Posts filed under ‘Theory of Art’

„Neurocinema Zum Wandel der Wahrnehmung“ (1996) & „Wahrnehmung im technologischen Zeitalter“ (2000) by Peter Weibel

Published in 2000, Peter Weibel’s text „Wahrnehmung im technologischen Zeitalter“ picks up where his previous text „Neurocinema Zum Wandel der Wahrnehmung“ – written six years before – had left off. Focused on the changes perception undergoes in the technological age, both texts explore essential ideas. Namely, the loss of human perception as an anthropological domain, for human perception has been replaced by machine-backed-up perception. Secondly, that there seems to be less interest in understanding the objective changes in the „world of perception“ than in the subjective changes perception undergoes under the influence of the „world of apparatuses“.

This specific interest in the “world of apparatuses” surfaces in the 1996 text „Neurocinema Zum Wandel der Wahrnehmung“, since in it Weibel traces exactly a brief history of technical apparatuses – from photography to the computer. In it the author argues how, in the XX century, the changes in the concept of the visual occurred in parallel to the changes in the concept of the technical image, in this way advocating the importance of looking into the historical conditions of technical visuality in the XIX century. Weibel’s main thesis here is that the creation of the technical image was held under the influence of the industrial revolution, a revolution which was precisely a machine-based one.

On its turn, the postindustrial Revolution is an information-based one. In this sense, the digital image would be the postindustrial version of the moving image and correspond to the substitution of the illusion of the moving image for the illusion of the living image.

„War der Schwerpunkt in den ersten hundert Jahren dis maschineunterstützte Erzeugung von Bildern (Fotografie, Film), ist der Schwerpunkt seit den letzten 50 Jahren die maschineunterstützte Speicherung und Übertragung von Bildern (TV, Computer). Dieser Wechsel ist Fundamental und hat den Charakter des Technischen Bildes vollkommen verändert. Die neue ästhetischen Möglichkeiten der Maschineunterstützung Speicherung und Übertragung von Daten haben auch wesentlich dazu beigetragen, von Medienkunst statt Maschinenkunst zu sprechen“ (Weibel 1996: 187)

Until here the previous forms of retention of the image were of chemical or magnetic nature. These were hardly changeable, highly deletable and extremely difficult to access.
For the first time in history and completely machine created , the digital image not only unites all previous four properties of the technical image but also introduces new ones, such as virtual variability, viability and interactivity. As a dynamic system of variables, the digital image can be changed at any time.

A six moment in this development would correspond to the internet, interface systems and sensory-technologies . This moment is characterized by information reaching more people and occurring in different places (non-local), at the same time or at different times (simultaneous or successive). Weibel speaks of a neurocinema, which could be influenced through brain waves and of the possibility of coupling the human mind with the digital world directly. Having predicted today’s world of connectivity – cableless, non-local, allowing parallel events, where the monopol of the real no longer exists and “citizens look into the image screen of their own brains instead into external reality” -, he further forecasts that the brain would become lossless and be able to couple with the digital world directly.

August 8, 2009 at 8:46 pm Leave a comment

“Political/ Minimal” at the KW Berlin and the road conceptualism has travelled

Francis Alys, Paradox of Praxis 1

Recently, while visiting „Political/Minimal“ curated by Klaus Biesenbach at the Kunst Werke in Berlin, I found myself wondering about the possibility of keeping on doing conceptual work today. Afterall hasn’t conceptualism exhauted all its self-reflexive possibilities already?

Done only one or two years ago, some of the works in the exhibition explore a classical reportoire of forms which are usually associated with minimal art from the 60s. Instead of repeating its typical hermetism this revived minimal brings forth all kinds of political issues.

I was specially impressed by Terence Koh´s piece, an unpretencious pink triangle which mimed the real one sewed in Men´s shirts to differentiate them as homosexuals in concentration camps. This fact alone explains and contributed to their small survival rate.

In Derek Jarman´s film „Blue“ (1993), an empty blue surface is projected together with a soundtrack revealing quotations from the artist´s diary as he went blind because of AIDS. The film, his final work, accompanies the disease process on an almost daily basis. Speaking of quotation, Tino Sehgal performed “Instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things”, a dance piece based on some of Dan Graham´s and Bruce Nauman´s historical performances.
All works pointing to the fact that contemporary conceptual works seem to have abandoned the self-reflexivity and hermetic level which characterized conceptualism in the late 60s and early 70s to embrace aesthetic, personal or political experiences foreign to historical conceptualism.

In itself, this use of former formal structures and strategies to convey a whole new meanings represents an openness. No doubt, did self-reflexivity correspond to a specific moment in Modernism, in which different disciplines took themselves and their own field of research as their own prime subject matter, be it as a reaction to the threat of new disciplines popping up or, the trend of interdisciplinary methods or, a specific socio-political context.

Self-reflexive new media artworks conceptualize their own technical specificity, like Paik exploring things like the effects of magnets in electronic images or, pioneering live broadcasting or, Vito Acconci developing work which played with the possibilities opened up by closed-circuit, etc. in some sort of parallel to Greenberg’s ideas on self-specificity on painting.

Instead of representing a certain decay or a dead end, self-reflexivity has come to include a broader sense. The exhibition “Political/ Minimal” teaches us exactly how historical conceptualism surpassed its own hermeticism to embrace a whole new series of issues outside itself.

Given their specific nature, media art works occasionate an unforeseen and totally different relation with the society they are produced in and which they are produced for. Technology is part of all levels of our life, it is designed to be automatic and acritically assimilated, its is filled up with corporate values and hidden intentions (to force a new need upon us, to makes start a new behaviour, etc) and is distributed through whole different channels. It is in this sense that works reflecting upon the effects and consequences of technology could also be considered self-reflexive.

In this sense, some works no longer conceptualize around their specific technical functions and language but on their impact on us, on society at a larger scale instead.
Moreover, works dealing with self-reference, quotation, referring and reflecting upon icons of the past, should also be thought of as self-reflexive works – Duchamp´s Gioconda with a Moustache when mocking artistic value, cultural tradition, etc.

Self-reflexivity in media art thus includes works dealing strictly with the technical specificities offered by the medium (formalism), works dealing with the consequences for the individuum and society derived from the specific technical possibilities opened by the medium and works referring, quoting other works within a given cultural tradition (linguistics).

May 10, 2009 at 12:19 am Leave a comment

Key Ideas on New Media and Self-Reflexivity- in short

1. Self-reflexivity is by no means exclusive to the field of the arts but a common preoccupation of different disciplines in the XX century
2. Whenever a new medium appears it must struggle to define its own field of actuation and pertinence against all existing mediums
3. Different mediums borrow from and influence avidly each other
4. New media ontologically favour manipulation and experimentation
5. Media specificity must be found in the medium’s structure and technological premise
6. This strategy and belief is not exactly new but was mimed from painting
7. New media – and not just video – took on a critical position against television and what it represented

October 18, 2008 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment


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