I am participating in a really exciting workshop on Simondon and digital culture. Below the poster and my presentation abstract.

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Abstract:
Affective Timing and Non-sensuous Perception in Differential Media

The relation between ethics and aesthetics defines a crucial problematic through which Félix Guattari develops his philosophy and analytic practice. Simondon exposes similar lines in his work with equally strong indications of its political relevance. He conceives of the aesthetic as immanent force in experience pertaining to its preindividual field as unexhausted resource for potential becoming. His overall theory of individuation could be also considered as continuous process of differentiation through such a field of potential.

Simondon defines the aesthetic as temporal relation between the preindividual as partially expressed present experience and its pull towards a future becoming, i.e. differentiation. The aesthetic is the interval through which experience passes as felt intensity in the immediacy of its occurrence. It is Alfred North Whitehead who links this temporal process of experience to perception, not as mere sense perception of given empirical data but through his notion of non-sensuous perception. Non-sensuous perception emphasizes the immediate past shaping the passing of the present and the present, as tendency of the future, shaping the potential function of the past. Through non-sensuous perception an interstice for aesthetic practices opens up allowing for an ‘immanent’ and ‘transcendent’ process of co-becoming between the temporal passing of the event and its metastable bodily expression.

For similar reasons Guattari, thinking at the dawn of the digital media era, envisioned post-media practices as “laboratories of thought and experimentation for future forms of subjectivation.” He underlines that what comes to be termed post-media describes a general transformation away from media as mere technological entities. Guattari interlinks aesthetic and ethical concerns pointing out that a “post-media society “will be invented, created within the perspective of a new aesthetic-political paradigm.“ For both, Guattari and Simondon technology defines an active and vital realm of potential not as a means but as enabling ecology. In their works both emphasize technology’s processual dimension, where aesthetics generates links between perception and its relation to time, ethics pertains to acts developing relations with other acts. How can we conceive of such acts not as a volitional and anthropomorphic activism but as a relaying of temporal entanglements between the immediacy of occasions of experience and their material constraints? Further investigating Simondon’s and Guattari’s take on ethics and aesthetics in a post media era I will look at digital media technologies susceptible to (temporal) differentiation. Such “differential media” (Andrew Murphie) highlight the potential of digital processes of timing as discontinuous yet relational processes of timing. Looking at Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s video installation The Visitor’s I will work through the affective and emotive temporalities of digital media art and its relation to non-sensuous perception. How can we conceive of such artworks as instigating collective individuation foregrounding the temporal affective tonality at the heart of their expression in experience?

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I am very exited to participate in this conference. Here is my abstract:

Affective Politics of Timing: Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors

In his video-installation The Visitors artist Ragnar Kjartansson constructs an immersive nine-screen video-piece of a collaborative sound performance. Eight musicians dispersed throughout Rockeby Farm Mansion in upstate New York, play instruments and repeatedly chant the lines of a short poem by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir.

The piece deals with duration, repetition and immediation through its insistence on time as collective and affective force holding the work together. While recent responses to affect in contemporary theory have led to a critique of its emphasis on immediacy, I will attempt to reconsider immediacy as opening a problematic field rather than becoming another object of critique. The power of suspense and duration in The Visitors provides a vital ground for addressing its aesthetics as an affective attunement of heterogeneous elements cued into specific timings. Using Brian Massumi’s differentiation of three kinds of memory (active memory, conscious memory and a memory of the future) I will investigate how The Visitors enables a collective sense of emergent ecologies of timing, an affective politics of timing. Immediacy according to this fine-grained conception of affect is not an instant independent of its milieu, on the contrary, its very power of existence consists of disjunctive times constantly attuning and being attuned. Change, and the potential thereof, emerges through the eventual encounter, its re-activation and unnoticed but active tendencies. The political question then is: how to inflect, activate and enable situations capable of more potential to actively become part of our immediate concerns and how to develop a sense of care for their effects?

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Jonas Fritsch and I are going to hit the road to Buffalo for the Media Cities 4 conference, May 3-5, 2013.

Here is our abstract:

Beyond the Network: Urban Media Ecologies and Experiential Fields

The growing proliferation of urban interactive technologies into our everyday lives demands a move from an initial fascination for the technologies in themselves to their actual experiential impact and how they ‘…affect the ways in which we use and understand walls, windows, doors, sidewalks, streets, intersections, parks, markets, and playgrounds.’ (Greenfield and Shepard, 2007). Increasingly, this cannot be done by focusing on singular devices, subjects or places. One way of approaching this heterogeneous plurality of elements has been prominent in the diverse analysis of networks. The problem, however, is the continued conception of entities or nodes as foundational building blocks of such networks and how they are connected or experienced.

In a recent resurgence of William James’ radical empiricism Adrian Mackenzie proposes an approach toward wireless technologies not as merely facilitating networked experiences of a particular kind but as constitutive of relational practices blurring boundaries between confined entities such as architecture, human bodies or technological devices. According to Mackenzie, wirelessness ‘… designates an experience trending toward entanglements with things, objects,  gadgets, infrastructures, and services, and imbued with indistinct sensations and practices of network-associated change” (2010, 5). These entanglements are in particular evident when dealing with e.g. media architecture or mobile technologies in urban or public space.

While building on the conceptual outline of wirelessness foregrounding experience, we propose the concept of experiential fields emphasizing the emergent and affective quality of experience. Experiential fields address experience as an ecological and relational process, focusing on the conditions of emergence of urban interactive environments. We are concerned with ways of facilitating experiential situations pointing at urban media-ecological processes and investigating how to work with them creatively beyond confined spaces, bodies or technologies.

Through an analysis of two urban interactive installations, Frequency and Volume (2003) and Ekkomaten (2012), we bring to the fore a range of challenges and questions concerned with accounting for the workings of media ecologies and experiential fields. Both works deal with sound activating and activated through its urban context. Frequency and Volume by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is an interactive art installation amplifying radio frequencies through bodily engagement with the exhibition space, foregrounding awareness for electromagnetic fields. Ekkomaten is a gigantic listening machine that lets people explore echoes from the past tied to a particular site in the city through their interaction with it. Either work constitutes a media ecology activating an experiential field which modulates the potential for action in the city through an affectively engaging mobilization of  emergent forces.

Investigating relations between media and the urban along the constitutive lines of experiential fields allows us to reconsider what we usually separate into discrete entities such as the body, the urban or the political. Shifting the focus on media in urban contexts from an infrastructural or informational discourse toward urban media ecologies as processes of immediation opens new potentials for considering mediatic encounters and the situations they facilitate in experiential terms beyond the network.

And the conference schedule.

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I have been experimenting with the newly installed exhibition apparatus (dispositive) Palaver developed by artist Eran Schaerf and Professor Florian Dombois and installed by the Y-Institute at Berne University of the Arts. The occasion for the experiment was enabled through HKB’s open house (Oct. 2010)  and the desire to develop strategies for the use of alternative exhibition models with a wider public.

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In a nutshell: Palaver is an assemblage of a wall, two screens and two cameras. A space can be divided by a mobile wall, one screen is attached to each side of this wall and each side is equipped with a mobile camera. The idea is to exhibit an artwork or a performance or anything on one side and project it to the other side where the audience is. Through such an arrangement the audience as well as the object/performance are put into a mediated relationship. With the help of the camera, the screens and the separation a process of negotiation and estranged, mediated contact is facilitated. A palaver in its original meaning is the week-long political negotiations in a public space in African native cultures. The idea for such an exhibition apparatus is the change in roles and time that might accompany the experience of art. In other words, the role of the spectator, the work its reception and the way to think and talk about it discursively might be transformed through such a renewed assemblage. The palaver centers the art object but at the same time mutually positions spectators, art critics, art historians artists and curators on a plane of negotiation. Instead of unfolding each ofthese participants into his/her discipline and mode of reflexion, Palaver aims at an intense engagement with the object, modes of representation, ways of speaking and sensing, the refomualtion of space and the role of speaking in formal and informal ways.

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What I have been trying in this particular occasion of experimentation was to undermine the conception of the object or the subject by becoming a non-subject and a non-object. The creature that lives at the interstice of non-subject and non-object is McGhille (see post below). McGhillie is neither a thing nor a person. McGhillie rather melts with its environment to liberate the one inhabiting the suit to become pure (in)difference and therefore not being accountable by vision or speech. McGhillie is perceivable but one cannot know it nor can one interact with it. I aimed at rendering McGhillie’s movements the least possible anthropomorphic. McGhillie was supposed to become a pure presence therefore demonstrating its disappearance. The visitors on the other side were estranged and curious. I aimed at a long duration not allowing for any interaction but forcing the audience to turn onto itself and initiate any kind of intercourse. The situation was at times uncomfortable due to its indeterminacy and at times charged with excitement when something happened. At one point I was compelled to end the performative situation but didn’t preclude how to go about it. The people in the room were already at the margins of the wall separating the spaces. The screens mediating the situation became fairly obsolete, live experience seemed to be more attractive. Hence, McGhillie was bemoaning the annihilation of the mediation by a screen and longed for its re-installation. Finally approaching the door to leave the room in a crouching way, a participant had blocked it to not allow for any escape. This provocation to leave the state of non-subject-object forced me to imagine what it means to be kept in a cell, to be considered outside of the general discourse and therefore being regarded as free to be subjugated. The liberating and almost powerful feeling of a Becoming-McGhillie shifted towards a Becoming-Animal with all its negative attributes in relation to the human master and the animal-slave. Finally forcing the door open, still being follwed by the crowd I managed to leave the situation and to allow McGhillie to become free for a future becoming.

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In sum, I can say that the attempt to undermine the dispositive of Palaver only partly worked. One of the main concerns that remain after the experience is the question of how a situation can be generated where one can feel the potential forces towards negotiation. In other words, is the apparatus as it is right now providing the right port of entry into a self-generative process of negotiation. In other words, are the enabling constraints given to allow the object/subject to speak in its own right or is Palaver just another discursive tool that hovers on the surface of representation and language.

Phew, exactly one week after I came back from ISEA 2010 I find a few minutes to reflect and share my excitement about one of the better conferences I have been part of this year. What has been very pleasing to me and apparently a lot of other participants was the high quality of art exhibitions and performances that accompanied the symposium. Another beautiful aspect of the conference was the first site for the events in Essen, Zeche Zollverein. Here we had the fabulous fun to plunge into a factory pool at Kokerei made out of shipping containers and experience a performance by Wet Soundswet-sounds

The conference opened with a keynote by Brian Massumi who, as we know, tied in a fine mesh of aesthetic considerations through the lens of pure experience and radical empiricism. Wonderfully presented and even so wonderfully contextualized by a long comment from Marie-Luise Angerer. The second day was scheduled for the Motion Lab Panel convened by Scott deLahunta. It was very interesting to see the different works of Scott, Nathaniel Stern, who’s work I really fell in love with, Erin Manning together with Norah Zuniga Shaw and Chris Ziegler. Despite the circumstance that the two evening performances were overbooked and hard to get in, I really enjoyed the Synchronous Objects installation by Norah in relation to her longterm work with William Forsythe.

Sunday reminded me an Odyssey  trying to reach Marl with commuter trains on a day without commuters to see the exhibition for the German Sound Art Awards 2010. The exhibition was not very exciting but to have seen a conceptually built city complex with wonderful attempts of concrete ornamentation made it worth the journey. In general, the commuting between the different conference sites was a bit a of pain, if one didn’t change hotels. The evening of that Sunday though was quite amazing. At the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen the conference co-organized the Day of Sound with fabulous electro-acoustic pieces and a concert space that made you shiver with its stunning acoustic quality. Highlight, certainly, was the performance with the Max Brand Synthesizer in a piece faithfully called Hell Machine.

On Monday the conference took its proper format meaning too many parallel panels in often too small rooms. Since I had to leave after the second day of the conference, I will only comment on two things. First, The Digital Aesthetics of Climate Change panel, organized by a group of befriended scholars from Aarhus University in Denmark and successfully turned into an “Un-Panel” by The People Speak from London. Thematically and in its expression the panel raised a vital discussion that didn’t leave the impression of flaky and fuzzy climate-talk but a profound an continuous critical inquiry fueled by contributions from outside the room posted and projected on a screen. The People Speak moderated the panel friendly and to the pint which turned it into a refreshing format, especially at 10 a.m. in the morning. The second panel, was the one in which Jonas Fritsch and I presented our reflections on our experiences from Society of Molecules in May 2009 in Montréal. We were surprised about the number of people that crammed into the room for a panel on Urban Interventions. The unfortunate part of our panel was the rather loose time-keeping which resulted in no time for discussions and a focus on one particular, rather uninspiring presentation (no names of course). Apparently, our title “Balloons, Sweat and Technologies - Urban Interventions through Ephemeral Architectures” raised interest trough the very notion of Ephemeral Architectures. Not having thought of it properly, I was asked if our installation was called ephemeral architectures or if we regarded the entire event as ephemeral architectures. A very interesting question for which I would like to thank Katrin Rickerts a lot. At another point in time I will come back to these considerations.

Impressive were the TURST exhibition with very high quality works and the performance by Ei Wada and his Braun Tube Jazz Band. In general one could recognize a shift in digital aesthetics away from a data-centred and often pseudo technological or scientific attitude (except the work of Carsten Nicolai of course) toward a thorough media practice that carefully examines its needs to trigger certain modes of expression. Ai Wada took the notion of the signal to its core and blew the gallery apart with his performance. Here is another set, but you get the impression.

I enjoyed very much the work of Seiko Mikami entitled “Desire of Codes.” The work consists of an entire wall of motorized webcams that trace you. The captured images get projected on a screen where they are remixed with other video material mined from the Internet. Aesthetically and conceptually a very strong work. Another project that caught my attention was Ariel Guzik’s work “Nereida.” Nereida is an underwater capsule that contains musical instruments to establish contact with cetaceans. What impressed me the most was the serious engagement concerning potential means of communication with other species by aesthetic means. For me this is a very beautiful and strong work in the field of research-creation.

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I would like to close with a short but definitively worth wile experience of wearing the McGhillie suit provided through an intervention/performance organized by my colleagues in Zurich Knowbotic Research. McGhillie is an un-person, a Batleby-like figure who evades classification and social or physical order. Neither a person nor a mere object but rather a thing with all its potentials and qualities. A Becomnig-McGhillie means to stop thinking and feeling like an individual ant to melt with your environment. Becoming-McGhillie makes you enter the field of the void that is never the void but an in-between filled with new potential. McGhillie is a thing of the interstice, between different modes of being, between different forms of life. Becoming-McGhillie for only 20 minutes allowed me to enter the interstitial field between being and non-being, not only by means of perception (perceiving and being perceived) but by means of affect that allow different milieus to constitute with and without McGhillie. A definitive must if one seeks for modes of pure experience!

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