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

tobias c. van Veen tobias at techno.ca
Tue Aug 15 23:31:11 EDT 2006


Griffis raised a great point that, if I may paraphrase and expand, for an
artist to be "ahead" or neck-in-neck with the rat pack of entertainment
merely levels art out to the same program. Of course, as Griffis made clear,
this leads to all sorts of questions of the "program" itself: of the agenda
which would call for artistic speed; of the framework in which "ahead" and
"behind" would be defined; and of the definition of the "avant-garde." The
entire association of the avant-garde with futurism in which mobile tech
finds itself would be questioned here -- including a reading in which
"ahead" would signal a linear or vectoral acceleration demanded of the arts
to exceed corporate tech and/or the historical avant-garde. By reversing the
accepted definition of avant-garde, Griffis posited that the avant-garde has
always been "behind," not ahead. The behind is the new ahead. And in a move
which I am particularly enamoured of, he raised the point that the delay,
slow time or tardiness of the artist is an important -- if not essential --
tactic. I couldn't agree more.

(He raised other points too concerning affective politics and I left those
for a diversion which I will have to come back to.)

This led me to a long meditation on time and technology which I am sure you
will be happy to know I left off-list.

The final point I would like to distill for this list, then, in a soundbyte,
is this: that while claiming that the entertainment/corporate tech complex
is "ahead" of the arts falls into all kinds of traps that Griffis accurately
pointed out (and which, to be fair, I am well aware of), it doesn't fully
address the "ahead" of the hacker.

Like the artist, the hacker is behind. Like the artist, the hacker is caught
in the tension between ahead and behind, as neither a manufacturer of
hardware (thus not ahead) but neither behind-the-times (by revealing the
hardware/software's limitations and loopholes, the hacker is "ahead" of the
manufacturer -- or a certain agenda of the manufacturer toward breach of
privacy of the user). The hacker repurposes and explores existing
constructions, but unlike the artist, the hacker investigates the device,
revealing vital information relevant to further production in the interests
of the user. *For the hacker,* art remains content to play with the
construct, even if repurposing it as an "artistic" object. While this may
have sufficed in the past, everything from the SI which would be not easily
digested in the play of consumerism would lead art towards adopting a hacker
approach. I think this is visible in the history of the SI itself when it
denounced art.

As Griffis points out, the purpose of tactical media was to conflate
technological invention with critical awareness. Perhaps, in a way, hacking
with politics. But also hacking with art -- art being this tension too of
the behind/ahead. It is still this moment in which the best mobile tech "art
works" operate. Without the hacking, however, "art" as mere product
placement is most definitely "behind."



> i think there are some unsettled points of discussion in Tobias'
> statement:
> "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.
> ryan
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tobias c. van Veen -----------++++
http://www.quadrantcrossing.org --
http://www.thisistheonlyart.com --
McGill Communication + Philosophy
ICQ: 18766209 | AIM: thesaibot +++ 

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