[-empyre-] stepping out of the frame/konnecting airlines

xDxD.vs.xDxD xdxd.vs.xdxd at gmail.com
Thu Jul 19 04:55:18 EST 2012

hi Johannes and everyone!

On Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 4:32 PM, Johannes Birringer <
Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:

> Surely not in real-time interactive art installations, and
> I wonder or worry about crowdsourced raising of
> political consciousness/cognitive compasses, too...

i'm glad you're bringing this up.

we obviously know that the objective of neutrality is technically
unreachable for human beings, but in our practice we try to be at least
honest :)  and highlight all the points of view that we are aware of.

the case of the technologies i mentioned earlier (harvest real-time info
from social networks, use natural language analysis to understand
topics/issues and expressions/emotions, make info accessible in a variety
of ways, from AR to screens to body augmentations) is no exception. Even
considering the fact that it touches many open issues for which we're
passionate about ( the dictatorship of the algorithm,
privacy/intimacy/anonymity, privately owned public spaces.. and we could go
on and on )

this is why, for example, we used the same exact technologies for radically
different projects

for example as in the Atlas of Rome, where we built a large urban screen in
which citizens could publish their visions about the city in a variety of


or as in VersuS, where we analyzed the digital life of the city of Rome
during the violent riots in the city of Rome on October 15th 2011


but also as in "Enlarge your Consciousness"


here we used the same technologies to sell unaware social network users'
emotional states for 9.99 euros at the Artefiera contemporary arts fair in
Bologna, capturing their emotional flows as expressed on
Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare and basically, turning them into human

we sold hundreds of them at the fair. and the most common question we
received was "but... i could be in one of those boxes?" exposing multiple
interesting things about the common perception of the processes which are
behind these techniques and methodologies.

Yet we perceive opportunity and, most of all, possibility behind this.

but it's an "old" question, isn't it? Is the "hammer" a tool to drive nails
into the walls or to smash your head?

Fact is that all these technologies correspond to specific business and
strategic models which are relevant to corporations, large cultural
operators, institutions, governments and many other forms of "power".

this obviously applies to screens, as well: fixed, urban, ubiquitous,
body-related, square, key-stoned and frameless

for example, sticking to my personal research focus, Mitchell's idea of the
City of Bits, or of McCullough's Digital Ground, or of Zook&Graham's
DigiPlace are very interesting when brought to the domain of the screen,
especially of the urban and ubiquitous quality, as they in someway describe
the possibility to achieve a multi-layered, emergent version of the city,
in which multiple points of view can be freely expressed across cultures
and perspectives.

This is a very interesting point of view, as it places enormous questions
on the practices of design and architecture which are authoritarian by
their own nature: the Designer and the Architect, in the end, make the Plan
that will shape what i see/traverse/live in the city.

There is a wonderful liason with this concept in Clément's Third Landscape,
where he describes the presence of natural environments in urban contexts.
Normally nature is present in cities under the form of synthetic
administrative boundaries (the flowers at the center of the roundabout, the
vegetables in the supermarkets, the "park").

The Third Landscape, instead, is a place for possibility and opportunity,
and it is emergent, real-time, temporary, autonomous (the grass in-between
the bricks).

And it is the possibly most important factor in determining our cities'

One thing about the Third Landscape is that its existence really depends on
us and on our "sight", and our sensibility in seeing and recognizing it
while we lead our daily lives in cities.

Seeing creates a perception (of the "possibility" of this kind of natural
environment) and, thus, a spatial affordance ("this type of natural
environment can exist") and, in turn, a series of critical, constructivist
practices which can be based onto it (one for all: urban gardening).

I see a beautiful parallel between this and the theme of the screen in
urban contexts, be it fixed or ubiquitous or of the many types which can
exist nowadays.

people constantly re-program public space. mobile devices and screens
radicalize this process. If you're jogging in the middle of a park, you
receive an office phone call on your mobile phone, the park transforms into
an ubiquitous office for a few minutes, careless of urban planning, zoning
and administrative boundaries.

In the same way, if your pocketable (or wall-mounted) screen enables you to
freely and easily perceive (or "publish") multiple, independent,
autonomous, emergent interpretations of the same space, space transforms,
and other practices can emerge.

in my research, this greatly enhances the ideas of de Certeau's "strategies
vs tactics", of Lefebvre's "social construction of space"  and of Soja's
"Third Space".

In this, great insights can be collected by focusing on de Certeau's idea
of "daily practices", meaning that it is interesting how Lefebvre wanted to
capitalize on these kinds of possibilites for the sake of a political
agenda and, instead, in de Certeau, politics should emerge from the
creativity of our daily practices, in an interesting inversion.

and, so:

> whether the vision of the ubiquitous urban screen-net-to-end-all-screens
> is a globalized metropolitan vision for the hyperdeveloped, leaving out the
> regional, the less developed, underdeveloped and non developed (along these
> predicted lines)?
this is focal issue to confront, in the wider range of issues which we
commonly call digital inclusion and digital access.

both at technical and cultural levels.

"solutions" can never be as simple as "smartphone", "urban screen" or
"app". They need to confront with the context (cultural, political, social,
economic...) and, probably, the architectural diagrams of "solutions"
should have a big box at their base with the word "anthropologist" inside
it, before sensors, cloud computing, expert systems, screens of any form
and type. And, possibly, a box with "citizens", as well :)

> And Salvatore mentioned a performance in which bodies "displayed"... (body
> of the performer was a "display" [screen?] of user interactions and, in
> turn, everything that was heard/shown as sound and video of the performance
> was generated my the dancer's movements and biological data.);  Salvatore,
> could you please elaborate on that, and how you, and others here, think
> about the performance side of interactive behaviors and what they might or
> might not indicate?  Following Sean's critique, have consumer relations
> changed at all in principle?

In Turner's anthropological definition, performance is liminal: it exposes
conflicts and highlights discontinuities with predetermined order.

I particularly enjoyed Luisa Valeriani's book "Performers".

Performers break crystallizations of meaning, recombining imaginaries in
creative ways: they subvert by playing. Knowledge is not confronted through
academic discussions, but through practical performative actions.

Nowadays, consumers are performers, and business models are based on this.
"Products" have changed, and have become "places for performance".

Even more, people's (users', consumers') performance has become the
"product". Think Facebook, the iPhone etc. When we observe iPhone's design
with our students for the first time we really focus on the fact that most
of it's success is due to the fact that it's "empty", ready to be used by
its "owner" to express him/herself by populating it with apps which
describe personality, desires, perspectives, points of view, daily
practices, needs.... iPhone is a performative object.

and (coincidence?) it is a screen. there's practically nothing more to it,
than a screen.

a performative screen.

now: iPhone is, obviously, a very controlled screen

but its characteristic of being "an empty, ready to be performed, screen
which constitutes a platform for personal expression" changed everything.

We see the scenarios of interactivity and (ubiquitous) screens along these
directions, with the idea of exploring spaces/modalities for liberation of
these "platforms for expression".

in the example of the performance i mentioned, all was dedicated to this.

radicalizing the idea of reactive/interactive environments, we tried to
create constructivist experience which would shape the sensorial
environment according to people's interactions in extreme ways, to disclose
a set of opportunities which we perceived as being critical.

as suggested in the practice of multiple performers before us, including
Stelarc, Orlan, Marcel-li Antunez Roca and others, as well as in the ones
of queer performers, the body is a fundamental space for construction,
resonating with the ideas of architecture and mutation to explore the
possibilities for expression and liberation.

this is why the "construction" was performed at the level of the body.

people could use interactive toys (interfaces and gadgets) to generate
stimuli which propagated onto the body of a performer. Patterns of stimuli
were interpreted as symbols of a choreography. The effect was that multiple
people could establish physical dialogues to transform the center of focus
of the performance: the body of the performer. This, in turn, was observed
through sensors, whore readings were used as parameters of the generative
sounds and visuals which filled all sides of the environment. Furthermore,
sounds and visuals were designed to create feedback loops with people,
counterbalancing their interactions (oversimplifying it: lack of
interaction=strong, arousing A/V stimulations; lots of
interaction=soothing, meditative A/V).

on one side: the necessity to collaborate (each interface produced only
parts of the stimulation patterns, so that people contributed to parts of
the symbols of choreography, with each action producing visible results and
only coordinated actions produced predictable results once the
collaborative approach was understood) produced performative dialogues
among individuals, who worked together to achieve agreed transformations in
the body-->space

on the other side: there was an untold story which was clearly perceived
this was a mediated, authoritarian experience.
we decided all the parameters,algorithms, colors, sounds, strategies etc.
to "modify and liberate space" people could have just stopped using the
technologies and starting to physically touch/move the body of the
performer, or even radicalizing everything and tearing the whole place up
in pieces, turning the location into a chaotic, physical, 4D screen
displaying in real-time their strong desire for liberated spaces.

We were prepared for this option, but it didn't happen. Yet we received
explicit questions about it. People, who enjoyed and actively participated
to the performance, explicitly asked about this possibility: "Could I just
have stepped on stage and moved the performer's body with my hands? What
would have happened?"

This was an extremely interesting response for us, as it displayed how
these kinds of experiences are still authoritarian, in the sense of
"design": they are walled gardens, aquariums, in which "designers"
establish various degrees of mediated freedom according to which "users"
are able to move, act, express, perform, inform, communicate, interact.

This has been enlightening for us, and we transformed our practice towards
different forms of performance/interaction, aiming at creating frameworks
for expressions under the form of free/libre tools, hardware/software and
methodologies for autonomous, ubiquitous expression which are free to use
and which are, after all, our "artworks".

After that show we stopped producing "closed" artworks and started to adopt
the methodology of 1) present opportunities 2) workshop to disseminate and
recombine knowledge 3) disappear 4) co-create scenario

in this the idea of screen becomes of fundamental importance, as we refer
to urban contexts and with emergent, open, recombinant, temporary
communities which take active part in the performance (be it about art,
consumption, city governance... ) by "writing" onto the world using
ubiquitous publishing techniques and by becoming aware of the multiple
layers of info/action created by other actors through "interactive screens"
of multiple types, such as the fixed ones in the Atlas of Rome, or the
synthetic sense we created with the Electronic Man

after writing this, i just realized i wrote an enormously long email!

sorry! :)

( passionate about the topic.... )

i'll just stop now

all the best!

Salvatore Iaconesi

Art is Open Source
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