Re: [-empyre-] revisiting "cycling cathexis"

Hi Henry.

At 02:04 AM 3/5/2005, you wrote:

I see several essential differences between Live/Performance Cinema, and
Internet based (or even traditional film) based cinema. They all centre
around what I call the cycle of cathexis. Since I can't include graphics,
please forgive the lower D representation of a higher D figure:

artist - > art - > audience - > artist


I would also distinguish the difference between interactive video and
performance cinema, and I would tend to question much of what constitutes
the "interactivity" of "interactive" video, as much of what I see as
"interactive art" (much less video) is not much more than various
elaborations on a boolean if/then decision tree, which I find to be
completely, and too often profoundly, UNinteractive.

Hmmm. On some level it is all going to be some variation on if/then decisions. Whether we perceive it that way or not is another thing. However, there is something to be said for interactivity that is straightforward selection because:

1. Straightforward selection is reflexive of systems themselves - i.e., how paths to particular outcomes occur.
2. Straightforward selection presents a clear structure that does not call attention to itself, except in the case of the following point:
3. A clear structure allows other things to come into play such as, for example, putting the interactor or the audience into a double-bind, i.e., the choices are not neutral, but serve to implicate the audience/interactor in a situation. (e.g., I am compelled to do something but the choices are all problematic.)

That 3rd point is not "UNinteractive" as you call it.

I would argue that my 3rd point defines interactivity itself, a power relation.... where cathexis is disrupted and unsettled.

That is tough to do. There are many ways in the past and present that media "seduce us" by producing the "cycle of cathexis". There is work being done to understand how to apply this engineering of audience response to systems that require audience participation. The "cycle of cathexis" could mean, then, refined forms of spectacle (or Spectacle), adapted to the new that the participating audience is no more alert to relations of power than their "nonparticipatory" forebears.

The impoverishment of interactivity would not be the lack of technical ambiguity (e.g., did my mouse make that happen? how have my intentions become so entangled with the machine that I do not know for sure how I made this image appear?). The interest of system interactivity is more about deconstructing systems and the way they bind us to them and permeate our relations to each other in a larger sense.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by your phrase "cycling cathexis"? I am probably reading it wrong.


-------------------------------- Barbara Lattanzi

C-SPAN x 4

I have A LOT of problems with VJ material. Most of what I have seen of it is
just awful. There are some brilliant exceptions.

One I would recommend was the performance I saw of the Light Surgeons, who
deconstructed the film "The Fountainhead" based on the book by Ayn Rand.

You can find out about them here:

I have only seen one of their shows, and I was deeply impressed. They were
very much taken with their relation to DJ culture, which I found absurd, for
as far as I know, DJ culture started with poor blacks spinning disks on the
streets or in places like Washington Square Park in the 1970s.

[I remember, because I would ditch high school and go there to buy joints
(or acid or hash or whatever) and hang out... I remember seeing people make
these weird multi-turntable/close-and-play mixes of funk and soul music. At
the time, I thought it kind of sucked, *a lot*, and thought it was really
irritating, but when scratch and scratch video got big in the 80s, it all
made sense to me...]

We, as human beings, are hard-wired to respond to other people and be
sensitive to other s when in their presence. I'm sure we have all written
things in email where we've said things we probably wouldn't have said if we
were faced with the target of our ire. That presence creates cathexis - an
evocative and psychological response and investment. People who have
problems with cathectic responses and investment are usually classified /
pathologised by their deficiencies in this regard:

Sociopaths, autistic, or, inversely, FORM 2 Inwardly Directed ADD,  etc.

Throw yourself onto a stage in front of a crowd and tell me you don't FEEL
their presence... That sense is their investment in you: cathexis at that
point is so intense, it becomes palpable.

That kind of investment is often completely missing in internet based work.

This doesn't mean that internet based has *no* investment - it is simply of
a very different nature. How one defines the "stage" in that case becomes
problematic, and interesting, which is one of the reasons why I had Gregor
White from Scotland speak at the SFPCS.

The text of his speech is here:

The other aspect that differs Live vs. Other Cinematic practices
(interactive or otherwise) is a matter of synchrony vs diachrony.

A movie is diachronous - it is essentially identical from one showing to the
next. It can be shown to an empty theatre. It exists as a loop outside of

A performance is synchronous - it will always differ from one performance to
the next: even if the performance is a film and completely diachronous, the
reaction of the audience will differ, making each performance unique. It
exists Only in time.

As the internet allows a kind of fractal dimension of time (kind of like 1.2
D) where the arrow always goes forward, but it can stop for a while and skip
around that which has occurred, it obviates most of the possibilities of any
real live cathexis between the audience and performer through the vessel of
the art and the environment of the art work itself by the very exigencies
involved with what it is to use the internet.

I really need to get some sleep.

I will write more on this tomorrow.



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