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

Christiane Robbins at Jetztzeit cpr at mindspring.com
Wed Aug 23 14:33:55 EDT 2006

Hi John, Anna, Steve, et all -

I, too have , been following this thread with great interest since the ISEA/Zero 1 event and am now just getting back to the the screen world.  Having just reviewed numerous posts, I was able to glean an overall impression - enough of an impression to generate my own participation - from a personal rather than theoretical POV.

But, and I risk being interpreted as a blinded cheerleader which is not my intent it is - it is merely to acknowledge the efforts of those who grappeled with this opportunity and ran with it - giving it their all.  It is  Steve, Joel, Beau, Wanda and innumerable others ... who survived all of the psychedelics which accompany the organization of any fesitival taking place in California  - complete in panavision and surround sound —  We might ask how many images/visions did they see before they fell asleep at night ( and that is if they ever slept - which I have my suspicions about)  ... who knows ?  But we can bet that it was all a blur of movement and sound in countless variations .... and of course, with all the orderliness of a beaded kaleidoscope ... a metaphor which is certainly in keeping with the '70's legacy of the "expanded cinema." 

But, of course, this legacy found itself in the midst of a antithetical and somewhat hostile 21st century cultural moment in California ... one that may well be at odds not only with its own legacies but with that of the cultural and political values shared by those around the globe.  I found it interesting that one of the most salient and resonating moments of ISEA was offered by a sociologist, Saskia Sassen.  That in itself says it all.  

Thankfully, the conclusion of this year's "Festival"  left us all with a great deal to consider relative to the state of time based media - digital media - and to the future of ensuring the establishment of an independent and polyvocal presence in our culture(s).  There are cogent posts raising so many issues of critical merit raised thus far on this list  in regard to this Festival ranging from a rather nostalgic intellectual/theoretical rendering of the 21st c tropes of psychogeography and locative media to the ( although not explicitly stated) the privatitization of culture in the increasingly plutocratic  nation  known as the USA and, perhaps, elsewhere;  to the uncomfortable self-censoring "court jester" cultural positioning of and by  Artists of Artist ( did anyone take note of how many ISEA presenters cringed when they made mention of the watchful eye of the corporate sponsors?)

My sense is that this ISEA/Zero 01  Festival continued, in part, the legacy of a previous media festivals held in Silicon Valley.  One specifically  had  laid a foundation from which this year festival took its talking points ... and then launched them into our collective imaginary.  This earlier festival took place in November, 2000 and was titled:  GroundZero: The Art and Technology Network and The Kitchen present:
Art Frontiers: Partners in Art and Industry, and included such panel topics such as 
>From Siena to Silicon Valley: The Role of Culture in Dynamic Times; The Entrepreneur as Artist? The Artist as Entrepreneur?; Post Interval: What's Next?; Subversion or Promotion?: Net Artists Co-Opting Corporate Structure; Art as Research/Research as Art; From A Global Perspective; The Future of Books and Reading; Redefining Reach: New Models.  Participants ranged from Roger Malina ( Leonardo)  to John Warnack (Founder/CEO of Adobe ) + numerous other names familiar to those on this list.  In other words, there is a regional precedent for what has taken place in San Jose - one which is not at all surprising.

This rather telephoto lens of the development of digital media practices in tandem with visual art practices and privatization of funding mechanisms ( art practices as R&D for corporate patrons ) - can be likened to the spread of an image virus, memes that tend to explode out of an emergent set of embedded and acceptable codes and systems.  In other words, they emerge out of a sort of media artist stew seasoned by the gold rush consumerist rage of the dot.com flash and disseminated through a bizarre melding of various on-line exhibitions, blogs, zines, "professional" journals, style magazines, clubing, myspacing,  and I"m sure what will be next the historicizing material agency of  books  ( measured, of course, by the echo resulting from it hitting the table).  Commodification - sure ... aren't these the tenets of late capitalism at work - we are familiar with these - why are we surprised is the more relevant question here.

Within this realm, don't our "products" - cultural artifacts of digital media practice - exists as yet another form of corporate branding similar to the latest pair of Nike stitched up in Indonesia?  And, if one were to accept this position, isn't that in essence the most accurate reflection of a digital media, cultural, visual art practice today - especially in the USA?  This is not to say this is acceptable.  It is not.  And, I firmly believe that numerous artist from the USA will agree that it is not.  

I was heartened to see Adrienne's post, as her practice ( and values) has always been deeply informed by politics - ranging from  the video activisim of Deep Dish to web activism to her current project which speaks to an unfettered belief in a value system rooted in  community activism.  Unfortunately, support for this work is rare in the USA these days and it becomes incumbent upon those who enjoy privilege ( academic, financial, whatever)  to engage with those practices who ultimately are meaningful beyond the more immediate pleasures offered by digital wallpaper, spectacle and scientific delight.  

But again, specific to ISEA and its obligations to the city of San Jose - the Festival succeeded by public acclaim.  I noted in the San Jose Mercury News Letter to the Editors on August 12, 2006:  Headline:  Art Festival brings Community Together - to paraphrase-" just got back from downtown ... felt an energy that I hadn't felt downtown before ( editorial, Aug.10) There was a spirit of community.  people approached each other and started random conversations... " Michael Herring.

What I see erupting on this list are observations that that the desired pluralism of the rhetorics of new media and the network utopia may well be seen as an illusory diversity of rapid factions turning into a mono-culture of rather narcissistic and sophomoric practices... practices associated with the narrow bandwidth of the circuit boys and girls of the empire.

Perversely, this advent of the virtual, or the accident of the real (Virillo) has come up just in time to prop up our sagging belief systems ( spoken as an USA citizen ) .  Culturally embedded protocols, signs , referents, are endlessly being recycled with the hope that some overlooked twisted mutation might catch fire ... again ... Elvis meets Liberace meets FatboySlim?????!

Unfortunately, I have to run but wanted to post this sooner as opposed to later ( something I may regret!)  In any case, more soon-



P.S.  To Anna - Yes, the wars are  happening - rest assured that innumerable Americans are aware of it's trauma and tragedy. Unfortunately, you are correct in that not enough artist are addressing these issues in their work- the reasons for this are complex and again an acute reflection of where American culture is today...which is far different that where it and its European "allies" were in the '60's.-----Original Message-----
>From: John Hopkins <jhopkins at neoscenes.net>
>Sent: Aug 22, 2006 11:40 AM
>To: idc at bbs.thing.net
>Subject: Re: [iDC] Re: Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment?
>Hi Anna!
>>As a visitor to the US, it did seem to me absolutley remarkable that
>>really none of the art works or themes in ISEA this year addresses war. I
>>mean perhaps you guys are not aware but you are actually living in a state
>>- and this was before the recent 'plot'. My partner was engaged in
>>conversation by an American woman in Starbucks who basically told her that
>>the only solution was to "kill all the Muslims".
>>I mean come on...where is the concerted critique and addressing of these
>>issues from within media arts - and I mean from younger artists, not just
>>the established groups such as CAE etc...
>>...or do these issues just seem normalised to those now living in the US?
>your comments strike deep at the fundamentals of the developed world 
>and the US in particular.  As an American who left the US back at the 
>height of the "War on Drugs" -- a time which left the lasting legacy 
>of mass incarceration of minorities over the last 20 years -- when I 
>returned for visits, and now, after a full year in the US -- it is 
>very difficult to articulate the whys of the transformation of the 
>society, yet it proceeds.
>At any rate, I think it is still true that whatever particularity you 
>confront in the US, there are many contradicting alternatives.  Some 
>hidden, some disguised, some in the process of morphing from one form 
>to another.  Creativity is becoming the enemy of those in power. 
>Fear is the primary instrument for them to maintain control.  Many 
>people here are afraid (of the Other).  This is an evolution of State 
>which has happened historically in other places.  I personally see 
>this condition as a demonstration of how the Nazi regime gained 
>control of the German state with no substantial protest from the 
>population.  The identification of the Evil Other was a critical step 
>in that process.
>You are observing the results of this evolution.
>Amurika has always identified itself by its opposition to the Evil 
>Other -- and in that comes to severe crisis when there is a hint that 
>there is no Evil Other, only the self in the mirror.  So it hunts for 
>an image to lean against for its own self-worth.  A fundamental 
>psychic problem.
>I essentially empathize with your observations.  And admit that it 
>can be that Empire is indeed rotting to the core.  Just look around 
>at the infrastructure there in San Jose.  Imagine what the US 
>education system, public infrastructure, health services would look 
>like if they received an infusion equal to that spent on bombs, guns, 
>and other killing devices in the last 4 years.  Splendid.  But the 
>cynical leaders are stealing the country blind in every sense -- 
>morally, spiritually, physically, psychically -- sowing fear instead.
>I would have liked to talk with you f2f about this situation in San 
>Jose -- I find it helps to speak with people who are not directly 
>subject to this surrounding social system -- to begin to articulate 
>what is happening here.  It is frightening on one hand, and on the 
>other, it is simply the de-volution of this empire, and nothing else 
>should be expected in the trundling, crushing, passage of beast into 
>the historical pantheon of Empire.   It is not normalized for people 
>who are still capable of feeling, though feeling in this system is a 
>contradictory and challenging prospect.   As the Canadian filmmaker 
>Bruce Elder observed:
>"The darkening of the world, the flight of the gods, the 
>transformation of humans from flesh to metal, the spread of the 
>hatred of fertility and creativity are all processes that have gone 
>so far that they sometimes seem irreversible. They have proceeded so 
>far that we no longer even remember what was lost in forsaking our 
>humanity, and are unable to gauge how far we have declined."
>The most radical action against this process is the facing of the 
>Other and engagement despite the fear of that unknown on through to 
>understanding.  That can happen on a 1-2-1 basis, actually HAS to 
>happen at that granular level for the re-volution, re-velation, and 
>creation to proceed!
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" ... the space between zero and one ... "
                  Walter Benjamin

         Los Angeles  .  San Francisco

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