Thursday, November 05, 2009

Film / Text

Now that the comprehensive exhibition in Athens is well underway, it's time for some serious name-dropping in another direction:

What do John Ashberry, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, William Burroughs, Truman Capote, Robert Creeley. my old undergrad teacher Harry Crews, Louise Erdich, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Norman Mailer, Ted Mooney, my old undergrad teacher Alain Robbe-Grillet, Salman Rushdie, Leslie Marmon Silko, Susan Sontag, Luisa Valenzuela, and Alice Walker all have in common?

At one point in their lives, they accepted invitations to and attended the University of North Dakota Writers Conference. The annual conference has been happening for over 40 years and in March they will host the latest edition entitled Mind the Gap. Eight new names will join that list above including yours truly. It should be an interesting mix of electronic lit / new media art, graphic novel / comix (Art Spiegelman), and Def Poetry Jam (Saul Williams).

In addition to readings, performances, and panels (my gig will take place in the North Dakota Museum of Art), each invited artist is asked to select one film for the 2010 Writers Conference Film Festival that coincides with the other events that week. It was a very difficult decision for me to make!

Like you, I can see any available film that I want to. The tendency is to see things never seen before. But that's not me. I go back to the same films again and again. Two films that have really tweaked my thinking lately, both connected to the work of Charlie Kaufman, are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York. These films speak to me because of the way they play with memory, writing, and both the literal and philosophical forms of postproduction. It's one thing to say "my life is like a movie" or "all the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players." It's quite another to be alive in a time when digitally connected and self-conscious postproduction mediums are proactively scripting their role-playing performances.

But pre-digital forms of "artists as postproduction mediums" abound. Some of the names above -- Burroughs circa The Third Mind or Robbe-Grillet circa Last Year at Marienbad -- come to mind.

But what film speaks to me most today, especially in the context of a famous writer's conference? There's Cassavetes' Faces (dig the mobile camera) or even Hollis Frampton's Poetic Justice.

However, I am being asked to just choose one film and for the 2010 festival I am selecting Chris Marker's San Soleil.

From the opening of the script:
The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland, in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images, but it never worked. He wrote me: one day I'll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader; if they don't see happiness in the picture, at least they'll see the black.

He wrote: I'm just back from Hokkaido, the Northern Island. Rich and hurried Japanese take the plane, others take the ferry: waiting, immobility, snatches of sleep. Curiously all of that makes me think of a past or future war: night trains, air raids, fallout shelters, small fragments of war enshrined in everyday life. He liked the fragility of those moments suspended in time. Those memories whose only function had been to leave behind nothing but memories. He wrote: I've been round the world several times and now only banality still interests me. On this trip I've tracked it with the relentlessness of a bounty hunter. At dawn we'll be in Tokyo.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Remixing My Self (Again) -- Avatar Version

The exhibition catalog for my current retrospective in Athens, which can be purchased by sending an email to [], has a lot of color images including a still of my avatar standing in front of a scene from Society of the Spectacle (A Digital Remix) while the work is looping as part of an exhibition in Second Life:

What does my avatar think is happening when it stands before a work of art that its earthly other has remixed for this virtually internetworked space of flows?

If this virtually rendered and confident young stud represents me or the current version thereof, then does it think what I think or is it just a dense collection of data manifested as pixels performing its awkward dance of simulated image-nothingness, where what is ultimately rendered is a programmable entity that simulates an aesthetic encounter?

Ah, but that can be "me" too, yes?

(Note to avatar: am I or am I not going to Art Miami this year? Answer: not going.)

Can this programmable and simulated aesthetic encounter also be experienced by -- what in META/DATA -- I call the "not-me" i.e. "that pseudoautobiographical flux identity I am constantly portraying while I improvise my life fiction in asynchronous realtime"?

Not to get too tongue-tied here, but according to a prior post, these oscillating personas create multiple layers of experience for the postproduction medium to parallel process in:
But whose pseudo-autobiographical story is it, really?


Remixologically postproducing the source material that I select so as to create another version of myself as who?

The artist as technologically mediated filter / affective agent of remixology / postproduction writing machine / intersubjective jam persona who "plays to play"?
Perhaps the "not-me" is really a postproduction medium operating in asynchronous realtime and, as such, can only be accessed via an unconscious creative potential that participates in a co-poietic unfolding. This issue comes up in the artist interview included in the UNREALTIME catalog.

In digital cultures, this tradition of finding or having been found by ones "unconscious creative potential" can be rendered as a formal experiment in the creation of an even richer co-poietic network potential, one where "going with the flow" is feeling w-r-i-t-e. (Burroughs: "Anybody can make cut-ups. It is experimental in the sense of being something to do. Right here write now.")

Summoning the ghosts of Burroughs - McLuhan - Williams - Olson - and Ornette Coleman - I have no choice but to say
(Capturing) Source Material Everywhere -- 

A Total Field (of Action) --

(Projecting) Composition By Field --

(Remixed Personas) Play to Play.
Source material is not just data for data's sake either. Nor is it just hackworthy computer code in an open source environment that the programmer can manipulate to alter the functionality of the program. Source material can be found within interpersonal relationships via the body language gestures of those who we used to or still hang out with as well as the stylistic tendencies these same people have revealed to us through their various artworks. David Antin, in what it means to be avant-garde:
the best you can do depends upon what you have to do and where / and if you have to invent something new to do the work at hand you will / but not if you have a ready-made that will work and is close at hand and you want to get on with the rest of the business / then youll pick up the tool thats there / a tool that somebody else has made that will work / and youll lean on it and feel grateful when its good to you / and youll think of him as a friend who would borrow as freely from you if he thought of it or needed to / because there is a community of artists / who dont recognize copyrights and patents / or shouldnt / except under unusual circumstances / who send each other tools in the mail or exchange them in conversations in a bar
These "friends" are crucial spigots of source material and when added with the free flowing excess of our simultaneous and continuous mash-up of cultural influences that endlessly spur us on to actively participate in a social network of collaborators (creative co-conspirators), we start feeling ourselves awash in an amniotic fluid where it's only natural to experience a kind of body-brain-apparatus achievement while composing on-the-fly remixological discourses in asynchronous realtime. Thanks to the core group of people I was hanging out with in Athens last week, one could say I was swimming in it -- living in unrealtime (to stay on message).

We don't even really have to be aware of our past influences while we participate in these "primary bursts of creativity immersed in their own remixological potential." They reside in the body like a second -- or third or fourth -- nature, something that enables us to "play ourselves" without having to think about it. But where these creative potentia reside in our bodies is another story. As far as I can tell, there is no advanced biophotonic imaging technology on the market that can come close to visualizing our past influences in any concrete way, so we are left to our imagination, our dreams, our advanced mnemonic devices triggering neural fireworks in the thick of body-brain-apparatus achievements. My experience in making art across the medium spectrum suggests to me that the subjective events we process while we tap into our unconscious readiness potential are themselves the only creative acts worth investing in, and that they are generated by an ongoing sequence of embedded remixological styles, styles that organically mature via a process of innovation that pervades the structure of contemporary myth-making, something I became hyperaware of while enjoying many aspects of urbanized Greek culture last week.

The contemporary art world programs its own origins as well as the significance of its own cult and ritual practices. I once created an art+language piece entitled "How To Be An Internet Artist" that opened:
  1. Create a fictional identity.

  2. Begin the branding process by turning this fictional identity into your domain name.

  3. Register your domain name and set up an account with an Internet service provider (ISP).

  4. Build a site-specific narrative mythology out of bits of data and then use the ISP to distribute this data to the niche markets that are waiting to form (digitally converge).
(It has since been collected here and here and was the title to my 2001-2002 retrospective at the ICA in London)

Narrative mythology is an ancient literary form that can be updated for digitally-networked culture and has the potential to become the most prominent art form of the 21st century. This may sound crazy but most people thought I was going off the deep end in 1993-94 when I began touting the end of print publishing and the rise of network publishing. Of course, this new media artist who excels at the art of narrative mythologizing will require a hybridized skills set, particularly literary skills, visual art skills, performance art skills, a cinematic imagination, and a bit of entrepreneurialism mixed in with a healthy dose of post-Marxist creative hactivism (these things are not as mutually exclusive as we might like to think).

In the old days (like 2001), digital artists were teased about their methodologies. We were told that we don't make real things and that real artists use their hands to make real things that will survive as objects to help verify the truth of an art object's existence. Seriously, I heard that kind of pretentious criticism all of the time. But I did not hear anything close to that in Athens last week at the museum opening.

I wonder what Hermes would think of all of this talk about real artists using their hands to make real things?

As a guide to the underworld, he knew that the artist was the medium was the message.

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