Ein Bild aus Berlin 1

Pixelpark: Angela Bulloch in der Berliner Galerie Schipper und Krome

Nach dem Ende der mehr oder weniger rauschenden Eröffnungsparties des Berliner Kunstherbstes läßt sich zumeist besser sortieren, welche Ausstellungen denn nun wirklich sehenswert sind und welche nicht. Die einhellige Meinung war, dass die Kunst-Institutionen der Stadt fast völlig versagt haben; weder im Hamburger Bahnhof noch in der Nationalgalerie erfuhr man Neues zum State of the Art. So blieben nur mal wieder die privaten Galerien, die den guten Ruf von Berlin als Kunstmetropole wieder blankpolieren durften. Die derzeit spannendste Ausstellung des Berliner Kunstherbstes ist derzeit bei Schipper und Krome unter dem vielsagenden Titel „Blow_Up_TV“ in der Auguststraße zu sehen.

Blow-Up nennen Fotografen die Vergrößerung eines Fotos, dessen Details nicht gut sichtbar sind. In dem gleichnamigen Streifen Blow-Up von Michelangelo Antonioni von 1967 – der als „bester Film aller Zeiten“ gefeiert wurde – spielt eine solche Vergrößerung die Hauptrolle: Ein Fotograf kommt zufällig einem Mord auf die Spur, indem er ein unscheinbares Foto dermaßen vergrößert, daß darauf ein Revolver – die Mordwaffe – sichtbar wird.

Nun wird man bei Schipper und Krome in der Berliner Auguststraße nicht direkt mit einer Mordwaffe konfrontiert. Keine Angst, man wird nicht gleich abgeknallt, wenn man über den Hof der alten Wäscherei geht. Wenn die kanadisch-britische Künstlerin Angela Bulloch eine Szene aus Blow Up zum Ausgangsmaterial ihrer neuen Arbeit wählt, dann geht es eher um die technische Sublimierung des Mediums, als um die Message des Mords. Trotzdem kommt dabei eine der besten Ausstellungen des Berliner Kunstherbstes heraus.

In der Schlüsselszene des Films versteckt sich der Hauptdarsteller hinter einem Baum, um das entscheidende Foto zu schiessen: Diese Szene, die wie der ganze Film Verborgenheit und Entbergung, Verstecken und Entdecken verschränkt, nimmt Angela Bulloch als Ausgangsmaterial ihrer neuen Arbeit „Blow_Up T.V.“ Doch Bulloch hält sich nicht lange bei der Film-Philosophie auf, sondern rückt dem Filmbild direkt mit modernster Technik zu Leibe: Sie macht einen Ausschnitt der Szene mit dem Fotografen und digitalisiert ihn zunächst im Computer. Beim Übergang von der analogen Bildwirklichkeit des Fotos zur digitalen Bildtechnik des Computers werden 1,8 Millionen Pixel auf ganze 16 Pixel runtergerechnet: Die Technik macht’s möglich.

Die Technik sorgt aber auch dafür, daß man in Bullochs Radikal-Blow-Up nichts mehr erkennen kann: Bei Schipper und Krome leuchten und blinken die 16 Pixel auf Bildschirmen in den hübschesten Pastellfarben; das Geblinke, das man sieht, ist reines Rechnen. Die technische Abstraktion ist ausgesprochen eindrucksvoll; doch erkennen, dass es sich hier um das Bild eines fotografierenden Fotografen handelt, kann man nicht mehr. Das ist die Dialektik zwischen Erkennen und Verkennen: Während die Vergrößerung des Bildes in Antonionis Film noch eine Erkenntnis zutage gefördert hat, erkennt man in der heftig übertriebenen Vergrößerung nichts mehr.

Auf dem Hamburger Spiegel-Hochhaus ist derzeit eine ähnliche Arbeit Bullochs zu sehen: Und zwar unterhält sich die englische Künstlerin mit Stefan Aust über Medien, Realität und Authentizität; doch die Gesichter der beiden Gesprächspartner sind ebenso gepixelt und aufgeblasen wie der Fotograf aus Antonionis Film. Steht man zu nah am Spiegel-Haus, erkennt man auf dem vier mal vier Meter großen Bildschirm trotz Medienwand nichts; etwa auf der Höhe der Deichtorhallen am Hafenausgang erkennt man vage zwei Personen. Auch hier landet Bulloch mit der modernsten Technik bei der schlichtesten Maxime: Auf’s richtige Maß kommt’s an.

Wer die Arbeit der 1966 in Ontario geborenen und in England aufgewachsenen Künstlerin kennt, wundert sich ein wenig über Bullochs neues Interesse am Bild: Jahrelang war sie mit Kugeln, die ebenso blinken wie jetzt ihre Bildschirme, durch Galerien und Museen gepilgert. Doch die Verwandtschaft liegt auf der Hand: Während die Leuchtkugeln akustische Codes veranschaulichten, wendet sich Bulloch nun der Programmierung des Visuellen zu. Ausgehend von der medienhistorischen Maxime, dass kein Bild möglich ist ohne Programm, läßt sich Bullochs Intervention in die Geschichte der Malerei zurückverfolgen. Plötzlich blinkt alles nur noch, bunt gepinselt oder gepixelt. (Preis Gesamtinstallation DM 140.000, je Monitor DM 48.000)

Schipper und Krome, Auguststraße 91, Di-Sa 11-18 Uhr, bis 18.November
schikro@aol.com

(c) Knut Ebeling, 18.10.2000

Das New Media Art Projekt

A Virtual Memorial – www.a-virtual-memorial.org ist seit dem 01.01.2000 als künstlerisches Mahnmalprojekt gegen das Vergessen und für Menschlichkeit in der virtuellen Umgebung des Internet installiert.

Kreiert durch Agricola de Cologne, Medienkünstler aus Köln, stellen die existenziellen Fragen menschlichen Daseins zentrales Thema des Projektes dar, die sich mit

Erinnern-Verdrängen-Vergessen

verbinden.

Das Mahnmalprojekt kombiniert Fortwährendes mit den sich rasant entwickelnden Technologien der Neuen Medien und vermittelt zwischen Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft.

Dabei geht es nicht nur darum, im virtuellen Medium des Internet mit visuellen multimedialen Mitteln Erinnerungen und Assoziationen an weltumspannende Geschehnisse wachzuhalten, wie den Holocaust oder Völkermord, Vertreibung und Verfolgung in vielen Teilen der Welt, wie Apartheit und Rassismus hier und anderswo, Aids oder globale und lokale Katastrophen, sondern auch Perspektiven in die Zukunft mit einer kritischen Beleuchtung der Medien.- oder Wissenschaftsentwicklung oder an persönliches, individuelles subjektives Erleben aus dem Alltagsleben.

A Virtual Memorial ist ein interaktives Kunstprojekt, wobei die Interaktion sich nicht alleine auf die Website interne Interaktion beschränkt. Künstler und Institutionen aus aller Welt sind aufgerufen sich durch eigene Beiträge an dem Projekt zu beteiligen, wobei die Vielfalt an Aspekten für das Projekt eine wichtige Rolle spielt. Die Interaktion zeigt sich auch darin, auf welche Weise ein Bild erzeugt wird. Im Sinne des divisionistischen Prinzips AGRICOLA’s geschieht dies durch eine Vielfalt an Aspekten und Assoziationen, die durch die verschiedenen Kategorien in denen Beiträge aufgenommen werden können. Diese reichen von einfachen Links zu Websites die im weitesten Sinne Bezüge zum Thema des Projektes haben, bis zu den sehr persönlichen Künstlerbeiträgen der ArtObjects, welche direkt in das Mahnmalprojekt eingebettet werden. Am umfangreichsten ist die Liste der TextLinks, welche unterteilt in verschiedene Sektionen aus Sicht des oder der Künstler von Bedeutung für den Sinnzusammenhang des Projektes sind und die eigentlich Wahrnehmungsumgebung darstellen.

Aus der Fülle der höchst unterschiedlichen Aspekte und zudem auf unterschiedlichen Wahrnehmungsebenen entsteht nach und nach ein komplexes Bild im Innern oder vor den Augen des Betrachters, nicht jedoch in Form eines einzelnen konventionellen realen Bildwerkes.

Die Aktivität und Offenheit des Betrachteres ist gefragt. Dadurch, daß Beiträge aus allen Teilen der Welt, aus allen Kulturen, Kontinenten und Glaubensrichtungen aufgenommen werden, kann ein Einblick darin gewährt werden, wie Menschen auf dieser Welt mit den Fragen ihrer Bestimmung umgehen.

Das Projekt ist weitestgehend in Flash 4 (Macromedia) entwickelt , ergänzt teilweise durch Javascript und HTML.. Als „streaming Medium“ ist die Flash Technologie für künstlerische Inhalte und Gestalten prädestiniert, sie erlaubt komplexe animierte Inhalte bei stark redizierter Dateigröße und geringen Downloadzeiten. Unterstützt wird dies noch durch die interne Scriptsprache.

Das Projekt ist als work in progress auf Dauer hin im Internet installiert. Im Gegensatz zu herkömmlichen Mahnmalen gibt es jedoch kein entgültiges, statisches, sondern ein sich ständig veränderndes, mobiles Resultat, welches sich stets den neuesten technologischen Entwicklungen, neuen Erkenntnissen und veränderten künstlerischen Sichtweisen anpaßt.

Zur Zeit gibt es Teilnehmer und Beteiligungen aus Brasilien, USA, Argentinien, Nepal, Italien, Großbritannien, Russland, Lettland, Nigeria, Ungarn, Griechenland und Deutschland.

Kontakte und zusätzliche Informationen über:

Email info@a-virtual-memorial.org

Strategies of Media Art

What exactly is media art today? Is it a part of art or apart from art? If it is a part of art, some will say, where are its masterpieces, what is its market share? If it is apart from art where intellectually and culturally is it located? Can media art now be anything but interactive? In cyberspace, can the viewer now be anything less than actively involved in the creation of meaning and the fulfillment of personal experience? Is the computer just a new kind of tool, and the Net just anew kind of medium? Or are we becoming immersed in a wholly new environment, eliciting new behaviors, new relationships and new ambitions, perhaps with profound ontological implications? Certainly our systems of perception and cognition are changing. We see further and deeper, into space and into matter. We think more associatively, communicate more quickly, remember more extensively. Consciousness itself may be re-framed. Artificial life, biotechnology and complexity, which have most recently attracted the creative mind, make manifest the principles of emergence and the virtue of bottom up construction. How are these principles to be applied imaginatively to art?

Interactive media, immaterial or re-materialised, however conceived and however implemented, support an art which is essentially transformative. In the flux of the Net and the ambiguities of cyberspace, our own identity and sense of self are challenged, as are many of the previous assumptions about the nature of art, the nature of meaning and the nature of Nature itself. In this paper, which I am honoured to give as the keynote to MASS’98, I shall attempt to sketch out the parameters of this new, emerging field of art, highlighting its divergence from previous practices, indicating its affinities to past cultures, and pointing to future ambitions.

Art is the search for new language, for new ways of constructing reality and for the means of re-defining ourselves. It is language embodied in forms and behaviors, texts and structures. It is language involving all the senses when it is embodied in digital media, in computer-mediated systems and structures. Digital media are transformative media; digital systems are the agencies of change. The computer is essentially a dynamic environment, which involves artificial and human intelligence in non-linear processes of emergence, construction and transformation.

Through the languages it creates, art serves to reframe consciousness, to engender new behaviours, to re-invent the world. Art can only be evaluated and defined by the new language it produces. For the artist simply to reiterate and maintain received and established language, uncreatively and uncritically, is to renounce the idea that we can rethink ourselves and our world, and to accede to the notion that in matters of reality our minds are made up for us.

In Richard Rorty’s words: „To create one’s mind is to create one’s own language, rather than to let the length of one’s mind be set by language other human beings have left behind“ (Contingency, irony and solidarity, Cambridge University Press, 1989). Rorty is a thinker who challenges the very category in which the world would place him. As one of the West’s most celebrated philosophers, he eschews the designation of ‚philosophy‘ in favour of ‚fiction‘, seeing that it is the artist’s utopian impulse and fecundity of metaphor that leads to the creation of reality, thereby denying the passive acceptance of any canonical description.

Similarly, many media artists today seek to escape the constraints of artistic identity in order to stray freely in the speculative zones of science and technology, mysticism and philosophy. Categories of this kind, whether of ‚philosopher‘, ’scientist‘ or ‚artist‘ simply contain and constrain knowledge and action, often as not used expediently or cynically in order to secure the appearance of truth. Truth at any cost – an illusion of course. Breaking free of categories, intellectually and emotionally, and constructing new realities, new language, new practices is what art is seeking to achieve.

It was Nietzsche who first explicitly suggested we drop the whole idea of ‚knowing the truth‘. His definition of truth as a „mobile army of metaphors“ amounted to saying that the whole idea of ‚representing reality“ by means of language, and thus the idea of finding a single context for all human lives, should be abandoned. Such thoughts help describe the context in which the more significant (i.e. non-ornamental) digital art can be produced. There are many takes on reality, many ways of finding their expression. But where hitherto art has been the servant of such expression, it is now more engaged in the process of creating reality, of constructing worlds, and in a sense legitimising all our own alternative realities. In this way art is an agency of Becoming… a constructive, more than expressive or decorative, process. The artist is ready to call upon any system, organic or technological, which enables that process to develop. For the same reason he must be prepared to look anywhere, into any discipline, scientific or spiritual, any view of the world, however banal or arcane, any culture, immediate or distant, in order to find those processes which engender this becoming. In my own work for example, cybernetics and shamanism, can happily co-exist in this multidimensional domain of knowledge and its associative structures.

And in this process, a community of minds, particularly when they are telematically interactive, can richly compliment the intensity of thought that a solitary practice and research provides. It is community, of course, which creates values, and the ethics of cyberspace are only just beginning to be formulated. Still greater and perhaps more urgent is the need to establish the moral landscape in which advanced technology and higher states of consciousness, or machines and mysticism if you will, can co-exist and, more poignantly, co-evolve. There are enormous dangers here. The movement Aum, in Japan, is just one example of the morally corrupt and ethically perverse forms of so-called ’spiritual transcendence‘ that new technology can engender. Across the world, the Web serves many other unbalanced and inverted groups. But just as there is corruption through a kind of techno-spiritual excess, so also there can be a kind of po-faced protestantism which seeks to inhibit creative vision and optimism.

In this respect, cyberspace is sometimes been treated as a ideological black hole into which the professional frustrations and innate pessimism of would-be theorists and pop sociologists can be poured. This is the „endless labour of negation“ which characterises so much that passes for theory in the field of cyberculture and the digital arts. This is not to say that there is no place for critical theory in the evolving discourse but it must embody constructive proposals for future practice lest it remain in the academic domain of sterile caution. A wagging finger is no substitute for constructive (or connective) criticism and intellectual probity. Certainly, it is for the artist to show both moral and creative ascendancy over these negative tendencies, to make of art a wholly ethical synthesis of mind and matter, particularly when this concerns transcendent mind and technological matter. I believe that we can do so, and that an important challenge of the coming decades will be precisely to invest the evolving post-biological, technoetic culture with a truly human system of values. This calls for a general disposition of optimism, what I have described as „telenoia“ (the celebration of connectivity and open-ended collaboration) to replace the „paranoia“, the anxiety, the alienation and negativity of the old industrial age.

Such ambition redefines the work of the artist and gives it also relevance in the political context. It replaces the historical sense of the artist’s role as an „honourable calling“ with the idea of such work as a „transformative vocation“ – a concept which is central to the theory of society of Roberto Unger, the Brazilian thinker and Harvard Professor of Law. His programme for social reconstruction constitutes a radical alternative to Marxism on the one hand and „social democracy“ on the other. He shows how, against the idea of work as purely instrumental or as an honourable calling, a third idea of work has appeared in the world. „It connects self-fulfillment and transformation: the change of any aspect of the practical or imaginative settings of the individual’s life. To be fully a person, in this conception, you must engage in a struggle against the defects of the limits of existing society or available knowledge“. (Politics: the Central Texts, Theory against Fate. London: Verso. 1997).

Moreover, he shows the need for the „diffusion to ever broader numbers of people of an idea of work once restricted to a tiny number of leaders, artists, and thinkers and not always and everywhere shared even by them. In this view of work, true satisfaction can be found only in an activity that enables people to fight back, individually or collectively, against the established settings of their lives – to resist these settings and remake them. The dominant institutional and imaginative structure of a society represents a major part of this constraining biographical circumstance, and it must therefore also be a central target of transformative resistance“.

The value of interactive and telematic media in this context is immediately apparent, since the widespread diffusion of ideas and the enrichment of individual and collective work are the defining attributes of such media. And it is in art practice that these attributes have been most imaginatively explored and where new models of communication, construction and, indeed, resistance have been most subtly modelled. Here both the concept of emergence and the principle of uncertainty must be evoked since the processes involved are neither prescriptive nor deterministic – all is open-ended, incomplete and contingent, awaiting always the intervention and constructive collaboration of the viewer.

Similarly contingent is the way that images, words, and structures come „into the mind“ – somehow and from somewhere, the process of emergent thought being as mysterious to the artist as it is inexplicable to scientists. Consciousness is the great mysterium, the challenge, at the artistic and intellectual frontier of our time. It is the dilemma of modern science that no effective explanation of consciousness has been found. The artist and scientist are both faced with the same insistent questions. What is mind? Where is consciousness located? Is it to be found within the brain or is the brain immersed in it, as it were within a field? Are there varieties of consciousness, levels which can be transcended? Can conscious experience be shared? What might the nature of artificial consciousness be?

These issues of mind/body, spirit/matter, concept/form are tied up with questions of identity, of self-definition, of what it is to be human. Do we possess creativity or does creativity possess us? Should the artist firmly claim the meaning of his work or is its semiosis invested in the viewer. Is not art, like knowledge itself, always on the edge of instability, oscillating between certitude and indeterminacy, just as the quantum world seems to be? Since the meaning of an artwork is a product of the viewer’s negotiation, is the artist responsible for its content or is his role to provide contexts from which meaning can arise?

In the brief history of interactive art, the participation of the viewer has remained, by definition, essential: but increasingly works of interactive art have become non-finite, with no ultimate resolution. It is more a matter of open-ended process than finite product. What has changed significantly is the disposition of the viewers. They are no longer simply interactive but pro-active. Their relationship to the „artwork/network“ is prospective rather than receptive. Their perception has become cyberception. Each individual identity is unstable. It may be multiple, distributed or collective. Identity in cyberspace is variable and complex, always transformable. It derives from a network of minds, rather than the autonomous, solitary mind. It entails a flowing interpenetrating of formerly discrete cognitive systems. It is all about transformation. That is why cyberspace is so appealing. Cyberspace is the very stuff of transformation; it embodies being-in-flux, constituting a kind of artificial becoming. But its primary importance is that it stimulates changes in ourselves, transforming aspects of mind and behaviour, bringing forth cyberception, teleprescience, altering the ratio of the senses.

I see 20th century art’s investigation into Being and Becoming, or to use Chris Langton’s phrase „life-as-it-could-be“, mirrored in its preference for process over product, behaviour over form, valuing concepts in their own right, even to the exclusion of direct visual representations of the external world. This artistic provenance of conceptual and constructive process exerts a huge influence on the strategies that we artists adopt today. Similarly, there is a compelling strand in Western art of the spiritual and visionary, of works attempting to transcend their materiality to other planes of experience and awareness. (We need only think of Blake, Boccioni, and Kandinsky for example). One can foresee an art emerging, which looks closely at the models of mind that science is providing, while exploring those technologies, which enable the reframing of consciousness, to develop the faculty of ‚cyberception‘, and to assist in the creation of self-aware systems. Indeed, I foresee a truly technoetic art as the defining cultural paradigm of the new century. At the same time, I want an art that is progressively less preoccupied with the immaterial and screen-based world and moves towards a re-materialisation of art that can incorporate artificial life, artificial consciousness and a kind of hybrid, ‚moist‘ biology. Set within the net, this is to foresee a bio-telematic emergence.

I want our paranormal and paranatural powers to be re-instated and integrated into the repertoire of human action. In this respect we have so much to learn from distant cultures, distant in space and in time. „Distanced“ is the more appropriate term. I found the time I spent deep in the Amazonian jungle as a guest of the Kuikuru people of immense importance to my understanding of the place of transformative technology and multimedia systems in the integration of the self with a larger field of consciousness. Their technology was plant technology (‚ayahuasca‘ – based on the vine Banisteriopsis caapi) and their systems were ritualised, with an exuberant employment of all the sensory modes (image, sound, and dance). What I learned from their ancient culture, profoundly integrated into the complexity of the jungle, that is of particular significance to us, immersed in the cyberworld, was the importance of enactment over performance. That „art“ for them, although performative, was essentially an enactment of multimedia intricacy designed to re-structure the psyche, indeed the whole psychic field, and not a performance that required or even implied an audience.

Everyone engaged was immersed in the psychic space; no one was separated out as an observer. By contrast, the progressive degeneration of interactive art can be foreseen if museums persist in presenting transformative work as if it were an object, or spectacle, in which the interactive viewer becomes part of an ensemble, or tableau, that the second observer can view, inactively, passively, at a distance. It simply perpetuates the old culture of hierarchical separation, which of course in turn, perpetuates the old social and political order. I learned much in the Amazon (and in Brazil more widely) both through the transformative power of the vine and through reflection on the fluidity of personal identity. I understood that our experience in cyberspace of double consciousness . being both in the body and out of body in telematic space (and moving easily between these states) simply mirrored what the shaman has done for thousands of years, with the effect of the vine, moving between worlds, shape-shifting, and inhabiting multiple bodies. My experience of the ayahuasca was enormously enriched by the thesis of Jeremy Narby, published in English translation as The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1998). Bringing together aspects of molecular biology, shamanism, neurology and ancient mythology, he substantiates the Indians‘ claims that to a consciousness prepared with the vine, specific biochemical knowledge can be transmitted – through DNA itself. He suggests that DNA and the life it codes for at the cellular level are ‚minded‘ – an aspect of Mind. DNA communication within individuals, between individuals and, indeed between species, is central to this thesis of transformation.

To me also, as to my colleagues whose practices are invested in networked hypermedia and virtual reality, and populated with artificial agents and avatars, it is clear that identity can be endlessly transformed. The immutability and unity of the self, so dearly prized in the European tradition, is giving way to an understanding of how we each can be involved in our own self-creation.

The impact of science on our thinking (especially its metaphors and models), on our readings of the world and the limitations and potential of human beings, has been no less considerable than the impact of the conceptual and constructive forces of 20th century art. Complexity, quantum physics, the cognitive sciences, and new biology, for example, provide fresh perspectives on being and becoming. Advanced technology provides opportunities for the exploration of mind and the extension of the body that challenge many preconceptions we have held about our „innate“ nature and the limitations of space and time. We need only look at the effects of connectivity and interaction, to see how rapidly new technologies are enabling people, places and ideas to come together in entirely new configurations and conjunctions.

Let me, by way of summing up; return to my opening questions. Media art today cannot properly be defined since it is in a process of rapid evolution. To be precise, it is inherently unstable, incomplete and open ended . and necessarily and aesthetically so. Moreover it is migrating from its silicon substrate towards the ‚moist‘ domain of a post-biological culture. It is perhaps a part of art, in the sense that it continues to share to some extent in the institutions and ordinances of artistic culture; but in its close affinity to science and technology, it is much more concerned with process and system (forms of behaviour) than with objects and structures (the behaviour of forms.). In fact a wholly new field of practice is emerging in which the designated compartmentalisation of ‚art‘, ’science‘ and ‚technology‘ is losing relevance, in favour of a widespread connectivity across all kinds of intellectual, cultural, esoteric and political domains. Common to these domains is the question of consciousness and ‚technologies‘ through which it might be investigated, reframed and perhaps understood. There are no masterpieces, unless emergence, interaction, and transformation are to be the cardinal criteria of selection. If there will be a share in the overstocked and overreaching art market, it will accrue from conceptual rather than commodity values. In cyberspace, the viewer cannot be anything less than actively involved in the creation of meaning and the fulfillment of personal experience.

Emphatically, the computer is not just a new kind of tool, and the Net is not just a new kind of medium: we are instead wholly immersed in a radically new environment, which is eliciting new behaviors, new relationships and new consciousness. It is an environment in which we must open up wormholes to other, older cultures and reach for other, older technologies. Technoetics, the technology of cognition and consciousness, will not be limited to computer hardware and software, however integrated into the human brain that may become. Biochemical knowledge, ‚moist‘ technology and a dynamic Alife will constitute an important part of our post-biological culture. As we move into the new millennium, these are the issues that will dominate; these are questions which new media practice must address. The ontological implications are indeed profound. It’s not just that we are now not what we once were (or thought we had to be) but that we do not yet know what it is that we can become or truly wish to be.

Quelle: lea

The Museum of the Third Kind

Any discussion of the museum of the future must necessarily respond to the computer-mediated practices which define the canon of late 20th century art. While that seems to make sense in the context of a culture saturated with computer and communications systems, services and products it would be shortsighted for this perspective to disregard the impact that biotechnology, molecular engineering, and artificial life may exert on the arts over the next 25 years. The electronics revolution has moved from where it started in communications, to the digital computer, and now into the human brain. It is the new biological and cognitive sciences rather than computer science which lead the way. Indeed it could be argued that while the body and its presence, as an instrument of interactivity and a subject or virtuality, dominates muchcurrent discourse, it will be questions of the mind/brain, that is to say consciousness, which will come to dominate art practice in the future. And the future is all that museums can provide for. We know now that there is no absolute history, that the past is written in the present. We are irredeemably futures-oriented, and our museums as well as our institutions of learning must come to reflect that. One thing is certain. Nothing is given, neither the past, present nor future: all is constructed, and the site of that construction is our own consciousness. It is well recognised that consciousness is a field, and that telematic systems are a part of its evolution.

The Internet, as it develops, may indeed come to provide the infrastructure of a global mind. Thus in one respect the museum must be a part of that infrastructure, but it would be both foolish and shortsighted to think that the museum should be no more than that, that it should exist only in cyberspace, online or in a state of total virtuality. Electronic art is soon to become bio-electronic art, just as the primary element of its practice, the microchip is about to become the bio chip, and the digital computer gives way to the neural network. We are moving towards the spiritual in art in ways that Kandinsky could hardly have imagined, such that telepresence will be accompanied by teleprescience, and cybernetic systems will integrate with psychic systems, mutating into what could be called psybernetics.

This attitude is reflected in the remarks of Isao Karube, a leading-edge technologist of Tokyo University. "Now that people’s attention is turning towards the inner world, in the developed countries where materialism has reached saturation point, the future of electronics depends on the problem of what sort of approach to take towards the brain, the neurons, and the mind.

Art is no longer a onesided encounter with official taste, nor a secondary encounter of personal interpretation, but a close encounter of the third kind, involving transformation and interactivity, where the observer becomes an integral part of the creative system. Our art may be called digital, paranatural, technological, online, virtual, post-biological or whatever, but it will always henceforth be interactive.

To talk about the Museum of the Third Kind is to talk about the two primary coordinates of its design, or rather of its artificial genetic code, since it is more a question of its process of emergence than of creating a definitive blueprint for its construction.The primary coordinates are those of behaviour and architecture. To understand behaviour in this context we must understand what I have defined as "cyberception" : Post-biological technologies enable us to become directly involved in our own transformation, and are bringing about a qualitative change in our being. The emergent faculty of cyberception, our artificially enhanced interactions of perception and cognition, involves the transpersonal technology of global networks and cybermedia. We are learning to see afresh the processes of emergence in nature, the planetary media-flow, while at the same time re-thinking possibilities for the architecture of new worlds. Cyberception not only implies a new body and a new consciousness but a redefinition of how we might live together in the interspace between the virtual and the real.

Western architecture shows too much concern with surface and structures – an arrogant "edificiality" – and is too little aware of the human need for transformative systems. There is no biology of building. Architecture has no response to the realities of cyborg living, or the distributed self, or to the ecology of digital interfaces and network nodes. Cities must become the matrix of new forms of consciousness and of the rhythms and realisations of post-biological life.

The convergence of computers and communications is producing an environment, a telematic culture, in which many cherished institutions and artistic practices are feeling challenged, threatened, or just plain redundant, as exemplified not least of all by that triumph of ideological instrumentality, the museum. The cyberstress that the new technologies and new media exert upon the Culture of Representation is felt as much at the larger political level as it is in individual, personal experience. The impact of telepresence, bionic diversity, distributed knowledge, collaborative creativity, and artificial life on our sense of self, our sense of what is natural, what it is to be human, indeed of the status and legitimacy of every day reality, is more than most traditional discourses can bear. The breaking point however is not the death of culture or the incoherence of consciousness but the revitalisation of our whole state of being and a renewal of the conditions and construction of what we choose to call reality.

Telematic culture concerns the global connectivity of persons, of places, but above all, of mind. The internet is the crude infrastructure of an emergent consciousness, a kind of global brain. The Net is prodigious in its empowerment of associative thought – the thought of the artist – that aspect of cognition which leads most often to creativity. It is the intelligence of neural networks. It is leading us to the collective intelligence of a planetary "hypercortex". Art is always first a matter of consciousness, without a spiritual dimension it atrophies. The artist working with digital technologies must always be asking the question "is there love in the telematic embrace?"

In claiming to track changes and movements in culture by selecting, preserving, and presenting artifacts objectively, the Museum is actually engaged, sometimes ideologically engaged, in constructing consciousness and behaviour. The museum does not clarify our perceptions so much as codify them. Museums are never passive. So the Museum of the Third Kind, in its online and distributed form, is potentially an extremely powerful tool. We must be sure it is in the right hands. This means that it must change its role as guardian of an official reality to being that of guide to an Emergent Reality, to Nature II, and to entirely new forms of collaborative experience. Thus, in the emergent culture the principal focus of the Art Museum shifts from the plastic arts to the xenoplastic arts, the arts of connectivity and interaction. It not only brings people together across great distances, it brings ideas together across great differences. The House of the Muses must become a Garden of Hypotheses where ideas can grow . There will be plenty of groves for reflection but the emphasis will be more on action, interaction and construction, than storage, classification and interpretation. The Museum becomes a site of transformation.

Classical museum culture will mutate into a kind of bio-electronic horticulture, "digiculture", with emphasis on planting ideas, growing forms and images, harvesting meaning. The Museum of the Third Kind should thus be a hot house of artificial life rather than a conservatory of ’nature morte‘. The divide between the creation of art outside the museum, and the curating of art inside the museum will change so that at the interior it becomes a seedbed for art, and in the external world an interface to the planetary network. This can be characterised as a process of "curation" which brings the curatorial role and the act of creation into a new productive synthesis.

The museum must also adjust to the paradigmatic shift in the public’s relationship to art, knowledge and information, in which their role is more dynamic, more demanding of interaction. For the post-biological artist context is prioritised over content. The artist is the author of systems which empower the public to create meaning through interaction. The museum will be a part of a universal macro-museum, a global resource. At the same time it will also shrink into being the micro-museum, a neural interface as minuscule as a biochip linked to the hypercortex, as in the research of Greg Kovacs at Stanford and Michael Deering at Sun Micro Systems who are working on a radio-linked chip in the back of the human neck.

What can be said of the present day Museum in the Net? Every museum director, curator and art dealer knows that the Internet is where you can display your wares to perhaps a 100 million users. There are currently thousands of public museums, university art centers, private galleries, artist groups, cultural entrepreneurs, private dealers setting up Web sites, mounting online exhibitions, publishing catalogues and critiques, and establishing archives and collections, in the dataspace of the Net. Art viewing online looks like replacing art viewing on the hoof. And maybe more significantly, the collection of paintings of one of the very earliest galleries in Europe, that of prehistoric cave paintings at Combe d’Arc in the Ardeche, was accessible in all its majestic authority on the French ministry homepage (http://www.culture.fr) within just one month of being discovered.

There is little to be said about putting material works of art out on the Net. Of course there will be distortion in any transposition from the concrete art object to the ephemeral digital image, and picture resolution is still generally rather weak. At the same time, as the designers of Chartres knew, the back lit image is intrinsically more arresting than the light reflecting surface. And it is no small thing that the great wealth of artworks and historical artifacts built up in public and private collections around the world, sometimes as the result of colonial theft and pillage, can be returned to the world with an accessibility that is truly global. As network navigation in virtual space becomes more available, no one’s geographical location will be too remote to prevent them visiting the British Museum, the Prado in Madrid, the Temple of Konarak, or the Museum of Modern Art in Caracas. This is the Digital Museum of the First Kind.

Then there is an art destined for what we might call the Museum of the Second Kind, which is not originated in pigment, canvas, or steel, but which is composed of pixels from its inception, digitally destined from the start for the computer screen, which slips easily into the Net for instant world wide consumption. Aesthetically it is hardly different from painting or drawing in the traditional sense. A picture is rendered, forms are composed, a work of aesthetic finality is created. You may navigate it but it is basically a closed world. In both cases the Net remains a delivery system, an archival source, a catalogue of holdings. It neither challenges the traditional plastic arts nor renders them redundant. It simply extends the repetoire of artistic images and ideas, reaching those parts of the globe that other gallery mechanisms cannot reach. It is current practice to call such projects the "digital museum" but such a term can only be provisional and is, in fact an oxymoron since "digital" speaks of fluidity, transience, immateriality and transformation, while "museum" on the other hand has always stood for solidity, stability, and permanence.

There is an art which exists only in the Net, for the Net and by the Net alone. This is destined to be a part of the Museum of the Third Kind. It uses the computer not as a video terminal, through which you view objects of art, a kind of digital carousel projector, but as a screen of operations, an interface, which enables you to enter into a process of manipulation and transformation of images, texts and sound. It deals not so much with the behaviour of forms, the aesthetic of appearance, as with forms of behaviour,the aesthetic of apparition, of coming-into-being. Your interaction is with its multi-mediated form and its many layered meanings. It is about the viewer being active in the creation of art, actually with the creation of meaning. In the Net, to see is to own! Whatever arrives at your particular interface from no matter where on the Net, whether it’s image, text, or soundbite, it is yours to keep. More significantly, it is yours to transform.Transformation , particularly in the hands of the viewer, is the primary functional determinant of the museum.

Virtual Reality has long been heralded as the prescription for the museum of the 21st. century. The present state of the art is arid and dry, and compares unfavourably to the wetness of nature, but there are signs of the emergence of an artificial reality, or what I prefer to call Paranatural Reality, or Nature II , which is essentially moist. It is in this moist reality, grounded in the technology of Artificial Life, and the nanotechnology of atoms and genetically engineered molecules, a post-biological reality, that life-like behaviour may emerge. We may be approaching the point of working with forces never worked with before, and sensing things which have never been sensed before. To quote again Isao Karube: "Kiko-jutsu is now in fashion (an Asian discipline which develops the inner energy called Ki) Even I could move a static piece of paper with my force, like this! This energy might possibly be measured by a sensor, perhaps a quantum wave sensor that works on a completely different theoretical basis".

This is the phase in our culture where art and science will most truly converge. Where as artists we might become partners in evolutionary change rather than simply expressive or analytical bystanders. This is a world pervaded by intelligence, as if it were leaking out of our brains and seeping into every part of the planet. Here is an art of artificial agents and algorithmic assemblies, cellular automata and digital communities which grow, expand, diversify, disperse, and reproduce within the networks, arising from that organisation which spontaneously arises from the net’s chaotic connectivity, with "no global controller responsible for the behavior of everypart", and its "bottom-up, distributed, local determination of behavior" to use the phrases that Chris Langton employs in his definition of Artificial Life .

So the Museum of the Third Kind, the museum of emergence, is a platform of operations, a seedbed, a planetary resource, a site of cultural negotiation, interaction and collaborative creativity, before it is in any sense a showcase, a stage set or repository. It will make history rather than record it. It will be future-active rather than past-passive.The art it will house, or give rise to, is a hybrid art requiring more than the artist’s skills alone. It involves disciplines which are themselves hybrid: cognitive scienceand its neural nets, biological engineering and its genetic manipulations, the physics of consciousness. Hybrid also is the viewer, user or consumer of this art. Bionic to a degree, gender-free, wholly integrated into cyberspace, transculturally oriented to the Net, living globally in the Interreality between the actual and the virtual, this is the post-biological human being. This is us as we approach the turn of the millennium. And perhaps most pertinent, in our search for definition of the Museum in this telematic, post-biological culture, it is our new faculty of cyberception which will determine the kind of space we shall inhabit, the kind of architecture we shall demand.

The Museum of the Third Kind will be anticipatory, not imposing perspectives on the history of art, but opening up a pool of possibilities from which art might emerge, working at the forward edge of contemporary culture, as an agent of cultural change, as a cause of art practice rather than as a cultural effect. It will be conceived of not as a machine but as a post-biological organism: a structure with its own memory, with a sensorium which reacts to us, as much as we interact with it, essentially an electronic central nervous system. Its interior activity will constantly be exteriorised with a constant flow of data from inside out and outside in. Similarly, satellite, cable and internet communications must allow for the 24 hour a day, two-way flow of data to and from local, regional and international centres and public places. It will have zones for the practice of telemeditation and cyberconsciousness, and for experiments with identity, persona, gender, and bionic amplification.

To understand what the Museum of the Third Kind needs to be, is to understand how the aesthetic of appearance is being replaced by the aesthetic of apparition. Where semantic closure is replaced by open-ended pathways of meaning . Where the viewing public is put in the centre of the creative process not at the periphery looking in. Where medium of art, be it electronic, digital, optical or genetic, is intrinsically and generically interactive. Where art as system constitutes a kind of structural coupling between everyone and everything within its networks, a coupling which brings the into a symbiosis the intelligence systems which constitute our world and the cognitive cyberception of our selves.

Finally, the issue of the Museum of the Third Kind is political, as the house of the Muses has always been, just as democracy itself requires a politics of the third kind, since neither Right nor Left has found any kind of satisfactory answer. The Museum of the Third Kind will be as much concerned with the democratisation of meaning as with the democratisation of communications. And unavoidably it is philosophical, since the technology of telematics is the technology of consciousness, and wisely cultivated, can lead us to a shared participation in the creation of reality.

Cyberception and the Paranatural Mind

Abstract:

The art of the latter part of this century has found much metaphorical and practical value in cybernetics. This is especially so in the case of art involving interactive media, an art in which the viewer is empowered to participate in the creative systems which the artist initiates. Similarly potent are the metaphors of physics, not least that of the wormhole. Wormholes tunnel through quantum foam. Tunnelling through what might be called "datafoam" from one hyperlinked layer to another, shooting the wormholes from one telepresence to another, from one website to another, is just precisely what we do as artists working in the post-biological culture. We wormhole in the brain as we search for new associations, new connections, new meanings, in a kind of cognitive tunnelling. The telematic culture weaves its global webs so densely that tunnelling between disparate sites, a kind of worldwide wormholing, is an inevitable consequence.

Just as the electronics revolution, which led from telecommunications to the computer, is now taking place in the human brain and extending our conception of mind, so the mind is spilling out into the world, conferring intelligence on more and more parts of the built environment.. We are moving towards a culture of bioelectronics, of intelligent architecture and the self-organising,and eventually no doubt, self-aware systems of artificial life. We have entered the noetic domain, and consciousness is at the top of our agenda.

Electronic art is becoming bio-electronic art, just as the primary element of its practice, the microchip is becoming the molecular bio chip. We are moving towards the spiritual in art in ways that Kandinsky could hardly have imagined, such that telepresence will be accompanied by teleprescience, and cybernetic systems will integrate with psychic systems, mutating into what could be called psi-bernetics.

Isao Karube of Tokyo University asserts that the inner energy "Ki" developed in the esoteric discipline Kiko-jutsu might possibly be measured by a sensor, perhaps a quantum wave sensor that works on a completely new theoretical basis. As he sees it, "now that people’s attention is turning towards the inner world, in the developed countries where materialism has reached saturation point, the future of electronics depends on the problem of what sort of approach to take towards the brain, the neurons, and the mind". In Britain, Roger Penrose is arguing that the mechanism for consciousness involves quantum gravitational phenomena, acting through microtubules in neurons. At Qinghan University in Peking, research into "qigong" seeks to apply extra sensory perception, X-ray vision and telekinesis to the control of molecular structure, to horticulture , medicine and the exploration of space.

The emerging human faculty of "cyberception" is enabling us to enter into both inner and outer worlds more deeply than our unaided natural senses hitherto permitted. The emergence of Paranature – with its symbiosis of mind, technology and artificial/living systems – confers upon us a great responsibility for the kind of worlds we construct. The artist, after being suspended for the last thirty years in a state of post-modern moral weightlessness , is now subject to the gravity of ethics, and must find new values and a new morality .

The artist can play a useful part in this, leading us through art to the collective intelligence of the hypercortex, the distributed mind of the telematic domain. The hypercortex calls for the recognition of a hyperbody and the housing of the hyperbody, a new kind of body politic, calls for an intelligent architecture.

The wormhole, in the fullness of its metaphorical reach, identifies the next great challenge for urban design and the ways we might relate to our new view of nature, paranature. With the advent of smart materials and self-regulating systems promising the emergence of an intelligent architecture, urban design is becoming cyburban design, and it is there in the cyburbs that we shall need to be able to wormhole effortlessly between real and virtual locations, meeting with real bodies and telepresences in the same continuum.

The city must gather up its suburbs, dislocate its centre, redesignate and redistribute its functional parts. If Architecture cannot respond radically to the advent of smart materials, intelligent systems, and nano-engineering, then we shall be unable to realise the vision of a sensuous city to complement our post-biological condition. How then shall we accommodate the technology of consciousness, house the cybernaut, service the telemadic traveller, or farm artificial life? In this respect it is not simply cyburban design which is on the line but our own bionic evolution.

Once the interface moves into the brain, once electronic sensors routinely utilise biological elements, once semiconductor devices use living micro-organisms, the artificial neural networks will join with our own biological neural networks into a seamless cognitive whole. The artist’s role is to apply his advanced cyberception to the emerging paranatural mind.