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An interview on pattern, materiality and data: Rossella Biscotti’s artistic practice

March 31, 2016 Leave a comment

I was briefly interviewed by Anne Zeuthen and Maja Bak Herrie about Rossella Biscotti‘s artistic work, and the themes that emerge as part of her practice. Below this short chat that was done in December 2015. (Note: the interview has not been copy edited for language). All the image below are from the from the exhibition 10×10 (at Wilfried Lenz, Rotterdam, 2014).

 

Q1: How do you define the materiality of the digital, and in what ways does

this emphasis of the material constitute a critical potential?

JP: To think of the materiality of the computation especially in the context of Rossella Biscotti’s practice leads us into a complex entanglement of patterns and data. I’ve been fascinated by the question that seems paradoxical in the context of the legacy of informational culture. Information was supposed to be something different from the thermodynamically entropic materiality of the world and to be the organizational glue for an alternative reality of bits; information was to function in different ways, and it became a whole self-justifying mantra for a new socio-economic phase since the 1990s at least. Bits not atoms. And yet, all of the digital and all of the informational is underpinned by a range of processes that are energetic and material. But computation cannot be reduced to the digital informatics. And the patterns of informational processes, the abstractions, are entangled with the materials, which are infrastructurally necessary for the illusion of immateriality to exist.

The weaved pattern is famously a leading thread (indeed) in Sadie Plant’s fabulously poetic take on digital culture. To quote her: “Just as individuated texts have become filaments of infinitely tangled webs, so the digital machines of the late twentieth century weave new networks from what were once isolated words, numbers, music, shapes, smells, tactile textures, architectures, and countless channels as yet unnamed.” She continues about the yarn as “neither metaphorical nor literal, but quite simply material” suggesting that materiality is of a different order than what we have been accustomed to. I feel drawn to speak of materiality, instead of the “real” which still seems to hint of too much of epistemological evaluation between real and unreal. Instead, the notions of materiality that Plant and a lot of feminist materialism of past decades has inaugurated is something that speaks to this subtle sense of matter in movement, a dynamic matter that matters. This is a sort of a understanding of materiality that is at the same time sensitive to the patterns, the material threads they are made of as a tactile reality that escorts multiple meanings and yet also escapes into alternative sorts of sensorial experiences than merely just what meets the eye.

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Think of it  in terms of pattern, data, that is tactile; the sort of structurations Biscotti is after are data that is touchable and yet much of its layers of information escape touch too. It is not that you can reduce the work to the touch, and yet it is there. It has those multiple layers. I think Biscotti’s work is a great way of approaching materiality that always comes in multiple layers, dimensions; the organization and the materiality are entangled, weaved together. It speaks of data materiality as one of abstractions that are useful and necessary part of how information functions – abstractions are an effective way of managing information infrastructures, as Jean-François Blanchette, but there is in addition this sort of touchable materiality that comes out uniquely in Biscotti’s installations.

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Q2: Previously you have identified your approach as ‘non-McLuhan’ since it

refrains from perceiving media as an expansion of the human body. Instead

you emphasise how media emerge from raw materials such as optical fibres

or copper. What status does that inscribe to the agency of media?

The legacy of Ada Lovelace, weaving and what Biscotti summons is rich in implications. One might easily object; what’s non-human about this? And yet, one can see how this sort of an understanding of the agential realism (Barad’s term) of the weaved pattern suggests a rich understanding of more than what emanates from the human body. As Barad suggests with her term, this sort of agency is not merely about the thing or a person that might have agency but the unfolding event of doing, in-action, that makes it into an agential form of becoming that weaves into its unfolding various sorts of humans and non-humans.

Instead of objects and subjects, we start to speak of entanglements. It becomes like a guiding line for a lot of material analysis and aesthetics. Recently, it featured as part of for example Patricia Pisters’ film theoretical development in an article of her’s; from interaction to the intraction of embodied brains with screen culture. Where human bodies end and start becomes a question of the wider assemblages in which multiple heterogeneous parts form the agential event. Pisters’ essay is part of a new really inspiring special issue of Cultural Studies Review on New Materialism, edited by Ilona Hongisto, Kaisa Kontturi and Milla Tiainen. It’s the whole body of new materialist thought that becomes here an exciting driving force for new ontological and aesthetic practices.

So for me, especially my work Insect Media was a sort of a non-McLuhan way of understanding media history. I meant it as a playful provocation, not a dismissal of McLuhan’s work at all. Instead of the Mcluhan mantra that media are extensions of man, one is tempted to ask the question: how about animals, and women? Sadie Plant’s feminist history of media and computing was a step in way of a new vocabulary of media and I wanted to complement some of the work in Insect Media by way of an alternative cultural history, or media archaeology, of media as extensions of the animal. I wanted to look at how insects and other forms of non-human animals were talked about but also taken as models, or even parts of the media assemblage in scientific and technological developments over the 20th century. This ranged from some artistic ideas in Surrealism; design thinking with animals in architecture; software swarms thought of in terms of natural formations; a whole plethora of distributed, alternative and sometimes multilegged, eyed agencies that are irreducible to the human. Insects feature in history of philosophy – from Heidegger’s notes to the famous tick of Deleuze and Guattari – and in addition, there is a media and technological side to such genealogies as well. More recently, I become interested in other sorts of threads: copper, fibre (optics) and other infrastructural dimensions of media culture. This extends again the idea of media as extensions of much more than just the man/human, and as part of even environmental questions: electronic waste for example.

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Q3: Presuming that mediality of art cannot be thought independently of the

materiality in which it takes place, which roles do technologies play in your

conceptualisation of art and its creation of meaning?

This is indeed my approach; art is always modulation of perception, and this modulation is material in that way described above (through Barad, Pisters, and new materialism) briefly; art entangles with our bodies and brains, the percepts and affects tie us into these art works. This sort of agency is not restricted to an object or a thing but becomes the materiality of the relation, a sort of a fabric in motion.

And the entanglement goes deeper; what are the material conditions of art works and processes? These can be investigated by way of their media technological conditions and also infrastructural conditions. Some of recent art has actually turned to investigate their own conditions of existence, or let’s say, the infrastructural again. For example Jamie Allen has been rather inspiring for my work, similarly as the artist duo Cohen van Balen as well as Liam Young and Kate Davies’ design-oriented speculation but of course many many others too.

The name of my chair at Winchester School of Art is  “Professor in Technological Culture & Aesthetics” and I like to think of it exactly in this extended way; not only about theories of art and beauty in the classical sense always, but the ways in which technologies are artistic already; ways of modulating senses, perceptions, relations. Art and technology go hand in hand. Questions of engineering become themselves turned into art methods, like the Critical Engineer-group suggested. We start to look at art in technological terms too, as Friedrich Kittler in his own way inspired. We are soon starting a new research group called AMT (Archaeologies of Media and Technology) at the WSA, and this sort of a cross-breeding of experimental practice and media theory is one of our core focuses.

Perhaps the connection between art and technology does also suggest new aesthetic vocabularies. I am thinking the way in which Matthew Fuller, in the book on Software Studies, suggests to think of the art of elegance in programming culture. Based on Donald Knuth’s Literate Programming, Fuller elaborates on elegance as a way to reach out from usual considerations; as a trajectory to new fields also even outsider software. One could say this implies an ecological realization underpinning elegance and software. In Fuller’s words: “A fine example of such elegance would be achieved if a way was found to conjoin the criteria of elegance in programming with constraints on hardware design consonant with ecological principles of nonpollution, minimal energy usage, recyclability or reusability, and the health requirements of hardware fabrication and disposal workers. Good design increasingly demands that elegance follows or at least makes itself open to such a trajectory. The criteria of minimal use of processor cycles already has ecological implications”.

It’s this reaching out, a trajectory of new connections as part of urgent social and political questions that makes any question of materiality of art and technology meaningful; both as bodies of theory and as artistic work.

 

Bibliography

Barad, Karen (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

Blanchette, Jean-François (2011) “A Material History of Bits” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 62(6), pp.1042–1057,

Fuller, Matthew (2010) “Elegance” in Software Studies. A Lexicon, ed. Matthew Fuller. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp.87-92

Parikka, Jussi (2010) Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press.

Pisters, Patricia (2015) “Temporal Explorations in Cosmic Consciousness: Intra-Agential Entanglements and the Neuro-Image” Cultural Studies Review Vol 21, No 2 (2015), special issue on New Materialisms, edited by Ilona Hongisto, Kaisa Kontturi and Milla Tiainen, online at http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/issue/view/334, pp.120-144.

Plant, Sadie (1997) Zeroes + Ones : Digital Women and the New Technoculture. London: Fourth Estate.

Denials of Service

August 18, 2015 Leave a comment

I wrote a short text on “Denials of Service” for the just released new book There is no software, there are just services. (Meson Press and downloadable as an open access PDF).

The book, edited by Irina Kaldrack and Martina Leeker, asks if software is dead. This is not merely a rehashed Nietzschean proclamation so much as an observation about the current digital industry landscape where “the (re)emergence of the service paradigm […] challenges traditional business and license models as well as modes of media creation and use.” Indeed, perhaps software is replaced by services.  “The short essays in this edited collection discuss how services shift the notion of software, the cultural technique of programming, conditions of labor as well as the ecology and politics of data and how they influence dispositifs of knowledge.”

Meson Press is a recent publishing initiative at Leuphana University, Luneburg. Here’s a short interview with Mercedes Bunz explaining the idea of the Press.

AHRC Funding for the “Internet of Cultural Things”-project

April 17, 2015 2 comments

We are happy to announce that the AHRC has granted funding for our Internet of Cultural Things (IoCT) project, a one year research partnership between Kings College London, Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton), and the British Library.

The project examines the cultural dimensions of data via the born-digital material generated by the British Library, ranging from items ingested to reading room occupancy to catalogue searches. Through practice-informed research we engage this otherwise hidden cultural data, and hold a series of pop-up installations to make it visible and interfaced with the public to think through our data interconnectedness. By focusing on cultural institutions, we can move beyond the integrated operating system of the ‘Internet of Things’ and its purported productivity gains, efficiencies. Instead, we will use critical creative practice to rethink cultural institutions as living organism of data that is both dynamic and recursive. We propose the IoCT as a concept to discuss this new situation of digital data and cultural institutions.

The project starts in September 2015, and is led by Dr Mark Cote (KCL) as the PI and Prof Jussi Parikka (WSA/Southampton) as the CO-I with partners from the British Library (Jamie Andrews) and collaborating with the artist Dr Richard Wright (London).

The British Library, a data institution. Image by Richard Wright.

The British Library, a data institution.
Image by Richard Wright.

See also: Living Knowledge: The British Library 2015-2023.

Code and Labour

April 16, 2014 Leave a comment

The new issue of Cultural Studies Review follows up from the 2012 Code-conference that was held in Melbourne, at Swinburne University. The event  was marvelous, thanks to the organizers. And now, Esther Milne and Anthony McCosker have edited a lovely special issues Coding Labour. With a line-up including Anna Munster, Ned Rossiter, Mark Cote,Rowan Wilken and many more – as well as for instance Meaghan Morris in the same issue – one can expect much.

My own article is about the slightly heretic crossbreeding of German media theory and cognitive capitalism. It briefly discusses the notion of cultural techniques as a way to elaborate cognitive capitalism in the context of practices and techniques of software, code and labour. Hence it ends up in a curious short example from the 1970s, the management and organisational arrangement of metaprogramming, as a way to discuss how we might approach techniques of “creative” work in software culture.

You can find the text here and below a short abstract.

This article addresses cultural techniques of cognitive capitalism. The author argues that to understand the full implications of the notion of cognitive capitalism we need to address the media and cultural techniques which conditions its range and applications. The article offers an expanded understanding of the labour of code and programming through a case study of ‘metaprogramming’, a software related organisation practice that offered a way to think of software creativity and programming in organisations. The ideas from the 1970s that are discussed offer a different way to approach creativity and collaborative and post-Fordist capitalism. The author brings together different theoretical perspectives, including German media theory and Yann Moulier Boutang’s thesis about cognitive capitalism. The wider argument is that we should pay more attention to the media archaeological conditions of practices of labour and value appropriation of contemporary technological capitalism as well as the cultural techniques which include ‘ontological and aesthetic operations’ that produce cultural, material situations.

 

 

A Day In the Life of A Computer

September 4, 2013 Leave a comment

If you are serious about speculative realism, or object-oriented, perhaps you should consider this instead.

Martin Howse, Diff in June, Link Editions, Brescia 2013. Soft cover, 740 pp., ISBN 9781291503593

Martin Howse’s weird data archaeology delivers its own set of speculations concerning a more media-specific non-human perspective that opens up the object in alternative ways. If the computer speaks it definitely sounds a bit different than narratives of philosophical discourse. This is data archaeology becoming media epistemology becoming a speculative artistic practice into onto-epistemologies. If this is forensics, it is a twisted sort where the computer self-records and narrates its own little day in the life.

“Diff in June” tells a day in the life of a personal computer, written by itself in its own language, as a sort of private log or intimate diary focused on every single change to the data on its hard disk. Using a small custom script, for the entire month of June 2011 Martin Howse registered each chunk of data which had changed within the file system from the previous day’s image. Excluding binary data, one day’s sedimentation has been published in this book, a novel of data archaeology in progress tracking the overt and the covert, merging the legal and illegal, personal and administrative, source code and frozen systematics.”

For those those interested in Howse’s earlier projects and collaborations, check out the interview we did in Berlin some years ago.

Save as: Social Memory

vakiflar-sirketler-agi-2010-alinti-burak-arikanAn event in Istanbul – welcome!

Save as: Social Memory

Convened by Burak Arıkan and Jussi Parikka, and in collaboration with  SALT and support of Winchester School of Art.

June 26-27, 2013  19:00

SALT Galata Atelier IV, Istanbul

Participants: Burak Arıkan, Joasia Krysia, Nicolas Malevé, Ali Miharbi, Jussi Parikka

One of the major concerns during the Gezi resistance was how to keep our memories, our pain and grief, our anger, our gains, and our losses alive. We tried to preserve our experiences and present them in numerous media. However, we haven’t had the time and means to critically approach to the rapidly growing archives or to create technologically enhanced curated content.

This symposium brings together three artists, a curator, and an academic who works in the area of software art, archive, and media archaeology. Cultural practices that use the language of technology and digital born content from different perspectives of preservation and memory will be debated. How can we preserve the software itself along with the content it generates? In what way should we consider software itself as the creative archive, arche, of our digital culture? What new archival practices does technology-based art and culture present? How do software, social media, and network practices introduce a sphere of counter-representation which curate alternative narratives of the present? Panelists will discuss the topics of archiving the present as we live, algorithmic curating in crisis, critical collective intelligence, and language of technology as a thinking tool.

Programme schedule:

Wednesday June 26th 

19:00 Introduction

19:15 Jussi Parikka – Media Archaeology: Archives of the Present

20:00 Nicolas Malevé – Sniff and sneak through my archives

20:45 Ali Miharbi – Language of technology as a thinking tool

Thursday June 27th

19:00 Joasia Krysia – Speculations on Algorithmic Curating

19:45 Burak Arıkan – Counter Collective Intelligence

20:30 Round Table

Abstracts and bios of speakers:

Jussi Parikka – Media Archaeology: Archives of the Present

Media Archaeology has emerged the past years as a dynamic theory about media culture. This refers to the impact it has had in giving a vocabulary for the material constitution of contemporary technical media culture. Media archaeology examines media technical conditions of existence of culture, and as such, is in a good position to frame the relevance of software for questions of the archive.

However, media archaeology is also a way to investigate the ontology of the present: it asks what sorts of mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion constitute what we perceive, and what remains unperceived? How is the network conditioning our sense of knowledge and our sense of the everyday? How will the speculative future archivist, looking back at June 2013, see and understand our events and networked condition, conditioned by software as well as its political context.

Jussi Parikka Bio

Dr Jussi Parikka is a media theorist who writes on media archaeology, digital culture and obscure topics from insects to viruses. He is Reader in Media & Design at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton and author of various books, essays and other writings. His monographs include the award-winning Insect Media: An Archaeology of Insects and Technology, as well as the recent What is Media Archaeology? He blogs at http://jussiparikka.net

Nicolas Malevé  – Sniff and sneak through my archives

‘(6/24/1996 9:44pm, Personal)”

Will she (either of them) share the love of pornography? Or at least, art? I shall present myself to both of them as a geniality self-flagellat%n machine. Just one bottle tonight, ok?  I shall invite them on to my journey of change, showing the way ahead. Immortality. I will let them to sniff and sneak through my archives. (Erkki Kurenniemi, Newton diary, 1996).

The presentation will take as a point of departure the rich set of documents collected and created by Erkki Kurenniemi, Finnish pioneering electro acoustic musician and inventor of early synthesizers, who obsessively recorded his life. The talk will introduce to the different tools and methods we, Michael Murtaugh and Nicolas Malevé, members of the Belgian collective Constant, used to enter in dialog with the vast amount of unclassified documents that constitute the humus for an archive of Kurenniemi’s work.

These tools are our intermediaries, our extra senses to “read” the images, to “listen” to the sounds, to “watch” the videos. The algorithms we borrow, design or customize become our interlocutors. They report back from what they detect, correlate and connect in the different layers of data. They are different voices, each telling a its own story. Having presented these different voices, we will see what happens when other human agents (lawyers, archive institutions) join the dialogue between  these intermediaries and ourselves.

Nicolas Malevé Bio

Since 1998 Nicolas Malevé, multimedia artist, has been an active member of the association Constant. As such, he has taken part in organizing various activities to do with alternatives to copyrights, such as Copy.cult & The Original Si(g)n, held in 2000. He has been developing multimedia projects and web applications for cultural organisations. His research work is currently focused on information structures, metadata and the semantic web and the means to visually represent them.

Ali Miharbi – Language of  technology as a thinking tool 

In this presentation I will sketch the potential of the language of technology as a tool to open up, enrich or simply illustrate our current discussions on social/political issues. Using examples of my work as points of departure I will touch on a variety of concepts like performativity, humor and the problem of representation.

Ali Miharbi Bio

Ali Miharbi (b. 1976) lives and works in Istanbul. He acquired a dual degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering (BS, 2000) and Art Theory & Practice – Painting (BA, 2000) at Northwestern University. In 2010 he completed his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. He opened his first solo exhibition at Interstate Projects, Brooklyn, NY. His recent group exhibitions include “Commons Tense”, Electriciteitsfabriek, The Hague (2012), “Turkish Art New and Superb”, TANAS, Berlin (2012), “Consequences are no coincidence”, Pilot Galeri, Istanbul (2012), “video_dumbo: Quasi Cinema”, Dumbo Arts Center, Brooklyn, New York (2011), “FILE 2011″, FIESP Cultural Center, São Paulo (2010), “When Ideas Become Crime”, Depo, Istanbul (2010). His work can take many forms from photographic, graphic or sculptural pieces to dynamic systems driven by live or stored data where he investigates mechanisms that underlie or are constituted by the flows of daily life.

Joasia Krysia – Speculations on Algorithmic Curating

Between the 1960s and 2005, Erkki Kurenniemi, the Finnish artist, scientist, futurologist and technology pioneer set out to  document his everyday life with the intention to create a template for all human life that could be reenacted by algorithms to be written in a future quantum world (with the date 2048 in mind). In a wider sense Kurenniemi acted not only as an archivist of his life but also a kind of curator – working with materials not simply to collect and store but to shape using computational power once it is sufficient for purpose. In 2012 Constant Association for Art and Media began to develop some experiments, making programs to begin to understand Kurenniemi’s materials in ways that go beyond the traditional archiving procedures of ordering and classifying. I would like to argue that their approach is not simply archival either but curatorial in as much as they uncover aspects of what is not directly apparent in the material and produce meaning out of the work. This talk speculates further on this algorithmic approach and extend it to possibilities of thinking about the curatorial process in this way.  I want to speculate on the use of algorithms in producing small curatorial experiments that begin to suggest new ways of understanding materials that are not directly apparent to human curators. Can we begin to think of curatorial processes and the production of curatorial knowledge that extends human agency and uncovers dynamic qualities of materials?

Joasia Krysia Bio

Joasia Krysa is Artistic Director of Kunsthal Aarhus (Denmark), and prior to this she was Associate Professor (Reader) in Art and Technology at Plymouth University, UK (2000 – 2012). She is co-founder of KURATOR, an association of curators and researchers interested in algorithmic culture, and was part of curatorial team for dOCUMENTA (13). She has a background in political sciences and cultural theory, and has PhD in the the field of curating. Her academic and curatorial work is located across contemporary art, digital culture, and critical theory.

She is series co-editor of the DATA browser books (New York), author of Ada Lovelace, notebook no 055 in the dOCUMENTA (13) series 100 Thoughts – 100 Notes (Hatje Cantz 2012) and the edited anthology Curating Immateriality (Autonomedia, 2006). She has contributed chapters to, amongst others, Software Studies: A Lexicon (MIT Press, 2008), and New Media in the White Cube and Beyond (University of California Press, 2008). Her current curatorial work include Systemic Series, a two year programme developed for Kunsthal Aarhus (2013-2014).

Burak Arıkan – Counter Collective Intelligence

Arıkan will pursue a traversal in his works, starting from MyPocket (2008) and raising questions on the preservation of immateriality; discussing Network Map of Foundations and Corporations in Turkey (2010) in relation to power and governence during the Gezi protests; narrating the collective network diagrams generated on the Graph Commons platform (2011-); and finally calling for action for a recent data research and mapping project, code named “Network of Dispossessions”, mapping of government-corporate partnerships in urban transformation.

Burak Arıkan Bio 

Burak Arıkan is an artist working with complex networks. He takes the obvious social, economical, and political issues as input and runs through an abstract machinery, which generates network maps and algorithmic interfaces, results in performances, and procreates predictions to render inherent power relationships visible, thus discussable. Recent exhibitions include: Home Works 6 (2013), 11th Sharjah Biennial (2013), 7th Berlin Biennale (2012), and Nam June Paik Award Exhibition (2012). Arıkan is the founder of Graph Commons platform, dedicated to provide “network intelligence” for everyone.

Image: Network Map of Foundations and Corporations in Turkey-project by Burak Arikan.

vakiflar-sirketler-agi-2010-alinti-burak-arikan

OOPhotography

April 4, 2013 1 comment

Congratulations to Paul Caplan who yesterday passed his viva very succesfully! These are the important moments of academic incorporeal transformation where one metamorphoses from Mr Caplan to Dr Caplan!

Besides OOO/OOP as its theoretical approach, it is a creative practice PhD, representing a very exciting addition to practice as research that relates to visual culture as well as software studies! See here for a video sample of his work and thinking (Originally in O-Zone: A Journal of Object Oriented Studies):

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