Panel: From New Media to Old Utopias: ‘Red’ Art in Late Capitalism?
Today’s new media artists and activists find themselves in a position similar to that of the Russian Productivists almost a century ago: the revolution has already happened and remains only to be implemented, making cultural production less an articulation of the possible than a sphere of the applied. As digital forms of information exchange and knowledge labor afford the dislocation of traditional boundaries of community and identity, “tele-” and “cyber-communism” declare the dawn of a new sociopolitical era. The successful implementation of the emancipatory abilities inherent in social digital communication thus depends on their pragmatic application. Technical utility, and the new-media productivist as its provider, are the keys to establishing “extreme sharing networks” not to make consumables but to harness and solicit surplus creativity. Organizations like Mikro.fm in Berlin, FutureEverything in Manchester, and the Waag Society in Amsterdam employ digital technology to turn consumers into producers, availing “mass participation” for “social innovation.” These groups reprogram GPS devices to renavigate urban environments, devise open-source software for remapping eco-political landscapes, and organize festivals and workshops for the collaborative production and dissemination of information and technological know-how. As such practices seek to reconstruct the public sphere, the question remains whether or not the access to information and the technological means of its production actually redistributes ownership of knowledge, labor, and experience: whether these projects foment real action and agency, or further institutionalize an ideal bourgeois public sphere by creating a satisfying semblance of cultural participation. Taking a critical look at selected examples, this presentation assesses these collective practices within a trajectory of historical avant-garde strategies and their formation of potential “proletarian” or “counter-public spheres” in which participants are transformed into networked actors rather than remaining spectators in symbolic dramas of aestheticized relationality.
- Philip Glahn is Assistant Professor of Critical Studies and Aesthetics at the Tyler School of Art/Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, specializing in contemporary art history and theory. Glahn studied art history and cultural studies at the Universität Lüneburg and Pratt Institute, and received his PhD from the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His writings have appeared in Art Journal, Afterimage, Communications and BOMB and he is currently working on a critical reassessment of the life and work of Bertolt Brecht.
Full text (PDF) p. 895-969 [Title slightly different]