week 4 Raymond Queneau Exercises in style/ Borges
notes on Flusser
week 5 Flusser assignment
mark’s questions on Flusser
week 6 notes on Jenny Odell
week 9: Copyright
week 10 : Debord/Bourriaud
week 11: Yesmen/webspinna
Week 4, 1 September 2017
I had been riding the S bus from the beginning of rush hour. A chap having already turned the age of 26, had been wearing a rod instead of a ribbon, his neck had grown too long, as if someone had been having a tug-of-war with it.People had started to get off when the chap in question was getting annoyed with one of the men who had been standing next to him. He was accusing him of jostling him every time anyone had passed. A snivelling tone had meant to be agressive. When seeing a vacant seat he would throw himself on to it. Two hours having passed, I would meet him in the Cour de Rome, in front of the gare Saint-Lazare. He had been with a friend who was saying: ‘You should have got an extra button to put on your overcoat.” He was showing him where (at the lapels) and why.
Assignment 2: remix short ‘Borges and I’ and place yourself inside the narrative
Version Original: Jorge Luis Borges -“Borges and I
My Version: “Angie and I”
The other one, the one called Angie, is the one who makes things happen. I stroll through the streets of Paris and stop for a moment, perhaps amazed now, to appreciate the arch of the entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Angie from her website and see her name on a list of contemporary New York artists or in a experimental video website. I like the complexity of the mind and memory, rescuing old souvenirs from flea markets, the taste of oysters as I feel like am in the sea, the foreign rhythms that transport me elsewhere; she shares a few of these preferences, but in a scientific way that turns them into explorations, iterrations, connections with the unexpected in the form of situations and cultural objects. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it’s is a conflictual relationship; I hesitate and watch her like a tourist, wondering if Angie can continue to thrive in her visual manifestations, and yet her art motivates me. I admit she has achieved some recognition, but those entries in her CV cannot save me, because once her contributions are out in the world It no longer belongs to me, but rather to the history of artists experimenting during the age of information and the return to the phenomenological. One day my body will wither away and decay, my soul will survive her and an instance of my soul embedded in one of her objects will also soon decay and most likely be erased with time. Finally, I am giving over to her, though I’m quite aware of her obsession and ambition that takes over.
Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Angie Eng, not in my shell, but I recognize myself more in my art than my writing. The past few years I’ve tried to free myself from her and went from the big apple to the city of lights. But now I’m back closer to her. Thus my life of late had been a struggle, but now I surrender to her.
Week 5: Notes on Flusser
1) Vilem Flusser: Excerpt from “Toward a Philosophy of Photography”
Proposes a new philosophy of technical images to correspond with the current mentality/logic in order to understand the world. Traditional images were used as maps of looking at the world corresponding to mythical thought. Text allowed people to regard the world in a conceptual and critical way. A new type of thinking, ‘ post-historical systemic /structural’ way of thinking is the dominant logic today. Calls for functional and complex approach to these structures otherwise an unethical, uncritical approach dominates. Barthes and McLuhan, influences his motivation toward this new philosophy even though he disagrees with their theories.Our new techniques simulate the nervous system and not the body and thus are immaterial/spritual.
Chapter I: The Image
Flusser offers a semiotic reading of images explaining that images are signs to assist in visualizing being.He breaks the signification of an image in 2 parts: its manifestation and the observer. Its definition is not closed/finite but open-ended by the observer’s ‘scanning glance’. In photography, images are not ‘frozen events’ but ‘situations’.They are magical because through a surface they are able to describe scenes of an event. Man understands the world via images, but also are also mediations.Here Flusser implies simulacre in which man no longer translates images but redefines the world via images to a point that the world is replaced by images. He also mentions writing as the tool which establishes linear history opposing the magical world of images. Flusser does not compare photography to painting like many theorists. Instead he compares it to writing in speaking of conceptual thought versus magical thought.However texts are more imaginative and images become more conceptual. He remarks that technical images were invented to confront this crisis in text and images which eliminated the mystical (rather than the scared).
History, in this strict sense, is the progressive transcoding of images into concepts, progressive explanation of Images, progressive
demagicification, progressive conceptualization. Where texts are no longer imaginable, there is nothing more to explain, and history ceases.
Chapter II: The Technical Image
The digital image is different than the traditional image because it is a result of scientific texts and therefore once more removed from the physical world. Flusser divides the digital image and traditional image into post-historical and pre-historical respectively. He criticizes the tendancy for the observer to regard the technical image as a window, no longer a signifier for the concrete world, but a replacement for it. Flusser like Baudrillard adopts a negative position toward the simulacre of technical images. What is missing is the translation of the mind from concrete to abstract to symbols. Thus technical images are missing the input of the mind. Another critique is that the technical images are missing a soul.However he does admit that technical images do contain a certain amount of programmatic magic different from mythical magic pre-historical/traditional images. Technical images are shortcuts to conceptualization.He claims that photography was invented in the 19th c to reinsert this traditional magic into texts. Historically, texts begin to fracture between 3 classes: The elite fine arts (accompanied by traditional images/paintings), the elite scientific world (with hermetic texts) and the masses with (popular texts). He claims the invention of technical images(photography) was to create social cohesiveness as a democratic communication. However, this is not the case with digital art which does not serve to replace the concrete world but offer a parallel one. Yet, he does forsee the remixed image when he writes: Technical images thus suck all of his-tory into their surfaces, and they come to constitute an eternally rotating memory of society. Similar to Jameson, Flusser also remarks the loss of historicity due to digital images.
Chapter III: The Apparatus
Flusser defines the apparatus as a cultural object split in 2 categories: object of consumption/ object of production (tool). The apparatus as a tool has the purpose of replacing objects in nature with new forms. The natural objects via the appartus become cultural objects. The tradjectory of the tool/machine from the industrial to the post-industrial age is in which man has become the variable an the function of the machine rather than the inverse previous situation. This marxist analysis falls short. Flusser examins the domination of the symbol over the object as caracteristic of the information age. He considers photography a game in which the photographer combines symbols via its program.
Chapter IV: The Gesture of Photography
Flusser makes the analogy of photography to that of hunting whose game is the cultural object. The observer is witnessing this game of the photographer ‘combining space-time categories of the camera.’ The role of the photographer is also to discover new situations by using the program of the camera. The real becomes transferred from the concrete world to one of a virtual one signified by the symbol. The gesture of the photographer is to analyse in multiple viewpoints of phenomena.
Chapter V: Photography
The black and white photograph is often selected to emphasize concepts rather than beauty. Photographs are complexes of symbols signifying concepts and in essence symbolic discourse. The criteria for a ‘good’ photograph is often based upon whether the photographer is more present than the program in the photograph. He warns that if we regard photography as depictions of the concrete world then we risk that the digital image will program society in which we are ‘slave to the machine.’
Chapter VI: The Distribution of Photography
Flusser explains the distribution of photograpy by explaining how many resists nature’s tendancy to refresh itself and man’s tendancy to archive and transform it into information in the form of communication. He breaks this system of communication down to 4 methods: responsibility, authority, progress and massification whereby photography falls into ‘massification’. Not considered ‘objects’ per se, photographs are mediators between the industrial object and information. Photography is codified in different categories by the media: scientific, political, commercial, artististic which is a conflict between the photographer and how it is distributed, presented. Another issue is the lack of critical analysis of photographs which can reduce them to be programs of propoganda.
Chapter VII: Reception of Photography
Flusser distinguishes the approach of the amature to professional photographer by their technical desires and requirements of the camera. He compares the compulsive picture taker to one of the drug addict. This kind of picture taking stresses the technology rather than the message.Whereas the ‘Photographer’ engages in exploring new situations. He comments that one need not so much technical skill like a writer has to learn grammar. However, I disagree. I think one has to learn composiiton, light, narrative, and other formalist elements to creating a situation. When we look at a political photograph it does not necessarily transmit history but the surface image. Today images dominate and explain text rather than the inverse which will result in an increasing illiterate population. Although Flusser does not mention that text was once ideograms and in essence images.
Chapter VIII: The Photographic Universe
Constant change has become the norm due to this updating and repetition of images. In place of ‘systems’ Flusser refers to the world made up of programs. In regards to the photographic image, the gesture is one of automatism. He recounts that traditional logic of the photograph was to free man from labor of painting to have more free time. In fact, the technology was to eliminate man and creat automaticism. People resist this automatic programming, but their resistance is then feed into improving the technology system. His analysis of photography expands to the current post-industrial society.
Chapter IX: The Need for a Philosophy of Photography
The foundation of the philosophy of photography are: image/apparatus/program/information.Images which have been produced and distributed by apparatus in accordance with a program and whose apparent function is to inform. Each of these basic concepts implies other concepts: Image implies magic,apparatus-; implies automation and game, program implies chance and necessity,and information implies symbol and improbability…Images are surfaces on which the eye circulates,Apparatus are toys which repeatedly execute’ the same motions.Programs are games which combine the same elements over and over.Information is improbable configurations which have emerged from the tendency to-wards probability, and which tend repeatedly to return there. It is based upon a cyclical process.Man produces a tool to reflect himself and in turn the tools shape man.Yet photography is not just a tool but a game. He states that we are witnessing a transition in the structure of how we think. What is at stake is the concept of freedom where our values emphasize information over materialism, symbols over objects. Photographers believe that detourning the apparatus is where freedom lies.
2) Steve Shaviro’s response to Flusser
Shaviro praises the work of Flusser as an alternative perspective of digital arts from the Frankfurt School (Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Weber, Simmel, and Lukács.) or Barthes, Baudrillard and Benjamin. He remarks Flusser is able to examine the mechanical age and dissect image reproduction with a optic that is not rooted in romanic christianity and art as the sacred. In order to appreciate photography and later forms of digital production we must relinquish preconceptions and definitions of how we see/accept being.
all the technical forms of reproduction that have arisen in its wake actually work to program thought, to anticipate it ,and to mimic and contain it in advance. To simulate thought, in sum.
“A philosophy of photography must reveal the fact that there is no place for human freedom within the area of automated, programmed, and programming apparatuses, in order finally [italics mine] to show a way in which it is nevertheless possible to open up a space for freedom.”
3) Tina Laporta: “Distance”
A relevant historic poetic web project that explores questions and concerns at the onset of the digital age: reality, physicality, intimacy,isolation, disconnection with an aesthetic. Laporta takes candid photos of internet surfers in their personal spaces treating the images with an net art formalism using the navigator as a frame and pixelizing the image whereby we realize we are not looking at reper
The project ‘Lake Como Remix’ can be considered a form of remediation and hacker art more than a remix. I say this because the artist takes one medium, the navigation tool and misuses it or uses in another way than originally intended. It falls more in the category of ‘hacker art’ because it hacks the software intended for a utlitarian purpose into one of cultural object.
The artist refers his narrative ‘WeRMediumZGoMetaOnU’ as an example of glitch aesthetics. Here we observe the pixelization of images when surfing on google. Rather than select images of high quality and accurate proportion, the images are blurred, aliased, over-saturated, under-saturated, distorted as one witnesses when one navigates on google maps. The depiction is not reflecting the physical world but the virtual world.
Assignment 3 – Flusser flashcards, 21 September 2017
Mark’s Flusser Questions/ My responses
* describe what you think and image is : collapsed patterns
* how do you make images? they make me
* what are images made of? rythm, pattern, repetition
* when you make an image, do you personally feel attached to it? why or why not?
Yes I’m attached to images because the process of developing an image is capturing simultaenously what I was doing and living at that very moment. Similar to certain tribes who believe if you take a picture you steal their soul, the artist in creation is leaving bits and parts of themeselves which are then made up of bits and parts of society,mirrors, reflections, their network, a history.
* how do you know when an image you have made is something MORE than just a redundant form of expression, i.e when it REALLY reflects or indicates some specific aesthetic style or meaningful communication that you want to share?
You are answering your own question by implying that an image is just a reflection of a specific style or mode of communication. Is it a way of asking how do you know if you are innovating? Because you can innovate and be redundant.
* is the desire to construct / create / share an image already part of the program? has it already been coded into the apparatus so that you will obediently perform the program’s intended function? I don’t understand your first question because I don’t really understand the difference between program, system and game.The program has already been designed drawing from human behavior which has been informed by previous tools. However new functions are introduced in order to make it ‘work’. The user has to be able to learn that program for its marketable purpose.However, if unconcerned by the ‘goal’ of the program, one can repurpose it as another program or use its functionality for an undesirable result that can lead to innovation.
* but what about free will and the pursuit of freedom? Flusser refers to “the task of philosophy is to investigate [the artist’s] search for freedom.” how can an artist (or anybody for that matter) wrestle control away from the apparatus so that they can freely express themselves according to their own program? Subvert the system, question their own tendancies which have been pre-shaped and pre-programmed. Krishnamurthi.
* but then Flusser asks us to differentiate between two questions:
Freedom from what?
Freedom for what?
Freedom from consensus, overdrive, conforming, single authority, single domination,
Freedom for critical thought, for escaping political manipulation, innovation, human development, the unpredicatable, for accidents
bonus question from the final part of our discussion today: how does one construct an image from memory? what exactly is that image made of? is the memory-image a re-creation of the past or is it a remix of source material (the past) into something new, vibrant, and in the present? something else?
I wasn’t in the discussion today. However in psychic awareness, an image can be constructed from past, previous and future lives. For example, visualizing space and place happens by thinking in patterns, smells, contrasts, sensibility, emotion, impressions. Rather than drawing from what you know and what you define and have experienced, you draw from the basic human senses. From there you draw pattern, lines, shadow and as you develop your psychic ability you can visualize more complex patterns. The CIA named this technique Remote Viewing for their ‘Stargate’ mission for spying on the Russian. 😉 It works! We work!
Reflections on Jenny Odell
What strikes me in the work of Jenny Odell is not the common responses to her humor, kitch-pop aesthetics, cartesian compositions, but her dual role as the artist-curator. I propose that this new position is instigated by the information and over-consumer society. Bourriaud describes in his book, Relational Aesthetics that artists compose and arrange inhabitable situations as a result of limited space and place. He attributes the disappearance of the art object to globalism and compartmentalized urban architecture leaving no room for artistocratic salons filled with large sculpture. Discussions and dinner parties have become contemporary works of art. However rather than give credit to geoaesthetics, we can also emphasize the ephemerality of the digital world has left the social being yearning for a physical space to exchange. (Thus, the digital age of the 60’s also gave us the Fluxus and Gutai movements and the happenings.) Yet in Odell’s work we find the opposite is the case in which she draws from the ephemeral online sources and materializes the digital interface and aesthetics and places them back in to the concrete world.
With the plethora of content we now have to wade through online, an entire generation of image makers and collectors have become a sort of digital librarian, meticulously categorizing data and re-representing them similar to ‘picks’ that you would see in a wine or book store. They are not selecting artists out of a digital crowd; They are recomposing, repositioning user uploads under another aegis which alludes to the ready-made. Like Duchamp Odell is drawing from banal quotidian folk culture and reframing it in an art context. It is no surprise she participated in RE: Dada exhibition in San Francisco. Although it is disappointing that she felt compelled to go completely offline when the strength of her readymades is her tendancy to reposition the digital experience.
Democratization and the world is flat has led to what Manovich calls deep remixability which includes the mashup of both professionals and amateurs. In Odell’s work she remixes from institution, company, interface and consumer. She hunts, gathers and categorizes what uploaders have provided her with. Information overload is neatly and mathematically aligned like souvenir mugs on a shelf. Everybody and anybody has equal validation and opportunity to be included in her compilations and instances of the fragments of netsurfing. If Flusser would add a chapter to his book, the gesture of clicks, Odell would have captured it in 273 Instances of a Man in Busch Gardens, (2014). The gesture of the digerati would be the survival of man, hunting and gathering. Imagine the savage looking at a rock from every direction, the light hitting it in different ways, making different shape shadows, one object splintering into an infinity of possibilities. Odell’s work has something of this primitive wonder. When we turn on our screens the inundation of data flow overwhelms and seduces our absurd curiosity, but turns into a tornado of information overload. Odell is able to put it in order so we can sit back and have the impression that this plethora of stuff makes sense with a satisfaction that we searched and we conquered together.
Assignment 9: Copyright v Copyleft
(I found it impossible to address all of your questions in the form of a 500-700 word essay! It could be a 100 page essay! Thus I answered your questions.)
What are the advantages of an “open source” and/or “open content” approach to remix culture in general, and consumer culture at large? Do we really need a “free culture” or is it in our best interests to restrict rights?
Open source expands a democratic distribution of cultural objects whereas open content allows people more freedom to develop and elaborate on former ideas. With open source, control of diffusion of cultural works is transferred from private institutions and publishers who are motivated primarily by financial benefits to the people. However, this does not necessarily result in individuals being less motivated by creations as capital within the market. For example Girl Talk(Greg Gillis)an important advocate of remixing and free culture in his music, as the producer of The Black Keys, sued Pizza Hut and Home Depot for copyright infringement. Thus the logic of Free culture does have a specific ideology that is not solely based upon a utopic vision of total freedom of exchange of ideas and material sources by all individuals, groups, companies.
In regards to consumer culture, open source/open content parallels our epoch of the ultimate consumer culture whereby the population at large are reducing all cultural objects to the playing field with a disregard of what historians, archivists and critics have placed a hierarchical value. The distribution of cultural objects is then reliant on such viral distribution of happenstance left to those of who have access. Thus open source/open content is not necessarily resulting in a freer or democratic culture, nor a higher quality one. Although remixers , such as Kenneth Goldsmith praise this radical populism that is rooted in the mix of the vernacular. In the case of open source which was originally targeting software and code, the idea that multiple developers working on a program would be able to elaborate and expand upon it, thereby improving the program.
Does the idea of copyright and intellectual property become more obsolete in digital/networking culture? Must the effort to protect intellectual property be valiantly fought in cyberspace as in other (more material) spaces? Why or why not?
In fact, the European Union recently passed a copyright law regarding digital works. Rather than go toward open source/free culture, new laws were put in place to protect copyright holders. Cyberspace is an ephemeral space and hence the concept of copying or replicating has its roots in the material world. This debate was already brought up in the US regarding the act of publishing. Is putting something online ‘published’? It was decided it was not ‘published’. However, over the course of the last 20 years new US laws were established to extend copyright to use of the internet. I do not see in the near future that these laws will side with free culture. However, what I can imagine is the idea that cultural works become ‘performances’ or ‘events’ that are not competing with the physical marketplace. Since the enlightenment the concept of free distribution of ideas to the general public were already debated and accepted until little by little publishing houses wanted more control and economic benefits.
What about an artist’s labor? Where is the balance in protecting ones “original” creative output versus opening up the collective’s creative output imagined by some as freely accessible source material for active reconfiguration?
The idea of artist labor is rooted in a capitalist logic of value on production. In regards to researching and the development of an idea one is assuming that an individual can have an original idea and is owner of an idea. This too is rooted in a romantic idea of the rare genius and ideas as capital. What needs to occur is a shift in language since the introduction of concepts as ‘labor’, ‘original’, ‘freely accessible’ pose as problems in the debate. That shift in language will require also a shift in philosophy toward cultural expression which perhaps is not necessarily a progressive step but a reversion to an ancient practice of how humans once exchanged and shared goods and ideas.
Give an example of a work of visual or media art that you personally value where the artist(s) were clearly remixing / postproducing / reconfiguring source material from other visible sources. Was the final result for the betterment of culture in general? At what risk/cost?
Christian Marclay’s ‘The Clock’ is a remix masterpiece which used only finished films by other film makers. Technically the work is illegal even under Fair Use law, as also stated by Marclay. The law of Fair Use extends to homages or parodies, which ‘The Clock’ is not, but it could be read as honoring Hollywood directors or actors. Being a remix artist, Marclay worked closely with his gallery Paula Cooper to ensure that there would not be legal issues. For example, the viewing of the work, which was purchased by Museums with the exception of a private buyer, are to be viewed freely to the public, thus going under a stipulation in the law whereby works of art for educational purposes that use copyrighted material are exempt. For the past 30 years Marclay has remixed both sound and image in his work, risking begin sued each time but never challenged by copyright holders. His reasoning is that if you add or do something meaningful and artistic with the work without defacing or degrading it, most copyright holders will not care. However, this argument is a bit idealistic. What is important to note is that he is a famous international artist, whereby his works also give more weight and value to what he samples. Therefore, his cultural work in the area of the fine arts adds value and advertising to the product in the commercial world.
There is also the danger that overused and popular source material can serve as a sort of soft power feeding the capitalist machine. For example, many remixers draw from what they find in pop culture or the internet. Those memes and cultural references are predominately American and controlled mostly by multi-corporations and large publishing houses. The choice of reference is not only based upon the strength and quality of the idea, but oftentimes reliant on a collective memory. Thus, there is risk of a vicious circle, whereby the most accessible material appropriated by remix artists risks to be based upon popularity contests of the masses. Thus power is transferred from one ‘evil’ the private corporation/institution to another ‘evil’, the masses.
Give an example of how you recently sampled and remixed source material from the general culture into something that you felt was an original form of expression (not including what you have created for this class). What kinds of issues do you take into account while accessing material from other sources?
Nasatak is a remix video I completely in 2015 which consisted of over 300 samples of films to illustrate the stock market. I took extracts from predominantly American films which focused on scenes whereby actors were in motion of either falling or rising. I then plotted them according to the NASDAQ from 1996-2015. I use the stock market speculation which has no indication of a societies well-being, just as the Hollywood film falsely represents the life of the average American. I’m not concerned with whether my work is ‘original’ or not. I’d be highly surprised if not 10 people in the world were not simultaneously working on the same idea. Therefore, it is an irrelevant question on whether I was the first person or only person to have thought of this particular idea.
Collective memory is part of my process because while watching the film the viewer will have more affiliation with the work if they recognize the clips. I do not sample from unknown, obscure films, nor art films nor contemporary experimental cinema. Part of my process of remix is tapping into archival memory of popular culture. I do not consider it the same process of music sampling whereby samplers draw from known completed works and process them to an extent that they are no longer recognizable. I also believe for historical, archival purposes that the source material is listed and available if published as a finished work.
I do believe for both ethical and historical purposes that being able to place your work in a historical context is valid as a working artist. This is not an economic nor political position that most copyleft supporters adopt. It is one of honoring those of the past and to place yourself in a particular lineage. I do not remix cultural works of my peers as my own cultural objects because I do not expect other artists to hold the same position as I do for either economic, political, ethical or historical reasons. Multiple systems of working are evolving, however the contradictions in the process of remix makes it a subversive practice, near impossible to define because most practitioners are not consistent with a single logic. Therefore, the remixer may freely appropriate work, but then align their cultural expression for the capitalist market as a product to be bought, owned, sold.
 Battan, Carrie. “The Black Keys Sue Pizza Hut and Home.” Pitchfork. June 22, 2010. (web) Depothttps://pitchfork.com/news/46952-the-black-keys-sue-pizza-hut-and-home-depot/(Consulted October 4, 2017)
 Unknown Author « Slave to the Rhythm. » The Economist, 2010. [online] economist.com/node/16885826 (Consulted Decembre 4,2016).
According to the Situationists, détournement is a combination of recontextualizing to subvert the original meaning of a popular text in order to offer an alternative. In essence détournement is a technique of social communication in order to support a Marxist agenda and destroy the false relationships that a capitalist society creates via mass media or in other words, ‘the spectacle’. It has similarities of remix practice in that it rejects the following: notions of private property, the goal to create a new work, the possibility to create new texts, a central authoritative voice, plagiarism as an illegal act. It is important to note that although remix as a cultural practice parallels the Situationist agenda, the motivation nor point of departure is not necessarily the same for those who apply remix in their cultural texts. Due to the complexity of the term remix, I’d like o define it. When I use the term ‘remix’ I refer to a cultural practice (whether folkloric/popular or the intellectual art world) that includes the main characteristics: fragmentation, recontextualisation and collective memory.
The Situationists used the technique of détournement in order to disseminate their anti-capitalist and pro-marxist vision of the world. Thus, détournement is a political act via cultural object or event. Contemporary new media artists also referred to as hacker artists can be considered remix artists who take, collage, subvert popular media and code for a socio-political message embedded in their art. Reamweaver is an example of a digital détournement by The Yes Men, Steev Hise, and Amy Alexander. Reamweaver automatically “funhouse-mirrors” websites by copying in real-time the interface while allowing the user to change text and media. These artists in particular the Yes Men are political activists who use their art to question, subvert and explore media as a shared object rather than a private one. Luke Dubois’ A More Perfect Union and Face to Facebook by Paolo Cirio, Alessandro Ludovico are new media artists who hijack code and data from established web portals to analyze society beyond entertainment or economic value. Other media artists such as Johan Grimonprez and Christian Marclay make epic remixes to reflect on media and memory. Grimonprez, a neo-marxist contemporary Belgium artist made a feature film remix, Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y which collaged American commercials, airplane hi-jacking and text from Don Dillilo’s Mao II to analyze how television hijacked the film industry. Marclay’s makes the political statement of gun violence and image as a weapon in his 4 channel video, Crossfire. However, with all of aforementioned artists, they are not necessarily aligned with the Situationists nor creating acts of détournement each time in all of their work. Because the subversive gesture of détournement is apparent in some hacker art and media art, historically remix is traced back to the Situationists. However, contemporary artists themselves may not construe the sampling and editing of pre-authored material as an anti-capitalist act, but part of the democratization of media online with the tools that make collections easily accessible to anybody for free. Thus, remix in general is not necessarily a subversive act, and can be part of the ‘spectacle’ in which the Situationists were rejecting. Vidding for example is a fan-based form of remixing popular cinema and television. Although considered a form of remix, it in fact reinforces capitalist agendas of Softpower and over-consumption with uncritical analysis. Art critic, curator and theorist Bourriaud in his book Post-production art also cites Lyotard on this point. If artists give in to the eclecticism of consumption, they serve the interests of the techno-scientific and post-industrial world and shirk their critical duties.
Bourriaud cites détournement of Situationism in relationship with what he calls ‘postproduction art’ in place of the term remix. In his description of postproduction art, Bourriaud emphasizes the use of products already in circulation not only in the art world but moreover in mass media. He focuses on the DJ/(and VJ) and programmer (new media artist) because sampling of code, image and sound has accelerated and become a popular practice due to the internet as well as the prosumer and consumer market of electronics. He also notes that individuals can be held accountable for being cultural critics rather than mere consumers through the acts of boycotts, piracy, détournement. Although, Bourriaud makes the distinction between the Situationists’ gesture of devalorizing previous texts and the contemporary postproduction artists who re-valorize the shuffling of sampled sound and image.
Mark’s questions for Yesmen
Exactly how do they operate? Try to describe their creative work process and the methods they employ as part of their hackivist [hacker+activist] aesthetic.
The Yes Men employ tactical media, remediation and appropriation to subvert corporate hegemony in order to raise political awareness in a comical performative fashion. They do work with hackers, but mostly ‘hack’ is a borrowed verb that now extends to connote infiltrating a system by using devious or secretive means usually by manipulating media or code.What they do is not something new nor characteristic of the digital age besides the changing of code. In fact, they are very similar to the court jester or in mass media , they are working with satire. However this is not an American tradition, but perhaps a more European especially English or French one. They mock establishment, they mock power.
How does their collective/collaborative and pseudonymous network practice challenge standard/conventional notions of “the individual artist as genius” model we generally associate with a studio arts practice? Why all the persona-shifting (i.e. name changing)?
Actually it does not challenge the individual artist as genius as they are not a collective but a duo. They go under Yes Men which consists of Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos. Although they hire assistants and today they have actors who perform for their ideas. Given that both of them have very ethnic names (French and Hungarian) they also carry pseudonyms as well as have their group name. The persona’s are fictious characters depending upon the company they are mocking. Names are more than names they are stereotypical profiles so I imagine they invent names to fit the profiles.
How would you categorize The Yes Men on the art / politics scale? Is it mostly a subversive prank with elements of art? Is it part of the long lineage of politically-motivated performance art? Is it politics pure and simple – perhaps only posing as art? Or is it creatively designed, rhetorically-driven, counter-propaganda? Satirical culture-jamming? Other ways of describing it?
It could be all of the above since it depends upon your lens and their point of departure. At any moment for legal, promotional, artistic or tactical reasons they can always defend their motives and actions on many levels. It’s a moot point to categorize in one category or to complicate it with more adjectives. It is satire at its roots, but it can be framed in multliple ways. In their first film they start with a political resistance motivation whether the public wants to add more to it, I think it depends upon the viewer’s perspective and of course their perspective changes the work.