Re: [-empyre-] multi-perspectival / cultural hegemony of space

On 10.06.03 15:45, "John Klima" <> wrote:

> lets not forget that space (ie real estate) has always been commodified,
> its not just a contemporary state.
There are numerous examples of cultures where space has not been commodified
or territorialised. I think of the Australian Aborigines who see themselves
as the product of the land and as its children (although simultaneously its
custodians) and who do not have any notion of property. They do have the
idea of having "stories" which they must protect, but they must also pass
them on to the next generation to also protect and keep alive. It was quite
a shock to them when Europeans arrived who then immediately began building
fences and carving up the land. They simply didn't understand and even today
many Aborigines find themselves bemused by this odd European behaviour and
choose to avoid contact with it. The same is true of Amazonian Indians, New
Guineans and Papuan's as well as certain African cultures. Although a trope
associated with nomadism it is not exclusive to it, as the Papuan's, trapped
in their steep-sided valleys, show.

In industrialised or agricultural cultures there are also examples where
commodification is either absent or secondary. This is true of most
Communist cultures, although as they have developed in response to and after
cultures of commodification (nee Capitalism) the notion of ownership still
functions, but modified to the idea of the State holding everything in trust
for its "people".

In Islam whilst the idea of ownership is accepted the idea of making a
profit out of it is not. In the UK, for example, it has been traditionally
impossible for a Muslim to buy a house (unless for cash) as it is against
their beliefs to charge or pay interest on loans or savings. This is seen as
profiting from the ownership of things, which is not permitted. This is now
changing as Islamic mortgage models are bing imported from the middle-East
and even adopted by some of the big UK banks for niche marketting. Of
course, this is not without its contradictions.

I am not seeking to argue that this makes nomadic, islolated sedentary,
Communist or Islamic cultures superior to ours...just that to accept the
idea of commodification, and all that flows from that, as default is
incorrect and highly damaging to a potential broadening of possible ways of
organising things (with which all creative people must surely be concerned).
It is probable that most people on this planet actually live in
non-commodified cultures (1 billion Indians, 2 or more billion Chinese,
large tracts of Africa and Asia, would have no idea what we are talking
about in respect of many of the referents we have treated as default in this
discussion to date). Thus we should be keeping this in mind and learn a
little humility before making assumptions.

The examples that are arising in this discussion, such as commodification,
cartesian space, computer games and Western teen-culture demographics should
not, in my opinion, be treated as central issues in this debate (they seem
very marginal to me). Certainly, my own practice has nothing to do with
computer games and never has (I hate the things - a noisy and adolescent
waste of time) and as an artist who has chosen to work in a post-object
format and with no gallery affiliation (when young I had such a thing, but
conciously walked away from it for moral reasons) commodification is
something I perceive to be resisted or even actively countered. The very
concept of a "demographic" is just another instrument in the process of
commodification and people that use such language, as a matter of course,
are therefore commodifiers (determiners of property rather than creators of
shared experience).

My background is very much that of experimental art, not technology. Most
artists I know share this background, even when they have chosen to work
with new media. I come out of a millieu that saw galleries as bastions of
capital and the object as an element in commodification (thus featured modes
of practice were performance art, actions, site specific interventions,
re-purposings, etc), also inheriting from earlier experimental artistic
modes a rejection of "conventional" visualisation (eg: a rejection of
cartesian space and single point perspective) and singular notions of
authorship. I chose to work with computers not because they are associated
with the military-industrial complex (this old-fashioned term seems more
relevent today than ever before), game culture or "straight" space but
because they allow me to arrive at new relationships between things that
might assist in the deconstruction, even destruction, of a commodified,
territorialised and overly signified world.

> let us also not forget that the gaming industry, every now and then,
> does offer alternatives, at least in terms of paradigms if not
> mathematical models. The Sims is a fine example. the success of the sims
> i hope will encourage the industry to futher push the paradigm envelop.
> the failure of "the sims online" is an unfortunate setback.
Given what I have just written above, it should be clear that I would regard
the gaming industry as deeply problematic and ultimately alien to any
creative and experimental practice. The fact it is an industry is bad
enough, but worse, in its very central metaphors the "game", whether a
computer game or not, functions to establish models of human behaviour that
one can only regard as negative, promoting attitudes such as competition,
ownership, control, etc. These are the very values that I, and I have always
felt most artists, have chosen to work away from or against...that is why
many chose to be



Simon Biggs

Research Professor
Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

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