Re: [-empyre-] networked_performance 2 - (Locative Media Thread)

It is hard to raise questions about anything adopting the meme "locative media" today, because it seems to have overwhelming memetic momentum behind it. It is in fact a term that I actively use, but I am also suspicious of it. (I hope to make a case for being a bit suspect as a healthy one...) So, that I bring this up in a discussion of networked performance may not be spot on; and I hope Helen and Michelle will forgive me as I struggle to pose this as a question re networked performance.

As I read the short history, "Locative Media" got its traction, indeed maybe its coin, from a speculative essay by Drew Hemment to the nettime list on January 8th 2004. As he defines it, "[l]ocative media uses portable, networked, location aware computing devices for user-led mapping and artistic interventions in which geographical space becomes its canvas." ( In that essay, Hemment deals primarily with cell phones as the technical agent (the thing in the user's hand), and speculates about how artists might insert themselves in/against/with the emerging networks of surveillance that the handsets make possible given the handset's location awareness and the ability to report user location to the networks that enable the devices. But also looking in his definition, "networks" and "mapping" (which we can read as the data transport layer and the presentation layer) also appear. Read Drew's essay and you will discover that he also drills to the formal base and reason for existence of any digital media: data. "The mobile phone is carried on the body, and so connects the individual directly to ever proliferating databases, operating simultaneously as identifier and electronic tagging device: it is a wearable technology that places the Panoptic eye in your pocket and the body within the circuits of dataveillance." So from its coining, the panoptic politics of locative media were clearly foregrounded along with a fairly thorough formal perspective on the medium.

Patrick Licthy (in Building a Culture of Ubiquity, has proposed a trajectory from Screen->Hand->Body->Space: "The infosphere is now a representational spectre, moving in real time, but the physical world is now the interface, creating tightly linked heterotopic spaces instead of multiple bodies." I think we can stretch this model out even further, add to it, (and oversimplify the IT layers a bit) to Database->Logic*->Transport**->Screen***->Hand->Body->Space****, and note that this is actually a circular flow diagram with Space connecting back to Database; the world and its model. I am tempted to add "Place" to Space, as in "...Space->Place->Database...", but indeed, Place is just one attribute of Space that can be modeled; it exists today in an interesting and imho conceptually generative double mirror between existence in space (the real) and existence in database (the hyperreal). (I have written a few essays on the importance of the Database to Space and Space to Database connection, and how they interoperate with place. I view this connection as critically important and too often ignored. One text is a 2K2 essay speculating how database and GIS might play out in artistic practice in the landscape...)

So backing up a bit to "Locative Media", it has taken flight as an artworld meme with some or all, but not often more than, the following sub-components attached to it: (from Helen and Michelle) "urban areas... game[s]... city infrastructures... play spaces... geo-annotation projects...", as well as (off the top of my head) psychogeography, narrative space, interventions, happenings, network space, space as physical canvas, and mapping. (I like using "hotspot multimedia" as terminology for a lot of "locative media" work...)

So, the reason for my suspicion is that these configurations of mimetic connotations that currently guide practice do not always holistically address the whole formal infrastructure. Very interesting things that happen at the strange and novel interface (or cycle) between database and space, (where the physical reality of space and the physical hyperreality of database intersect and mutually generate each the other, admittedly catalyzed by the speed contemporary network communications technologies), often ends up overlooked. (My colleague Geri Wittig has an interesting essay that expands this concept into fields of complexity theory and biology examined globally:

So (at last) this is what I am trying to ask a question about. (Thank you to anyone reading this far for your patience...) Does what happened to "Locative Media" in its brief trajectory as an artworld meme contain a larger warning for the conceptual and critical models through which we approach networked performance? Shouldn't we be suspicious, (especially post net art), that "network" is still a privileged assumption re our critical model of locative media and "networked" performace? Or in any positioning of any of the *individual* "layers" that make up the whole, for that matter? And although my expertise as a theorist is not politics, (past tactical dabbles asside), don't we need to take a holistic view of all of the formal layers impinging upon performance (today) to develop a political analysis of performance (today)? (Applause to Hemment for his recognition of the data layer!)

Ok, getting tired of myself... but...

Let's try an experiment with "networked performance". Would any of the following be complete (in the current situation, moving forward), if left by themselves?

Database Performance?
Business Logic Performance?
Presentation Layer Performance?
Site-specific performance (the historical meme for Place performance... well explored...)
Performance Art (Body... ditto above...)
Hand performance (Puppets? Or what some of you may accuse me of doing in this post;-)
Land art?

Curious as to your thoughts.


* Logic refers to "Business Logic" in program design.
** Transport of data - network - often missed in discussion of "network" is the fact and common usage of networks in distributed computational systems as, well, a bus. In other words, "network" in one sense merely connects the business or application layer logic (algorithms) on one system to the Presentation Layer (I/O) on another that happens to be somewhere else. There is no discrete computer. The more common way artists use "network" in under the rubric of computer mediated communication. I don't in any way discredit the importance of the latter, of course. But it is visible and well explored.
*** Screen - a proxy here for Presentation Layer, which importantly is not merely an output device, as implied by "Screen". We could replace this with Human Computer Interaction (HCI), or just interaction, such that "Screen->Hand" (or perhaps with sound and haptics "Screen->Hand->Body") are specified as partial representative of aspects of the Presentation Layer.
**** * ** ***
***** Maybe the terms "generative locative media" should be employed to separate locative media from the connotations of hotspot multimedia, mapping, geo-annotation, (in either the author-driven or collective-democratic forms of geo-annotation...), narrative, etc.

Helen Thorington wrote:

Hello again.

Surveying the blog we identify four areas of networked performance practice
which current work explores in various combinations. We have categorized
these as (1) telematic events, (2) locative media, (3) wearables, and (4)
active objects and responsive environments.

Telematics connect people to people or people to objects through a network,
such as telerobotics or haptics; locative media provide location aware
engagement; smart environments enable architecture and objects to respond to
environmental changes of state generated by occupants/inhabitants; and
wearables extend the body's senses through technological prosthesis.

We see lots of overlap and combinations in the works we survey, so these are
not to be considered rigid categories but an effort at broad representation.
We¹re keenly interested in the commonalties across emergent art/technology
practice with attention to artist/audience/object/environment,
performativity and the open work.


To date this has been the most prolific, comprehensible/understandable area
of practice, encompassing the exploration of networked performance by the
traditional performing arts where new technologies are integrated into
existing forms (dance, music, theater). Examples of this would include the
musical performance. InteraXis with Jesse Gilbert, Mark Trayle and Wadada
Leo Smith and dance performances such as those created by AdaPT, an
interdisciplinary association of artists, technologists and scholars.

Others move us onto new terrain. Jeff Mann and Michelle Teran, for instance, create performance events that explore new ways for computers to support social experiences in the physical environment. Their objective is not performance for an audience but creating a shared experience in which everyday social spaces become ³electronically activated play environments, capable of transmitting the physical presence and social gestures that compriseŠhuman interaction² across time and distance. No longer dependent on the work-based screen and keyboard, in these environments ordinary goods and wares ­ furniture, cutlery etc. ­ ³come to life as both kinetic art and telecommunications interfaces².


Locative media practice has exploded since the public availability of GPS
and its consequent inexpensive and ubiquitous availability in mobile
electronic devices. Some of this practice makes urban areas into game boards
and city infrastructures into play spaces. Blast Theory, a London-based
group, is renowned internationally for their contribution to this genre with
works that make a public space Œplayable¹ by participants in the street and

Others create ³geo-annotation projects.² This involves assigning geo-spatial
coordinates to media content so that it can be accessed at a specific
geographical location with an enabled device. While the ³true² location of
the content is a database, by making it possible to access that content from
a particular location, its place (so to speak) migrates into the physical
environment, making urban streets and the landscape ³programmable.² Urban
Tapestries and the Aware Platform are examples of this.  Both are
location-based wireless platforms that allow users to access, author and
share location-specific content (text, audio, pictures, and/or movies) ­ But
there are many more:  Yellow Arrow, Grafedia, MapHub, and, as Anne Galloway
says, ³ and oh, about a million others now.²

There are also projects specifically designed to enable communication and
shape transient networked communities. Yuri Gitman¹s Magicbike turns common
bicycles into WiFi hotspots that broadcast free WiFi connectivity to their
proximity. And Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Katherine Moriwaki¹s
develops ad-hoc networks based around the haphazard and unpredictable
patterns of weather and crowd formation. The system consists of a set of
umbrellas as nodes that can spontaneously form a network when unfurled.


Wearable computing enlarges the use of computers to include wearing them on
ones body‹much as eyeglasses or clothing are worn‹and facilitates
interaction with the user, and between users, based on specific situations.
Fionnuala Conway and Katherine Moriwaki¹s Urban Chameleon, for instance, is
comprised of three skirts: 1) ³Touch² changes visual properties upon
contact; 2) ³Speak² reacts to urban noise; and 3) ³Breathe² visualizes
pollution and urban exhaust as it travels through the garment.

Tina Gonsalves¹ Medulla Intimata is responsive video jewelry. The overall
function of the piece and its video content is to reflect the full character
and content of the wearer¹s emotions and thus present a fuller living
portrait: the wearer as he/she is in unmediated interaction and the wearer
as he /she feels at that moment.


Increasingly, through ubiquitous/pervasive/ambient computing paradigms and
wireless sensing, artifacts, objects and physical space itself are being
charged with properties traditionally associated with living bodies.

In their recent Benches and Bins, Greyworld creates furniture that is able
to roam freely through the new public square in Cambridge, England and
respond to its surroundings and ambient movement.

While Chris Salter, in the environment-inhabitant interaction
Suspension/Threshold, focuses on the theme of thresholds or bardo (in
between) states, and creates a body responsive environment where the
aggregate breathing patterns of the collective audience/participants lighten
an otherwise dark environment.

Much of this work is conceived to provoke interaction between people, and between people and their spaces. More than not it encourages people to be performers within the work and thus to enable or realize the work. This calls into question the accepted nature of performance and introduces a shifting relationship between the artist, artwork and audience.

We locate this practice within an historical continuum (Kaprow¹s
³Happenings,² Galloway¹s ³Electronic Café,² ³Experimental Art and Technology
(EAT),² the Situationists, Fluxus, etc.) and suggest that this trajectory is
redefining the performative as a socially networked, collaborative model for
artistic and cultural practice.

The overarching question, then. is:

³How do we understand performance in relation to these new activities that
are between the existing and the developing, and what can we learn by
stretching our understanding of performance in light of these perspectives²?

Other questions we are interested in include:

1. How is performance changing in response to networked computing
technologies (mobile, satellite/GPS, internet)?

2. What is the relationship of 'real-time' computing to liveness and

3. What is the relationship of agency and authorship to performativity? Is
performativity synonymous with being an actor, agent, or author? Is
³performer² another label for the user/viewer/visitor/ of an interactive

4. As the use of the network becomes more social, adopting the peer-to-peer
model, what does this imply for performance and as performative?

5. How are network processes (algorithmic, procedural rule-based systems,
generative) influencing or being investigated by performance?

6. How are networked concepts as modes of communication (granularity, open
source, emergent behavior, affordance, latency, ubiquitous computing)
impacting performance?

-- Helen and Michelle

_______________________________________________ empyre forum

-- 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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