Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The economics of time

In a 2003 interview, Bill Viola is asked "Do you think that your work offers something that is intentionally excluded from mainstream popular culture?" and he answers:
Yeah, I think that one of the driving engines of not just filmmaking and media imagery today in the larger culture, but in so many facets of culture is . . . time. You can look at conventional training in film as a study in the economics of time: How do you tell this story in a means that is economical, that propels the story forward, that doesn't sit there, and when the sun goes down you don't turn the camera toward the window and watch it go down for half an hour? That's one of the reasons that Andy Warhol's films were so extraordinary, because he just turned the camera on the Empire State Building for eight hours. It sounds like a gimmicky thing, but if you ever watch that or one of his other films, it's incredibly palpable, and strange. I think that the whole notion, since the development of the mechanical clock in the 14th century, of time being portioned and cut up into identical units day and night, doesn't accurately describe our inner experience. Anyone who's ever been awake at 3 o'clock in the morning and goes through their daily life at 3 o'clock in the afternoon knows damn well that awake at 3 in the morning is not the same as 3 in the afternoon at your job. So that subjective sense of self, of space, of time, has been diminished in the great push that civilizations and societies have had to universalize and quantify experience through the scientific method.
The Warhol reference is right on and suggests the possibility of running some experiments in live, 24-hour-a-day web cam performance art projects that would take place in an environment that would be one part Warhol-like Factory scene and one part Big Brother reality TV scene but with an Art Star twist, the overall idea being to turn so-called pop art history and reality TV on their respective heads, that is, to literally behead both reality and TV while simultaneously capturing the palpable, strange universe of intersubjectively shared interior time (think of it as investing ones art-life practice in a creative time-share, i.e. a collaborative lifestyle mash-up that is rooted in sex, labor, sustenance, sustainability, digital connectivity, and a healthy competition between the various intersubjective players who, by being themselves i.e. by opening themselves up to the ongoing becomingness of postproduction practice, find heretofore unheard of ways to survive).

In this projected anti-reality anti-TV 24-hours a day nonstop web cam performance, the intersubjctive players would not pretend that they were always living in sync with each other, even though after some time the women in the performance art / life / happening collective would eventually start menstruating around the same time. These interior, intersubjective, creative time-shares would take place in what, in META/DATA, I have referred to as asynchronous realtime.
Where to begin. Once upon a time won't do, not in this networked space of flows where the mission creep of an illuminating unrealtime takes hold and empowers us to question time itself, to rethink its premises. Of course, these are age-old issues, and an anthropological fictioneer like Jorge Luis Borges was keen to investigate these questions himself in "A New Refutation of Time":
And yet, and yet ... Denying temporal succession, denying the self, denying the astronomical universe, are apparent desperations and secret consolations. Our destiny is not frightful by being unreal; it is frightful because it is irreversible and iron-clad. Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.
And yet, and yet ... we all know what it's like to lose ourselves in the moment. When that moment is somehow artificially constructed as a kind of hyperimprovisationally designed experience colored by the unexpected and, yes, the unintended effects of being online, what happens to our notion of what an artist is and where that artist lives? To rephrase the question: where does the virtual artist, whose navigational dreamworld of fluid intersubjectivity circulates deep inside a peer-to-peer network culture, actually conduct art/life research practice? Or to rephrase the question yet again: where is that missing link of a day-night-space-time when my flight leaves from Colorado on a Saturday and — less than twenty-four hours later — arrives Down Under on Monday?

Talk about cyberpsychogeographical drifting. Perhaps for the nomadic Net artist, this ongoing Life Style Practice of associational thinking that hastily passes through the labyrinthine, networked space of flows takes place in asynchronous realtime.

By asynchronous realtime I am referring to what at times feels like a perpetual jet-lag consciousness or timeless time, a blur motion of experiential metadata that indicates a formal investigation of complex event processing where the VJ artist, always gyrating at a pivotal location in the narrative, becomes a multitude of flux identities nomadically circulating within the networked space of flows (both geophysical networks and cyberspace networks). Living in asynchronous realtime often produces a feeling of being both avant-garde (ahead of one’s time) and time-delayed or even preempted.
The quote above is from the opening section to META/DATA, the paperback of which will be published by MIT Press in late October. The hardback is still available here.

The "always live" web cam performance art project that the experimental Warholian films and complementary Factory Life Style Practice indicate as a Web 3.0 storyworld developed in asynchronous realtime, could be supplemented with all manner of tweets, social networking (Fakebook) updates, text messages, Skype chats, and mobile blogging (moblogging) so that all of the intersubjective players could take digital co-dependency and network addiction into the realms of the super-aesthetic. This would be a complex performance art project that would require more than just getting into the details of your (real and artificial) friends' lives; this would be a mega-artwork that would need to be publicized to the hilt to assure continuous Paypal subscriptions from those who could not afford (lifestyle-wise) to join the collective but who could at least support the artists' practice while they frittered (or was that Twittered?) their lives away...

Anyways, I have to run to campus and teach the opening section of my new digital art classes!

More soon ...


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