Digital Tempest: immanence and transcendence in multimedia installation

[artist statement for]

Hypermediated zones of space and time, where the borders between public and private, voyeur and surveillant, consumer and user, cross and recross in a jumble of ubiquitous digital mass media. Where is there a subject from whom arises a sequencing of information, the generation of knowledge, interpretation, criticism, and values? One avoidance tactic around the problem of the subject is to use multimedia software by means of a formalist methodology in the arts, whereby whatever software happens to be available, or can be scammed at the behest of a friendly technical collaborator, is deconstructed as a formalist exercise. Ironically, it sometimes seems that such strategies are based on a secret hope that somehow, in deconstruction and reapplication of software in new aestheticized contexts will reveal, like the burning bush of Moses, the presence of pure form as a reified cyberpresence. This hope is simultaneously subverted by the endless glitches of hardware and software.

Another stereotypical image of the neural net is that it might be a thing capable of data management or random assimilation and display, or perhaps a cognitive father/monster, a Caliban that eludes Prospero's human stratagems and destroys his library. In effect, an infinitely regressive generative art that remains cached inside or beneath its own formalist terms, as if to valorize a reductive series of undifferentiated ritual gestures sent out from inside the black box, or from behind the infinite extent of the monitor screens. "The Tempest" further adumbrates, as Peter Greenaway noticed, the hidden context of the digital intelligent agent, its mystification.

Here are soundings and echoes of the imaginary of the lost father, in the digital deep, a drowned agon in an ocean of undifferentiated consciousness. "Those are pearls that were his eyes/Sea bells hourly ring his bell/Dingdong, dingdong, dingdong bell." As if participants, in the name of interactivity, are passively receptive of a metaphor of what a computer is supposed to be capable of noticing and showing, and this in turn is presumed to be repetitively conditioned by algorithmic presets. The mimetic capacities of the digital context are limited by these expectations to a narrow formalist style. Human participant-observers are cast, once again as in the mass media context, as passive receptors of the new digital Law, towards which they offer uncritical submission.

Kind of like a burlesque remake on digital turf of "The Ten Commandments." A desolation, a wilderness of atopic electronica, is Sinai. Threatened, in the main, may be some conservative aspects of human sensibility, such as love of narration, or mythic thinking-- strategies of cultural continuity and individual identity formation. The most intriguing effects of this subject-less formalism betray a presumption that if there is no more human subjectivity (except as passive consumer) here is no computer subject either, or at any rate, a subject that is so much bigger than we are, like Yahweh, that we can't
do much except duck and cover. Digital god is functionally the same as Digital no-god. The mimetic traditions of image, icon, and even iconoclasm, in service of contextualized content become moot.

Instead, as an artist I am thinking through a poetics of which the cyberpresence is a collaborative intelligent agent, neither divine nor subhuman, rather, a contextualization of ontologic functioning. I can only conjecture that this is a matter of immediate and compelling concern for artistic practice, in light in a period of extreme revolution with regard to digital culture, and especially with respect to the rise of ubiquitous intelligent agency in scenarios of human-computer mediated space and functionality. Self evident in the fields of information management and intelligence gathering, this condition of revolution hits like a tidal wave on the shores of new post human experiential landscapes. My condition as an artist is already de facto post human. The cyborg presence is interpretation, is a feedback loop, of collaborative response. A pantheistic revert to the poetics of the Hellenism whose gods, demigods, angels and demons collaborated with humans on a level, eye to eye scale, a messy street level ? immanence not transcendence. There doesn't seem to be much chance of a redemptive digital Utopia. Couldn't it be that presets towards mimesis ? the associative functionality of subjective human response ? move into a collaborative process of technopoetics with, through and within post human artificial intelligence?

? Christina McPhee 2002

Copyright ? 2003 All artists rights reserved.