[-empyre-] with wild surmise: an introduction
This month, we are hoping to gather texts and observations /
interpretations/ musings from the event, Pacific Rim New Media
Summit, organized for the 2006 ISEA conference in San Jose,
California, on August 7 and 8, with a summary session on August 12.
I think that a good place to begin is with the rich vignettes offered
by Raqs Media Collective of Delhi, who were also invited as guests.
My post is by way of introduction to their contribution.
Raqs presented an essay in which the two artists took turns
performing what they called '10 provocations' or parables about the
Beginning with the image of islands, the parables might be
characterized as a series of patchwork understandings from torn
Bits of cartography, but shall we say, not from a position of mastery
as maps imply in their Cartesian delusions. On the mountaintop, we
like alien visitors, must take our hacked together, empirical,
intuitive observations and try to intrepret what we observe in this
'fiction of place.' Raqs likened our ambiguous state of bewilderment
to an image from a poem by the English poet John Keats (1795 -1821).
In "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" -- companions of
Cortez, who look at each other "with a wild surmise' when they
first came to a high view over the Pacific (Darien is on the west
(Pacific coast )of Costa Rica...).
Listen first to Keats:
MUCH have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
In these parables, Raqs asks us to flow about the fictions of a
place: the arbitrary meanings inscribed by and onto latitudes,
longitudes.. the wild blue West, the California beach, the South Sea
Bubble, the French wet dreams of Tahitian erotics and nuclear
tests. Rings of fire, pipelines, silicon networks, the apparent
bottomless pit of the Mariana Trench, the Pacific Rim's highest
density in the world for internet traffic, the peak of Darien, the
sustainability of networks in the region. They ask to shift to
another register: for any network to be born and to function, what
are the questions and visions that brought people together in the
first place. And how can this fictional map NOT reproduce the
predicament of an expression of mastery over the territory we intend
--from my notes at the PRNMS
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