Tag Archives: postdigital

Data as Medium (or Being-With Data)

Recently I participated in a panel at the College Art Association conference in New York in which “data” was discussed as another medium for artistic exploration:

“As the art being made has dematerialized and the world around us is increasingly information based, using data as another medium for artistic exploration seems not only possible but culturally necessary. The same tools used by corporations and governments to track our interests, desires, locations, and personal information can and are being exploited by artists to criticize, explore, and find poetic moments within the stream of data. This panel explores current approaches being used by artists working with data but with an eye to the past and culture. Since the available data sources range widely from weather patterns to stockmarket trends to GPS locations and possible output spans all types of new and traditional media, this panel does not hone in one a specific issue but works as a survey connecting conceptual and critical points within this practice.”
CHAIR:  Jeff Thompson, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

> “Data and Its Expression,” George Legrady, University of California, Santa Barbara
> “From Kandinsky to the Database (Point, Line, Plane: Variable, Array, Table),” Brian Evans, University of Alabama
> “Web as Index and Archive,” Penelope Umbrico, Bard College and School of Visual Arts
> “Art that Decodes: Making Sense of Data Process,” Heidi  May, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and University of British Columbia

Thomson & Craighead, London Wall, 2010

In response to the session’s description, I found that each of our presentations approached the topic from different angles, which seemed appropriate and very fitting for my own arguments. I chose to focus not on data as an artistic tool or medium per se, but rather on art that broadens our understanding of the notion of data through various means and media – perhaps by instigating questions about the data that makes up the work and/or our relations with data in contemporary culture. In some instances, the artists I discussed (including Ingrid Koenig, Aymeric Mansoux, Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead, Lucy Kimbell, Julie Andreyev, etc.) may not be all that interested in examining the precise nature of the data they use in their work, but more interested in creating questions about the data. By incorporating a self-reflexive tone into my presentation, I intended to extend this line of inquiry towards “data” and to ideally broaden our interpretation to include the spaces and relations that exist around the numbers and codes, similar to current writings in which I examine the notion of “network” as something we exist with rather than a separate entity . Once again, I am inspired by the philosophical writings of Jean-Luc Nancy (being-with) and Ted Aoki, fascinated by a verb-based understanding of our existence over a noun-oriented understanding of the world we live with.

Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk, hello process!, 2008

I must admit, however, that much of my theories involving data have merely been carried over from my doctoral research surrounding notions of network in art (both historical and contemporary), thus this paper was experimental in that I was curious if similar knowledge could be applied in each area when looking at contemporary art. Since I am arguing for art that acknowledges a more broad (and at times relational) understanding of data, I felt it necessary to show a wide range of artworks — those that materialize, transform, and perhaps highlight our relationships with/in data. Unfortunately, a twenty minute presentation only allowed for me to hopefully emphasize these larger ideas with the artworks (including drawing, painting, print-based, video installation, screen works, etc.) functioning as examples that depended on one another in order to illustrate my points. My presentation lacked specific analysis of each of the artworks, in terms of them being ideal examples of these larger theories I argue for, and was just the beginning of a larger conversation. For instance, having returned from New York I discovered the work of Zach Gage, which could perhaps be applied to these ideas I am writing about, maybe serving as a stronger example. What I have felt to be most interesting is how these artworks each touch on different aspects of what I am writing about, therefore I don’t feel one or two examples can effectively demonstrate what I am thinking. Instead what is most interesting to me is the ideas that emerge in and between these different artworks and how, when the discussion is centered around these questions of defining data, they can incite new understandings of network culture (maybe data itself) when experienced in the context of the other works. The longer paper written for this presentation is also something that needs more time and development, and could be aided by critical dialogue with others…

(above) desktop documentation of personal interaction with – Personas (2008) by Aaron Zinman

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The Postmedia Perspective

I am currently contemplating this amazing piece of writing:


A [postmedia] world in which it no longer makes sense to distinguish, as Bourriaud did in 1998, and as the paradigm implicit in the term New Media Art does, between art which uses computers and art which doesn’t; a world in which on the other hand it increasingly makes sense to distinguish between art that acknowledges the advent of the information society and art that retreats to positions typical of the industrial era we are moving out of.

– Domenico Quaranta (2010). Media, New Media, Postmedia

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Contesting the Nepticon – description

January on empyre soft-skinned space (you can join the list-serv discussion at http://www.subtle.net/empyre
* view archived discussion from January

Contesting the Netopticon

Moderated by Simon Biggs (UK/Australia) with invited discussants Joseph Delappe, Marc Garrett, Davin Heckman, Patrick Lichty, Heidi May, Christina Spiesel and Jon Thomson & Alison Craighead.

Dear empyre subscribers,

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) described an apparatus he termed the Panopticon, intended to condition the behaviour of subjects by disallowing them knowledge of whether they were being observed or not, causing them to fear they were. The space Bentham sought to control was the prison, seeking to replace capital punishment with a penal system focused on rehabilitation. Janet Semple’s study (Semple) evidences Bentham’s correspondence, suggesting an intent to establish for-profit penal institutions based on his Panoptic model.

George Orwell, in his novel 1984 (1949), evoked a state of perpetual government surveillance designed to crush deviation from mandated behaviour, seeking to implant the self-governing mechanism within the psyche of the

Michel Foucault employed Bentham’s conceptual framework as a motif for social order in an interpretation that has become an intellectual touchstone. In Foucault’s vision, mapped out in his seminal 1975 text “Discipline and Punish” (Foucault), the Panopticon extends far beyond the prison and manifests as a pervasive property of social space and relations, the dark matter of power relations. Continue reading

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What is network(ed) art?

So…the writing and research process continues on…

I have not had the amount of time I would like to focus on this. I have been teaching 2.5 courses this term, all with new content. However, I did present at the International Digital Media Art Association conference in early November and exhibited artwork there as well. I was also informed that my SSHRC proposal made it out of the department for review, so that’s good news. Then there was the writing of 2 papers for presentations I will be doing at CAA in February.

Back to the PhD….
I still have to revise one of my comprehensive exam papers as well as continue to draft my dissertation research proposal. I have a meeting set up in January with my committee and I’m not sure how it’s all going to get done by then.

I have been mulling over the input I received at my last committee meeting in October and am now shifting my research focus (my main questions and approach) back to where it was in the summer, yet still informed by all of the ideas I have done since then. I think I was under some false impressions from my first committee meeting in the Spring when it seemed that I could basically make this all about art, as opposed to education….but now I’ve been reminded that this is an education degree, working from within the social sciences. Thus, I can’t just focus on art and then merely point towards implications for education….so I’m shifting back again in order to refine my methodology more.

I really need a pep talk at this point…and several pats on the back 🙂

Now, this is where you come in — well, anyone who might be reading this who has an interest in networks and art — or, if not, then this will basically exist as a digital archive of my mental brainstorming process…

I have been delving into philosophy and art history to get to a better understanding of the meaning of “network” in art. Now, here’s the longer version of the question:

For the past several months I have been thinking deeply about this. I spent the summer working on comprehensive exam papers for my current PhD program, in which I defined for myself a definition of networked art that I felt was perhaps a challenge to the mainstream notion of “network”. Without getting too much into the literature I based this on (ie. Jean-Luc Nancy), I argued that by using the word network, the Internet itself is predominant over any other associations we might have (see Sack, 2007 on “network aesthetics”) and that if artist educators focus more on what emerges within the relations and processes of a network, such as with Internet art, then we can perhaps gain new understandings of network culture that reflect more the sociocultural aspects as opposed to just the technological aspects. I refer to Fluxus practices, most specifically mail art, and the ideas explored by George Maciunas and Robert Filliou, connecting this to later relational art and participatory art practices. My interests pertain to aspects of what I am calling “relational learning,” thus I see these networked forms of art to be significant…yet not just in terms of individuals collaborating, but most importantly on the emergent knowledge that occurs in these processes. Continue reading


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Self Process Post Facebook

Is there a way of understanding the poetic construction of selfhood, as it occurs in autobiographical narration, while recognizing the passion, purpose, depth, and personal significance that frequently accompanies it, without positing that sort of autonomy Author-Origin enshrined in romantic thought? (Freeman, 1999, p. 110)

Human being, Gadamer argues, is a being in language. It is through language that the world is opened up for us. We learn to know the world by learning to master a language. Hence we cannot really understand ourselves unless we understand ourselves as situated in a linguistically mediated, historical culture. (Malpas, 2009)

Dude, fuck Facebook, seriously. (Stan, South Park episode, 2010).

Well, I did it….I finally joined Facebook last month. Just in time for all the bad press the company is getting for privacy issues, too. I have resisted joining FB since it first emerged on the scene, but lurked under my husband’s profile for “research” purposes. I’ve decided to analyze this personal resistance, along with ongoing research into a philosophy of the self in a networked society. Selfpost | Postself is an ongoing project that explores not only the relationships between the above quotations, but the process of becoming a networked self and an understanding of the technologies we use in the process. Selfpost is the outing of my self to my many social networks within Facebook, adhering to a personal manifesto; Postself is the documentation of this experience on a blog that contains autobiographical musings filled with critical inquiry. This piece is also linked to a Facebook page on which the blog postings are imported and discussions are created by both the artist and participants, in order to instigate critical reflection from within the network itself. Continue reading

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Does language dictate our relationship with/in technology?

Perhaps by applying user terminology to our experiences with the internet we are setting ourselves up to be ‘used”? Does it also place more emphasis on physical vs. psychological acts of being? When we hear the word ‘use’ do we first think of the physical, concrete world over an imagined reality? Language can hold us back from meaningful understanding, thus meaningful creative responses to those understandings…How might our understanding of these experiences and ourselves change if we were to call ourselves ‘participants’ and ‘players’ acting on or within rather than ‘users’ or ‘subjects’ of the digital world…

Questions are more interesting than answers. I think this is the case for all artists who incorporate any kind of conceptual pursuit into their work. In a similar line of thought, the dialogue that emerges following a critique is often more interesting, and definitely more in-depth and revealing, than the critique itself.

Yesterday I skimmed over a book review on Rhizome for Digital Folklore Reader, a new book edited by Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied. The authors seem to explore ideas I am considering within my own work, however, I can’t decide  whether to fork over the money to have it shipped to me from the UK. I went back to the review today and saw that a new comment was posted by a fellow reader. The comment inspired me to actually read the full review. Through the questions posed by this commentator, I became much more engaged with the review itself because I was encouraged to develop my own thoughts about the content of this book. Read the book review and my commentary here >

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