“Jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today” _The White Queen to Alice, Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll.
Reality jamming implies prior identification of realities to be jammed, and this in turn implies recognition of the framing mechanisms which separate phenomena that otherwise constitute a single experiential flux. Because the ways we aggregate and segregate our experience into categories are diverse and constantly evolving within individual and social contexts, framing which effectively demarcates spheres of activity for a given individual or group may prove totally inoperative for another. This elusiveness of the mechanisms whereby experience is differentiated is what gives “reality jamming” its critical transience.
One historical eruption of what might be construed as reality jamming is Russian avant-garde zaum or “transrational” art from early last century. Malevich, Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh sought to wrench percepts including colour, sound and phonemes from entrenched usage to make them the unbridled bearers of spontaneous meanings, of a fresh and soaring perception of the world. Key to zaum creation is the concept of sdvig – displacement, shift, dislocation – brought about by subverting and disrupting rules, scales, foreseeable logics. The dynamic reality of zaum aesthetics literally makes sense by contrast with existing perceptive orders.
Perhaps reality jamming is inherent to art’s poetic constructs, framed to resist the normative constraints of habitual perception. Perhaps the wrenching of percepts from usual contexts to trigger a new sensibility is as culturally vital as it is fleetingly utopian. This proposal will set in broader historical perspective recent live art experiments which mix and jam realities (e.g. biotechnology works by Symbiotica, performances by Crew, a-life installations by Unemi & Bisig). With such examples, I shall try to identify some of the temporal framing mechanisms which ensure reality jamming and precipitate its demise. This endeavour is invariably haunted by the “never jam today” paradox offered through Carroll’s looking glass where “memory works both ways”.
- Sally Jane Norman, Director, Culture Lab, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Full text (PDF) p. 353-354