[-empyre-] -empyre- bios

Danny Butt db at dannybutt.net
Sun Jun 23 16:05:11 EST 2013

Like others, I am uneasy about entering the self-documentation mode but I also usually do what I'm asked so thanks Tim for the email request. I just took a peek at the intro/bios I remembered from 2002 and they remind that more than perhaps any other list I've participated in, empyre has provided a place where a diverse range of voices come together. The list's ethic has continued to influence my projects even as my own contributions have become more intermittent. I will follow a couple of leads from people here I trust and give a more personal and less institutional account. xx to Melinda, Tim, Renate and all.



I've worked with networked media since moving from Australia to New Zealand to play experimental music in 1993, and this has helped me realise that I am a writer in Derrida/Spivak's broad sense of working with sign and trace. As well as art and music criticism, this has included work with non-alphabetic forms such as curatorial and technical development of new media art projects and artist-run initiatives (e.g. Codec, 1997) and commercial web design for advertising (1996-1999). 

These projects and a history of independent reading in social theory (beginning in some sense with Donna Haraway) led into academic work and teaching, firstly in art and design (Waikato Institute of Technology, 1998-2003) and critical studies (Elam School of Fine Arts, 2007-2012). The positions coincided with two postgraduate research degrees, an MA in Media from Macquarie University which aimed to refashion class analysis in light of theories of the information economy; and a PhD at University of Melbourne which tracked the integration of art schools into the Anglophone research university and the emergence of practice-based doctorates. 

Through the early-mid 2000s I worked as a consultant, both for commercial media companies adapting to online platforms and UN-agencies such as the United Nations Development Program, where I edited the book Internet Governance: Asia Pacific Perspectives (Elsevier 2005) and was on the editorial board of Digital Review of Asia Pacific, which mapped ICT for development policies in the region. From 2002-2004 I was also a facilitator for the Fibreculture network, where I learned a lot about intellectual communities and made some dear friends.

2003/2004 brought two gatherings that shifted the direction of my practice back toward the art context: in 2003 I made a first visit to Sarai in Delhi for the symposium "Old Pathways/New Travellers: New Media, Electronic Music and Digital Art Practices in the Asia Pacific Region" (thx AMC) and in 2004 with colleagues/great artists Natalie Robertson and Hemi Macgregor I attended the Intranation residency at The Banff Centre. From those trips questions about local and indigenous knowledge preoccupied a next series of work, including "Local Knowledge: Place and New Media Practice" for Leonardo and "Local Knowledge and New Media Theory" for the Aotearoa Digital Arts Reader.  At the end of 2005 a few of us ran the excellent Cultural Futures symposium at Hoani Waititi, a meeting of indigenous and non-indigenous cultural practitioners from across the Asia Pacific that fed into the Pacific Rim New Media Summit in San Jose for ISEA 2006. A great book from the event called PLACE: Local Knowledge and New Media Practice came out via Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

In 2007 the collective Local Time <http://www.local-time.net> was formed with fellow travellers Natalie Robertson, Jon Bywater and Alex Monteith. In 2013 we have work in the 5th Auckland Triennial and participated in 'Sarai Reader 09: The Exhibition' at the Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon, curated by Raqs Media Collective.

I am, like too many people I know, not spending enough time on the book I'm writing - mine is on the art school and the university. It's in a queue behind a very stubborn review essay on Gayatri Spivak's recent book "An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization", which is reading Bordern's "Born in Flames" (1983) to exemplify Spivak's arguments on the need to instrumentalise the intellectual.  

I have recently moved to Australia and have a role at the University of Melbourne as Research Fellow in Participatory Public Space at the Research Unit in Public Cultures, investigating how networked technologies are reconfiguring their modes of public engagement, with a view to providing some conceptual tools to think the networked city.

That's more than enough for one bio but I've been enjoying reading what everyone else has been up to. Happy solstice all!



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