Thanks so much Anna Munster, and Welcome Simon Biggs and Mad
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Timothy Conway Murray
PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 10:48 am    Post subject: Thanks so much Anna Munster, and Welcome Simon Biggs and Mad

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It is so fitting that end the week featuring Anna Munster with her
important recollection of the feminist roots of Melindha Rackham's
founding of -empyre-. Thanks so much, Anna, for your helpful focusing of
the week's discussion of net.art and finance as well as for your other
important contextualizing of net.art and the -empyre- list.

We are now pleased to welcome to the third week of "Through the Net: Net
Art Then and Now," two other long time participants and supporters of
-empyre-, Simon Biggs (AU) and Madeleine Casad (US). I still remember how
energized I was to run across Simon's pionneering interactive digital art
in the early 1990s. Many subscribers will recall with fondness that he
worked with Renate and me as a moderator of -empyre- and shaped so many
important discussions, which remain accessible on the -empyre- archive:
http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/. Mickey also has been a
vital part of the -empyre- community ever since Cornell's Rose Goldsen
Archive of New Media Art stepped in as a cosponsor with the University of
New South Wales (where Anna Munster teaches, so the loops continue). We
were very sad to see her leave Cornell for Vanderbilt University after
fifteen years of helping to build the infrastructures of the Goldsen
Archive since its founding in 2002.

So welcome back to -empyre- both Simon and Madeleine.


Simon Biggs (UU) is a media artist, writer and curator with interests in
digital poetics, auto-generative and interactive systems,
interdisciplinary research and co-creation. He is Professor of Art at the
University of South Australia and Honorary Professor at the University of
Edinburgh. His work has been widely presented, including at Tate Modern,
Tate Liverpool, Tate Britain, Institute of Contemporary Arts London,
Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow, Kettles Yard Cambridge, Centre
Georges Pompidou Paris, Academy de Kunste Berlin, Berlin Kulturforum,
Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Kunsthalle Bergen, Maxxi Rome, Palazzo della Arti
Naples, Macau Arts Museum, Oi Futuro Rio de Janeiro, Arizona State Art
Museum, San Francisco Cameraworks, Walker Art Center Minneapolis,
Queensland Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He has
presented at numerous international conferences, including the
International Symposium on Electronic Arts, ePoetry, Society for
Literature, Science and the Arts, Electronic Literature Organisation and
Festival International Literature Electronica Sao Paulo and lectured at
Cambridge, Newcastle, Cornell, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, Ohio State,
Paris 8, Sorbonne and Bergen Universities, amongst others. Publications
include Remediating the Social (2012, editor), Autopoeisis (with James
Leach, 2004), Great Wall of China (1999), Halo (1998), Magnet (1997) and
Book of Shadows (1996). He has held lecturing posts at Middlesex
University and Academy Minerva Groningen and Professorships at Sheffield
Hallam University and the University of Edinburgh. His URL is
http://www.littlepig.org.uk


Madeleine Casad (US) teaches in the Vanderbilt University Department of
Cinema and Media Arts and coordinates the Vanderbilt Center for Digital
Humanities. She has been involved in efforts to preserve and historicize
digital media art practices since 2002, when she began working in Cornell
Universitys Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, a collection for which
she became Associate Curator that spans six decades of global history and
a complex variety of electronic media formats. Until 2016, she managed
outreach, education, and preservation initiatives in the Goldsen Archive
and developed digital humanities programs for graduate students as part of
Cornell Universitys cross-institutional Digital Humanities Collaboratory.
Her academic interests focus on narrative, identity, counter-history, and
contested public memory across varied technologies of storytelling. In
2012, she defended one of Cornell Universitys first comparative media
dissertations. In 2016, she oversaw and co-authored the Goldsen Archive's
innovative white paper, "Preserving and Emulating Digital Art Objects"
(https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/41368).

So welcome back to -empyre- Simon and Madeleine. We're really looking
forward to your thoughts on Net.Art.

All my best,

Tim






Timothy Murray
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
Taylor Family Director, Society for the Humanities
http://www.arts.cornell.edu/sochum/
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu
A D White House
Cornell University,
Ithaca, New York 14853


_______________________________________________
empyre forum
empyre@lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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Simon Biggs
PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 4:46 pm    Post subject: Thanks so much Anna Munster, and Welcome Simon Biggs and Mad

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Thanks to Tim and Renate for inviting me to contribute to the discussion on empyre this month, on how net art has travelled the past 25 years and artists working in the field are responding to the progressive commercialisation of the network.

Firstly, a word of warning. My post-humanist tendencies have always been informed by a borderline misanthropy. The proposition that we as a species are no longer human isnt extraordinary, given that we never seemed to fulfil the ideal that was the human. We are failed humans (our idea of what it is to be human) and that failure demonstrates our hubris in believing we could be better and our incapacity to be so. The internet has also been a field of failed dreams - as with all media and representation, it is a mirror of our failure.

Recently Ive become interested in the concept of dark matter as a metaphor for our collective unconscious. This year Ive made a new interactive environment titled Dark Matter and also written an article about that work. Documentation of the work can be found here:
http://littlepig.org.uk/installations/darkmatter/index.htm

My thesis in this work is simple and, I feel, illustrative in the context of this discussion. The proposition explored in Dark Matter is that we are motile assemblages rather than stable individuals, subsets of a larger assemblage that could be considered a form of 'collective unconscious'. That assemblage is explored as shaped by the forces of dark matter, in the form of the cultural information and patterns that we "don't know that we know". This is a generative ontology, manifest in the artwork through multi-agent interaction with liminal visual and textual information. Interactors physically interact, through the use of motion tracking, with textual fragments derived from interviews with a Guantanamo inmate. Depending on the number of viewers the 3D textual space is rendered from first, second or third person points of view, creating a shifting experience of the immersive environment as a form of co-reading.

As background to the ideas explored in Dark Matter, Slavoj Zizek has observed, @ http://www.lacan.com/zizekrumsfeld.htm
"In March 2003, Rumsfeld engaged in a little bit of amateur philosophizing about the relationship between the known and the unknown: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." What he forgot to add was the crucial fourth term: the "unknown knowns," the things we don't know that we know - which is precisely, the Freudian unconscious, the "knowledge which doesn't know itself," as Lacan used to say."

Zizek argues, in the short text from which the above quote derives, that the activities of US and allied invaders at the Abu Ghraib prison camp belong to the category of unknown knowns. The activities at the Guantanomo detention facility can be considered similarly. Initially designated Camp X-Ray it has lived up to its name - a strange contradictory existence where activities we 'dont know we know' are broadcast around the planet. This is a strange form of knowledge indeed, where we are all implicated, even as we suppress that we know. This is our 'dark matter', accruing to the force that disallows us to escape ourselves, forever repeating and failing our human existence. The force is ourselves - we are black holes in the making.

What has this got to do with the internet and net art? As suggested earlier, the internet is a mirror of our failures. It might also be considered as something of a repository for our 'unknown knowns', our forgotten knowledge, our suppressed reflections - the reflections of ourselves we do not want to know. Artists have always been excavators, or revealers, of such buried reflections. Net artists are no different. They work in the subterranean reaches of the internet (the internet isnt in the cloud but in the sewers - perhaps Warks streets? - beneath our feet) to bring to the surface that which we have buried and forgotten. It is the case, though, that this task has become more difficult as those sewers have filled up with the crap generated through the commercialisation of the internet. Not only has the weight of shit that needs to be lifted up that much heavier but the systems we use to do so, the protocols of the internet, have been weakened through fragmentation, as the internet has been broken up and bounded by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and numerous other corporate agents. The task facing the contemporary net artist is that much greater than a generation ago. Perhaps it is little surprise we see far less effective work being done in the area. But there is work, sometimes recognised and sometimes not. The question is who is doing this work?

Id like to identify three of these. What they all share in common is that they all engage with the network but they arent necessarily focused only on, or primarily with, the internet as we usually think of it. Its the concept of the network, and the relational implications that flow from it, that each of these three projects share. They are all working towards outcomes that affect peoples lives, both those directly involved in the projects and others. They are all, in contradiction of my above argument, working towards an ideal of some kind. This is work I would argue is post-internet in that the work is inconceivable without the internet but extends far beyond it to a more fundamental engagement with how social inter-agency might function.

Furtherfield exists as a physical place in the form of the Furtherfield Gallery (including Furtherfield Commons) in Londons Finsbury Park, a website at http://furtherfield.org/ and the netbehaviour listserv. Each of these aspects of what is a distributed organisation undertake projects in the different kinds of social contexts each aspect facilitates, whether it be exhibitions, workshops, online events or the discourse of its listserv (which isnt that dissimilar to empyre, although as a non-curated list its discussion is more free ranging and volatile). Furtherfield has been in existence since 1996, so amongst the early initiatives that emerged as the internet and the web collided into general consciousness. Its success is evidenced in its longevity, its expansion and diversification and the impact it has had on numerous artists, activists, hackers, makers and community workers.

The P2P foundation is "a global network of researchers, activists, and citizens monitoring and promoting actions geared towards a transition to a Commons-based society. We are a decentralized, self-organized, globally distributed community building an information-commons ecosystem for the growing P2P/Commons movement. We examine both the digital and the material worlds, their freedoms and restrictions, scarcities and abundances. We are an incubator and catalyst, focusing on the "missing pieces" and the interconnectedness that can lead to a wider movement. https://p2pfoundation.net/

Sauti ya wakulima (The voice of the farmers) at http://sautiyawakulima.net/bagamoyo/about.php?l=1 was developed by Mexican artist Eugenio Tisselli ( http://motorhueso.net/ ) as "a collaborative knowledge base created by farmers from the Chambezi region of the Bagamoyo District in Tanzania by gathering audiovisual evidence of their practices using smartphones to publish images and voice recordings on the Internet. The intention is to collect and share the tacit knowledge held in the community to promote sustainable traditional farming methods in the face of globalised agri-business (perhaps this is a bit like contemporary net artists trying to work in the cracks in the corporatised internet). Through this communication system the indigenous farmers work with each other, their extended community, scientific researchers and others to develop strategies to adapt their activities in a changing environment.

Hopefully empyre listserv members will have a look at each of these initiatives and a discussion can ensue around how we can work with the internet to better social outcomes - or whether we shouldnt bother. Im in two minds myself...

best

Simon

Simon Biggs
simon@littlepig.org.uk
http://www.littlepig.org.uk
http://amazon.com/author/simonbiggs
http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/staff/homepage.asp?name=simon.biggs
http://www.eca.ed.ac.uk/school-of-art/simon-biggs
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Casad, Madeleine
PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:37 pm    Post subject: Thanks so much Anna Munster, and Welcome Simon Biggs and Mad

Thanks, Tim and Renate, for such a wonderful introduction, and thanks, Simon, for starting this week off so richly.

It’s funny - I’ve come across that Rumsfeld quote so often recently – in situations totally divorced from its original, military-paranoid context—that I was beginning to worry he would be remembered only for his pithy contribution to the philosophy of the unknown, and not for his architecture of war, torture and death. Zizek’s take on the “unknown knowns” of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib is a good corrective for my concern.

I’m intrigued by the postulate of “Dark Matter” as a kind of collective unconscious, but I’ll add a note of borderline idealism to Simon’s borderline misanthropy, and assert that these ‘unknown knowns’ also include the repressed knowledge that things could be different, better. Awareness that things don’t have to be so horrific is the flip side of awareness that things are so horrific. Both these impulses need to be contained, if one is to function in the workaday world of the postindustrial West. But both are always with us. In a sense this makes “Dark Matter” a site for ethical impulses, as well, which is fitting if we think of this, with Simon, as a “larger assemblage” that we, only-partly-individuated “assemblages” that we are, are bound to participate in.

I’m interested in the examples you share, Simon, of net projects that suggest deeper engagements with “how social inter-agency might function.” Say what you like about the corporatization of the Internet, the ubiquity, visibility, and immense power of its networks as a structuring epistemological metaphor have all contributed to a rise in network-oriented, ecological thinking that helps us recognize, preserve, and appreciate the value of what I, perhaps somewhat glibly, think of as “oikodiversity.” (I’m borrowing here, with apologies and all due humility, from Hannah Arendt and her analysis of oikos, the ancient Greek designation for the intimate sphere of family and household, as distinct from the public, social, and more properly political-economic sphere of the polis.) Projects like those Simon references point to a variety of models for “social inter-agency”, a variety of ways to construe the relationship between intimate networks and political economies, and a variety of ways to imagine the interpenetration of material, emotional, biological, and cultural life. Drawing on conceptual analogues in the fields of ecology and public health, the idea of protecting diversity as a good in and of itself has far more traction now than it did even ten years ago.

Each of the projects from Simon’s earlier message is engaged with such preservation, in the face of the digital monoculture of the corporatized net. The “Voice of the Farmers” project is a particularly effective illustration of the tactical value of preserving embedded cultural knowledge, and of the importance of multimedia documentation for sharing that knowledge in a post-literate age.

I wonder about the prevalence of such projects and whether or not they mark changes in what we want or expect from cultural memory and networks across time. I also wonder about the role of art and art appreciation. Many of the digital projects I encounter in my current line of work are conceived as ’digital humanities,’ not art or net art as such. Many of them involve creating online repositories of previously unavailable records from marginalized peoples – which could be another version of the “known unknowns” of an information society. One of these projects, for example, Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/esss/resources/imagecountsbycountry.php ) involves the establishment of small community digitization labs in former slave states of the Atlantic: Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Spanish Florida. Staffed by locals, these labs photograph documents related to the enslaved populations –governmental, private, and church records—and upload files to a central database, which grows continually as a result of this broad collaboration. There’s a performative aspect to this project—imagine setting up document photo labs in 17th century Columbian village churches!—that would be documented differently and also discussed differently if the overall effort were seen as historically engaged art and not ‘merely’ an online digital archive for scholarly research.

Take care,
Mickey
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Simon Biggs
PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2016 1:40 am    Post subject: Thanks so much Anna Munster, and Welcome Simon Biggs and Mad

Hi Mickey
The examples you give are exciting and remind me of what is probably one of the first of such artistically instigated (but not necessarily art) initiatives, Antonio Muntadas’s File Room. This was a repository of censored and banned cultural material, often of a socio-political nature.
http://webenact.rhizome.org/thefileroom/20160205200018/http://www.thefileroom.org/ (http://webenact.rhizome.org/thefileroom/20160205200018/http://www.thefileroom.org/)

The link to the original project is now dead but the above link takes one to what seems to be a reasonable facsimile of the original. The File Room was initiated back in 1979, so pre-internet. It was a physical archive, at the Randolph Street Gallery. It evolved into an online presence later and lives on as an online facsimile (well, is it a facsimile? - in the online digital environment the simulacrum is pervasive).

best

Simon

Simon Biggs
simon@littlepig.org.uk (mailto:simon@littlepig.org.uk)
http://www.littlepig.org.uk (http://www.littlepig.org.uk)
http://amazon.com/author/simonbiggs (http://amazon.com/author/simonbiggs)
http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/staff/homepage.asp?name=simon.biggs (http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/staff/homepage.asp?name=simon.biggs)
http://www.eca.ed.ac.uk/school-of-art/simon-biggs (http://www.eca.ed.ac.uk/school-of-art/simon-biggs)
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