Chair Person: Baruch Gottlieb
Presenters: Colette Tron, Eva Verhoeven & Michael Dieter
The surface of electronic utopia is always material. Should a utopian notion appear here for you to read, it would appear on a hard support which has had to be built, constructed or otherwise fabricated. Therefore utopia is not just ‘content’, imagination, ideas. Utopia always has its material counterpart which is today always predicated on global industrial processes. Any appreciation of the emancipatory promise of electronic media must integrate a sober reckoning of the intractable difficulties on the material level of the technology which should generate this. This panel will take Kittler’s “There is no software” (Kittler 1995) to its ethical extreme, delving the shadowlands behind the brilliance of electronic creativity, towards another, parallel and symbiotic creativity rooted in the substances. The persistence of the materiality of our world, and of the media we use to understand it, may be taken for granted, but merits more attention. Despite the enormous power unleashed by our imaginations through technical, scientific instruments, we, as human beings still exist essentially on a local and social level. There is an every-growing discrepancy of scale between that of our empirical experience and that of the origin of the technical instruments we use to understand and gain purchase over it. Our empirical experience of the world is increasingly being substituted or undermined by technologically-informed ideas, supported by technologically-generated manifestations, which offer us multiple simultaneous levels of factuality. When we forego the instantaneousness and subtlety of using our own senses to apprehend the world, we are rewarded with a more informational and discrete experience, which promises us access and agency in heretofore secret and unknowable realms of sociability. The satisfaction of this compromise is always predicated on the promise that the technology will improve. In other words, though fundamental questions remain unresolved even in today’s light-speed knowledge economy, the disquiet these have historically produced is assuaged by the trust that the supplementary techniques are being improved. Meanwhile there emerge comforting allegories of nature itself being a kind of computer, with an (eventually) interpretable coherent system based on codes (Roof 2007). There is an expected exponential curve of the ‘improvement’ of the technologies we use to understand our world. However, as we know, such curves never reach the asymptote, the truth. We will always be approximating for noise and inaccuracy, we will always need other knowledge systems to compensate for the insufficiencies of techno-truth. Additionally, the materiality of the computing technology on which all our fluctuating self-perception is predicated is not, itself, so imperceptible and vague. The physical technology of the computer or the sensor or the network originates in the stuff of the earth, it must be mined or gathered or otherwise acquired, not by machines alone, but by organizations of people. There are people all the way down the chains of production of the computer from the finished product providing us with truth through the various factories and labs back to the earth. All along this complex production process we have a ‘paper trail’ of human facts, a new resource of truth-data, that of the human conditions of the production of technological truth. In this panel we will discuss issues that arise on the horizon of an infinite purchase on universal materiality promised by scientific innovation. We will investigate the delicate taxonomies and conventions which attempt to articulate and evoke these issues (Galison & Daston 2007), (Roof 2007) , Nanotechnology promises a made-to-order synthetic reality (Feynman 1959) Data-visualization compress human culture into patterned maps (Manovich, 2010), the fine arts and the “humanities” struggle to measure up to the meaning production of the scientific arts, resulting in politicization (Lyotard 1985, Latour & Weibel 2005, Gillick 2009, etc.) and surrender (Nigten 2011, etc.). Our love interest in the material of the earth has been revealed by science to be rather childish. As a species, we seem to advance at a snail’s pace compared to the machines we have brought forth. Our current epoch may feature some of our species’ first hints of its maturity, with its exigencies and responsibilities and the first foretastes of its decline. Human art, creativity and imagination has traditionally been located in a notion of eternal childhood. Our hardware compels us to imagine a new, more mature creativity.
1. Feynman, Richard, There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, Caltech Engineering and Science, Volume 23:5, February 1960, pp 22-36.
2. Galison, Peter & Daston, Lorraine, Objectivity, Zone Books, Brooklyn, 2008
3. Gillick, Liam, Maybe it would be better if we worked in Groups of Three?, Eflux Journal, Vol. 3, 2009, e-flux.com/journal/view/41
4. Kittler, Friedrich, There is No Software, Ctheory Article: a032, Date Published: 10/18/1995 ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=74 Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors
5. Latour, Bruno & Weibel, Peter, Making Things Public, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005
6. Lyotard, François, Les Immatériaux, Centre de Création Industrielle Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1985
7. manovich.net/index.php/projects/trending-the-promises-and-the-challenges-of-big-social-data, 2011
8. Nigten, Anne, et al, Process Patching, ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/5655/1/Thesis_Nigten.pdf
9. Roof, Judith, the Poetics of DNA, University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota, 2007
- Baruch Gottlieb is a Canadian filmmaker, artist, writer and organizer, working on themes related to the technical image. Gottlieb’s art examines the immense discrepancies of scale in the contemporary experience of the world, from the astronomical, through the ‘human scale’, to the infinitesimal, through a ‘syntax of human form’ of dance , movement and bodily expression in media. This work thus always includes a performative aspect and has also been implemented in works of stage performance, public art and net-based art. Gottlieb is founding member of the Laboratoire Deberlinisation, and co-creator of the AFRO series of utopian pan-african currency and ancillary projects. He organizes the SFX series of sound-art festivals in Seoul, the McLuminations series of philosophical screening events in Berlin and itinerant events under the epithet New Materialism.