[iDC] Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?

tobias c. van Veen tobias at techno.ca
Mon Aug 14 15:53:53 EDT 2006

hi iDC,

Thanks to Kanarinka I have been lulled out of lurking & to post something a
little wordy. It's a little stilted. It's email. Please don't take it as
authoritative as its brevity shapes it to be. As I've been thinking about
this for awhile.. I included some footnoted links.

>> So, my questions to the artists, the organizers, the attendees and
>> everyone else is - is psychogeography/locative media work simply R&D
>> for a new generation of entertainment spectacle?

Kanarinka raises the frustration that is everywhere and yet nowhere
manifests in a curatorial mandate.[1] We all know that locative, mobile or
in-situ media is R&D for the nextgen. And it was already R&D test marketing
for the lastgen. The debate between Holmes & Fusco a few years ago at least
appears to agree on these points [2]. Yet, like Holmes I'm always a little
weary of any implied purity in this artistic endeavour.  No technology arts
production is pure from commodity production, entertainment and spectacle.
Stiegler & Derrida write that at a fundamental level prosthesis or the
relation to the technics of the other is the figure of contamination
productive of subjectivity. So at some philosophical level here, we are not
going to be able to simply produce non-appropriable art -- i.e. technics.

But... we could be doing much better in terms of strategizing current
technology arts explorations. The technological givens of corporate research
tend to structure the work, rather than our dreams -- or whatever else.
Thus, at least today, I find the general tendency of psycho-loco projects to
be short-term with few breakthroughs.

I define "breakthrough" either artistically-conceptually (the entertainment
industry is far ahead of artists here) or via hacker means (hackers are
ahead of artists here in repurposing and exploiting the technology). What is
it that keeps artists at the back of the pack?

What IS an "artist" in this nexus.. ?

Many have commented on the disposable aspect of locative media. And not by
choice -- not in the manner in which affectless Pop Art or the repetition of
Minimalism drew attention to itself. The somewhat forgotten history of
Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT) and even of Jean Tinguely has more
to do with the current predicament -- at least from the art world's
historical genealogy. After WWII, the twentieth century seemed much more
ready to assert or grasp the inevitable failure of technology art.[3]
Electronic music appears much more ready to embrace an aesthetics of failure
and since its inception to defer the artist-identity tag entirely (remixes,
variations, filters, recombinance). By contrast locative media seems to
gloss over its essential failures and demand, like the corporate tech it
depends upon, a myth of futurist perfection. We are led to believe all kinds
of underlying presuppositions:The future will be better as we will have more
digital friends! Art will be better because talking all the time and knowing
where people we like and don't like are and when we can talk to them or not
is better! Having a map of the world is better! Knowing all information and
where it comes from all the time is better! [4]

I've read here and elsewhere how many projects are forgettable,
unchallenging, emotionally lacking. Often, such projects are short-term
festival entrants without long-term impact.They resemble the dot-com
entrepreneurs of the '90s: seeking a buy-out. "Short-term," because few
fundamental steps have been taken to undermine top-down corporate control of
these technologies. While the SI may have been delusional and romantic,
pining for a world absent from the spectacular sign, it doesn't mean that
the flow of entertainment today can't be rechannelled away from control by
corporate entities.[5] The SI, of course, gave up on art entirely and
relatively early in their development (1962 or so). One must admire the
strict discipline of the SI even if its end result was alcholism and
suicide. But don't forget -- as almost all artists do -- that the SI even in
the beginning had very little to do with "art."

>> Or, what are we 
>> actually trying to do with these ideas of "play" in urban space? Who
>> gets to play? And what about the interactive cities in Iraq and
>> Lebanon and elsewhere? Why didn't we address war, security,
>> militarization and terrorism as aspects of the contemporary
>> interactive city? For me, running around making the city into a
>> sandbox, a playground or a playing field feels increasingly irrelevant
>> and irresponsible.

While I fully share Kanarinka's feeling and concern, there are all kinds of
tendencies to embrace -- yet always for the best reasons -- a threatening
and restricting moralism which would inhibit what play and freedoms we
currently enjoy. How quickly to lose site of play. In thinking that because
the world is in the sh*ts, we have to lose sight of the strange autonomy of
artistic play encounters all kinds of purges and new Stalinisms. And one
never knows how and where "art" might bring about change. Those
skateboarders broadcasting noise interested me... I like skateboarding... I
like noise...

... that said, addressing militarization, terrorism, security and war would
appear to be the place in which artistic exploration should be forefront or
at least addressed in an exhibition such as ISEA. The military-techno
connection is the place where artistic exploration should be converging with
the kind of security debugging I saw at HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) in
NYC (http://www.hope.net). Artists need to know more about vulnerabilities
and exploits in technology -- especially security. The tactical media model
from the 90s in which hackers and artists converged in long-term projects
(think Critical Art Ensemble) has returned to haunt locative and mobile
media that believes itself strangely distinct from these tensions.

But we all want to play. Everywhere in the world we will always need those
sandboxes -- without them, the world is a mere "sandbox" for the military's
rather vicious and destructive toys.



[1] The way in which Kanarinka and others have described ISEA remind me of
the disappointment in working on the Mobile Digital Commons Network in
Montreal, Canada --
     [ http://www.mdcn.ca / http://mdcn.ca/tiki-index.php?page=SonicScene].

I tried to work through the current appropriations of SI strategies in two
locations --



[2] Brian Holmes brought up the critique of locative media as "naive" quite
a few years ago:


Also Coco Fusco:

And Holmes replying to Fusco:

[3] http://www.propheticdesire.us/microsound/html/2005/2005-05/msg00302.html

[4] http://www.cut-up.com/news/detail.php?sid=330

[5] http://www.grconsortium.org/pdf/V.3-1PDF/V31_Van%20Veen.pdf

tobias c. van Veen -----------++++
http://www.quadrantcrossing.org --
http://www.thisistheonlyart.com --
McGill Communication + Philosophy
ICQ: 18766209 | AIM: thesaibot +++ 

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