[-empyre-] NA: A parting thought

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Tue Oct 2 02:30:01 EST 2012

The affected eye we need to be conscious of, which drives the currents in our shallow waters, is not that of the robot or drone but the panoptic collective that is Facebook and Twitter, with its incessant chatter demanding we value and abide its meaningless mutterings. This is what NA overlooks when it sees power originating in the drone/robot/data-mining app, fetishising their mannered representational systems. Power does not come from the gun but the assemblage created with the person/institutions(s) holding it. You need to understand the social dimension of technology if you are to apprehend why it has the affect it does. Anything less is to aestheticise and cloak its power. In this respect NA is not only erroneous but dangerously complacent. NA needs to get some Heidegger.



On 1 Oct 2012, at 16:51, Lichty, Patrick wrote:

> Hi, everyone.
> Just got back from a STELLAR SLSA 2012 in Milwaukee, where I did not present, but was there to poach for things like Media-N, Empyre, and Intelligent Agent. (FYI, I usually scan the proceedings of the major conferences and am on a ton of adjudication boards, so that's where I see a lot of the content I get).  Saw, but unfortunately did not meet David Golumbia.  Richard Grusin, Katherine Hayles, and many others chimed in a little on our discussion, or that they watch Empyre.  Great! 
> That being said, I have a few thoughts distilled from some of our recent discussions, and some of my own that I've put at the RealityAugmented blog.
> I think that the recent posts by Bishop Zareh and Simon Biggs are spot on.  To put my spin on things, I think there is an off ahistoricity to NA, which clearly comes from a lineage.  This is my complaint of discourse coming from practitioners who come from the post-New Media era (2000+, which is after Net_Condition, Whitney 2000, Data Dynamics and the SFMOMA show).  Even in the case of Rita Raley's Tactical Media book, except for a few references to Next Five Minutes, her history is largely post-1999 as well.  This spawns my polemic that has given rise to wornderful programs like Media Art Histories that there is a conception that things like New Media didn't exist before 2000.
> In regards to NA, I think Bridle, et al are forgetting things like net.art and the Tribe/Galloway era of Rhizome, and even further back, as I had mentioned with A Michael Noll's experiments with generating Mondrians in the late 60's.  From a contemporary art perspective, it's almost like forgetting Modernism existed as a weird Postmodern twist to culture, and that either our attention spans and event-horizons for reflection/research are narrowing, there aren't many records left, or that, and I hate to go here, NA is a product designed for the "Generation Sell" (New York Times on the contemporary generation of entrepreneurs) group of New Media/Contemporary Art organs served by NectarAds (which are very good, though).  I might think that the latter is far too harsh of an indictment; let's leave that as a Gibsone-esque media science fiction. 
> I think Jon Lebkowsky nails a lot of points, and honestly, I think there is a fair consensus on NA by the critical community - it is a thin strategy that tries to create a Modernist movement without a real shape or ideology; is inclusive without the former, and as I mentioned earlier has the feel of a 4chan.org (popular message board) feel of "Oh, hai - I'll just leave this here." aesthetic that was popularlized by Internet Surfing Clubs like NastyNets and Double Happiness. THAT being said, I think NA also is an acute reflection of the time, as economies crumble and cultural production varies from grand Hadid projects to endless shallow pop-kitsch, the latter not being an indictment, but merely a statement of the time, as the Walker had an Internet Cat Video Festival.  
> This is more evidence of Anderson's Long Tail and cultural reflection of the widening disparities in income and the situations that influence artists to make their work.
> My main issue with NA is that it seems to be all gesture and no ideology.  It only represents an aesthetic observation, not a social engagement. Even Relational Art and Interventionism as movement and genre have an investment; NA seems to lack it.  As I said, even though Bridle has re-started the NA tumblr (again, a reflection on the time - a movement that began centered around a Tumblr feed?), I think his first gesture is quite apt.  He kept it active for one year, and then moved on, which I think that I may announce at SXSW next year in that my interest in NA will cease on the anniversary of Sterling's speech.
> In this screed, forgive me for any offense, but where I think NA is a sand in my shell is that there have even been social engagements in the Postmodern, and I would like to see artists beyond the few genres like Tactical Media and Public Practice get in there, plant a flag, state a position, and upset some apple carts, instead of opening another Etsy store.  I might hear a reply either decrying this as words of an Ivory Tower Academic or someone of comfort (which I actually am not) and refer to documentaries like Blank City where some of the most amazing work of the 80's NYC film scene came out of the abjection of the time, a time that is not unlike Detroit today.
> We live in a time of shallow, rhizomatic strategic moves, and maybe I crave affect.
> And how do you derive affect from the eye of a robot or a drone?
> Maybe that's my point.
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Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk http://www.littlepig.org.uk/ @SimonBiggsUK skype: simonbiggsuk

s.biggs at ed.ac.uk Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh
http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/  http://www.elmcip.net/  http://www.movingtargets.org.uk/
MSc by Research in Interdisciplinary Creative Practices

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