[-empyre-] Week Three on -empyre: Sandra Danilovic, Zach Blas, and David McIntosh

Camilla Møhring Reestorff reestorff at gmail.com
Tue Nov 19 04:17:51 EST 2013

Last week’s discussion was very interesting. I apologize for my late response. I have been caught up hosting the conference “Rethink Participatory Cultural Citizenship”. Luckily the conference provided interesting insights also in relation to artivism. Especially Leah Lievrouw’s keynote on commons knowledge was thought provoking in relation to the ways in which new genres of activist new media practices and movements are influenced in the artistic currents of activist art. In the keynote (as in her book) she mentioned the impact of the DADA movement and the Situationists International. In that sense Lievrouw provides a historical backdrop to artivism. I would like to return to some of the issues raised by Matt. I agree that we should not simply straightforwardly embrace the political content of work as its most important aspect. But I also think that it important not to assume that artists necessarily are the ones to conduct artivism. The artists and the activist is often to closely interlinked to determine if artivism should be evaluated as art OR activism. For me it makes more sense to ask why aesthetic strategies are applied and how they work.

Matt's reference to Mouffe’s distinction between the political and politics is useful. Mouffe writes: By ‘the political’, I refer to the dimension of antagonism which I take to be constitutive of human societies; while by ‘politics’, I refer to the set of practices and institutions through which an order is created, organizing human coexistence in the context of confliction provided by the political (Mouffe 2008: 95-96). In that sense artivism can be both politics and political, but it might be most interesting when it concerns the ontological, political, and symbolic constitution of human society – also because artivism rarely works within the framework of institutional politics. The distinction between politics and the political also entails that artivism cannot be limited to a certain political ideology. The last month there has been a debate about the right to free abortion in Denmark (free abortion since 1973). A private person put up 16.000 crosses on a field next to the main highway generating intense documentation and media debate. This kind of symbolic performances also applies strategies of artivism, and it relates to political matters, but certainly in a right-wing manner. In that sense artivism might approach the political in a tactical manner. Artivism has no starting point in institutional politics, but the various aesthetic strategies serves as tactics from which artivism can allude itself to the political realm.

I have been thinking about the relation between artivism and tactical media. Maybe artivism is a subcategory to tactical media? As least the strategies seems to share the commonalities of fusing politics, technologies and media. Critical art ensemble has defined tactical media as “a critical usage and theoretisation of media practices that draw on all forms of old and new, both lucid and sophisticated media for archiving a variety of specific non-commercial goals and pushing all kinds of potentially subversive political issues”. In relation to this understanding of tactical media I see at least two diverging traits of artivism: artivism specifically renders use of aesthetic strategies and these strategies are not necessarily related to non-commercial goals. In that sense artivism is more restricted than tactical media in that it is limited to aesthetic strategies but it is also broader in that it is not tied to a specific political end.


On 18/11/2013, at 17.26, Patrick Keilty wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Week two was an excellent discussion! Thank to everyone who participated. Lots to think about. Guest discussants from any week are always welcome to post! I hope we continue to hear from micha, Andrew, Samara, Matt, Chaya, and Owen. Week three bring us three guest moderators: Sandra Danilovic, Zach Blas, and David McIntosh. 
> Zach Blas is an artist and writer whose work engages technology, queerness, and politics. He is the creator of art group Queer Technologies, a founding member of The Public School Durham, and a PhD candidate in The Graduate Program in Literature, Information Science + Information Studies, and Visual Studies at Duke University. Currently, he is producing a body of work that responds to technological control and refusals of political visibility through tactics of escape, disappearance, illegibility, and opacity. One project, Facial Weaponization Suite, produces forms of aesthetic resistance against biometric facial recognition by making “collective masks” in community-based workshops. http://www.zachblas.info/
> Sandra Danilovic is a SSHRC Doctoral Fellow and PhD student in Information Studies at University of Toronto. She researches DIY game design authorship and experimental and expressive (autobiographical) design strategies in non-mainstream digital games. She draws on arts-based methods, critical and cultural theory and digital aesthetics to re-imagine inclusive game design and accessibility philosophy. Her fine arts background in film and mixed media is an important component of her professional trajectory. Her semi-autobiographical machinima documentary, Second Bodies, won Best Documentary at the New Media Film Festival in San Francisco (2010). Her previous documentaries explored immigrant narratives set within archival and contemporary contexts; Portrait of a Street: The Soul and Spirit of College (2001) and Just Arrived (2004) are one-hour documentaries respectively broadcast on PBS and Rogers OMNI Television. Currently, her artistic practice involves learning to design computer games and game art with Toronto's Dames Making Games (www.dmg.to).
> David McIntosh is Professor of Media Studies at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada. His primary research fields are: globalization and the political-economies of audiovisual spaces; network theories and practices; new media narrativity; mobile locative media; game theory; digital documents; Latin American media studies; and queer media. He has lived and worked extensively in Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina and Peru. His critical writing on film, video and new media has been published widely in books and periodicals. His recent critical texts have focused on a range of art, design and technology subjects including: the work of aboriginal visual artist Kent Monkman; art and design methods applied to mobile media; and, the role of state policy in mobile media innovation. He has curated film, video and new media programs for the Funnel Experimental Film Centre, the Toronto International Film Festival, Cinematheque Ontario, the Hot Docs Documentary Festival, Nuit Blanche Toronto, the National Gallery of Cuba, the National Gallery of Argentina, and the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). He is an award winning documentary film producer (Tina in Mexico, 2002) and dramatic screenwriter (Stryker, 2004). He was researcher with two recent OCAD mobile media projects: Mobile Digital Commons Network, where he was a Creative Lead and Project Director on the cellphone experience The Haunting (2007); and Portage (2007-2008), where he developed a range of interactive mobile media applications, including the Mobile Media Workshop in a Suitcase (2007). He was artist in residence at the Amauta New Media Centre in Cusco, Peru in 2007, where he began research and development of a distributed, digital documentary based in mobile media uses in the informal economy of Cusco, Peru. In 2010 he completed this innovative, multi-screen, multi-platform mobile documentary project in Cusco, Peru, titled Qosqo Llika (www.qosqollika.org ). Most recently he was awarded a major grant to undertake the new digital media work Quipucamayoc, a transmedial, translocal multiplayer game creation with two Andean communities that merges interactive public performance/installation with a live action gaming platform, and that composits sensor-enhanced characters with documentary photographic locative backgrounds in the game play. In 2008, McIntosh was the recipient of the prestigious OCAD University Award for a Career of Distinguished Research and Creation.
> -- 
> Patrick Keilty
> Assistant Professor
> Faculty of Information
> University of Toronto
> @patrickkeilty
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