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«David Crawford School of Photography Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts University of Gothenburg Thesis for the degree of Doctor of ...»

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Art and the

Real-time Archive

Relocation, Remix, Response

Art and the

Real-time Archive

Relocation, Remix, Response

David Crawford

School of Photography

Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts

University of Gothenburg

Thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Digital

Representation at the School of Photography, Faculty of Fine,

Applied and Performing Arts, University of Gothenburg

ArtMonitor series of publication from the Board for Artistic

Research (NKU), the Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts, University of Gothenburg Address: ArtMonitor University of Gothenburg Konstnärliga fakultetskansliet Box 141 405 30 Göteborg www.konst.gu.se Cover photo: NASA (Glenn Research Center), 1951 Description: “Di erential Analyzer built under Mergler in Instrument Research. The technician is preparing a data report.” URL: http://grin.hq.nasa.gov All other images are assumed copyrighted by their respective owners. With the exception of my own work, these were obtained via Google Images and are reproduced in the spirit of fair use and within the context of an academic and non-commercial project.

Printed by: Intellecta Infolog 2009 © David Crawford 2009 ISBN: 978-91-977758-1-6 An artist’s book made by the author and referenced in the

dissertation can be ordered from Amazon.com (US) under the title:

38 Messages from Space: The Wilbert Smith Archives Remixed.

On the computer screen, a time period becomes the “support-surface” of inscription. Literally, or better cine- matically, time surfaces.

–Paul Virilio, The Lost Dimension Abstract Title: Art and the Real-time Archive: Relocation, Remix, Response Language: English Keywords: art, aura of information, continuous partial attention, duration, indexicality, inscription technologies, law of relocation, light of speed, material metaphor, net art, real-time archive, remix, simulated materiality, subject-e ects, technological addiction ISBN: 978-91-977758-1-6 If Internet artists have recently relocated their work to galleries and museums, there has meanwhile been an increasing engagement on the part of gallery artists with the media. While these migrations are o en discussed in aesthetic if not economic terms, this essay asks what such phenomena can tell us about the changing nature of subjectivity in relation to media and technology.

Three main themes are introduced: the aura of information, inscription technologies, and the real-time archive. The themes extend across subsequent chapters addressing: the relocation of net art, the remix as an art method, and the capacity of the subject to respond to technology. The idea that technologies alter subjects (produce subject-e ects) plays a central role in the arguments advanced.

Examples are drawn from both the author’s own art practice as well the practice of others, including Phil Collins and Steve McQueen. Theorists including Lewis Mumford and Bernard Stiegler are used to interpret the questions raised by this practice. It is concluded that relocation and remixing can respectively aid in the apprehension of subject-e ects and support subjective autonomy.


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CHAPTER 4 The Aura of Information: from Space to Time 49 CHAPTER 5 Inscription Technologies: Indexicality and Duration 57 CHAPTER 6 The Real-time Archive: Inscribing Consciousness 65

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VIII Acknowledgements Tack till: Ian Balch, Henric Benesch, Mike Bode, Claes Brattwall, Jim Brogden, Malin Brännström, Kaja Tooming Buchanan, Magnus Bärtås, Marco Muñoz Campos, Tina Carlsson, Annabel Castro, Magali Ljungar-Chapelon, Martin Dahlström-Heuser, Sven Drobnitza, Hans Ekelund, James Elkins, Kajsa G. Eriksson, Thommy Eriksson, Catharina Fogelström, Cecilia Gelin, Charlie Gere, Cecilia Grönberg, Andreas Gedin, Fredric Gunve, Sonja Gybrant, Anna Viola Hallberg, Thomas Hansson, Jens Holst, Beverly Hynes-Grace, Orakan Jantahom, Jan Kaila, Leif Karlén, Johannes Landgren, Lasse Lindkvist, Mia Lockman-Lundgren, Dag Lövberg, Lev Manovich, Åsa Nord, Mats Nordahl, Tatjana Novak, Roger Palmer, Jussi Parikka, Gustavo Perillo, Annica Karlsson Rixon, Jane Rannegård, Christine Räisänen, Irina Sandomirskaja, Sta an Schmidt, Thomas Schön, Nina Stuhldreher, Barrie Sutcli e, Fredrik Svensk, Julia Tedro, Glyn Thompson, Olof Torgersson, Peter Ullmark, Arne Kjell Vikhagen, Xavier Villafranca, Lars Wallsten, Josef Wideström, Johanna Willenfelt, Katarina Andersson Winberg, Elisabet Yanagisawa, Johan Öberg, and Niclas Östlind. Ett extra stort tack till: Sven Andersson, Anna Frisk, och Mika Hannula. Ett särskilt stort tack till Karin Wagner.

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Introduction: Staging the Subject In the aesthetic regime, artistic phenomena are identi ed by their adherence to a speci c regime of the sensible, which is extricated from its ordinary connections and is inhabited by a heterogeneous power, the power of a form of thought that has become foreign to itself: a product identical with something not produced, knowledge transformed into nonknowledge, logos identical with pathos, the intention of the unintentional, etc.... The aesthetic state is a pure instance of suspension, a moment when form is experienced for itself.

Moreover, it is the moment of the formation and education of a speci c type of humanity. (Rancière 2004, 22-23) The text that follows re ects an attempt to identify the language and discourses that I would choose for discussing my art practice.

However, as it is the very nature artwork to deny anyone the right to hegemony when it comes to interpretation, there is nothing de nite to be said. My approach to artistic research is rather one in which a dialectic between two mutually exclusive signifying practices provoke each other. That is to say, creative practice provokes critical re ection and vice-versa.

Thus, the event of artistic research does not occur in the artworks nor the present essay, but somewhere between the two.

Just as aesthetic experience enlists subjectivity, the subject of this trans-discipline is also required to stand in a place of uncertainty between the two poles of artistic practice and critical re ection.

Only by doing so, can they reencounter the challenge I have posed for myself and come up with their own responses; other languages, other discourses.


Short of this, my approach is intended to protect the autonomy of both the artwork and the arguments. Through this modular approach, artistic research is intended to serve as a trans-discipline capable of producing both its own artifacts as well as those speci c to disciplines such as Fine Art, Art Criticism, and Cultural Theory.

Here my cue is taken from art historian James Elkins who has outlined a typology of basic approaches to artistic research in which varying negotiations between theory and practice are reached.

While my approach does not t neatly within his typology, the

sprit of my inquiry derives largely from the following provocation:

[T]he dissertation is considered as conceptually equal to the art. The research doesn’t support or inform the art, but compliments it, with each one illuminating the other. (Elkins 2005, 14) If the artworks discussed in the present essay range from those of well-established artists to my own, a common thread among many of them could be said to be the relations between humans and technology. Thus, what is on one level an essay about the rise and fall of an art movement known as “Internet art” or “net art,” this story will come to be superceded by subplots lurking beneath the surface. One of these will be my own creative practice. Shi ing focus from the content of the forthcoming arguments to their form, the reader will nd that the voice in the text will oscillate from the third to the rst person in order for me to discuss this practice subjectively.

Seeing as the stakes of the arguments advanced are rooted in questions of subjectivity insofar as the relations between humans and technology are concerned, it would appear to be a missed opportunity to ignore the obvious manifestation of such questions in the construction of the text itself. I sit and write on a word processor that delivers technical advantages that even seasoned machine typists would have found hard to imagine, much less scholars working by candlelight. Nonetheless, the a ordances of


this technology will not prevent the ow of these arguments from moving back in time, to questions as simple as they are old: Who is the I that speaks? Who is the I that writes? Are they one and the same, or is articulation divorced from inscription?

This essay was begun with a host of preconceived ideas about humans and technology that have since been cast aside as the arguments have been re ned. Chief among these ideas was the notion that a clear distinction could be made between the humans and technology, especially one in which something natural is contraposed against something arti cial. Su ce it to say, in as much as we can assert that there would be no modern technology without humanity, we must also contend with the notion that we are as much a product of our tools as they are of us. Climbing back towards the surface, I will now outline a series of more subjective interpretations that will hopefully continue to resonate across the more objective arguments that follow.

First, net art is of interest to me in that it is a processoriented form of public art in the lineage of mediums such as cinema and movements such as uxus and situationism. If the oppositions outlined in chapter 2 suggest a certain neutrality in regard to the institutional domestication of the medium, this is only to the degree that this turn of events has legitimated voices and practices and thus given them wider reach. Thus, when the performative interventions of the activists RTMark (The Yes Men) are introduced alongside the hermetic abstraction of artist John F.

Simon, Jr., I do so to illustrate the breadth of the medium. Simon’s career says a great deal about net art and in turn about its sociocultural milieu.

My own practice can be seen as a type of o ine (or relocated) Internet art. While the ner grain of this contention will not come into view until it is elaborated in the forthcoming arguments, a question that has oriented this practice is: How do various practices in various contexts create or stage subjects? That is to say, what are the subject-e ects of aesthetic encounters in

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di erent spaces? Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht explicates subject-e ects

as follows:

[C]ouplings between human bodies, psychic systems, and new communications technologies (especially the printing press) produce speci c subject-e ects. With this perspective, they diverge from a historiographical tradition that describes technical innovations as motivated by collective needs and as “invented” by subjective genius.

Instead of con rming the deeply rooted belief in an instrumental relation between the subject and di erent technologies, they encourage us to experiment with the inversion of this narrative pattern. (1994, 400-01) Put another way, what creates an I? Beyond this, the forthcoming arguments will endeavor to say something about how this I relates to the technologies that it comes into contact with, or the subjecte ects of these technologies.

In my artistic practice, I have explored the aesthetics of this encounter and in chapter 8 will aim for a degree of comprehension relative to a set of three themes common to two individual projects. These arguments will be situated within media theory, semiotics, and philosophy. More speci cally, the media theory of the past twenty years will serve as a context within which to interpret both online and o ine art practice. This theoretical frame of reference is concurrent with the revolution in electronic communication dating back to the early 1990s. If the questions posed by this revolution are not all together new, they are nonetheless signi cant relative to their historical speci city.

Being oriented more towards aesthetics than pure art criticism, the discussion will largely concern the changing nature of subjectivity in relation to media and technology. As such, the delineation of mediums based on their relative technicity will receive less emphasis than an exploration of the manner in which this technicity reshapes the subject in general.


In particular, the following questions will be raised: How is subjective autonomy modeled di erently within museum space versus media space? What are the implications of the shi from “uploading to downloading” evidenced in relocated net art? Given the increasing subjectivity of technology, can it be said that it is capable of delivering testimony? How do such questions inform the larger discussion concerning the relations between humans and technology, or the question of post-humanism? A unifying question will be: What is the role of the aura of information produced by inscription technologies within a real-time archive?

Readers familiar with theorist Charlie Gere’s Art, Time and Technology will nd numerous a nities between this book and the essay that follows. If Gere’s book “asks and tries to answer the question about what kind of role art might play in a world increasingly dominated by [real-time systems]” (Gere 2006, 1), this essay follows Gere’s lead within the area of artistic research. Gere

de nes his area of inquiry as follows:

The term ‘real-time systems’ refers to the information, telecommunication and (multi)media technologies that have come to play an increasingly important part in our lives, at least in the so-called ‘developed’ countries. It is almost impossible to overstate the ubiquity and importance of the technologies in question. Real-time computing underpins the whole apparatus of communication and data processing by which our contemporary techno-culture operates.

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