Saturday, January 3, 2009

Take Care of the World, Öyvind Fahlström (1975)

1. Art — Consider art as a way of experiencing a fusion of "pleasure" and "insight", Reach this by impurity, or multiplicity of levels, rather than by reduction.

The importance of bisociation (Koestler). In painting, factual images of erotic or political character, for example, bisociated, within a game-framework, with each other and/or with "abstract" elements (character-forms, cf. my statements in Art and Literature 3) will not exclude but may incite to "meditational" experiences. These, in turn, do not exclude probing on everyday moral, social levels. This would hold true equally for theater. In two short plays of mine, The Strindberg Brothers and Hammarskjold on God, performed in Stockholm, dance-like "pure" sequences are interlocked by an actual interview with an aged couple on the cost of living and a representation of the Swedish crown prince burning himself like a Buddhist monk. An interview with a sex-change case is both documentary and pure sound (yells).

2. Games — Seen either as realistic models (not descriptions) of a life-span, of the Cold War balance, of the double-code mechanism to push the bomb buffon — or as freely invented rule-structures. Thus it becomes important to stress relations (as opposed to "free form" where everything can be related to anything so that in principle nothing is related). The necessity of repetition to show that a rule functions — thus the value of space-temporal form and of variable form. The thrill of tension and resolution, of having both conflict and non-conflict (as opposed to "free form" where in principle everything is equal). Any concept or quality can be a rule, an invariable. The high notes or yells of the sex-change interviewer in The Strindberg Brothers (see section 1 above), replacing and cued to the exact length of her questions, constitute a rule as well as the form-qualities of a painted, magnetized metal cut-out. The cut-out is an invariable as form, out- look. As long as another element is not superimposed on it, the cut-out will never vary visually, but its meaning will vary depending on its position. Rules oppose and derail subjectivity, loosen the imprinted circuits of the individual.

3. Multiples — Painting, sculpture, etc., today represent the most archaic art media, depending on feudal patrons who pay exorbitantly for uniqueness and fetish magic: the "spirit" of the artist as manifested in the traces of his brushwork or least in his signature (Yves Klein selling air against a signed receipt in 1958).

It is time to incorporate advances in technology to create mass-produced works of art, obtainable by rich or not rich. Works where the artist puts as much quality into the conception and the manufacturer as much quality into the production, as found in the best handmade works of art. The value of variable form: you will never have exactly the same piece as your neighbor. I would like to design an extensive series of puppet games, sold by subscription, in cut-out sheets; or 3-D dolls (BARBIES FOR BURROUGHS project). And robot theater elements arrange themselves by computer programming.

4. Style — If bisociation and games are essential, style is not. Whether a painting is made in a painterly, in a hard- edge graphic or in a soft photographic manner is of secondary interest, just as documentary, melodramatic and dance-like dimensions can interweave in a play. I am not much involved in formal balance, "composition" or, in general, art that results in mere decorative coolness (art that functions primarily as rugs, upholstery, wallpaper). Nor am I concerned with any local cute pop or camp quali- ties per se, be they the thirties, comics, Hollywood, Americana, Parisiana, Scandinavianisms.

5. Essentials — In order to seem essential to me a material, content or principle does not only have to attract me "emotionally", but should concern matters that are common and fundamental to people in our time, and yet be as "fresh", as untainted by symbolism, as possible. I deplore my incapacity to find out what is going on. To find out what life, the world, is about, in the confusion of propaganda, communications, language, time, etc.

Among the things I am curious about just now: where to find (and make a film of) the life geniuses, individuals who manage to put the highest degree of artistry (creativity, happiness, self-fulfillment) in every phase of their living. What are the relations and possibilities in art-and-technology, new media? Chemical/electrical brain stimulation and ESP. Opera-theater-Happenings-dance.

6. Risk reforms — Attitude to society: not to take any of the existing systems for granted (capitalist, moderately socialized or thoroughly socialized). Refuse to presume that "sharpness" of the opposite systems will mellow into a worthwhile in-between. Discuss and otherwise influence the authorities toward trying out certain new concepts.

The reforms mentioned below are of course not proposed with the huge, rigid warfare states like Russia or the U.S.A. in mind, but rather small welfare states like Sweden, groping for goals. The reforms are all more or less risky — which should be considered an asset: they will appear not as another series of regulations, but as events that might somewhat shake the chronic boredom of well-fed aim-lessness and shove the country in question into international prominence.

7. Arms — Complete and unilateral disarmament (apart from a small permanent force submitted to the United Nations). Small countries will soon have to make the choice between this and acquiring nuclear weaponry anyway. The risk of disarming is minimal, as only other small countries now (or even later with nuclear arms) can be deterred. This step would, among other things, release tax income, man- and brainpower for other reforms.

8. Terror — Instead of prisons, create forcibly secluded, but large, very complete and very "good" communities (everyday Clubs Méditerranéen) where offenders could gradually find satisfying ways of living without further offenses. The risk would of course be the suffering of victims, with potential offenders no longer deterred.

Value: having to find out what makes a "good" community; corralling the discontented part of the population; finding out if punishment deters; finding out if a major part of the population will turn criminal in order to be taken care of in a closed community rather than live in the open one.

9. Utilities — Free basic food, transportation and housing paid through taxes. Risk: "No one will care to work." Value: true equality—everyone paying taxes according to what he or she earns. As opposed to the present token equality, where an apple costs differently to each buyer.

10. Profits — Steer away from redundant, self-revolving production (five to ten different companies producing the same detergent— competition mainly on the level of marketing gimmicks) by letting government agencies assign projects to the two or three most qualified bidders (like military contracts plus limited competition). What to be produced thus will be decided centrally by the country; how to produce, by the manufacturer; and how to divide the profits, by manufacturers and workers. An attempt to combine planning and incentive. The risk of less variety and lack of incentive outweighed by the chance to diminish the alienation in ordinary blindfolded work; of replacing publicity with information; and primarily to divert brain- and manpower to neglected fields like housing, pleasure, education, etc.

11. Politics — Government by experts and administrators. Delegate the shaping of policies and the control of experts to a body of "jurors" replaced automatically at given intervals, chosen from outstanding persons in all fields. Abolish politicians, parties, voting. Perhaps have referendums. Voting and active participation on mainly regional, labor and such levels where participation is concrete and comprehensible.

Find and channel some geniuses into creative administrative and diplomatic work, instead of excluding them from such leadership. Risk: nothing can be worse than the present predicament of power games on local and global levels between smalltime politicians whose sole expertise lies in acquiring and keeping power.

12. Pleasure — "The ecstatic society ". Research and planning in order to develop and mass produce "art" as well as "entertainment" and drugs for greater sensory experiences and ego-insight. New concepts for concert, theater and exhibition buildings; but first of all pleasure houses for meditation, dance, fun, games and sexual relations (cf. the "psychedelic discothéque" on the West Coast, and the multiscreen discothéques of Gerd Stern and Andy Warhol). Utilize teleprinter, closed-circuit TV, computers, etc., to arrange contacts, sexual and other. Incite to creative living, but also approve "passive" pleasures by means of new drugs - good drugs, strong and harmless, instead of perpetuating the use of our clumsy, inherited drugs, liquors, stimulants. Refine the activating (consciousness-expanding) new drugs. And develop euthanasia drugs to make dying easy, fast and irrevocable for terminal cases and prospective suicides.

The risk of people not caring to work anymore would be eliminated by the fact that people would have superficial benefits attractive enough to make it worthwhile to work in order to obtain them.

P.S. In this Manifesto (especially subjects no. 6. 11 and 12) there are several ideas expressed to which I no longer subscribe.

Öyvind Fahlström
New York

above copied from:

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dadaist Manifesto, Tristan Tzara, Franz Jung, George Grosz, Marcel Janco, Richard Huelsenbeck, Gerhard Preisz, Raoul Hausmann

April 1918

Dadaist Manifesto (Berlin)

The signatories of this manifesto have, under the battle cry

gathered together to put forward a new art from which they expect the realisation of new ideas. So what is DADAISM, then?

The word DADA symbolises the most primitive relationship with the surrounding reality; with Dadaism, a new reality comes into its own.

Life is seen in a simultaneous confusion of noises, colours and spiritual rhythms which in Dadaist art are immediately captured by the sensational shouts and fevers of its bold everyday psyche and in all its brutal reality. This is the dividing line between Dadaism and all other artistic trends and especially Futurism which fools have very recently interpreted as a new version of Impressionism.

For the first time, Dadaism has refused to take an aesthetic attitude towards life. It tears to pieces all those grand words like ethics, culture, interiorisation which are only covers for weak muscles.


describes a tramcar exactly as it is, the essence of a tramcar with the yawns of Mr Smith and the shriek of brakes.

teaches the interrelationship of things, while Mr Smith reads his paper, the Balkan express crosses the Nisch bridge and a pig squeals in the cellar of Mr Bones the butcher.

turns words into individuals. The letters of the word " wood " create the forest itself with the leafiness of its trees, the uniforms of the foresters and the wild boar. It could also create the Bellevue Boarding House or Bella Vista. Dadaism leads to fantastic new possibilities in forms of expression in all arts. It made Cubism into a dance on the stage, it spread the Futurist bruitist music all over Europe (for it had no desire to maintain this in its purely Italian context). The word DADA shows the international nature of a movement which is bound by no frontier, religion or profession. Dada is the international expression of our time, the great rebellion of artistic movements, the artistic reflexion of all those many attacks, peace congresses, scuffles in the vegetable markets, social get-togethers, etc., etc.
Dada demands the use of


Dada is a club which has been founded in Berlin which you can join without any obligations. Here, every man is president and everyone has a vote in artistic matters. Dada is not some pretext to bolster up the pride of a few literary men (as our enemies would have the world believe). Dada is a state of mind which can be revealed in any conversation so that one is forced to say: "This man is a Dadaist, this one isn't." For these reasons, the Dada Club has members all over the world, in Honolulu as well as New Orleans and Meseritz. To be a Dadaist might sometimes mean being a businessman or a politician rather than an artist, being an artist only by accident. To be a Dadaist means being thrown around by events, being against sedimentation; it means sitting for a short instant in an armchair, but it also means putting your life in danger (M. Weng pulled his revolver out of his trouser pocket).... A fabric tears under the hand, one says yes to a life that seeks to grow by negation. Say yes, say no; the hurly- burly of existence is a good training ground for the real Dadaist. Here he is lying down, hunting, riding a bicycle, half Pantagruel, half St Francis, laughing and laughing. Down with aesthetic-ethical tendencies! Down with the anaemic abstraction of Expressionism! Down with the literary hollow-heads and their theories for improving the world!
Long live Dadaism in word and image! Long live the Dada events of this world! To be against this manifesto is to be a Dadaist!

Berlin, April
Tristan Tzara, Franz Jung, George Grosz, Marcel Janco, Richard Hülsenbeck, Gerhard Preisz, Raoul Hausmann.

copied from:

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: 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.

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Krämer Sybille, „Das Medium als Spur und Apparat", in id. (ed.), Medien, Computer, Realität. Wirklichkeitsvorstellungen und Neue Medien. Franfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 2000.
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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:

An Ornithology of Net Art, Mark Tribe

One night in the spring of 2000, after a long day of studio visits at an art school, I opened my laptop and found a mysterious email in my in box. I clicked on a link, a browser window opened, and gigantic black numbers flashed on screen, counting down from ten, as an explosive percussion track began to play. What followed was Bust Down the Doors! , a 55-second text movie telling the story of a late-night domestic raid by an unnamed authoritarian force. I was stunned-never before had I experienced such a dynamic, emotionally powerful work of art on a computer screen, let alone one that had reached me in a hotel room via a 56.6K modem.

Since then, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries-a collaboration between Young-Hae Chang, a Korean woman, and Marc Voge, an American man, who live and work in Seoul-have produced some 35 works, all in more-or-less the same vein: text--usually black, sometimes red or blue--flashes on screen, synched to the rhythm of a jazz soundtrack. The technology is Flash, a tool for, among other things, creating and delivering images and animations via the web. Using some fancy math (known as vectors), Flash enables artists and designers to pack a lot of graphic punch into tiny packages that can be delivered quickly over slow Internet connections. Although Flash can be used to do some very complex things (see, for example, the work of Joshua Davis), Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries barely scratch the surface of the application's capabilities. Instead of exploiting Flash extensively, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries delve intensively into a small set of the application's features. Much as Barnett Newman explored the virtually limitless formal and expressive possibilities of vertical stripes of color on canvas, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries play with the narrative possibilities of animated text accompanied by instrumental music.

In 2001, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries won a Webby award in the art category. On the jury, some argued that selecting Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries would send the wrong message to the art world, since their work does not exemplify such distinctive features of the net art medium as interactivity or algorithmic computation. This argument derives from Clement Greenberg's view that "the essence of Modernism lies… in the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself, not in order to subvert it but in order to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence." Although Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries' work fails the Greenberg test, it exemplifies many of the historical and relational dynamics of new media art: an experimental engagement with emerging media technologies; the use of new media to reach audiences directly, without art-world intermediaries; collaborative production; and a global perspective.

Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries found their working method and signature style almost by accident at a net art residency in Brisbane where they had an opportunity to learn and experiment with Flash. Although their work has been installed in museum galleries, such as the American Effect show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2003, their primary venue is a web site, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries Presents. Both artists have worked as translators, and many of their projects are available in multiple languages. In addition to English, there is Chinese, French, German, Korean, Spanish and Swedish. Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries' work is global art for an international audience.

Since 2000, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries have been embraced by the art world in a way that few new media artists have. Indeed, the duo's work may be appreciated more in the mainstream art world than among new media aficionados. Perhaps this is because their work resembles older art forms, such as concrete poetry and experimental cinema, and because its emotionally expressive voices and dynamic visual qualities communicate across disciplinary boundaries. But Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries' mainstream success may also have to do with something far more pragmatic. Unlike most net art, their work is user-friendly, even for those who find computers alien and discomfiting: no small, hard-to-read text, no hunting and clicking, no decisions to make, no forms to complete or files to upload. Works like Bust Down the Doors! and The Art of Sleep capture one's attention, hold it for a short time, and then come to a decisive conclusion. They don't leave one wondering if one has explored enough, or discovered every hidden link. To a time-starved, attention-challenged audience, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries offer conciseness and captivating clarity.

The mainstream art world is, in fact, the subject of The Art of Sleep. Commissioned to coincide with Frieze, the hottest art fair at a particularly market-driven moment, The Art of Sleep features an insomniac narrator who ridicules the art world as "fancy-pants, smart-aleck, self-anointed so-and-sos" and compares art to "the business of religion: it's pretty persuasion. It's hocus-pocus. It's a conspiracy." Our narrator reaches this conclusion via a circuitous route, a literal shaggy dog story in the form of a bedside journal entry in which the sound of a barking dog at night leads down a rabbit hole of logical (and illogical) leaps: from the futility of the dog's barking to the futility of everything, the futility of art, art as the most futile of things, art as futility itself, the "gold standard of futility". At this point, the narrative shifts "from metaphor to materiality" and, in the process, comes unhinged. In our narrator's words, it "leaves the bakery." Art no longer resembles the dog, "it is the dog… art is everything. Not, art can be anything. A fart is art! I kid you not! It's Marcel Duchamp all over again! It's Air de Paris! See?" What are we to make of this?

The Duchampian answer to the question "What is art?" is that art is that which one chooses to call art. Artness is not a quality that things (pictures, stories, performances) possess in and of themselves; it is a status that can be conferred upon absolutely anything, even an ampoule of Parisian air. Art, in this sense, is a matter not of beauty, or profundity, or craftsmanship, but of context.

To call something art is, conversely, to recontextualize it, to relate it to other works of art, both contemporary and historical. When the British artist Richard Long created a visible path by repeatedly retracing his steps through the wilderness and said, "this is an art work," he brought his action and its traces into dialogue with, to name just two examples, the work of Tehching (Sam) Hsieh and Robert Smithson. He said, in effect, "this is not just a walk in the park or a path through the grass; it is a performance, an earthwork." Such acts of artistic recontextualization are thus also philosophical statements, attempts to expand the definition of art. But to call something art is, inevitably, to signal that it merits a particular kind of aesthetic regard, and herein lies the danger for the Duchampian artist. For not everything is worthy of our attention. As our sleep-deprived narrator puts it, "if everything is art, we're going to go nuts. It means that art as we know it is a hoax."

But perhaps it is a mistake to take seriously our narrator's musings about art. After his philosophical tirade, he admits: "this is mindless… a total waste of time." Maybe the real point of The Art of Sleep is, to paraphrase Barnett Newman, that art critics are to artists as ornithologists are to birds, that art should not be taken too seriously, and that critics should find something better to do with their time.

Mark Tribe, artist and curator, is Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media Studies at Brown University. He founded, and is the author of ‘New Media Art' (Taschen, 2006).

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Radio, Art, Life: New Contexts, Helen Thorington

What is Radio Art?

Radio art had a special meaning to those who created it in the US during the Eighties and Nineties. From the most complex hi-tech studio productions to the raw energy of live and interactive broadcasts, these artists were predominantly engaged with subverting media conventions by presenting something other than familiar radio forms.

Thus while the work might use journalistic devices or dramatic conventions, it was neither journalism, nor drama; it wasn’t music either though it might be composed entirely of non-textual sound. American radio art was a vast array of different forms that recognised radio’s distinct means and parameters, and at the same time, its creative possibilities, how it might challenge existing social and cultural norms and create/fashion new ones.

Part of its appeal, as Claire Brilliant so aptly remarks, lay in the tension created when the experimental artist tried to subvert the medium’s mainstream status while simultaneously leveraging its capacity to reach a wide audience.[i]

In the mid 1980s, when I started New American Radio, a weekly series of half-hour radio art programmes by artists for American public radio, there was a stranglehold on channels of distribution; most people, and certainly most artists, were excluded from radio production, just as we were excluded from book publishing and music distribution. Across the US, Europe and the Pacific a handful of great radio programmes focused on radio art and experimental music – The Listening Room in Australia, for instance; Kunstradio in Austria; the Pacifica stations in the US. These, however, were the only places that sound artists could enter broadcasting and take advantage of radio’s mass distribution. And those of us who produced the programming for them, whether we liked it or not, were gatekeepers. There was no such thing as open access.

Today that stranglehold is broken. Personal computers and networked connections are everywhere; and anyone with a computer and a network connection has the capital required for production and can produce and distribute whatever he or she wants – alone or with others.[ii]

The radio scene has changed. Broadcast radio is shrinking under the flood of new technologies. And, as a friend recently remarked, ‘radio art as such seems to have vanished.’[iii] Or has it?

The Networked World: Radio meets Art, meets Life

In 1996 my organisation, New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., extended its mandate to networked art (art that uses the internet as its medium and that cannot be experienced without it) and launched its Turbulence site. Turbulence commissions artists exploring the networked medium and originating innovative work for it. Several of the works on Turbulence reflect the changes taking place in production as a result of the internet. Prototype #44, Net Pirate Number Station by Yoshi Sodeoka is an online short-wave radio station that broadcasts numbers derived from websites. Software in the work goes out to websites of all sizes, grabs some text, converts it into numbers, filters the numbers and then transmits them to the listener using a prerecorded video host personality. Why a radio station that broadcasts numbers rather than music and news? The artist’s reply: ‘We hope you, the user, will look for meaning where there may not seem to be meaning… we want you to see the world in a new way.’

Still it was our blog, Networked_Performance,[iv] launched in July 2004, that brought home the truth of the radical changes taking place as a result of the Internet and its spawn of new technologies. In 2004 the blog entries archived the practice made possible by the ready availability of inexpensive portable devices – wireless, mobile phones, PDAs, GPS cards, Bluetooth, and others. Computation was leaving the desktop and migrating to the street. It would now be carried in the hand, worn on the body, or embedded in devices and in the environment.

Further we observed that the work was being produced by a growing generation of programming capable artists, artistically minded engineers, architects, academics, and others – many of whom did not identify as artists – all repurposing objects from the everyday world, embedding unfamiliar functions in them.

A boxing bag plays meditative tones when struck; an American semi-tropical climbing Philodendron functions as an instrument in a musical ensemble; a park bench moves and sings; a goblet lights up when a distant friend or lover drinks from it; a wall is so sensitive to human presence that touching it sends resonant vibrations through the bodies of the room’s occupants; a darkened room responds to the aggregate breathing of its inhabitants and the lights rise, illuminating the space.

Why create work like this? Why embed alternate functions in familiar objects? The answer resonates with Sodeoko’s earlier reply: ‘We want you to see the world in a new way.’

As mobile technologies became more readily available, those interested in transmission ideas and broadcast tools began to take radio out of the studio: In Soundpocket 2, a huge oak tree, a sculpture, and a small pond served as local radio stations, transmitting internet radio streams; Radio Cycle broadcast stories, news and sounds directly onto the streets via teams of radio-carrying cyclists. CUT-n-PASTE, an Amsterdam women’s artist group, connected its listeners with a number of personalities in Amsterdam’s nightlife, transmitting their lives by the permanent open mike of their mobile phones to audiences via radio, the internet or into a performance venue. For eight days in September 2007, The FM Ferry Experiment, transformed the Staten Island Ferry into a floating radio station, broadcasting to the NYC region as it continuously traveled between Staten Island and Lower Manhattan. Mobile Radio, Sarah Washington and Knut Aufermann’s travelling radio and sound-art project was initiated, its mission, to seek out new forms of radio art by taking radio production out of the studio environment.

Some of these radio projects broadcast alternative content; some did not. All removed radio production from its original source in the broadcast organisation’s studio and put it in the hands of artists and other creative people.

The Emergence of Sound Art as a Prominent Practice

While the issue of everyday sound’s inclusion in the musical repertoire was settled by composers some time ago, it is only recently that we have seen sound-based artistic work flourish, with manifestations ranging from field recordings and sound tools, to immersive installations and computer games.

This rapid and diverse development is particularly evident in the emerging field of sonification. Data sonification – as described by Wikipedia – has long been viewed as a valuable tool for studying complex sets of scientific data by allowing researchers to perceive variations and trends invisible to other analysing techniques; it has not been used extensively by artists until recently. Today, however, sound compositions created by the translation of data to sound are legion.

In August 2007, for instance, composer Chris Chafe let five vats of different varieties of tomatoes from his garden ripen to perfection. He and his collaborator Nikolaos Hanselmann recorded the ripening process by tracking the changes in CO2 that the ripening produces. Music was generated in real time by computer algorithms influenced by CO2, temperature and light readings from sensors in each vat. After the ripening, time was speeded up and a stand-alone computer music piece, Tomato Music was created. Tomato Music is then a sonification of seven days of ripening that takes place in the course of 49 minutes.

In an earlier work by Miya Masaoka, Pieces for Plants, a semi-tropical climbing Philodendron’s real-time responses to its physical environment were sonified or translated to sound by means of highly sensitive electrodes attached to the leaves of the plant. A human, the so-called ‘plant player’ worked with scored movements – proximity, and touch – to stimulate physiological responses in the plant. The ‘plant player’s’ interactions with the plant were then expressed in sound via midi and synthesiser.

German composer Frank Halbig used ice-core data – collected by the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica – to create Antarktica: a climatic time-travel, a concert for string quartet, live electronics and video, performed in 2006.

In 2004, Andrea Polli, a digital media artist living in New York City, sonified the summer heat in Central Park.

DJ Spooky’s most recent large-scale multimedia performance work is Nova: The Antarctica Suite, an acoustic portrait in which every sound is made from the sound of ice (environmental, geological, magnetic, atmospheric etc).

The list goes on and includes many projects where the focus is on sounds in our environment that are undetectable by the human ear: the sound of naturally occurring emissions such as radio signals created by the planet itself;[v] sounds intercepted from space; sounds of clouds – their size, moisture content transformed into musical sequences.

Still other works use the sounds of objects in our environment to create compositions.

In Music for Rocks and Water by Cheryl Leonard, performers play water and a variety of rocks which are ‘dripped, drizzled, poured, rolled, rocked, brushed, rubbed, stacked and even tickled’; sometimes they are played underwater.

Peter Traub’s ItSpace makes use of the sounds of household objects to shape a series of short compositions.

These sound works renew our connection with real life, with the objects and things around us, with the natural world, our environmental concerns, with our universe. As Leigh Landy writes,

[they] offer a return to the connection of art and life because...[their] specific content creates experiential [and imaginary] associations linked with meaning by listeners.[vi]

People latch onto a sound’s perceived origin – they recognise it; they remember; and their memories fill the experience of hearing it again. These references bring the work close to daily life. They shape something we might call an interaction with the world around us, an experience of being in the world.

For many of us the flourishing of sound art is most welcome, signalling that the hegemony of vision may not be forever and that this enhancement of our sensorial experience will bring with it a deeper understanding of our relation, not just to one another but to the world we inhabit and all things in it, and therefore a richer experience of ourselves as perceiving subjects.

From my perspective, we can look on this as one of the true positives that the re-distribution of power across society and geography is making possible.

We Together: Active Listening, Collaboration and Participation

New technologies have developed since the networked_performance blog was initiated. Based on the observation that people go online not for pre-programmed material but to do things together, commerce has returned and established what we call social space: commercial content aggregators like like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. Free and participatory in nature, they give users control of the media they produce and consume.[vii]

Non-commercial specialised sites are plentiful as well, sites like Jason Van Arden’s BubbleBeats, which allows users to combine colourful bubbles filled with music (or other sounds) to create new compositions. They are social spaces. As Van Arden says of Bubblebeats:

It combines the addictive diversion of a casual game, the free expression of music, and the fun of participating in an active social network.

Free, fun, participatory, social spaces are fast becoming the next broadcasters (or perhaps narrow-casters). Activated by them, otherwise passive audiences are making new friends, composing and playing music, uploading videos and photographs, talking, sharing, exchanging, and perhaps most significantly, publishing and distributing themselves.

Virtual worlds offer other kinds of experiences. There, residents explore the technologies and social ramifications of synthetic, multi-user environments, The extraordinary success of virtual worlds such as Linden Lab’s Second Life, rests almost entirely on the decision the company made to support an openness within their 3D virtual world, to turn control over to users, to make it possible for any user to add almost anything to the environment.[viii]

Changes will not stop here. New technologies, new interests, new commercial ventures, will bring additional players to the networked environment, changing existing institutions and how they relate to experimental practices. The new environmental awareness, for instance, has already unleashed a wave of innovation in every category of technology – including portable music and video players.[ix] And, according to media futurist and author Gerd Leonhard, the music industry has undergone more changes in the last months than it has in the past ten years.[x] What lies ahead? Leonhard writes,

… fully interactive, fully-share-enabled, full-length-tracks, will become a default setting on the social networks…. regardless of the record industry’s ‘permission-denied’ tendencies….

…and they will broadcast to (and from!) those always-on, always-within-reach and utterly personalised mobile devices fka [formerly known as] mobile phones, not just to or from computers. Blogs will amalgamate with, and integrate into social networks. Personal publishing will evolve to include entire ‘me-casting’ toolboxes. My taste, my list, my ears, my audience, my artists, my, my network…[xi]

Access and participation define internet activity today. The nexus of experimental activity in radio has shifted and because it has, it has opened doors for thousands whose voices were silent before, and brought with it the possibility of a creative practice that, as Sodeoka hoped for his i#44, Net Pirate Number Station, lets us see our world in a new way.

Helen Thorington, 2008

Helen Thorington contributes a feature article on the evolving context for sound and radio practice, exploring networked media, participatory platforms and the sonification of every-day objects. An introducing to a series of Radio Art including recent work by Christof Migone and Sarah Washington.

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