[-empyre-] Place Ground and Practice

Hi all,

I'll try and post something more evaluative about the Pacific Rim New Media summit later, when I leave the centre and get back to my part of the rim next week. For the moment, here's a summary of the Place, Ground and Practice working group <http://01sj.org/content/ blogcategory/75/93/>.

For me, the Place Ground and Practice WG came about from my growing awareness that there were certain kinds of spatial and temporal metaphors which were dominant in new media discourse, and that across the Pacific Rim there are another set of relations to space and time that are different - and these are most visibly contrasted in indigenous cosmologies. So everyone knows the history of the cowboy/ homesteading/frontier metaphors, and those have always had an other side, which is the indigenous. On the other hand the idea of the "indigenous" is often invoked and appropriated in white pagan technoculture in a very romantic and problematic way, perhaps along the lines of the way the "third world" operates in development discourse, as this figure which is constantly invoked but never really engaged with in agenda setting. So it's a move away from these representations. That's the theoretical version.

The human version is that there are a set of relationships that in my experience are quite common on the ground in Australia/NZ/Canada in the wider contemporary arts setting that seem to be less commonly visible in the new media arts sector.

Also, as has been pointed out by Raqs, the Pacific has an alternative history of exchange among the native pacific voyagers who travelled from probably Taiwan, eventually reaching as far East as the west coast of the land now known as the US, and to South America too, and as far south as Aotearoa New Zealand, in what was the greatest adventure of discovery of all time. They conceived of the Pacific as a continent itself, a "sea of islands", to use Epeli Hauofa's phrase, rather than arbitrary division into melanesia/micronesia/polynesia (or the black, small, many). It's a terrific example of how different knowledge systems are mapped onto a single location, something new media also supports.

So the working group combined indigenous and non-indigenous artists and practitioners, some of whom knew each other and some who didn't as a kind of experiment to see the role new media, and new media organisations like ISEA, play in discussions about place, land, belonging. The main thing we did was brought together most of the working group other people in the arts sector to Auckland in December 2005 for the Cultural Futures symposium/event, which had isea participants Raqs, Rachael Rakena and many others. It was kind of a hybrid event that was partially held in the context of the marae, which is a meeting environment used by Maori, and a European-style university/gallery environment.

For many various reasons, we were unable to get the members of the working group to ISEA. This is partially to do with funding, partially to do with certain absences that don't make new media arts conferences the most hospitable place for these discussions, and I also wonder about whether this is the right kind of environment for people working on these issues. But I guess for me it was a test to see how two very different worlds I engage with, the white frontier and the indigenous frontier, could develop new protocols for mutually productive exchange. And I think the answer is, with great difficulty, which won't surprise anyone who has studied or been engaged with the colonial dynamic. I don't think there are any useful lessons for me to represent here, but simply an invitation to engagement with the issues. I think the difficulties in the interactions we had raise a lot of useful questions for not only new media's reshaping of concepts like space and time, but less-commonly discussed issues like ethics, hospitality, and justice.


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