As a current resident of Switzerland I wonder why not leave one of the apparently most obviously racist countries in Europe? At least so, according to the world press after last Sunday’s referendum on the deportation of criminal delinquents that reside in Switzerland but are not Swiss citizens. What is internally known as “Ausschaffungsinitiative” is a proposal by the rightwing party SVP that aims to lower the threshold for deportation of criminal offenses for residents with immigrant background. That the proposal as it was propagated might transgress common values of human rights confines the main problem after the referendum has been accepted by 53% of the society.
The incongruence is striking between general self-relfection on the Swiss society the harmony between high percentages of foreigners in urban areas (e.g. Zurich up to 30% and Geneva up to 40%) and the sheer ignorance, xenophobia and idiocy in rural areas. There seems to exist a shared common sense amongst the few who might belong to a local urban intelligentsia that one lives in an open and multicultural society. From my point if view, such perspectives are based on highly bourgeoise values expressed mostly by members of the society with high incomes working for universities, banks and insurance companies.
The reason to stay though might be to seek out the grains of resistance that do exist and to see how they function and work. Another interesting aspect is the fortunate circumstance for me to work at an art school where for students precarity is omnipresent and where the intellectuals have to work outside the acclaimed institutions that are legitimized to produce ‘real’ knowledge or ‘real’ values. Hence, I am wondering why the grains of resistance have not found more poignant formats than the usual, still beloved, visual gestures of street art? One thing is for sure, the subaltern cannot speak, since this might be already considered as enough of a offense to be deported. Hence, I guess one has to find modes of creative intervention that do not speak but act, that use new modes of expression to make the public feel that things are developing in nasty ways. I guess it is time to re-instantiate struggles and to make the force of desire become palpable.

ausschaffung

This nice video shows what I would call an ethico-aeshtetic and ethico-political intervention into the crisis shaken British student body that is facing decades of dept for higher education that only privileged members of society will have access to [unless you buy into being in depth for the 20 years to follow the moment of your graduation] … or has anyone heard of a new massive scholarship program to be launched by major banks and the government? I guess not.

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.

isea_trust_-seiko-mikami guzikariel_nereida_prj_02_craulgonzales_plasmaht-lab

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!

becoming-mcghillie

categories: conferences, events, research
tags:

PhDs on a boat in Aarhus

Here is a quick homage to the fantastic “Event, Signal, Affect” conference at Aarhus University I was invited to last week.  The conference was targeted to bring together selected scholars working on affect, theories of the event, non-representational theory and signal or the signaletic. The setting was very intimate, with 25 people and a perfectly organized structure, including dinner and collective cookout.

The main guests were Erin Manning and Brian Massumi and Nigel Thrift, who unfortunately never made it to the conference. Topics were widely spread but well orchestrated into focused panels. The intellectual debate was engaged and on a mutually interested and curious level. On top of the two fantastic interventions by Manning and Massumi and the very focused crowed of guests, I would like to foreground the environment and techniques that made the conference so unique.

We started off with a round of conceptual speed-dating, a technique to get to know each other and have an idea of the other one’s thinking-space. The concept was autonomy and the range of discussions was wide. The good thing about this technique is that you get an immediate impression of the other one’s personal work and his/her way to move in thought. Another good aspect was to seek for 10 minute presentations and have more time for discussions. In the cases where the time was kept, discussions were very vital. The dinner and especially the collective barbecue gave the conference a very different tonality from other conferences. A free day in between the two conference days added more quality time to relax and meet up and talk. All in all I really had the feeling I have been in touch with people that also don’t want to have large conferences and impersonal panels anymore.

This brings me to a very crucial point about such events. What one seeks in such events might be to network and put yourself in contact with the “right” people. But what actually really counts is the potential of a joyous being together and friendship. In that respect it would be interesting to ask, how do you generate environments that do not allow any straight forward modes of self-representation and networking but are lures for friendship? In that sense I have to say that the potential for friendship to build is way higher in such events. I feel that I had the chance to intellectually relate to my friends Tomas Jellis and Jonas Fritsch more intensively. It is the real joy of the time and ideas shared that need to be accounted for a creative practice such as our intellectual work. Further I finally had the chance to meet Thomas Markussen, also member of the Senselab and associate professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture. Two very lucky meetings that I didn’t anticipate before were Niels Albertsen head of the Department of Landscape and Urbanism and Leila Dawney, PhD researcher at the Geography Department in Exeter. Another wonderful aspect were politically engaged talks by Thomas Markussen on the Cut Up Collective and Tatiana Bazzichelli’s presentation on Italian Hacktivism and the media event of Anna Adamolo.

I would like to close this entry by pointing out the the level of openness of the discussion we enjoyed. Merete Carlson, PhD scholar from Copenhagen, gave the last presentation pointing out the difficulty to affectively engage with interactive media artworks by writing a PhD thesis about it. The problem is not, that one is not capable of writing a thesis according to known norms but rather how to write a thesis as process and in a way that accounts for the movement of thought without representing it in language. For me such highly difficult questions lie at the core of what research-creation might mean and how we have to move “earth and the heavens,” as Bruno Latour says, to allow new minor modes of research and creative practices to flourish.

Here just a quick overview concerning the upcoming Interdisciplinary Dialogues Series I am organizing this year. Session II deals with the theme of Research, Ethics, Politics. A short description of the session outline:

A PhD project in its research and content often touches upon topics of critical importance and ethical encounters. The research we deploy bears a plethora of political and ethical decision we make and are confronted with. This immediate layer of a politico-ethical encounter in the practice of research is reflected onto the modes of creating and composing the content of our papers, presentations, shows, performances, and finally the PhD thesis. What critical considerations of the politics embedded in research might foreground are new practices and techniques of dealing with such issues beyond the well-considered modes of representation. Maybe through an awareness of the multifaceted politics in research we can re-invent modes of creating content and expression.

Interdisciplinary Dialogues II

nouveau terrain d'apparition panoscope sphere

On January 7, 2010 we launched the first general meeting after phase one of the “nouveau terrain d’apparition” (NTA) project has been accomplished. The first phase focused on establishing a solid and properly working system to run the panoscope in a networked state, allowing telepresence between two characters in a shared and immersive virtual space. The general meeting targeted at a presentation of the technical system (mostly developed by Mike Woznieski), a demo of the system and theoretical reflections on the potentials of the system from my side. Guest at the event were students from Université Laval in the the Museology Department and members of the Institut Technologies de l’information et Sociétés, Bob White from the Anthropology Department at Université de Montréal, Erin Manning, Brian Massumi and of course head researcher Luc Courchesne.

I will here focus on some potential alleys and first insights from the conversations. My presentation was targeted at opening the NTA-system’s black box (à la Bruno Latour) and to outline its actants and interdependencies. The importance for the first phase lies in the system or rather assemblage that has been developed. As Luc pointed out the other day, the system is at its limits in terms of computation and therefore we will have to take its state as “enabling constraint.” The first important move which occurred consists in going beyond the conceptualization of such a system as dispositif and to use the notion of the assemblage instead. This shift in terminology brings us close to think different registers of realities (those realities of matter included) together and to annihilate any kind of other-worldly conception of virtual reality. To unfold this move I was drawing on Andrew Murphie’s article “Putting the Virtual back into VR.” Here Murphie claims with a Deleuzian approach through “The Fold” that Virtual Reality as a concept can help us to understand and play with what Deleuze defines as the virtual, the continuous immanence of potential in each actualization.  Since assemblages of virtual reality provide the potential to narrow the usually very crowded (with percepts and affects) experiences in our general “Umwelt” (von Uexküll), we can more precisely tap into the field of the potential. What we encounter as assemblage exists on the one hand as a complex intertwining of different realities - material, human, social, spatial and computational -  and on the other hand as a narrowing of our sensory focus to experiment with the virtual relay in our experiences.

In resonance with the system’s actual state these considerations take specific configurations:

  • Space-time: In an immersed experiential space such as the panoscope the narrowing aspect of VR allows us to experiment with new experiences of space-time. Important for a successful design of such different experiences seems to me an appropriation of affective interaction design (as developed by Jonas Fritsch). As Fritsch outlines: the account of affect will have to ”…directly address forms of experience, forms of life, on a qualitative register” (Fritsch 2009). “Affect as a whole then is the virtual co-presence of potentials” (ibid.)
  • Affect & Interaction + Memory: To feel these co-presences of affective potentials the system might not only offer shared spaces for experience but also allow the potential for interaction. This point has been uttered by Massumi and Manning, as well as in my presentation and by Mike Wozinieski. The potential to actively contribute to the system seems crucial for an enhanced interactive immersive experience. This circumstance has two important values: On the one hand the experience of space-time is always related to the way memory occurs in Bergson and slightly different in Whitehead. Memory here functions as the potential side of an actualization in a new experience. Obviously, the human participant always carries potentialities into the system through memories. Such a form of memory adds a singular (yet potentially always collective) aspect to each experience with the system. Hence, an important consideration would be the generation of memory with the system. Not only through giving machine perception the potential for interaction but also to generate an affective moreness of computing other than traditional approaches of “affective computing” as emotional aspects of programming. For the future I will follow up this thought under the concept of “affective and perceptive traces.”
  • Time and Duration: Another form of space-time configuration that might be enhanced through interactive modes of contributing actively to the system would be jumps, leaps and the sensation of duration through the system. At the moment the space inside the panoscope consists of spheres (360° images), time-lines with images that relate to certain biographies, spatial city environments (e.g. Toronto), and animated spheres with moving sound and image. Since experience here is spatialized and therefore according to Bergson misses in its euclidian appearance a thorough attribute of duration (durée), the durational aspect need to be generated by particular strategies. One of these strategies has been mentioned by Erin Manning as boredom. For her, a new user of the system has to arrive at a point of boredom to become creative with the system. To allow this creativity, we need the experience a certain durational quality inside the panoscope and the potential of active participation and contribution.
  • Collective Experience: The final point touches upon the collective experiences the system might allow. On the one hand collective experience occurs through the potential telepresence with other users. On the other hand experience surfaces through the contribution to the system and the creation of traces that can be encountered by others. What seems important here is the experience of a fully embodied state in the immersive environment of the panoscope. The embodied quality of experience allows us to embrace multiple (crossmodal) perceptive modes. On the one hand one can share experience through telepresence. On the other hand (which has been suggested by Erin Manning) one can also have the same collective experience with more than one person inside one panoscope. There is a difference in the shared expereince either through telepresence or through the physical sharing of the space in a panoscope. Interesting in that regard world be a blending of collective experience that not only includes human participants in actual physical or tele- presence but also the contribution to this experience by the flow of memories and contributions to the experience by an active and interactive (responsive) system. In that sense, to provide an initial idea, the collective individuations that might be facilitated through the system, could be generated through an internal resonance of the system with its users. To conclude with Simondon: “Internal resonance is the most primitive form of communication between realitities of different orders. It is composed of a double process of amplification and condensation.” Amplification here defines the process of an individuation (of a system for instance) as a resolution of anterior tensed states. Its condensation is the very presence as event that ties together all its anterior disparate realities and tendencies. A nexus with social character in Whitehead. The internal resonance of the user-panoscope individuation expresses its amplification and condensation through the emergent relation between different realities (of users, memories and the systems active contribution) and its condensation in an actual occasion (an event in all its complexity and singularity).

smaller panoscope for torso immersion

nta-demo3