[-empyre-] Participatory Art: New Media and the Archival Trace

margaretha haughwout xmargarethax at gmail.com
Thu Jun 4 22:10:22 EST 2009

dear hana, sarah & empyre folks,

i'm usually an intermittent lurker on this list, now drawn in by this rich
set of ideas and inquiries as well as the call to "participate!"

hana, i do think that matter, "if it could be traced, would be the
narrative," as you said in your previous post. i think immediately of
bakhtin's chronotopes, and of hayden white's plot points. bakhtin terms
chronotopes as "'points where narratives are tied and untied,' and where
time is bound to space" (rose, 37). white reminds us that the definition of
plot can refer to positions of bodies in space, points in narrative, and the
"final resting place," or the grave plot. i propose that it is at a plot
point that one might experience desire, or confront it, perhaps consider its
transcendence, as a wasp to the orchid. processes of witnessing, becoming,
encountering put into motion or undo the fixity and finality usually
associated with plots and points. i can see how the projects mentioned, The
Neighborhood Narratives Project, and Sonic Interface by Akitsugu Maebayashi
both employ this process of reorientation through a relationship with bodies
and plots....

as we move from a disciplinary to a control society, i suspect the agency of
one body, or one individual becomes less relevant; indeed, the negotiations
between bodies becomes more of a focus, and the tension here in a
participatory work becomes one of power relations -- or perhaps just forces
-- and how power, and certain kinds of power, are negotiated. so the agency
of one individual becomes less important than the kinds of relationships we
have (haughwout, 6). ie. relationships between bodies.... i am curious how
it is possible to speak of *the body* at all and expect it to resist
objectification... the body as always becoming helps, and is helped further
along i believe in that bodies are always becoming because of other bodies.
but i also think that to some degree participatory, relational, dialogic art
disrupts the objectifying gaze by its nature, in that there is no longer a
passive viewer/ active performance situation. ideally, all bodies in a
participatory piece are engaged with the place and the other bodies; the
gaze is subverted at least.

which brings me to questions around resistance and complicity more broadly;
in a control society where participatory art seems to an art form on the
rise, must the art still always resist? are there different kinds of
resistances and can we outline them? are there ways complicity becomes
something to work with, something to witness in ourselves? i confess the
resistance/ complicity binary seems somewhat outmoded to me. i feel always
complicit. i wonder if there is a more descriptive and useful way of talking
about the social and political work being done in these relational arenas.

i also wanted to touch on some of the thoughts that have come up around
time, and to draw on hana's comments around the archive, seen and unseen
bodies, and the complexities of the new social order. image technologies can
be seen as a partial cause of this complexification. with digital
photography and video we constantly create a past for the future. this
activity, where cameras "document" experience, takes away the present moment
and creates a past. this making of a past is for an imagined future: for a
Facebook audience perhaps, or MySpace -- for an imagined future audience.
The Retort Collective asks, "what is the current all invasive, portable,
minute-by-minute apparatus of mediation we have pointed to if not an attempt
to expel the banality of the present moment - the dim actuality of what is
happening from consciousness?" the process of documenting becomes literally
all consuming of the present; the activity obfuscates the present, so that
the presentness and physicality of sentient bodies is given up as energy and
labor in the service of "some nonempty, non-fantastical vision of the
future."(Retort Collective, 183) this is one of the ways bodies can be
managed in a control society; a willing labor force constantly working
according to a hyperlinear time -- born of Industrialized time, and
encouraged by Taylorism -- to create a false future.(haughwout, 14) i too
have created relational artworks that play with and overlap different
periods of time to induce a re-orientation, but increasingly i am intrigued
by practices that might bring people into the present moment, and that
remain completely undocumented. it fills me with a sense of release and
relief to even think of it - a moment in this hyper media saturated world, a
moment without feedback, without a document, without a traceable trace -
think of it!


Haughwout, Margaretha. Intimacy: The aesthetics of space and time in new
media and participatory art. 2008.

Retort Collective. Afflicted Powers.London: Verso, 2005.

Deborah Bird Rose. Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation.
Sidney: University of New South Wales Press Lrd, 2004.

White, Hayden. "Bodies and Their Plots." Choreographing History. Ed. Susan
Leigh Foster.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

On Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 10:36 PM, Anna Munster <A.Munster at unsw.edu.au> wrote:

> Hi Hana and all,
> I found what you had to say interesting re the trace-body-media relation
> generally but also specifically in relation to the Sonic Interface piece you
> mentioned below:
> A project that I think very specifically engages both sets of body
> functions in very interesting ways is Akitsugu Maebayashi’s Sonic Interface,
> a portable hearing device that is made from headphones, microphones, and a
> laptop computer. The participant is invited to walk around the city, and
> experiences modified sonic environments processed real time (with a 3 second
> delay) from the sounds it picks up. The experience of the altered
> environment generated by the software program influences and questions the
> sense of space and time. Mayebayashi has focused on the auditory sense as an
> interface between the body and the environment, in a different way than an
> audio walk of any kind – locative or pre-recorded.
> what I think is really interesting in the context of participatory art
> right now, is the way in which this is moving into a much broader sphere of
> newer forms of participatory culture. So, for example, see the new iPhone
> app RJDJ (http://more.rjdj.me/what/) <http://more.rjdj.me/what/%29> where
> you can use incoming sensorially activated data (movement/ environmental
> sound) to affect pre-recorded sonic data and tracks. Essentially what you
> are doing is in/remixing environmental data with prerecorded data on an
> iPhone/IPod device and listening to it as it gets in/remixed. The app is
> free and being used to generate RJ/DJ events in the same way people were
> using iPods for live podcasting events a few years ago.
> The RJ stands for 'real jockey' with an overt reference to 'realtime'
> processing and mixing. But what is really interesting here is if we start
> inflecting this with a Bergsonian-Deleuzian understanding then we come up
> with a kind of music-memory-machine that is about generating sonic
> space-time in-between the present-processed (realtime) and the
> past-retensive (prerecorded) such that one is continually producing a kind
> of sonic rendering of the temporal that cannot settle between the present
> and the past (or the 'to come' - protentive)...
> This has implications for your below comment:
> By uncoupling sound from vision, this project questions what we assume as
> "real".  "Presence" requires the constant stabilizing and synchronizing of
> vision and sound; an uncoupling of the two opens up the possibility for
> other presences, other experiences of "self." This separation also
> importantly has the effect of destabilizing the experience of "place."
> the trace, then, of both the machine and of matter (sonic, environment,
> participant) in the RJDJ app is really an inmixing rather than a
> remixing...I think this has consequences for all the fairly boring and banal
> notions of remix/participatory culture around (Shirkey, jenkins et al) and
> opens up, instead, something much more novel about how one creates a
> platform for participating in a temporality that is both occurring but  has
> not yet happened or only partly happened and that part will be open to
> re-happening (TOL so don't hold me to this ;-)...
> cheers
> Anna
> A/Prof. Anna Munster
> Assistant Dean, Grant Support
> Acting Director Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics
> School of Art History and Art Education
> College of Fine Arts
> P.O. Box 259
> Paddington
> NSW 2021
> 612 9385 0741 (tel)
> 612 9385 0615(fax)
> a.munster at unsw.edu.au
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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