[-empyre-] political-aesthetic discourse on interactivity

Please forgive any double postings. Neither Renate nor I received my posting from earlier this afternoon on our e-mail, so I'm sending this out again.


I've been meaning to reply to Johannes who laments that there is "no political-aesthetic discouse on interactivity." While he might find political emphasis to be slight in some criticism based solely on phenomenological models that's not the case with all work written in dialogue with philosophical sources (even Western ones). Because my own writing and curatorial work remains committed to balancing the European and Japanese philosophical/critical traditions in which I was trained, I am particularly wary of discourse that distinguishes between the West and the Rest (Naoki Sakai is extremely eloquent in warning us against this dialectic, whether voiced in support of western or eastern writers).

I'd encourage us to take seriously the extensive bibliography for which the "critical" in Critical Spatial Practice has long been a commitment. I would refer you to recent books by Arthur Kroker (The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism), Samuel Weber (Targets of Opportunity: On the Militarization of Thinking), Jordan Crandall (Trigger Project), D. N. Rodowick (Reading the Figural, or, Philosophy After the New Media), Verena Andermatt Conley (Ecopolitics: The Environment in Poststructuralist Thought), and even my own forthcoming book that develops a postDeleuzian ideological theory of "digital incompossibililty" which notion I first discussed a few years back in CTHEORY (Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds). I recommend these books as examples of texts that dialogue with the traditions, say, of both Bergson, Deleuze, Derrida, Lyotard AND Debord, Marx, Marin, Lefebvre, de Certeau and Fanon [to emphasize only the French oriented examples--there are numerous others such as the tradition stemming from Negt/Kluge or the fascinating production out of Slovenia voiced/practiced by Tanja Vujinovic and Zvonka Simcic or Marina Grzinic, not to mention the array of criticism coming from Latin America and Asia]. This not to say that exciting work isn't being penned from within confrontational postcolonial traditions, well represented by Joannnes's examples of Coco Fusco and Raqs Media Collective, but that we should be careful not to limit our perspective too strictly to one particular critical lens (for example, the traditionally (French) poststructural journal, diacritics, is hosting a major conference here at Cornell next week on Marxism in Latin America).

I fear that Johannes's performative statement might steer us away from serious engagement with the wide variety of critical and artistic work committed to the "political-aesthetic discourse" of critical spatial practice, whether by Critical Art Ensemble and CTHEORY MULTIMEDIA or by practical engagements such as Millie's work with PED, long-standing interactive work by an exceptionally wide array of international practioners from MONGREL, Muntadas, Lynn Hershman, Jordan Crandall, Keith Piper, Shu Lea Cheang, and YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES to younger or lesser known international practioners for whom spatial practice IS inherently critical, such as the many artists that Arthur and Marilouise Kroker and I featured in our special issue of CTHEORY MULTIMEDIA, "Wired Ruins: Digital Terror and Ethnic Paranoia" http://ctheorymultimedia.cornell.edu/issue3/index.htm). Also of interest to me is how James's very formal and practical concerns, with +Parasite, to construct interactive installations in a non-invasive way (using natural materials and temporary fixative devices) have stimulated this viewer to reflect broadly on matters of art and sustainability.

Of course there's also the wide array of texts and artistic interventions that address race, ethnicity, and gender specifically, often in dialogue with philosophical models, such as materials covered in texts by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics), Alondra Nelson and Thuy Linh N. Tu (Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life), and Jennifer Terry and Melodie Calvert (Processed Lives: Gender and Technology...), and Mary Flannagan and Austin Booth's newest collection on feminism and interactive practice, Re-Skin, etc. Indeed, Renate and I shortly will be introducing one of the coming week's guests, Catherine Ingraham, whose feminist concerns and critiques have been particularly helpful to the theory and practice of architecture.

While I enthusiastically welcome the erudition and provocative engagement of Johannes' posts, and particularly embrace his desire for ideological commitment, I wish to caution us against getting too sidetracked by "us/them" assumptions over who might best own critical spatial practice and over which critical precedents may best serve us.

Renate and I are confident that the month's guests will reveal an extensive array of critical spatial practice from which we all might hone our particular practices.


-- Timothy Murray Professor of Comparative Literature and English Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library 285 Goldwin Smith Hall Cornell University Ithaca, New York 14853

office: 607-255-4086
e-mail: tcm1@cornell.edu

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