[ISEA2011] Panel: Ran­dall Packer – The Artist as Sen­sory Ma­chine in the Post Re­al­ity

Panel Statement

Panel:  Interart / Intersensorium. On the Interrelation of Media and the Senses

In what I have come to refer to as the post re­al­ity, we have be­come a so­ci­ety of “su­per-par­tic­i­pants” – ap­pro­pri­at­ing, am­pli­fy­ing and redi­rect­ing in­for­ma­tion via the so­cial media. In the post re­al­ity, the su­per-par­tic­i­pant feeds on user feed­back, in which every­thing they do, think, and say is cap­tured and processed and remixed and re-broad­cast – their every sen­sory im­pulse is con­nected and re-con­nected to the un­blink­ing eye of the elec­tronic media.  As a re­sult, I have con­cluded it is im­per­a­tive in the cur­rent epoch that the artist must now find new tech­niques and method­olo­gies to more fully em­brace mul­ti­me­dia and its per­va­sive­ness or else be­come in­ef­fec­tual as an artist. This ne­ces­sity is akin to László Mo­holy-Nagy’s ur­gent view of the gesamtkunst­werk in the early 20th cen­tury when he de­clared: “What we need is not the gesamtkunst­werk along­side and sep­a­rate from which life flows by, but a syn­the­sis of all the vital im­pulses spon­ta­neously form­ing it­self into the all em­brac­ing gesamtwerk (life) which abol­ishes all iso­la­tion, in which all in­di­vid­ual ac­com­plish­ments pro­ceed from a bi­o­log­i­cal ne­ces­sity and cul­mi­nate in a uni­ver­sal ne­ces­sity.” There is now the ne­ces­sity for a cur­rent day gesamtkunst­werk, or gesamt­daten­werk as Roy As­cott has called it, in which the artist moves be­yond ab­strac­tion, be­yond rep­re­sen­ta­tion, be­yond the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief: the artist be­comes, in ef­fect, fully en­gaged as a sen­sory ma­chine. To demon­strate this idea and its im­pli­ca­tion, I will or­ga­nize and pre­sent a multi-sen­sory read­ing – a rhyth­mi­cal, vi­sual, tex­tual, ges­tural read­ing – that re­flects on cur­rent artis­tic thought con­cern­ing the artist’s role (and re­spon­si­bil­ity) in re­spond­ing to and com­ment­ing on the trans­for­ma­tive ef­fects of the post real con­di­tion.

  • Ran­dall Packer is an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed mul­ti­me­dia artist and com­poser, cre­at­ing works that have pi­o­neered the in­te­gra­tion of in­ter­ac­tive media, in­stal­la­tion, and live per­for­mance. His work has been per­formed and ex­hib­ited at gal­leries, mu­se­ums, the­aters, and fes­ti­vals through­out the world. In 2001, he founded the US De­part­ment of Art & Tech­nol­ogy in Wash­ing­ton, DC and was ap­pointed as its first Sec­re­tary. Most re­cently, he re­ceived a com­mis­sion to debut his mul­ti­me­dia the­ater work, A Sea­son in Hell, at the ZER01/01SJ Bi­en­nial in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia. Packer holds an MFA and PhD in music com­po­si­tion and has taught mul­ti­me­dia at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, Mary­land In­sti­tute Col­lege of Art, and Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity in Wash­ing­ton, DC. He is now on the fac­ulty of the Ad­vanced Aca­d­e­mic Pro­grams at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity where he teaches the his­tory, the­ory and prac­tice of mul­ti­me­dia. Packer is a writer and scholar in the field of new media, most no­tably the co-ed­i­tor of Mul­ti­me­dia: From Wag­ner to Vir­tual Re­al­ity. He cur­rently lives and works in Wash­ing­ton, DC.   zakros.com