[-empyre-] tension and speed

Timothy Conway Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Sat Feb 16 05:33:49 EST 2013

Hi, everyone, and thanks so much for such thoughtful and provocative posts this month, all catalyzed by Shani's creative leadership.

I couldn't help but think of her the other night as Obama laid out his plan for a revitalized US education program for which the humanities and art were left out of the laundry list of disciplinary practices that should be fundamental to revitalized secondary education: technology, computing, math, science, etc.   What most impressed me about Shani's practice, and what most motivated me as a curator and theorist, and I think what will most develop as her continued legacy, is precisely the poetics of technology that lends to tactical media practice both a self-reflexivity on the very technological economic conditions under which we work and an artistic opening to creative means of thinking these conditions otherwise.  How might we even begin to imagine evacuating the poetic, the artistic, the thoughtful from education approaches to technology?  This results in the most closed and dangerous systems of "technology transfer."

It is work like Shani's that encourages us not to separate the technical from the artistic, the animal from the human, to reflect on the impact of techno-pollution on animality writ large, and to activate playful and open-ended responses to otherwise closed systems of technological, ecological, and medical practices.

Indeed, her impromptu labs at ISEA and elsewhere generated an enthusiasm for techno-scientific creativity that emphasized process over product, and socio-cultural impact over systemic delivery.  I distinctly recollect, as well, that her labs appealed as much to young kids as to seasoned adults.  Even this cross-generational play and enjoyment opened up a seam for unanticipated exchange and play.  

As I lobby for the humanities and arts in national (US) and international circles, when I'm wearing my humanities administrator hat, I have this empowering imperative of playful, artistic research foremost in mind.

It would be very cool to hear from others on the list not only about your appreciation of Shani's practice, but also about your particular interventions in the arenas of tactical media and techno-artistic practice and education that share her zeal and ethos.



Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York. 14853
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Antoinette LaFarge [alafarge at uci.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:53 PM
To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Subject: [-empyre-] tension and speed

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
Xtine: "I always assumed she had a calendar in her head, down to
hours and minutes remaining in the day and accounting for the precise
amount of sleep and wakeful time."

"Shani had a tension about her. It was always there.
It usually had to do with needing more time
or running out of time or having too much to do before some specified time."

Renate: "...inspired me to note the breadth of technological practices that
Beatriz was actually able to manage. I have colleagues who complain
about the fast moving pace of technology and how it is so difficult to
keep up. Many have given up. I am inspired and struck at how engaged
and intense Beatriz/Shani was in both the practices of technology and
the conceptual ideas that were enabled by them."

Xtine and Renate, you both in different ways shine an indirect light on an aspect of the art world that I find troubling even as I participate in it: the relentless pace, the demand for a nonstop and ever-escalating cycle of exhibitions, artist talks, residencies, international travel, grant writing, and so on. You all know what I mean--Virilio's dromology as a way of life. I know that when I read articles about high-profile artists, that super-busyness is what mostly comes across, and Shani was temperamentally well suited for that life. She could, as Renate says, move fast and learn what was needed on the way, even in the daunting terrain of shifting technology. The tension was there, as Xtine says, but she also throve on it. When I read biographies of artist's lives from previous centuries, or even from 50 years ago, most of them don't really look anything like this (the exceptions are the big guild workshops of artists like Rubens). The flaneur is extinct, as I suspect is
 its descendant the derive, and I was never more aware of this than when I spent time around Shani. Returning to Virilio, could it be that she was able to live in the instantaneity, the real time (or near real time) that he predicates as our reality, in part because she refused to have a stake in either the bitter past or the uncertain future? OK, possibly a stretch.

Robert, I have been wondering what Shani drew inspiration from in the way of books. What was she reading in the last year or two, apart from books on cancer? What was her go-to library? Whose voices spoke to her?


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