Re: [-empyre-] Introductions and beginnings (October on -empyre-)

On Oct 5, 2006, at 11:27 AM, Renee Turner wrote:

In our case, I don't think any of us ever believed we would be getting there first. As three women, we are used to working with borrowed languages and tools. This isn't resignation or compromise, but it's about understanding yourself as always being embedded and implicated in a larger social fabric and history.

One of the things that interested me in your post was the connection made to people like Rosler and Sekula. Next to them, there are also others which are inspiring at least to our practice, and they may hint at other forms of criticality... like General Idea who mixed the language of pop with politics (http://, Irwin who's antics with the NSK Embassy bring together notions of nationalism and parody (, the Situationists and Ne Pas Plier, a French group who produce graphics of resistance in unconventional and frequently poetic ways.

Yes, these are great references, and i definitely didn't mean to make any claim to exclusivity of my own "reads." Having worked on the installation (literally, as a preparator/handler) of an exhibition of General Idea's editions, that reference has a particular resonance for me with deGeuzen's work. Thinking along those lines, as opposed to the "critical documentary" direction, i wonder how we could introduce collaborative practice into the discursive mix in terms of the ideas of the "pragmatic utopianism" i brought up earlier. i'm thinking here of the internal consistency that collaborative work allows - having your "own" discussions, creating your own "reality" - as well as the practical aspect - that it allows you to "get stuff done" in a way that an individual maybe couldn't.

And most recently, moving parallel to these experiments, we performed The Global Anxiety Monitor before a live audience. Using the same set of words that appear in the screen-based version, live (human) translators fed the information into a computer which was then viewed on large screens . It was interesting to see what happens when image browsing is performed as a social act, rather than a private one. Audiences started talking to each other about the differences appearing between languages, when for example the word "war" or "terrorism" were Googled.

Sounds like a great "test" of the GAM!

Thinking about our own "sprawling" way of working, and knowing Crandall's practice which is even more comprehensive in nature, I am curious how visitors received the Chicago edition of the project. Many different bodies of research were represented there... was it an information overload or were there narrative overlaps? (writing this question, somehow, I feel we can add negotiating varying speeds of information processing to your list of challenges)

Well, saying if it was overload or not depends on the person experiencing it. The space of the exhibition was conducive to the amount of work included, so there was some "breathing room" between things. But there was quite a bit of media that required some extended attention. Without going into a detailed list of the works, many of which are linked to from the exhibition web site posted earlier, i deliberately avoided any immediate, or obvious, narrative overlaps, trying instead to focus on methodological ones. In that sense, the works (from my point of view) all exhibited attention to research and an idea of observing or witnessing something. i want to be careful here though, as i'm not asserting that the work WAS "positivistic" but that it utilized, tactically, some elements of positivist methodologies. Most of the examples also incorporated an engagement with sub-rational forces.

i would also like to point people to a short essay written for the exhibition by Dan S. Wang, which presents perhaps, a third challenge regarding notions of "commitment."

Can you talk a little more about this idea of commitment and how you saw it operating in Under Fire amongst the contributions? Or potentially operating :-)

The issue of "commitment," is significant for me, not just as it relates to the modernist question of autonomy via Adorno, but also in the manner that Dan suggests the necessity of "taking sides" and the question of what there is to be committed to. Dan's suggestion to "take sides" doesn't necessitate an either/or "with us" or "against us" oppositionality. i think that the works exhibited provide a space in which to think about this, as well as providing examples, IMO, of people actively investigating the possibilities for political commitment.
What is at stake in pointing to/discussing the circumstances of war and violent oppression? i certainly don't have any answers for this, but what the works in the show do for me is formulate different questions. Part of the question of commitment is, i think, a commitment to unending questions, finding other ways of asking them and not letting up on responsible parties who should at least have to try to answer them.
i think deGeuzen's work is a great example of such a practice within our context, but i'd love to hear more about your thoughts on these assertions...

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