The new issue of Artnodes is dedicated to matter. In the wake of different discussions concerning new materialism, speculative realism, objects and processes, I am glad to see this issue out: it takes a more mediatic and experimental view to some of these theoretical themes! Thanks to Jamie Allen and Pau Alsina for getting it done and published.
The issue papers are in Spanish, Catalan and English.
My little text on “new materialism of dust” is a follow-up and extension of the one in Depletion Design. It continues the same theme, and now has inspired me to write a longer essay on dust that will be published in Russian as a stand-alone booklet. The English draft of that is available on Academia.edu.
Winchester School of Art, and our research centre in Global Futures is happy to announce a new partnership with the transmediale-organisation and festival in Berlin! This coming year’s theme is Back When Pluto Was a Planet (BWPWAP) and we are besides participating with a panel and a range of other talks also already thinking ahead to the future years with the great folks of tm. They have a great track record of working with universities, including Aarhus and now Leuphana. I could not be more excited about this link to Berlin – tm has been one of those festivals/conferences that get my mind actually working. And it’s socially such a good spot to catch up with lots of people. One of the most exciting things happening in our field of critical arts/media/practice/theory at the moment. And Berlin is great.
Below the more official press release.
WSA to collaborate with a leading European festival for art and digital culture
The Winchester School of Art (WSA) has formed a new partnership with the organisers of one of Europe’s most significant festivals for art and digital culture.
The WSA, part of the University of Southampton, will engage academics and students in a wide range of activities with transmediale, the world-renowned festival and year-round project based in Berlin.
From Winchester, the key activities will be co-ordinated through the WSA’s Centre for Global Futures in Art Design & Media which shares a number of areas of mutual interest with transmediale across the fields of media arts, cultural theory and politics, aesthetics and digital culture.
Future activities linking the WSA and transmediale related to these shared interests shared research projects, joint workshops, curatorial developments related to transmediale and its all-year platform “reSource transmedial culture,” various educational platforms and events, and WSA’s participation in the planning activities and events leading towards transmediale festivals and the reSource activities.
Academics and students are already making plans to participate in transmediale from February 2013. WSA and transmediale are also keen to involve students as an active part of the partnership and establish a long-term link that represents the Winchester scholars’ interest in digital culture, media and critical contemporary arts. It also consolidates important high-level links the School has with Europe.
“We’re very excited by the prospects and benefits that working with transmediale will bring to the Winchester School of Art,” said Professor Ryan Bishop, Co-Director of the Winchester Centre for Global Futures in Art Design & Media. “The activities supported by transmediale offer an important interface between academic research, the arts and the general public which creates a perfect fit with the ethos and activities of our own Centre. In return, the WSA is perfectly positioned to facilitate additional collaborative links across partner institutions, providing a dynamic network of researchers working on related and complementary concerns which we believe will benefit everyone involved in organising and participating in transmediale each year.”
The artistic director of transmediale, Kristoffer Gansing reinforced this perspective by saying that “For transmediale, the collaboration with WSA and the Centre for Global Futures represents a great opportunity to develop new activities within a burgeoning international research setting. “ Stressing the transdisciplinary nature of the festival, “the combination of art and research is central to our critical approach to media art and digital culture” Gansing continued, adding that he is “hoping for new creative approaches to joint presentations of artistic and academic research between the two institutions.”
Each year, transmediale presents new positions in the fields of art, culture and technology to an audience of more than 20,000 visitors who experience an extensive range of exhibitions, conferences, screenings, performances and publications. transmediale’s broad cultural appeal and high artistic quality is recognised by the German federal government which supports the festival through its programme for beacons of contemporary culture.
Critically concerned with art and design practices of making, thinking and representation, the WSA engages in education and enterprise, exploring the contribution of media, materials and technologies to the improvement of human societies globally. In addition to producing world class research and engaging in educational possibilities, the WSA’s Centre for Global Futures hosts a wide array of issue-based activities that centre around globally relevant topics such as the environment, society, politics, art and demographics. By involving high profile academics, artists, curators and filmmakers, the Centre is creating a platform for the local and regional communities to engage in these areas.
3-2-1 the whistle blows. Click-click-click-click…
It’s image making but not just photography – instead, it provides an alternative route for histories of media; instead of a preference for the centrality of the seriality of the moving image, try starting from the cybernetic. “The cybernetic hypothesis”, as Alex Galloway coined it in his talk at the Winchester Centre for Global Futures that was a kick-starter for the project.
The whistle, the 24 cameras, set around a circular studio, a rotunda on which a stool for the model – an assemblage that connects the early 1860s with the 2012 reconstruction inside which I too sat to be photographed, and to be sculpted from those 24 shots. Originally this was Francois Willeme’s photosculpture, a curious arrangement and a patent from 1860s Paris that defined what Galloway calls one early model for parallel media.
Winchester School of Art Fine Art undergraduate students took up the original blueprints and the idea as their own model for a project led by Ian Dawson and Louisa Minkin and produced a fantastic remake of the Willeme-device. Inspired by Alex Galloway’s talk, and partly framed as a media archaeological project, it presents indeed a very inspiring way to address sculpture, parallel imaging and informational culture. Like so many media archaeological art works, it suggests how you can presence old media ideas – often not very mainstream – in current settings; like taking an alternative viewpoint not only to media art history, but also to current image cultures.
The photosculpture – which indeed as sculptural mediates the imaging into physical three dimensional objects and presents a sort of an archaeology of 3-D digital imaging/modelling – shifts our perceptual coordinates. It forces itself as a rather (in a good way) weird part of the cultures of digital imaging with its historically “out-dated” way of understanding media. That is the beauty of the device and the arrangement; it is a historical and media archaeological exercise in practice-led activity that investigates the conditions of visuality and perhaps even cybernetic culture, as Galloway claims.
“A sculptor and the sun will become collaborators working together to fashion in 48 hours busts or statues of a hitherto unknown fidelity of such great boldness in outline and admirable likeness.” Those were the words of the journalist Henri de Parviel, describing the original piece by Willeme. You can see how it describes the emerging business in quickly produced, sculpted visuality – a bust in “admirable likeness” in no time! The WSA project taps into the way in which visual technologies were starting to be mobilized into consumer products and services, but old media ideas can be cheap R&D too (to use the phrase by Garnet Hertz) for artistic ideas and reappropriations, and engage with the multiple medialities that our media technologies consist of: it’s not only about the photographic visuals, nor just sculpture, nor just a genealogy of the informatics, but a folding of various medialities. Even a single technological assemblage and practice can contain so much, as the project demonstrated. Media are never about single objects, devices or apparata – but a multiplicity of techniques and technologies assembled. Hence, a hands on assembling is itself a process of thinking through this multiplicity of media and arts apparata in order to get a sense of the delicate materialities and techniques which they enable, and how they are themselves enabled.
(For further reference, a film from 1939 from the Pathe archives, with Marcus Adams in his studio demonstrating the photosculpture)
Media Art Histories-events are warmly recommended — so heads up for Riga 2013. The themes revolve around obsolescence, media archaeology, environment as well as archives. I am glad also to sit on the Advisory Board of the event!
Call for Abstracts:
Media Art Histories 2013: RENEW
The 5th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology
Riga, October 8 – 11, 2013
The 5th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology, Renew, will be hosted by RIXC and held in Riga, Latvia, October 8 – 11, 2013, coinciding with the international festival for new media culture Art+Communication. It will host three days of keynotes, panels and poster sessions on the histories of networked digital, electronic and technological media arts.
Besides general topics of the call, the theme of Renew, Media Art History 2013 addresses current tendencies in sustainability quests from various perspectives. As media art is based on increasingly out-dating technology and it is dependent on energy (electricity) the conference will discuss sustainable approaches towards the issues of producing, preserving and representing media artworks – how to ‘renew’ them through both – tools and histories. By focusing on networked media arts, the Renew conference will cover a broad range of topics to include early communication art (mail, fax, radio, satellite, etc.), net.art and net.radio, open source and network culture, locative media and wireless communities, hybrid networks and electromagnetic art, and last but not least – artistic investigations in sustainability, and future visions of art within the convergence of information and energy technologies.
* Histories of networked art and media technologies
* Archiving, preserving and representing new media art
* Media archaeology
* Paradigm shift – from new media to post-media conditions in art
* Writing histories of media art across Eastern Europe and the Baltics
* Revising the geospatial aspects – for writing comparative media art histories
* Resilient networks and emerging ‘techno-ecological’ art practices
* Multifarious potential of expression in media art – ‘new imagery’ of our times
* * *
DEADLINE for abstract proposals: January 25, 2013.
Notification of acceptance will be announced in March 25, 2013.
Individual proposals should consist of a 250-word abstract with title.
Proposals and inquiries regarding submissions should be made on www.mediaarthistory.org web-site.
* * *
Selected papers from the conference will be published in Acoustic Space and other venues. Founded in 1998 by E-Lab as artistic journal for sound art, networked audio experiments and new media culture, since 2007 Acoustic Space comes out as peer-reviewed journal for transdisciplinary research on art, science, technology and society, published by RIXC & Art Research Lab of Liepaja University.
* * *
The conference will be complemented by a variety of affiliated events, including the Art+Communication festival, with a thematically related media art exhibition, experimental film and video screening programme, live performances, concerts and workshops.
* * *
MAH 2013 Renew Conference Chair: Rasa SMITE and Raitis SMITS
Honorary Board: Jasia REICHARDT, Itsuo SAKANE, Peter WEIBEL, Douglas DAVIS, Robert ADRIAN
Renew Conference Advisory Board: Erik KLUITENBERG, Armin MEDOSCH, Inke ARNS, Andrey SMIRNOV, Jussi PARIKKA, Edwin van der HEIDE, Mark TRIBE, Gediminas URBONAS, Marko PELJHAN, Nishant SHAH, Edward SHANKEN, Darko FRITZ, Tatiana BAZZICHELLI, Frieder NAKE
This is another interview, and audio recording now available, that I did in Berlin in 2011. It is my chat with Martin Howse, of microresearch, and the project(s) together with Jonathan Kemp and Ryan Jordan: decrystallisation, recrystallisation and the later Crystal Worlds in Berlin and London. We talk of what the crystal project means, ideas related to art methods, and ending up with evil media.
Apologies for a bit lousy quality of the sound in my recording.
I interviewed Paul DeMarinis in July 2011 in Berlin about his media archaeological art practices and methodology.
It was originally in the context of the Creative Technologies Review podcasts we did with Julio D’Escrivan, but the archives of those podcasts are not available so I wanted to share this interview (audio, mp3) for those interested.
The circuit bended and definitely (re)modified fruits of our collaboration with Garnet Hertz are out. True, “Zombie Media” has been circulating as an unborn living dead text for a longer while, ever since it was part of the Transmediale 2010 Theory Award competition — but now it is finally officially out in Leonardo (vol. 45, no 5)!
Working with someone like Garnet is a pure joy, and demonstrates why collaboration is good for you: you learn a lot. A lot lot.
As a teaser to the longer “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method”-article, please find below the short “manifesto” on “Five Principles of Zombie Media” we co-wrote for the Defunct/Refunct-catalogue (PDF).
Zombie media addresses the living deads of media culture. As such, it is clearly related
to the earlier calls to investigate “dead media” by Bruce Sterling and others: to map
the forgotten, out-of-use, obsolete and declared dysfunctional technologies in order
to understand better the nature of media cultural development. And yet, we want to
point to a further issue when it comes to abandoned media: the amount of discarded
electronic media is not only the excavation ground for quirky media archaeological
interests, but one of the biggest threats for ecology in terms of the various toxins they
are leaking back to nature. A discarded piece of media technology is never just discarded
but part of a wider pattern of circulation that ties the obsolete to recycling centers,
dismantling centres in Asia, markets in Nigeria, and so forth – a whole global political
ecology of different sorts where one of the biggest questions is the material toxicity of
our electronic media. Media kills nature as they remain as living deads.
Hence, we believe that media archaeology – the media theoretical stance interested
in forgotten paths and quirky ideas of past media cultures – needs to become more
political, and articulate its relation to design practices more clearly. We are not the only
ones that have made that call recently – for instance Timothy Druckrey writes:
“The mere rediscovery of the forgotten, the establishment of oddball paleontologies, of
idiosyncratic genealogies, uncertain lineages, the excavation of antique technologies or
images, the account of erratic technical developments, are, in themselves, insufficient to
the building of a coherent discursive methodology.” 
We would want to add that in addition to developing discursive methodologies, we
need to develop methodologies that are theoretically rich as well as practice-oriented –
where ontologies of technical media meet up with innovative ideas concerning design
in an ecological context.
As such, the other part of the zombie media call is the work of reappropriation
through circuit bending and hardware hacking methodologies – to extend the media
archaeological as well as ecosophic interest into design issues. By actively repurposing
things considered dead – things you find from your attic, the second hand market, or
amongst waste – the zombiefication of media is to address the planned obsolescence of
media technologies which is part of their material nature. In reference to contemporary
consumer products, planned obsolescence takes many forms. It is not only an ideology,
or a discourse, but more accurately takes place on a micropolitical level of design:
difficult to replace batteries in personal MP3 audio players, proprietary cables and
chargers that are only manufactured for a short period of time, discontinued customer
support, or plastic enclosures impossible to open without breaking them. Whether you
can open up things – the famous black boxes of media culture characterized by iPhones
and iPads – is one of the biggest political and ecological questions facing our media
theory and practices too.
As a manifesto, five points of zombie media stand out:
1/ We oppose the idea of dead media. Although death of media may be useful as a tactic to
oppose dialog that only focuses on the newness of media, we believe that media never
dies. Media may disappear in a popular sense, but it never dies: it decays, rots, reforms,
remixes, and gets historicized, reinterpreted and collected. It either stays as a residue
in the soil and in the air as concrete dead media, or is reappropriated through artistic,
2/ We oppose planned obsolescence. As one corner stone in the mental ecology of
circulation of desires, planned obsolescence maintains ecologically unsupportable
death drive that is destroying our milieus of living.
3/ We propose a depunctualization of media and the opening, understanding and hacking
of concealed or blackboxed systems: whether as consumer products or historical
4/ We propose media archaeology as an artistic methodology that follows in the traditions
of appropriation, collage and remixing of materials and archives. Media archaeology
has been successful in excavating histories of dead media, forgotten ideas, sidekicks and
minor narratives, but now its time to develop it from a textual method into a material
methodology that takes into account the political economy of contemporary media
5/ We propose that reuse is an important dynamic of contemporary culture, especially
within the context of electronic waste. “If it snaps shut, it shall snap open.” We agree in
that open and remix culture should be extended to physical artifacts.
I recently gave a talk about Torsten Lauschmann’s art. This took place in Southampton, at the Hansard gallery with my great colleague prof. Ryan Bishop. In my quite informal presentation, I picked up on points such as… (excerpts to follow):
What several of Lauschmann’s pieces conjure is a different way of seeing media than just as communication. Media is trickery, a way of modifying realities, and has been for a long time; deceptions of the senses, of virtual realities and false impressions – this is the work of media, which brings it closer to the military psy-ops, and a history of hallucinations, other realities and indeed – magic. In other words, forget the idealistic notions of media as communication between people to exchange messages – instead, entertainment worlds are even down to their physiological effects about tricking the eye, the ear and the mind in ways that attract and affect the spectator. Media is sometimes closer to sorcery, It can conjure and produce realities in very effective ways – think of the long lineage from indeed magic and sorcery to current PR culture… (Fuller and Goffey, Evil Media).
What is significant is perhaps exactly this imagining a parallel world of media that borrows from past. But what is borrowed are perhaps not always very suitable ideas. Yet such can be employed as tools of investigation, critical ways to see our current media culture. It can also be about picking up individual motifs, minor details or ideas, and working them into the art piece, like Lauschmann seems often to do. More generally, in differing ways such works mix the way in which we understand media time – it is not only a progression from the old to the new, but how ideas got discovered and rediscovered, recycled, like concretely in some recycling based DIY art; or in the midst of our reborn enthusiasm for 8-bit pixelated aesthetics, vinyl music listening, of retrogames you remember from 1980s, also old technology presents itself as an alternative way of understanding the new: to take an old piece of technology, visual or audio, and try to think how it enables a different way of understanding media aesthetics.
Defective ideas and forms become standardized as our ways to think of time and media.
“We make our journeys out there in the low light of the future, and return to the bourgeois day and its mass delusion of safety, to report on what we’ve seen. What are any of these ‘utopian dreams’ of ours but defective forms of time-travel?” ( Pynchon, Against the Day, 2006)
Couldn’t we say the same thing about the past: journeys to the past that are like defective forms of time-travel? To past times when old technologies were once new too, and puzzled and awed, with their low lighting, crackling, noise, and pixelated style? The obsolescent entertainment device, the pianola, melancholicly playing its tune in the middle of the room reminds of such time-travels from which Lauschmann poached ideas and devices that trigger much more than nostalgia.
In his part of this double act, Bishop talked about Lauschmann in relation to histories of automation, labour and for instance mechnical music, including the player piano.
I wrote this short catalogue text for Lenore Malen’s I am the Animal — also included stills (courtesy of and permission from Lenore Malen) from the exhibition:
The Media That Therefore We Are
It’s a matter of scales. If you are far enough away, and your perspective is mediated by a layer of concepts, abstractions, and an organizational eye, you might indeed see them as models of ideal society. It’s all order. Everyone does what they are supposed to. There is one Queen. No wonder the protofascist Maya the Bee was an ideal cartoon character for 1930s national-socialist Germany. One is tempted to see the idea of a strong leadership to which everyone submits as an example of sovereign power per se, even if, to be honest, the Queen does not choose to execute power — it happens much more intuitively, almost in a subconscious way. Of course, when it comes to bees, there is no such talk of subconscious; instinct used to be the word in the 19th century for this near mystical mode of organization. This is evident in, for instance, Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the Bee (1901), which refers to “the spirit of the hive.”
But on another scale, it looks very different. Look closely enough and they become the aliens they are: their weird compound eyes composed of thousands of lenses, their six legs, non-human movement, jerky, non-mammal insides folded out. This has been the other story since the 19th century and the birth of modern entomology: insects as aliens, otherworldly non-humans, often seem almost to possess technology in their capacities to see, sense, and move differently. The insects are the Anti-McLuhan; technics does not start with the human but with the animal, the insect, and their superior powers of being-in the- world (the allusion to Heidegger is intentional).
Lenore Malen’s I Am The Animal intertwines the various histories, aesthetics, and idealizations of the bee community as well as the bee’s relations withbeekeepers. It’s all about relations, and establishing relations with our constitutive environments — including bees. Donna Haraway talks about companion species (specifically dogs, but other animals too) as formative of our being in the world; she discusses the ways in which those relations are formative of our becomings.
Our relation to insects is reflected in much more than the narrative aspect of Malen’s work. The immersive environment of the installation envelops the spectator in a milieu of becoming. The clips Malen uses are mini-thoughts, mini-brains, which are brought together with her digital software tools; the clips are memes that Malen excavates from online archives and audiovisual repositories, and composes into a three-channel envelope.
I Am The Animal poses the question: Can insects be our companion species? This is paradoxical in light of Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am, to which Malen’s title refers. Derrida starts with the gaze of the animal — his cat, to be exact, lazily gazing at Derrida’s naked body. But catching the insect’s compound eyes is more difficult, if not impossible. For Malen, Derrida’s essay functions as a critique of subjectivity. Derrida continues to analyze how the cat does not feel its own nakedness, has no need of clothes, whereas we — as technical beings — surround our bodies, envelop ourselves in extensions, such as clothes. We are not only enveloped in cinema, media, and technology but in fundamental forms of shelter.
So do animals have technology? They might not plan buildings and produce external tools, but an alternative lineage claims that animals, insects and such, are completely technical. Henri Bergson was of such an opinion: even if humans are intelligent in the sense of being able to abstract, plan, and externalize their thoughts into tools, insects occupy technics in their bodies and embody intertwining with the world. The body itself is already technical. One could think of examples of insect architecture, of various stratagems of the body for defense or attack, of modes of movement, and of perception as media. If the body is media — as Ernst Kapp suggested in the 19th century and McLuhan later — then what kind of media does the insect suggest?
The three screens of I Am The Animal are rhythmic elements that deterritorialize our vision. A slowly progressing multiplication of viewpoints is the becoming-animal of perception that the installation delivers. The immersive space is also one of measured fragmentation into the compound vision of insects. Slow disorientation is one tactic of this mode of becoming; it points both to the world of insects and to the media in which we are immersed. The early avant-garde connection between the technical vision machine and the insect compound machine — in the words of Jean Epstein, “the thousand-faceted eyes of the insects” — creates a sense of space as split; perspective is multiplied into a variation. Malen’s I Am The Animal is about such forms of multiplicity.
The animal is incorporated into the machinated cultural assemblages of modernity; the disappearance of animals from urban cultures during the past couple hundred years is paralleled by the appearance of animals in various modern discourses from media to theory. We talk, see, incorporate animal energies. Akira Mizuta Lippit in Electric Animal (2000) writes how “the idioms and histories of numerous technological innovations from the steam engine to quantum mechanics bear the traces of an incorporated animality. James Watt and later Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Walt Disney, and Erwin Schrödinger, among other key figures in the industrial and aesthetic shifts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, found uses for animal spirits in developing their respective machines, creating in the process fantastic hybrids.”
Animals as well as media are elements with which we become. Matthew Fuller in his essay “Art for Animals” (2008) identifies a two-fold danger in relation to art with/about nature: that we succumb to a social constructionism or that we embrace biological positivism. And yet, we need to be able to carve out the art/aesthetic in and through nature and animals in ways that involve the double movement back and forth between animality and humanity. Art for animals is one way, to quote Fuller: “Art for animals intends to address the ecology of capacities for perceptions, sensation, thought and reflexivity of animals.” What kind of perceptions and sensations are afforded us by media/ nature? And conversely, what worlds do we create in which animals and nature perceive, live, and think?
My new job at Winchester School of Art - and the students graduating of the 2010-2011 courses – is having its annual Masters Degree show. Chuffed about this. Includes a wide range of expertise from fine art to communication design, (advertising) design management to fashion and textile design.The Degree show kicks of September 1st with a Private View.
WSAMA 2011 launch and private view = 01/09/11 1800-2000 HRS
(Warning: the video has strong flicker).
For more info (and no-flicker), see the blog at http://wsama.wordpress.com/.