[iDC] Re: Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?

Ryan Griffis ryan.griffis at gmail.com
Tue Aug 15 15:52:35 EDT 2006

These are great questions and concerns coming up here, for me. Of  
course, they're not new, but i think people, including myself, feel a  
certain urgency that may be new due to emerging circumstances.
To play the devil's advocate (or maybe Adobe's advocate in this  
instance), i wonder about the explicit and implicit attention to the  
problem of commodification.
While the capitalist directive that many of us find troubling in  
locative media projects (their existence as commercial R & D and  
class-privileged mobile play), i wonder if directing the critical  
energy towards the commercial pull of the "market" isn't misdirected.
To be sure, i say this with much hesitation, trepidation even, as i  
do think the "market" is the most destructive symbolic force around.  
But i wonder if there isn't a need to redirect a bit.
Specifically, i'm thinking of some of the ideas of Bruno Latour, and  
his critique of the project of critical theory. Not of its strategy,  
but of its tactics. If you haven't read Latour, i think the most  
direct examples of his writing on this can be found in an interview  
with him in Art Journal (spring 06) and his contribution to _Things_  
(ed. Bill Brown). While i'm very suspicious of his attack on  
criticism, i also see some very thoughtful analyses of the current  
political situation where the pomo-political critique of science has  
been become a powerful tool of capital.
Jordan Crandall recently posted an interestingly poetic essay to nettime
where he closes with:
"What possibilities exist, then, for political action?  For Brian  
Massumi, political action has to learn to function itself on the same  
level as affective power:  it has to meet affective modulation with  
affective modulation. Yet does it not also need to reveal the terms  
of this modulation -- in other words, the structuring of the  
affective formula?
An affective, performative politics is certainly of the order, yet is  
this not the aim of political violence?  For Massumi, the crucial  
question is whether there are ways of practicing an affective  
politics that doesn't rely on violence and the hardening of divisions  
along identity lines that it usually brings.  Such an expressive or  
performative politics would require, following Brian Holmes' reading  
of Suely Rolnik, an understanding of political resistance not only in  
terms of sterile confrontation with an objectified other, but in  
terms of a transformational dynamic of reknitting and even  
REINVENTING the relation with the other.
Perhaps, too, the affective FORMULA that traverses form, transforms,  
should not only become the object of cultural analysis, but also that  
of performative and aesthetic practice?  The affective formula that  
carries with it formal imperatives both material and rhythmic,  
interweaving programs, actors, parts, and tendencies.  The affective  
formula that is geared to encounter other formulas and transform them  
from within.
In any case, we are talking about a political practice that is not  
"oppositional" but compositional."
To get to a specific practical example of these ideas playing out (in  
my reading anyway), i think the C5 Corp ( http://www.c5corp.com/ )  
and CLUI ( http://www.clui.org -- who Sarah Kanouse [another referral  
to Sarah!] has written on for Art Journal]) are examples of an  
embrace of a form of critical positivism (if that isn't blatantly  
contradictory!), or what i think looks at politics through a  
"compositional" as opposed to "oppositional" methodology. A project  
that Kevin told me about that was ISEA that i don't personally know  
of, based in China and called "the Long March" sounds interesting in  
this direction as well. i'm also conscious that these projects  
contain their own forms of exclusion.
i think there are some unsettled points of discussion in Tobias'  
"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?"
How does one delineate "ahead of" hear? What is the line exactly that  
the entertainment industry and hackers are "ahead of" in relation to  
artists? Is it affect? The purpose of my questioning this comes from  
my understanding of the "avant garde" as actually always and  
necessarily being "behind" in terms of affect, technology and  
distribution? There are lots of problems with the avant garde as a  
concept, but i have to say that this "slowness" is actually a  
positive attribute in my book. The speed that would make Art "ahead  
of" the pack, is exactly the speed that's being critiqued in terms of  
ISEA, no? That's when art's value becomes one and the same with R & D  
and spectacular distraction (entertainment industry) and loses its  
potential for criticality and reflection.
But that's the question isn't it? Should we be pursuing an art of  
radical invention, embracing positivistic utility and institutional  
identifications in the hopes of creating difference technologically?  
Or demanding our autonomy from function, grounding our play in  
negative dialectics and reflection in the hopes of creating a  
difference through consciousness?
Or is it a mistake to make this an either/or proposition? Wasn't this  
the project of tactical media -- to conflate the two?
Sorry for the lengthy and unfocused response.

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