[-empyre-] NA: A parting thought

Jon Lebkowsky jon.lebkowsky at gmail.com
Tue Oct 2 03:04:46 EST 2012

Drive-by comment inspired by Patrick's thoughtful post: crowdsourced media
is not (necessarily) engaged (or engaging) media, and chaotic curation is

On Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM, Simon Biggs <simon at littlepig.org.uk> wrote:

> 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.
> best
> Simon
> 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.
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> 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
> http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate/degrees?id=656&cw_xml=details.php
> _______________________________________________
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Jon Lebkowsky (@jonl)
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