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

Simon Biggs simon at babar.demon.co.uk
Thu Aug 24 07:18:00 EDT 2006

Giselle's post is a typically incisive analysis.

I wonder whether it is useful to speak of "mobile art" projects. It seems an
unwieldy and yet overly specific term as it proposes to cover quite
divergent art forms and agendas, such as locative media, SMS "poetics",
mobile phone video's, etc.

If we can speak of an artform involving communications and IT technologies
which is also public in its mode of engagement then perhaps we can move
towards the definition of our subject.

Perhaps a key element in the general area being discussed is the "public"
nature of much of the work. Public art, as Giselle observes, works in a very
different context to the sort of art you will find in galleries, museums,
the corporate world or elsewhere. Thus it requires its own criteria for

One of the main attributes one can observe about a lot of public art is its
almost subliminal status in the environment. That is, it becomes part of the
environment such that we come to treat it as we treat other elements in the
environment, whether a building, a tree or a street. It is readily
assimilated into our expectations of where we are and thus becomes

Of course really exciting work seeks to achieve the opposite of this and
confronts us with the surprising in such a manner as to give us cause to
stop and ask ourselves questions about where we are, why it is like it is
and what are we doing there? However, even the most exciting work is still
assimilated and rendered invisible. It is probably impossible to make a work
that is endlessly surprising, even a work that is highly dynamic and
ever-changing. Perhaps it is not even desirable to do this? It is possible
that the latent invisibility of an artwork is an important part of its
existence, conditioning its social status and the role it will fulfill in
public space?



On 23.08.06 16:31, "giselle beiguelman" <desvirtual at gmail.com> wrote:

> It seems to me that this debate about the mobile projects presented at
> ISEA and some of the Interactive City works express different
> conceptions on public art and its transformations by the use of mobile
> devices.
> I will repeat here something I already posted, but redirecting the discussion.
> I also have some comments about the militarization of the quotidian
> and they also discuss the public sphere.
> 1) Public art in nomadic culture
> Mobile devices are devices intrinsically related to the multitask
> style of contemporary life. They are made in a way to allow the
> performance of simultaneous and unrelated tasks, such as driving and
> talking, or writing SMS's and attending a class. Therefore, they
> cannot be limited to a field of special attention to the works, such
> as museums and movie theaters. Because of this they catalyze a process
> of de-spectacularization of art, in the scope of the mobility culture.
> In this sense it does not surprise me that someone can not participate
> or interact because needs to work. This is urban space... Not the
> museum. Public art in this context is risk. The challenge of doing
> something that nobody will see or perceive. How to deal with an art
> form to be experienced "in between" while doing other things? How to
> think about put public art without updating the idea of the monument?
> Our bourgeoisie background taught us that we had a role in the public
> sphere but the emergence of the "multitude" changed a lot those
> ambitions and reconfigured the public experience towards distributive
> patterns rather than locative and person to person relations.
> Paradoxically, it seem that we, artists, critics and producers devoted
> to the investigation of mobile art in public spaces have more to learn
> from Robert Smithson and Richard Serra than from Debord and the
> situcionist mythology of the psycho geography...
> 2) militarisation
> We learned from Foucault that power operates through the microphysics
> of power. The militarization of the quotidian in the US and the
> strength of its conservative discourse are distributed through the
> airports agents, Fox products like 24 hours and stupid people like the
> woman Anna met in Starbucks. This is quite obvious for everyone.
> But I think we can say that this conservative discourse is effective
> when we have the opportunity of being part of the crowd who was at the
> South Hall to see the "Survival Labs", one of the most disturbing
> experiences I ever had in my life.
> Presented as a group of performers who uses a unique set of ritualized
> interactions between machines, robots, and special effects devices,
> employed in developing themes of socio-political satire, in spectacles
> where humans are present only as audience or operators, those
> post-modern gladiators and their Counter-Strike minds made me sick.
> In our political moment, it is impossible to operate the critic of
> violence (and war) converting violence in spectacle that deal with
> humans as just audience or operators. The most disturbing part of all
> this ritual, of course, is too see how easy it is to domesticate the
> public sphere transforming its presence in a happy audience delighted
> to be scared by the noise and special effects they see on CNN as
> distant real life.
>>> Molly Hankwitz Cox
>>> Faculty - Interior Design
>>> The Art Institute of California
>>> PhD candidate
>>> Creative Industries/Queensland University of Technology
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Simon Biggs

simon at littlepig.org.uk
AIM: simonbiggsuk

Research Professor, Edinburgh College of Art

s.biggs at eca.ac.uk

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