Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Working On and With Eigensinn, Giaco Schiesser

Media | Art | Education [1]

Translated by Tom Morrison

The article focuses on a media and art education in pace with the times, through a new approach: the conception of Eigensinn (approx.: wilful obstinacy) of media and artists is developed in detail as the crucial artistic and media productive force. Giving an insight in some central influences / demarcations/ transformations of different art media in the 20th century it proposes that a forward-looking media art education in pace with the times could rest on three pillars: 1. Training in individual, collective and collaborative media authorship. 2. Working on and with the Eigensinn of media (e.g. film, photography, computers / networks and the fine arts). 3. Art as process, art as technique. These three pillars are worked out and presented in detail.

Zurich, July 2004 / October 2005
In memory of Hans-Jürgen Bachorski (1950-2001) [2]

Since to talk about something inevitably means to keep silent about many other subjects, I wish to begin by stating what I will not be talking about.
1. I will not discuss "broad" or "narrow" definitions of art, or indeed propose a normative definition. You will hear nothing about notions of art as a "Gesamtkunstwerk" along the lines first formulated by Richard Wagner, then democratized by Joseph Beuys, and recently updated by artists like Roy Ascott. Nor will you hear anything about Umberto Eco's definition of the "open work" or about notions of art that attempt to establish a work's character as art exclusively on the basis of its aesthetics by means of the internal structure or of the semantic compression, and the resultant "surplus value" of a picture, a novel or a film.
2. I will not discuss "broad" or "narrow" definitions of the concept of media, either. That means you will hear nothing about the meaning and implications of definitions that, in line with Herbert Marshall McLuhan, count cars and trains alongside the media of literature, photography and film, or about the even broader concepts that, following Niklas Luhmann, include money and love as media. I will also keep silent about very specific understandings of media such as are the basis, for instance, of Claude E. Shannon's mathematical information models.

However, there are five things I do want to talk about:

1. that which I am attempting to describe with the notion of the "Eigensinn of a medium";

2. the meaning of the terms "art as technique" and "art as method";

3. several historically recurring processes in the emergence of a new medium, and the implications of these processes for the arts;

4. a few conclusions resulting for an art and media education in pace with the times;

5. and finally, the prospective central importance of art and media in what is problematically termed the "information society", the era now underway.

1. Eigensinn – Meaning and potential of a concept
At a time when the major narratives to which we had bid conclusively farewell have become possible once more, I wish to begin with a small but magnificent story:
"Once upon a time there was a child who was wilful, and would not do as her mother wished. For this reason God had no pleasure in her, and let her become ill, and no doctor could do her any good, and in a short time she lay on her death-bed. When she had been lowered into her grave, and the earth was spread over her, all at once her arm came out again, and stretched upwards, and when they had put it in and spread fresh earth over it, it was all to no purpose, for the arm always came out again. Then the mother herself was obliged to go to the grave, and strike the arm with a rod, and when she had done that, it was drawn in, and then at last the child had rest beneath the ground."
This "tale" (no. 117) is by far the shortest of those included in the 1819 collection of fairytales by the Brothers Grimm. It is entitled Das Eigensinnige Kind [3] ("The Wilful Child", Grimm 1884, p. 125).
More than 150 years later, that particular fairytale was the subject of a lucid interpretation in Geschichte und Eigensinn, a book co-authored by the renowned writer, filmmaker and television producer Alexander Kluge and the sociologist Oskar Negt (Klege/Negt 1981, pp. 765-769). Kluge and Negt worked out the rich lexical substance of the term "Eigensinn" (along with the adjectival noun "Eigensinnigkeit" - a word and motif core existing solely in the German-speaking countries - and made the extended, transformed term the strategic pivot of their individual- and species-historical developmental analysis. They define "Eigensinn" as 1) a focus in which history can be comprehended as the centre of conditions of dialectic gravitation, 2) as a result of dire distress ("bitterer Not"), 3) as a reaction to the duress of a given context, 4) as the protest, condensed in one point, against the expropriation of one's own senses leading to the external world, and 5) as the further working of motifs expelled or retired from society at the place where they have most protection, namely in the subject (see Kluge/Negt 1981, p. 765ff.).
For Negt and Kluge, the Eigensinn of individuals represents an intertwining of two different processes: on the one hand, it is the place of repressed desires that have not been lived (Ort der verdrängten, nicht gelebten Wünsche) that accumulate in the course of an individual and social life. Of something yet to be settled ("ein Unabgegoltenes"), which - because unable to be stifled - insidiously and recurrently makes itself noticed (the hand of the obstinate child that repeatedly emerges from the grave after the child's death, because the child finds no rest). On the other hand, Eigensinn is the point of departure of all social and individual processes (Ausgangspunkt aller gesellschaftlichen und Individuellen Prozesse): social starting point for every political and cultural project, individual starting point for a self-determined life lived according to its own sense (eigen-sinnig). Eigen-Sinn, "own sense, ownership of the five senses, through that capability of perceiving what happens in the world around oneself" (Kluge/Negt 1981, p. 766) is the place which must recurrently be worked out in the course of an individual biography and from which a life of one's own can and/or must develop under the given conditions of a historical conjunction. In everyday life, people fulfil not only externally imposed requirements but also pursue their own objects by evading - sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously - with surprising, peculiar ("eigen-artig": of its own kind) and obstinate attitudes those things which they are economically, politically or culturally required to do, undermine them, ignore them, trample them underfoot, oppose and transverse them. [4]
The Eigensinn of individuals is best described by this conscious-unconscious, sometimes bizarre and often contradictory will to do that which they want to do, under whatever conditions, by their self-determined actions, their mentalities and their recalcitrance, and by the desires recurrently articulated in a form that goes against the grain. [5]
Due to the semantic richness of the words Eigensinn / Eigensinnigkeit, I have proposed that they be adopted as loan words in English.

2. Excursus: The two paradigms of the concept Eigensinn / Eigensinnigkeit - superbia vs. productive force
In German, the words Eigensinn / Eigensinnigkeit possess a lexical aurora encompassing at least four layers of meaning:

1) in the most current everyday usage, with clearly negative connotations: stubbornness, headstrongness, obstinacy, wilfulness, sometimes madness;

2) the literal meaning is "with the specific sense a person gives to him or her self and with which he or she interprets/maps their environment";

3) again, literally: with one's own five senses, that is to say with one's own sensibility/sensuality (in German, sense Sinn and sensibility Sinnlichkeit share the same common etymological root), with the logic and/or structure according to which a person behaves;

4) as positively connotated attributes, Eigensinn / Eigensinnigkeit mean independence,
originality, perseverance, self-confidence, an original way of looking at things.
The subdominant, repressed and suppressed tradition of the conception of Eigensinn as positive, as a productive force was disclosed only in the 19th century, with the Grimm brothers' transcription of the tale of The Wilful Child. The conception which appears here deserves to be worked out in more detail - because of space limitation I can only mark the direction here - by linking it to Sigmund Freud's conception of "extrusion" / "condensation" (Verdrängung/ Verdichtung) (Freud 2001), to Jacques Lacan's conception of the "split subject" (gespaltenes subjekt) (Lacan 1975, 1991) and to Antonio Gramsci's concept of the "bizarre", highly contradictorily composed "everyday mind" (Alltagsverstand) (Gramsci 1970, p. 130f.)
The predominant, opposite tradition which stresses the negative meaning of the conception of Eigensinn goes back a long time and can be found very early in the antique and the German languages. [5a] Augustine's more ambivalent concept of "voluntas propria", lat. "cosilium proprium" (a person's own will) becomes definitely a negative concept under the influence of the neo-platonism. From that time on "voluntas propria" became the origin of the original sin and the concept has become a battle concept (Kampfbegriff) to fight for the order willed by God. In the mysticism of the late middle ages the concept was translated as "eigen meinunge" (a person's own opinion) by Meister Eckehard and Tauler. Luther became the first to translate it with "Eigensinn". For both, for Luther's Protestantism and for the Catholic spirituality of the 16th and 17th century (e.g. Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila), "voluntas propria" became the marking for the totality of individual existence and was therefore to be rigorously fought against. Rousseau takes this thread by secularising the term but still using it in a negative way (volonté particulière vs. volonté génerale).
This secularised tradition is taken up, transformed and reformulated, in the work of G.W.F. Hegel [5b] which had a great impact on subsequent times. For Hegel Eigensinnigkeit is a level of the Unhappy Consciousness of the servant, which has to be sublated (aufgehoben). "Der eigene Sinn ist Eigensinn, eine Freiheit, die noch innerhalb der Knechtschaft stehen bleibt". In the framework of her Theories of Subjection Judith Butler has recently picked up the negatively connotated concept of Eigensinnigkeit uncritically approving with direct references to Hegel, (Butler 1997, Chapter 1): "Indeed self-feeling (of the servant, G.S.)refers only and endlessly to itself (a transcendental form of eigensinnigkeit), and so is unable to furnish knowledge of anything other than itself. (Butler, 1997, p. 47).
The history and development of the dominant conceptions Eigensinn / Eigensinnigkeit make clear that the individuality of a person that is rooted in his or her sensibility (Sinnlichkeit) - his or her own senses (Sinnen) - and in his or her own, developed meaning (Sinn) of being in the world has been excluded first under the verdict of the pregiven order willed by God and then subjugated to the majestic-dignity of the (world-)mind. End of the excursus.

3. Eigensinn of the Media as Productive Force
I have proposed that the notions of Eigensinn and Eigensinnigkeit be used in analyzing media and the arts, as well as in producing art (Schiesser 2002, 2003a,b, 2005). In other words: I propose to consider the Eigensinn / Eigensinnigkeit of media as a productive force of its own.
It is this collision of the Eigensinn of the media with the Eigensinnigkeit of creators that initiates and perpetuates a significant and paradoxical process. The artist is subjugated to the Eigensinn inscribed in the media, yet as a creator who is himself eigen-sinnig, the artist also incessantly tries to make the Eigensinn of media yield to his own will. Art has always derived its subjects, aesthetics and future from this process which, because it cannot be resolved, is interminable. I am proposing, in other words, that we talk about the Eigensinn of the media as a productive force.

Everything we are able to say, apprehend and know about the world is presented, recognized and known with the help of media. Ever since the half-blind Friedrich Nietzsche clear-sightedly found that the typewriter was "also working on our thoughts" (an understatement, from the contemporary stance), or at the latest since Herbert Marshall McLuhan's much-quoted aperçu that "the medium is the message", we have known that media do not merely serve to convey messages but are - somehow - involved in the substance of the message. It is therefore necessary to ascribe to media the power of co-producing, and not just transporting meaning, if not to join Roman Jakobson in declaring meaning to be product of the material (sensory) attributes of the medium itself. In other words, media (by which, in the present context, I mean merely those media which have historically earned special significance for art production, that is to say: literature, music, theatre, photography, film, video, television, computer and networks) possess a meaning of their own (einen eigenen Sinn) -- Eigensinn.[6]
The talk of the specific Eigensinn of different media initially makes it clear that media and their codification are never neutral tools for transporting ideas, images and sounds, especially when these media and codes are being used for academic or artistic purposes. They are inscribed with material, semantic, syntactic, structural, historical, technological, economical and political Eigensinningkeiten and their history (one need only think of what we have learned about the Eigensinn of language from writers like Saussure, Nietzsche, Freud, Marshall Mc Luhan, Lacan and Laclau), of which their users have only partial conscious command. In every contemporary medium being used for artistic purposes, then, its entire cultural history is inscribed, sometimes as "dead labour", sometimes as "living labour" (Alexander Kluge in taking up a notion introduced by Karl Marx). Every medium possesses a specific materiality, specific technological prerequisites, specific structural attributes, different traditions, semantic charging, and requires different techniques and modes of proceeding of which the artist is only partially aware. Therefore, every medium contains different potentialities and boundaries, and is furthermore defined in its type and effect by economic, political and cultural factors. That which is able to be written in a literary work differs from that able to be shown in a film. That which photography records or places in scene is different from that expressed by a piece of music.
Each of these mediums is unique and irreplaceable. The history of each medium saw the development of an ongoing repertoire of aesthetics often strictly separated from, or in contradiction to, those of the others. In film, for instance, this repertoire ranges from the silent-film aesthetic of somebody like Georges Méliès over the first and second French avant-garde movements and Italian Neo-Realism to the contemporary splatter movie. In literature it stretches from the aventure novel of Walther von der Vogelweide (or, in the Anglo-Saxon context, from Beowulf) over Dadaism and the écriture automatique of the Surrealists to the collaboratively authored Net literature of the present. In music it ranges from medieval pentatonics and Italian opera over twelve-tone music and jazz up to punk, hiphop and ambient - to name but a few examples.
Let me specify a few aspects of the Eigensinn of a medium on the basis of three mediums subject to extensive artistic usage, and using the examples of literature, Net art, and painting. The basic material processed by literature is language. Language is a time-based, mono-aesthetic medium. Whatever literature wishes to express must be presented in linear, sequential form. As a general rule, the reader reads literature in the form of a book, linearly, from top left to bottom right, page for page. A very different situation applies in the case of works of Net art: they too are time-based media, but they are synaesthetic as opposed to mono-aesthetic, since text, image and sound can be present in equal measure. Second, works of Net art are a polyphonic medium: text, image and sound may also occur simultaneously. And, third, Net artworks are fundamentally non-linear in design. Therefore, they demand from the spectator what I call "structural interaction", which may differ in quite a number of ways from the "interaction" of somebody who is reading a book or looking at a painting. Imagine, as the third example, that you enter the Louvre armed with a paintpot and brush, place yourself in front of the painting entitled Mona Lisa and attempt to actively alter the painting with your brush and paint. At the very least, you would have to reckon with legal proceedings and a psychiatric assessment.
These examples must suffice as demonstration of the fundamental differences in materiality, authorship, status of the artwork and the necessary behaviour of recipients in such cases. In one case we have an individual authorship, a finished work of art, and a recipient who, in order to enjoy the art, must read a book or view a picture, while in the other case we often have in front of us a collective, sometimes collaborative, authorship, an "artwork in movement" (Umberto Eco), along with, ideally, recipients who - translocally distributed and synaesthetically solicited - must actively first co-create the work of art as actual co-authors, for if they do not act interactively, nothing happens: no work of art comes into being. And the converse holds true: If the artwork comes to a standstill, if there is nobody interactively manipulating it, then it might be "completed", but is dead at the same time.
I must immediately stress the fact that from the historical perspective the Eigensinn specific to a particular medium - which was always a central theme of artistic production - has always emerged in a process of disassociation combined with reciprocal influence. The separation of established media from new mediums always entailed the transformation of the former. After the invention of photography, for example, the until then important genre of portrait painting receded into the background. Photography was now the medium of portraiture - until, after a renewed transformation, portrait painting became current once more in an innovative form, as for example in Cindy Sherman's untitled photo-portrait series in the 1980s. As a second example I would point to montage, a technique filmmakers adopted from literature and, having further developed it in the film medium, differentiated and transformed to produce a process of reciprocal interaction which has endured up to the present day. [7]

4. Influences | Demarcations | Transformations - On the History of the Media and the Arts
The varied history of the media and the arts makes more clearly discernible, at least since photography was invented, the following processes:
1. Artists working in and with the newly emergent medium must initially take recourse to established aesthetics and the methods of old media. [8] They try out, experiment, and only gradually work out the potentialities of the new medium. In some cases - like literature -the development of adequate, media-authentic aesthetics takes centuries, whereas in other cases - like film - it takes merely a few decades. In the early days of film, for instance, the medium as a matter of course took up established aesthetic elements of literature (such as the narrative structure of the story or the figure of the hero), of theatre (actors, dialogue, set), of dance (choreography, rhythm), and of fine art (panorama, close-up, long shot). [9]
2. "Old", that is to say established, media are plunged into crisis by the emergence of a new medium, and are required to alter their focus and differentiate their strongpoints and unique attributes in a new way within the dispositif of their particular, historically different media and art productions. [10] I have pointed out the altered focuses in the case of portrait painting in the field of fine art. Since the mid-1990s, it has been possible to witness a clear demonstration of the same process in the case of the theatre.
Due to the rise of the new media, the theatre has been in crisis for several years, and has recognized this situation. What answers has it found so far? On the one hand, we have seen the emergence of theatre that radically returns to and brings into focus one of its specific attributes, its physicality (as in the work of the Catalonian group La Fura dels Baus, or in contemporary post-dramatic theatre). On the other hand, theatre has emerged that attempts to reflect upon the new media (computer, networks), and to deploy them not merely as tools but as mediums for renewed, transformed theatre forms (for instance, the Japanese group Dumb Type, the Canadian director Robert Lepage, the Swiss director Stefan Pucher, or the German playwright Ulrike Syha or, within the last few years, also Fura dels baus).[11] In art-historical terms, the alternatives grasped are recurrently either to recall and focus upon a specific attribute of the old medium, or to reflectively integrate the medium which is new at a particular time. Even if the consequences of either method differ, they both bring about a transformation of the established medium.
3. If the Eigensinn of a new medium has to some degree been recognized, tried out and developed, the new artistic methods and possibilities have an effect on the old media. Soon after the invention of photography and film, for instance, these media began to exercise a strong influence on literature, and since very recently we can witness a similar influence being exercised by the new media: The attempt to explode the linearity of the language defining the literary work in its four-hundred year tradition can be traced from Dadaism over the montage novel and écriture automatique up to Concrete Poetry and the contemporary attempts to make useful for printed literature the non-linear link structure which is fundamental to the Internet.
4. Hybrid forms emerge that co-exist with the mono-media art forms. Historical examples would be ready-mades, experimental films, Happenings, art interviews, film essays, video installations.

5. "Art as Technique" | "Art as Method"
As I will demonstrate, art as technique and art as method are two different aspects of one and the same process. I will begin with "art as technique".
It would be possible to connect up the following considerations to current art discourse by referring to somebody like the French philosopher Jacques Rancière, a recognized authority on literature and film, who articulated his view on art as follows: "Like knowledge, art (...) creates fictions, i.e. material redistributions of signs and images of the relationships between what one sees and what one says, and also between what one does and what one can do"(cited after David 2001, p. 195). Or by referring to Jean-François Lyotard's thesis that the work of art "tries to present the fact that there is an unpresentable" (Lyotard 1984, p. 101). This attempt - the ultimate driving force in art - is a "task of derealization" (Lyotard 1986, p. 79) of the images, the representations, the ordering frame of reference. However, I wish to go back further in time and deploy the historical formula of "art as technique", which is rhizomatically linked to the analyses of Rancière and Lyotard. The hugely influential notion of "art as technique" dates back to the Russian literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky. In his 1916 essay "Art as Technique" (Shklovsky 1994) [12] he attempted to comprehend the objective of art, and in particular the objective of the image, while at the same time establishing a clear distinction from the aesthetic of mimesis predominant at the time of writing.
" 'If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been.' And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things [and not, like in science, to recognize them, G.S.], to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar" ["ostranie": making strange, G.S.[13], to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important. (Shklovsky 1994, emphasis G.S.)
Shklovsky is essentially concerned with two things. First, by means of abbreviated (stunted), automated perceptions - "habitual associations" (Brecht) - people rapidly and transiently reduce the wealth of objects and facts in their everyday lives to recognizable schemata (cf. Shklovsky 1994). Art, by contrast, destroys these automatic mechanisms. By various techniques, objects and circumstances are abruptly severed from their customary associations, decontextualized, "made strange", so that the process of perception is prolonged and/or made more difficult, and the object is not merely recognized, but "felt" and, as if for the first time, "seen". The core concept in Shklovsky's considerations is that of the necessity to break through the "automatism of perception" by "various means" (Shklovsky 1994).
The technique of art stressed by Shklovsky has consequences in regards to the aesthetics both of production and reception; in the present context, the production-aesthetic consequences are especially interesting: If the "making of a thing itself" and the "form made difficult", that is to say the "making strange" by "various means", become the central focus of art, then immediately the question about the medium, about its Eigensinn, is on the agenda: about the undiscovered possibilities and obstinacies sketched out above. For the "form made difficult" and the "various means" are directly dependent on the materiality, structure, and technology specific to the chosen medium.

On the second aspect: art as method.
Art as method means to place the experimental in the foreground. But in contrast to the natural sciences, in which falsification and verifiability are the decisive criteria leading to proofs and verifiable results, the ultimate target towards which artistic practice is oriented is not the fixation on results but the process-based character of creative activity. Artistic experimentation is concerned explicitly with the "conditions of what is possible" (Philippe Lacoue-Labarthes, cit. after David 2001, p. 185), not with the foundations of the feasible. As a procedure of artistic practice, experimentation means to develop strategies of innovation. This, however, this presupposes something that might be described as an attitude of inner productivity. This attitude - which any academic media and art education must play an essential role in co-conveying to its students - is expressed in curiosity, willingness to take risks and refusal to compromise in regard to one's own subjects and interests and in regard to the work on and with the Eigensinn of the media. Admittedly, it is possible to theoretically reflect upon the possibilities of a specific medium and also, in the case of media whose histories are as long as those of literature, theatre, dance and music, to analytically define them more precisely. However, in order to investigate, try out, test to the limit and transform a medium, in order to undermine it, hybridize it, to go against its grain, in order to make it sensorially experiencable as an artefact, it is necessary to practice art on and with the particular medium.
Let me illustrate the above on the basis of two examples from film history. In the 1960s, the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard withdrew to Lyon and for several years (as a member of the groupe dziga vertov) was almost exclusively preoccupied with video, at that time a new and exciting medium. The result was a series of videos (Six fois deux, British Sounds, Pravda et al.), in which the video medium is investigated experimentally, and new contents, new techniques, new methods and modes of perception are tried out. Finally, Godard put to use in film the experience thus gained by integrating the investigated formats, methods and findings (non-linear dramatic structure, splitting up one large screen into several small ones, aesthetic of the image) into films such as his Numéro 2 (1975), and so expanded the possibilities of film by transforming the medium. Or take the writer, filmmaker and TV maker Alexander Kluge, who attempts to make the television medium go against the grain, to wrestle from it new possibilities, and in this way enable the viewers to have new experiences, experiences that simultaneously presuppose and promote intense sensorial activity on the part of the audience (of broadcasts such as News and Stories, 10 vor 11, Bekanntmachung! et al.). Kluge accomplishes this by using a number of different aesthetic procedures, techniques and structural elements adopted from the rich history of film, music and literature and adapted for television: minute-long close-ups, original sound, slowness, inserted text panels, or the mounting of "classical lenses" on electronic cameras. "We use," states Kluge, "a Debrie camera from 1923, for instance, and program the electronic computers to obey the rules that long-dead cameramen fed to this Debrie camera. In this way, we recall a piece of dead work from film history, and program it into the broadcast." (Cit. after Schiesser/Deuber 2000, p. 363f.) [14]

6. A Media and Art Education in Pace with the Times
Eigensinn of the mediums, art as technique / art as method - these are the focal themes on which I trained my sights in the foregoing. I chose these aspects of the wide "media and art" field because I consider them to be the strategic factors or problematics in a model of media and art education on a level with the times. Individual, collective and collaborative authorship is the third, and equivalent, factor that joins the two stated already. What would the Eigensinn of the mediums amount to without the Eigensinningkeit and the Scharfsinnigkeit (the acumen) of artistic authorship!
A media and art education in pace with the times, an education thought out in terms of the future and at the same time taking seriously and working through traditional experience, will place territories of experimentation at the disposal of students. In these territories students will be expected and encouraged to carry out curious, radical and uncompromising work -- both individually and collectively, and eigensinnig at all events -- on self-chosen or biographically inscribed interests, contents and subjects, as well on and with the Eigensinn of various single and hybrid mediums.
Today, transmedia education is part of media training. Transmedia education means that the students are empowered to work simultaneously in and with one medium, and at the same time to learn how to devise and use artistically the interface to other media. In a media- and technology-based age like the post-industrial present, authorship means not only individual or collective authorship to which everybody contributes his specific components, but collaborative authorship in which everyone is capable of networking his/her specific skills with those of the others, and over and over again emerges from this process having been fundamentally transformed. However, alongside the development of social, communicative and, in increasing measure, analytic competence, this requires in-depth knowledge of one's own medium and knowledge of the other media. I see the significance of an education that intensifies this mindfulness of the nature of media and simultaneously encourages transmedia networking - and such an education must inevitably extend beyond the subjects offered by an art and media academy - as lying in the fact that it enables the students to make their way as artists on a level with their times or as flexible and versatile media authors of the type increasingly and urgently required by the "information society". In either case, they will be capable as individuals and as members of a team of assuming the responsibility for content, conception, implementation, production processes and budgeting.
If it is true to say that a new medium exercises a dual influence on old media insofar as it forces the latter to re-assess their possibilities in the light of new conditions, and at the same time transforms them, then an important challenge and chance for media and art education lies also, and particularly, in the enabling and furtherance of hybrid or cross-over artworks, be they interactive audio installations, video essays, media architecture, transmedia interfaces in urban spaces, DJ events, digital poetry, new aesthetics of the performative, SMS visuals for clubs, parties, intercity streams of DJ events, Net TV, cultural software, radio concerts for mobile phones - or, or, or. Transmedia or hybrid art demands - and in the mid-term that is the central challenge for art education - the working out, communication and usage of a series of complex specialist areas like neurophysiology, cognitive sciences, architecture, nanotechnology, theories of information, aesthetics, cognitive and perception theory, life sciences. At present, these subjects are taught at not one, but several different, universities - a situation essentially due to the striking leap forward taken by the media as a result of digitalization, even if they had become increasingly technology-based from the invention of photography onward. Thus, for art too, the dispositif has changed fundamentally and dramatically. [15] Some years ago, Hans-Peter Schwarz, the former director of the Media Museum at ZKM Karlsruhe, published a richly informative article in which he reconstructed the changing history of the various arts and of technology since the eighteenth century, and established the inescapable significance of technologies for contemporary and future media arts (Schwarz 1997, p. 11ff.). The linkage of the arts, technologies and sciences - a linkage that during the brief, historic epoch of the Renaissance took place as a matter of course - has today undeniably become a prerequisite for future art and media work, and for that reason also for adequate training in that field.

7. Art Subjects | Immaterial Labour | Post-Postmodernism
"Postmodernism", "Hi-Tech Capitalism", "Postfordism", "Information Age", "Cyber Society", "Network Society" or even "Post-Information Age" - so probing, boldy assertive or normatively defining as these current concepts variously are, and however divergent their implications, they all point to the fact that a transition is taking place from one era to another. Among all the differing viewpoints in the specialist literature, there is agreement on one aspect: that digitalization and the concomitant computeratization and networking will fundamentally change all areas of society, politics, economics and culture, and in part have done so already. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly clear that what for some time now has been discussed under the rubric "immaterial labour" is gaining strategic importance. (See Negri et al. 1998 for an introduction.) Whereas "Fordism" or, as the case may be, "industrialized society" required working subjects who, in line with the principle of division of labour and integrated in a regular working day within a system of vertical hierarchy, went about their specific duties and clearly separated their working time from their leisure time, Postfordism demands working subjects of a wholly new order. At least in the fields in which graduates of an art and media academy will work, Postfordism already requires extremely creative subjects, subjects who are active, have multifarious interests, and are "rich in knowledge" (as the Italian social theorist and Postoperaist Toni Negri puts it), and preferably can demonstrate "hybrid CVs" (as Josef Brauner, former CEO of Sony Deutschland, put it already in the mid-1990s). Or, in the words of Maurizio Lazzarato, a leading theorist of "immaterial labour": subjects who are capable of combining "intellectual capabilities, craft skills, creativity, imagination, technical expertise and manual dexterity," of making "entrepreneurial decisions, of intervening within the framework of the social conditions, and of organizing social co-operation" (Lazzarato 1998, p. 46) - in other words, subjects who have taken to heart the principle of art as method.
That the above does not automatically lead to an affirmation of the social status quo, as some of you may fear and others may hope, becomes clear if you remind yourself that critique of society, not to mention its transformation, never originates from one location (there is no Archimedean point), but takes place in several places simultaneously. It needs artists who, with their aesthetic works, their sensory artefacts, offer us new modes of perceiving and thinking, new models of experience, place in our hands new instruments for drawing up maps and navigating. And in equal measure it needs media workers who - because they have developed their powers of authorship and throughout their studies battled against the Eigensinn of one or more medium - as filmmakers are capable of making television better than the programmes we see every day, as photographers are capable of deploying their medium in innovative fashion in newspapers, magazines, books and advertising, or as new-media specialists are capable of trying out and implementing cultures of playing other than the conventional shooter games, as well as new learning environments or the machinic platforms whose potential has so far hardly been fathomed.
The obstinate, wilful (eigensinnigen) members of society will perhaps not thank the graduates or the art colleges, but they will certainly need artists and media products of this kind, and will know how to use them for the greatest of all the arts: the art of their own life.

1) This article was revised and enlarged for the English translation. The original version dates back to 2003, when a first, abridged version was published in the Catalogue of the Ars Electronica Festival Linz2003: “Medien | Kunst | Ausbildung. Arbeit am und mit dem Eigensinn. Das Departement Neue Medien an der Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Zürich“, in Code – The Language of Our Time. Code = Law, Code = Art, Code = Life. Ars Electronica 2003, deutsch / english, ed. by Gerfried Stocker und Christine Schöpf, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz 2003, pp. 368-370 (engl.), pp. 371-373 (german).
The presend English version was then revised and enlarged again for a renewed German publication which has been published integrally in October 2005: „Medien | Kunst | Ausbildung – Über den Eigensinn als künstlerische Produktivkraft“, in, Schnittstellen, ed. by Sigrid Schade, Thomas Sieber, Georg Christoph Tholen. (= Basler Beiträge zur Medienwissenschaft. Bd. 1). Basel: Schwabe 2005.
My thanks go to Matthew Fuller and the Piet Zwart Institute of the Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, for making possible this publication in English.
2) An Old German scholar and professor based in Berlin and Potsdam, with whom I started thinking and talking about the problematic of Eigensinn of men and the media in the 1980s.
3) The celebrated Brothers Grimm (Jakob and Wilhelm) collected a wide range of German fairy tales in the early nineteenth century, and published them under the title of "Grimms Märchen". The collection immediately became famous, and has since been a standard on the bookshelves of every German-speaking household. Just as most British children will have heard episodes from "Alice in Wonderland" over and over again, children in Germany, Switzerland and Austria are familiar with "Grimms' Fairy Tales".
4) Eigensinn / Eigensinnigkeit is one if not the main focus of the whole work of Alexander Kluge. See e.g. his early works Lebensläufe (Kluge 1962) and der Luftangriff auf Halberstadt (Kluge 1977) as well as his recent works Chronik der Gefühle (Kluge 2000) und Die Lücke, die der Teufel hinterlässt (Kluge 2003).
5) The concept of Eigen (one’s own) and its compounds is mostly understood – even with Negt / Kluge - in an essentialistic way. In this understanding Eigensinn becomes the archimedic point of the unquestionable authenticity of individuality. I propose to think of the notion of Eigen and its compounds in a non-essentialistic way: The Eigene, Eigensinnigkeit of a person are effects of conscious and unconscious agencies and experiences. A person has to work off his agencies and experiences again and again, she or he has to construct and organize his/her Eigensinn again and again in a new way – in the sense of Michel Foucault's “aesthetics of existence”.
5a) For this and the overview up to Rousseau, see, Fuchs 1972; completions by the author, GS.
5b) See especially the Chapter "Lordship/Mastery and Bondage/Servitude" in his "Phenomenology of Spirit"; Hegel 1977, pp. 178ff.
6) Sibylle Krämer gives us an impressive analysis of these facts in Das Medium als Spur und Apparat (Krämer 2000). In opposition to Marshall McLuhan ("the medium is the message") and to positions referring to Niklas Luhmann ("the medium is nothing, it does not inform, it contains nothing") she argues that "the medium is not simply the message; rather the message keeps the trace (die Spur) of the medium (Krämer 2000, p. 81, my translation). This trace, which in everyday life we perceive only in the case of disturbances, is a crucial part of every artistic production - facts that amazingly Krämer is not aware of.
A thoroughgoing theoretical connection of the conception of Eigensinnigkeit of media (rooted in the framework of Cultural Studies, media and discourse analysis) with the conception of the Trace (rooted in linguistics and psychoanalysis), as a “present absence” in the sense of Derrida, has yet be accomplished.
7) See, in terms of literature, the work of writers so dissimilar as Alfred Döblin, John Dos Passos, Alfred Andersch, Alexander Kluge, as well as the books of Marshall McLuhan, which by all means can be regarded as literature, and in terms of filmmakers for instance the work of Sergei M. Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Jean-Luc Godard or Alexander Kluge.
8) An example that speaks for itself is the title of Walter Ruttmann's effective article Malerei mit Zeit (Painting with Time) of 1919, in which he tried to catch the new of the new art form film through an impressive formula (see Goergen 1989, p. 74.)
9) Photography furnishes a further example. "In early photography, the shots were often composed like paintings (...); the 'random' appearance of the snapshot, the caught moment, were not yet used." (Bell 2001, p. 116).
10) Impressive evidence for that thesis is yielded by the catalogue Autour du Symbolisme (2004) where the interplay between the art of painting and photography in the early days of photography is worked out in detail. The interplay expands from the legendary reaction of the painter Paul Delaroche in light of photography, “La peinture est morte”, to the poignant similarity of Gustave Courbet’s Origine du Monde and the stereoscopic photography of Auguste Belloc.
Furthermore, every given historical cycle is characterized by articulation through media with a dominant factor or dominant factors. At present, television remains the dominant factor.
11) Fura dels baus have started to discover the net as new platform for their interactive street theatre. See e.g. their interactive audio-net project F@ust 0.3 of 1998. (Further information and links concerning this project can be found on: http://www.swr.de//swr2/audiohyperspace/ger_version/interview/jorda.html). The example of Furas dels Baus shows that a realisation of the two possibilities of dealing with a crisis of an art media does not mean an either – or. Both possibilities may be chosen by the same authors.
12) Shklovsky, Viktor Borisovic, "Art as Technique" in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, ed. Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965, pp. 3-24.
13) Here I follow Renate Lachmann's rendering of the Russian term "ostranie" as "making strange". See Lachmann 1970, pp. 226-249.
14) The history of film, like that of all technology-based mediums, is rich in artists who worked not only on but explicitly with the Eigensinn of the medium.
Just some of the many other deserving names not mentioned so far are, with respect to film: Georges Méliès, the filmmakers of the first and second French avant-garde (like Germaine Dulac, Elie Faures), the exponents of the “Absolute film” (Walter Ruttmann, Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter), Guy Debord, the “documentary filmmaker” Chris Marker, as well as Stan Brakhage, the American filmmaker who died in 2002. Concerning music remember, among others, such different artists as Kurt Weill with his “Absolute Music”, John Cage, Frank Zappa, Prince, Eugene Chadbourne or Fred Frith; for literature, e.g. James Joyce, the Dadaists, the exponents of the “Concrete poetry”, Arno Schmidt, William Burroughs or Thomas Pynchon; for video art, Nam June Paik, Isidor Isou or Karl Gerstner, just to mention some of the first generation; for computer and networks as art media, among others, Jodi, I/O/D, Margarethe Jahrmann, Knowbotic Research or the Chaos Computer Club.
Television is the only media which hardly became an art format. “Television is indeed the most hopeless medium of all for the arts. (…) There was scarcely a phase, when everything was open, allowing creative investigation to define the medium.” (Daniels 2004, p. 58). In spite of the experiments of Otto Piene / Aldo Tambellini, Gerry Schum, Peter Weibel, Valy Export and the WHGB-TV station in Boston it remains a “medium without art” (ibid., p. 59) – with the exception of music video clips, which, though, were developed for different purposes.
An impressive insight, rich in its material, in the development of the tight interplay of media and the arts since the invention of the photography in 1939 to the present is given by the german-english omnibus volume Frieling/Daniels 2004.
15) Here it is necessary to recall something "remaining to be settled" ("ein Unabgegoltenes") in "materials aesthetics", which made strong "art as a specific mode of production". And, in doing so, simultaneously referred art to the fact that it is dependent on the general development of productive forces and would have to reflect upon these for the sake of its own development. A comprehensive insight into the history and projects of material aesthetics is offered by Mittenzwei 1977, pp. 695-730.

- 1460 Antworten auf die Frage: Was ist Kunst?, hrsg. v. Andreas Mäckler, Köln 2000.
- Autour du Symbolisme. Photographie et peinture au XIXe siècle, Bruxelles: Palais des Beaux-Arts 2004.
- Bell, Julian, What is Painting? Representation and Modern Art, London, 1999.
- Brauner, Joseph / Bickmann, Roland, Die multimediale Gesellschaft, Frankfurt a.M. 1994.
- Butler, Judith, The Psychic Life of Power. Theories in Subjection, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.
- Daniels, Dieter, »Television – Art or Anti-Art? Conflict and cooperation between the avant-garde and the mass media in the 1960s and 1970s«, in: Frieling/Daniels 2004, pp. 58 – 79.
- David, Catherine, "Kunst und Arbeit im Informationszeitalter", in Daniel Libeskind et al., Alles Kunst? Wie arbeitet der Mensch im neuen Jahrtausend, und was tut er in der übrigen Zeit?, Reinbek 2001, pp. 183-200.
- Freud, Sigmund, Über den Traum (1901), in id., Gesammelte Werke. 18 Bde., Frankfurt 2001.
- Frieling, Rudolf / Daniels, Dieter, (Hrsg.), Medien – Kunst – Netz, Bd. 1: Medienkunst im Überblick / Media – Art –Net, vol. 1: Survey of Media Art, Wien /New York: Springer 2004.
- Fuchs, H.-J., »Eigenwille, Eigensinn«, in, Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie. Bd. 2. D - F, ed. Joachim Ritter, Basel / Stuttgart: Schwabe, pp. 342 - 345.
- Goergen, Jeanpaul, (Hrsg.), Walter Ruttmann, eine Dokumentation, Berlin 1989.
- Gramsci, Antonio: Philosophie der Praxis, ed. by H. Riechers, Frankfurt 1967.
- Grimm, Brothers: see "The Wilful Child".
- Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, Phenomenology of Mind/Spirit, transl. A.V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
- Kafka, Franz, "A Report for an Academy", in id., Metamorphosis and Other Stories, New York, 1966.
- Kluge, Alexander / Negt, Oskar, "Antigone und das eigensinnige Kind", in id., Geschichte und Eigensinn, Frankfurt a.M. 1981, pp. 765-769.
- Kluge, Alexander, Lebensläufe, Stuttgart 1962.
- Kluge, Alexander, »Der Luftangriff auf Halberstadt am 8. April 1945«, in id, Neue Geschichten. Hefte - 18. >Unheimlichkeit der Zeit<, Frankfurt a.M,: Suhrkamp 1977, pp. 33 - 106.
- Kluge, Alexander, Chronik der Gefühle, 2 vol., Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 2000.
- Kluge, Alexander, Die Lücke, die der Teufel hinterlässt. Im Umfeld des neuen Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 2003.
Krämer Sybille, „Das Medium als Spur und Apparat", in id. (ed.), Medien, Computer, Realität. Wirklichkeitsvorstellungen und Neue Medien. Franfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 2000.
- Lacan, Jacques, »Das Spiegelstadium als Bildner der Ich-Funktion, wie sie uns in der psychoanalytischen Erfahrung erscheint«, in id., Schriften. Bd 1. Baden-Baden, 1975, S. 61-70
- Lacan, Jacques, Seminaire Livre XVI : L'envers de la psychanalyse, Paris 1991.
- Lazzarato, Maurizio, "Immaterielle Arbeit. Gesellschaftliche Tätigkeiten unter den Bedingungen des Postfordismus", in Negri, Toni et al., Umherschweifende Produzenten. Immaterielle Arbeit und Subversion, Berlin 1998, pp. 39-52.
- Lachmann, Renate, "Die 'Verfremdung' und das 'Neue Sehen' bei Viktor Sklovskij", in Poetica, Bd. 3, H. 1-2, 1970, pp. 226-249.
- Lyotard, Jean-François, "The Sublime and the Avant-Garde", in id., The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, Cambridge: Polity, 1991, p. 89ff.
- Lyotard, Jean-François, "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?", in id., The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. G. Bennington and B. Massumi, Manchester 1984, p. 71f.
- Mittenzwei, Werner, "Brecht und die Schicksale der Materialästhetik", in Wer war Brecht. Wandlung und Entwicklung der Ansichten über Brecht im Spiegel von Sinn und Form, hrsg. und eingeleitet von Werner Mittenzwei, Berlin 1977, pp. 695-730.
- Schiesser, Giaco / Deuber, Astrid, "In der Echtzeit der Gefühle. Gespräch mit Alexander Kluge", in Die Schrift an der Wand. Alexander Kluge: Rohstoffe und Materialien, hrsg. v. Christian Schulte, Osnabrück 2000, pp. 361-370.
- Schiesser, Giaco, " Connectivity, Heterogeneity and Distortions - Productive Forces for our Times. The xxxxx connective force attack: open way to the public project of Knowbotic Research +cf (KRcF)", in Aussendienst. Kunstprojekte in öffentlichen Räumen Hamburgs, German/English, ed. Achim Könneke and Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen, Freiburg 2002, pp. 233-237.
- Schiesser, Giaco, "The wilful obstinacy of man - the wilful obstinacy of machines. An Introduction", in, Jahrmann, Margarete / Moswitzer, Max, Nybble Engine. A Nybble is Four Bits or Half of a Byte, Storage DVD, Wien 2003a.
- Schiesser, Giaco, »Media | Art | Education - Working on and with Eigensinn«, in, Code - The Language of Our Time. Code = Law, Code = Art, Code = Life, Ars Electronica 2003, Deutsch / Englisch, ed. by Gerfried Stocker und Christine Schöpf, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz 2003b, pp. 368-370.
- Schiesser, Giaco, „Medien | Kunst | Ausbildung – Über den Eigensinn als künstlerische Produktivkraft“, in, Schnittstellen, ed. by Sigrid Schade, Thomas Sieber, Georg Christoph Tholen. (= Basler Beiträge zur Medienwissenschaft. Bd. 1). Basel: Schwabe 2005.
- Schwarz, Hans-Peter, "Medien - Kunst - Geschichte", in, Medien - Kunst - Geschichte, hrsg. v. Hans-Peter Schwarz / ZKM Karlsruhe, München / New York 1997, pp. 11-88.
- Shklovsky, Viktor Borisovic, "Art as Technique", in, Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, ed. Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965, pp. 3-24.
- "The Wilful Child", in, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt, London 1884, vol. 2, p. 125.

Biography Giaco Schiesser
Giaco Schiesser is a professor for the theory and history of the media and culture with a focus on ”Media Cultures Studies” as well as head of the Department Media & Art at the University of Art and Design, Zurich (Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Zürich, HGKZ).

Giaco Schiesser studied philosophy and German literature studies at the Freie Universität (FU) in Berlin. From 1997 to 2002 he conceptualised and realized the establishment of the university department new media with the focus on digital agency, connective interfaces and collaborative environments at the University of Art and Design Zurich as head of that department. From 1999 to 2002 he was a member of the direction of the department (together with Knowbotic Research and Margarete Jahrmann).
His work focuses on the culture, aesthetics and eigensinn of media, on ideology and democracy, on the constitution of the subject and everyday life.
Giaco Schiesser has lectured as a guest professor in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Japan and the U.S.A.

above copied from: http://distributedcreativity.org/

1 comment:

lillian said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.