[-empyre-] an 'ethico-aesthetic paradigm' - in France and Argentina

Timothy Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Mon May 12 23:41:43 EST 2008

Brian wrote, "The question was how to break out of this slick, 
sophisticated conformism, to touch something real in this life? In 
the mid-1990s I was struggling with the economics of globalization 
and demonstrating with artists out in the streets. To be an activist 
then was not fashionable in any way, it was considered totally 
retrograde in artistic circles."

Hi, everyone.  This is a fantastic month of discussion and I'm sorry 
that travels and end of semester business have kept me from being 
more active.

I would like to return briefly to Brian's comments which helped frame 
Aliette's long and thoughtful post.  In sharing her suspicion of a 
new avant-gardist utopia whose conceptual thinking and artistic 
practice might propel us ahead of the thoughtlessness of the past, 
I'm wondering whether we might not wish to continue to dialogue with 
the conceptual and artistic activism that electrified the screens of 
the emergent internet and alternative gallery spaces in the 90s. 
While activism might not have been fashionable, I'm not sure that I'd 
agree that it was totally retrograde in artistic circles.   This was, 
after all, the period that gave birth to the electronic journal and 
listserv.   If we take just one example, that of CTHEORY which was 
founded in Canada by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, we can appreciate 
a conceptual apparatus whose purpose was to think critically about 
the urgency of the digital divide.  This is a prolonged discussion on 
the CTHEORY site that continues to target technoglobalism and its 
relation to art.  Indeed, this was one of the primary reasons that 
Arthur, Marilouise, and I decided to collaborate on creating three 
new editions of CTHEORY Multimedia in order to provide   a platform 
for emergent critical practices in Net Art,  whose experimental 
multimedia format provided artists with an alternative option for 
critical artistic dialogue between themselves and others 
(http://ctheorymultimedia.cornell.edu)  (on Tech Flesh [the 
eco-politics of genomics], Wired Ruins [digital terror and ethnic 
paranoia] and NetNoise).

In the gallery spaces themselves in the nineties, a wide variety of 
international work in video and multitechnological installation made 
insistent interventions against globalism, racism, and sexism and/or 
the politics of emergent capitalism and attendant corporate/political 
fascism.  I'm thinking of a range of artists from Muntadas in 
Barcelona/New York (who has a critical exhibition up right now at 
Kent Gallery in New York on media panic in the age of terror), Keith 
Piper  in London, dumb type and Candy Factory in Tokyo,VNS Matrix in 
Southern Australia, Critical Art Ensemble (US), the inSite exhibitons 
(Tijuana/San Diego), etc., etc.

Indeed, one of the things I've carried with me from my Argentine 
artist friends in the 70s in Paris, who fled during the period of 
disappearance,  was to value to sociopolitico contributions of 
experiments in artistic form itself, whose results could sometimes 
open the artist and viewers to networks, systems, and relations not 
otherwise thinkable.

This clearly was also Melinda's vision when she created -empyre-, a 
soft-skinned space.

In this regard, Renate and I have been reflecting on the comparative 
quiet of -empyre- during last month's discussion of "wired 
sustainability."   We think that it's really fascinating that this 
month's discussion topic, which is no less blatantly political, has 
generated a much  more passionate response than last month's topic 
through which the complexities of politics probably were articulated 
more indirectly through the pragmatics of form.   We'd be interested 
to hear all of your thoughts about the list's comparative quiet over 
sustainability, when we're now writing passionately about the 
sustainability of political cultures and systems.  Do you understand 
these to be mutually exclusive discussions?

All the best,


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