Monday, September 28, 2009

The Nexus Series

When I read these pieces, I think about connections -artistic, mechanical/cybernetic, and culture connections. What is lacking is the physical. It is about attempting to communicate or connect with others in this age of virtual time and space. A strange thread runs through these articles in that the more we try to mentally connect to others through new cybernetic social mechanisms, the more we grow physically distant afraid to connect . Maybe it is because we experience this world of fear to connect, be it exclusion, fear of AIDS, or other factors resulting from fear, control, and power.

“institute a less individuated, more communal form of perception similar to that which was attendant upon face-to-face ritual and aura but which is now mediated by anonymous circuitry and the simulation of direct encounter?” pg 26.

The process of virtual media and creating with virtual tools to make virtual productions is ethereal. It (the moment of conceptual) is here, experienced, and then it is gone with little or no trace. Once virtual access is present, the creator can remain physically absent. The concept can be misinterpreted, reinvented and beat into a frenzy by the virtual public. I am probably moving into the realm of sociology here and the demise of social interaction. I guess I am speaking of the demise of the aura… the absences of essence. The age of the replica.

“The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its, beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.” Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in Illuminations, translated by Harry Zohn, New York, Schocken Books, 1969, p.221.

I think about photographs made from old school cameras using film. At least the photograph had a beginning, the participant's staged or natural state, the actual image on the negative and/or print, and then the remaining record of the historical reference - the aura.

Now we have digital files which can be edited, enhanced, appropriated into a totally different context, and then deleted from existence.

A few of my favorite artists who create(d) in this conceptual manner using time, the aura, and space as their response to culture, the Other, and historical reference include:
Albert Chong
Sophie Calle
and Ana Mendieta

Each of these artists attempted to connect with their environment, deal with their cultural heritage and issues, and link a moment of their existence with acts, installations, temporal constructions and events that connect to their past, present, and, in at least one case – horrific demise. They record the mystical and ritual, remenants, people they had seen which is more about the aura or essence of the person rather than the actual physical being. The physical was not enough, the artist was connecting with the spirit, the soul.

Aura is something that is not tangible but we try to communicate it, recreate it, and transport others through our own skin. Is essence unobtainable? Aura is a substance of what was but no longer is… an afterglow, a memory, a thought. Is aura a precursor to virtual?

Photography, literature, and film attempt to create essence. It is fully cultural, political, and personal. However, the replica always ends up a fabrication of the original. The moment we try to reproduce essence, it no longer remains true to the original. It is just a copy. We try to recreate, inspect, analyze, and reinvent but we fall short.

Dadaist rejected the aura. But in doing so, they made a political statement about “anti” art and created a cult following…which represented the very thing they were rejecting.

We inspect to connect. But in doing so, there is risk that we will repel and are rejected. When one creates something (reproduce if you will), there is always intent to change the focus from what was once perceived to something more dominate. Money becomes a issue.

If you produce/create a work out of a deep desire to communicate, without price attached, you are attempting to express essence or aura of something. When economy becomes attached to it, the work loses its essence and intrigue.

Then if one applies worship to the object, things go astray…We try to own, objectify, and capitalize.

These things are all tied to trying to touch, connect, relate to others, but if there is only one perception…singular in form, then is the attempt always going to fall short? If we do not have to be present (as cybernetics allows) then we do not have to be responsible for the shortcomings of the original – our bare human self - flaws and all. We hide from accountability, vulnerability, and shroud ourselves in the “tissue” of the perfect virtual being.

Remember Blade Runner? We have surpassed this to something else, the social demise of the physical connection with others. We select the virtual over the mortal because it is safe, distant,and virtually obtainable.

“The chip is pure surface, pure simulation of thought. Its material surface is its meaning – without history, without depth, without aura, affect or feeling. The copy reproduces the world, the chip simulates it.” The Work of Culture in the Age of Cybernetic Systems by Bill Nichols. Pg 34.

In the end, a sim is just a sim no matter how visually perfect, mentally collaborative, and intellectual stimulating it may be. A sim is a safe substitute for the risk posed with a flawed original but it is still lacking the aura.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Ah, well said about the Dadaists. In the process of rejecting tradition and aura they create new aura. I like that. I also think you make strong arguments for photography, although even trying to make such arguments we risk being labeled old school. Interesting stuff.