[-empyre-] old media cycles to new: Signal Culture and Jason Bernagozzi

Murat Nemet-Nejat muratnn at gmail.com
Sun Feb 15 07:11:18 AEDT 2015


"I think this has a lot less to do
with the actual technology and more to do with the cultural practises
that constrain its use.}

Ben,

Isn't "subverting" itself a cultural activity? Can it occur in the
abstract, outside culture. Your concept of "stability," as far as I can
see, is a cultural concept. It implies certain limits, delineations,
conditions to its use. In our world, computers are as "stable," in the
sense of being here-to-stay, as film; but their all-pervasiveness of use
deprives them of limits in the sense we are talking about. That makes them
in the culture sense--the sense that is relevant here--unstable (a system).
My question related to that instability.

"I think you are speaking more about the cultural practises (filming,
viewing, etc.) that formed around the 'original' technology (e.g. film
cameras, celluloid, etc.). Film stays film only because the cultural
practises that have become dominant stay (somewhat) the same, despite
the underlying technology changing significantly"

As I described above, that's exactly what I am talking about.

"Another interesting question is why computers are so general. I expect
it's because they allow very complex relationships between abstract
symbols."

"allow very complex relationships between abstract symbols": is that not
what a system is? In the last few weeks, I happened to have seen two movies
relating to Turing, "The Imitation Machine" and a "pseudo" documentary
based "on his papers, reports," etc.. Both focus on his being gay and his
mistreatment because of that. They also focus on his decoding machine. In
that short period during the war, the machine was stable, a "tool" to
decode the enigma machine. No one was aware of at that time the
systematic/conceptual/philosophical revolution that tool potentially
implied. That transformation, a mental metamorphosis, is amazing.It alters
our, the society's relationship to time and space. It diminishes
drastically our experience of friction and gravity that resist human
aspirations, creating an almost euphoric sense of freedom. But that freedom
is as strongly illusionary because a) algorithmic system are extremely
unstable (that lack of friction works both ways); b) as the film *Matrix*
shows, that "gravitationless" universe creates, "exists in" a parallel,
virtual world. The gravity and friction of the physical world is unaltered.
And we as human beings exist in this world and are subject to its vagaries.
The computer user's continuous anxiety about losing one's files and
necessity to keep *multiple* copies (each one equally unstable) point to
this ambiguity. The major theme of a computer art, as I see it, must one
way or another confront this ambiguity, undercutting, blurring, making as
un-transparent as possible the transparency of virtual freedom.

"> In other words, don't you have to achieve a certain amount of
> invisibility to function as an artist?

This seems related to representational vs nonrepresentational arts.
Indeed invisibility is highly useful in creation the illusion of
objectivity, but is this the aim of all artists? From my M.Sc. Thesis,
MAM was my thesis project, Memory Association Machine
(http://www.ekran.org/ben/wp/2007/self-other-organizing-structure-1-2007/)"

the "invisibilty I am talking about is not that of objectivity. I was
referring to the invisiblity of the work itself. To the degree that the
computer universe is so vast, the visibilty of a sub-system becomes more
difficult.

"What do you think of the difficulty
in electronic media arts acceptance within dominant contemporary art?
Robotics, electronics, video, etc. all started around the same time in
the 1960s, so why is video more accepted as contemporary art? I would
argue that the stability and dominance of practises that made video a
medium (rather than just electrical technology applied in an art
context) allowed it to be more accepted, partially because of the
stability of the practises, and also because of the industrial support
of video being used outside of art. Perhaps "electronic media art" is
not a media at all, as it lacks the kind of dominance and stability in
practises around it of video."

I am not sure if the video art is unrecognized in the art world. To the
extent it is, two ideas come to mind. At least initially, the video was
seen potentially as democratizing film making, being a cheaper, simpler way
of making films. That may have something to do with its earlier
establishment as a medium. Gradually, people began to see that the video
image is different from the film image, each having its own
characteristics, its pluses and minuses, making them potentially
distinguishable media of art. Second, in our time art is a commodity
fetching amazing prices. As I suggested, in my view, the most interesting
digital art is conceptual, therefore, harder to commodify as
fetish/prestige/inverstment objects, except perhaps in public spaces.
Multiple museums do show digital works, often as installations, a less
"stable," less permanent form.

Architecture is incredibly affected by computers. Many visual forms
buildings take now (Frank Ghery's work being I think a prime example) would
have been impossible before the advent of computers.

Ciao,
Murat



On Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 9:16 PM, B. Bogart <ben at ekran.org> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Thanks for your close reading Murat, I'll respond inline...
>
> On 15-02-11 11:04 AM, Murat Nemet-Nejat wrote:
> > <snip> as I see it, there is a contradiction in your analysis when
> > applied to computers as a tool. Film has a well defined place in
> > society. One either goes to the theatre or sits in front of TV or
> > your lap top or your cell phone, you name it, to watch it. But
> > computers as tools are all pervasive, affecting every activity of
> > human behavior. It is no wonder the term "ecology" has entered the
> > language in relation to digital tools. Your idea seems to fit when
> > working against a language/style/convention within an industry; but
> > how can you do so when the tool in question is not really a tool;
> > but a technological system of thought, of calculation (algorithm, as
> > I see it, is not a tool but a system) that has incredibly
> > promiscuous areas of application? Don't you constantly have to
> > create "sub-sytems" to isolate yourself, to gain some air to perform
> > your subverting act?
>
> Indeed you are right that computers are highly general in a way that a
> hammer may not be. I think there are two issues here, the first is the
> sense of a tool as existing for a specific purpose vs a tool being
> general purpose. The second is the granularity of the description, i.e.
> most tools are made by, or composed of, other tools (that is tools as
> systems). I'll begin with generalism. I think this has a lot less to do
> with the actual technology and more to do with the cultural practises
> that constrain its use. A hammer is meant to hit nails, but it could
> also be used to kill someone, or pull up weeds (with the claw), or even
> test for studs in a wall. The affordances of the design of the hammer
> certainly facilitate particular use, but in my examples above those same
> affordances are perfectly suitable for other uses not intended by the
> designer. I think of tools as any arrangement of matter or energy that
> has utility in a particular use context, the degree of generality does
> not change the toolness of the tool. All tools are systems because they
> are meant to create relations, at least between the user and the world.
>
> Thus, I think its not the technology in isolation that determines
> generality, but the interaction between the technology and the context
> of its use. Film is both a set of technologies and a media. When you
> speak of it being presented in a living-room, a theatre, or on a phone,
> I think you are speaking more about the cultural practises (filming,
> viewing, etc.) that formed around the 'original' technology (e.g. film
> cameras, celluloid, etc.). Film stays film only because the cultural
> practises that have become dominant stay (somewhat) the same, despite
> the underlying technology changing significantly.
>
> Then there is the question of granularity, where we tend to consider a
> set of technologies as a unified whole, even though it's composed of
> individual components. A hammer is made of the head and the handle, and
> each offers different affordances and potential uses. The head on its
> own may be good enough for pulling weeds, but not very suitable for
> hammering nails. A 'film' camera is composed of a lens, and a sensor,
> and a number of processors that deal with transforming the raw
> information from the sensor into a sequence of images.
>
> Indeed everything has become a computer, from cars to house-hold
> appliances. Each provides its own physical affordances to emphasize
> particular use, but the underlying technology is more general.
>
> Another interesting question is why computers are so general. I expect
> it's because they allow very complex relationships between abstract
> symbols.
>
> > In other words, don't you have to achieve a certain amount of
> > invisibility to function as an artist?
>
> This seems related to representational vs nonrepresentational arts.
> Indeed invisibility is highly useful in creation the illusion of
> objectivity, but is this the aim of all artists? From my M.Sc. Thesis,
> MAM was my thesis project, Memory Association Machine
> (http://www.ekran.org/ben/wp/2007/self-other-organizing-structure-1-2007/
> ):
>
> "For a time I considered my interest in the system acting beyond my
> intentions as a removal of myself — a removal of my intention from the
> system. In this attempt I was instituting software mechanisms that more
> deeply ingrained my intention in MAM. This removal was an attempt to
> remove my "hand" from the work. My intention shifted from the design of
> the system’s external properties to the design of the interface between
> the context and the system. This effort moved to a different level,
> rather than removed, my influence over the system."
>
> > As usual, a brilliant post. Thank you. By the way, my essay /The
> > Peripheral Space of Photography/ deals exactly with how photography
> > gradually realized, achieved its own independence in its early years
> >  as a medium against the onslaught of experts, "art critics" who saw
> >  it as a weaker sister of painting, consequently, as a medium of
> > representation. These presumptions never died down. /The Peripheral
> > Space/ is an extended review (later published as a book) of The
> > Metropolitan Museum exhibition "The Waking Dream" on the first
> > hundred years of photography. The curators of this exhibition heavily
> > framed almost every one of several hundred amazing photographs in it.
> > My essay discusses how these frames undercut and go against the
> > nature of the experience one has looking at them. The essay discusses
> > what that experience is and how it defines the nature of photography
> > as an independent medium totally different from paint. <snip>
>
> Thank you for your kind words Murat. What do you think of the difficulty
> in electronic media arts acceptance within dominant contemporary art?
> Robotics, electronics, video, etc. all started around the same time in
> the 1960s, so why is video more accepted as contemporary art? I would
> argue that the stability and dominance of practises that made video a
> medium (rather than just electrical technology applied in an art
> context) allowed it to be more accepted, partially because of the
> stability of the practises, and also because of the industrial support
> of video being used outside of art. Perhaps "electronic media art" is
> not a media at all, as it lacks the kind of dominance and stability in
> practises around it of video.
>
> Ben
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>
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