Technological assistance by Timur Si-Qin
Text by Bertrand Russell, "Philosophical Consequences" from The ABC of Relativity
Work produced as part of Jstchillin's exhibition series
The following excerpt comes from the final chapter of my book Media, New Media, Postmedia, recently published in Italian by Postmediabooks, who kindly gave Rhizome permission to republish it in English. The book is an attempt to analyze the current positioning of so-called “New Media Art” in the wider field of contemporary arts, and to explore the historical, sociological and conceptual reasons for its marginal position and under-recognition in recent art history.
The thorn lodged in your swollen thumb is matter; the thought lodged in your mind is not. Yet that discrepancy can be troubled by any admission that thoughts are the outcome of, say, electrochemical impulses, or even (to borrow a medium-inspired tripe) the effect of synapses within a neural network. No matter how immaterial you understand your thoughts to be, you can't help but grant that they have some neurophysiological ground. Which is simply to say that the process of thinking has a materiality of its own.
This hardly means that you should abandon the original distinction (phenomenological or epistemological or ontological) between thoughts and thorns. Rather, it's a way to begin recognizing how, both in ordinary language and more specialized language, materiality can refer to different dimensions of experience, or dimensions beyond (or below) what we generally consider experience to be. Like many concepts, materiality may seem to make the most sense when it is opposed to another term: the material serves as a commonsensical antithesis to, for instance, the spiritual, the abstract, the phenomenal, the virtual, and the formal, not to mention the immaterial. And yet materiality has a specificity that differentiates it from its superficial cognates, such as physicality, reality, or concreteness. When you admire the materiality of a sweater, you're acknowledging something about its look and feel, not simply its existence as a physical object. When you complain of another sweater that it lacks this materiality, you're not asserting its immateriality. And if, after machine-washing the first sweater, you allow that you have witlessly destroyed its materiality, you mean that you've altered some of its physical qualities, not that you have eradicated the object tout court. Nonetheless, the obfuscation of an object can be the requisite result of gaining greater access ...
Brooding, solitary and usually male, the trope of “the artist in the studio” has existed in multiple iterations throughout the history of art. From Rembrandt’s workshop to the twentieth-century Parisian studios of Picasso, Braque and others, to Warhol’s Factory, the studio contains within it an evolving narrative, albeit one that remains focused on a specific physical site of artistic production. In a particularly damning critique of this romantic construct, Daniel Buren posited in a 1971 essay, “The Function of the Studio,” that the studio has a “simultaneously idealizing and ossifying function,”1 a state of “purgatory” that grants artists limited agency in the production and dissemination of their own work and culture at large. Buren’s essay is a concise example of the postmodern conception of “post-studio” practice—a practice cultivated by the likes of Robert Smithson, who came to reject the confines of the physical studio as a site of production in favor of the unconfined natural landscape, or by John Baldessari’s infamous “Post-Studio Art” class at CalArts, in which students were encouraged to “stop daubing away at canvases or chipping away at stone”2 and embrace a wider framework for art production. The influence of these artists is clearly evident in a range of contemporary artistic practices that continue to question traditional modes of production and dissemination.
The legacy of “post-studio” art is amplified for artists working with digital forms and online environments. Generally these types of practices are less an overt negation of the “ossifying” element of the studio and more a reflection of how the digital has changed cultural production at large. What happens when the studio in question is simply a laptop in ...
What do you mean by ‘crisis of the unit of measure’?
It is as if the metre, the standard set to measure cognitive and affective experience, no longer works. We see the same crisis in the fields of politics and history: social prosperity is no longer produced by labour time, but by knowledge, by a general knowing, by ‘general intellect’, and as a result social prosperity and labour time are no longer directly connected. The new standard to measure prosperity is within the domain of intelligence, language and collaboration. The problem is that social prosperity is still measured by the old standard of labour time, while realities have changed and it is actually determined by ’general intellect’. We can see the same thing happening in 20th-century art. It demonstrates the inadequacy of the old standards and suggests, in the formal sphere and through the formal work of poetry, new standards for the appraisal of our cognitive and affective experience. This is a point that brought the artistic avant-garde close to the radical social movement and in this sense there is a kind of brotherhood between the two: they would like to explain that the old standards are no longer valid and to look for what might be new standards. Another way to put the problem is: how can you locate a new public sphere, which has nothing to do with the state? Avant-garde art proved the impotence, the inadequacy, the disproportion of the old standards through a formal investigation. The common ground of art and social movements is never about content. Art that relates to social resistance is beside the point, or rather art expressing views on social resistance is not relevant. The radical movement and avant-garde poetry touch on the formal investigation that yields an index of new forms ...
Videos of the keynote speeches by scholars Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Hector Rodriguez from September's Wikitopia Festival at Videotage in Hong Kong have been posted. The event examined the Free Culture movement and its impact on practices of knowledge sharing and networked creativity.
New media has made possible new “vernacular” archives of knowledge—from wikipedia to del.icio.us—that are challenging their standard top-down counterparts. These archives are usually either celebrated as democratizing knowledge, or condemned as destroying it. Refusing either of these positions, this talk asks: what does opening up content do? What does the open both make possible and close down? Is open content enough? How, in other words, should the open be the beginning rather than the end of the discussion?
Marcel Mauss’ classic study of The Gift introduced the principle of reciprocity, which has played a fundamental role in the evolution of modern social anthropology and critical theory. Mauss regarded the giving and receiving of gifts as a widespread cultural phenomenon. Although the gift often appears to have been spontaneously and freely offered, it is in fact obligatory. According to Mauss, it consists of “three obligations”: the obligation to receive, to give, and to return. The exchange of gifts thus exemplifies a complex procedure of ritualized exchange.
The principle of reciprocity can be understood in at least two different ways. First of all, the study of gift exchange constitutes a prehistory of the modern contract. Mauss showed that modern market transactions grew ...
I came across these videos via WMMNA. These talks were taped during the symposium The Documentary Real which occurred on October 21, 2010 at Domzaal, Art Centre Vooruit. The event invited artists and theorists to "interrogate the ambiguous relation between documentary film and reality." I've only had a chance to review the two Gregos and Bruzzi clips posted below, which both emphasize the changing notion of the "real" within a heterogeneous media landscape, especially with the advent of the internet. All the talks are available on the site, here.
It has been a number of years that the so-called ‘documentary turn’ has become a frequent phenomenon in many artists’ films. The talk will be a comparative look into recent documentary practices that diverge from the orthodoxy of documentary as ‘factual’ film’, a notion which contemporary artists have repeatedly challenged of late. These artists working from a documentary point of departure use multiple strategies to reveal known or hidden ‘truths’, sometimes weaving fictional elements into their stories. Many of them demonstrate that ‘truth value’ does not lie in mere representation but may emerge even more forceful through artistic abstraction, translation, filtering and interpretation and that nowadays the borderline between documentary and fiction, or reality and fantasy is often becoming hard to distinguish. The talk aims to illustrate that the notion of the ‘documentary real’ is continuously evolving and cannot now be pinned down to a single definition or delineated through specific boundaries. Indeed it aims to show that some of the most interesting documentary practices are those which I call documentary ‘with a twist’, i.e. films that interweave the political with the poetic, and navigate between different filmic categories to arrive at highly individualistic hybrid documentary forms where the notion of realism is in ...
Inevitably, the fast pace of consumerism is accompanied by the tantalizing promise of slow time—Allen Ginsberg once complained of a heart attack en route to his weekly meditation.
Just as the arts were reinvented in the age of the camera, so too must they be in the age of accelerated time. If the internet and the touch screen represent the apparatuses of our age, then the material and the prolonged have become a niche for the discursive and formal role of the arts. Much like a spa, the arts play host to a malnourished subject eager to experience something nostalgically other. Slow time and tangible bodies become so rare experientially that their aesthetic value finds a home in the cul-de-sac of scarcity that is art.
Since the advent of mechanical production, the arts have been the space in which the hard-to-find seeks refuge. And while the art market has been much discussed, we now find another form of scarcity in forms of experience. At times in tension, at times in collusion with capitalist scarcity, the scarcity of experience encourages forms of art that are not as easily distributed as—and thus more distinguishable from—the mass produced goods of the broader market. Massive installations, sculptures, performance, civic institutions (the museum), time-based relational aesthetics all find value in their experiential distinction from larger markets. Museums offer special opportunities to experience the body in space. In this spasmodic era, we find the arts recalibrated as a temporal, spatial, and bodily escape.
This kind of shifted aesthetic disposition resists not only the pace of the information economy, but, perhaps more importantly, our very ability to consume our experience. If we are frantic, it is only because we need to ...
Evelien Lohbeck’s multimedia artwork noteboek (2008), has been selected as a Top Video in the Biennial of Creative Video, the showcase organized by the Guggenheim Museum and YouTube. 1 Noteboek exemplifies what I call ‘reversed remediation’. 2 This aesthetic strategy subverts Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s notion of ‘remediation,’ which serves a historical desire for immediacy.3 Countering Marshall McLuhan’s fear of the narcotic state that the user of a medium can enter when becoming a closed system with the medium; reversed remediation offers a chance to wake up the viewer. 4 It creates a state of critical awareness about how media shape one’s perception of the world. (Art)works that employ reversed remediation destabilize remediation mechanisms, by making media visible instead of transparent. It makes critical awareness possible because it lays bare the workings of media instead of obfuscating them. The following discussion distinguishes between the theories of remediation and reversed remediation and applies this theoretical foundation to Lohbeck’s noteboek.
In order to explore the contradictions and the potential of time- based art, especially in its cinematic guise, I trace a number of overlapping and conflicting genealogies of film and video art. I believe that only by creating a constellation of such genealogies can the logic and structural antinomies of film and video art—and of time-based art in general—be brought into relief and related to the wider changes in the political economy of time during the past decades, during which the West has seen a gradual demise of Fordist assembly-line production and a disintegration of the strict separation between work and “free time.” The classic alternation of work and leisure can be called, with Guy Debord, a form of pseudocyclical time, an apparent return to agricultural, “mythical” cycles in a temporal regime built on irreversible, historical time—or rather, on a reified form of such historical time, that of commodity production.
“Once there was history, but not any more,” because the class of owners of the economy, which is inextricably tied to economic history, must repress every other irreversible use of time because it is directly threatened by them all. The ruling class, made up of specialists in the possession of thingswho are themselves therefore possessed by things, is forced to link its fate with the preservation of this reified history, that is, with the preservation of a new immobility within history.7
This immobility is manifested in pseudocyclical time, a commodified temporality that is homogenous and suppresses “any qualitative dimension” or, at most, mimics such dimensions in moments of sham liberation.8 For Debord, time-based art from the 1960s could consist only of such pseudoindividual, pseudoliberatory moments ...