossal film career and his later role in politics.
The irony is perhaps that Schwarzenegger was still the biggest thing anyone had ever seen on screen. He catalyzed an era of gigantism, spawning a whole cast of oversized characters that inflated an already enormous genre. But the importance of this shift is in the imperceptible downscaling. The simulation of physical scale, created by the apparatus of image production, no longer functioned outside of its simulated representation. We see enormous muscles in staged scenarios, single-handedly crushing any opposition towards their indefinite expansion. But the expansion is not of the muscles on screen - in reality no longer able to compete off screen - the expansion is of the apparatus itself: first disembodying the muscles from their original function in order to expand the scale of its own image production.
Today the tools of image production and self-representation are almost universally available. People can broadcast images of themselves and others without any direct restrictions on content, scale, or context. It seems all elements of life can be compressed into a handheld device. The process of compressing forms is generally understood to be a necessary step in the post-production or distribution of content. But one could also think of the terms of compression as having become so ingrained in the understanding of representation, that the creation of content already knows to anticipate its logic, thus creating according to an abstract, but absolute framework: an essay written in the parameters of specific word counts, an artwork made to be photographed, a city square made to precisely mirror its architectural model, a life documented on social media.
The writing and artworks in this volume deal with the nuances of compression, tracing the invisible contours of the compression of content into forms of communication. Whether in physical or virtual space, psychology or perception - the contributions raise questions around the process of translation, by which things in the world are compressed, and discuss the implications this process has on the way we perceive ourselves and the environments that surround us.