[-empyre-] Digital Terror and Ethnic Paranoia

Timothy Conway Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Tue Nov 14 10:08:05 AEDT 2017

Thank you all for such a stimulating first week of contamination on –empyre-.  While keeping on the screen the contaminations of foodstuffs, I would like to shift the discourse a bit, as if something of a palimpsest, to follow Bishnu’s thread of environmental media in which one lives and acts among the ruins of contamination.  Regarding which natural or social disturbances command our attention, I found myself returning to a special issue of CTHEORY MULTIMEDIA I worked on with Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, now fifteen years back in the wake of 9/11: “Wired Ruins: Digital Terror and Ethnic Paranoia”: http://ctheorymultimedia.cornell.edu/issue3/ [believe it or not, the issue’s fifteen pieces of net.art still work, including one by this week’s guest, Christina McPhee!].  In putting together this issue, we were interested in turning to the virtual solicitations of internet art to summon the cultural and psychic ruins of the moment that required response and action – this is why we doubled digital terror with the response of ethnic paranoia.  

In rereading our opening curatorial statement, especially as I now write from Seoul only days after Trump’s physical contamination of Korea (Seoul/soil/soul), I thought of sharing it anew today, now fifteen years later as the discourse of digital terror and ethnic paranoia continues to contaminate daily life.  

With any luck, this will cross the screens of Arthur and Marilouise Kroker in hopes that they might also move forward by looking back to CTHEORY MULTIMEDIA in adding to this month’s discussion of contamination:

“Wired Ruins reflects on the digital and viral networks of ethnic identities that now so urgently emit fain signals for recognition among the overlapping diffusions of cultural angst and digital terror.  A vibrantly pulsating network resisting the repression of the new age of censorship, “Wired Ruins” is a simulacrum of cross-cultural infection and cross-border fluidity.  Reacting to the complex horrors of terrorism while resisting the surveillance regimes of the disciplinary state, its practitioners work passionately to reposition the power of the code in counter-response to the aggressive parasites of religious fanaticism and ethnic paranoia.  “Wired Ruins” will haunt the future as the skeletal archive of the many unrecorded artistic responses to digital terror and ethnic paranoia.  In the end, power only responds to challenges of its survival.  An equivalence of challenge and counter-challenge.  And so, to the challenge of viral terrorism, the state immediately adopts the language of viral power.  Power grafts itself onto the psychological terrain of anxiety and fear.  Circulating in the deepest streams of popular culture, viral power puts everyone on alert for the terrorist within.  This psycho-geography of digital terrorism and ethnic paranoia is, of course, the beginning-point for the artistic imagination.  As ever, art exists as the hallucinatory force that says ‘no’ to both viral power and viral terrorism.”

Of course, this hallucinatory force is just as vital to the food chain as it is to the psychic and media chain.



Timothy Murray
Director, Cornell Council for the Arts and Curator, CCA Biennial
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art 
http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu <http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu/>

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