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

Hana Iverson hanaiver at gmail.com
Mon Jun 8 04:47:58 EST 2009

Hi, Marguerithe et all,

You raise very pertinent questions “around resistance and complicity  
more broadly; in a control society where participatory art seems to  
be an art form on the rise, must the art still always resist?

First, I have to say that all relational works are not necessarily  
based on a resistance/complicity binary.  Some are made of haptic  
interfaces that function intuitively and provide entry into  variety  
of experiences such as submersion in a virtually mediated experience.  
I think of Char Davies Osmose, as one example, of this kind of  
immersive experience, where the control is based on the breath of the  
participant.  The relation in that work is between a single user and  
its immersion in a spatialized event.

I think recent femiist theory refutes the continual binary  
construct.. I point to the text Sarah referred to in last week’s  
forum on the Politics of Motion. Elizabeth Grosz in Volatile Bodies  
elucidates that “the problem of dichotomous thought is not the  
dominance of the pair (some sort of inherent problem with number  
tow); rather, it is the one which makes it problematic, the fact that  
the one can allow itself no independent, autonomous other.  All  
otherness is cast in the mold of sameness, with the primary term  
acting as the only autonomous or pseudo-autonomous term.  The one  
allows no tows, threes, fours.  It cannot tolerate any other.  The  
one, in order to be one, must draw a barrier or boundary around  
itself, in which case it is necessarily implicated in the  
establishment of a binary – inside/outside, presence/absence.

On the question of the inherent violence of binary polarizations  
[ and therefore its complicit usefulness in defining the control  
society ] see Nancy Jay (1981), Jaques Derrida (1972, 176, 1981a and  
1981b), and Elizabeth Gross (1986b).  Derrida’s position differs  
markedly from Jay’s, insofar as Jay posits the possibility of a third  
term or a middle ground between binary pairs, a point that is somehow  
outside the polarizing structure, a point or term that can resolve or  
clarify the tensions that comose the dyadic structure, a kind of  
Hegelian synthesis of the opposed terms.  Derrida is explicit inhis  
denial of this reconstitiution of the binary through its  
supersession. The sublimation or relie of the binary pair obliterates  
the interval between them, which both Derrida and Iridaray insist on  
being recognized (p211).”

It seems that understanding the body and space as processes that are  
always becoming (Soja (1985) refers to spaciality as socially  
produced) is a complex system that defies the static relationship of  
a polarized structure.  The binary is undermined by motion that  
bleeds, distributes, inverts the people, places and spaces constantly  
(re)constructing themselves - opening to the two, three and four more  
levels of interpretation that Elizabeth Grosz refers to. I think many  
of the new projects (such as Mixed Body and United and Severed that  
Sarah pointed out) refer to these other spaces/places/bodies.

Now just to draw the relationship to the archive for a moment, there  
was a recent notice on the Art and Education list about the Archive/ 
Counter-Archive project at Monash Centre and associated conference  
coming up in July.  The announcement states, “archives are the  
repositories of materials and records reflecting the imperial  
processes of invasion and dispossession, as well as narratives of  
resilience and resistance.  Open to new excavations and readings of  
the material it contains, the archive might be seen as ambivalent to  
the histories drawn from it” and the question posed is whether this  
might drive the emergence of various counter-archives.

So, perhaps the archive as static entity (repository of the past)  
lends itself to this binary definition.  As a public site (controlled  
by whoever has established it), the only resistance to its complicity  
in a power structure is in how it is read.  Reading then, becomes the  
active, present time experience, an action that produces an opening  
to other spaces of interpretation and presence.

It seems to me that in all the present time producing of these  
second, third and fourth spaces, there are opportunities for  
experiences that open  “a moment in this hyper media saturated world,  
a moment without feedback, without a document, without a traceable  


Hana Iverson
Media Artist,
Neighborhood Narratives Project,
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ
hiverson at rci.rutgers.edu; hanaiver at gmail.com

On Jun 4, 2009, at 8:10 AM, margaretha haughwout wrote:

> 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!
> xo,
> margaretha
> cited:
> 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/)  
> 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
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