[-empyre-] On Tactical Media From Horit Herman Peled

Timothy Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Mon Apr 12 12:36:19 EST 2010

In California, a state that spends more on its prisons than on its 
public universities 
Ricardo Dominguez, an artist and a scholar, has constructed a 
discourse by contemporary artistic and theoretical means that 
utilizes the advances of technology in order to criticize and subvert 
the socio-economic and political contexts within which this 
technology is being created, diffused and controlled. Since the means 
of digital artistic production are predetermined and controlled by 
profit-making corporations, Dominguez's work is that of a responsible 
citizen in the troubled global village, expressing the voice of those 
who are terrorized into silence. For that, he is being persecuted by 
his university.

Educational institutions such as universities and colleges are 
learning communities sustained by a blend of government, corporate, 
private and student resources. In the current historical time, it 
seems, the dominant ingredient is the corporate one. Does the 
bureaucratic leadership of learning communities tend to close ranks 
with the wishes of corporate donors? Are corporations the new patrons 
of the learning community?

My own work is carried out in a different setting, in an enduring 
existence of war and terror, and is free of the constraints imposed, 
tacitly or openly, by institutions of higher education. It calls for 
active witnessing and live bodily presence in situ. Materiality, I 
believe, makes for the critical condition in restoring an ethical 
sentiment of responsibility. It can also chart a trajectory out of 
the temptation of complacency, injected by the convenience of action 
that resides only in virtuality. 'Coming out' of the state of 
virtuality, being 'there,' is a constitutive experience. Witnessing 
art, structured and displayed beyond the hegemonic context of the 
university, in the form of performance, documentation, or theoretical 
writing, is a form of human solidarity that transmits and distributes 
information from the other side of the walls and geographical 
prisons, the designated habitats controlled by military apparatuses.

Moreover, witnessing art, that takes the form of intervention, has to 
be embedded in group activity, as opposed to individualist action. 
Human interaction in the military zone of the West Bank is mainly 
between the representatives of the occupation - soldiers, the 
Palestinian inhabitants of the region, and activist groups. It is a 
disturbed human interaction, a live performance, a displaced, 
unpredicted ritual between the homo sacer, its jailer and the 
witness; a problematic triangular relationship. The streaming 
in-between virtual/material augmentation calls for a re-assessment of 
hybridity conceived of as the matrix of citizens/non-citizens. This 
phenomenon creates a possible plateau for becoming ethical on the 
threshold of the (in)betweeness of citizen and non-citizen through 
lines of flight from the walls of the rigid borders of the two brutal 
binaries; a paradoxical civil being, yet simultaneously a possible 
dialectical, schizophrenic ethical existence. It is there, in the 
desert of bare life, where feeble traces are etched onto the elusive 
surface, at the (in)between juncture of exclusion/inclusion, that 
hybridity, constructed from the privileges of hegemonic rights and 
the effects of bare life exposure, constitutes the ethical 
witness/performer. There, in the habitat of bare life, roams the 
witness/performer in inhuman sites created by humans. The call to 
inscribe and perform traces of witnessing comes from emotional 
synchronization with the plight of those who are condemned to 
exclusion, yet are included, like the witness, in one system of 
control. Synchronization is conditional on the voluntary exclusion of 
the witness from the multitude of citizens. Self-exclusionary ethics 
are a pre-condition for inclusion with those who are excluded by 
force. This hybrid ethical identity carries a price tag, however: it 
is shaped by the hegemony as the abject, and viewed as an incomplete 
civil being.

Can this be a survival kit for the roaming paradoxes of tactical 
media, research, and university, on the threshold of the "West"?

Horit Herman Peled

Teaches digital art and art theory

Tel Aviv

Renate Ferro and Tim Murray
Managing Moderators, -empyre- a soft-skinned-space
Department of Art/ Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
Cornell University
e-mail: empyre at cornell.edu

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