Monday, March 13, 2006

Memories Are More Source Material

Taragno writes in and asks:
In the spirit of fostering discussion about how to apply critical standards to 'net artists,' I need to ask:

Is memory -- of our own past(s), of others' pasts, of creative efforts that have gone before us -- a liability? Or just problematic? Or a way to allow us the knowledge of just how traveled our potential path may be/have been? (Am I just begging this question? Is it THAT obvious?)

Are all aesthetics equal? (yours, mine, Cory Arcangel, Ann Coulter, Raggedy Andy, Jay Bennish, Leni Reifenstahl?) And if all aesthetics are equal, is there any need to differentiate value of one from the next? Should we just spend our days searching for random Web pages and grooving on what comes up? Explain.
Although I should be clear that I am not going to try and "explain" anything, least of all the thrust of my theoretical poetics, I am open to the possibility of intersubjectively jamming with commenters/contributors via call and response:

So here is a response:

1) Whereas critical readings of net art work are useful in helping us manipulate the metadata we are continually generating in whatever discourse networks we happen to be operating in at any given moment in time, we may want to choreograph our "thoughtographical" movements away from the institutional straitjackets of the art-world establishment while simultaneously opening ourselves up to the creation of (social) networking protocols that enable open source lifestyles and the actionary agendas that come with them to flourish in the network culture like never before. Back in the early days of net art (way back in the 90s), the most notorious artists were always quick to point out that we were not interested in what the critics and museums thought about our work, and certainly never supported any kind of evaluation standards. We were getting more hits on and links to our sites than any of the curators, gallery directors, or critics could ever dream of. In some ways, that was the critical measuring device. I can certainly understand why someone might find that problematic - and see how that would annoy knee-jerk modern and postmodern elitists alike. For a slightly humorous take on all of this, see the Introduction to Net Art, particularly section 4B.

2) Memory is more source material. It is always part of the mix, always fighting for my attention as I unconsciously trigger my hyperimprovisational performances. In this way, my memories are selfish, like the selfish gene you find in memetics. Was it James Joyce who referred to this source material as "memoreme"?

3) The question a hyperimprovisational performer has to address while tapping into their aesthetic potential is: what fragments of source material will you be sampling from so that you can further manipulate [hack into being, invent yet again] your pseudo-autobiographical work-in-process? And if you are accessing this source material in an unconscious way, then can you really say that you are making this work of art as an extension of your free will?

4) Each artist/writer/nomadic wanderer has to create their own path.

5) All aesthetics are not equal.

6) The unstable system, the unreliable narrator, and the nomadic net artist, conspire to turn your experience of the world into a "consensual hallucination," which in another post I suggested was a literary invention. That is, if you are looking for ways to add your critical voice to the big bowl of rhetorically-charged, mixillogical soup, you may want to stir things up by turning to narrative discourse and persona-inflected myth-making. This has more to do with strategically tapping into the unconscious, sublime maneuvering of the critical artist-player, than with filtering your creative energies through a predetermined set of standards developed by any kind of preordained critical establishment.

7) To quote Sukenick again:
"Narrative thought is, moreover, a powerful form of discourse if only because we all make use of it as we create our own life stories from our experience [...] If we are to revive a critical and ethical counter force, we must move away from 'spectacle' (Debord) and 'simulation' (Baudrillard), and in the direction of the arts – and especially 'fiction' – conceived as argument about experience rather than facsimile of it."
- Ronald Sukenick, from the Introduction to "Narralogues"

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