[-empyre-] NA: A parting thought

David Golumbia dgolumbia at gmail.com
Wed Oct 3 06:19:15 EST 2012

I apologize for being silent in this discussion, which I will blame mostly
on feeling I didn't have much to add to the very smart things others have
said, & in particular agreeing with postings by Simon and Patrick in recent

I will summarize my own rather pedestrian response this way: as an art
lover and art creator, I appreciate the use of anything as raw materials
for art, and I have certainly seen any number of images and projects,
whether explicitly NA or not, that I find striking, beautiful, useful,
jarring, and thought-provoking. I find myself more susceptible to visual
than conceptual projects, or at least to projects that have a visual
component, and I have certainly seen among the items curated as NA by
Bridle as others to be particularly strong, in some respects stronger than
earlier strains of net.art taken as a whole.

I do look to art to offer challenges to social norms, and social
expectations, at least as one of its modes, and I do see some of that in
some NA works.

I still feel a strong sympathy with the sorts of comments Simon makes
below. Especially when art requires the use of certain high-tech tools for
its creation--and/or the purchase and display of such tools within the
artwork itself--I find it sometimes more difficult than I think the
creators intend to distinguish between critique and what I will call "demo
projects." The purveyors of technology know that (almost) all publicity is
good publicity, and I think actively solicit artists to make, use, mangle,
mis-use, and do anything at all to promote their products--up to and
including calling out the products for "critique." Unless that "critique"
somehow enables all-out boycotts of the product in question, I find them
walking much more uncomfortably close to "promotion" than the artists
sometimes seem to intend. History is full of examples of overt critiques
turning out to be advertisements; I worry that at least some NA artists do
not seem to understand this.

One other point of discomfort, for me, and maybe this is a productive
discomfort, is the persistent apparent desire to "blur" the lines between
"actual" and "digital" reality, between the "human" and the "machine," and
so on. For reasons I won't go into here, I don't particularly think that
the existence of limit cases where these lines blur can be taken as
evidence that the categories themselves are meaningless--that "human" and
"machine" are two different names for the same thing, for example. Artworks
that playfully blur these lines are supposed to make me uncomfortable, and
do; but to the degree that they feed a global sense that digital screens
and the external world are the same things--a sense that is about to be
heightened tremendously by augmented reality technology that I think many
people would reject if they understood what it is going to do--I worry they
are leading us down a potentially very unpleasant road. I think we need
fiction; we need screens whose displays are not "real" in order to make
"truth" and "reality" function properly. There is no more concrete evidence
of this disjuncture and our inability to manage it well than drivers and
pedestrians losing themselves in mobile devices when they need to pay
attention to external reality; I find some NA works, even those I like a
lot, suggesting that such blurring is very welcome and let's have much more
of it, and I don't think I am (only) being curmudgeonly when I say that we
are capable of going much further down that road than is good for us.

On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 2:58 AM, Simon Biggs <simon at littlepig.org.uk> wrote:

> Well - it really needs to get some Foucault, but to do that it could start
> with Heidegger. What I mean by that is understanding that technology is
> part of the human/social assemblage. Technology is ontologically critical
> to being human. NA seems to think that technology is the trigger for a non-
> or anti-anthropic view of the world. I've no problem with such a view (it's
> very attractive) but as technology is intrinsically human I can't
> understand NA logic. Technology does not liberate us from the human but
> sucks us ever deeper into our own condition. Technology does not liberate
> but entraps us. NA is an extreme form of the Californian ideology and, as
> such, repeats its errors. Somebody said NA is anti-ideological but it is
> actually highly ideological, a form of positivist idealism.
> best
> Simon

David Golumbia
dgolumbia at gmail.com
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20121002/53e1db53/attachment.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list