This talk will draw attention to digital works that offer alternatives to the discourse of virtuality by making reference to their own technological bodies. An immanentist aesthetics of digital media understands their meaning to be embodied in their physical and codic architecture. Low-tech digital artworks offer alternatives to the discourse of virtuality and the corporate-sponsored myth of transparency by making reference to their own technological bodies. The talk draws on the “digital aesthetics” of Sean Cubitt, the criterion of which is materiality, as matter cannot be reduced to symbolic systems. Low-tech digital artworks assert their own materiality and the economic and social relationships in which they are embedded. These works for the Web insist that electronic media occupy not a “virtual” space but aphysical, global socioeconomic space. They invite a phenomenological understanding of online media in terms of our shared fragility, corporeality, and mortality.
Discourse of virtuality vs. material reality:
Against the tide of virtuality of electronic media, a popular counter-current is beginning to move in favour of the actual or the material (more on the distinction between these terms in a moment). From cinema to television to the internet, some of the most popular images appeal to the desire for the real and for the indexical: evidence that what the image represents actually occurred. In cinema, a new science fiction genre deals with “virtuality anxiety,” the fascinated fear that our real worlds will turn out to be virtual constructions. Movies like Fight Club, The Matrix, Strange Days, Nurse Betty, and the Spanish crossover success Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) play on popular anxieties that our everyday immersion in symbolic, computer-generated worlds is ruining our ability to distinguish between virtual and actual. (Though this can also be seen as an enchantment with the indiscernibility of actual and virtual.) Now that so many spectacular images are known to be computer simulations, television viewers are tuning in to Big Brother, COPS and When Good Housepets Go Bad. Internet surfers are fixating on live webcam transmissions in a hunt for unmediated reality. The re-issue of archaic computer games like PacMan speaks, if not exactly to a desire for indexicality, then for the warm, gritty immediacy that these once-cold-seeming games now connote.
- Laura U. Marks, School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada sfu.ca/~lmarks/styled-2/cv.html
Full text p. 45 – 51