[-empyre-] (no subject)

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina gabyvargasc at prodigy.net.mx
Mon Nov 5 17:29:22 EST 2007

I read once a piece by Umberto Eco where he said that since photocopies were
invented he accumulated more things to read but read much less.  He
explained that when he had to look for actual books he had to make time to
go to libraries and bookstores, browse and figure out if he would carry the
book away; however, with the xerox machine he felt he could pile up things
to read them later, and he often did not read them because he preferred
books to photocopies.  My husband and I started buying books from
alibris.com and then from amazon.com in 1994, and we have probably bought
twice as many as we had before.  You just click and the purchase has been
made.  We've must have had some 5.5 thousand after 20 years of each of us
having started our personal collections, and now we have now some 12
thousand books.  Yes, speed matters a lot in terms of how much memory we can
accumulate, how fast we can catch frozen thought and intentions (books, cds,
xerox copies, art . . .) and how we store it, in increasingly smaller
artifacts; but also those memories are more fragile and fleeting in their
current forms than before: the hard drive crashes, the paper of photocopies
decays very fast; the technology we used for digital art changes and what we
remember is only in our embodied memory, changing as we also change between
each moment of recall.

This is something that interests me very much because I am a musician, and
time is a key element of music; now with computers you can accelerate the
music and create sound sculptures made out of very fast pieces that can be
treated together as a singular piece at regular speed, like sound artist Bob
Ostertag does.  Or slow down existing music and treat and even copyright the
mixed segments as your own, like Brian Eno did with the Pachabel Cannon and
Moby does with all kinds of things.  You can even accelerate the creative
process between two people at a great distance, like guitarist Jimmy Page
and rapper Puff Daddy did for the Godzilla soundtrack, each playing in a
different place of the world and mixing in real time through a satellite
connection . . . Brian Eno is part of a foundation that has created 'the
clock of the long now', a clock that takes a whole year to move between each
two marks and plays a little, randomly-generated tune when it hits the next

This all makes me think: who has access to more or less management of speed
and under what conditions?  Some people talk of a 'digital divide'; this is
a simplistic idea because there are all kinds of digital stuff around
everybody nowadays, even when we can't see it.  But certainly there is a
differential access and control of the digital, and there is equally a
differential access and control of speed.  Speed has become a resource.
Virilio would say it has always been a weapon, but it probably has become
many more things than that.  We are at this paradoxical moment where the
speed of memory has increased so much we find ourselves needing to forget
more and much faster . . .

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
On 11/4/07 6:13 PM, "Norie" <Norie.Neumark at uts.edu.au> wrote:

> Dear Gabriela,
> Thanks for your post and for raising the issue of speed -- which does
> certainly seem to inflect memory, in art and everyday life.
> Do you think that the speed-up-of-speed factor comes from and fuels
> the sense of information overload that  makes
> people distrust their own memory's ability (ability to absorb fast
> enough) and therefore turn to computer
> memory -- only to feel more overloaded? It seems a bit like speed in
> its drug form -- the more you have, the more you need.
> What you said also reminds us how within everyday life, memory is not
> just about the amount of information remembered (stored) and the
> speed of access to it, but the relations between memories and what
> triggers them in the present. And it also resonates for me in
> thinking about art, where working with an archive is about
> contextualing it, the aesthetic issues of how elements are brought
> forth, their timing and their relation to each other and to what's
> not said...
> So, as you described, accessing digital art at the wrong speed at
> best disturbs its carefully constructed time-space subtlety. Which is
> something that quite a few artists work with directly. Often, from
> the angle of slowing rather than speeding, as with Douglas Gordon's
> 24 hour Psycho -- which is a work that I 'remember', from
> reading much about it though I haven't yet seen. (I'm really
> fascinated with memory of things never actually encountered!) A film
> like Psycho, which I have seen and which most viewers probably know
> quite well, would create a sort of drag on memory -- our memory
> rushes ahead faster than the film itself. I'm curious to hear from
> people familiar with that work, or similar works, about how speed
> (fast or slower) work with memory in those works?
> best
> norie
> On 04/11/2007, at 12:15 PM, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina wrote:
>> While I was a fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell
>> Tim Murray
>> tried to show us some digital art that had been stored on CDs years
>> ago.
>> The  pieces were absolutely crazy, moving at a speed that made it
>> almost
>> impossible to understand what was going on.  Pieces that had been
>> made for
>> the bandwith of a decade ago became these vertiginous moving things
>> that
>> were difficult to discern and even more difficult to appreciate in
>> their
>> artistic intention.  What does speed have to do to memory?  What does
>> technological change do to memory?  When Derrida wrote "Archive
>> trouble" or
>> whatever his book about archive memory was called in English he did
>> not
>> anticipate the matter and importance of speed, the way Paul Virilio
>> did.  At
>> Tim's presentation I was startled and began to think about speed as an
>> important element of flux, Deleuze and Guattari's important
>> category.  David
>> Harvey discussed the idea of 'time-space compression' as a key
>> element of
>> recent human history (from the 16th century to our days).  I wonder
>> what you
>> all think of speed as intrinsic to art, and of time as a key category
>> related to memory in our times?
>> Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
>> Autonomous University of Yucatan - Anthropology
>> Cornell University - Music
>> On 11/3/07 4:29 PM, "maria miranda" <maria at out-of-sync.com> wrote:
>>>   " The interruption of digital memory error accentuates what Thomas
>>> Hobbes lamented in a much earlier age of technological revolution as
>>> the fragility or "decaying sense" of memory."
>>> ... but  digital memory is not the only medium that errs. I'm
>>> reminded of a thought provoking work by the always entertaining MTAA
>>> called the Updates --http://turbulence.org/Works/1year/-- that
>>> appeared a few years ago -- it was a series of online performances
>>> where the Art duo remembered/remade seminal performance works from
>>> the 60s and 70s using digital forms and automating processes that had
>>> involved time and endurance.
>>> One Update worked with Sam Tehching Hsieh's Cage piece (http://
>>> www.one-year-performance.com/), where Tehching spent a year in a
>>> cage. MTAA transferred the task of doing time and enduring for one
>>> year to the viewer.  That is, they created a video as if documenting
>>> their time spent in solitary confinement, in a room --matching rooms
>>> in their case - that recreated Tehching's original cage, as if it was
>>> for a year.
>>> While MTAA work with the way that the digital archive can fake the
>>> present time and space, for me their work also throws light on the
>>> analogue archive, that is, the black and white photographs that
>>> documented the orginal piece - - and that shape our memories (proof)
>>> of the time and space that Tehching spent in his cell. As I watched
>>> this performance  online it had the weird effect of making me
>>> question the original piece by Sam Tehching Hsieh. Did he really
>>> remain in his cage for one year with nothing to read, listen to or
>>> even talk to!! How do we know? Photos of course. But may he not have
>>> slipped out occasionally for a quick bite and jog around the
>>> neighbourhood to clear his head or taken in a movie -- and slipped
>>> back into his cage in the morning?The only documentation of this
>>> original endurance piece is  the photos - grim black and white photos
>>> of Tehching in his cage. In understanding the artifice of the digital
>>> MTAA have thrown open the possibility for all media to be fakes and
>>> therefore all media memory to be fundamentally in error.
>>> best
>>> maria
>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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