[-empyre-] networked art & the Netopticon

Jon Thomson j.thomson at ucl.ac.uk
Thu Jan 20 23:10:39 EST 2011


>  Many have discussed that copys or reproduction of images, sound, videos etc... on the Internet, challeneges the concept of what has been perceived as 'original'. Yet, I am not sure if this is completely true. Because, out of each creative action occurs a new context and meaning, which comes from the decisions and concepts explored behind an artwork itself. Changing the context of anything gives new light upon any subject, medium or concept.

Of course, we would agree with you here and the unprecedented extensiveness and (current) openness of our databases gives us access to a truly dizzying amount of digital things, which in turn lets us think of almost anything and then find some corresponding piece of existing information 'out there'.  If we think of yet another essay by Foucault, What is an Author (http://www.scribd.com/doc/10268982/Foucault-What-is-an-Author) and his ideas of an author being more like a conduit than originator then, perhaps manipulation and origination become less distinguishable?

> Mark Cooley wrote what I thought was an insightful article about this work, saying "...given that the user/subject is provided with an impressive enough spectacle to call his or her own. Who is freer (in individualist terms) than one who can virtually see / possess everything? I am a god in front of my screen, but one who's both omnipotent and impotent. With a click I become master of my destiny, but my destiny is not my own."

Yes Cooley, in many respects asks the question we are trying to ask with the work itself and we try and make that evident through promoting a kind of artificial self-consciousness in the work through the double screen, where the same information is simultaneously displayed as a text log and a cinematic assemblage.

> Keeping this theme of the netopicon in place; I would be interested to know what you both think regarding the circumstance of  making your art with similar tools as corporations and surveillance groups do, especially in the context of film or video and use of networks?

As we said in our initial post, we think of our artistic agency as being like that of a participant-observer and so our artworks tend to make statements that are questions more often than not.  We tend to mis-use the tools of surveillance by the standards surveillance groups go by and in doing so we attempt to be the kind of irritant you mention art as being earlier.  Our hopes are two-fold here; firstly that we keep re-materialising the netopticon reminding us all that we act in public there and secondly when needed, our small gestures as artworks might in their own modest way help to illuminate some of the absurdities of surveillance and self-surveillance in society and culture and the conceits upon which they rely.  A tiny related example here would be a series of lie detector reports we generated by testing a series of telephone speaking clocks with voice lie detection software used commercially, where the british speaking clock is judged prone to exaggeration by the software and NYC weather and time check is unsure of what it's saying etc...  We also have interests and concerns more generally about whether live information has artistic materiality and how the language of cinema and the language of data-visualisation might illuminate each other in interesting ways when combined or pitted against each other.

sorry, a bit brief, but hope that partly answers your question
best wishes,
jon & alison

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