The discussion between Paul Warren and Andreas Broeckmann is sort of difficult
for me to enter, as I am a writer, and one of those theory people who can appear
to be blocking the development of the work they think they are trying to
promote. But the issues are tremendous.
I tried thinking about art, or creativity, as aberrant encoding. Which seemed a
good start for a while. Artists use the materials of communication, but alter
the normal and normative to ensure efficiency over medium, emotion, confusion,
sensation, ambivalence, excess… The problem is that aberrant encoding does
suggest that artists are using the normal equipment, just using it differently.
Now, I think, in *this* arena, we have a chance to do a lot more than subvert,
resist or adapt what is available. Art is also, or can also become, the engineer
of the future.
There is a very fine work at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham UK right now, The
Garden of A—–, by Pervaiz Khan and Felix de Rooy, about the orientalist
origins of the audiovisual rhetoric of Desert Storm. In this work, pixels mean
something apart from Paul's description of *the digital image in its ultimate
elements, the immaterial abstract information of pixels*. In fact, they are
interested in the hybrid nature of pixellated images, the way they are both
immaterial and, lets say, granular. A key image is a loop of crossfaded movies
of sand blowing projected onto the floor and on you when you stand there. It
is an image of drift, of particulate nomadism, an indefinite and suspect image
that at times looks like water or even wind.
This kind of driftwork is the material aspect of pixels: just because they are
made of light, it doesnt mean they cant be material (E, after all, equalling mc
squared). And the fact that they have passed through a numerical encoding is no
more significant than the fact that video images have existed as signal. The
numbers, after all, are expressed materially as electricity, and once you get
down to that quantum level, the gap between materiality and abstraction is no
more real than, say, the difference beteen western images of wicked viziers and
western images of wicked Saddam. These currents drift, like viral memes, across
Which means that maybe The Garden of A—- can be read as an aberrant encoding
of orientalist icons that make it possible to brush away the dust from Gulf War
coverage and find the colonial foundations underneath. But the audio aspect of
the installation changes that: Trevor Matthison (from Black Audio Film
Collective) has made a fabulously rich sound design for the piece, mixing
snippets of speeches, movie dialogue, the wailing of the bereaved, the savage
rhythms of war and quasi-electronic loops of vast stellar sheets of sound.
Sometimes the soundscape comes into sync with the images, but as there are three
separate sources and soundtracks, at no point can you hear any one of them
alone. You become the nomad, and your whole body reverberates, not just your
ears. (someone told me the soles of your feet are the second most
sound-sensitive part of your body).
Though The Garden has big issues to talk about, and a very vivid educational
intention, it is also a desert ('The desert, madame, is the garden of Allah')
and by definition deserted. The experience it offers is one of decentring,
unfocussing. It does away with linear duration in favour of history, and of
sculptural space in favour of geography. It exists as a solid and architectural,
even theatrical thing, but you experience it as a broadcast, a scattering, a
What I guess I want to add to the discussion is that art can be intentional or
unintentional (in the sense of letting the audience make the work), and that it
can be definitively *made*, but, at the interface, dissove into an aesthetic of
dissemination. Writing began doing this a few centuries, even in some cases
millenia ago. All we have to do is make work that is more radical than the
Torah, and better made than Finnegans Wake. And that begins to work when it
meets the human world.