[-empyre-] with wild surmise: an introduction

dear -empyreans-

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 Pacific.
Beginning with the image of islands, the parables might be characterized as a series of patchwork understandings from torn atlasses.
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 to survey?

http://blog.raqsmediacollective.net/blog/archive/2006/08/14/pacific- parables.html

--from my notes at the PRNMS



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