[-empyre-] networked self and the netopticon

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Sat Jan 29 21:40:04 EST 2011

A different Simon takes a slightly different point of view.

All art is interactive in that we the reader can re-shape it as we interpret
it and in turn we, ourselves, are shaped by the work, our reshaping of the
work and all the other elements that form the context of experiencing the
work. Latour covers this pretty well, from an intellectual, scaleable and
more compelling point of view than Bourriaud.

However, once this is accepted our concern can shift a little from a focus
on art work, author and/or reader to the relations between them, the
networks of agency. These "connections" are not fixed but dynamic in nature,
constantly becoming. In this flux those elements we might consider more
fixed (author, reader, artefact) are also rendered uncertain, unfixed and
fluid. Bourriaud also identifies this, although he remains focused on the
outcome of things, the art work, and thus misses the point.

An interactive work of art (that is more than just physically responsive to
external sources of agency) is one that has been produced primarily as a
means to reveal and reflect upon these processes of flux, the manner in how
all the participants in a situation are dynamically being formed, re-formed
and de-formed as relations shift. The interactive art work seeks to contain
the totality of that, even though materially it might be quite constrained
in its existence.

Some of the artists included in the exitimacy exhibition do seek to produce
such work. That the work might be "bankable" is another issue (that just
sounds like sour grapes). I am familiar with most of the practitioners work
in this field and there are some names in the show I have never heard of.
There are others I raise an eyebrow when seeing their inclusion as I don't
consider their work to be interactive in the sense I describe it above -
that is, their work is conventional in how it treats the formation of
ontology around a work of art. Some other artists included seem like
appropriate choices and, yes, a few are well known.

What has this to do with the netopticon? I'd argue quite a lot. An artist
like Paul Sermon was one of the first to focus on network relations as a
subject for art practice, considering how network media can affect human
relations and the subsequent impact on how we become through those
relations. Sermon was doing this work a decade before Bourriaud read Latour
and came up with his catch-phrase of relational aesthetics. Sermon's
interest was not in aesthetics or art about art but human and other
ontologies implicit in the experiences and mediations that can comprise
life. His earliest work, involving little more than phone calls between
participants, also evidenced this focus and his current work sustains this
interest. It's rich territory.

I'll just quickly plug that this Wednesday he is giving the weekly Research
Seminar at Edinburgh College of Art. All welcome! Anybody who has queries
about his work can ask him directly.



On 28/01/2011 23:56, "Heidi May" <mayh at ecuad.ca> wrote:

> Thanks for this, Simon.
> A couple of things came to mind after reading your excerpt below along
> with the full exhibition text description...
> The excerpt "interactive installations, mainly, that involve
> spectators in what is active participation with the work, which never
> ceases to be a piece with its own identity" if taken out of the
> context of this particular exhibition could perhaps be extended to ALL
> art? that is, if we expand our understanding of the words
> "interactive" and "active participation". What I mean to say is, if we
> understand "active participation" as viewer/spectator/participant
> engagement on any level, then the identity of an artwork is dependent
> on the viewer/spectator/participant. The identity of the artwork is
> constructed through the active participation or engagement with the
> work and thus evolves from any identity that may have existed before
> the art was viewed or interacted with. The identity of the work
> emerges in-between the artwork and the viewer/participant and will
> change for each viewer/participant as well as each time the work is
> interacted with. I am influenced of course by Benjamin, Barthes, and
> Foucault in questioning the role of the artist (death of the author)
> and an existing original work, however, I am also influenced by the
> notion of hermeneutical aesthetics (Nicholas Davey) which I've been
> reading a lot about for the past year. Davey extends upon Gadamer's
> philosophical hermeneutics when he writes of a "complex dialogical
> achievement," a construction of meaning between the artwork and the
> viewer/participant. This also connects with Bourriaud's relational
> aesthetics in which he writes of a "co-existent criterion" that exists
> between the artwork and the viewer. With these theories that extend
> from hermeneutics, the process of understanding, we can potentially
> disect this interactive and active participation process with artwork.
> When I read the full text that the excerpt was taken from, I find it
> interesting how this is followed with "In an era in which the user
> adopts an active role in the diffusion and manipulation of information
> on the global network (known as web 2.0), in art, too, a change in
> roles between spectator and work is taking place, with interactive art
> as the best expression of this new paradigm." For me, this allows me
> to see great potential for the role of the Internet with art,
> particularly with increasing the level of active participation and
> overall engagement. Considering my thoughts above, the idea that the
> meaning of an artwork is actively constructed as opposed to merely
> 'there' for us to absorb, then the Internet really just expands this
> experience in allowing more access and options for sharing and
> communicating ideas surrounding the work. I'd like to think that the
> "complex dialogical achievement" that Davey discusses with
> hermeneutical aesthetics (what happens to us when we experience an
> artwork and the process of understanding that experience) could be
> explored with/in the space of the Internet.
> Thanks for making me think more about this.
> - Heidi
> --
> http://heidimay.ca
> On 27-Jan-11, at 5:00 PM, empyre-request at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au wrote:
>> some of you will have possibly received this link
>> <http://www.esbaluard.org/en/exposicions/69/extimitat> in the 2.0
>> natural course of events. It extends the discussion in at least two of
>> its aspects, by making such a statement as  "interactive
>> installations,
>> mainly, that involve spectators in what is active participation with
>> the
>> work, which never ceases to be a piece with its own identity" and by
>> forming a canon, a rollcall of both institutionally bankable worthies
>> and those promising emergent artists who would it would be a safe
>> bet to
>> extend our portfolios to include (futures), naming (and outing) our
>> extimacies.
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk

s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

More information about the empyre mailing list