Not even news, just notes ongoing, on-working, on-walking, unfinished…
When did we stop dreaming, exagerating, being outrageous, being glamourous in the media art scene? When did we begin to complain about own categories, ontologies, folksonomies? When did we begin to behave properly, to get success, to long for belonging to the contemporary biennales, museum, art centres? Is this because we felt threatened, surrounded by patents, spams, conservatism, tv reality, gruwesome images thus practices, being undersieged by commercialized freedom, institutionalized resistance?
But really, is formalism, cautionness, self criticism, the only way out, off, against brutality, in time of “surabondance événementielle et spatiale et individualisation des références” (M. Augé, Non-Lieux, Introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité, 1992, quoted by T. Druckrey on the pannel Media Art undone).
Well, it looks like the answer chosen by Transmediale 07 in Berlin seems to be yes! Transmediale is a yearly festival for art and digital culture (sic), Berlin 31 Jan – 4 Feb 2007, theme of the year: Unfinish!
But do we really think that by reclaiming one’s place in the art field, or on the art marked, and by focusing mostly on dispositifs, categories, that media practices and media art practitionners will gain themselves a purity or a youth or a maturity?
Brian Holmes in a lecture for Argos Arts Center (Radical Art in a Political Vacuum), on activist media ar,t , proposed to set the turn, the “failure” of the Yes Men “Acceptable Risk” performance in Millenium Centre Convention. By failure, we can understand for an activist action and position using the corporate language and symbols to propagade outrageous corporate methods, the unability to shock that same business environment they were mimicking and mocking. Instead they were qualified as “refreshing”, were asked for business cards or business partnership. B. Holmes was underlinig the mental vacuum of the corporate environment unable to see a fraude, a performance, unable to recognize art or activism once it is dressed with its own signs. But in the context of the art scene (and that was not mentioned by B.Holmes), the Yes Men also, could count on their peers to recognize them as theirs , shown in exhibitions on media art, this time in a form of an installation (e.g: exhibition “Smile machines“, Transmediale 06) with no desire to provoke any reaction against the corporate media art scene. On the contrary they comfort our smartness to recognize them as artivists, and the business corporations as frigthening dummies. Yes men, we are at safe, we are the smart ones.
In a world overloaded, puking with images, where beheaded, hanged people, exploded people are our media landscape, some artists using media chose then for the “empty image”, the “anti-spectacle” in a “lonely” exhition space (Herman Asselberghs- Transmediale 07 Award). Because we became image insensitive, lonely image users, downloading what we want now, better not to produce another image but a mirror image of our rooms, windows, ourselves, empty datas, empty landscapes, empty chairs, but overfloaded with discours, or some gruwesome descriptions. As commitment is useless, as images and symbols are lies or brands, let’s show nothing but discourse, comments, theory. Let’s place them in a room, name them, send them to media competition, exhibit them in museums. Finally a relieve for the spectator, seeing a screen as blank as his/her mind, well if it is a corporate business wo/man, or as full as paper overloaded with media theory if it is one of us, one of us, one of us.
Sex and vacuum
Is there here a sense of irony, the same days in Berlin, the exhibition In me/Out me, was full of sex, sperm, shit, skin, hair, blood…If our mind is becoming as blank as supposed to , to be able to bear the view of violence, pornography, how do we still recognize love, hate? How xan we still “understand” , face these images
Is the image of artist hurting him/herself and being then exhibited, an unbearable image or just an image? Is there something in common between Jeff Koons and Cicciolina, and Ana Mendieta? and Hannah Wilke? Between Chris Burden and Valie Export?
So my point is about the gathering on art works based on what is represented, is a sex a sex, is blood always blood, or is the fact of the overdosis of blood and sex makes you able to differenciate one sex scene of the other, or is it the overdosis of it, that finally will make us unable to make the difference? When you cross, browse these supposedly subversive images in white cubes where you are not allowed to carry big bags in case you damage some of these (most of them) reproductible objects (mostly photographies or videos), is it the same as walking through empty images? Or are you still moved by the commitment of these artists , who during their situated practices, were making difference between blood and blood, skin and skin, sex and sex, still thinking that an image could still speak, a body make a speech. But there, as walker you have to recall to your own memory of art history or society history, or buy the catalogue. So in a way, we could say that to be able to “see”, “read” the images you ‘d have had to have already seen the images to make sense out of them, or not?
I get bored myself so maybe it is not the right track to go on or maybe i have to stop.
Commitment, responsibility, understanding. I was striked by my old school desire for works dealing with dispositifs, aesthetics AND political content. Yes but film theory is content, yes but i mean relationships with contemporary human behaviours and politics. Yes but watching a movie and desconstructing this act is a human behaviour, oh come on, so let’s say showing something that takes a risk, yes but to present an emptiness is a risk.
Ghost in the shell
In this flow of formalist questions about categories, medium, and so on, we met also media with a clear political agenda (Italy, Iraq, Chile), and people who believed in spirits, algorythms, people who believed in the power of the machine or the network to change human power relationships.
The editors and writers of The Book of Imaginary Media, were pointing to the fact that technological evolutions were due or viewed most of the time by people (e.g. Kircher, Tesla, Edison, Turing) who did have a vision and a wish to communicate with the dead, the beyond, the other. That was their/our ability to imagine outside what is here and now, beyond the limits and the borders, wish or ability to imagine an outer. People who took literally the word medium for medium, to mediate our world to other worlds.
The revival of the Allende network project, Cybersyn opens utopian doors to the past: what if he and his team had succeeded? What can we learn from his detournement of a military and controlled structure, to make a collective management of the country ressources and productions?
Images that show ghosts, and spirits (e.g Artefact 07), don’t always transcend the use of computer based videos, and our facing them, watching them, fantasmatic and beautiful. They are playing a lot on the desire to see our own image projected in a square, in a 3D world, in cyberspace, arent they? Havent we had enough of these?
Or havent we never enough of letting traces in this unlimited hypomnemata, memory machine, in ungoing dialogue with it, defining us, defining it, again and again as we watch ourselves in it, trying to read our future, to see ourselves as seen by the others, here the media, or our “friends” in our space?
Ouch where am I now? Personally I dont care about mirror image, about identifying myself again and again online, well hm what am I doing now, hum? True!
Be careful self contemplation is contagious!
Next time we might approach people not tempted by mirrors: on vampyres (see also Brian Holmes lecture and of course Buffy)