Re: [-empyre-] Do You Still Your Own Reality?

Robbins + Jetztzeit wrote:

Waking up to the aftermath of the US election results and as a Californian – one of whom is being defined by mainstream pundits as being much too democratic for the rest of the country(! – I can only assume that is in relation to the iron boot that is being levied upon our democracy .. or is it now a burgeoning theocracy?

I admit to being somewhat taken aback by the dawn of this day in America and please temper my statements with that thought.

In a quick consideration of Brett’s post, I am struck by what might be regarded as somewhat of a reactionary stance. My basis for that posture is that “irony” “media manipulation” “culture jamming” + has long been positioned within various practices associated with post-modernism, issues of representation, identity politics, and its’ aftermath/backlash. Perhaps what is being addressed has more to do with the stasis that which has embalmed much of art practice ( and its’ increasing privatization and seeming return to exclusivities inherent to the market-based system and classicism) since the late ‘90’s and turn of the century — specifically in regard to work that speaks of political underpinnings. Perhaps the re-appropriation and re-mediated art/media works have well reached the point of over-saturation, have lost their ability to have their desired effect- I have long suspected as much. Visual art and media practice have served as the R&D for commercial art application
s for decades – this is nothing new. The surface scanning/mining of stylistic visual and audio devices has been an MO for the last part of the 20th century, the birth of MTV in the early ‘80’s is a prime example.

Certainly to use the most over used phrase/cliche the world has changed since 9.11 here in the US and to more and lesser degrees throughout the world. An analytical practice might offer a unique bastion from which to produce a “reality congruency” that is non-didatic and non-ironic. However, as an exclusive practice, it strikes me that this stance only serves to re-inforce biases and prejudices of anti-intellectualism that are firmly ensconced in the American psyche.

The academy/university remains to be one of the only viable venues for a art/media practice ( certainly one that demands funding such as media and technologies based practices.) “Art can best serve reason by turning back toward it; trying to serve and fortify it without being cheeky. The academy/university would easily support this approach as it reinforces the “professionalization of the arts” and further reifies it within the academy /university itself. But, again, this seemingly leads us only to reinforcing the bias: “many people are suspicious of teachers and knowledge workers unless they are vetted by a church, and really are impervious to irony.” Unless, however, we understand that the academies and universities themselves are becoming so privatized and beholding to vested interests such as the binary and rationalizing influence of funding sources that are steaming from areas of science – ie. the NFS, the department of homeland security and the DOD ( the latter tw
o are specific to the US government granting agencies.) When was the last time you heard of any funding be awarded to a project that truly questioned the status quo… of anything? When was the last time you heard of a project not being funded or exhibited because it was too controversial (I know this begs the question as to whom?)

The question here seems to be how to effectively construct an incisive/innovative practice while acknowledging one is in one way or another a very real part of that “representational machine” and extended entertainment system. Oh No! have I really circled all the around to the Borg or to the Matrix? YIKES - it must be the red glow of the aftermath of our election!


-----Original Message-----
From: Brett Stalbaum <>
Sent: Nov 3, 2004 9:55 AM
To: Cc: soft_skinned_space <>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Do You Still Your Own Reality?

In retrospect (post-election), and as a citizen of the U.S., it occurs to me again that way forward for (political) artists (again, here at least) is no longer tactical subterfuge, but a long term strategy of analytical practice that produces "reality congruency" tools/experiences that are non-didactic and non-ironic. In much of my country, (the only I can speak for), many people are suspicious of teachers and knowledge workers unless they are vetted by a church, and really are impervious to irony. Culture jamming, media manipulation, and subterfuge that draw out the contradictions (mostly by giving gentle assistance to machines such as the Bush-machine, which are on some level self-ridiculing to begin with - like the Yes-men and smoky the log, for example) indeed bring much joy in revealing the now fully merged fundamentalist/corporatist world-view for what it is. But it reveals it, over and over again, only to the choir. In a democracy, there is sometimes a price to pay for making fun of people.

At the same time we are competing with a representational machine that is able to reflect a great deal artificial-ridiculing back against reason; to create artificial realities for reasonable people to think about and respond to (in a mode of constant defense), and to do all of this with a much greater array of media resources that artists could ever hope bring to bear. Politically then, there is little we can do in the short term. Art can best serve reason by turning back toward it; trying to serve and fortify it without being cheeky. In the U.S. anyway... In short, the way forward would seem to be a long-term strategic radical transparency, dialog, and honesty over tactical culture-jamming and subterfuge.

Brett Stalbaum wrote:

Hi Randall,

Given, yes. But it raises some interesting questions. At this moment (politically/tactically) is it most effective (or interesting) for artists to perform their own "pre-emptive reality annihilation" (or perhaps: envisioning an alternative future and trying to instantiate it as the Rove's of the world seem to do quite successfully), or to "culture jam" any such (nearly psychotic) right-wing reality distortions (using them as art supplies and comic fodder - seemingly easy to do), or perhaps to formulate an art practice that turns to and engages with (or grapples with) the real maintaining a general goal of producing tools (be they analytic, aesthetic, software, hardware), that are useful for individuals in terms of formulating their own, more congruent readings of the real? All? Something else?

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JETZTZEIT " ... the space between zero and one ... "
Walter Benjamin

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-- Brett Stalbaum Lecturer, psoe Coordinator, ICAM Department of Visual Arts, mail code 0084 University of California, San Diego 9500 Gillman La Jolla CA 92093

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