sexta-feira, dezembro 19, 2014


In the late 20th century, the formative issues in digital media art were about connectivity and interaction. In this century, our post-digital objectives will increasingly be technoetic and syncretic. Formerly, there was much ado about e pluribus unum (out of many, one) - a unified culture, unified self, unified mind, unity of time and space. 
Now the reverse applies: ex uno plures (out of one, many) - many selves, many presences, many locations, many levels of consciousness. The many realities we inhabit—material, virtual, and spiritual, for example—are accompanied by our sense of being present simultaneously in many worlds: physical presence in ecospace, apparitional presence in spiritual space, telepresence in cyberspace, and vibrational presence in nanospace. Second Life is the rehearsal room for future scenarios in which we will endlessly re-invent our many selves. 
As artists, we deal with the complexities of media that are at once immaterial and moist, numinous and grounded; and the complexity of the technoetic mind that both inhabits the body and is distributed across time and space. Where all these differences could be at odds with each other, we are in fact developing a capacity, to syncretise: to analogise and reconcile contradictions, while melding differences, such that art and reality are becoming syncretic. What today we build in the immateriality of cyberspace will tomorrow be realised concretely with nano technology. 
Our syncretic reality will emerge partly through the cultural coherence that intensive interconnectivity elicits, partly through the nano and quantum coherence at the base of our world-building, and partly through the spiritual coherence that informs the field of our multi-layered consciousness. 
As a society, as much as we exercise our everyday awareness, we fear consciousness; we avoid exploring it, we deny its deepest dimensions, and we refute its universal connectivity and collectivity. We know nothing of where it is located, how it arises, of what it is constituted. There is a sense amongst some scientists that they dare not challenge the folk theory of mind as an epiphenomenon of the brain. Too much would be at stake if the Newtonian applecart were to be overturned. Think of the denial amongst physicists of the metaphysical implications of quantum mechanics. Think of the doctrinaire rigidity of those whose fundamentalist materialism credits the brain with the creation of consciousness, rather than investigating the brain as an organ of access to fields of consciousness. Think also of those innumerable first person reports in all cultures at all times of psychic perception in all its forms, that have been routinely rejected out of hand by mainstream science. However, it is an astrophysicist, Attila Grandpierre , who most usefully provides a description of consciousness with the application of field theory, arguing that “the organisation of an organism involves fields, which are the only means to make a simultaneous tuning of the different subsystems of the organism-as-a-whole. Fields with their ability to comprehend the whole organism are the natural basis of a global interaction between organisms and of collective consciousness . . . ”. He offers a quantum-physical model of a multi-layered consciousness, Direct, immediate action at a distance actually exists in the electromagnetic field, which is the coupling, mediator field between waves and particles. The environmental, natural and cosmic fields are determinative sources of our consciousness. “The collective field of consciousness is a significant physical factor of the biosphere”. However, in many cases, field theories are pushed to the margins of scientific respectability. The new organicism of May Wan Ho, the biophotonic research of Fritz-Albert Popp, the holonomic brain theory of Karl Pribram, the implicate order of David Bohm, are distanced by the scientific establishment. And Donna Haraway, even amongst the cognoscenti of media art, is recognized more for her Cyborg Manifesto than for her much earlier Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors of Organicism in Twentieth-Century Developmental Biology . Of considerable significance to the evolving ontology of new media art is the major shift in research focus of Tom Ray that moves from Artificial Life to mind science. It is a research that plays a radical part in the emergence of moistmedia - the convergence of dry computational technologies and wet biological systems, since its concern is with the re-evaluation of psychedelics, and by extension, the pharmacology of plants, in the understanding of mind states, and of consciousness at large. 
Ray, initially famous amongst new media artists and computer scientists for the creation of Tierra (1991) is now engaged in providing the first comprehensive view of how pharmacological compounds interact with the human receptome. [He wants] “to get to know the pharmacology of the attractors . . . .to begin to map the chemical organization of the human mind”. 
The digital moment in art has passed, it has been absorbed into practice, and assimilated by theory, A pharmacological moment is upon us, within cognitive science and beyond its orthodox borders. In the evolving technoetic culture, living in altered states of consciousness will become more frequently the norm, just as living in multiple states of body informs our living today – both in Second life scenarios and the syncretic reality of contemporary being. In our the syncretic, moistmedia, telematic culture, we are engaged in re-inventing ourselves, creating new social networks, new orders of time and space. Technoetics leads to serial selves, serial relationships, serial self-invention. Human nature, unconstrained, is essentially syncretic. Just as cybernetics analogises differences between systems, so syncretism finds likeness between unlike things. If cybernetics underlies the technology of new media art, syncretism informs the psyche. Syncretic thinking breaches boundaries and subvert protocols. Hypermedia is its telematic correlate. 
In religious or spiritual contexts, syncretism can mean combining from diverse sources epistemologies, rituals, psychic instruments, psychotropic plants and herbs, into new forms of sacred communion. In contemporary society, syncretism may involve combining technologies that are interactive and digital, reactive and mechanical, psychoactive and chemical, and new rituals of contemporary social networks that are mobile, locative, and online, together with a creative sensibility towards the practices of older cultures that have habitually been seen as alien, exotic and in many cases proscribed. Digital art is dangerously approaching the status of orthodoxy; the period of extreme speculation, invention and untrammelled creativity is in danger of giving way to academicism and commercialisation, The real revolution in the new digital technology (which will be even more radical with the evolving nanotechnology) lies not so much that of global connectivity – person to person, mind to mind – that releases us from the constraints of time and place (great as that is), but its power to provide for the release of the self, release from the self, the fictive “unified self” that psycho-analysts and therapists relentlessly promote. No! We are multiple, made up of many selves, with access to many layers of consciousness. Rather than needing to go deep into ones self, we need to reach out to the many selves that our innate creativity craves. The revolution in consciousness lies in our ability to be many selves, to be telematically in many places at the same time, our digital and post-biological self-creation leading to many personas, many aspects of what we each can be. In short, the 21st century self is generative. This is of course the appeal of Second Life, as it is to the many narratives and games of generative identity, shape-shifting, an transformative personality that new media art has created. 
We find the earliest and most prescient exemplars of the multiple self in the heteronyms of Fernando Pessoa, each with his own individual history, appearance, emotional register, philosophy, and style of writing. Were Pessoa to be active today, they would probably be Second Life personae. As John Gray has pointed out, “Fernando Pessoa invented at least 72 fictive identities. These jostling aliases express his belief that the individual subject -- the core of European thought -- is an illusion". Therein lies Pessoa’s significance today. He well understood the notion of the distributed self, that we are each many selves. Pessoa left a trunk containing over 25,000 items: poems, letters, journals – writings on philosophy, sociology, history, literary criticism, plays, treatises on astrology, observations on the occult, esoterica of many kinds – written by dozens of heteronyms. Pessoa’s psychological and literary prescience, and the breadth and complexity of his interests, anticipated life in our hypertextual world of the Web, where the fluidity of associative links and genres, and the instability, variability and transformation of identities and personas is one of its greatest appeals and challenges. We can only imagine what his (dis)embodied syncretism might have brought to the telematic embrace. Through his exploration of consciousness, he developed occult skills and paranormal powers, including spiritualist mediumship, telepathy, and especially his development of 'etheric vision. The challenge to our syncretic model of thought and action in the context of creativity is to untie the Newtonian knot that binds our perception, and seek always to put subject before object, process before system, behaviour before form, intuition before reason, mind before matter... 
A truly technoetic and syncretic art will embrace concepts of biophysics: coherence, macroscopic quantum states, long-range interactions, non-linearity, self-organization and self-regulation, communication networks, field models, interconnectedness, non-locality, and the inclusion of consciousness. 

Roy Ascott.2014

segunda-feira, dezembro 08, 2014

"Concerning Violence"

The powerful new film from Göran Hugo Olsson, director of The Black Power Mixtape, is a fresh and bold visual narrative, documenting the liberation from colonial rule in the ‘60s and ‘70s in Africa. Working with recently discovered archival footage, the film depicts some of the most daring moments ever captured during the anti-colonialist struggle. Drawn from Frantz Fanon’s still-evocative and searing text “The Wretched of the Earth” and narrated by the socially engaged singer Lauryn Hill, CONCERNING VIOLENCE is a striking and emotionally resonant cinematic essay, which confronts the dehumanizing mechanisms of colonialism of the past to illuminate the urgent need for change in the present. 


...We should flatly refuse the situation to which the Western countries wish to condemn us. Colonialism and imperialism have not paid their score when they withdraw their flags and their police forces from our territories. For centuries the capitalists have behaved in the underdeveloped world like nothing more than war criminals. Deportations, massacres, forced labor, and slavery have been the main methods used by capitalism to increase its wealth, its gold or diamond reserves, and to establish its power. Not long ago Nazism transformed the whole of Europe into a veritable colony. The governments of the various Europan nations called for reparations and demanded the restitution in kind and money of the wealth which had been stolen from them: cultural treasures, pictures, sculptures, and stained glass have been given back to their owners. There was only one slogan in the mouths of Europeans on the morrow of the 1945 V-day: "Germany must pay." Herr Adenauer, it must be said, at the opening of the Eichmann trial, and in the name of the German people, asked once more for forgiveness from the Jewish people. Herr Adenauer has renewed the promise of his people to go on paying to the state of Israel the enormous sums which are supposed to be compensation for the crimes of the Nazis.


In the same way we may say that the imperialist states would make a great mistake and commit an unspeakable injustice if they contented themselves with withdrawing from our soil the military cohorts, and the administrative and managerial services whose function it was to discover the wealth of the country, to extract it and to send it off to the mother countries. We are not blinded by the moral reparation of national independence; nor are we fed by it. The wealth of the imperial countries is our wealth too. On the universal plane this affirmation, you may be sure, should on no account be taken to signify that we feel ourselves affected by the creations of Western arts or techniques. For in a very concrete way Europe has stuffed herself inordinately with the gold and raw materials of the colonial countries: Latin America, China, and Africa. From all these continents, under whose eyes Europe today raises up her tower of opulence, there has flowed out for centuries toward that same Europe diamonds and oil, silk and cotton, wood and exotic products. Europe is literally the creation of the Third World. The wealth which smothers her is that which was stolen from the underdeveloped peoples. The ports of Holland, the docks of Bordeaux and Liverpool were specialized in the Negro slave trade, and owe their renown to millions of deported slaves. So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hand on his heart that he must come to the aid of the poor underdeveloped peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude. Quite the contrary; we say to ourselves: "It's a just reparation which will be paid to us."

read the Full text of "Concerning Violence,"