Gesture in Search of a Purpose: A Prehistory of Mobility


  • Darren Tofts
  • Lisa Gye


This paper explores the uncanny anticipation of mobile telephony in the history of the visual image. Drawing on our remix project, The Secret Gestural Prehistory of Mobile Devices, it critically engages with contem - porary media culture’s obsession with the occupation of the hands as an unwitting gesture in search of a purpose. This gesture is a bodily panto - mime imagining an indispensable, intimate apparel that has modified the body’s relation to itself and remote others through mobile media. These images are suggestive of bodily rhythms that synchronize the hand, the ear, the eye and the mouth that have not always made sense. In this they foreshadow the potential media that will, in time, resolve this postural er - gonomics into a meaningful function: the immediate and continuous com - munion with unseen and absent others. The visual archive can become the unconscious of contemporary media when its images are re-coded through the writing of implicit and anachronistic narratives. The combina - tion of image and text, in the form of captions, denotates and detonates at one and the same time, creating a double vision that, once seen, can never be unseen.