"Prehystories of New Media" class at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Fall 2008 + 2009, instructor: Nina Wenhart

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”
Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931
Le Conquete de l’ubiquite

>> students' research papers, Fall 2008

class .10

#01: resume of last week's topic of "genetic art"
- Eduardo Kac, "GFP Bunny", 2000
----- transgenic art
----- "a new art form based on the use of genetic engineering to transfer natural or synthetic genes to an organism"
----- also marks a huge social change and challenges
----- "The word "aesthetics" in the context of transgenic art must be understood to mean that creation, socialization, and domestic integration are a single process."
----- "human-plant-bird-mammal-robot-insect-bacteria interface"
----- transgenic art can help "negotiating the terrain between science and culture"
----- blogpost-.title: "Eduardo Kac, "GFP Bunny", 2000"
----- http://www.aec.at/en/archives/festival_archive/festival_catalogs/festival_artikel.asp?iProjectID=8221
--- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/eduardo-kac-gpf-bunny-2000.html
- Critical Art Ensemble
--- "Free Range Grain": http://www.critical-art.net/FRG.html
--- Steve Kurtz Case: http://caedefensefund.org/overview.html#issues
----- Lynn Hershman-Leeson's film about it: "Strange Days" (http://lynnhershman.com/newprojects.htm)

#02: tactical media

#02a: theory
- not defined by the use of certain media, but a variety of media, combinations, re-interpretations

- definition (from wikipedia):
"Tactical media can be defined as the appropriation of mass media in order to oppose and criticize a target which often occupies a certain position of power. This modern form of activism can be recognized by its use of current technology and its 'hit-and-run tactics' media campaigns which are often short-lived in nature.
The purpose of tactical media lays within the type of information it distributes and the warnings it can sometimes produce. By generating this information and creating this reaction, tactical media attempts to reverse the one-way-flow of communication and power and give some of the control back to the public."

- characteristics:
-- Situationist idea of detournement (reuse and mimicry of elements of well-known media to create different meaning, often directly opposed to the original)
-- take over/appropriation
-- images and words from mass culture
-- to convey a new meaning
-- against the mainstream media: revealing the antithesis, shock
-- works from inside the given situation, with its means

- Michel de Certeau, "The Practice of Everyday Life", 1980 (english: 1984)
-- examines how people individualise + appropriate mass culture by altering consumer products, social and material artefacts of a given society in order to make them their own
-- consumer (passive) vs user (active)
-- strategic vs tactical --> to deflect influence of strategy
------ strategic: producer, authority, has manifestations, relatively inflexible, goal is to perpetuate itself through the things that it makes; mass production, uniformity, need is created
----- tactical: necessity creates tactics, flexible combination according to a current need, depends on time and loopholes, infiltration, manifests itself not in its products but in its methodology, lacks the centralised structure and permanence
-- occupy time, not space
-- use of dominant media
-- deconstruction of intended use
-- use the elements of a given system in a creative manner, the result falls out of this system, creating resistance through difference
-- general introduction to the book: http://www.ubu.com/papers/de_certeau.html

- Geerd Lovink / David Garcia, "The ABC of Tactical Media", 1997
-- blogpost: "The ABC of Tactical Media, David Garcia & Geert Lovink, 1997", a quasi-manifesto for tactical media
-- "Tactical media are media of crisis, criticism and opposition."
-- a qualified form of humanism
-- process of consumption characterized as a set of tactics
-- the "rebellious user" instead of the passive consumer
-- "Tactical Media are never perfect, always in becoming, performative and pragmatic, involved in a continual process of questioning the premises of the channels they work with."
-- "To cross boarders, connecting and re-wiring a variety of disciplines and always taking full advantage of the free spaces in the media that are continually appearing because of the pace of technological change and regulatory uncertainty."

- culture jamming:
-- comes from pirate radio: pirating public frequencies for independent communication or to disrupt dominant frequencies
-- wikipedia: "public activism which is generally in opposition to commercialism, and the vectors of corporate image"
-- irony used to contrast the marketed images with reality
-- often the activists themselves take on the appearance of a corporation/authority

-- Mark Dery:
------ "Culture jamming," a term I have popularized by articles in The New York Times and Adbusters, might best be defined as media hacking, information warfare, terror-art, and guerrilla semiotics, all in one. Billboard bandits, pirate TV and radio broadcasters, media hoaxers, and other vernacular media wrenchers who intrude on the intruders, investing ads, newscasts, and other media artifacts with subversive meanings are all culture jammers."
----- his full essay about culture jamming: http://www.markdery.com/archives/books/culture_jamming/

-- Critical Theory: Th.W.Adorno + M.Horkheimer
----- critical of technology because of its potential + actual use to manipulate of the masses
----- the product of culture industry are consumers, content with passive pleasures, uncritical → Roman bread and games strategy, creating fake needs → manipulation → H.Marcuse
----- culture shapes society through standardization, power/almost monopoly, one homogenous „market“
----- threat to high art, to identity, the „aura“
----- Frankfurt School, „Critical Theory“, rooted in historical/dialectic materialism: study of society based on its means of production/ access to those → economic possibilities
----- “A technological rationale is the rationale of domination itself“
----- standardization + mass production leading to tech. culture industry, centralization, control
----- “these phenomena as inherent in the technical and personnel apparatus”
----- „Consumers appear as statistics on research organisation charts, and are divided by income groups“ --> passive consumer as the ultimate product of culture industry
----- „predominance of the effect [...] over the work itself“
----- film and entertainment industry:
---------- „no room for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience, who is unable to respond within the structure of the film“
---------- „[...] the entertainment industry determines its own language, down to its very syntax and vocabulary [...] Every detail is so firmly stamped with sameness that nothing can appear which is not marked at birth, or does not meet with approval at first sight.“

#02b: examples

- The Yes Men
-- www.gatt.org, http://www.wto.org
-- create and maintain fake websites, "identity correction"
-- assuming authority (corporations, government,...), get invitations to speak on TV, radio, at conferences,...
-- methods:
----- satire
----- culture jamming
-- "Dow Chemicals"
----- http://theyesmen.org/hijinks/dow
----- video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlUQ2sUti8o
-- "Management Leisure Suit":
----- WTO-representatives at Fabrics of the Future conference in Finland
----- video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK9Cs_UcTEE

- Billboard Liberation Front
-- http://www.billboardliberation.com/
-- "We offer a broad range of black-bag operations and cultural jam services, from project management and subversion consulting to media manipulation and thought placement. The key to our success is developing a true collaboration with our clients, and by caring as much about the working relationship as we do about the final execution. Our philosophy and track record has resulted in roster of long-term, satisfied clients in a diverse range of industries, from Fortune 1000 companies to local entrepreneurs."
-- manifesto: http://www.billboardliberation.com/manifesto.html
-- methods:
----- subvertising
----- culture jamming
----- guerilla communication

-- from streetart to galleries
-- methods:
----- "visual kidnapping":
-------- kidnapping ads
-------- "Visual kidnapping is like entering an interactive game: If the brand on the billboard kidnaps the attention of the public with the purpose of consumer demand, I reverse the situation and I kidnap the model on the poster and I demand a ransom of 500,000 Euros from the brand. This sum represents the symbolic price of an advertising campaign for the brand."
------------- project Berlin, Alexanderplatz: a female figure was cut out of an oversize advertisement banner from the company "Lavazza" and "blackmailed" them to make a 500.000 Euro donation to the "Palais de Tokyo" in Paris.
----- "Clean Graffiti Technique", "reverse graffiti":
-------- he designed dirty walls by working his pieces into the walls with cleaning machines, thereby creating a negative. --> dealing with the methods and techniques of Graffiti cleaning troops and the momentariness of Graffiti.
-------- other clean graffiti artist: Paul Curtis (UK) aka Moose

#03: further information:
-- tactical media:
----- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tactical_media
----- Next 5 Minutes reader: blogpost: http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/10/next-5-minutes-reader.html
-- Michel de Certeau:
----- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_de_Certeau
----- blogpost: "Michel de Certeau, "The Practice of Everyday Life", 1974"
-- David Garcia, Geerd Lovink:
----- blogpost: "The ABC of Tactical Media, David Garcia & Geert Lovink, 1997"
----- "The GHI of Tactical Media": http://www.uoc.edu/artnodes/eng/art/broeckmann0902/broeckmann0902.html
-- Situationist International:
----- blogpost: "The Situationist International, psychogeography, dérive, unitary urbanism"
----- blogpost: "Guy Debord, "Hurlements en faveur de Sade", 1952"
----- blogpost: "Guy Debord, "A Theory of the Dérive", 1956"
----- blogpost: "Guy Debord, "Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography "
----- definition of détournement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detournement
----- S.I. archive: http://www.nothingness.org/SI/

#04: books
-- Michel de Certeau, "The Practice of Everyday Life", 1980
(paperback:) http://www.amazon.com/Practice-Everyday-Life-Michel-Certeau/dp/0520236998/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226428807&sr=1-1
and as an e-book: http://aaaaarg.org/files/textz/4588-the_practice_of_everyday.pdf

-- Guy Debord, "The Society of the Spectacle", 1967
(paperback:) http://www.amazon.com/Society-Spectacle-Guy-Debord/dp/0946061122/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226428717&sr=1-1
and as an e-book: http://a.aaaarg.org/text/3774/society-spectacle

-- Simon Ford, "The Situationist International: An Introduction", Black Dog, 2004

-- The Yes Men, "The Yes Men: The True Story of the End of the World Trade Organization", The Disinformation Company, 2004

#05: updates on international student protests:
- http://unsereuni.at/?lang=en
- google map of occupied universities: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=de&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&source=embed&msa=0&msid=116283369278129786033.0004778dfa81fb402d565&ll=49.781264,12.348633&spn=11.357555,23.291016&z=5

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>> recommended books

  • Richard Barbrook - Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village
  • Fred Turner - From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
  • Howard Rheingold, Tools for Thought, MIT Press, 2000 or online: http://rheingold.com/texts/tft/index.html
  • Oliver Grau - MediaArtHistories
  • Oliver Grau - Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion
  • Neil Spiller, Cyber Reader: Critical Writings for the Digital Era. Phaidon Press, 2002
  • Stephen Wilson - Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology: Intersections of Art, Science and Technology
  • Gene Youngblood - Expanded Cinema
  • Ruth Leavitt - Artist and Computer
  • Jasia Reichardt - The Computer in Art
  • Jasia Reichardt - Robots. Fact, Fiction and Prediction
  • Herbert Franke - Computer Graphics, Computer Art
  • Frieder Nake - Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung: Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informatik im Bereich ästhetischer Produktion und Kritik (Hardcover)
  • Norbert Wiener - Cybernetics
  • Claus Pias - Cybernetics - Kybernetik 2. The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953
  • Jasia Reichardt, Cybernetic serendipity: The computer and the arts, 1968
  • Catherine Morris, 9 Evenings Reconsidered, 2007
  • John Cage, Variations VII by John Cage: E.A.T. - 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering (1966) - DVD
  • Robert Rauschenberg: E.A.T. and ARTPIX: Open Score by Robert Rauschenberg (1966) - DVD
  • Noah Wardrip-Fruin - From Wagner to Multimedia
  • Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic + Mysticism in the Age of Information
  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun - New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader
  • R.L.Rutsky - High Techné: Art and Technology from the Machine Aesthetic to the Posthuman
  • Lev Manovich - The Language of New Media
  • Lev Manovich - Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database
  • Siegfried Zielinski - Variantology. On Deep Time. Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies
  • Siegfried Zielinski - Deep Time of New Media
  • Timothy Druckrey - Facing the Future. 20 years of Ars Electronica


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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.