Panel: La Plissure du Texte
Roland Barthes’ canonical statement contains an understanding of textuality that lies at the center of this chapter and indeed informed the project it sets out to describe. The term telematics has its origins in the 1978 report to the French president by Alain Minc and Simon Nora concerning the convergence of telecommunications and computers, particularly in business and administration. Distributed authorship is the term I coined to describe the remote interactive authoring process for the project La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairytale, which is the principal subject of this text. My purpose here is to explore the genealogy of the project, how the concept of mindat-a-distance developed in my thinking, and how the overarching appeal of the telematic medium replaced the plastic arts to which I had been committed as an exhibiting artist for more than two decades. The project arose in response to an invitation in 1982 from Frank Popper to participate in his exhibition Electra: Electricity and Electronics in the Art of the XXth Century at the Musèe Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in the fall of 1983. Popper had written previously on my work, and I was confident that his invitation offered a perfect opportunity to create a large-scale telematic event that would incorporate ideas and attitudes I had formed over the previous twenty or more years. La Plissure du Texte: A Planetary Fairytale (LPDT) sought to set in motion a process by which an open-ended, nonlinear narrative might be constructed from an authoring “mind” whose distributed nodes were interacting asynchronically over great distances—on a planetary scale, in fact. As I examine it in retrospect, I see how a complexity of ideas can create a context for a work whose apparent simplicity masks a generative process that can bifurcate into many modes of expression and creation. It is the bifurcations of ideas speci.c to the context of LPDT—their branching and converging pathways—that I shall initially address in this chapter. The content itself is transparent, insofar as the text in its unfolding is its own witness.
- Roy Ascott is a British artist and theorist, who works with cybernetics and telematics, born in Bath, England. From 1955-59 he studied Fine Art at King’s College, University of Durham under Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton. On graduation he was appointed Studio Demonstrator (1959–61). He then moved to London, where he established the radical Groundcourse at Ealing Art College, which he subsequently established at Ipswich Civic College, in Suffolk. He was a visiting lecturer at other London art schools throughout the 1960s. Then he briefly was President of Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, before moving to California as Vice-President and Dean of San Francisco Art Institute, during the 1970s. He was Professor for Communications Theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna during the 1980s, and Professor of Technoetic Arts at the University of Wales, Newport in the 1990s. Ascott is also the founding president of the Planetary Collegium, an advanced research center which he set up in 2003 at the University of Plymouth, UK, where he is Professor of Technoetic Arts. In 1964 Ascott published “Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision”. In 1968, he was elected Associate Member of the Institution of Computer Science, London (proposed by Gordon Pask). In 1972, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His first telematic art project was La Plissure du Texte (1983), an online work of “distributed authorship” involving artists around the world. The second was his “gesamtdatenwerk” Aspects of Gaia: Digital Pathways across the Whole Earth (1989),an installation for the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, discussed by Matthew Wilson Smith in The Total Work of Art: from Bayreuth to Cyberspace, New York: Routledge, 2007.