Everything, Everywhere, All at Once in Looping Baroque Fashion

Posted by Rhizome | Fri May 23rd 1997 1 a.m.

Everything, everywhere, all at once in a rhizomatic web of communication
: this, I'm sure you would agree, is our current Zeitgeist (spirit of
the age) which, according to Hegel, ensures a similar complexion in all
the activities of a period, from art and science to literature to music.

In her paper "Baroque and Complexity: For An Aesthetic of the Virtual"
which Christine Buci-Glucksmann delivered at the colloque in Vienna
called "Baroque ReVisions" she spoke brilliantly of this unprecedented
Zeitgeist, as the 'Baroque question' in terms of its philosophical,
aesthetic and scientific paradigms in relationship to post-modernism and
the World Wide Web. She outlined therein as 'post-baroque' that which is
defined through the passage from a culture of objects and stocks to a
world-wide culture of flows and interfaces.

This unsurpassed culture of flows and interfaces is termed sublime
(however subordinated to profit motives) according to Paul Crowther in
his book "Critical Aesthetics and Postmodernism". Madame Buci-Glucksmann
regards this tendency as a remnant of the framed world-picture which has
been dominated by the Cartesian divide between Subject and Object and it
is here that a critical reflection upon immersive implications must
begin again. In tracing the wider philosophic implications of immersion
by getting lost inside of immersive art, I have detected that the
classic Cartesian duality between subject and object becomes
omnijective, iridescent, shimmering, and porous in its inversions. This
deterritorialization implies a pluri-dimensional metaphysics and the
psyche's enhanced idealization as non-site. I have detected that
immersive consciousness is essentially variational and unconstitutive.
Immersion deframes and pushes open the envelope of Albertian window
perception and hence is an excess of and for the gaze. It is for this
reason that immersive consciousness possesses a felicity of its own.

Madame Buci-Glucksmann goes on in her paper "Baroque and Complexity: For
An Aesthetic of the Virtual" to point out that today's post-baroque
culture of flows "presupposes the loss of a fixed reference point - the
Subject as identity and substance - and the loss of an organized
center". But it is precisely here that immersive consciousness
reinstates a center, a center of omnijective complex elucidation, as it
is always a place of looping feed-back. I believe Madame
Buci-Glucksmann's conception of the Internet is still as a window to the
virtual world, not a habitational space. The Internet's World Wide Web,
of course is a place for linking information worlds together quite
differently from the physical presentation of material in space in the
physical world. Information can be smoothly accessed in a synchronous
system permitting somebody to click to find out extended information
about a subject or an author, or to enter a virtual world. This affects
the speed in which new associations are assembled and as well as the
kinds of interactions that arise and emerge. Boundaries between
disciplines loosen as data is assembled. This allows an organization of
data in terms of desired purpose rather than physical geographic
position. Therefore, the way information is presented can affect
research and art as well as our sense of who we are. The Internet
condition allows new feedback loops of experientialism in a way that was
not obtainable formerly.

Art idea-worlds can, through this condition, become more accessible
through instantaneous feedback. Shared immersive virtual worlds permit a
symbiosis between computer technology and the human way of thinking
which Madame Buci-Glucksmann identifies as related to Leibnizian
complexity as re-interpreted by Deleuze in his text "The Fold", with his
definition of the virtual as that which stands in counter position to
the actual. Internet connected immersive spaces offer us a way to zoom
in and out of a particular position using different perspectives and
space references.

Madame Buci-Glucksmann calls this new perspective characteristic of what
she called in her book "The Cartographic Eye" as the "Icarian gaze".
Roy Ascott, in his seminal 1994 essay "The Architecture of Cyberception"
has identified this new perspective more immersively, and I quote at
length:

"Not only are we changing radically, body and mind, but we are becoming
actively involved in our own transformation. And it's not just a matter
of the prosthetics of implant organs, add-on limbs or surgical face
fixing, however necessary and beneficial such technology of the body may
be. It's a matter of consciousness. We are acquiring new faculties and
new understanding of human presence. To inhabit both the real and
virtual worlds at one and the same time, and to be both here and
potentially everywhere else at the same time is giving us a new sense of
self, new ways of thinking and perceiving which extend what we have
believed to be our natural, genetic capabilities. In fact the old debate
about artificial and natural is no longer relevant. We are only
interested in what can be made of ourselves, not what made us. As for
the sanctity of the individual, well we are now each of us made up of
many individuals, a set of selves . Actually the sense of the individual
is giving way to the sense of the interface. Our consciousness allows us
the fuzzy edge on identity, hovering between inside and outside every
kind of definition of what it is to be a human being that we might come
up with. We are all interface. We are computer-mediated and
computer-enhanced. These new ways of conceptualizing and perceiving
reality involve more than simply some sort of quantitative change in how
we see, think and act in the world. They constitute a qualitative change
in our being, a whole new faculty, the post-biological faculty of
"cyberception" . Cyberception involves a convergence of conceptual and
perceptual processes in which the connectivity of telematic networks
plays a formative role. Perception is the awareness of the elements of
environment through physical sensation. The cybernet, the sum of all the
interactive computer-mediated systems and telematic networks in the
world, is part of our sensory apparatus. It redefines our individual
body just as it connects all our bodies into a planetary whole." [-Roy
Ascott]

This centerless world of transformation challenges the well-known
Baroque tendency towards "Detaillierung" which Christine Buci-Glucksmann
defines as the principle of exploding beautiful totalities into ruins
and fragments. With a dedetaillierung achieved through cyberception,
meaning is multiple and heterogeneous and the gaze becomes anamorphic
and double-coded as it, as Madame Buci-Glucksmann says, "adds
signification to images, to give value to the visual scrap and rebus..."
where each image leads always to another image "in an opaqueness in
which meaning is abysmal, playful, even spectral." Hence the non-space
of art on the net is fractal in its complex non-Euclidean nomadic
uncentered vector spread. Hence looped Baroque.
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