17 06/09

Comparisons: two

HI, it is often the case, that when discussing media theory, inquiries rise about the practical use of it. Which is the latests hype in media theory? and How can I use these ideas to produce something? How these body of concepts can help me in improving what I’m currently doing? Of course there is nothing wrong with such questions. However, I don’t feel absolutely comfortable with the idea of media theory as a provider of plans or manuals to reach a neat practical goal. Rather I think media theory is a critical field for discussion that sheds light over cultural, social, and technical issues with a perspective of inclusiveness and not of success.

Marshall McLuhan is one of the most quoted media theorist. His writings, though not easy to understand, are still influential in digital media schools. Culture Industries have made profit of his ideas and thereafter have thrown him away in their hysterical quest for the popular market. That accelerated dynamic has given zero time to critically take a grip on hyped terms such as non-linear, repetition, intuitive, and simultaneity. Most of them remain cryptic for most of us, at least to me they do.

Previously, I quoted a series of comparisons from the Introduction to the MIT Press edition of Understanding Media. In the following pairs, Lewis Lapham presents a series of words similar to that [1, p.xxii], identified by McLuhan, between the print to the electrical media. Now, what has impressed me about this list is the strange sense of tribalisation that can be felt in words like: power, wish, magic, legend, and prophesy. Is it a de-regularisation of modern thinking?, or Does this imply a more sophisticated regularisation?. I will call it a soft regularisation. One that instead of segmenting and normalising in order to compose, will mix and remix to do montage and pastiche.

Citizen Nomad
build wander
experience innocence
authority power
happiness pleasure
literature journalism
heterosexual polymorphous
civilization barbarism
will wish
truth as passion passion as truth
peace war
achievement celebrity
science magic
doubt certainty
drama pornography
history legend
argument violence
wife whore
art dream
agriculture banditry
politics prophecy

Many of the right-column words also, oddly, remind me of ‘experiential design’ as a more ‘human’ stage in designing pleasurable objects, which usually means that the persuasion, design is intended to, is made more convincing and subtly to be noticed. Thus, we, the nomads, buy more happily whatever the  ‘evangelist’ wants us to consume. A barbaric hedonist horde.

  1. Lapham, Lewis. “Introduction: The Eternal Now”. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. 1964. By Marshall McLuhan. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994. ix-xxiii.

05 06/09

The machine.

Tags: , | Categories: art, technical media


The machine in the XX century art. [3]

“I am accustomed, most of all at night, when the agitation of my soul fills me with cares, and I seek relief from these bitter worries and sad thoughts, to think about and construct in my mind some unheard-of machine to move and carry weights, making it possible to create great and wonderful things”
Alberti, Leon. Della Tranquilitiá dell’ animo. 1441 [qdt. 2, p.96]

I opened this post with two statements about the machine, separated for more than 500 hundred years. The painting addresses an aesthetic of the machine to the early XX century European art. The quote addresses the dreams of building machines to marvel others. Both are tied for a sort of machinic thought, however what a machine means for the Renaissance and to the XX century is as different as what machine means for us at the beginning of the XXI century.

The painting resembles an electric diagram, connections are drawn, and flows are set. From a machine aesthetic steams a variety of expressions that escape the representational path. One can venture an interpretation of this painting as the navigation tree for a web-site or an organization chart. Nevertheless, it presents a historical view of the western art in the manner as a machine is organised and deeply influenced by the machine as an abstract and aesthetic concept. This interpretation might be taken as technological determinism as long as the root and cause for this movements is found in the technical progress, but I will argue that it expresses rather a turn to the central role that technology has taken over other aspects of social relations to the point of overshadow them, in a critical way. For instance the programmatic understanding of constructivism and fragmented view of space of cubism.

Machines have a far impact in our live that we used to acknowledge, our version of the machine is quite different, these are not heavy mechanical apparatuses, rather are soft-machinic assemblages [1, p.211], and difficult to identify as machines. The cellphone that ubiquitous gadget is a machine we use to communicate with others regardless our location, that mini machine determines our capability to immediately reach somebody and our own reachability. But it is more than that it also provides with a myriad of other functions, play games, music, take pictures, videos, and read news. A machine that adapts to its owner desires, an open machine.

  1. Broeckmann, Andreas. “Image, Process, Performance, Machine: Aspects of an Aesthetics of The Machinic”. MediaArtHistories. Ed. Oliver Grau. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007. 193-205
  2. Sawday, Jonathan. Engines of Imagination: Renaissance Culture and the rise of the Machine. London, UK: Routledge. 2007
  3. Wolfe, Steve. Untitled (Cubism and Abstract Art). 1997. MoMa . <https://moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?object_id=81386>