Saturday, February 10, 2007

Xeros and Zhones

From the high-brow Argentinian art magazine, Revista TDI, comes "El Art de Los Ceros y Unos" , an article introducing the Buenos Aires art world to so-called net art (warning: the download is just under 50MB and all you get is two design-heavy pages in pdf format , in Spanish!, but the cool graphics may be worth it to some).

There's actually a budding net art scene in Argentina and it's driven by narrative projects from artists like Belen Gache and Roberto Aguirrezabala.

DIY new media narrative production and distribution is on the verge of exploding. Similar to Web 2.0, Storyworlds 2.0 promises to be driven less by technology and more by artists telling stories with the aid of easily accessible advanced media equipment. This is a good thing, and somehow reminds me of some the advances made in narrative-oriented net art in the '90s.

We here at Professor VJ work hard at avoiding much of the techno-theory that pervades new media studies these days (and when we can't avoid it, we tend to diss it as creatively as possible in our spontaneous artist poetics). Even David Lynch gets it (and he's not a Deleuze scholar):
MM: How did you end up using video?

DL: I started doing these experiments for my Website and I shot them on the [Sony] DSR-PD150, which is not high-res DV. I would get an idea for a scene or something and I would shoot it and then I started getting more ideas and I saw how these scenes started relating one to another, realizing that all along I’d been working on something. So now I’m committed to the Sony PD150, which I loved by then. We did tests from DV to film and they looked beautiful to me, really amazingly good. I was just a happy camper. I will not go back to that dinosaur film way of going.
This not going "back to that dinosaur film way of going" became super-apparent to me about twelve years ago when I was first reconfiguring GRAMMATRON for the 14.4 baud modem WWW. It's also what made the experience of shooting in Shanghai in November 2006 easy yet (experientially) intense.

Metadata: , , , , , ,

Friday, February 09, 2007


Soon, I'll be developing some creative strategies for the PR activities around my two forthcoming books, META/DATA: A Digital Poetics and a wild novel called 29 Inches.

First things first: this blog is now on the blogroll at MIT Press.

If anyone has any other ideas, including future events that might be good for me to be a part of, please send me an email and we'll see what's poss. I'm thinking book readings for the novel and more artist-styled presentations for META/DATA, especially since it covers a lot of new media subject areas, including the art of VJing, net art, hypertext and other forms of digital narrative, hactivism, web publishing, blogging, and many other contemporary issues in new media studies. Joint events/appearances with others in the field seem especially appropriate.

Lots more to come...

Metadata: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reading / Design / Experience

As Rob Wittig says in an Amerika Online column on Designwriting:
"Experience design (which is another way of looking at interface design) thinks about the time a user spends with a text in the most holistic possible way: what is going on with the user physically, cognitively, emotionally, psychologically, socially. My school of experience design is founded on the assumption that readers use and mold texts for use as fragments in the greater purpose that is the reader's life, rather than the assumption that whole texts mold and change readers in accordance with the whole purposes of the author."
Wittig plays around the idea of "correct reading" which he says consists primarily of
  • strict linear reading
  • reading of every word
  • reading with an equal amount of concentration and attention to every word
  • reading without other simultaneous input (music, radio, television, conversation)
  • monogamous reading (one text at a time, beginning to end, without interruption)
Does anybody still really read that way? I'm reading my video iPod as I type this while listening to The Herbaliser's "Blow Your Headphones". I have a few windows open on my HD monitor, including this one that has Kodwo Eshun telling Geert Lovink:
At some stage we will get music that amplifies the sound of the network. Soon we will witness the birth of an immanent Net sound which is produced and distributed within the networks. I got online only in 1998 and I turned this lateness into my advantage. Old media love the backlash of the Internet which is happening at the moment. Everybody gets caught in this fascination for rejection of no more online, back to the street, to drugs and sex. Under the radar of this fascination a net-based music culture could come into existence. Both the doom and boom aspect of the Net are over. Once they both collapse you get something else. Still, I feel this lack because it is still not there yet. Net theorists are hoping too much for something to come out of MP3, but nothing is happening. Sonic evolutions happen when people give up on things. It is when you give up on breakbeats, that's when drum 'n ' bass happens and nobody notices it. Hiphop is dead. That is when you get extreme mutations.

Somehow, it all feels as though it's happening in my head right now, and I'm not only blowing my headphones, I'm blowing my mind.

Metadata: , , ,

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Homeboy's Participation Art

Digressions within digressions within digressions ...

... that's what blogs are made of ...

One of my favorite galleries in London, located a mere 10 minute walk from my London base on the East end, is the Whitechapel Art Gallery. They are going through a major 10 million pound renovation/expansion and are closed until June 2008. Their Back to Black - Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary during the summer of 2005 was one of the best shows I saw in London that year (or anywhere else for that matter). Presenting "a major survey of the Black Arts Movement in the US, Jamaica and Britain in the 1960s and 70s," the exhibition tweaked me from all sides, exposing the provocative forces of influence that crept into my own awakening political consciousness during that time. As a teenager hanging out in Miami, I tooled around town in my Chevy Nova (known for its three-on-the-tree) proudly showing off my totally whacked out Afro hairdo, carrying around my Afro pick which I would hold by the handle shaped like a raised fist in solidarity with the Black Power movement that was still strong in Miami at the time. Most of my friends, girls and boys, were black (and Cuban, Jewish, or hybridized Juban), and although we were not politically sophisticated and did not know jack about art except for whatever music we were digging at the time, the show in London some thirty years later, including work by David Hammons, Horace Ove, and Llewellyn Xavier, reminded me just how much how Black culture overwrote so much of my experience during those formative, experimental years as an independent teenager running amok in South Florida.

The time was 1974-1977. I was working overtime (50 hours + per week) at the greyhound racetrack and missing some high school classes due to total exhaustion (don't forget that this was Miami in the '70s, lots of "trafficking," Bees Gees and K.C. and the Sunshine Band-styled disco, and mucho "free love" floating in the air). Who could make it to homeroom class at 7 AM (!) after having hung out with the older hipsters until 2 AM? That's when and where my crucial developmental phase as an experimental artist focused on politics (and satire) began to take shape. In case you forgot, this historical time period I am speaking of takes place exactly during and after the political upheavals associated with the Watergate scandal (you could say that I found my "satirical persona" thanks to the idiocy of Nixon and his gang of crooks).

What a time to begin forming ones artistic life. If only I would have learned how to write properly! But who had time? The experiences were too good to let go of and besides, my paycheck was desperately needed to put food on the table for our family of five. Some of these wild times are being slowly leaked into my computer as I continue to write my pseudo-autobiographical novel (working title: "My Oblivion"). It's pseudo-autobiographical the same way Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer is, or Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School -- both of whom continue to influence my nomadic net art practice and who I am forever indebted to for helping me break open my head.

Meanwhile, back here on Planet Oblivion, I just received a copy of a new book co-produced by Whitechapel and MIT Press, entitled Participation. I'm enjoying the mix and quick-fix hits of illumination from Allan Kaprow on happenings, Guy Debord on constructed situations and drifting, and Umberto Eco's Poetics of the Open Work which, as I read it 45 years after its original release, I see prophesizes a lot of the "open content" and "open source lifestyle" movement we have seen develop in the net arts scene:
These poetic systems recognize "openness" as the fundamental possibility of the contemporary artist or consumer. The aesthetic theoretician, in his turn, will see a confirmation of his own intuitions in these practical manifestations: they constitute the ultimate realization of a receptive mode which can function at many different levels of intensity.

Certainly this new receptive mode vis-à-vis the work of art opens up a much vaster phase in culture and in this sense is not intellectually confined to the problems of aesthetics. The poetics of the "work in movement" (and partly that of the "open" work) sets in motion a new cycle of relations between the artist and his audience, a new mechanics of aesthetic perception, a different status for the artistic product in contemporary society. It opens a new page in sociology and in pedagogy, as well as a new chapter in the history of art. It poses new practical problems by organizing new communicative situations. In short, it installs a new relationship between the contemplation and the utilization of a work of art.

Seen in these terms and against the background of historical influences and cultural interplay which links art by analogy to widely diversified aspects of the contemporary worldview, the situation of art has now become a situation in the process of
development. Far from being fully accounted for and catalogued, it deploys and poses problems in several dimensions. In short, it is an "open" situation, in movement. A work in progress.
In fact, a lot of Participation reads like a pre-history to the more gadget-driven, interactive, open source lifestyles we seem inextricably linked to today.

Perhaps what's noticeably missing from the contemporary versions of participatory art are the higher levels of political awareness needed to change the curve of culture. Activating a politically motivated artistic practice that shuns the gallery scene is one thing. Buying into (i.e. consuming) an alternative (DJ, hip-hop, street, online social networking) culture is another. It's true that buying into (i.e. paying for) something is a way to participate in that cultural experience. It's easy: put it on your credit card, then you'll really feel indebted to that fleeting cultural experience that you want to be a part of NOW so that you can continue to distract yourself from the necessity of saving the planet from its running-roughshod inhabitants! I guess you could call that kind of cultural experience a "commodity happening" (I like how that phrase plays with Kaprow's notion of the art happening but also plays with the idea of active consumption as an art form; for example, instead of a bumper sticker that says SHIT HAPPENS, how about one that simply makes it more personalized and verbal, as in COMMODITY HAPPENING).

But let me continue going all intellectual on you and share another snippet from the Participation book, this time from Jean-Luc Nancy on "The Inoperative Community" where he cautions against "the retrospective consciousness of the lost community":
[...]whether this consciousness conceives of itself as effectively retrospective or whether, disregarding the realities of the past, it constructs images of this past for the sake of an ideal or prospective vision. We should be suspicious of this consciousness first of all because it seems to have accompanied the Western world from its very beginnings: at every moment in history, the Occident has rendered itself to the nostalgia for a more archaic community that has disappeared, and to deploring a loss of familiarity, fraternity and conviviality [...]
What we have come to realize, is that this nostalgic harkening back to some kind of original community is fueled by a myth-making apparatus that plays to our sentimental need for something "real" that totally holds together for us. As if some kind of originary "real" were ever there for us to feel nostalgic about in the first place. Very modern in practice and philosophy, but not very useful. Instead, we forge ahead and innovate new ways to participate in the culture we are part of (here's a new title for an artwork or conference paper: "Paypal and the Coming Community?").

For me, the next instance of artistic output/outcome in the participatory economy will evolve around a trip next month to South Beach, the very place I was born (yes, South Beach). No doubt I'll have plenty of opportunities to buy into contemporary multi-culture like never before. It will no longer be the world of Saturday Night Fever, gambling, 100% Columbian Gold, and symbolically purchased Black Power Afro Picks. It will be something else altogether new, and all of it, memories of the past, remixed with experiences of the present as well as sci-fi projections into the immediate future becoming something unreal as if it were happening now, will just be more source material for the live-wire remixologist to concoct into some fresh spin on the scene he is definitely a part of.

Hey -- guess what? It must be Super Bowl Sunday, and all the world is gorging on images of Miami.

The Mother-City giving birth to yet more meta-history on the horizon ...

Metadata: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,