[-empyre-] Hyperreal geographies, static and epiphanies

Dear Lea and all,

Regarding the thread concerning curating the live space with net art that
relates to cultural geographies and boundaries--I would like to return to
this for a moment by means of a short vignette.  Lea's insights from a
recent post (#243) intersperse.
> This expanding and permeable on-line geography populated by 9,7% of
> the world is no doubt also correlated to other numerous and layered
> geographies.
>     Geography is about context and it is reasonable to think of
> contexts as ideological filters. The reinforcement of distinct
> cultural environments may be favoured by geographical circumstances
> where space and time remain barriers. In May approximated on-line
> users in Brazil amounted to 7.74%, compared with 13% in Uruguay,
> 56.88% in the UK, 54.38%  in Ireland, 33%,in Australia, 59.1% in the
> U.S., 52.79% in Canada, 7.03% in South Africa, and 69% in Iceland,
> and 2.92 in China (from http://www.nua.ie/surveys/how_many_online/)

  At FILE 2002 in San Paulo this past August (<http://www.file.org.br/>),
the organizers arranged to display, in a large academic gallery, many large
screens whose contents were net art works, of vastly divergent intent and
formal means, in an open dark space.  It seemed an almost random mix -- each
screen advanced one's choice of art work  at a desktop display from an array
of sometimes as many as a dozen file folders on the desktop...as if the idea
was one of a rich and overwhelming feast.  Architecturally, there appeared
to be minimal effort towards regulating access, directionality or pathway
through xyz coordinates of the physical space; there was not a self
conscious categorization into  morphologies, typologies, values; it was all
just, there, available,  if the servers were working, which they usually

In Brazil, as you have noted, the access to internet is still very limited,
even in Sao Paulo. FILE was also the occasion for a symposium on digital
culture. The digital divide was the topic of the opening session. The
speakers were all activists with varying degrees of academic and
cultural/political institutional patronage; almost all shared Danilo Santos
de Miranda's view of electronic media as a space of "socio-cultural
creation/intervention beyond consumerism...(so that) a political freedom is
"reinsertion" from culture, creating citizens via the internet, which might
function as a "field for experiencing social development."

 Here was a rhetoric of access, of the freedom of the individual;  not of
the labyrinthine surveillance state: the digital archive was imaged as a
positively charged zone for education and citizenship. FILE seemed to want
to be a a celebration, a  street fair--just to get it pulled together and to
celebrate one another's physical presence within the hypermedia electronic
space was, for our hosts and for we artists who came, was, in retrospect, a
hospitable and gracious gesture, borne of iconophilia, the love of image in
abundance, as profusion.

Curiously though, there seemed to be a kind of absence of a sense of the
real subliminal to the context of the netart space, both electronic and
physical at FILE.  Hard to understand, for a foreign visitor, was the
ideological role or intentionality of the net art curatorial gesture within
the local political conditions. What were the political accomodations of
left and right to the fact of the digital media hyperspace?
>>    The bridging of relational-geographies through digital topography
>> collapses the spatio-temporal distances and distinctions unto a
>> uniform surface-screen.  Numerous intricacies and subtleties
>> (contexts) remain unknown, unavailable to this virtual homogeneity.

 What filters were in place?  Indeed one did feel like the flaneur in an
arcade, except for the strange moments when one encountered one's own art
work, and  even then, it was a strange 'out of body' effect.  Was our work a
labyrinth of electronic spatial narratives available at certain
checkpoints, within which a cacophany of images flowed like  white noise
covering something else that was  actually going on in a subliminal cultural
context? Of course it must have been so; it would be naïve to think
otherwise. Still,  as if one was  part of an odd circus, as performer of an
electronic gesture whose meanings might be unreadable, who could tell.

Listening, later in September, to an exchange between architectural
historian Shadi Nazarian  and tactical media artist/activist Ricardo
Dominguez, at the Digital Terror conference at Cornell, I  wondered about
the politics of gesture in  hypermedia space.  To paraphrase Shadi,
that new temporal and spatial complexities arise as a third order simulation
is a pandemic condition of cultural spaces where time and space barriers
have broken down, and can be seen in prototype in  Las Vegas, in prime by
the casino Circus Circus (Ricardo's observation).

 To back up a minute, remember Baudrillard's three levels , eg first)
simulation is a representation as copy of the real; second) the copy blurs
the boundary between reality and image (as in science and cartography);
third) the simulation generations without recourse to a 'real', so that
neither reality nor simulation have a connection to the real.

>>   A culture survives through its shared and repeated use of codes
>>> and tools of communication. A culture can only extrapolate from what
>>> is (readily) available or accessible whether provided from an
>>> immediate environment or from an electronic one. To get to the food
>>> thread, Gombrich suggests "context must be supported by prior
>>> expectations based on tradition...some years ago there was a story in
>>> the papers to the effect that riots had broken out in an
>>> underdeveloped country because of rumours that human flesh was being
>>> sold in a store. The rumour was traced to food cans with a grinning
>>> boy on the label. Here it was the switch of context that caused the
>>> confusion. As a rule the picture of fruit, vegetable or meat on a
>>> food container does indicate its contents..."

 The presumably unprecedented condition of hyperreality simultaneously
assaults and freezes the process of reality testing and empirical
observation; there is a loss of a sense of touch, and everything is
processed by representation.

According to this hypothesis about the Vegas phenomenon, the polis, the
place of the citizen, becomes an operational matrix within which nothing
interrupts the sensorial input stream.   The operational force is a kind of
omnipresent coercion, without definite boundaries, with submerged
checkpoints, so you can never see where you really are or what is going on.
In this last respect, tellingly, the psychic space of hypermedia is like
that of the abused child who can never be certain of his or her own veracity
of memory and who suffers from an undifferentiated, diffuse shame and fear
of exposure. 

And it is here that the work of iamstatic.com  has a lovely provocative
quality, not least by way of the  site name itself.  Randy Knott has an
epiphany, and you think, oh, what is going to show up, what god will make an
announcement!--and instead he shows us a little film about a boy whose
(bio)graphy is (idio)syncratic...isolated, isomorphic, iso-static in the
realm of the child abuse victim's consciousness. (in the archive at
<http://ww.iamstatic.com/features/idiiography2/idiography2.htm>) This
character's soul is on view, his brain is on ice, we are right there inside
with him, we are him.  The sensuality and suffering of the
boy/sufferer/self, disguised by the sleight of hand of 'lite' animation,
slipstreamed right into the space of real memory.  And it wasn't even
'interactive" video.

 Randy's work articulates a kind of presence, a shockwave file that is also
a shock of recognition:  an awareness has been breached, something's gotten
through the screen.

 "To blast is to produce a shockwave, a thunderbolt.  It is to blast hot air
on steel to smelt something new.  In the end I am not sure what shapes our
politics and critical art will assume in this slippery, chaotic,
authoritarian world.  I only know we need both  Perhaps, through digital art
as a prosthesis of hope and shockwave of peace, we can relearn that if we
are alive--and not dead-- we are all, indeed, limbs of one body." (Patricia
Zimmerman, at <http://bbs.thing.net/communicator.thing>

  I would be very glad to hear from Randy, Clement, Lea and others how that
that freezeframe quality of the saturated hyperreal can be penetrated by
improvised or performative curating with artistic coproduction.

(for more on the Cornell conference,

Christina McPhee


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