Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema 9781442684355

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Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema

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Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema

Edited by


U N I V E R S I T Y O F T O R O N TO P R E S S Toronto Buffalo London

www.utppublishing.com © University of Toronto Press Incorporated 2007 Toronto Buffalo London Printed in Canada ISBN 978-0-8020-9297-7 (cloth)

Printed on acid-free paper

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Fluid screens, expanded cinema / Janine Marchessault, Susan Lord, editors. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8020-9297-7 1. Motion pictures. 2. Digital media. 3. Interactive multimedia. 4. Technology and the arts. I. Marchessault, Janine II. Lord, Susan, 1959– PN1994.F58 2007



University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial assistance to its publishing program of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. University of Toronto Press acknowledges the financial support for its publishing activities of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP).




Introduction 3 janine marchessault and susan lord PART I. EXPANDING CINEMA – IMMERSION 1

Multi-Screens and Future Cinema: The Labyrinth Project at Expo 67 29 janine marchessault


Sounds Complicated: What Sixties Audio Experiments Can Teach Us about the New Media Environments 52 stephen crocker


The Networked Screen: Moving Images, Materiality, and the Aesthetics of Size 74 haidee wasson


The ‘Iterative Circle’: Transformation of Web Narrative in Amika 96 sheila petty


Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue abigail child


From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor ron burnett

111 126



PART II. DIGITAL TIME – ARCHIVE 7 Feminist Digital Aesthetics: The Everyday and Yesterday 145 caitlin fisher 8 The Sight of Sound: The Last Angel of History rinaldo walcott


9 History and Histrionics: Vision Machine’s Digital Poetics michael uwemedimo and joshua oppenheimer


10 From Sequence to Stream: Historiography and Media Art 192 susan lord 11 The Birth of Tragedy in Digital Aesthetics glenn willmott


PART III. LIQUID SPACE – MOBILITY 12 Armed Vision and the Banalization of War: Full Spectrum Warrior 231 nick dyer-witheford and greig de peuter 13 The Dialectics of Canadian Film Labour: Technology, Globalization, Nation 251 john m c cullough 14 Screening the Call: Cell Phones, Activism, and the Art of Connection 270 kirsty robertson 15 Immigrant Semiosis laura u. marks


16 Precepts for Digital Artwork sean cubitt


Afterword: What We Must Do 321 gene youngblood Bibliography







We wish to express our deepest gratitude to our contributors, who have been so patient throughout the process of putting this collection together. Their brilliance as engaged activists, scholars, and artists has opened up many new paths for thinking about screens and new media. The initial idea for this anthology developed from a symposium hosted by Images Festival for Independent Film and Media in Toronto several years ago, and we are grateful to the organizers of the festival for their enthusiastic efforts. The Department of Film at York University and the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University gave much-needed technical and administrative support for the book. Sunny Kerr and Aimée Mitchell provided vital research and editorial assistance along the way. Pam Smith, Ya-Yin Ko, Jennifer VanderBurgh, and Brian Hotson brought the project to its conclusion, and we thank them for their painstaking work in helping to organize the different drafts of the manuscript. We owe special thanks to Claire Christie for her inspired cover design and to Philip Hoffman for his permission to reproduce the cover image. We are tremendously appreciative of the two anonymous readers’ reports, which offered detailed and incisive comments on the manuscript. We would also like to thank the editors of the Digital Futures Series, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, for their insightful suggestions and for including this book in their series. It goes without saying that this book could not have come to fruition without the expert editorial team at the University of Toronto Press. Finally, we are indebted to Gene Youngblood for his generous conversations with us. His writings on expanded cinema provide the ground from which to think through the idea of ‘fluid screens.’

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Introduction jan i n e m a rch e ssau lt a nd s u sa n l o r d

And you can’t help but arrive at the conclusion that a single, common prerequisite of attractiveness shows through in all these examples: a rejection of once-and-forever allotted form, freedom from ossification, the ability to dynamically assume any form. An ability that I’d call ‘plasmaticness,’ for here we have a being represented in drawing, a being of definite form, a being which has attained a definite appearance, and which behaves like the primal protoplasm, not yet possessing a ‘stable’ form, but capable of assuming any form and which, skipping along the rungs of the evolutionary ladder, attaches itself to any and all forms of animal existence. Why is the sight of this so attractive? ... A lost changeability, fluidity, suddenness of formations – that’s the ‘subtext’ brought to the viewer who lacks all this by these seemingly strange traits which permeate folktales, cartoons, the spineless circus performer and the seemingly groundless scattering of extremities in Disney’s drawings. It’s natural to expect that such a strong tendency of the transformation of stable forms into forms of mobility could not be confined solely to means of form: this tendency exceeds the boundaries of form and extends to subject and theme. An unstable character becomes a film hero; that is, the kind of character for whom a changeable appearance is ... natural. Here, changeability of form is no longer a paradoxical expressiveness, as in the case of stretching necks, tails and legs: here, God Himself commanded the character to be fluid. Sergei Eisenstein, Eisenstein on Disney1

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Fluid Screens Eisenstein’s admiration of Disney’s animation was based largely on the aesthetic appreciation of the malleability of the image – an experience he links to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: ‘Now I am opening out like the largest telescope that ever was!’ He was fascinated by the ‘scattering of extremities’ found in Disney’s drawings – a phenomenological ‘attractiveness’ that emerges, he wrote, from a ‘fictitious freedom. For an instant. A momentary, imaginary, comical liberation from the timelock mechanism of American life. A five-minute “break” for the psyche, but during which the viewer himself remains chained to the winch of the machine.’2 Marshall McLuhan was always distrustful of the idea of ‘flows’ as a way of thinking about the spatial and temporal formations of electric media. Like Eisenstein, McLuhan turned to Carroll to find the spatial model for understanding the present space-time formation: There is no longer any tendency to speak of electricity as ‘contained’ in anything. Painters have long known that objects are not contained in space, but that they generate their own spaces. It was the dawning awareness of this in the mathematical world a century ago that enabled Lewis Carroll, the Oxford mathematician, to contrive Alice in Wonderland, in which times and spaces are neither uniform nor continuous, as they had seemed to be since the arrival of Renaissance perspective. As for the speed of light, that is merely the speed of total causality.3

The metaphor of flow is far too functionalist and reductive for McLuhan. It reinforces a linear model of communication, a model of transfer rather than one of translation, which for him preserved the complexity of all human interaction. It is perhaps ironic that the theorist who made the global village a globally understood metaphor worried that flow would hearken back to a rationalist conception of linear space, a conception which, as physics has shown, is an inaccurate understanding of electricity as a container and one-way movement. Thus McLuhan prefers the painterly connotations of spatial terms like ‘field’ or Carroll’s construction (mathematically correct) of warped spaces. These impressed McLuhan precisely because they are discontinuous, not uniform, and reflect the heterogeneity of the cultures of the world. Zygmunt Bauman coined the term ‘liquid modernity’ to characterize the present moment in the history of modernity and capitalism. Liquid-

Introduction 5

ity and fluidity, he has argued, are the perfect metaphors for the new flexibility of a space unfixed and time unbound. Fluids travel easily, they ‘spill,’ ‘run out,’ ‘splash,’ and so on. The central characteristic of this new fluidity is time, since without ‘the moment’ to mark it out, it would be amorphous.4 In this way, Bauman avoids the problematic characterization of a world made of indiscriminate ‘flows,’ an image of movement and ephemerality that can obscure real social and economic conditions, ‘frictions’ that force or hinder movement.5 Twenty years ago, communications theorists predicted that the media were converging into one and that all information would be transmitted through a singular medium – a concern echoing the cultural theorists of the early part of the century. Yet at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we can see that no one medium will dominate the mediascape. The stories consumed in the industrialized democracies of the world are received through a multiplicity of hybrid and networked screens, creating a fragmented reception that increasingly characterizes our waking hours. As Henry Jenkins has pointed out, ‘convergence’ must be understood as a process that has several different manifestations. Economic convergence highlights the fact that media ownership is converging through horizontal integration of the cultural industries. This is evidenced through the ‘trans-media exploitation of branded properties’ (e.g., Buffy, Harry Potter, Pokémon etc.) – that is, the increase in media ‘tie-ins’ and synergies across the sphere of entertainment. Importantly, we need to consider convergence in terms of the increased reality of media concentration and monopolies. Such media concentration generally takes place across different media: the most powerful corporations own multiple media and have strong alliances with other industries. Thus, the concentration of ownership is also enhanced by alliances between media groups and convergences of interests. Media giants like Time Warner own interests in film, television, books, games, the Web, and music industries as well as real estate. Clear Channel, a new player on the scene, owns 1,200 radio stations across the United States and controls almost all large outdoor video screens and myriad concert venues across North America. It is these powerful media groups that have taken control of expanding media and leisure markets, which include book publishing, music, online media, theme parks, sports, and so forth. Such concentration of power is the result of changes in national policy and law and will have profound effects on national cultures around the world – which is why cultural policy is absolutely vital to our thinking about expanded cinema.

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Jenkins also points to the social or organic aspect of convergence. This refers to the social and cultural practices of consumption that can be seen as active and open-ended. Children, for example, read books, watch TV, listen to iPods, interact in chat rooms – often all at the same time. This organic convergence exists within a productive and creative economy of media consumers who become in some sense bricoleurs of their communal mediascapes. Cultural convergence grows out of social convergence and is very much connected to do-it-yourself (DIY) cultures, the cultures of personal archiving, digital storytelling, creative interactions, and new forms of political solidarity that are enabled by digital media. Finally, global convergence is a manifestation of both social and economic convergence, which is the result of new modes of production and distribution that are transnational – world cultures (art, music, film, dance, etc.) and new kinds of co-production and collaboration in the media industries and in translocal hybrid cultures.6 All of these aspects of convergence represent the tensions of globalization inside transnational contexts, creating a multiplicity of negotiations that are political, social, economic, cultural, and legal. Such interactions are structured by the underlying antinomy fuelled by capitalist modernity that Walter Benjamin and T.W. Adorno were analysing in the 1930s: the tension between greater cultural diversity (witness the recent strengthening of global grassroots politics) and cultural homogenization (the concentration of multimedia ownership). Thus, while the media are increasingly ubiquitous, the mediated global world is also profoundly discontinuous and fragmented. For this reason, there is a great urgency at this time to situate the ‘fluid’ media in the context of media histories, political economy, cultural practices and policy, new articulations of identity and time, and media specificity. As unstable and transitory as these media may be, it is vital to understand them through a historical lens not in terms of simple chronologies but as part of a larger ‘media archaeology’ of contiguous and sometimes singular practices and circumstances.7 Expanded Cinema This book considers the shift from traditional cinematic spectacles to works probing the frontiers of interactive, performative, and networked media. Drawing on a broad range of scholarship, including film theory, communication studies, cultural studies, and new media theory, the essays in this collection examine how digital technologies

Introduction 7

are transforming the semiotic fabric of contemporary visual cultures. Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema begins with the phenomenon Gene Youngblood described three decades ago as ‘expanded cinema,’ that is, an explosion of the frame outward towards immersive, interactive, and interconnected forms of culture.8 Authors in this book have used the word ‘cinema’ to refer not simply to film as a technology but to a range of moving-image technologies that are encompassed by the phenomenology of cinema. In his essay ‘Cinema and the Code’ (2003), Youngblood defines cinema in the following way: The subject of ‘digital imaging,’ we agree, exists in the context of both video and the computer (different only in the source of the image and in the possibility of real time operation) and covers the generic areas of image processing, image synthesis, and writing or organizing digital code in a procedural or linguistic manner. But in every case when we refer to the phenomenology of the moving image, we call it cinema. For us, it is important to separate cinema from its medium, just as we separate music from particular instruments. Cinema is the art of organizing a stream of audiovisual events in time. It is an event-stream, like music. There are at least four media through which we can practice cinema – film, video, holography and structured digital code – just as there are many instruments through which we can practice music.9

Through his intellectual collaborations with artists Peter Weibel and Steina and Woody Vasulka, Youngblood comes to a consideration that distinguishes between different media of cinema and a unified view of the multiplicity of image culture. We find these distinctions useful particularly as they encourage the cross-media and intermedial analysis that we believe is imperative in the present context of hypermediation. Youngblood’s groundbreaking book Expanded Cinema offers us three particular avenues from which to approach the immersive, interactive, and interconnected field of digital screen culture: synesthesia, intermediality, and the global public. The intense utopianism of Youngblood’s era is embedded in every page of his book – from the idea of the collective ownership of the earth and the cosmic consciousness of its citizens to the idea that science teaches ethics to the final chapter’s assertion that the ‘open empire’ balancing nature and technology is all but upon us. He begins the book with the explanation that expansion refers not to ‘computer films, video phosphors, atomic light or spherical projections’ but to consciousness. This relation between mind and media is central

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to this first extensive study and theorization of new media in terms of a planetary global phenomenon. ‘We must expand our horizons beyond the point of infinity. We must move from oceanic consciousness to cosmic consciousness.’10 With expansion we cease to think about the screen or the frame and we are instead in the place he describes as ‘intermedia,’ that is, ‘an environment whose elements are suffused in metamorphosis.’11 The major influences in Youngblood’s thinking include Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Carolee Schneeman, and scientists interviewed at IBM and different laboratories around the world. The specific kinds of technologies, which were inseparable from the experiments he was looking at, influenced his thinking about the expanded cinema, which included various components of video and television (cathode-ray tubes, switching/mixing console, telecine projection, Chroma-Key video matting, and various forms of broadcasting and narrowcasting, plasma crystal displays, etc.), early computer technology and graphics systems, holographic cinema, oscilloscopes, multiple projection environments, as well as planetariums, sonar, and so forth. Youngblood’s interest in science was much deeper than indicated in this list of the specific technologies that comprise the expanded cinema environment. ‘We could say that art isn’t truly contemporary until it relates to the world of cybernetics, game theory, the DNA molecule, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, theories of antimatter, transistorization, the breeder reactor, genocidal weaponry, the laser, pre-experiencing alternative futures.’12 These ideas are very much at the heart of the present collection. Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema presents a multivalent view of the place of digital media in the transformation of the public sphere – its expansions and contraction. These concerns form the animating context for Gene Youngblood’s Afterword in this volume, ‘What We Must Do.’ Written in 2003, Youngblood’s manifesto-like text is a response to the global demonstrations against the perpetual war in the Middle East: The political demonstrations of 2003 were united in solidarity but were separated in time. Historically they constituted a single event, a turning point. They manifested the political will of a global community, but they were not coordinated in time, and time is now the definitive feature of unification. Space has been dissolved; only time and timing circumscribe our democratic right to peaceful assembly. The primary purpose of the event I propose must be to make visible the invisible power that was behind the political demonstrations. We need to match those spectacular images of

Introduction 9 assembly in space with equally powerful images of assembly in time – images of worldwide synchronization and coordination.

The imagination of an expanded global public sphere, not unlike what Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt have called the ‘Multitude,’13 is a Utopian transnational network of social justice movements, artists, and intellectuals. The liquidity of capital, the mobility of bodies, the connectivity of localities form a complexity that outstrips any single methodology, intellectual or political tradition, or medium. Youngblood’s 1970 text and his 2003 manifesto inspire a set of transdisciplinary and transhistorical responses. Using the experiments of the expanded cinema artists of the 1960s and 1970s as a pivotal point in the archaeology of digital media culture, we would be remiss not to mention Walter Benjamin’s and Siegfried Kracauer’s early engagements with cinema as sensorium, as architecture, as street, and as a concretion of the flow of everyday life. Cinema as the Flow of Life Benjamin’s idea of the phantasmagoria and its reorganization of the sensorium, and Kracauer’s idea of the mass ornament as an immersive experience of modernity’s technologies and spectacles, give us a historical view of the concerns in this book. Their writings of this period (from the second decade of the twentieth century to the 1930s) also provide media theorists with a grammar for thinking about convergence as a principle of fascism. Apposite to Benjamin and Kracauer, Germaine Dulac and Jean Epstein were making arguments for ciné-écriture as a type of synesthetic cinema. Informed by French aestheticism, Dulac’s interest in the synesthetic possibilities took the form of primitive sonograms: the writing of sound onto film. While her theorization of this potentiality of cinema opened the formalism to a phenomenological approach, neither she nor Epstein were especially interested in cinema as sociocultural experience.14 The writings of Benjamin and Kracauer help to articulate the potentialities of another form and context of the moving image which the institutional mode of representation displaces – the heterogeneity of temporal and spatial elements within which the moving image appeared coeval with a sociocultural potentiality of a previously unthinkable experience of democracy. With the emergence of the institutional mode of representation, this heterogeneity of contextually derived experience is abstracted into film form. The context of viewing


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is cleansed of its multidimensionality so that the eye is trained to look in one direction only: the screen, which now folds into itself the illusion of multiple views. However, that multiplicity of forms expanding from movie screen to the hall and to the street, combined with Anne Friedberg’s analysis of the ‘mobile gaze’ of spectatorship15 (from screen to street to shops), offers a rich prehistory to our contemporary moment of immersion, intermediality, and mobility. Both Benjamin and Kracauer see the cinema as a response to rather than an expression of the alienated experiences of the industrialized metropolis. They see the possibility for new kinds of association and sociability, a possible reconfiguration of the subject. These decades held a potential for a reconfiguration of the order of things – instead of greater abstraction and objectification, there was a promise of the ‘redemption of physical reality’ (Kracauer) in the ‘politicization of art’ (Benjamin). While this phenomenological strain appears consonant with Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of the perspectival eye being embedded in the flesh of the world, Benjamin’s and Kracauer’s analyses insist on the thoroughly permeated: the eye and the world are adjusted by technology such that any phenomenal plentitude is experienced only as mythic fragments. The ‘unconscious optics’ of modernity are able to perceive correspondences between myth and history since the continuity presented by each has been shattered into fragments. ‘A whole field of surprising correspondences between animate and inanimate nature is opened up, wherein even things encounter us in the structures of frail intersubjectivity.’16 In the constellation, rebus, or hieroglyph of fragmented reality, the historical and the mythic, the technological and the sentient, the remembered and the forgotten are apposite. For these theorists, the potential appears because it is disappearing – a double vision of the lost and found. Benjamin and Kracauer wrote at a time in which the spectatorial regime had recently been instituted: the heterogeneity of space and time and the ‘carnal density’ that had constituted the previous two decades of cinema experience were by the 1930s absorbed in the diegesis of the film. For both Benjamin and Kracauer – though they articulate it differently – this new scopic regime signals a return of the aura and a further derealization of sentience rather than its redemption. For in this dream of overcoming industrial time, death is further extruded from temporality. Benjamin and Kracauer search for those elements which in this context of the renewed aura break its spell: boredom, distraction, shock – these aspects of collective experience within, rather than transcendent of, the capitalist phantasmagoria mark a limit of the enframing of the world as image.

Introduction 11

Kracauer, like Benjamin, saw in the overlap of art, technology, and everyday life before fascism – especially in cinema and its reception – a possibility for experience to be productive of new social relations resistant to the petrification in ratio. And this possibility, he insists, involves taking the uncharted path through the ‘mass ornament,’ not away from it, developing a critical phenomenology of the surface (as Thomas Levin calls his method in the introduction to The Mass Ornament).17 Cinema, in Kracauer’s view, ‘addresses its viewer as a “material-corporeal being”’; it seizes the ‘human being with skin and hair’;18 and, in doing so, it holds a potential to shatter the illusion of the autotelic, insentient subject – and the capitalist ratio that produces this illusion as reality. Benjamin and Kracauer’s work offers a means by which to think the historical tension between the sensate, sexuate body and its dematerialization, its enframing by technological rationality. As we dwell in a time of ever more ubiquitous and enchanting technologies, the project of thinking this tension, while it may be aging, is not exhausted. The possibility for thinking the temporal tensions between the body and technology, not by avoiding the new technologies, but by critically interrogating the enchantment and the irrationality underlying their instrumental development, is of central concern in Kracauer’s essay ‘The Mass Ornament.’ And this process can only take place, as he argues, by going directly through the ‘center of the mass ornament, not away from it.’ Kracauer’s early work, his phenomenology of the surface, rhymes with Benjamin’s in many ways, especially in his critique of the re-enchantment of fragmented reality. As Susan Buck-Morss has argued, with Benjamin’s final sentence of the Artwork essay (‘Communism responds by politicizing art’), Benjamin is ‘demanding of art a task far more difficult [than making culture a vehicle for propaganda] – that is, to undo the alienation of the corporeal sensorium, to restore the instinctual power of the human bodily senses for the sake of humanity’s selfpreservation, and to do this, not by avoiding the new technologies, but by passing through them.’19 This dual emphasis on the transformation of perception and critique of social conditions found in Benjamin and Kracauer provides anchors for what writers like McLuhan and Youngblood have to tell us about televised cultural forms. Canadian Media Studies Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema develops a reflection on media forms that is distinctly Canadian. McLuhan’s writings of the forties and fifties especially, along with the writings of George Grant, Harold Innis, and


Janine Marchessault and Susan Lord

Eric Havelock, have helped to establish a Canadian intellectual tradition in cultural and communication studies. This tradition is characterized by ‘a discourse on technology,’20 a discourse that sees technology as constitutive of social and psychic space. McLuhan’s work is particularly relevant to the present volume. It cannot be divorced from his immersion in the Catholic intellectual tradition, which includes Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. This is a tradition that in his interpretation prioritizes the poetic process and artists. Poetry is the privileged art form, for contemporary poetry has healed the breach between art and science.21 Language is the primary medium, which he sees as a collective work of art because of its connection to oral culture, to human speech, and to the temporal realm. For McLuhan, the artist provides the source of great insight. Artists are the ‘antennae’ of the culture not because they are privileged humans or visionaries but because artists take as their object human perception and cognition. According to McLuhan everyone should use the methods of art to see through the mediated environment and to understand the epistemological biases created by our technologies. Canadian intellectuals, he argued, were especially well positioned to do this. As a former colony of France and England, and because of our close proximity and distance from the last empire, the United States, intellectuals working in Canada have a unique perspective on the world. The country’s particular geography in relation to the United States has enabled it to keep an eye on things and to function as ‘an early warning system’ providing a model for anticipating future events.22 Yet McLuhan’s media studies are geared not so much towards the future (even though he has been called a media ‘prophet’) as to the present moment. For McLuhan, the inhabitants of the Western world of literacy should approach things with a keen sensory awareness and a desire (the Romantic dictum) ‘to see things as they really are’ through reflexive methodologies. This interest in perception led McLuhan to interdisciplinary formulations, to an interest in neurophilosophy before it was formulated as a field. One of McLuhan’s contributions to communication studies is a conceptualization of space as produced, of time as living culture, and of culture as living time. He drew attention to the architectural space of the school in the city and to the city as an educational space not simply filled with rhetoric, but constructed by it. Theorists of space and architecture from Henri Lefebvre to Edward Soja share this insight. McLuhan has focused attention on the background and the spaces that both shape and are shaped by everyday experiences. Famously, McLuhan maintained that The Gutenberg Galaxy was ‘a



footnote to the observations of Innis on the subject of the psychic and social consequences, first of writing and then of printing.’23 He held Harold Innis’s scholarship in high esteem and did much to promote his work. In the preface to Innis’s Empire and Communications, McLuhan writes: If Hegel projected an historical pattern of figures minus existential ground, Harold Innis, in the spirit of the new age of information, sought for patterns in the very ground of history and existence. He saw media, old and new, not as mere vortices at which to direct his point of view, but as living vortices of power creating hidden environments that act abrasively and destructively on older forms of culture.24

It is the ‘living vortices’ in Innis’s research that no doubt influenced McLuhan’s own thinking on how to conduct research into media effects. Innis introduced a historical account that was richly nuanced and grounded in place. Without an understanding of the aesthetic context from which such a methodology was born, Innis was using methods of collage and juxtaposition to create a landscape out of time and historical facts. Innis presented a history of civilization by creating a dynamic model that would present simultaneous events unfolding in different parts of the world. For McLuhan, the ‘contemporary awareness of the electric age’ in Baudelaire’s poetry or Cézanne’s painting finds expression in the aesthetic forms of montage as seen in the newspaper or in the cinema. A dynamic and open field of relationships replaces linear sequences of words. McLuhan recognized the importance and originality of Innis’s insights and their appropriateness to the present context. Intertextual layering is the pedagogical strategy that underlies all of Innis’s later writings and certainly all of McLuhan’s writings from the fifties onward: ‘Innis is not talking a private or specialist language but handing us the keys to understanding technologies in their psychic and social operation in any time or place.’25 According to McLuhan, the radical historian of economics and communication discovered an essential method of using historical situations as a lab in which ‘to test the character of technology in the shaping of cultures.’ Like a scientist, Innis used the method known in chemistry as the ‘interface’ and in so doing presented ‘a new world of economic and cultural change by studying the interplay between man’s artifacts and the environments created by old and new technologies.’26 McLuhan looked to anthropology for clues to comprehend electric


Janine Marchessault and Susan Lord

culture in terms of a new construction of space-time relations. He drew upon a sound-based paradigm that was historically grounded and directly inspired by oral cultural traditions. From here McLuhan would find a vocabulary to describe the experience of the Electric Galaxy in terms not of visual space but a new multidirectional ‘Acoustic Space.’ This idea of ‘centre without margins,’ of a space with no fixed boundaries, is a means to describe a phenomenology of a new, imploded, derealized space of the media, to describe an experience of living not with the media but in and through mediation. Electric Galaxies The essays collected in this book draw upon a range of analytical and critical frameworks that, while not exhaustive, enable the reader to reflect upon the most pressing questions that face us today. The book is structured by historically specific and overlapping areas of experience that have arisen through the media since the 1930s. The new models and metaphors that theorists from Benjamin to McLuhan to Gilles Deleuze have used to address the changed status of the moving image and concomitant transformations in screen technology are addressed throughout the book. Collectively, the essays consider a series of questions that are both ontological and epistemological in nature: What constitutes the ‘new’ in new media? How are digital aesthetics different from film aesthetics? What new forms of spectatorship and storytelling, political community, and commodity production are being enabled through the digital media? The overall problematic for this collection is framed by an understanding of the digital not simply as a technology but also as an experience of space and time tied to capitalism. One of the ways in which we are distinguishing between the different media that constitute ‘expanded cinema’ is through an emphasis on the supports that hold images together and define their shapes. Thus the book is divided into three parts. Part I, Expanding Cinema – Immersion, is concerned with spatial narratives and immersive technologies. Focusing on projects from the Labyrinth Pavilion at Expo 67, 1960s sound experiments, IMAX and QuickTime screens as well as Web narratives, new editing tools and immersive caves, the essays in this first section are more formal in their approach to analysing the new (and old) phenomenology of expanding screens. Part II, Digital Time – Archive, takes as its focus the act of making time and the new forms of temporality enabled by



digital technologies: feminist and activist media projects, new forms of collective memory and history, along with a new politics of time. Across different essays, the archive – as a way of storing and collecting time – is engaged as a tool for building communities and shared histories in a manner that is dynamic and open. The final section of the book, Part III, Liquid Space – Mobility, looks at new kinds of movement and economic liquidity in the digital realm, from war games, labour practices, cell phone projects to different kinds of social intervention and a manifesto for the digital artwork. The first essay in Fluid Screens explores the emergence of a new medium presented at Expo 67 called synesthetic cinema. This new form, according to Marchessault, promised a multisensory experience that would unify the senses and the different cultures of the world. With a specific focus on the multi-screen presentation Labyrinthe, which was designed by the National Film Board of Canada’s Unit B directors for Expo 67, the essay addresses the new visibility of expanded screens in the cinema of the 1960s in terms of an experience of simultaneity. We find at Montreal’s Expo a precursor to some of the most utopian tenets of digital culture. Following the research that went into The Labyrinth Project, Marchessault turns to the writing of Wallace Stevens to understand the relationship between the screen and architecture as one that takes place at the intersection of ‘the flow of time and the fixity of space.’ This was for Stevens the definition of artistic practice and for the directors of Labyrinthe a state of being that may create universal understanding. For his part, and in a manner that is equally concerned with phenomenology and the screen as an immersive environment, Stephen Crocker adds sound and a concomitant awareness of multiplicity to his reading of new digital environments. He combines the thoughts of Glenn Gould and McLuhan to contemplate the concept of the singular and the multiple that has come to define the paradox of the global village. In exploring the multiplicity of media environments as an experience of the digital, Crocker turns to the sound experiments of the 1960s and in particular to the underexamined writings and radio works of Glenn Gould and sound artists like John Cage and Rolf Lieberman. For Crocker it is the immersive and multidirectional qualities of sound that provide a key to understanding the global village. For media artists and theorists of the 1960s, sound was interesting ‘for what it revealed not about a source, but about the organizational structure of sensation.’ Haidee Wasson argues that cinema scholars must expand their ana-


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lytical frame to take account of the cinema in terms of its connections to a diversity of merchandising sites, product placements, and tie-ins. We can no longer think of mainstream films as simple screens but as a series of interconnected events – ‘nodes of complex networks’ where a ‘movie is never just a film.’ Her analysis of the networked screen leads her to consider two instances in the expanded viewing context: QuickTime streams and IMAX. In her discussion of QuickTime, Wasson argues that a new way of looking is initiated that involves temporal networks that exceed the streamed image. The proliferating screen both contracts and expands. While IMAX stands in opposition to the experience of the small computer screen, it is also a networked screen because IMAX is always about IMAX’s network of technologies, screens, and institutions. Both small and large screens present examples of the networked screen that underpins the often invisible materiality and multiplicity of contemporary visual culture. In her essay ‘The “Iterative Circle”: Transformation of Web Narrative in Amika,’ Sheila Petty explores artistic networks when she examines a collaboration between African and Canadian Web artists in the creation of a series of Web-based narratives made possible through Dakar Web. Although the problem of access to the Web and to digital technologies continues to be a pressing issue – African teledensity remains below one line per one hundred people – she is encouraged by some of the new networks that are being created among artists’ communities in and outside Africa. Petty challenges the idea that Western cultural standards will simply inevitably and monolithically overwhelm culturally located forms of production in collaborative situations. Through a detailed reading of the Senegalese Web-based narrative Amika (Ndary Lô, Massamba Mbaye, Moussa Tine, and Madické Seck, 1999), Petty examines the use of new technology in non-Western cultures in terms of traditions of local transformation of communications technology. The now well-known example of the sub-Saharan cinema of the late 1950s and early 1960s that led to the creation of a specific cinema aesthetic based in concepts of orality and social space can also be seen similarly in the Web-based fiction Amika. This complex ‘Web fiction driven by a rhetorical structure ... relies on an African sense of time and space in which absence becomes a means of engendering debate.’ The cultural specificity of the Web-based narratives that Petty examines draw upon African oral traditions to create distinct hybrid forms that extend longstanding artistic traditions. Amika presents a spatial narrative that is cosmological and interwoven like a ‘piece of cloth.’ The narrative



combines both African oral traditions with the interlacing capability of the Web technology to reflect upon a unique worldsense of interacting forces. The narrative encompasses an open-endedness and a plurality of trajectories to draw out a distinctly African pattern. While this collective project is a work of fiction, it describes the lived realities of the poor in a way that is comprehensible to those living outside its worlds. The celebrated filmmaker and writer Abigail Child extends the examination of creative practice through her journal that documents uses of digital technology in editing. Her work begs some questions of creative engagement with media – Why is the digital seductive for artists? What might be its impact on how we understand and make historical images? Child works with a stream-of-consciousness form of writing (not unlike her films) to contemplate simultaneity and the physical experience of editing. She recalls the Steenbeck, early television and video editing, and the exhaustion of ten-hour days. From these recollections, Child cuts back to the work at hand, the creation of an interactive website and the questions that arise around these new technologies: the meaning of interactivity, interface, and weaving. Child’s essay provides rich reflections and poetic ruminations on the history of editing and specifically on the shift from film to three-quarter-inch video to digital video. Across a thirty-year span, the artist presents a rare view of media history and of the process of artmaking in the digital age. Like Child, Ron Burnett’s contribution offers speculations and insights into the meanings of digital technology: do we need a new language and new metaphors to describe these new technologies? Although he proposes a new metaphor for studying digital media and theorizing digital aesthetics, he cautions that what must be maintained is a materialist approach to media analysis. That is, it is important to create a history of immersive art forms: ‘It is only when the history of images – their evolution and aesthetic patterns – are firmly situated in the context of new media that we may be able to argue persuasively for some of the transformative shifts that digital technologies are engendering.’ Burnett questions the paradigms and vocabularies that are currently being called upon to describe new media. He objects to terms like ‘user’ and he asserts that a great deal more research needs to take place in the realm of interactivity, perception, and physical sensation before we will understand how the digital has transformed the spectator. Finally, he proposes a new term that combines the word image with photograph – imograph. The term foregrounds the plasticity of new


Janine Marchessault and Susan Lord

images and Burnett concludes his essay, and Part I of Fluid Screens, by offering examples of screenless contexts for the consumption of digital images and narratives. Historical memory is often full of traps, such as nostalgia for moments of political engagement, solidarity, and community building, for this nostalgia erases as much as it preserves. These concerns with the complexity of digital time comprise Part II of this volume. The technological ability to preserve pasts and upload them toward a future has, according to Caitlin Fisher, met with essentialism, and its attendant binaries, in certain versions of cyber-feminism. As she notes, it is impossible to ignore the fact that many of these hypertexts are produced by white women. Fisher cites Blair and Takayoshi, who remind us that ‘the Web is yet another cultural site where users are bombarded with representations of women based more on an essentialist definition of “woman” than the lives of real women from varying cultural backgrounds.’ Fisher’s article interrogates this reification of past practices, with its repositing of core images of the (white) female body, its Webbased forms of consciousness-raising groups (with its homogeneous membership), and its deployment of metaphors of home, weaving, and other ‘female’ practices. She wonders whether this is a reflection of the larger ‘retro-culture’ or if it is about searching through the archive for a means both to put to rest the homogeneity of its culture and to rescue those elements of a past that has yet to be realized for a generation of young women who are finding ‘old’ political problems to be far from over. Is there a way to perform an immanent critique or to see these hypertextual experiments as generative texts? What might this kind of monstrous reading practice reveal? Perhaps revisiting 1970s aesthetics, themes, and preoccupations in this new context might be productive for feminisms. Rather than dismiss these formulations as old, essentialist, or naive, what productive tensions and pathways might we discover in them? Rinaldo Walcott’s reading of the film The Last Angel of History by the black British filmmaker John Akomfrah considers the way in which the digital has provided the means of archiving black music, making it available not just for global markets but for artists who then cut and mix the history in a reflection of diasporic homelessness – a ‘downloadable Africa.’ He posits a critique of the assumption that black people have been more alienated than others from technology, situating black history in the history of modernity and modernism, and within the terms of the aesthetic project of futurism. For Akomfrah, and for Wal-



cott, the cybernetic does not appear as an external spectacle but as a component of sound; and Akomfrah’s Data Thief is an embodiment of transnational communicative practice and what Greg Tate calls ‘digitized race memory.’ Walcott argues that memory is politicized in the act of ‘rememory’: ‘In the case of black diaspora musics in the cybernetic age, digitized race memory allows for a musical memory which can mediate between musics of the past and musics of the present-future in ways that continually return to important moments of cultural sharing, renewal and other unknown possibilities.’ Like Walcott, Michael Uwemedimo and Joshua Oppenheimer see memory in the digital age in terms of a dynamic knowledge network and collective process of excavation. Their essay ‘History and Histrionics: Vision Machine’s Digital Poetics’ describes a collective project to recover the lost histories of the Indonesian genocide. The project is not simply one of uncovering something that was lost but of bringing to light the very power structures that make people forget. Vision Machine, a media-based research project and collective, has created a methodology that is deeply imbricated in the social realities and historical traces of the mass murders. Their methodology involves using digital media to create an archive of recollections, actions, and historical artifacts through ‘archeological performances.’ This involves a layering of temporalities, affects, and interpretations (asking soldiers to re-enact killings, getting people to respond to the performance): ‘Between a buried historical event, and its restaging with historical actors, this method opens a process of simultaneous historical excavation (working down through the strata), and histrionic reconstruction (adding layers of stylized performance and recounting).’ It is this process that creates a sense of ‘shared time’ and a network of collaborators. The project itself finds support in digital media networks and the Internet that help collectives of producers and activists to distribute and share their work. In her essay ‘From Sequence to Stream: Historiography and Media Art,’ Susan Lord explores the relationship between the historiographic imaginary of media artists working in the past quarter-century by looking at digital archives and databases in the context of globalization and the political affinities forged under these conditions. She says ‘The shift from politics as a project connected to Left history, anchored to class analysis and struggle, to politics as subaltern emergence, affiliated with decolonization struggles, has found artists of commitment operating with very different tools, vocabularies, and ontologies. The difference


Janine Marchessault and Susan Lord

between Emile de Antonio and Walid Raad is perhaps the most extreme comparison of that which can be found between Sara Diamond’s work of the 1980s and Vision Machine’s project in development since 2000: the ontological status of the archive, its truth-yielding potential, has become unusable for the production of counter-truths. In other words, this is not merely about timelines of capital or about the ruined index, it is also about new movements of time and uses of technology that take place with “liquid modernity”: the infinite multiplication of truth claims and their correlative commodification create a condition in which the interested artist (one concerned with, for example, the Lebanese wars, Iran-Contra’s effects, Indonesian genocides, “guest workers,” a thirty-four-year civil war in Guatemala) is now forced to relinquish the future of truth (and, hence, justice) that the interrogated, critically montaged archive had promised.’ Yet it is the way in which political collectives are acting to build archives and use databases that represents new models for thinking about how history is written. Glenn Willmott’s essay concludes Part II of this book by problematizing the very idea of digital time as ‘deep media,’ something that is beneath the surface, that structures all of our interactions. While he acknowledges that digital technology has transformed the world, he is also cautious about overstating the case in a manner that is romantic – McLuhan’s ‘global village’ was perhaps the first romance of the digital world and for him this romance has produced its tragedies. Willmott analyses the infamous case of Mr Bungle, who raped and tortured users in LambdaMOO in 1993. Mr Bungle, he tells us, was not simply an aberration; he was a product of VR. Like the interactive artwork by Graham Harwood, A Rehearsal of Memory, which creates a patchwork of inmates’ memories and tattoos at the Ashworth Mental Hospital in Liverpool, these tragedies reveal a great deal about the status of bodies in the context of the so-called dematerialization brought about by the digital revolution. For Willmott, the digital suffers from ‘an institutionally bounded form of alienation.’ Chris Marker’s Level Five and Daniel David Moses’s Kyotopolis offer insights into the relations of time and value produced in the digital world – the tragedy of the utopian and the terrible. Games are a global industry that now exceeds Hollywood in terms of box office revenues. War games are particularly popular and often push the boundaries between virtual and actual in disturbing ways. Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter open Part III of the book by examining the historical relationship between military simulation and digi-



tal play, focusing on the game Full Spectrum Warrior – a game designed for the U.S. Army as a military training tool and for the public as popular entertainment. There are currently some forty games that are custom built for military purposes and popular consumption. What does this mean for the future of war and entertainment? According to the authors, ‘FSW contributes to [the] banalization of war by promoting uncritical identification with imperial troops; by clichéd celebration of the virtue of their cause and the justice of their activities; by routinizing the extermination of the enemy; by diminishing the horrors of battle, and exalting its spectacle.’ Like Willmott, they are concerned with the way that actual bodies are being iterated through these new games. John McCullough also looks to understand the changed context of physical labour in his analysis of the Canadian film and television industry. McCullough’s starting point is a crisis created by ‘the overdeveloped animation sector of the volatile global film market.’ Within this context, his analysis of the Canadian patterns of production in relation to global markets provides important insights into the status of independent and national media and the labour that makes it possible. In conjunction with Canada’s status in the global image market, McCullough looks at the way the digital has shifted relations of media work in the industry. Although a great deal of talk around the digital emphasizes the rise of independent media, little attention has been paid to the increasing atomization of work, ‘labour’s largely specialized, dispersed and freelance status ... negotiated in an increasingly unregulated and competitive manner in the image and labour marketplace.’ This means that workers are often overpowered by ownership, experiencing ‘a loss of the workforce.’ Sadly, Canada’s situation is that it is tied to ‘Tinseltown,’ and the phrase coined by Canadian film historian Peter Morris many years ago to describe the film industry, ‘embattled shadows,’ still holds strong. Kirsty Robertson’s essay introduces mobility into the discussion of digital culture by considering localized screenless technology par excellence, the mobile or cell phone. Cell phones are the tools of ‘a new, constantly connected, social.’ Like all of the authors in Fluid Screens, Robertson is concerned with the materiality of digital environments. She looks to the actions of Jon Agar, who takes a hammer to his cell phone in order to foreground the hardware and trace each of its miniature components to different parts of the world. This dissection reveals a global economy of power and domination at work in the tiny handheld device. Like McCullough, Robertson understands the digital in


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dialectical terms, both as profiteering and revolutionizing. She is concerned with the new kinds of sociality introduced by cell phones in urban and developing spaces – ring tones and private conversations are reconfiguring the public realm and the transit systems. The cell phone and text messaging have also redefined the tactical strategies for activism and protest, political mobilization, and global movement across the world. The new capabilities of cell phone photography, video, or of cells adapted to soft fabrics point towards new extensions of the social circumstances created by mobile communication devices. Writing from Lebanon, Laura U. Marks raises the question of how to create embodied images and experiences in an age of hypermediation. Using the work of Henri Bergson and Charles Sanders Peirce, Marks considers perceptual paradigms for multisensory experiences. These paradigms came into being at the very moment when capitalist modernity began the process of creating the informatic world. Through this lens, Marks sketches out the relationship between experience and perception in the information age. While the current era has produced information environments that are not conducive to diversely embodied experiences, activists must ‘take back the flow’ to reintroduce and reawaken new forms of thought and creativity. Her hope lies with immigrant people, whose marginal positions within corporate and state power structures may change the flow of information-‘rich’ places: ‘It is the very “people who are missing,” citizens of nowhere, for whom independent perception and thought are not a luxury but a necessity.’ Through ‘subterranean communication networks,’ these citizens may create a new ground for thinking through the media. Like Marks, Sean Cubitt presents tactical strategies for intervening in global flows. His essay is concerned with the possibilities offered by the digital artwork. He begins with the landmark essay by Walter Benjamin, ‘The Task of the Translator.’ Viewing the differences between analogue and digital as one would different languages, Cubitt explains that the nature of the digital must be situated in terms of the universes created by distinct languages. His essay is a manifesto for the engaged digital artwork. Inspired by the anti-commodity aesthetics of 1970s conceptual art, the digital artwork will need to move beyond the negative aesthetics of the historical avant garde. The committed artwork will need to be fully engaged in the flow in order to intervene in it. Artworks must be process-oriented, self-reflexive in a way that understands their own materiality, temporality (as connected to and responsible for the future), and positionality in terms of networks of



flows. The global must be understood as a determining force. The artwork is engaged in work. It engages the audience in its own creation in a way that redefines interaction towards a more fully articulated participation. Finally the digital artwork must be beautiful (rather than sublime) – that is, historically grounded, concerned with communication rather than representation. Bringing together many of the points raised throughout this book and indeed directing us towards many artworks that display his ‘precepts,’ Cubitt’s essay is a forceful and convincing description of politically committed digital aesthetics. Finally, the book concludes with a utopian and imperative Afterword by Gene Youngblood, whose ideas and insights have shaped the conceptual framework for this book. Youngblood’s essay is a call for the creation of ‘a global democratic public sphere.’ As noted earlier, he directs our attention to a virtual power that is invisible and often overlooked: ‘the uncontrolled conversation among the peoples of the world’ made possible through the Internet. ‘Talk,’ by which he means all modes of human expression including audio-visual, ‘is the most powerful of human actions’ because it enables humans to construct shared realities. Witness that image of solidarity on 15 February 2003, when more than ten million people took to the streets around the world to protest neoliberal globalization and U.S. imperialism. This was a manifestation of the power of talk, the power that leads to action. But while such actions were coordinated across spaces, they were not synchronized across time zones. Youngblood calls upon artists and activists to organize an event, a gesamptkunstwerk that would consolidate a global public sphere. This would be a series of daily outdoor performances in a continuous unbroken sequence over weeks and months that are ‘telecollaborative multimedia performances and multimedia teleconferences.’ While Youngblood’s proposal is admittedly utopian, it leaves us with a sense of possibility and a question: why has this not been attempted?

NOTES 1 Sergei Eisenstein, Eisenstein on Disney (London: Methuen, 1988), 21–2. 2 Ibid., 11, 22–3. 3 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, ed. W. Terrence Gordon (Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press, 2003), 348. 4 Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity, 2000), 2, 10–11.


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5 For critiques of globalization as cultural flow, see Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), and Michael Peter Smith, Transnational Urbanism: Locating Globalization (Malden, UK: Blackwell, 2001). 6 Henry Jenkins, ‘Convergence? I Diverge,’ Technology Review (June 2001): 93. 7 Thomas Elsaesser, ‘The New Film History as Media Archeology,’ Cinémas 14, nos. 2–3 (2004): 75–117. 8 Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema (New York: Dutton, 1970). 9 Gene Youngblood, ‘Cinema and the Code,’ in Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film, ed. Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 156–61. 10 Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 136. 11 Ibid., 347. 12 Ibid., 135. 13 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004). 14 See Germaine Dulac, ‘The Essence of the Cinema: The Visual Idea’ (1925), in The Avant-Garde Reader: A Reader of Theory and Criticism, ed. P. Adams Sitney (New York: New York University Press, 1978), 36–42, for a discussion of the affective potential of cinema. 15 Anne Friedberg, Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). At this writing, Friedberg’s muchanticipated book The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft is due to be published by MIT Press. 16 Jurgen Habermas, ‘Consciousness Raising or Redemptive Criticism: The Contemporaneity of Walter Benjamin,’ New German Critique 17 (spring 1979): 46. 17 See Thomas Y. Levin’s Introduction to the collection of Kracauer’s early essays, The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, ed. and trans. Levin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 20. 18 Cited in Miriam Hansen’s analysis of Kracauer’s 1940 Marseille notebooks, ‘“With Skin and Hair”: Kracauer’s Theory of Film, Marseille 1940,’ Critical Inquiry 19 (Spring 1993): 437–69. These notebooks (as yet unpublished), Hansen contends, are the first ‘draft’ of Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality written two decades later. They provide a link between his pre-war, pre-exile writings (some of which have recently been translated and published in The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays), which deal with film and mass culture from a critical and historical-philosophical perspective, and the 1960 book, which is concerned with more formalist matters.



19 Susan Buck-Morss, ‘Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered,’ October 62 (1992): 5. 20 Arthur Kroker, Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis/McLuhan/Grant (Montreal: New World Perspectives, 1984). 21 Marshall McLuhan, ‘Catholic Humanism and Modern Letters,’ in Christian Humanism in Letters: The McAuley Lectures, Series 2 (West Hartford, CT: St Joseph College, 1954), 78. 22 McLuhan, Understanding Media, vii–xi. 23 Harold Innis, The Bias of Communication (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), ix. 24 Ibid., vi. 25 Ibid., vii. 26 Marshall McLuhan, ‘Canada: The Borderline Case,’ in The Canadian Imagination: Dimensions of a Literary Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), 222.

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1 Multi-Screens and Future Cinema: The Labyrinth Project at Expo 67 jan i n e m a rch e ssau lt

Media histories are located across a variety of artistic and industrial practices, institutions, and technologies. One aspect of this includes the history of an attitude towards the media, and more specifically towards what makes them new and meaningful. As both Marshall McLuhan and Raymond Williams have shown us, the evolution of media forms does not arise suddenly out of nowhere but is connected to a social, economic, and cultural network of conditions, grammars, and contiguities that support their development.1 World expositions are places where new expectations and attitudes towards future technology are stimulated. This is no doubt what makes them such useful historical markers of cultural value. Consider Expo 67, which was held in Montreal to celebrate Canada’s centenary. Second only to Paris’s Exposition Universelle of 1900, it was one of the most successful world fairs ever held, with attendance at just over fifty million.2 Although it may be true that all world expositions are training grounds for commodity consumption in ways that ‘raise spectatorship to a civic duty,’3 what distinguished Expo 67 from all other previous world expositions was its spectacular showcasing of audio-visual technologies. Over three thousand films were produced for the event, several film festivals were connected to it, including a large Montreal Film Festival and a student film festival. Approximately 65 per cent of all the pavilions and complexes presented moving pictures, many of which were dazzling displays of the new flexibility of the screen and the new synesthesia of the visual cultures of the world mediated through technology.4 This event can be read as an important precursor to the multiplication and interconnectedness of screens that characterize twenty-firstcentury digital architectures. While Bazin predicted that the myth of


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total cinema would lead to the disappearance of the screen (i.e., holographic cinema),5 the contemporary context presents just the opposite: frames within frames that foreground the materiality of the screen. In this essay, I focus on one of the most complex of the multi-screen pavilions at Expo: Labyrinthe. The exhibition was designed by Colin Low with Roman Kroitor, who were both established documentary film directors from the Unit B at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). The Labyrinth Project proposed an audio-visual experience that they believed could well transform the future of cinema by creating a new medium. My account does not seek to establish a ‘pre-history’ of digital cinema but rather to point to this experiment, one of thousands tied to the experimental media cultures of the sixties, to illustrate an increasing desire on the part of artists to create entirely new architectures for sensory immersion that would expand the experience of film.6 I would like to draw attention to a particular attitude underlying the NFB’s Labyrinthe. This was an attitude that was at once utopian and pragmatic, combining a profound awareness of the world as organic interconnectivity and simultaneity as communicative possibility. Expo as Earth City I was a young child when I attended Expo 67, and my memories of it are vague. Yet childhood memories, unreliable as they may be, often preserve lasting impressions of a time. Two themes dominate my recollection. The first is distinguished by an awareness of the materiality of the earth as a liquid planet – the image of the ‘space-age’ mirrored in the designed environment of soft edges and orbed surfaces. The second was a notion that television would serve as a means of corporeal transportation. This idea might well have been reinforced by Star Trek, which featured a ‘transponder’ that seemed made of cathode ray beams, which was of course a wonderful (and ironic) encapsulation of the electromagnetic waves that made TV transmission possible. All across North America, primary schools added special features to curricula, inspired on the one hand by Expo and on the other by the promise of space travel.7 In a peculiar fashion, the two projects were synonymous. Both shared the humanistic guise of ‘Man and His World,’ the theme of Expo 67, and both concerned the future planet and technology. Growing up in Montreal, I can recall more than one school project geared towards imagining the future of the planet as a utopian city (one of McLuhan’s early formulations was the ‘planet as city’)8: a fluid and

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boundless world that operated off the ground. This is the context in which I would like to analyse one of the most successful multi-screen, multi-chamber film experiments at Expo 67. Organized by the NFB for Expo, Labyrinthe was precisely the kind of future cinema earth city project that a collective fantasy was conjuring in the popular culture of the sixties. One of the expressive metaphors for this fantasy of modernity was an excess of screens, and Expo 67 was filled with them. As Judith Shatnoff’s review in Film Quarterly described, ‘film came on two screens, on three, five, six, nine in a circle, 112 moving screen cubes, a 70mm frame broken into innumerable screen shapes, screens mirrored to infinity, a water screen, a dome screen.’9 And new names were being invented to describe these screens: Circle Vision, Polyvision, Kino-Automat, Diapolyecran, and Kaleidoscope. While the Moscow World’s Fair featured Glimpses of the USA, a projection on seven screens by Charles Earnes in 1959 (which upstaged The Family of Man photographic exhibition curated by Edward Steichen), and while the New York World’s Fair (1964) had dozens of multi-screen projections, including Glimpses of the USA on fourteen screens at the IBM pavilion,10 there was nothing that matched Expo in terms of sheer quantity of international and experimental films.11 As a future-tense city, Expo was said to be itself a cinematic city, filled with structures made of webs and screens that refracted and reflected other images, bodies in movement, and atmospheric variations. Indeed, the ‘master plan design intent,’ whose chief architect was Edouard Fiset, recommended that designers and architects explore the new possibilities of webs and film-like materials. Expo was called the ‘Space-Frame Fair’ because so many pavilions covered large areas with lightweight materials creating structures that were demountable and ready for transportation. It is the immaterial, the impermanent, the non-linear, the ephemeral of Expo that gave it its modern futuristic sheen, mirroring the new, dematerialized commodity culture of North America.12 Thus it was not the monumentality of ‘a disposable imperial city, expressing man’s dominance over the earth,’13 that we find at Expo 67 but the flexibility of the city in movement. Not surprising, transportation and the orchestration of traffic were the key components of the entire plan, with trains uniting vast areas of the complex site. The trains were themselves a complicated network of movements and connections, organized according to different speeds, operating at different heights while offering riders a variety of vistas.14 Expo’s one thousand acres with two manmade islands built on the St Lawrence River (Île Notre-Dame and Île


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Sainte-Hélène) offered something unique in the way of urban design: a utopian non-place that combined a unified system of signs with a highly diverse visual culture representing a new sense of globality. Expo was built to reflect certain trends in international art and architecture of the sixties. These trends towards openness to the present and connection to the world as a diversity of perspectives encompassed central themes of hybridity and multiplicity. The three-chamber installation that made up Labyrinthe was designed by Colin Low and built by the architectural firm of John Bland, Roy E. Lemoyne, Gordon Edwards, and Anthony Shine, with Harry Vandelman as the project supervisor. Inspired by McLuhan’s anthropological writings on the media as well as Northrop Frye’s theories of archetypes, the installation served to highlight a new awareness of simultaneity and new concepts of space-time created through media technologies. McLuhan’s intellectual collaborations with the British-born urban planner Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, who taught urban design and landscape architecture at the University of Toronto up until the mid-fifties, might shed some light on this new context of architecture in the sixties. Tyrwhitt was the editor of the journal Ekistics and translator and editor of many of Siegfried Gideon’s writings – an important influence on McLuhan’s media theories. We can see in Understanding Media (1964) precisely this influence on his views of the media as architectonic, environmental, and process-oriented fields rather than as simply virtual or static containers. A member of the Toronto Explorations Group in the early fifties, Tyrwhitt was also connected to architects in Montreal, not least the firm that employed Moshe Safdie, the designer of Habitat – the ultimate encapsulation of Expo’s humanist intent. What grows out of the exchanges between urban and media theory with the Explorations team, a research group connected to an international interdisciplinary enterprise, is an anthropological approach to the built environment and an understanding that communications media as extensions of the human body produce environments that carry their own hidden biases.15 McLuhan’s research aimed to uncover media biases through the creation of anti-environments, which the successful work of art could produce. His critical pedagogy maintained that the meeting of new and old technologies could generate new forms of awareness. He does not separate different media but rather seeks to understand them in terms of whole networks of obsolescences, absorptions, and hybrid energies. All media come in pairs, with one acting as the content of the other.16 The usefulness of the electric light as an example of a medium (one that Eco

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objected to) stems from its lack of content. Students of media can observe the way they transform the structures of time and space, work and society. They will come to understand the ‘form of power that is in all media to reshape any lives they touch.’17 All other media are hybrid; they are the result of a meeting which produces ‘a moment of freedom and release from the ordinary trance and numbness imposed by them on our senses.’ The interface between two different media has characterized the undertakings of the best artists: Dickens, Shaw, Eliot, Joyce, Eisenstein, the Marx Brothers, Chaplin, and many more, who were able to produce new forms of entertainment and art. It often takes a great artist to anticipate the hybrid created by the clash of cultures, which often occurs during wars and migrations.18 This idea of the ‘interface’ between old and new technologies was central to the new synesthetic cinema that was pioneered at Expo and later theorized by Gene Youngblood in his landmark study, very much inspired by Expo 67, Expanded Cinema (1970). Mind-Expanding Screens The relation between screen and architecture, the screen as architecture, was endemic to the humanist design of Expo. Whereas classical depictions of dehumanization staged the cinema screen as precisely that which alienates humans from the social fabric of everyday life – Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1922) is a great example of this idea – Expo’s image of the screen, as we shall see, was just the opposite. R. Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic dome was an important milestone for those multi-screen experimenters at Expo, wrote the wonderful introduction to Youngblood’s book. Fuller’s planetary vision of an ‘earth space’ challenged the view of the earth that portioned it into tiny static cubes of property, an idea based on a two-dimensional picture of the world that did not include the space above the ground, that is, the universe. Instead, Fuller counterposes Einstein’s larger view of a non-linear universe, a complex of frequencies, waves, broadcasts, and instantaneous communication within the context of the universe. For Fuller, Youngblood’s book is important because it uses the ‘scenario-universe principle’: ‘a scenario of non-simultaneous and only partially overlapping transformative events.’ Youngblood’s theorization of synesthetic art is most valuable for its educational potential: it will synchronize the senses and humankind’s knowledge in time to ensure ‘the continuance of the ... Space Vehicle Earth.’19 The new ecological art forms will lead


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to the ‘Expanded Cinema University,’ that is, to universal knowledge. Just as his geodesic dome was designed for mobility, as a ball in movement, so too was the synesthetic cinema designed for process-oriented experiences. The notion that film technology could create a new awareness and an expanded consciousness for the new age of simultaneity was repeated frequently at Expo. The cover story of the 14 July issue of Life was called ‘A Film Revolution to Blitz Man’s Mind,’ a revolution that ‘showed us the future’: ‘London’s Crystal Palace in 1851 did this with iron and glass architecture, the Paris 1889 fair with steam engineering, the 1904 St. Louis Fair with the auto. Expo 67 does it with film and, through images that assault the senses and expand the mind, explodes the world into a revolution in communications.’20 Expo offered a variety of new forms of participatory multi-screen cinema (fig. 1.1). Canada 67, a part of the Telephone Pavilion, was among the most spectacular and nationalistic with a film made by Walt Disney Studios. Using a ninecamera apparatus to create a 3608 circle vision screen, the spectacle enveloped 1,500 viewers at a time. The twenty-two-minute film began on the east coast with the Canadian Mounted Police, moving to Quebec’s Winter Carnival to a Toronto Maple Leafs’ hockey game to the wild west and Canada’s national parks. For Robert Fulford all of the multi-screen presentations were disappointing, but Canada 67 was among the most ‘blatant in its chauvinism.’21 CPR Cominco Pavilion’s We Are Young by filmmakers Francis Thompson and Alexander Hammid, who also made To Be Alive for the 1964 World’s Fair, used six screens to devise a documentary about the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. Polar Life by Graham Ferguson displayed eleven screens with two or three visible at a time as viewers sat in four revolving theatres on one large turntable. Perhaps the most theatrical of the presentations was the Kino-Automat (movie vending) on three screens, devised by cinematographer Raduz Cincera, which incorporated live theatre at the Czechoslovakian pavilion. Audience members had a red and a green button in front of them and were invited to vote on the actions to be taken by characters in the film. A live performer from the film would emerge at different points to ask the audience to vote. The voting itself was a ruse, and although each interval did allow for two choices, all paths ended in the same place. For Cincera, this illusion of interactivity was to be a comedy, a comment on democracy.22 Writing under the influence of both McLuhan and Fuller as well as all of the multi-screen experiments at Expo and the emerging field of

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experimental media art, Youngblood posits synesthetic cinema as a new revolutionary form. This is the age of ‘cosmic consciousness,’ in which intuition and reason are joined once more.23 Youngblood theorizes that it is the cinema’s role to approximate consciousness, which he defines according to R.G. Collingwood’s specification as ‘the kind of thought which stands closest to sensation or mere feeling.’ All thought grows out of this and ‘deals with feeling as thus transformed into imagination.’24 Consciousness is not simply static. Moreover, it is in the process of expanding through technology. ‘This consciousness expansion is created on the one hand by mind manifest hallucinogens and on the other by a partnership with machines.’ Synesthetic cinema is the only language suited to the post-industrial and post-literate age with its ‘multi-dimensional simulsensory network of information sources.’ An increasing number of inhabitants, he writes, live in another world, and the synesthetic cinema belongs to this other counter-culture world, a world that is other to commercial media.25 Although this form existed at the turn of the century and Abel Gance’s three-screen manifesto Napoleon (1927) sought to revolutionize visual culture just as sound was coming to the cinema,26 Youngblood asks why it took so long for the multi-screen cinema to come of age. The answer to this question is simple, ‘television is the software of the earth.’27 It has made film obsolete as a documentary technology (transformed it into art) and connected it into and helped to consolidate the ‘intermedia network’ of magazines, books, radio, recorded music, photography. All media are the new environment; they are nature as McLuhan would posit: discontinuous, fragmented, and interconnected like a labyrinth. Screens become architecture because of television’s selfreflexive ubiquity – there is no outside or inside to televisual images: ‘The videosphere is the noosphere transformed into a perceivable state.’28 It is not that the screen disappears but that the screen as support is materialized as an object alongside or within another screen ad infinitum. The ‘medium is the message’ and thus the screen and the building that houses the screen and the city that houses the theatre are all part of the ever-expanding or imploding picture of the earth which the Russian satellite Sputnik had delivered in 1957. While we might have seen screens within screens in the history of cinema, multiple screens or video walls became a common prop in the popular television culture (especially American) of the fifties and sixties. So often science fiction and spy serials used television monitors to connote the surveillance and high-tech control of space. We could read

Fig. 1.1 ‘Table I, Presentations at Expo 67,’ reproduced from Fran Lewin, ‘Man and His Sound – Expo 67,’ Journal of the SMPTE (March 1968).


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this as the fundamental shift in the popular imaginary towards understanding simultaneity as a space to be controlled. McLuhan would state in War and Peace in the Global Village: ‘As visual space is superseded, we discover that there is no continuity or connectedness let alone depth and perspective.’29 This is where space becomes acoustic (space-time). This idea of cinema as environment was intrinsic to The Labyrinth Project, and the influence of television on the Unit B directors is well known. The shift from theatrical to non-theatrical distribution of NFB films in the early fifties began an involvement with television that would influence how documentaries were being made. Essentially, when the Film Board began to make content for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the Unit B in particular was involved in making short documentaries for television with The Candid Eye series. The films for The Candid Eye were akin to ‘found stories’ (Kracauer), which had no beginning, middle, or end.30 The films were heavily influenced by the realist aesthetics of Cartier-Bresson in which everyday life reveals itself photographically and phenomenologically in a ‘decisive moment.’31 This shift to television affected the way films were produced, exerting an increased demand on film production. Not only was there a growing need for more films, but the films had to be produced more rapidly. The demand was for Canadian realities, for multiple realities distributed to multiple destinations around Canada. One fact that often goes unrecognized is the NFB’s substantial technological innovations in the areas of sound recording, film cameras, and projection.32 These contributions were all geared around mobility of the camera in both animation and live action, and of film exhibition. Two of the most important technological innovations towards this ‘quest for mobility,’ as Gerald Graham has called it, are the first synchronous sound recording technologies produced by the Board in 1955, which enabled a greater flexibility for location shooting and helped to consolidate the NFB’s reputation in the area of cinema direct.33 The other innovation, pioneered at Expo, was the development of largescreen projection using 70 mm and 35 mm film, which eventually grew into IMAX’s 70 mm film projection. For The Labyrinth Project, the NFB developed a synchronous multi-screen shooting apparatus made out of five Arriflexes mounted in a cruciform shape (fig. 1.2). The cameras could operate all together or in combinations. The films were projected using five synchronized projectors set out in a similar shape. Both the camera and projection apparatus adapted the principles of television

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Fig. 1.2 Chamber 3, cruciform screens. In the Labyrinth, 1967, National Film Board of Canada (all rights reserved).

studio switching technology, which enabled greater flexibility in covering simultaneous actions. Thus, we find two kinds of screen expansions developed by the NFB. In the first, we are dealing with the content of the frame – the camera and sound apparatus are set free to document the outside world because they are no longer tied to studio shooting (the division between outside and inside breaks down). In the second, which builds on the first, the spectator is set free in a new cinema architecture to create individualized views through screens that exceed any one person’s perception.34 Both of these innovations are geared towards greater participation and interactivity on the part of filmmakers and spectators. Arguably, this increased mobility and expansion, the opening up of new spaces of apprehension, is tied to the contradictory forces of capitalist media expansion: these produce a greater democracy of image production and consumption, and greater social and economic control


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over images. I will explore this point further on, but for now, suffice it to say that both Low and Kroitor believed that the synesthetic cinema they were designing for Expo was a new medium that could well revolutionize visual culture. Labyrinthe ( ... ) The river is moving The blackbird must be flying It was evening all afternoon It was snowing And it was going to snow. The blackbird sat In the cedar-limbs. Wallace Stevens, ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’35

Labyrinthe originated from Colin Low’s idea for an in situ film. As he describes: ‘The audience walks through a door into a darkened room and everything is subdued. Suddenly, the room lights go out and they are standing on a glass floor looking down 1,000 feet into the middle of Montreal.’36 The first image for the screen experiment was an aerial view of the city in which the audience was suspended in space. The experiment did not quite work, but the entire structure grew out of this idea of space travel which they had already pioneered in several award-winning animation films: City of Gold (1957) and Universe (1960). As is mythological by now, the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was deeply impressed by Universe and approached Low (who met with him several times) to work on the space design for his film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). But Low was busy with The Labyrinth Project, which took five years to make.37 Briefly, Labyrinthe dealt with Man’s conquest of himself. The approach was framed by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, which was a half-man and half-bull creature that lived inside the Labyrinth of Crete. Theseus’s quest was to find his way through the labyrinth and slay the Minotaur. Low and Kroitor used the story in consultation with Northrop Frye as a frame in which to design a narrative about individual self-realization, whereby the beast to be killed is the one that lives in all of us. The aim was to produce a ‘ritual’ or ‘artistic’ experience to

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create a ‘state of mind.’ Low and Kroitor’s production notes describe the methodology: We are making a pictorial labyrinth of ‘life,’ as it now is on this planet. In a labyrinth, the point is to choose the path that leads to the goal, i.e., to avoid the false turns, the cul-de-sacs. In life, there is no way of knowing beforehand what these false turns may be before one gets into them. There is no royal road to wisdom. Only experience can teach that, if it ever does. The labyrinth we are making is therefore not with the point; ‘do this’ or ‘do that.’ The only ‘guide’ there can be in life is a state of mind ... The point of the labyrinth is the discovery that such a state of mind exists. In order that this discovery can take place (to whatever degree), a journey is undertaken, in ‘ritual’ form. By ritual form is meant that the participant partakes of certain experiences, but is not actually personally involved in them. (Perhaps the correct technical word is not ‘ritual’ but ‘artistic’).38

Low had been particularly interested in the myth from Mary Renault’s book The King Must Die, which was a popularization of the story.39 The Labyrinth Project was working with a ‘common story’ or a ‘proto-story’ that is structured through different stages corresponding to different ‘states of being’ which the exhibition would induce. The myth itself is a narrative that appears in different religions and cultures, and the use of it in this project lends an experience of objectivity: ‘This is not a matter of personal opinion, it is part of current knowledge, mostly expressed either in academic writing or in veiled fashion in various religions, etc., neither area of which is really part of the present “world psyche.”’40 Northrop Frye was a crucial consultant for the project, and several of his essays appear alongside production notes. He also attended meetings at various stages of the project’s development. An excerpt from his newly published book Fables of Identity: Studies in Poetic Mythology (1963) that appears among Tom Daly’s production notes might shed some light on the suggestion that ‘artistic’ experience be the ultimate goal of Labyrinthe. Looking to Wallace Stevens’s speculations on the imagination, Frye explains that art is ‘a unity of being and knowing, existence and consciousness, achieved out of the flow of time and the fixity of space.’41 Stevens’s poetry, with its emphasis on multiplicity and facticity, is particularly apt for understanding synethestic cinema. We can also comprehend the logic of how temporal flow and spatial fixity come together in the merging of architecture and cinema.


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Fig. 1.3 Floorplan of the Labyrinth building. In the Labyrinth, 1967, National Film Board of Canada (all rights reserved).

The architecture designed to house the multi-screen presentation was itself a labyrinth (fig. 1.3). The building was a five-storey, pouredconcrete edifice that contained two viewing theatres (Chamber 1 and Chamber 3) and a transitional zigzag space for disorientation or reflection between the two theatres called ‘The Maze.’ The entire space was able to handle about 720 people at a time, and there were ten shows a day. The path followed by the audience was the thread of a person’s life from childhood through to old age. The Expo guide described it:

The Labyrinth Project at Expo 67 43 They [spectators] will be distributed in groups through the three chambers, and at one stage will be surrounded by reflected images on all sides. At another point, they will gaze down from ramps on a huge screen 40 feet below and be subjected to sensations so strong that some will want to grab the handrail. Film for Labyrinthe has been specially shot by cameramen in many countries. There are no name stars to this movie – the main character is Man! In the second chamber, visitors move along walkways set between mirrored glass prisms. In the final chamber, the audience faces a multiscreen battery of unparalleled scope – using five screens, so that areas of the mind are exercised that almost certainly have not been exercised before.42

The guide reinforced the sense that this cinema experience would irrevocably transform viewers – it promised a visceral and unforgettable experience. Labyrinthe proved to be one of the most popular highlights of Expo 67 with audiences waiting in line for up to seven hours to get into the forty-five minute screening.43

Chamber 1: Childhood, Confident Youth (70 mm × 2) The theatre in the first chamber was designed in a horseshoe form with the screens organized in an L shape both vertically and horizontally (fig. 1.4). From eight balconies on four levels on either side, audience members could peer over to a screen that rose forty feet in height or down onto the floor at one long horizontal screen. Five sound systems and 288 smaller speakers throughout the theatre ensured that the sound reinforced a powerful illusion and increased the sensation of vertigo created by looking down on the images. In fact Chamber 1 was able to reproduce such powerful sensations of moving through space that NFB officials were worried that the film would induce anxiety, depression, or even suicide in spectators.44 No such thing happened, but this possibility of course increased the notoriety of the screen experiment.

Chamber 2: The Maze ‘The Desert’ or ‘The Maze’ was to be, Frye suggested, like ‘the city on a hot summer day.’45 Wendy Michener described it as a kind of acid trip.46 Colin Low, who designed it, described it in the following way: The maze was three prisms in an octagonal room full of mirrors on all the


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Fig. 1.4 Chamber 1, vertical and horizontal screens. In the Labyrinth, 1967, National Film Board of Canada.

walls, floor and ceiling. The prisms were made of partial-silvered glass so when the lights were on the audience, it would be the audience reflected back to itself, and when the lights went off the audience and came on in the prisms, it made an infinity of stellar lights. A cosmos.47

It was a zigzagging passageway of mirrored glass that both reflected

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and transmitted a multiplicity of different flashing lights that were triggered by an experimental soundtrack combining electronic and animal sounds. The installation was meant to enhance the sense of disorientation, to break down boundaries between identities, human and nonhuman, creating an endless, acoustic, decentred space. When the light caught a person in the mirror, the image was dissipated across an infinity of spaces. Once the audience had walked down the intimate corridor, they entered the final phase of their journey.

Chamber 3: Death/Metamorphosis (35 mm × 5) The last chamber resembled a standard theatre with seats. An arrangement of five screens in cruciform shape, meant to reference the tree of life, created a visual climax. Both films produced for Chambers 1 and 3 were close to twenty minutes in length and contained images shot in half a dozen countries including Cambodia, Japan, Ethiopia, Greece, and Russia. The films included all ages and genders and focused on cultural rituals and everyday gestures in these different countries: a crocodile hunt in southern Ethiopia, baptism in Greece, childbirth in Montreal, a ballet lesson in Russia, a traffic officer, train commuters, Montreal streets during a snowstorm, landscapes. The soundtrack for both films included snippets of voice-over, recorded location sound, and a music score composed by NFB staff composer Eldon Rathburn. Tom Daly devised a special system of vertical editing for both films which juxtaposed lengthy, unedited sequences so as not to ‘oversaturate’ viewers with too much information.48 Scenes were sometimes continuous over the screens; in Chamber 1, for example, a boxer falls to the ground from one screen onto another, or a child feeds a goldfish which swims on a lower screen. Actions were also fragmented and repeated across the multiple screens. Colin Low breaks down the new compositional possibilities offered by the technology whose ‘ultimate image’ would no doubt be ‘electronic, with stereoscopic images, perhaps a development of holograms’: (1) flexibility in alteration of image composition; (2) simultaneous representation of events: (a) different events occurring at different times or in different locations, (b) different time segments of the same event, and (c) the same event seen from different positions and points of view;


Janine Marchessault (3) enrichment of image by juxtaposition of several elements of the same event or location; (4) possibility of a kind of visual metaphor or simile; and (5) representation of two or more events converging and merging into a single event or a single event fragmented into several images.49

The principle aesthetic quality of the multi-screen cinema was simultaneity. It is this ‘single quality’ which calls up memory (sometimes ‘longforgotten’) and imagination to make sense of the stimuli. Multi-screen, according to Roman Kroitor, ‘is to single-screen what the language of poetry is to the language of prose.’50 As McLuhan, who was no doubt referring to Labyrinthe, noted: ‘Multi-screen projection tends to end the story-line, as the symbolist poem ends narrative in verse. That is, multiple screens in creating a simultaneous syntax eliminates the literary medium from film.’51 Multi-screen cinema as a synesthetic medium was understood by the Labyrinthe producers as a new language capable of accessing the unconscious mind and releasing new kinds of associations deeply buried in the human psyche. A multi-channel soundtrack helped to create focal points in relation to the ‘total image.’ Indeed the multi-image was conceived as sound, that is, as boundless, simultaneous, multi-directional. Sound liberates the image from the constraints of the single screen as ‘images are merged in the same way it is possible to merge sounds.’52 The image in the multi-screen cinema is liberated not only from the screen but also from the constraints of traditional forms of drama, story, and plot. For Youngblood, this represents the natural evolution of the cinema. Synesthetic cinema transcends the old languages just as television transforms the earth into software. It is the reflexivity of television that brings everything, including the act of viewing, into view as a world of simultaneous becoming.53 The Labyrinthe theatre had all the spatial attributes of the mega-city as Reyner Banham described Expo, replete with ‘mechanical movement, a multiplicity of levels, emphasis on fun or ludique experiences, people in complex environments, and information saturation.’54 Traffic flow was strictly controlled by a master programmer who oversaw the flow in a time sequence organized ‘like a sausage machine.’55 One may wonder how the Labyrinthe theatre functioned as a space of drift aimed at exercising areas of the brain generally not used56 if the movement was so orchestrated. Yet it was the space between the images of the theatre, the arrangement of the screens and mirrors, their multiplicity, and

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the extensive range of documentary information that created an open space for audience participation. It is here that the senses were invited to wander across possible paths, which required an act of both memory and imagination. This is precisely where the synesthetic cinema and the act of flânerie come together in the future city as Youngblood explained it: We have learned that synesthetic cinema is an alloy achieved through multiple superimpositions that produce syncretism. Syncretism is a total field of harmonic opposites in continual metamorphosis: this metamorphosis produces a sense of kinesthesia that evokes in the inarticulate consciousness of the viewer recognition of an overall pattern event that is in the film itself as well as the subject of the experience ... A mythopoetic reality is generated through post stylization of unstylized reality.57

The design for Labyrinthe did not simply include multiple screens but, rather, a fluid space for viewing as a transformative ‘artistic’ activity. Low spent much time designing the mezzanine area, which included several dramatic displays of labyrinths throughout time. The material space of viewing and the very act of viewing are very much part of the films. This is the temporal dynamic that is included in Labyrinthe as a theatrical performance of expanded screens and intermediality – the merging of screen and architecture. The pavilion was designed so that audience members would exit with a view of the St Lawrence River. In keeping with the humanist spirit of Labyrinthe, the final view also included Safdie’s utopian vision of community living, Habitat. The Labyrinth Project can be read as the sensory training ground for the new global citizen, where simultaneous information inputs create not confusion which numbs the senses but a new ‘oceanic consciousness.’58 This represents the world in all its plurality, which in NFB style, in the Canadian Liberal government’s style, was read as the mythological cultural mosaic of humankind that was the basis for Pierre Trudeau’s new plan for Canadian federalism. Colin Low did not continue to work on the project with Roman Kroitor, who was able to develop it into a new technology called IMAX. He left the project just as it was being redevised as a commercial technology. Instead, he went to work on the anti-poverty program at the NFB called Challenge for Change. A citizen’s action media experiment that began on the Fogo Islands in Newfoundland, this communitybased project used 16 mm, Super 8, and video to foster inter-community


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communication between the islanders, and between the islanders and government agencies. The future of the audio-visual revolution, for him, lay in the small screens, the do-it-yourself technologies of video and community-based television that, for a brief time (and arguably to this day), enabled greater citizen participation and democratic expression. This is the model of decentralized communication that defines today’s alternative media networks. While the synesthetic multi-screen cinema did not grow into the new revolutionary medium many thought it would, one can see in the expanded-screen experiments at Expo a foreshadowing of the intermedia networks, the mobility of images, the cultures of the Internet, and the concomitant multiplication of screens in everyday life around the world.

NOTES I would like to thank Scott McFarlane for his help with research and for his impeccable insights into the Labyrinthe materials. The essay was presented at the Montreal at Street Level Conference held at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in collaboration with the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University in April 2005. A later version of the paper was presented as part of the McLuhan Lectures at the University of Toronto in July 2005. I am grateful to Carolyn Guertin and Dominique Scheffel-Dunand for their critical responses. 1 Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962); Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, ed. W. Terrence Gordon (Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press, 2003); Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form, 2nd ed., ed. Ederyn Williams (London: Routledge, 1990). 2 Expo ’67 was held in Montreal from 28 April to 27 October 1967. Sixty-one countries participated. Library and Archives of Canada has an excellent website that brings together many of the original documents and photographs of the event: http://www.collectionscanada.ca/expo/. 3 Tom Gunning, ‘The World as Object Lesson: Cinema Audiences, Visual Culture and the St. Louis World’s Fair 1904,’ Film History: An International Journal 6, no. 4 (1994): 423. 4 Dean Walker, ‘After Expo, Movies Won’t Be the Same,’ Canadian Industrial Photography, November–December 1966, 32–3, 38. 5 André Bazin, ‘The Myth of Total Cinema,’ in What Is Cinema? vol. 1, trans. Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 17–22.

The Labyrinth Project at Expo 67 49 6 See Peter Weibel, ‘Expanded Cinema, Video and Virtual Environments,’ in Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film, ed. Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 110–25. Such experiments are tied to an important history of the media, as Weibel has argued, that is so often overlooked in accounts of the language of new media. 7 Expo reports that almost one million school children attended the fair through school trips, mostly from central Canada. Expo is still influencing school curriculum. The Archives of Canada is embarking on a new project which features instructional material on Expo ’67 available to Quebec teachers. The project is geared to students from the third year of elementary school to the fifth year of secondary school. One of the most interesting sections concerns ‘simulation’ and media experiments at Expo. http://www. collectionscanada.ca/education/expo/index-e.html. 8 Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (New York: Vanguard, 1951), 3. 9 Judith Shatnoff, ‘Expo 67: A Multiple Vision,’ Film Quarterly 21, no. 1 (1967): 2. 10 Cf. Ben Highmore, ‘Machinic Magic: IBM at the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair,’ New Formations 51 (2004): 128–48. 11 Jacob Siskind, Expo ’67 Films (Montreal: Tundra Books, 1967). 12 ‘Expo 67: An Experiment in the Development of Urban Space,’ Architectural Record, July 1966, 169–73. 13 Gunning, ‘The World as Object Lesson,’ 423. 14 ‘Expo 67,’ Architectural Record, 170. 15 For more on the Explorations Group, see Janine Marchessault, Marshall McLuhan: Cosmic Media (London: Sage, 2005), chap. 5. 16 McLuhan, Understanding Media, 52. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid., 55. 19 R. Buckminster Fuller, Introduction to Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood (New York: Dutton, 1970), 35. 20 Yale Joel, ‘A Film Revolution to Blitz Man’s Mind,’ Life, 14 July 1967, 2, 8. 21 Robert Fulford, This Was Expo (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1968), 87. 22 Siskind, Expo ’67 Films, 10; cf. Jeffrey Stanton’s impressionistic account in ‘Experimental Multi-Screen Cinema’ at Expo ’67, http://naid.sppsr.ucla. edu/expo67/map-docs/cinema.htm, and interview with Michael Naimark, ‘Interval Trip Report: World’s First Interactive Filmmaker, Prague’ (1998), http://www.naimark.net/writing/trips/praguetrip.html. 23 Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 136.


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24 R.G. Collingwood, Principles of Art (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938), 223, quoted in Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 76. 25 Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 77. 26 Cf. Nelly Kaplan, Napoleon (London: BFI Publishing, 1994). 27 Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 78. 28 Ibid. 29 Marshall McLuhan, War and Peace in the Global Village (New York: Bantam, 1968), 13. 30 Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997). 31 Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘The Decisive Moment,’ in Photography in Print, ed. Vicki Goldberg (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1981), 384– 6; cf. Seth Feldman, ‘The Days before Christmas and the Days before That,’ in Candid Eyes: Essays in Canadian Documentary, ed. Jim Leach and Jeannette Sloniowski (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 31–47. 32 Cf. Gary Evans, In the National Interest: A Chronicle of the National Film Board of Canada from 1949–1989 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991). 33 Gerald Graham, Canadian Film Technology 1896–1986 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1989), 189–237. 34 Marc Glassman and Wyndham Wise, ‘Interview with Colin Low, Part II,’ Take One 26 (winter 2000): 32. 35 Wallace Stevens, ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,’ in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (New York: Knopf, 1972), 94–5. 36 Ibid., 23. 37 Marc Glassman and Wyndham Wise, ‘Interview with Colin Low, Part I,’ Take One 23 (spring 1999): 29–30. 38 NFB Archives. Minute no. 3, Labyrinth Design Committee Meeting, Saturday, 11 April 1964. Present: Roman Kroitor, Wolf Koenig, Fernand Cadieux, Colin Low, Joan Hensen, Jo Kirkpatrick, Hugh O’Connor. 39 Glassman and Wise, ‘Interview, Part II,’ 23. 40 Minute no. 3. 41 Northrop Frye, Fables of Identity: Studies in Poetic Mythology (New York and London: Harcourt Brace, 1963), 241. 42 Expo 67 Official Guide (Maclean-Hunter Publishing, 1967), 56–7. 43 Glassman and Wise, ‘Interview, Part II,’ 24. 44 National Film Board of Canada Technical Operations Branch, Labyrinthe Technical Bulletin no. 8, March 1968. 45 Minute no. 3. 46 Wendy Michener, ‘Through a Multi-Screen Darkly,’ Maclean’s, 17 September 1966, 57–8.

The Labyrinth Project at Expo 67 51 47 Glassman and Wise, ‘Interview, Part II,’ 24. 48 Colin Low, ‘Multi-Screens and Expo ’67,’ Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers 77, no. 3 (March 1968): 185. 49 Ibid. 50 Quoted in ibid. 51 Marshall McLuhan, Counter Blast (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1969), 24. 52 Low, ‘Multi-Screens and Expo ’67,’ 185. 53 Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 78–80. 54 Reyner Banham, Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), 177. 55 NFB Bulletin. 56 Expo 67 Official Guide, 67. 57 Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 111. 58 Ibid.

2 Sounds Complicated: What Sixties Audio Experiments Can Teach Us about the New Media Environments s t e p h e n c ro ck e r

The ‘Multiple’ Nature of Media Environments The digital revolution represents a change not just in machinery but also in human nature. The cell phone, the Internet, wireless networks, and ubiquitous computing change the basic phenomenological structures of experience. We are beginning to live in new kinds of environments, one of the defining features of which is the ease with which information and sensations may be cut out of one location and pasted into another. Today, this ‘disembedding and re-embedding,’ as Anthony Giddens has called it, has reached such a level of complexity that it is no longer enough to say, as we did about newspaper and television, for example, that media add something to our environments.1 For now the very idea of environment has changed. Presence awareness – the new horizon for communication technologies – means that the system is continuously present and continuously on. The participational nature of MSN Messenger is the basic form of interaction for a range of other kinds of exchanges, from the most spectacular effects of remote control telemedicine to the basic daily functions of driving, shopping, and being at home. Being online and part of the system is now the default mode of existence. Now, you must actively choose not to share your presence and not to transmit and receive. And as earlier media such as phone, print, photography, and speech become digitized, they too are all folded into the same ever-present multimedia environment. The consequences of these changes in our basic ideas of presence, sensation, and relation to others are not at all clear. Is global interconnectedness an advance in the human condition, or will it only serve to

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desensitize and alienate us from what is real? It is not difficult to find support for either of these positions. In September 2002, at the Ars Electronica Festival in Austria, the composers Scott Gibbons and Gregory Shakar created a symphony for cell phones.2 Using an elaborate computerized switchboard, they activated the ringers on audience cell phones in complex rhythms and pulses. The mobile’s intolerable ringing, more than any other noise, symbolizes the invasion of technology into the most intimate realms of life. Removed from the busyness in which we usually experience it, however, and without its sense of urgency, the watery tinkling of five hundred mobiles has a strange and beautiful quality, like the ping of rain on plastic bags, or ice cracking up under salt. It is as though we can hear at a whole new frequency range, where the buzz of interconnectivity and the clamour of our being together are rendered rhythmically intelligible. We find an opposite, critical reaction to the multimediated life in the Dogme 95 manifesto signed a few years back by Lars Von Trier and a group of Danish filmmakers.3 Their manifesto gave voice to a widespread dissatisfaction with the special-effects-driven, artificial feel of multimediated art. In opposition to the desensitized, overly manufactured environment, Dogme films would work only with available sound and light. The new Danish puritanism raised an interesting problem. For it emerged just as we had reached a kind of point of no return in the mid-1990s, when, with the omnipresence of Internet and wireless telephony, it would be far more difficult and artificial to cleanse a place of external sound and light than it would be to work with existing resources. Dogme films were all made in remote locations where it is easier to police the borders of an environment and to filter the sensations that pass in and out of it. Most of us, however, cannot control our environments in this way. We find ourselves already thrown into a mass of sensations through which we must learn to navigate. This is how I find myself now as I write in a hotel room in Helsinki. All you need in order to write, thought Virginia Woolf, is a room of your own. But the sensations and information that make this room into a lived space are global in reach, and only in a very limited sense are they mine. The presence of the phone, the television, my laptop, the Internet connection, and the range of other media with which I am in constant contact here make it difficult to determine the boundaries of the room. Philip Glass’s soundtrack from The Hours, which I downloaded on Kazaa from multiple sources all


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over the world before I left St John’s, blends in with the rolling metal squeak of the street car on Franzeninkatu, the distant beat of reggae music from the club down the street, the news broadcast from CNN a floor below, and the sound of Get Smart dubbed into Finnish that booms from the next room. In the midst of all this, how can I say what belongs to the room and what makes it my own? One popular response to this situation is to suppose that, in the age of global communication, a room, or even a city, is not a unified location. It is a phantasmagoria of globally dispersed, heterogeneous sensations and disconnected fragments of information that lack any overriding unity. Helsinki is not a single, definable entity. It is a nexus, a matrix, or a nodal point. This idea, which became popular in the 1980s and 1990s, emphasizes the centrifugal effects of global media. The collapse of older, metaphysical ideas of unity leaves us with scraps and fragments of sense that have spun out from the collapsing centres. With this change comes a new kind of sense perception – a distracted or even schizophrenic consciousness. What strikes me here in my room in Helsinki, however, is the ease with which all these widely differing sounds and sensations adhere together in some strange new kind of unity that does not make it difficult to pay attention to what I am doing, but even provides a kind of nest for thinking. Instead of focusing on the disembedding of things and the empirical diversity of sensations, my impulse is to try to understand how things re-embed and go together now. Clearly sensations do not hang together in any simple kind of unity. Friedrich Kittler has pointed out that the staggering rate of expansion and change of technology now makes it impossible to describe it in its totality. New media defy any holistic definition, not just because of the continual addition of the latest piece of software or gadgetry, but also because of the way each new part produces an ecological change in the whole environment. Nevertheless, I am going to suggest that there is one constant feature about the new multimedia environments that we can describe, which is their multiple character. As will become clear, I mean multiple here in a strong sense. It is not just that the new media environments contain multiple things, but that they are themselves multiplicities, in the sense that Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Serres give to that term. A multiplicity is an array of mutually interpenetrating parts that can coalesce into a kind of quasi-whole, which is not fixed, or fully formed, but shifts and changes with the changes in the parts. Multiplicity

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becomes more important and relevant an idea the more that ‘multi’ and ‘multiple’ become a regular part of our daily lexicon. All the keywords that describe our new technologically mediated, global environment invoke the multiple: multimedia, multitasking, multimodal, multisensory, multicultural, multidimensional, multinational. What does multiple mean in these cases? The multiple in multiplicity is not just an adjective that describes a number of pre-existing things. Multinational, for instance, does not mean many nations. ‘Multi’ describes an organizational logic that qualifies the sense in which nation, media, or task is understood. In a multiplicity all the parts are dependent on one another and go together as a group. They form a whole. But the whole that they form changes with the change among the parts. A multiplicity is an open whole, if you like. What matters is that it is neither a unified thing nor simply a set of fragments. It is an internally differentiated whole that is changing in time. Michel Serres gives us many beautiful examples of multiplicities: ‘A flight of screaming birds, a school of herring tearing through the water like a silken sheet, a cloud of chirping crickets, a booming whirlwind of mosquitoes ... crowds, packs, hordes on the move.’4 It is not difficult to add to Serres’s list. An audience clapping is one thunderous affirmation with its own patterns and rhythms. It is at the same time, though, an untold number of tiny distinct sounds that are present at the same moment. Our built environments now share many of these qualities. We need new concepts to describe these kinds of environments because the interpenetration of different kinds of sensation and information, which they make possible, surpasses the dialectic of unity and fragmentation in which many of our most familiar philosophical and sociological ideas originate. While multiplicity is a rigorous philosophical concept that aims to unsettle the old Platonic dialectic of the one and the many, we should not think of it as a rarefied theoretical abstraction. Instead, it describes our most common encounters with the world. In fact, what is abstract is the expectation that the world should be either fully unified or fully fragmented. Don’t we most commonly find ourselves in the midst of uncompleted projects that we have taken up or, more likely, been thrown into, and in which things have been intertwined to the point where they cannot be separated without being radically altered? For this reason Michel Serres says that we should understand multiplicity not as an ‘epistemological monster’ but rather as ‘the ordinary lot of situations, including that of the ordinary scholar, regular knowledge, ordinary work, in short


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our common object ... We recognize it everywhere yet reason still insists on ignoring it.’5 Here is how Serres describes multiplicity: The multiple as such: here’s a set undefined by elements or boundaries. Locally, it’s not individuated; globally, it’s not summed up. So it’s neither a flock, nor a school, nor a heap, nor a swarm, nor a herd, nor a pack. It is not an aggregate; it is not discrete. It’s a bit viscous perhaps. A lake under the mist, the sea, a white plain, background noise, the murmur of a crowd, time.6

In Serres’s work, sound and noise are the paradigmatic examples of multiplicity. Following this lead, I will try to describe the multiple character of the new media environments by focusing on a single quality: their audile, or sound, quality. In the past few years, much has been written about the role that vision has played in structuring the modern world. I am going to suggest instead that we stand to learn something important about our present situation by studying the way sound structures the environment and alters our consciousness. Marshall McLuhan pioneered the audile analysis of global media. I try to develop McLuhan’s ideas in new ways by linking them to an intellectual tradition that he did not pursue. For, ever since Leibniz and, more recently, through the work of Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Serres, the analysis of sound has offered a way of understanding the organizational structure of open unities, or multiplicities.7 Following Serres’s suggestion that ‘hearing is a model of understanding,’8 I pay attention to three particular qualities of the sound environment: the omnidirectional nature of sound, the passive manner in which we receive it, and the kind of organizational structure that results from the mixing together and layering of disparate sounds. Taken together, these three features point to a very different sense of the aesthetic and phenomenological changes we are now living through than do the tired images of fragmented perception and distracted consciousness that have dominated cultural theory and visual studies in recent years. In the first part of the essay, I consider a number of sound experiments from the 1960s as early encounters with the multiple character of media environments. What I propose is that recorded and layered sound provided ways of experimenting with the new kind of unities that could be created with disembedded sensations. Recorded sound in particular greatly facilitated what Michel Chion and Pierre Schaffer call ‘reduced listening,’ which is listening to sound not for evidence about

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the world but for insight into the nature of complex sensations.9 I am not suggesting that hearing is a more fundamental sense than vision or smell or any of the others. It is more a matter of strategy. I am hoping that audile analysis might provide a way of displacing the hegemony of vision and getting at wider changes in the nature of sensation. Thus, the conclusion reached here is that digital media, or multimedia, do not alienate or desensitize us. In fact, the global circulation of money, images, messages, products, and ideas makes possible new kinds of insights into the nature of sensations and the complex unities in which we are now involved. Glenn Gould’s Three-Dimensional Environment At the height of his career, Glenn Gould, one of the world’s greatest concert pianists, quit the stage. To the astonishment of his followers, Gould left the recital hall to explore new forms of electronic communication such as radio, television, and recorded sound. In his new experiments with sound aesthetics, Gould tried to understand how our basic notions of sensation, presence, and consciousness were being changed by new globalizing media. The sort of environment he studied is more prevalent now than when he first began to probe it. As such, it might turn out that, much like Marx’s analysis of nascent capitalism, Gould’s insights are even more revealing of our present than of his own time. Gould left the stage because he was excited by the potential of the new multidimensional environment, which could not be fully appreciated in the isolated atmosphere of the concert hall. He was no doubt influenced in this thinking by his long-time friend and mentor Marshall McLuhan. In a conversation with McLuhan, recorded the same year he quit his live performances, Gould reports on the strange new ‘multidimensional’ quality his playing has taken on. He tells McLuhan that he expects that in the future it will not seem strange to play the piano, as he has now begun to do, along with the noise of two radios or a television. The Goldberg Variations accompanied by the white noise of the TV set is not only the sign of a new kind of sound but a whole new way of living that Gould calls ‘three-dimensional experience.’10 McLuhan is not surprised by this idea. After all, ‘multidimensionality’ was already a central feature of his own theory of global media. In Understanding Media and other books, McLuhan tried to show that global electronic communication produces a new ‘depth’ of experience in which each of our actions implicates us in the actions of distant others.


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We now live in three dimensions, McLuhan says, ‘even if we continue to think on single planes.’11 Gould and McLuhan recognized that changes produced by electric sound were not just isolated aesthetic concerns but indications of farreaching transformations in the human condition. And they were not the only ones coming to this realization. Anyone who was anyone in the 1960s was experimenting with the environmental effects of multidimensional sound. John Cage, the Beatles, William S. Burroughs, Michael Snow, Rolf Lieberman, and others were all finding, in the daily clamour and background buzz of the world, resources for a new kind of sensory awareness and perception.12 For John Cage, the hum of electrical sound provided a new opportunity for aesthetic experimentation. All through his long career Cage remained fascinated by the inescapable background noises of modern living – the whirr of electricity, the continuous rumbling of traffic, the murmur of urban life. What he found interesting in all of this was not the sheer diversity of sounds, but their capacity to congeal together. In one of his experiments, Cage set out to determine the total number of audio sources among which a subject could distinguish before they all blended into a single new whole. What he discovered was that perception reaches a new threshold when five or more sounds are mixed together. At this point, the original audile elements lose their former outlines and merge into a whole new acoustical unity. Quantity turns into quality, as Hegel might say, when a sufficient number of sounds are mixed together. They then form a new whole that cannot be divided up into original pieces. We shall see that this blurring of original outlines and folding into a new whole are central features of multiplicities. The wider social and political significance of Gould’s and Cage’s experiments is not difficult to grasp, for you did not need a sound laboratory to experience the kind of multidimensional quality that fascinated them. It was enough to switch on a tape recorder at any street corner, workplace, or living room to create the kinds of effects Cage was measuring. And perhaps the experiments in complex layered sound did not even require electricity. In another of his experiments, in which he tried to understand silence, Cage locked himself in a soundproof room and emerged several hours later to declare that there is no such thing as silence because even the body produces a multitude of sounds.13 Could it be that electrical and recorded sound simply allowed us to recognize that we had always been living in an environment of multidimensional sound? In either case, by the 1960s it was clear that

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the flood of visual and acoustic information brought on by global media, and the sheer density of social interactions this made possible, changed the nature of sense perception. This sensory change had been underway for some time. A century before, Wagner had redesigned the theatre to try to filter out the noise of the modern world.14 Now Gould and Cage welcomed it back in. Wagner’s approach to the noise of modern living was to ask how art could survive in this environment. Cage and Gould pursued a far more interesting question: what new kinds of art could emerge in this new environment or even, as McLuhan wondered, might the multidimensional environment not only contain art, but be art? These questions echoed concerns voiced earlier in the century by the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo, in his manifesto on The Art of Noises: ‘Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men.’15 In typical futurist fashion, Russolo sees in mechanical and electrical sound not some pernicious side effect of industrialization, but the horizon of a whole new kind of consciousness. An acoustic flaneur could find beauty in the endless diversity of sounds that others, who had not yet adapted the appropriate sense organs, might pass off as the detritus of industrial life: Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.16

What is striking in Russolo’s account is the absence of recorded sound. The sounds he takes in on his little stroll are all immediate and present. He has to walk by a machine to hear it. As a result, the environment he operates in is nowhere near as complex as my hotel room here in Helsinki. The sounds he hears are all stuck to the original vibrations that produced them and resonate only in the presence of those things.


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How Sound Recording Changes Sense Perception With the invention of recording machines, sound lost its immediacy. Katherine Hayles has suggested that sound recording provided one of the first experiences of disembodiment that prefigures the desire for more radical kinds of disembodiment expressed today in artificial intelligence research and virtual reality environments.17 For the very same reason, tape recording is a truly global medium. The tape recorder made it possible to disembed sounds from their original sources and reembed them in another time and place. The multidimensional world of Gould, Cage, and McLuhan is above all a world of recorded sound. The film sound editor Walter Murch explains how the recording of sound revolutionized sense perception: For as far back in human history as you would care to go, sounds had seemed to be the inevitable and ‘accidental’ (and therefore mostly ignored) accompaniment of the visual – stuck like a shadow to the object that caused them. And, like a shadow, they appeared to be completely explained by reference to the objects that gave them birth: a metallic clang was always ‘cast’ by the hammer, just as the smell of baking always came from a loaf of fresh bread. Recording magically lifted the shadow away from the objects and stood it on its own, giving it a miraculous and sometimes frightening substantiality.18

Recording allowed sound to be disembedded from its original source, but, more importantly for our purposes, it also allowed it to be mixed together with other, wholly unrelated sounds. Once sounds were mixed together they could not be easily divided back into their original parts, as John Cage discovered. Murch, a film sound editor for over thirty years, makes much the same point. Murch says that layered sound becomes ‘dense,’ and he finds as a sound editor that, in the mixing of sound, density and clarity are always traded off, one for the other.19 This density of recorded sound made it possible to explore the layered nature of perception in new ways. John Cage incorporated live electronic and found recorded sound into his music, making a happening out of whatever constellation of sound effects he happened to hit upon. Gould made the layering and interpenetration of voices and background sounds the basis of his groundbreaking ‘contrapuntal’ radio documentaries. Instead of presenting the usual ‘horizontal’ mon-

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tage that moves between distinct well-defined voices, as most radio does, he presents a vertically layered multitude of overlapping conversations. Out of this noisy banter, Gould allows a phrase, a sentence, an intervention to well up and then drift back into the great cacophony. In works like The Idea of North Gould does not add together unified and readily intelligible bits. He begins with an unstructured dense mass. From this, he subtracts whatever does not interest him. Gould conducts the recorded voices as if he were pulling sound out of an orchestra – a baritone voice here, a high laugh there. Each voice is plucked from the void and then allowed to fall back into it. In the world of pop music, Brian Wilson and, later, the Beatles used a similar technique on their later albums. They incorporated background environmental sounds that were allowed to drift in and out of the audible sphere. This kind of multidimensional layering soon became a standard motif of the psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd and others. In the 1970s, it gave rise to the whole new paranoid fascination with the subliminal message, which consisted of information lurking behind the main foreground plane of sound – a sonic equivalent of the conspiratorial theme that Fredric Jameson identified in films of the 1970s.20 Multidimensional Life When we look back on these 1960s experiments now, they might appear simplistic, if not banal. For the multidimensional experience that made up the outer edge of experimental aesthetics then is now among the most practical concerns of efficiency and ergonomics. We eat, read, wait for airplanes, and even undergo medical treatment to the noise of the radio and television. ‘A torrent of images and sounds’ has transformed our lives, as Todd Gitlin says.21 Informatization has become a – if not the – basis of production. As Michel Serres puts it, we have moved from the age of Prometheus, hero of labour, to the age of Hermes, the messenger god.22 And with this change the management of the multiple becomes the central concern of social organization. We study our efficiency in multitasking to enhance our operation in multidimensional environments. Our homes, offices, and life worlds have been transformed into devices for coordinating and synthesizing multiple sources of information from widely dispersed environments. What has occurred since the days of Cage and Gould is nothing less than a rewiring of our phenomenological infrastructure. A century ago, Paul Valery’s vision of images directly transferred into the home was


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dazzlingly futuristic. Now, even the car, once the symbol of our atomized isolation from each other, is a central network access point to complex global systems. Louis Menand describes the upper-middle-class experience of a traffic jam in New York City: ‘Six CD’s in the changer and a video playing in the back seat, laptop plugged into the dashboard, cell phone in continual operation, entire families creep along the conveyor belts that America’s highways have become.’23 We readily identify these sorts of environments with the effects of globalization. In fact, the over-saturated informational context is not just an aspect of globalization but its very precondition. All the various kinds of globalization – economic, social, technological – share the same form as the disembodied sound that fascinated Gould. They require that we be present in one situation and at the same time be attuned to a number of other background ones that originate at a distance from us. And, like the sounds that John Cage mixed up, they blend together to produce new wholes in which the original divisions are no longer recognizable. Focusing on the audile dimension of these changes allows us to consider elements of our contemporary environments that might be overlooked in the visual analysis of modern life. Much has been written, for example, about the way in which the fixed point of view in Renaissance perspective creates the condition for our will to a detached mastery of the world. We regard the globe, like a Renaissance canvas, as a single space from which we are removed and on which we circulate messages, money, and commodities. To make this point, Hannah Arendt drew a direct line from Alberti’s essay ‘On Painting,’ which taught us to see the world through a frame, and the launching of the Sputnik five hundred years later.24 Heidegger suggested as much with the age of the world picture, or the world as a picture. The phenomenology of sound, on the other hand, tells a very different story. Sound is immersive. We find ourselves already thrown into it, and overwhelmed by it. It addresses us, whether we wish it to or not. Unlike vision, sound is omnidirectional. There is no acoustic equivalent of the point of view. There is no one point of mastery from which to listen to the world. There is instead a ‘zone’ or ‘place of audition.’25 And, because it is omnidirectional, sound is passively received. We do not gaze out onto an environment of sound; we find ourselves already immersed in it. It was sound’s immersive, enveloping character that led McLuhan to believe that it held the key to understanding the global age. The sort of

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‘three-dimensional experience’ that Gould evoked was, for McLuhan, part of a great epochal shift in Western culture away from the visually oriented and linear space that emerged in the era of print (the Gutenberg galaxy) to a culture based on electric circuitry and feedback loops, where things occurred simultaneously and without a central point. The linear properties of print had produced a linear ‘Cartesian’ consciousness that mechanically fragmented experience into a series of flat, onedimensional planes. Information is parcelled out in words, pages, and books. Labour, accordingly, is divided into ever more specialized and codified tasks. Causes and effects are clearly separated, just as subjects and objects are. This allowed us to become individual egos with individual points of view.26 Virginia Woolf’s Mr Ramsey imagines thought to be ‘like the alphabet ranged into twenty six letters all in order ... his splendid mind had no sort of difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had reached, say, the letter Q. He reached Q. Very few people in the whole of England ever reached Q.’27 The world of electricity and cybernetic feedback loops, on the other hand, seems to be better described by the properties of sound and hearing. In sound, as in an electrical environment, there is no center as such, and the margin is everywhere. We are so deeply immersed in this kind of environment that it is no longer possible to break it up into discrete groups, or letters, or to find a detached point of view from which to do so. That would be like trying to have a point of view while swimming, McLuhan liked to point out. Complex Sensations Require Subtractive Perception Sixties acoustic theory, as we might call it, pointed to a model of perception very different from the familiar Cartesian one to which we had grown accustomed. Descartes had insisted that perception begins with clear and distinct simple ideas, from which we build up to more complex forms. In the sound experiments of the sixties, both of Descartes’s principles of ‘disembodied’ thought and ‘simple ideas’ were placed in doubt. What we find emerging instead is a deep Bergsonian theme. In Matter and Memory, Bergson contests the common ‘associationist’ notion that perception consists of discrete sensations plus the attention we bring to them. Instead, he argues that perception is a subtractive operation. When we set out to know we are already adrift in a mass of sensations. We always find ourselves already thrown into a multiplicity – a


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virtual totality – of sensations that lack clear outlines and divisions. To perceive in this environment we do not add together bits of information. Just the opposite is true. We subtract from this mass of sensation what does not interest us, or what is not useful for life. From out of the mass we divide sensations into groups, categories, distinct things, or actualities.28 What we experience as a discrete sensation – a sound, for example – is the result of our dividing up a multiplicity of sensations. We must be clear about what Bergson has in mind here. He is not simply suggesting that we filter out noise to let the signal through. That was still the Wagnerian dream of finding (or creating) a pool of tranquillity beneath the chaos of urban life. Bergson’s idea is different: the signal that we recognize is not something that is there beforehand. What presents itself to us as a clear signal is produced by our act of cutting up a dense, unclear signal. Perception moves from a virtual, overdetermined mass to a clear and distinct signal that is subtracted from it. The selection of a signal, however, in turn changes the wider ecology of sensations and makes it possible to link it up with others in another, different configuration. Thus, we are continuously moving from density to clarity and back to density once again. As sound recording made possible a more radical disembedding and re-embedding of sensation, it greatly facilitated this Bergsonian sensibility. We have already seen that recording removes sound from its immediate indexical function as a representation of some particular vibration. When sounds are relieved of their duty to represent events in the world, they can be called on for different purposes. In John Cage’s experiments with live sound, or Rolf Lieberman’s concert for 164 typewriters, sound is valued not as evidence of the world, but as a sensation with its own qualities, and with an organizational structure that could be found not just in the audile dimension, but all throughout the social sphere. We can better understand this distinction between sound as evidence and as sensation by following a distinction proposed by the French audio theorist Michel Chion. Chion distinguishes between what he calls ‘causal’ and ‘reduced’ modes of listening.29 When we listen causally, we treat sound as evidence of a source of vibration. When we tap on a chest to determine how full it is, or shout down a dark well to determine its depth, we are listening to sound for information about its source. It is this aspect of sound that Murch refers to when he likens sound to the shadow of an object.

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The mixing of sound that becomes possible with tape recording puts this kind of causal listening to the test. When sounds no longer refer back to their sources, we are able to listen to them not for what they reveal about the world, but for their own properties as sensations. This is what Chion, following Pierre Schaffer, calls reduced listening. ‘Reduced’ is meant in the phenomenological sense that Husserl gave to the term. Phenomenological reduction suspends our immediate natural attitude to the world and directs us ‘to the things themselves.’ For Gould, McLuhan, Cage, and their contemporaries, the study of sound was interesting for what it revealed not about a source but about the organizational structure of sensation. Multiplicities and Microperceptions: Leibniz and Virginia Woolf at the Seashore In a very perceptive essay on the mid-1960s generation of intellectuals and artists – of whom Gould, McLuhan, and Cage were all prime examples – Susan Sontag argues that they were united by the conviction that sensation, rather than the idea, had become the basic unit of art.30 They were not interested in policing the borders of aesthetics, or explaining what art means, but rather in analysing and extending sensations. Sontag points out that it was this holistic interest in sensation that propelled the collapse of such familiar distinctions as art and non-art, and high and low culture. This seems to be especially true of the experiments in sound. Sound provided a way of understanding not just what an individual sensation consists of, but the way in which a group of them could form in aggregates or blocs. In this way, sixties audio theory carried on what had been a kind of subterranean theme in philosophy and aesthetics. Bergson had regarded sound and melody as the royal road to understanding the multiple character of complex emotions and sensations. And, long before him, Leibniz saw in complex sounds a model for studying phenomena that could not be classified under what were then the received categories of unity. Gilles Deleuze takes Leibniz’s account of the composite sound of a wave as a paradigmatic example of the ways in which conscious perception emerges from a folding (fold = pli) of a multiplicity (multi-ply) of indeterminate perceptions. The sound of a wave is composed of a thousand tiny (micro) perceptions that are already at work in the background, preparing and following whatever rises to consciousness as a ‘macro perception.’ The wave


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is not a simple clear given that produces an effect in us. It is the product of a set of relations among preconscious or ‘molecular’ perceptions that are not in themselves discernible. Here is how Deleuze describes a wave: For example, the sound of the sea: at least two waves must be minutely perceived as nascent and heterogeneous enough to become part of a relation that can allow the perception of a third, one that ‘excels’ over the others and comes to consciousness (implying that we are near the shoreline).31

We only get to hear the wave as a composite sound. We cannot get to the individual bits of sound, even though it is clear that what we hear is a ‘contraction’ of smaller units. In order to emerge into consciousness, the micro perceptions enter into ‘differential relations’ and together produce some other, third thing that is different in kind from them. The sound of a wave therefore exceeds the categories of the general and the particular, and the one and the many. The composite elements are smaller than any particular (they are ‘pre-individual’ because they are not discrete, distinct things, but differential elements) and larger than any universal (because the whole can be reconfigured once again). In fact, when we hear it, it is already on its way to rearticulation. To further explain how the perceptual qualities of differential elements work, Deleuze gives another, different example of colour. Two colours such as blue and yellow can be distinct on their own. But they can also reach a point of indiscernibility where they participate together to produce the colour green. Green is not a sensation on its own. It is the result of a set of differential relations among smaller genetic elements. The same principle is at work when we hear a background murmur which throws up a multitude of signals that fade back and rise up as something altogether different.32 Since we already called on Virginia Woolf’s Mr Ramsey as an example of Cartesian consciousness, we might consider Mrs Ramsey as the aural Leibnizian: The gruff murmur, irregularly broken by a taking out of pipes and the putting in of pipes which had kept on assuring her, though she could not hear what was said (as she sat in the window), that the men were happily talking; this sound, which had lasted now half an hour and had taken its place soothingly in the scale of sounds pressing on top of her, such as the tap of balls upon bats, the sharp, sudden bark now and then, ‘How’s that? How’s that?’ of the children playing cricket, had ceased; so that the monotonous

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fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed consoling to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, ‘I am guarding you – I am your support,’ but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life, made one think of the destruction of the island, and its engulfment in the sea, and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow – this sound which had been obscured and concealed under the other sounds suddenly thundered hollow in her ears and made her look up with an impulse of terror.33

Leibniz and Woolf listen at the seashore not only for evidence that the world exists, but also for insight into the nature of perception. Approaching sixties audio experiments as similar kinds of exercises in understanding the new organizational structures of sensations may help us think in new ways about the environmental and phenomenological dimensions of globalizing media. For Gould’s generation, the torrent of sound and image does not produce a ‘distracted’ or fragmented consciousness, but something approaching the composite form of Leibniz’s wave. For that reason, they can provide an important alternative to the images of disintegration and distracted perception that have become popular ways of describing our consciousness of the globalizing world. Against Flatness and Distracted Perception In the 1980s and 1990s it was popular to describe the cultural development of the postwar world as a progressive flattening of experience. In the absence of any full and whole experience, the world, supposedly, comes to us in the form of isolated, flat signs. Flatness is the central thesis of what were, arguably, the three most influential works of cultural theory in the past quarter-century: Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations, JeanFrançois Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition, and Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.34 Lyotard describes the decline of Enlightenment ‘grand narratives’ as a flattening of knowledge: ‘The speculative hierarchy of learning gives way to an immanent and, as it were, “flat” network of areas of inquiry.’35 Fredric Jameson and Jean Baudrillard identify the same flat quality as the new cultural dom-


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inant of late capitalism, or the hyperreal society. As daily life is speeded up and plugged into ever wider global circuits of information and exchange, it becomes more difficult to recognize any pattern in the randomness of events. So many events vie for attention at any one time that not one of them can command it in its entirety, or in depth. Fredric Jameson famously captures this position with his thesis that late capitalism produces a schizophrenic consciousness. He took as his model the striking image of a schizophrenic girl who suddenly finds herself cut off from the world. Radically alone, she stares dumbfounded at a group of school children singing. She cannot fit this image into any larger pattern: ‘It was as though the school and the children were set apart from the rest of the world.’36 Jameson suggests that the average citizen of consumer society who selects and circulates disembodied signs is similarly unable to hold together any unified experience and so is restricted to the ‘schizophrenic’ use of isolated, flat signifiers. Since the fundamental feature of the postmodern world was supposed to be its flatness, then depth – McLuhan’s favourite term for describing the effects of global media – was now used to describe the qualities of a world that was no longer ours. Depth described the centred and totalizing tendencies of ‘depth’ models of inquiry such as Freudianism, Marxism, and existentialism. These all called up images of a central representing subject or a fixed system or totality of ideas now thought to be leftovers of some theological or ‘essentialist’ view of things that had become impossible. In retrospect, however, now that we are further into the whole process of globalization, there is every reason to believe that the image of a world of isolated flat sensations does not get at the complexity of our situation. It presents globalism as a zero sum game in which things must be either fully unified or altogether without organization. Part of the problem is that the theory of flatness placed too much emphasis on the moment of disembedding (or ‘deterritorialization,’ to use Deleuze’s terminology) and not enough on re-embedding. But there is a deeper theoretical problem. Flatness and fragmentation could never provide a powerful enough antidote to the old metaphysical ideas of unity. As Nietzsche, Bergson, Heidegger, and others recognized, fragmentation is only an initial, weak reaction to theological concepts of unity. The fragment still secretly preserves the figure of unity it supposedly upsets. What Nietzsche calls Shades of god – ghosts of the metaphysical idea of unity – live on in the figure of the fragment. For this reason, Nietzsche and Bergson both attacked mechanical theories of organization (a tradition inherited by McLuhan).

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Mechanism breaks the world up into atomistic bits, each of which is understood to be a discrete entity. But the movement of the world cannot be reconstituted from discrete, static moments, as Bergson pointed out. Even if the old ideas of unity have disappeared, we still need some kind of whole in which the scraps and fragments of sense participate. I have tried to suggest that studying the multiple character of the multimedia environment might provide a way of understanding the new kinds of holism that are now possible. This requires that we develop a more rigorous understanding of what multiple means. Flatness and fragmentation cannot explain the multiple because they still feed off of the old dialectic of the one and the many, which is too broad and imprecise to describe the phenomena of multiplicity. If we think of a multiplicity – of organisms, sounds, economic forces – as many things, then we reduce ‘multiplicity’ to meaning numerous. ‘Many’ still derives its meaning from the figure of unity. It means ‘many single things.’ This is why Deleuze looks to the theory of multiplicity as a way of overcoming the ‘abstract opposition between the multiple and one’ and of thinking ‘the multiple as a pure state.’37 Serres, in similar fashion, turns to the multiple as a way of ‘escaping the hell of dualism,’ that is, of many and one.38 Multiplicity differs from the dialectic of one and many because it describes the interaction of a set of variables and the relations that organize them into a form. To say that elements are a function of relations is of course a commonplace of contemporary social and cultural theory. What is less often acknowledged, however, is that the identity of things can remain open only to the extent that the relations that connect them remain open. If the relations of a system were static and unchanging, the same would be true for the elements that they unite. This is the downfall of all forms of determinism – economic, biological, technological, or otherwise. They give us relational terms but situate these terms within static relations. Technically, what distinguishes multiplicity as a theory of organization is that it does not privilege either the variables or the relations. We have a multiplicity only when the relations are also subject to change and transformation. In other words, awkward as it may sound, in a multiplicity relations are themselves relational. Relations change because they are dependent for their very existence, and therefore contingent upon, the things they relate. If relations were not dependent on their relata, then they would have to find their determination or function in some extra-structural force such as God or nature. In a multiplicity, elements and relations are external to one another and mutually


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determining. Together they produce a whole that is not a property of the elements, nor a property of the relations, since neither of these can ever be given independently, and thus neither one can act as a ground for the other. Instead, multiplicity is a whole because it describes the coexistence, or the being together of elements and relations. Multiple variables enter into relation and form a unity. In fact, they can be assigned value and significance only because they participate in a whole. The whole, therefore, neither is given in advance of the articulation of its parts nor is simply a result of their addition. The whole of a multiplicity is contemporary with the parts it unites. It is immanent in the structure – pure immanence, as Deleuze says. It is dependent for its existence on the things it unites. The elements change their relative positions and enter into different relations, and through this change, the whole of which they form a part is transformed and changes qualitatively. All of this is possible because the elements and relations of a multiplicity are given together. Anything less would be more abstract and would describe either completed wholes or separate elements and thus would not address the open, processual character of things multiple. Multiplicity Today We do not really understand the contemporary world if we regard it either as one integrated system such as global media or capitalism, or as a chaos of many signs and sensations that lack any unity. When, with this opposition in mind, we try to comprehend a ‘global event’ such as the formation of diasporic communities or the spread of environmental dangers, we often find ourselves borrowing from one image of globalization (for example, unity, the global) to fill out what is missing in the other (fragmentation, the local). Each of these accounts has to take from the other what it lacks in itself. When Arjun Appadurai, one of the most acute observers of the global condition, says ‘the central problem of today’s global interactions is the tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization,’39 he is only half-right. The problem does not lie in the ambiguous character of global events but in the weakness of concepts that recognize only unity or diversity. The fact is that the world is both heterogeneous and homogeneous at the same time. As a result, the greatest difficulty we face in trying to understand the global age is not its dizzying speed of information transfer nor the new mobility of people and things. It is instead our ongoing attempt to understand these developments through the tired philosophical problem of the one and many.

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The multiple is the central structural feature of the multimediated global environment because globalization in all its various manifestations – economic, political, cultural – produces the kind of ‘multidimensional’ experience Glenn Gould discovered. We find ourselves physically present in one situation and at the same time involved in several others. We live in sets, groups, crowds, and wholes that, like Michel Serres’s flock of screaming birds, are transformed by the movement among the things they unite. If that is true, then Glenn Gould sitting at his piano, pulling through the noise of the piano and TV, is a better icon of the global age than the schizophrenic isolated by flat, disconnected words.

NOTES 1 Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990). 2 You can listen to a sample of the symphony at http://www.flong.com/ telesymphony. 3 Available at http://www.dogme95.dk. 4 Michel Serres, Genesis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 2. 5 Ibid., 5. 6 Ibid. 7 For Bergson’s theory of multiplicity, see Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, trans. F.L. Pogson (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1972), chap. 2, on continuous and discrete multiplicities. Deleuze’s most important texts on multiplicity include Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Zone Books, 1988), 38–47; Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 8–9, 245–52, 482–8; Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 182–91; and the lecture ‘Theory of Multiplicities in Bergson,’ http://www.webdeleuze.com/TXT/ENG/bergson.html. Serres’s most important text on multiplicity is Genesis, but the idea is developed in many of his other books, including The Troubadour of Knowledge (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), and Rome: The Book of Foundations (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992). 8 Serres, Genesis, 7. 9 Michel Chion, AudioVision: Sound on Screen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). 10 Glenn Gould, ‘The Medium and the Message: An Encounter with Marshall


11 12

13 14


16 17

18 19 20 21 22

23 24 25 26


Stephen Crocker McLuhan,’ in The Art of Glenn Gould: Reflections of a Musical Genius, ed. John P.L. Roberts (Toronto: Malcolm Lester Books, 1999), 246. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: Signet Books, 1964), 25. For a good overview of the history of sound aesthetics in the twentieth century, see Douglas Kahn, Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999). Don Ihde discusses this experiment in Listening and Voice: A Phenomenology of Sound (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1976). For a good account of Wagner’s efforts to tame noise and distraction, see Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 247ff. Luigi Russolo, ‘The Art of Noises,’ originally published as a booklet on 11 July 1913. The Niuean Pop Cultural Archive, http://www.unknown.nu/ futurism/noises.html. Ibid. Katherine Hayles, How We Became PostHuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 207ff. Walter Murch, foreword to Chion, AudioVision. See Walter Murch, ‘Stretching Sound to Help the Mind See,’ New York Times, 1 October 2000. See Fredric Jameson, ‘Totality as Conspiracy,’ in The Geo-Political Aesthetic: Cinema and the World System (London: British Film Institute, 1992). Todd Gitlin, Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Media and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives (New York: Henry Holt, 2001). Michel Serres, ‘The Art of Living – Michel Serres,’ interview by Mary Zurzani, in Hope: New Philosophies for Change (Sydney: Pluto Press, 2002), 201. Louis Menand, ‘The Talk of the Town,’ New Yorker, 2 July 2001, 21. See Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961). See Ihde, Listening and Voice. For a lucid discussion of these points, see McLuhan’s interview with Playboy magazine, ‘Marshall McLuhan – A Candid Conversation with the High Priest of Popcult and Metaphysician of Media,’ in The Essential McLuhan, ed. Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1995), 233–69; see also The Extensions of Man; and The Medium Is the Message: An Inventory of Effects (New York: Bantam Books, 1967). Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (London: Grafton Books, 1927), 35.

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28 Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1911), chap. 1. 29 Chion, AudioVision, 26–34. 30 Susan Sontag, ‘The Basic Unit of Contemporary Art Is Not the Idea, but the Analysis of and Extension of Sensations,’ in McLuhan: Hot and Cool, ed. Gerald Emmanuel Stearn (New York: Signet Books, 1967), 249–58. 31 Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 88. 32 For an excellent analysis of these points, see Daniel W. Smith, ‘Deleuze’s Theory of Sensation: Overcoming the Kantian Duality,’ in Deleuze: A Critical Reader, ed. Paul Patton (New York: Routledge, 1997), 29–58. 33 Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 20. 34 Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (New York: Semiotexte, 1987); Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984); Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991). 35 Lyotard, Postmodern Condition, 39. 36 Jameson, Postmodernism, 27. 37 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 32. 38 Serres, Genesis, 131. 39 Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 32.

3 The Networked Screen: Moving Images, Materiality, and the Aesthetics of Size ha idee was son

However moving images are conceived – as institution, experience, or aesthetic – their past and present are unthinkable without screens. Large or small, made of cloth or liquid crystals, screens provide a primary interface between the forms and inhabitants that constitute visual culture. Animated by celluloid, electronic, and digital sources, these interfaces broker the increasing presence of moving images in private and public life: museums and galleries, stock exchanges, airplane seats, subways, banks, food courts, record stores, gas stations, office desks, and even the palm of one’s hand. Some screens emit light and some reflect it; some are stationary and others mobile. Variations abound. But, one thing is certain: contemporary culture is host to more screens in more places than ever before.1 In film studies, scholars have addressed the proliferation of images and screens largely by tending to the ways in which cinema is more malleable than previously understood, appearing everywhere, transforming across varied media and sites of consumption. The dominant metaphors used to discuss the multiplication of screens and the images that fill them have been metaphors of variability, ephemerality, dematerialization, or cross-platform compatibility, wherein screens are reconceptualized as windows that shrink and expand on cue. Scholars use terms like ‘content,’ ‘morphing,’ and ‘themed entertainment’ to identify the many modes by which moving images are produced and also distributed and seen.2 Even within the industry, films are commonly thought of not as objects or discrete texts but as flows of images and sounds that can be reconfigured and merchandised across a range of commodity forms.3 Richard Maltby has persuasively promoted the concept of cinema as software.4 Not only does it accurately reflect

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industry idioms; it reminds us that the critical terms we employ to understand Hollywood’s mode of production must adjust to the multimedia entertainment conglomerates that dominate the field of movingimage production, distribution, and exhibition. SKG, Vivendi-Universal, and Viacom know very well that a movie is never just a film. It is also a soundtrack CD, a lunchbox, a baseball hat, a videogame, a cable program, an action figure, and a DVD. The film industry is thoroughly integrated around this basic fact, as are the millions of people who watch, play, rewind, pause, download, listen to, collect, and otherwise interact with cinema. Against claims to the contrary, cinema scholars must do even more to integrate into their critical frameworks the multimediated environment that is clearly forcing a new definition of cinema.5 We can no longer retain film’s monopoly on our understanding of cinema in particular or moving-image culture more generally. Neither celluloid, movie theatres, nor modernist ideas about art adequately account for the dynamic shifts ushered in by media culture in the last two decades. Two obvious examples of these shifts are: (1) the prominence of digital production processes in the form of special effects and (2) television’s primacy as exhibition mode for movies. Both indicate the undeniable interpenetration of film with other technologies and media forms.6 In other words, as the material, corporate, and technological conditions of cinema’s production and exhibition transform, those tasked with understanding these changes must reorient their conceptual tools. This basic assertion applies to the analysis of both the past and the present of moving-image dynamics. In the context of film studies, metaphors foregrounding malleability, such as Maltby’s ‘software,’ and companion metaphors emphasizing mobility, such as Anne Friedberg’s ‘mobilized gaze,’ have functioned productively to loosen a constraining dependency on medium specificity and to weaken attempts to preserve an ever-elusive idea about cinematic purity and essence.7 Unravelling the discrete film object into debates about its relations to urban life, modern leisure, and ascendant consumerism has expanded and enriched the field, sending film scholars towards cultural, media, television, and visual studies, as well as sociology and political economy.8 New ideas about history have further shaped an expanded idea about cinema.9 Collectively such work has necessarily shifted our understanding of cinema away from a sacred and finite text towards an expanded system of overlapping relations, one that bears close relation both to emergent and global


Haidee Wasson

media conglomerates as well as to everyday life and other media forms. Yet, metaphors foregrounding the flows and mobilities of contemporary visual culture can also obscure new formations of material and contextual specificity. Alongside the ‘everywhere and everywhen’ of current cinema, moving images also touch down at identifiable moments and in particular places. These points become plainly visible at the interface marked by screens. It is these screens, clearly integral to the architecture of powerful institutions – corporate, urban, and domestic – that shape, delimit, and also enable our encounter with moving images. Exploring the currents of contemporary visual culture requires us to consider the attendant specificities of these screens and of the networks that link them. By setting aside questions of medium specificity, this chapter explores the concept of the networked screen, suggesting its formative role in transforming celluloid, electronic, and digital images into differentiated social and material sites of cultural engagement. Screens are nodes in complex networks. They indicate a moment of performance when otherwise indistinguishable inscriptions – whether composed of chemical and light or code and cable – become an encounter between a viewer and an intelligible image. These encounters can, of course, occur in the context of screens that are both permanent and impermanent. Artists and corporations alike employ a range of screens that can last no longer than the moment of the performance: bodies, trees, paintings, shop windows, sidewalks, buildings. Any object flat or not can in practice be turned into a screen. Yet, the vast majority of the screens we encounter do not disappear with the images that flutter across them. They endure through time. Sitting on desks, mounted on walls, encased by metal, glass, and plastic, they have a comparative stability. Moreover, screens persistently and actively shape the images they yield and the experience of those who watch and listen to them. Screens are not autonomous forces but intimate consorts of specific material and institutional networks. Their shape, size, control buttons, and positioning reflect the logics of the systems and structures that produce and sustain them. My argument borrows from the recent work in film studies that foregrounds the material, discursive, and institutional life of cinema.10 It also draws upon models that assert the crucial role of site-specificity when investigating a pervasive medium like television, elegantly put forth by Anna McCarthy in her recent book Ambient Television.11 In what follows, I address the networked screen by exploring two of the many

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circuits through which images presently travel, the environments in which they appear, and the screens that frame them: QuickTime and IMAX. I am concerned here, to borrow a phrase from Vivian Sobchack, with ‘describing, thematizing, and interpreting the structures of lived spatiality, temporality, and meaning’ at the site of particular and qualitatively different kinds of screens.12 I would like to suggest, as a counterbalance to a focus on meta-structures and new languages – the loop, the malleable, and infinitely expandable – that it is still useful to think about the frequently specific, directed, constrained, and deliberate modes by which emergent configurations of moving images circulate and become visible on particular kinds of screens. To be sure, movies – as moving images and as objects – have long been a part of temporally and spatially specific material networks. This includes shipping methods such as film canisters and mail, or modes of transport like boats, trains, planes, or even airwaves. Each of these methods and modes is an integral part of cinema’s history. Each in some way made individual films into the amorphous and powerful institution we call cinema. Distribution and exhibition networks shape the cultural life of any given film or group of films, sending cameras but also spreading their products – images – over vast expanses of geographic space and time, linking centre to periphery, then to now. In other words, technologies of distribution and exhibition constitute key elements of the ideological circuits in which moving images have long travelled, through which they have been thought about, and how they have come to look. This fact implicates films necessarily in highly rationalized and also makeshift networks, ranging from mail systems, trade borders, and global transportation grids to newspaper swap pages and clandestine exchanges among private collectors. Moreover, such transit routes have shaped not just the cultural life and ideological significance of particular films but also have left behind their own kinds of physical inscriptions, indicating the clear interrelations among cinema as object (film cans, videocassettes, and DVDs), cinema as screened aesthetic (expansive vistas, close-ups, endless outtakes, and production trivia), and cinema as system of distribution and exhibition (movie theatres, televisions, computers). To illustrate, consider pre-video, non-35-mm film gauges. For example, the standardization of the 16-mm film gauge in 1923 and its exclusive use of acetate film stock was a deliberate attempt to increase the portability and marketability of films outside of movie theatres.13 With non-flammable, small-gauge celluloid, films could be sent in lighter


Haidee Wasson

canisters. They were smaller and weighed less. Print and shipping costs diminished. Libraries, film clubs, collectors, and middle-class homes began to buy and also store films in their libraries, on bookshelves, and in their parlours. The spread of home cinemas was spurred even further with the introduction of 8 mm films and equipment in 1932. In other words, making films smaller, less expensive, and easier to ship was a key factor, albeit one of many, in increasing the viability of non-theatrical film exhibition and the transformation of cinema into a collection of material objects suited to widespread consumption outside of movie theatres. Films-as-objects literally changed shape as did the routes they travelled; the number of spaces in which films could be seen also increased. As these small films found new life in, among other places, middle-class homes, their aesthetic specificity became apparent. Qualitatively different from their theatrical counterparts, the non-theatrical and domestic moving image was smaller, and over time and repeated use, became scratched, discoloured, and faded. Because 16 mm and later 8 mm films were also viewed on a range of consumer-oriented, small-space screens, their projection enacted notably different dynamics of light and size than cinema’s dominant mode of exhibition in movie theatres. In short, the experience of cinema was expanded by the consumer imperatives of small films and screens. Thus from the 1920s onward, small screens articulated cinema to the politics and dynamics of domestic institutions as well as those of public entertainment.14 Similarly, the technology of television transformed moving images previously secured on celluloid into broadcast signals sent through the air, dematerializing and rematerializing them on small pieces of household furniture. Films made using the academy frame ratio (1.33:1) fit the television screen but were irretrievably altered by their travels, appearing grainy, wavy, and blurry compared to their theatrical runs. As television’s small screen spread throughout the 1950s, theatrical movie screens grew larger. The original dimensions of the classical Hollywood frame changed to suit the emergent widescreen formats of 1950s movie theatres (ranging from 1.66:1 to 2.55:1). As these wider films were eventually translated back to the television screen they were altered even more dramatically, reshaped as well as recoloured, reedited, submitted to pan and scan and other cropping techniques, interspersed with commercials, and seen on much smaller screens of a notably different shape in living rooms.15 To be sure, television transformed the conditions in which we watch moving pictures, irrevocably influencing film aesthetics along the way. As television occupied an increas-

Moving Images, Materiality, and the Aesthetics of Size


ingly important role for industry and audience as an exhibition outlet for films, producers and directors began to make films that were more friendly to television screens, using what are termed ‘safe zones,’ effectively employing less of the film frame’s width and concentrating action in the centre of the image. In more recent years, consumers have also developed their own cinema hierarchies which acknowledge television’s centrality in moving-image culture. Certain films become ‘renters’ while others draw us into the theatre. Some we buy so that we can watch them over and over again. From production to exhibition, film culture is currently unimaginable without television. More recent changes in technologies of image distribution such as VHS and DVD, while largely dependent on television screens for image display, have introduced their own changes. Both have made it commonsense that buying movies, rather than renting a seat in a movie theatre, can be part of a day’s shopping. They may be purchased inexpensively and carried in shopping bags with other commodities. DVDs can now be obtained at movie rental stores, supermarkets, discount department stores, fast food chains, computer stores, and gas stations. This phenomenon links movies-as-objects and movies-as-screenedcontent concretely to a wide variety of other kinds of cultural practices: travel, eating, errands, shopping. As these trends have fundamentally dispersed cinema across a wide cultural field, they have also reconsolidated a sense of cinematic propriety. VHS and especially DVD have contributed to a resurgence of sensibilities about cinematic artistry through institutionalizing and commodifying a range of concepts aimed at identifying creative agency and originality (e.g., the director’s cut, classics, restorations). These technologies have also served to facilitate the rise of letterboxing, an attempt to reinstate original screen ratios – despite extreme shrinkage from the theatrical screen – even while being translated through technologies other than the properly cinematic.16 Such changes in technology demonstrate that moving images have long been part of abstract systems of transport (airwaves, magnetic tape, digital discs) which have always supported the various contractions, expansions, and modifications of images themselves. Whether carried by trucks or fibre optic cables, the packaging (or compression), distribution, and exhibition of moving images is intimately tied to the material specificities of the networks through which they travel, their particular technological form, and the specific screens on which they appear. This fact is crucial for analysing changes to the form and function of cinema.


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QuickTime Integrating the material networks of cinema into our critical frameworks is a crucial critical step toward sharpening our scholarly methods in film and media studies. Not only does the networked screen help us to understand changes germane to the history of film; the concept also helps us to understand the rapid diversification of moving-image cultures and practices in the present. For instance, in 1991 Apple Computer introduced yet another possible mode by which moving images might be distributed to and exhibited on screens. QuickTime is one of several streaming technologies that allow individual computer screens to play moving-image files accessible on innumerable Web pages. Not initially designed for downloading files, QuickTime turns the computer screen into a private, on-demand playback system, providing a platform that links the click of a mouse to thousands of short movies that remain on their host sites. There are many genres of Web-streamed films, including experimental and artist-designed pieces, media-savvy parodies, narrative and non-narrative shorts, and commercial film trailers. These movies can be found on websites dedicated solely to making such films available17 or may be found on sub-sites of larger institutions.18 Yet, despite the range of qualitatively different organizations and films, there are several features these movies tend to share, largely because of their like modes of distribution and exhibition. These films appear grainy, jerky, flat. Colour is washed. Focus is shallow. Background detail is lost and blurred to abstraction; foreground details also frequently appear fuzzy. Fast movements are likewise indistinct. These movies are almost always rectangular (though occasionally square), mimicking cinema’s widescreen ratio. They rely heavily on sound and music, yet often forego the tight coordination required for synchronized sound, particularly in the form of dialogue. Moreover, one must also note that each of these characteristics – clarity, rhythm, and synchronization – also depends on the media reader you use, the processing speed of your computer, and the nature of your connection to the Web. Also important to emphasize is that these images appear differently, depending on the time of day they are viewed, other traffic on the Web, and your server and bandwidth. And, of course, they are really, really small, frequently no bigger than two to three inches wide, dwarfed even by the diminutive desktop, laptop, or hand-held screens on which they appear. With their own aesthetic specificities, streamed movies imply and,

Moving Images, Materiality, and the Aesthetics of Size


indeed, rely upon images that are connected as much to their original pro-filmic event as to the modes by which they are disseminated and seen. In short, little Web movies announce their aesthetic interpenetration and dependence upon their mode of transport. These movies are a clear shift away from a material set of images and sounds secured on celluloid as an object in a film can (an object with relative endurance) toward a sequence of images and sounds that are bound irretrievably to the systems and the logics of a particular kind of technological traffic. This traffic does not, as with celluloid or DVD, involve shipping images from one location to another, their original material status relatively intact. Indeed, this kind of traffic shares far more with broadcasting than with the distribution models conventionally attached to the cinema proper. Both are greatly affected by the environments in which they circulate. More than this, QuickTime provides a distinct kind of network, consisting of code, digital and analogue networks, servers, Web browsers, media players, and microprocessors that each play a role in how precisely the information that will eventually yield a moving image will look and what the price of admission will be (i.e., the cost of up-to-date computer equipment, broadband connections, and so on).19 One way to understand some of the changes digital technologies have brought to moving-image culture is to think about the ways in which streamed Web films index a distinct kind of networked cinema. Streamed Web films relay an identifiable emergent aesthetic that is dependent on overlapping and constantly interacting systems of motion and variability. Streaming cinema offers moving images that are themselves constantly changing because of the fitful networks of which they are a part and on which they wholly depend. QuickTime movies announce variation and unpredictability.20 They resolutely reject or perhaps make a mockery of realist conventions of cinematic perfection and of the idea of pristine, invariable film texts. They achieve this with a vaguely cinematic and miniature frame littered with user controls: pause, fast forward, and play buttons, time and control bars, browser icons, indicators of connection speed, and memory remainders. The small size and the jerky, grainy qualities of moving-image texts are not new to visual culture. Early photography and motion pictures underwent similar phases. Indeed, rejecting our recent frenzy for ‘the new,’ little Web movies resonate so much with early cinema and Edison’s peepshow Kinetoscope that they have been characterized as ‘quaint’ and ‘nostalgic.’21 Yet the specificities of Web movies do not


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require that they be understood as a good, bad, failed, long-gone, or a substandard form of conventional realist cinema. One might think of them as a fully realized yet ephemeral form, borrowing much more from visual technologies other than the explicitly cinematic: handheld optical toys, live teleplays, radio concerts, as well as graphic design. It is also important to note that their smallness and their intimacy are obviously not the only articulations of the technology. QuickTime is simply a program that can be used in many ways. For instance, I frequently stream films into my classrooms for students to consider. There are qualitative changes to their appearance, in part because a qualitatively different technological and institutional network makes them visible. No longer minuscule and addressed to a single, controlling spectator, QuickTime becomes part of an educational institutional apparatus but also a more public, audience-based one. The technology itself (a larger screen and data projector), for instance, is only one part of a larger educational and authoritative dynamic. In this latter example it becomes co-articulated with syllabi, textbooks, tests, instructor pedagogy, and so on.22 Against the idea that QuickTime is quaint and nostalgic, I would like to suggest that the networked screen implied by streamed movies presents us with two important points of entry into contemporary media culture: (1) they are an emergent configuration of cinematic institutions which includes websites but also browsers and servers that offer distinct rearticulations of cinema, and (2) inasmuch as we can isolate these little films from the texts, controls, and marks of their corporate environment, they also invite a particular way of looking, one that has a complex and reciprocal relationship with ways of engaging with images not generally associated with cinema. To be sure, this way of looking is considerably different from that circumscribed by dominant Hollywood aesthetics or theatrical modes of exhibition. QuickTime links moving images – commercial and not – to visual forms previously confined to the experimental, artistic, and domestic realms: small screens, unstable images and sounds, and a hyper-sensitivity to temporal networks that are distinct from cinema’s conventional 24-frames per second.23 Further, it brands these images, with an already branded computer screen, browser interface, and operating system, with its own QuickTime logo and proprietary design. You always know you are watching QuickTime. Counter-intuitively, these characteristics are most commonly combined with utterly conventional cinematic styles, thus distorting familiar aesthetic techniques and images, while also displaying their own specificity. Moreover, Web films are contained by a very

Moving Images, Materiality, and the Aesthetics of Size


small box, requiring attention to the effects not only of scale distortion but also of frame size. I will return to explore this further. IMAX In sharp contrast to the small size of QuickTime is the bold monumentalism of IMAX. Like QuickTime, IMAX is a distinct network devoted to showing moving images, similarly bearing the marks of its own technological specificity and institutions. IMAX technology comes with its own camera, celluloid, release schedules, projection system, and screens. Rather than browsers, servers, operating systems, and computer manufacturers, IMAX has long been connected with museums, scientific organizations, tourism, and, more recently, grand entertainment complexes. Like QuickTime, IMAX is an imaging system that operates at one remove from Hollywood cinema. Both are relatively recent additions to visual culture, serving as highly visible elements of emergent screenscapes. Yet, notably different from little Web movies and their quaint intimacy and variation is the pronounced precision, clarity, and size of IMAX. Whereas QuickTime engages an individualized user, IMAX declares itself to a global audience. IMAX originated in a large multi-screen experiment at Montreal’s Expo 67, called Labyrinthe (see Janine Marchessault’s chapter in this volume). IMAX Systems Corporation was founded in 1970. Its first permanent screen, Cinesphere, was constructed at Ontario Place in Toronto in 1971. As of January 2005, roughly 240 IMAX screens could be found in thirty-five countries worldwide.24 IMAX began as a special-venue format and was attached initially to museums and other educational and tourist sites throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s and early 2000s IMAX established closer links with mainstream exhibition venues such as mall-based theatres and stand-alone megaplexes. Yet, its film library remains dominated by titles that bespeak its roots in documentary and edutainment films, the most successful of which are The Dream Is Alive (Graeme Ferguson, 1985), Everest (David Breashears, 1998), and SpaceStation 3D (Toni Myers, 2002). Two of these are about space exploration. The third, Everest, documents a climbing team seeking to ascend the tallest mountain in the world. IMAX brokers in the spectacle of gigantism. It is the biggest and most successful large-screen format in the world, its pre-eminence assured by its recent diversification into current-release Hollywood actionadventure films.25


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IMAX’s corporate slogan is ‘Think Big.’ Despite the oversized camera, large film stock, and expansive subject matter, none of these would translate as fully without IMAX’s colossal screen. Most of these screens are eight storeys high (24.5 metres [80 feet]) and 30 metres (100 feet) wide.26 As such, they can accommodate an image almost ten times larger than a standard theatrical screen, 3,100 times bigger than a twenty-seven-inch television set, and 192,000 times bigger than a typical QuickTime movie. The screen itself weighs almost eight hundred pounds. IMAX is notably huge and utterly immobile, a monument to a longstanding Western preoccupation with technology, vision, and size.27 Predictably, its subjects enact these predilections. IMAX films frequently feature large subjects – mountains, sea, space – weaving thin narratives with the tropes of spectacular travel. Exotic locations are accented by slow, sweeping pans, orchestral scores, and suspended non-diegetic moments of waves crashing, the earth spinning, and mountains jutting up and away from the infinitesimal marks of civilization. At times, even its unthinkably large screen strains to house the enormity of its images. IMAX films are filled with bright colours, deep focus, vertical tilts, and travelling shots into spaces too big for the eye to fully assess in a single glance. Aerial glides and panoramic surveys punctuate its adventures. Steady point-of-view shots accentuate the confident invitation to fly, dive, ski, slide, fall, or simply observe and master space. The image is unremitting and sure. Movement through mountain crevices is slow and smooth. Images of flowers, trees, and clouds are rich and full. Background landscapes and foreground characters are rendered in sharp detail. There are frequent attempts to emulate motion inward and outward, from foreground to background, background to foreground. With IMAX you find yourself moving into and out of great heights and depths, travelling downward to the bottom of the sea or upward to the stars. Framing and editing tend to reassert the centrality of the camera/protagonist and thus re-enact one of classical cinema’s standard techniques: spatial and temporal omnipresence. With IMAX, the camera is everywhere you need it to be at exactly the right moment. But it is crucial to observe that the meticulous and confident control of IMAX imagery is in part a compensation for the destabilizing effects of that sublime invitation to be engulfed by its gigantic images. IMAX offers certainty through its aesthetic techniques and its standardized screening spaces, yet it also simultaneously threatens to take this away with the power of its determined enormity. The cinematic conventions employed in IMAX films foreground

Moving Images, Materiality, and the Aesthetics of Size


techniques that seek to accommodate yet stabilize the gigantism at its core. This yields a spectacular or exaggerated realism, one that recapitulates Bazin’s myth of total cinema – of images that become rather than represent the real – yet also promises to explode that myth through its larger-than-life subjects, its supra-natural clarity, and its daunting invitation to a technological sublime.28 IMAX engulfs its spectators, stretching the limits of human vision through its expansive screen and immersive aesthetic. Edmund Burke’s classic formulation of the sublime becomes useful here, as it describes a mode of representation characterized by the grandeur and expanse of nature. In this expanse, according to Burke, there is great beauty but also a powerful, destructive force. The sublime offers simultaneously astonishment and admiration, wonder and pain. It is both illuminating and terrifying, underscored by the contradictory appeal of the infinite. Its seductive force invites surrender to its wonders as well as to its disordered horror.29 IMAX is an encounter with Burke’s sublime: the threat and promise of the image overtaking us compels us to look and also to be fearful, less of what we will see but how we will feel when we see it. In other words, IMAX stages dramas of scale, characterized by a gigantism that entails seduction and repulsion, search and loss, aggrandizement and belittlement. It does this with a certainty – a series of declarative gestures – informed by a collection of identifiable formal techniques and institutional controls. IMAX employs extreme realism to emulate a full-body immersion in its story, rife with the anxiety integral to its enormity. It is an experience of bodily thrill facilitated by the eye. IMAX draws as much on narrative, realist conventions as it does on the logics and exaggerations of the thrill ride. Its aesthetic is one of movement, immersion, and enormity in which the spectacle of nature is paramount. Further, as Charles Acland has argued, this construction of cinema as travel is as much about the spectacle of the technology itself as it is about the thing being depicted. Just as QuickTime is always in part about QuickTime; IMAX is always in part about IMAX. The IMAX system is designed for invariability. This is one reason IMAX leases rather than sells its equipment and the use of its name, thus allowing tighter control of its network and ensuring that its big images will always satisfy corporate standards. This is true not only because of its distinct size and conventionalized aesthetic, but also because the discursive framing of IMAX films and theatres inevitably calls your attention to the IMAX brand. Introductions to the technology, displays of the projector, and corporate logos are standard elements of the experience.30 Regardless of where you have travelled,


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you know that it is always courtesy of IMAX’s network of technologies and institutions. Like QuickTime, IMAX presents us with a kind of branded cinema, one that explicitly and implicitly bears the marks of its network. To repeat: the IMAX screen does not simply occupy the theatre; it constitutes the specificity of the viewing experience. These branded screens differentiate themselves in several ways from the conventionalized branding of dominant cinema. Yet, considering the small and the big of screen culture reminds us that all screens now operate in a comparative field that is always, in part, differentiated by size. The proliferating screens that constitute our screenscape are both expanding and contracting, ranging from the diminutive size of a human iris (evident in the artwork of Pipilotti Rist) to the enormity of the NASDAQ building’s eight-storey video monitor in New York City;31 previous dynamics of scale and experience have been dislodged. Compared with two-by-three-inch Web movies, home televisions seem monumental. Considered next to the huge IMAX screens, once-spectacular theatrical film screens seem notably diminished. Importantly, the endurance of screens paired with the flows of images that fill them enact a dynamic of stasis and motion, effectively combining still and standardized screens with moving and various images. The moment of the screened image is the product of this dynamic pairing, which should be understood as heterogeneous yet specific. These screens invite us to look in particular ways. Big screens engage us differently than small ones. Further, because images are more malleable than most of the screens on which they appear, contemporary screens are frequently host to a particular kind of distortion. We become witness to the abstractions attendant upon the moment that screens of an unchanging size display the fluid images which grow or shrink to fill them. In other words, the pictures that travel across these screens participate further in a drama of distortion and size. Whether it be digital video stretched to pixelated distortion on theatrical movie screens or widescreen features reduced by small television sets, these transformations provide test cases to explore the limits of image fluidity as well as the specificities of the screened image. There is perhaps no more telling evidence of the importance of screen size than a cruel exercise of endurance I like to force upon my students. I show them an IMAX film – preferably Everest – in a large auditorium on a twenty-seven-inch television screen.32 If IMAX-as-IMAX can be thought of as a meditation on the gigantic, then IMAX-as-TV becomes a tortured forty-five minutes of trite narration, staid framing, and orien-

Moving Images, Materiality, and the Aesthetics of Size


talist thematics. On a television, IMAX films hold no promise of engulfment, enrapture, or seduction. Having shrunk by a factor of over three thousand, the slow and breathtaking surveys of Everest’s towering peaks and deep crevices become stretched, tiresome, and parodic. The characters are flat (and perhaps clinically pathological). The images are dull. The drama borders on senseless. The film’s monumentalism seems self-indulgent and unappealing. As an aesthetic and an experience, IMAX is made qualitatively different by a small screen; it needs its giant screen to fully unfurl its own logics. Shrinking its images results not only in a diminishing sense of awe but also a distorted picture that consequently clarifies its preoccupations. Susan Stewart’s research can help us to further understand the specificity of IMAX’s enormity and QuickTime’s smallness. In her book On Longing, Stewart explores the phenomenology of collectible objects and their display. With special attention to questions of size, she argues that the gigantic and the miniature involve a distinct kind of experience for any given observer. According to her, assessing the phenomenological dimensions of an observer’s encounter with objects of varying dimensions serves as a fertile site to consider the interplay of meaning, materiality, and scale; changes in size determine a particular and increasingly distorted relation between the conventions of the mark and its meaning.33 In other words, changes in size augment and subvert otherwise recognizable images and objects. Analysing the results of this distortion allows insights into the distinct function of size – large, medium, or small – for aesthetic experience. Stewart argues that in the context of display, size is always about distortion. Both the miniature and the gigantic thus present themselves as abstractions of knowable relations between things. In their smallness or their largeness, they distort or abstract our understanding of any given object and carry with them connotations that further shape their meaning. According to Stewart, size is relational but also specific; the differences between the miniature and the gigantic are numerous. The latter incites awe rather than intimacy. It produces a sensation of discomfort and danger. She writes: ‘The gigantic continually threatens to elude us, to grow too large for possession by the eye. There is something lush, profuse, unstoppable in the very idea of the gigantic.’34 For Stewart (as for Burke), the gigantic is most fully articulated by the experience of something like landscape, which brings us within an immediate and lived relation to nature as it surrounds us. The parallels to IMAX are instructive. When we watch IMAX, which frequently features images


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of expansive nature, the images take on their fullest meaning in their enormity and enveloping size. Watching such images necessarily involves viewers in a subordinate relation, in which we are reminded of our relatively minuscule status. As such, we are submitting to the disorder and disproportion presented by any given image, enlarged to eight storeys. The gigantic image invites us into its exteriority, its gesture outward to the rest of the world. It is akin to the grand gestures of statehood, monumentalism, and the awe of exploring the unknown.35 The gigantic is not about the individual; it is always beyond this. The gigantic is similarly not easily contained by a single glance; it can only be seen in parts. To explore it, one must select a portion of it, move into it, and thus be further enveloped by it. The gigantic functions as a container, offering its grand vision only to capture us in its labyrinthine tracks. Because of its overwhelming invitation to surrender, we instinctively watch IMAX with an eye to caution, wary that at any moment it may overtake us. IMAX may be about the power of the camera to survey everything, but it is simultaneously about our own lack of power to see as it sees. IMAX augments but also confronts the limits of human vision. In contrast to IMAX, streamed Web films are more akin to what Stewart identifies as the miniature. She suggests that miniature objects and collectibles invite a sense of mastery. We tower above the miniature. We envelop it, hold it in our hand, survey it all in a quick glance. As opposed to the gigantic, which promises to contain us, the miniature is easily contained. We look at little films from a distance rather than with a sense of being inside of them: ‘To be above, to look down, to take into the yearning eye more at a single glance: here we are at the very threshold of the lure of the miniature.’36 Moreover, little Web films enact the logic of the private, of the domestic, and of possession. They create a scenario in which moving images are articulated to individuals who are largely immobile, frequently squinting, and physically hunched forward. Whereas IMAX spectators can commonly be seen leaning back, in QuickTime we are invited to lean in. In their smallness, streamed Web films also convey the constraints of the highly rationalized and limited systems that yield them. The result is frequently a degree of distortion and abstraction that leaves us puzzled by the commonly indecipherable nature of what is on the screen. The tight sense of order and systematicity implied by the geometrical frame, the buttons, the time bars, and the corporate logos contradicts the blurred and unpredictable nature of the images inside. The small

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size and consequent abstraction of more familiar realist representational practices provides a further example of Stewart’s basic assertion about the relations between meaning, materiality, and size. Playing with scale invokes an image that recalls now-distorted cinematic conventions, sending us searching for clues as to what this new form means. The smallness, the thinness, the flatness of Web films exercise a kind of cat-and-mouse game with the new user-spectator. Rather than a cinema of attractions, little Web films suggest what I would like to call a notably fragmented cinema – a cinema of suggestion – that calls attention to its materiality and its status as bound to a tightly integrated network. Perhaps most important, this cinema of suggestion draws the eye of the viewer in, closer and closer, exaggerating a sense of interiority already endemic to the mode by which such images have travelled and the domestic context in which they are often seen. There are no opportunities to choose one’s relationship to the scale of the screen, by choosing a seat in a movie theatre, for instance. Conversely, if one should choose to control the image by, for instance, enlarging the window in which it appears on screen, one is faced with increasing abstraction. As the image strains to fill the screen, it is stretched and becomes meaningful less by what image appears than by the innumerable spaces between the pixels, paradigmatically transfiguring what we see. The distended code yields images incompatible with the dominant conventions of the intelligible screen. As Stewart suggests of the miniature book, the very fact of the miniature object as marker of meaning is an ‘affront to reason and its principal sense: the eye.’37 The miniature images push our understanding of cinematic convention and our habits of watching. Paradoxically, enlarging that image alerts us to the material specificities of the little movie and extends the distortion further. Engaging with streamed Web films is a kind of leap of faith into the limits of the cinematic signifier, as they seek to mimic Hollywood realism but spiral toward the abstract despite themselves. It is a small cinema that suggests ownership and depends on fantasies of the private and the domestic and yet – at least for now – makes powerful use of the unseen to establish its visual distinctiveness. I have initiated a dialogue on the similarities and dissimilarities of two distinct forms of networked cinema: IMAX and QuickTime. One is gigantic, the other miniature. One is based on crystal clarity and steady, declarative images. The other is grainy, jerky, and demur. Taken as dislocated images, their formal properties seem strikingly different. Yet,


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through the concept of the networked screen, their similarities become apparent. Both exist as apposite to Hollywood cinema. Both bear the marks of their distinct networks. Each is entangled in a dialogue of control over the image and of looking that implicitly and explicitly engages but also extends our dominant ideas about watching movies. Both present emergent examples of specific institutions of cinema. Both suggest the importance of size as one feature of our expanded viewing conditions and call attention to the resulting phenomenologies that evolve from the little and the big. I have suggested here that screens elicit dramas of scale, which play on our sense of proportion, distance, and control (or its loss) in relation to the images we see. IMAX and Web movies propose, in ways worthy of further exploration, the importance of the material conditions of distribution, and invite us to think more about the basic fact of networked films. Computer screens in particular are increasingly integral to emergent modes of cinematic practice. They announce themselves as such. They are thus a reconfiguration of cinema institutions and aesthetics: the images they currently yield are uniquely small and unclear yet omnipresent, suggesting that the metaphor of the network – as well as the size of the screen – will over time prove only to be more important for understanding both the little and the big of film culture. Widescreen formats, drive-ins, television, IMAX, and the perforated film screens required for sound projection require us to move away from our ideas about screens as blank spaces and to think of them more as part of elaborate technological apparatuses that shape the aesthetics and experience of cinema. Through dynamics of size, colour, shape, clarity, and blurred abstraction, screens are not blank frames but active forces. Moreover, screens take on fuller meaning when understood alongside the material and institutional conditions that surround and embolden them. Screens are implicated in identifiable institutional formations and also inextricably linked to multiple systems. Screens, in other words, are not autonomous sites but windows connected to complex and abstract systems: corporate, aesthetic, and political. As screens proliferate, it is equally important then to acknowledge the parallel increase in screen networks. These networks are not new, but their relevance for critically engaging our expanded viewing condition will only grow as images themselves increasingly become a form of currency in our everyday exchanges. The concept of the networked screen helps us to better acknowledge the interconnected relations among specific institutions, images, and screens. Moreover, examining particular

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networked screens allows us to avoid the vague assertion that images are everywhere and thus everywhere the same. As screens become both bigger and smaller, and images become more fluid, it is crucial not to lose sight of the persistent forms of materiality that undergird the meaning and experience of visual forms. Moving images may be increasingly fluid but their fluidity is not limitless nor can it be fully understood without recourse to the expanded viewing contexts and the enduring screens which enable their visibility. Moving images still largely come to us on screens that are themselves highly standardized and rationalized products of modern alignments between industry, science, and consumerism. These alignments continue to be refigured in countless ways across a range of local and global formations. Some of these involve a reconsolidation of familiar forces; some do not. But in order to understand these expanded viewing contexts we need analytic tools to help slice through the perpetual motion and endless flow. The networked screen is one such concept, linking screens to the larger and frequently amorphous ideas and practices that constitute them, and to the material contexts in which such screens connect viewer to image, user to screen, and spectator to spectacle.

NOTES 1 I am indebted to Will Straw’s brief but suggestive essay on these themes, ‘Proliferating Screens,’ Screen 41, no. 1 (2000): 115–19. Straw draws attention not just to the proliferation of screens but to the importance of addressing the material products of film culture that have accompanied cinema’s dispersion through digital networks and satellite systems. 2 See, for examples, Vivian Sobchack, ed., Meta-Morphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000); Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001); Constance Balides, ‘Jurassic Post-Fordism: Tall Tales of Economics in the Theme Park,’ Screen 41, no. 2 (2000): 139–60. 3 At the Society for Cinema Studies meeting in Denver 2002, Lev Manovich asserted that in the face of such changes we need to reorganize the discipline away from ‘film studies,’ ‘media studies,’ or ‘visual studies’ to what he calls ‘software studies.’ 4 Richard Maltby, ‘“Nobody Knows Everything”: Post-Classical Historiographies and Consolidated Entertainment,’ in Contemporary Hollywood Cinema, ed. Steve Neale and Murray Smith (London: Routledge, 1998), 21–44.


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5 Among those voicing such claims, David Bordwell is perhaps the best known. See David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002); and David Bordwell, On the History of Film Style (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997). 6 The New York Times recently reported that 58 per cent of Hollywood’s income in 2002 came from home video sales, more than twice as much as box-office revenue. Within home sales, DVD ranks as the most profitable and fastest-growing revenue generator. At some studios, executives in charge of home sales approve films for production because of the primary role home and soon DVD sales have in the market. David D. Kirkpatrick, ‘Action-Hungry DVD Fans Sway Hollywood,’ New York Times, 17 August 2003, 1. 7 Anne Friedberg, Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). 8 Lauren Rabinovitz, For the Love of Pleasure: Women, Movies, and Culture in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998); Vanessa Schwartz and Leo Charney, eds, Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Tom Gunning, ‘Phantom Images and Modern Manifestations: Spirit Photography, Magic Theater, Trick Films, and Photography’s Uncanny,’ in Fugitive Images, ed. Patrice Petro (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1995), 42–71. 9 For exemplary work that also synthesizes trends in film historiography, see Barbara Klinger, ‘Film History Terminable and Interminable: Recovering the Past in Reception Studies,’ Screen 38, no. 2 (Summer 1997): 107–28. 10 John Belton, Widescreen Cinema (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992); Barbara Klinger, ‘The New Media Aristocrats: Home Theater and Domestic Film Experience,’ Velvet Light Trap 42 (fall 1998): 4–19; William Paul, ‘Screening Space: Architecture, Technology, and the Motion Picture Screen,’ in The Movies: Texts, Receptions, Exposures, ed. Laurence Goldstein and Ira Konigsberg (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), 244–74. 11 Anna McCarthy, Ambient Television (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001). 12 Vivian Sobchack, ‘The Scene of the Screen: Envisioning Cinematic and Electronic “Presence,”’ in Materialities of Communication, ed. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), 87. While I take inspiration from Sobchack’s work, my scope is by no means as ambitious. Whereas Sobchack explores a phenomenology of ‘the cinema’ and other visual media (photography, video), I am committed to

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17 18 19 20


investigating the more specific and materially grounded site of specific screens rather than media per se. Non-flammable film was in use in other home film systems as early as 1912. For more on the history of film technology and the home and amateur fields, see Patricia Zimmerman, Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), especially chap. 2. Any casual glance at a Kodak catalogue from the period will demonstrate a surprising range of screens designed to accommodate such images, including screens that doubled as card tables as well as rear projection units the size of a small television. It is also clear that the 16 mm format and changing markets for film effected changes in content. Kodak edited its features and shorts to make them fit efficiently into a minimal number of film cans and to eliminate possibly offensive scenes or images. See Ben Singer, ‘Early Home Cinema and the Edison Home Projecting Kinetoscope,’ Film History 2 (1988): 37–69. For examples of debates spurred by such transformations, see Charles Acland, ‘Tampering with the Inventory: Colorization and Popular Histories,’ Wide Angle 12, no. 2 (April 1990): 12–20. For an overview of changing film formats, production techniques, and aesthetic strategies adopted by the film industry in the context of changing screen formats and the importance of television as an exhibition outlet, see Belton, Widescreen Cinema, especially chap. 10, ‘The Shape of Money.’ For a speculative consideration of the effects of theatre size and also screen size on Hollywood’s changing style, see Paul, ‘Screening Space.’ For a cogent analysis of recent changes in the discursive shaping of new technologies of cinema in the home, see Barbara Klinger, ‘The Contemporary Cinephile: Film Collecting in the Post-Video Era,’ in Hollywood Spectatorship: Changing Perceptions of Cinema Audiences, ed. Melvyn Stokes and Richard Maltby (London: British Film Institute, 2001), 132–51. See also Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006). E.g., IFILM (http://www.ifilm.com/) and ATOM Films (http://atomfilms. shockwave.com/af/home/). See also YouTube (http://youtube.com). A few prominent examples of high-traffic websites include BMW Films and the Whitney giftcard site. Manovich makes a similar point. See The Language of New Media, esp. chap. 6. As with all discussions of recent or emergent technologies, the phenomena change rapidly. At the time of writing, previously streamed Web movies are now migrating to DVD. See, for instance, George Lucas in Love (Joe Nuss-







Haidee Wasson baum, 1999), packaged along with other Web shorts, available through Amazon.com. See Vivian Sobchack, ‘Nostalgia for a Digital Object: Regrets on the Quickening of QuickTime,’ Millennium Film Journal 34 (winter 2000): 4–23. See also Lev Manovich, ‘Little Movies: Prolegomena for Digital Cinema,’ http:// www.manovich.net/little-movies. (I would suggest that these are thoughtful though extremely partial renderings of the form. As it has aged, QuickTime has ushered in as many innovative, self-consciously hi-tech, and aggressively corporate forms as it has expressed a kind of quaint and nostalgic yearning for cinema’s past.) QuickTime also functions as a computer-based media player, allowing moving images to be downloaded fully as complete files and then played at the discretion of the computer user. I will not explicitly address this particular use of QuickTime. But I would like to suggest that it would require a somewhat modified analytic terminology. As distinct from the streaming capacities of QuickTime, downloading and storing such movies affords the user increased individual control. While computer speed and video cards maintain relevance, Internet traffic does not. This diminishes but does not eliminate variations in play speed. Vivian Sobchack has articulated the rich links between QuickTime and the work of Joseph Cornell. See Sobchack, ‘Nostalgia for a Digital Object.’ There are productive links between Web films and fluxus, in particular the films produced through this movement and the subgenre of mail art. Both flux films and mail art were particularly attuned to the question of time, to loops, networks, institutions, and to the materiality of aesthetic forms. See Craig J. Saper, Networked Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001); Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet, eds, Correspondence Art: Source Book for the Network of International Postal Art Activity (San Francisco: Contemporary Arts Press, 1984); Bruce Jenkins, ‘Flux Films in Three False Starts,’ in In The Spirit of Fluxus, ed. Elizabeth Armstrong, Joan Rothfuss, and Simon Anderson (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1993), 124–37. IMAX Inc. reports that 60 per cent of these screens are in North America, and approximately 50 per cent are in ‘museums, planetariums and maritime centers.’ The other 50 per cent are in commercial theatre complexes. See http://www.imax.com/ for more corporate information. This includes films such as Polar Express (2004), Spiderman 2 (2004), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), and Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace (1999). IMAX has aggressively sought relationships with Hollywood distributors in order to expand beyond its educational and exploration titles and to insert IMAX into the commonsense of everyday film culture.

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26 There is some indication the IMAX screens will actually get bigger. A recent addition to Sydney, Australia, is 96.9 feet (29.5 metres/ten storeys) high. 27 For a persuasive analysis of IMAX that extends this line of thinking to include the relations between IMAX, knowledge, and vision, emphasizing its imperialist tropes, see Charles Acland, ‘IMAX Technology and the Tourist Gaze,’ Cultural Studies 12, no. 3 (1998): 429–45. 28 André Bazin, What Is Cinema? trans. Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967). 29 Edmund Burke, in an essay called ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful’ (1757). 30 For more on IMAX, see Charles Acland, ‘IMAX in Canadian Cinema: Geographic Transformation and Discourses of Nationhood,’ Studies in Cultures, Organizations, and Society 3 (1997): 289–305. 31 Plugged in on 29 December 1999, NASDAQ’s video screen at Times Square was heralded as ‘the largest and most expensive video screen in the world.’ At a cost of $37 million, the 8,400 LED panels were designed to endow the electronic stock exchange with a physical presence that it otherwise lacked. The sign is used to display market information and advertisements. 32 Everest is the most profitable IMAX movie. It is also in many ways prototypical, documenting not just a journey to the peak of the highest mountain, but also the journey of the biggest camera up the biggest mountain. This journey is, of course, underwritten by numerous American museums and scientific foundations. The camera was carried by local Sherpas. The imperialism of IMAX as gaze but also as a mode of production is transparent. 33 Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 38. 34 Ibid., 129. 35 Ibid., xii. 36 Ibid., 131. 37 Ibid., 40.

4 The ‘Iterative Circle’: Transformation of Web Narrative in Amika sheila petty

The power differential created by Western-dominated technology’s colonization of global cyberspace raises justified disquiet.1 Even the evolution of such global conventions as the basic ‘desktop’ interface can have a profoundly chilling effect on the rise of innovative ways of conceiving points of contact with computer technology.2 Pierre Lévy suggests that some types of cultural representations will have ‘difficulties surviving, or even coming into being, in environments lacking certain intellectual technologies, while they may prosper in other cognitive societies.’3 Thus, in some circles, the changes wrought by computer technology are considered seriously detrimental and capable of eradicating or eroding existing representations of oral traditions or other modes of expression not rooted in Western precepts. The rise of a virtual global culture seems inevitable to theorists such as Lévy, who acknowledges ‘the brutality of cultural destabilization’ but insists that such negative outcomes should not ‘prevent us from recognizing the most socially positive forms now emerging.’4 Based on the Western assumption that such ‘advances’ necessarily outweigh the ‘losses’ that might occur, Lévy’s position underscores the very real imperialist threat posed by computer-based forms. Such concerns are leading to a polarized debate in which ‘the reaction to emerging technologies is usually – and simplistically – divided along a horizontal axis of paranoid technophobia versus an enthusiastic endorsement of the “revolutionary” powers of “innovation.”’5 Such anxiety can be attributed to what Michael Heim has referred to as the collision of the ‘tectonic plates of culture,’ which occurs when a new and revolutionary technology arises and subsumes old forms within it.6 Added to this is a growing sense that computer-based narratives are

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inherently Westocentric because the technology is largely developed in the West, a concern registered by Teshome Gabriel and Fabian Wagmister when they note that the ‘Third World’ will ultimately have no choice but to ‘adapt technologies produced in decidedly different cultures’ in an effort to prevent them from ‘simply overwhelming or dominating traditional ways.’7 This concern has serious implications for questions of representation of cultures outside of Eurocentric milieus. Can a Web product, conceived in a power structure that is undeniably imperialistic, and where the very question of equal access is problematic, be truly evocative of local cultural imperatives? In fact, it is problematic to regard the colonization of the Web by Westocentric cultural standards as a purely monolithic and inevitable process. The cultural imperialism thesis is unable to facilitate the textual analysis of locally produced Web narratives except as Westocentric clones or points of resistance against the colonizing tide of Westocentric Web forms. Such binaries risk deprecating local cultural imperatives for, although resistance may figure in the creation of an indigenous work, it is seldom the sole rationale for its existence. Sean Cubitt has posed a counter-argument to the cultural imperialism thesis by suggesting that there can be no translational culture in which products arise that are not specific to the cultural ecology in which they occur: ‘a song, a website, mean one thing here and another there, one thing now and another then.’8 Thus, in Cubitt’s view, translation of Westocentric standards by local cultures disintegrates translation and ‘conservation in favour of openness,’ questioning, and ephemerality.9 From this position, it is possible to open a dialogue on form in which local preoccupations challenge colonizing imperatives by ignoring them all together in favour of pursuing Web narrative forms based on precepts different from those underscoring Westocentric standards. This is certainly the case in cultures in sub-Saharan Africa, where the process of adapting, and ultimately transforming, Westocentric technologies to local concerns is well established. Africa has a longstanding track record in terms of transforming Western communication technology to meet local concerns. For example, the rise of sub-Saharan cinema in the late 1950s and 1960s led to the development of unique cinematic and narrative conventions based on concepts of oral tradition and social space that allowed filmmakers to use this technology meaningfully ‘as a voice of and for the people.’10 In addition, although it may be argued that television is not a product of African countries’ normal development, nor does it belong to Africa’s histories, sub-Saharan Africans have nev-


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ertheless been very successful in creating specialized serial narratives that combine education and drama.11 These successes suggest that what is at play here is something beyond the origin of a technology: once the technology has entered into a new context, it is possible to effectively mould it to suit new cultural purposes and means of expression. Hence, it may be argued that sub-Saharan African artists will bring a similar approach to computer-based narrative forms despite the Westocentric foundation of the technology. Given this framework, this chapter intends to explore the Senegalese Web-based narrative, Amika (Ndary Lô, Massamba Mbaye, Moussa Tine, and Madické Seck, 1999) as an exemplar of early African interactive narrative form and consider the implications of its aesthetic and narrative presentation on Dakar Web.12 As one of the first Web narratives undertaken by Senegalese artists, Amika demonstrates how existing narrative strategies and aesthetic constructs can be adapted to new media contexts. In particular, the chapter will examine how Amika uses the specific aesthetic structures of space, time, and oral tradition as a means of expressing uniquely African cultures and identities. The lack of economic wherewithal to support information and communication technology (ICT) has created what has been described as a digital divide between Africa and other technologically advanced developed countries. As the members of the controversial New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) observe, Africa’s inadequate ICT infrastructure is made less functional by a shortage of human resources and lack of effective policy and regulatory frameworks.13 This has led to ‘inadequate access to affordable telephones, broadcasting, computers and the Internet. African teledensity remains below one line per 100 people.’14 In addition, high service and connection costs place this technology beyond the range of most potential users.15 These conditions result in Africa’s continued limited participation and access to information-based technologies and economies. This lack of access and infrastructure potentially has serious repercussions. For example, the absence of effective voice in the area of ICTs means that ‘many decisions that impact on the African continent ... are taken in distant capitals and in global institutions’ without adequate input from these nations.16 In addition, the lack of resources results in a brain drain in which Africa’s digital leadership will migrate to more developed regions.17 Finally, such obstacles lead to a justified concern with dedicating ‘scarce funds on new and unfamiliar technologies when needs for basic services such as fresh water and classrooms are not yet met.’18

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This paradoxical struggle between colliding imperatives is underscored by Moudjibath Daouda, who suggests that the development of the Internet in Africa presents conflicting terms: on the one hand is Africa the consumer, whose dependence on technology produced by the West is a continuance of colonial legacies; on the other is the real possibility for development of the continent by African regional integration and expansion of African products and services into a global market.19 African nations are coming together to create strategies that would redress these barriers. For example, NEPAD recognizes that the integration of Africa into emerging information societies is critical and views Africa’s cultural diversity as a means of leveraging entrance.20 Furthermore, early evidence already demonstrates that Africans not only make innovative use of new information and technology strategies but are also effectively competing in the global market.21 In West Africa, a women’s fishing cooperative is using Web technology to compete in world markets, and Namibian secondary school students, many of whom had no previous computer experience, participated in an archive project that preserved one of the largest insect collections in Africa.22 Thus, despite the many social and economic barriers facing African people, these examples provide evidence that, given access and opportunity, ‘Africa is able to take advantage of the ICT revolution.’23 An early illustration of this transformative progression is demonstrated by the website Dakar Web. Facilitated by the Inter Society for Electronic Art (ISEA), Dakar Web ran from 1 to 24 February 1999 in Dakar, Senegal, as a series of workshops intended to provide African artists drawn from various fields of visual arts, literature, and music, with the opportunity to create Web fictions based on a collaborative working process. Directed by Montreal artists Eva Quintas, Michel Lefebvre, and Catherine McGovern,24 the workshops took place at Metissacana, Senegal’s first cyber café, and culminated in five Web fictions including Amika, Cauris, Lait Miraculeux, Petit Pagne, and Talibés.25 However, the fact that Dakar Web is a co-production between Senegal and Canada raises issues of authorship and control. Co-productions based on what have been described as alliances between North/South partners can be potentially problematic given undeniable power differentials between so-called developed and underdeveloped nations. In addition, creative control of the final product and conflicts between culturally different approaches to production can become issues of concern.26 Yet, such cooperation can also have positive benefits. For

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example, Iba Ndiaye Diadji suggests that opportunities for networking in Africa are constructive, given the potential for cultural exchanges.27 Certainly, Diadji views initiatives such as Dakar Web as an opportunity for African artists to explore new aesthetic horizons and mutual enrichment between Western and African viewpoints by focusing on the intersection between Western technology and African cultural traditions as narrative inspiration.28 Furthermore, narrative transformation has been a commonplace process for, as Diadji argues, ‘African artists have used, as a point of departure, classical forms of expression, and created links between them, or blended them in order to create something completely new.’29 This demonstrates that Africans are extremely adept at moulding so-called Western technology into a means of expression specifically designed to suit African purposes and issues. Ultimately, this reduces the influence of Western technology to a more appropriate perspective in that technology becomes a tool of artistic expression and not an end in itself. In other words, Western technology in African hands becomes African technology. Given this context, a question of standards arises: how should African Web narratives be analysed and within what specific parameters should their efficacy be interrogated? Gabriel and Wagmister address this issue by challenging the position that digital technologies and the works that arise from them need not be solely delineated within ‘the paradigms of the industries and interests that produce and promote them,’ thus arguing against the primacy of theories based on Eurocentric precepts.30 Instead, they foreground another way of framing the digital imaginary by exposing the vital structural, aesthetic, and spiritual connections ‘between older ways of weaving reality and newer ways that tend to emphasize independence and innovation above all else.’31 Certainly, one of the clear outcomes of the Web fictions of Dakar Web is the fact that African artists are frequently open to cross-disciplinary influences, creating aesthetic hybridity between visual arts, cinema, and literature: as Diadji observes, ‘the links between various forms of artistic expressions is an important characteristic of this artistic Africanness.’32 This is reflected in the dominant role played by orality or oral tradition across artistic genres. Arising out of a post-Independence context in which African artists sought to redress Westocentric misrepresentations and recoup cultures disparaged during colonization, oral tradition has played a major role in shaping the worldsense of African identity in narrative forms ranging from literature to film to television.33

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As an early example of African digital narrative, Amika, along with the other Web fictions of Dakar Web, extends oral narrative structure to new media by continuing to contemporize these strategies. Most importantly, these works mark a transition in aesthetics in which African sensibilities of time, space, and oral tradition are reconfigured for interactive spaces. As an explanatory tale charged with the task of exposing a range of cultural ideas, Amika draws strongly on the metaphoric and poetic structure of oral tales to create an immersive environment that foregrounds Senegalese concepts of community and critique.34 On the surface, the work has a deceptively simple design, pairing digital still images of artworks with blocks of text that suggest a hypertext story. However, as the narrative progresses and the spectator is actively drawn into deciphering its meaning, Amika emerges as a complex Web fiction driven by a rhetorical structure that relies on an African sense of time and space in which absence becomes a means of engendering debate. Time, as a cultural construct, has a profound role in defining many different forms of African narrative structures. As Pamela Jennings argues, written and oral cultures have created ‘narrative structures based upon seemingly opposing metaphors: the unidirectional line and the iterative circle.’35 As an example of the latter, African art forms evoke a distinctive rhythm in which ‘linearity in a tale or a brushstroke in a painting, or form in sculpture are secondary to flashbacks and repetitions and stylized flourishes.’36 This is evident in Amika’s narrative structure in which the interweaving of mythical forces and contemporary issues combine to play a major role in the dissemination of the Web fiction. For example, the front page offers the user the choice of narrative branches in the form of three oval icons arranged in a triangle against a grey, textured background. The icon at the top of the screen features a sculptural image of Amika, a female figure created from scrap metal and ragged cloth. To the left, against an ocean backdrop, is the icon for the Lanternautes, fantastical figures comprised of lanterns on legs, and to the right, the Witnesses’ icon reveals an abstract human stick figure fashioned from thin metal bars and clad in African cloth. The text on this page invites the user into the story by offering the following ambiguous fragments: ‘Amika ... des lumières. Tel un phénix ... Et les Témoins passent/Amika ... of the lights. Like a phoenix ... and the Witnesses go by.’ The ambiguity of these words is emphasized by the repeated image of a question mark that runs vertically down the centre of the screen, thus engaging the user immediately by encouraging her or him to join in the process of assembling the narrative.

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The text is interspersed around and between the images, creating a series of shifting and interlocking blocks through the visual interplay between text and image. The user must engage each element individually, a strategy that encourages a contemplative rhythm as the user considers the ideological relationship between text and image. This concept of space and time is similar to that employed in sub-Saharan African cinema, in which the time the narrative subtends creates ‘a vision of the world registered in movement.’37 Thus, the above example demonstrates a slower, more deliberate unfolding narrative in which emphasis is placed on taking time to appreciate the relationships between image and word. As a narrative, Amika could be likened to a piece of cloth in which the three narrative strands, each with its own colour and form, are interwoven into a distinctly African pattern. The metaphor of weaving, as a means of creating ‘pedagogical links by which non-Western peoples can integrate digital technologies into their own lives’ reflects an openended connection that gives primacy to a concept of social space and community which Western notions of technology ‘in their instrumentality and emphasis on the individual, tend to repudiate.’38 The metaphor also de-emphasizes linear notions of history by raising the possibility of three-dimensionality through texture, warp, and weft in which unseen forces can have a visible effect on real-life events. Hence, if weaving is a map of colour and form, then Amika is a spatial narrative in which the journeys of the characters become a digital geography, woven from ideology and linked together by ‘narrative “modalities” of passage.’39 When the user clicks on the Amika icon on the front page, the narrative branches to a screen divided into two regions. The top half features text on the left and a rectangular digital photograph on the right. The digital image reveals Amika, a young woman who lives in a poor squatters’ area amid garbage and other castoffs from a material society. Placed against a real background of sandy earth and distant trees, the figure of Amika foregrounds the fictional structure of the narrative while connecting it to real places and time. The text that accompanies this image describes Amika as awaking early and pondering the fleeting and treacherous morning light. It goes on to portray Amika as an individual who has not, until this point, allowed things to weigh too heavily on her mind. In the lower section of the screen is another image of Amika, this time on the left and standing in the centre of railway tracks that disappear in the distance behind her. The text opposite the

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image emphasizes her infectious, happy smile, which some of the ‘gentlemen of the Plateau’ take as flirtatious. These sections underscore Amika’s innocence by foreshadowing the unending poverty that will later drive her to despair. Finally, the icons from the front page repeat in the last section of the screen, allowing the user to move through the three narrative threads in the order she or he chooses. Ambiguity and metaphor are major contributors to the shape of the narrative. As it branches out, the social environment through which Amika navigates is implied by a description of three metaphorical zones: the Plateau and its poverty-stricken inhabitants are caught between the Mountain, where the wealthy live, and the Centre, where the wealthy make their money. The extent of Amika’s exclusion from privilege is implied by the revelation that people of her status are only allowed to travel to the Mountain in order to sell the flowers that grow on the garbage heaps in the Plateau. The economic divide is heightened by a depiction of the Mountain people as scarabs who descend to the Centre to roll up large balls of money that they then stockpile on the Mountain. Yet another indication of marginalization occurs in an incident where Amika, in a desire to fit in with the fashionable young women of the Centre who wear short skirts, rips her own to just above the knee. There is no direct statement that Amika fails to achieve the desired acceptance: rather, this is indirectly alluded to by the fact that her exposed knees reveal that she does not have the opportunity to wash often, indicating a lack of access to water and hence underscoring her poverty. In each of these cases, the text offers no explicit judgment on whether or not the economic gap between Africans is just: it merely describes the situation, leaving the user to choose her or his own perspective regarding the significance of Amika’s living conditions. This strategy evidences distinct pedagogical goals as the discursive space that arises from the narrative encourages the user to debate ethical quandaries raised by a community divided into haves and have-nots. The influence of oral tradition on African narrative structures creates a profoundly unique worldsense based on ontologies in which ‘the world consists of interacting forces of cosmological scale and significance rather than of discrete secularised concrete objects.’40 This is evident in the narrative structure of Amika as supernatural forces play a major role in the development of the action. For example, despite their human-like figures, the Witnesses are not clearly human, nor are they purely mystical; rather, they occupy an interesting middle ground between the two. Dedicated to gossip and their own amusement, the

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Witnesses take joy in observing other people’s pleasure or pain without intervening, thus making them a metaphorical representation of an uncaring society. In addition, the Witnesses conduct their activities within the frame of a journey that parallels and eventually crosses that of Amika’s, although in this case it takes the form of a restless passage through the Centre as they seek out the next victim to satisfy their voyeuristic needs. Clicking on the Witnesses’ icon on Amika’s front page leads the user to a screen that features a still image of a group of Witnesses lined up against a wall. The text, arranged above and below the image in the centre of the screen, suggests that the Witnesses symbolize a timeless force, alluding to their supernatural qualities. It is significant that they are always portrayed in a group, unlike Amika, who is often depicted alone in the frame. This emphasizes their role as a societal force in contrast to Amika’s role as an individual, thus according them a position of power while reinforcing Amika’s vulnerability. Another difference between the two is evident in a later branch that describes the daily activities of the Witnesses. The page is dominated by two still images: the first is located on the top left of the screen and is a medium long shot of the Witnesses and the second is a long shot located at the centre left. Both depict the Witnesses gathered in groups beneath a tree and are accompanied by text that reveals how they while away the daylight hours by exchanging witty remarks disparaging the last spectacle they observed. Taken together, the images and the text accentuate the nonproductive leisure of the Witnesses’ existence, foregrounding the dissimilarity between their state and that of Amika, who must work for her meagre living. Hence, the association of the Witnesses with the urban space of the Centre provides the user with an additional level of discourse in which the Witnesses’ predation on weaker members of society signals a breakdown of community values in the metropolis. However, once again, there is no specific condemnation of the values held by the Witnesses; nor is there an openly negative portrayal of their actions. Rather, the narrative posits the failure of the Witnesses to intervene as a story strand that is then to be placed into context by the user with all the other strands offered by the narrative. This process encourages the user to participate in meaning-making by creating their own ideological map of the Web fiction. In contrast to the ambiguous nature of the Witnesses, the Lanternautes are portrayed clearly as supernatural forces. This is indicated in the first segment of their narrative thread that is divided into three sec-

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tions and demarked by text and digital photographs. The text at the top of the screen identifies the Lanternautes as the children of Yémanja, goddess of the sea. As bearers of light, the Lanternautes illuminate the depths of the ocean but leave their marine world for land if they hear a genuine distress call. The digital photographs of the Lanternautes emphasize a particular relationship with Yémanja. Portrayed in long shot, they are depicted in the foreground on a sandy beach with blue water in the middle ground and luminous sky in the background. The metaphorical presence of the goddess, indicated by the water and brilliant sky, grounds the Lanternautes in nature, giving them an ethereal, otherworldly visual force. The story space of the Lanternautes, strongly linked to nature imagery, evokes a sense of spirituality that is absent from the urban space of the Witnesses. Viewed in this light, the Lanternautes appear associated with the mystical force of African tradition as a means of healing urban alienation. This is underscored in a later branch revealing that the Lanternautes only leave the sea when they are responding to the distress of individuals who have lost the light in their lives. Their drive to intercede on behalf of these individuals and rekindle their light makes a powerful contrast with the Witnesses, who not only refuse to intervene but subject the individual to ridicule. The difference in their status as narrative agents is further demonstrated by the respect they command: for example, when their journey through the city takes them across busy roads, truck drivers yield to them in deference. Thus, the Lanternautes represent an affirmative connection to the rhizome of African identity and are symbolic of positive community values worth reverence. The above descriptions of the three narrative patterns that comprise Amika may appear to reflect a linear arrangement of story elements. However, as Gabriel and Wagmister argue, digital weaving involves interlacing lines that are connected on an aesthetic and conceptual level by the cross threads of interactivity.41 In other words, what has been described above in a linear fashion for the sake of clarity is experienced by the user as a series of fragments assembled through choice. Thus, the user is at the loom, drawing threads through at will by clicking on the icons at the bottom of each page and creating a narrative pattern and meaning that is unique to her or his experience. In this sense, Amika unfolds like a mystery, as the user must delve into the relationship between narrative fragments, just as she or he must determine the ideological relevance of each page. Furthermore, the structure of the narrative threads ensures that the user must explore them all in order to

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arrive at a full understanding of Amika’s experiences. For example, should a user decide to click solely on the Lanternaute icons, she or he will be unable to follow the narrative thread to its conclusion: the final icon will lead back to the front page, encouraging the user to explore the other narrative threads in order to place the story in its proper context in terms of the whole. The effect of this strategy is to reinforce an African sense of time and space as the narrative requires persistence and reflection on the part of the user in order to derive its full meaning. The process of non-linear assemblage undertaken by the user underscores the importance of narrative ambiguity in Amika. The role of metaphor, allusion, and absence in the Web fiction results in a certain obscurity in events and character motivation that demands interpretation by the user. The use of obscurity and ambiguity is a narrative hallmark in many sub-Saharan oral genres and is intended to engage composers and listeners in ‘a game of signification, in which meanings are generated, secreted, and withheld or retrieved according to definite and specialized conventions, and where access to these meanings may be highly restricted, filtered or layered.’42 Thus, the presence of ambiguity in Amika reflects a narrative strategy specifically targeted to enhancing the user’s role in creating meaning. The character of Amika exemplifies this process as key questions of motive are left unresolved in the story. For instance, the reason for Amika’s journey to the city is never explained, leaving it open to wide speculation. Furthermore, as Amika approaches the city, she becomes overwhelmed by a sense of spiritual malaise, the source of which remains a mystery. From the point of view of the user, a variety of interpretations are possible: it could be grounded in her poverty, or in a growing realization that she is marginalized in her society, or in a growing desperation that she will never escape the interminable road that connects the Plateau with the Centre. Therefore, the ambiguity of her psychological distress emphasizes the recombinant possibilities of the story’s competing ideological thrusts. At the height of her anguish, Amika encounters the Witnesses. Here, the screen is divided into three sections at staggered intervals down the page. The Witnesses appear at the top of the screen in a digital image on the left and are accompanied by text in orange on the right, indicating that they are searching for a spectacle to enjoy. Amika is depicted on screen right in a digital image in which she is isolated in darkness. The text, now in red, describes her as she collapses to her knees, violently wracked with sobs. The final image on the screen reveals her prostrate

Transformation of Web Narrative in Amika


body on the ground, as the text describes her screaming, hurling body as a sight no one pays attention to. Although there is no direct reference to the Witnesses encountering Amika and participating in her humiliation as onlookers, the proximity of their image to those illustrating her distress implies that this is the case. The fact that Amika does not acknowledge their presence heightens the sense of voyeurism by leaving it open to interrogation. Thus, the absence of an explicit statement of relationship between the sections compels the user to forge the interconnections her/himself. Although the effect is somewhat delimited by the user’s non-linear assemblage of the narrative, it is worthwhile noting that Amika possesses narrative resolution in which the intervention of the Lanternautes is key to restoring positive African social values. In the final branch of the narrative, screen space is broken into three sections. In the top third, a digital photograph on the right depicts the Lanternautes gathering around Amika’s prostrate form. The text, located left of the image, indicates that they have heard Amika’s piteous cries and have come with the light she needs. Below the text is another photograph, this time of a single Lanternaute striding across the rocky ground. To the right, the text states they will build a bonfire if they find the person they are searching for, as a means of restoring happiness to their lives. The last section is dominated by two phrases. The first asserts that the Lanternautes return Amika’s smile and the last, cast in a larger font, declares that it is a genuine smile, indicating that Amika has been spiritually restored. It is significant that the narrative climaxes ambiguously in the text. This achieves two goals: first, the strategy foregrounds the word as the most important aesthetic in the work, connecting the Web fiction to the continuing evolution of African oral history. Second, it serves to give primacy to the supernatural forces that rescue Amika, therefore creating an open ending as the light given her has many possible explanations. For example, it could indicate an affirmation of African spirituality as a reservoir of strength or represent the selfknowledge attained through a difficult journey. Hence, the absence of a definitive resolution creates a kind of narrative persistence that fosters discussion beyond the conclusion of the story as the user seeks to interpret the true meaning of the ending. Ultimately, by engaging the user’s imagination, Amika generates both debate and interactivity. Although the question of access to technology remains contentious in Africa, the success of Amika as an early African Web narrative lies in its ability to recast existing African narrative and aesthetic strategies to

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bring African imperatives to a global platform. As Ousmane Sembène remarks, ‘Whatever its form, subject or content, artistic expression stems from a lived and shared social reality ... If you know how to see, you can easily locate those African signs and symbols where the ethnic roots offer as much to the continent as to the outside world.’43 This new technology complements existing means of artistic expression for, as artist Moussa Tine observes, ‘we will never abandon our paintbrushes because they are irreplaceable: however, they allow us to push the limits of chromatic research.’44 Thus, by leveraging digital technology and adapting it to African aims through an African approach, it is evident that the intersection of African oral and artistic traditions with outside influences is leading to the development of a unique African newmedia aesthetic as a continuation of long-standing artistic traditions.

NOTES A version of this chapter was originally presented at the Media in Transition 2 Conference at MIT, 10–12 May 2002. I am indebted to Michel Lefebvre for providing access to the Dakar Web projects. My thanks also go to Santichart Kusakulsomsak and D.L. McGregor. 1 I borrow the phrase ‘iterative circle’ in my title from Pamela Jennings. See her ‘Narrative Structures for New Media: Towards a New Definition,’ Leonardo 29, no. 5 (1996): 345–50. 2 Steven Johnson, Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate (New York: Harper Collins, 1997), 229. 3 Pierre Lévy, Becoming Virtual Reality in the Digital Age, trans. Robert Bononno (New York: Plenum Trade, 1998), 126. 4 Ibid., 140. 5 Eric J. Cassidy, ‘Preface: Virtual Futures,’ in Virtual Futures: Cyberotics, Technology, and Post-Human Pragmatism, ed. Joan Broadhurst Dixon and Eric J. Cassidy (London: Routledge, 1998), ix. 6 Michael Heim, ‘The Cyberspace Dialectic,’ in The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media, ed. Peter Lunenfeld (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 44. 7 Teshome H. Gabriel and Fabian Wagmister, ‘Notes on Weavin’ Digital: T(h)inkers at the Loom,’ Suitcase: A Journal of Transcultural Traffic 2, no. 1–2 (1997): 105. 8 Sean Cubitt, Digital Aesthetics (London: Sage, 1998), 147.

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9 Ibid. 10 Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike, Black African Cinema (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 2. 11 Yaya Karim Drabo, ‘Le Paradoxe Africain de la Télévision: l’Alternative par la Contrainte,’ in Petits Ecrans et Démocratie: Vidéo Légère et Télévision Alternative au Service du Développement, ed. Nancy Thède and Alain Ambrosi (Paris: Syros-Alternatives, Vidéo Tiers Monde and Vidéazimut, 1992), 108. 12 See http://www.isea.qc.ca/africa/dakar/index.html. 13 NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), http://www. africanrecovery.org/Documents/AA0010101.pdf (October 2001), 23. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. 16 UNESCO, ‘Information and Communication Technology Policies and Strategies,’ http://www.uneca.org/codi/docs/doc22EN.pdf (7 August 2001), 11. 17 Ibid., 14. 18 UNESCO, ‘A Strategy to Accelerate African Development through the Increased Use of Information and Communication Technologies,’ http:// www.uneca.org/codi/docs/doc25EN.pdf (7 August 2001), 3. 19 Moudjibath Daouda, ‘Les Enjeux d’Internet en Afrique,’ Africultures, December 1999, 6. 20 NEPAD, 23. 21 UNESCO, ‘A Strategy,’ 2. 22 Ibid. 23 Ibid. 24 Eva Quintas is a photographer and initiated the workshops for ISEA. Michel Lefebvre is a writer and multimedia producer. Catherine McGovern is a Web art producer. 25 Workshop participants: Amika (Ndary Lô, Massamba Mbaye, Moussa Tine, Madické Seck); Cauris (Serigne Mbaye Camara, Viye Diba, Frères Guissé); Lait Miraculeux (Mamadou Fall Dabo, Séa Diallo, Alpha Sow); Petit Pagne (Rackie Diankha, Pape Teigne Diouf, Assane Gning, Vieux Mac Faye); Talibés (Anta Germaine Gaye, Fatou Sow Ndiaye, Djibril Sy). 26 The question of ‘authentic’ African authorship in European/African co-productions is the subject of much debate in African indigenous media production. For further discussion see Clément Tapsoba, ‘The Influence of Aid on the Creativeness of Filmmakers,’ Ecrans d’Afrique 13–14 (3rd–4th quarter 1995): 86–93, and Teresa Hoefert de Turegano, ‘FESPACO 1999: The Cultural Politics of Production and Francophone West African Cinema,’ Black Renaissance / Renaissance noire 3 (fall 2000): 145–67.

110 Sheila Petty 27 Iba Ndiaye Diadji, ‘L’Africanité Artistique Face aux Défis des Nouvelles Technologies,’ Colloque: Art Africain et Nouvelles Technologies (23 April 1999, Montreal), Vues d’Afrique: 11, http://www.isea.qc.ca/africa/colloque/ bio_fr/iba_conf.html (site now discontinued). 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid., 5: ‘C’est comme si, tout en partant des formes d’expression classiques, les artistes africains étaient en train de sceller des mariages entres elles, pour que demain naissent peut-être d’autres formes jusque là inconnues.’ 30 Gabriel and Wagmister, ‘Notes on Weavin’ Digital,’ 105. 31 Ibid. 32 Diadji, ‘L’Africanité Artistique,’ 5: ‘La parenté entre les différentes formes d’expression artistique est à retenir aussi comme une des caractéristiques de cette africanité artistique.’ 33 Isidore Okpewho, African Oral Literature: Backgrounds, Culture, and Continuity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 293. 34 Ibid., 203. 35 Jennings, ‘Narrative Structures for New Media,’ 346. 36 Diadji, ‘L’Africanité Artistique,’ 4: ‘Ici la linéarité dans le récit ou le trait en peinture ou la forme en sculpture laissent leurs places à des retours en arrière, à des répétitions et à des courbes fortement stylisées.’ 37 Olivier Barlet, African Cinemas: Decolonizing the Gaze, trans. Chris Turner (London: Zed Books, 2000), 173. 38 Gabriel and Wagmister, ‘Notes on Weavin’ Digital,’ 108–9. 39 Carol Muller, ‘Chakide – The Teller of Secrets: Space, Song, and Story in Zulu Maskanda Performance,’ in Oral Literature and Performance in Southern Africa, ed. Duncan Brown (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1999), 230. 40 Keyan Tomaselli, Arnold Shepperson, and Maureen Eke, ‘Towards a Theory of Orality in African Cinema,’ in African Cinema: Post-Colonial and Feminist Readings, ed. Kenneth W. Harrow (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1999), 45. 41 Gabriel and Wagmister, ‘Notes on Weavin’ Digital,’ 106. 42 Karin Barber, ‘Obscurity and Exegesis in African Oral Praise Poetry,’ in Oral Literature and Performance, ed. Brown, 30. 43 Ousmane Sembène, ‘Information Technology, Power, Cinema, and Television in Africa,’ in Symbolic Narratives/African Cinema: Audiences, Theory, and the Moving Image, ed. June Givanni (London: British Film Institute, 2000), 185. 44 Moussa Tine, ‘Dakarweb,’ Africultures, December 1999, 47: ‘On abandonnera jamais nos pinceaux car ils demeurent irremplaçables, mais elles permettent de pousser encore plus loin la recherche chromatique.’

5 Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue a b i g a i l c hi l d

8-14 In rural Vermont, boundary rocks are hidden in the forest, are everywhere, no place remains unknown, untouched, no matter how distant. I receive my first e-mail from Africa. The materiality of the image means very little on digital. You are viewing a recomposed material. You are working against density. Content becomes king, externalized, broad lines of action – that’s all you can see. Different areas of interest come into play – including accessibility, large swaths of data, an array of possible structures, repetition, and reproduction. 8-15 Perhaps in digital, it’s not what you see so much as how it’s permutated? how it’s reconstituted? A friend argues digital is more material, since you can potentially address every pixel individually. Thus structure, not content, becomes critical: how the data is accessed is the determining feature. In this way, Digital = a conceptual device, a recontextualization through variable indexing, a mapping to create meaning, space named in order to reconstitute time. In video and digital projection, admittedly, subtlety is lost; blacks are

Regular Type = Comparisons between digi, analogue, film: the ‘backstory’ (from entries in fall 2000). Bold = Playlist project meeting notes (from entries in spring 2003). Italic = Inner thoughts, responses, questions, unspoken (from entries in summer 2003).

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hard to judge, there’s slippage. Your eye grows accustomed to the deteriorated quality of the image – it adjusts – and with it a whole set of values – shadows, colour, detail – are undermined. The aesthetics and social implications of Robert Venturi’s theories of a mobile spectatorship for architecture are instructive here: for the Baseball Hall of Fame he designs a ‘billboard building’ wherein ‘stats’ from baseball history are manipulated onto a giant billboard as seen from the highway, behind which a one-storey, temporary-looking structure houses the museum – that is, we live in a world of frontage, illusion, mobility, and surface.1 8-18 But, argues a friend, you need to consider that as processing speeds increase and storage gets ever smaller and cheaper, there is no reason that home video couldn’t have, say, 100 times more pixels than 70 mm has grains, and thus would eventually have far greater resolution than film. And surely some future liquid crystal display (or whatever) could produce black-black blacks. So the promise of superseding film is still on the table, though a part of me says this has been on the table for fifteen years. It’s not there yet. Today, cosmologists are saying that Surface is the limit of knowledge. With depth gone, the philosophical basis is changed. Duration becomes less important than contact. History: In 1970, I edit my first film on an ‘upright moviola’ with a postcard-size screen. The machine resembles an old sewing machine turned upside down, a bug on its back with its legs flailing, many wheels, and a foot pedal. You turned it on and it would spin in a furor and split your film lengthwise down the middle (as likely as not). The ‘flatbeds,’ their reels lying flat on the machine, were a more stable option, particularly the German-made Steenbeck developed during the war. By the 1970s, they were common in the States, with a nifty switching system where the gears and sprockets could be changed between 16 and 35 mm. The United States turned out its own editing table, the Moviola, but it was never as reliable as the more sturdy and mechanically designed Steenbeck, which, like Kleenex, was a brand name that became the name for the thing.

Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue


Topology Intellectual property

In kind How to keep it tidy

Three kinds of new media: algorithmic, autonomous, and interactive

Forms view Search thread Generic raw clips Operation plug-ins How to make the interaction more than just choosing between limited givens? Film looks the best at this point in time, is the most material in an era that grows steadily more virtual. Editing in film might be cheaper than video if you take into account buying all the digi equipment. Yet, once you have the equipment, digital is mighty fun and convenient – a kind of optical printer or copying machine, plus recording instrument, plus titling production all-in-one. It’s cheaper and quicker than film for shooting, and more accessible. With digital editing, this doubling of the editing tool – as printer and composer – means repetition is a governing principle, becomes a structural trope in much video art. If you choose an ‘in’ and ‘out’ point to make a loop, you can play it immediately. This laser-like slip to the beginning – the cyclical repetition – satisfies some primeval loop-need in us all. Whether early Dara Birnbaum cut-ups of TV shows (analog) or contemporary performance constructions of the collaborative Ng, repetition is an elemental aspect.2 Media artists create an ‘interface’ that permits a dialogue so the public can access several views through multiple filters to create unique paths through the material. 8-20 Sometimes for me all the processing reads as meaningless abstraction. How to make processing meaningful? How to avoid sameness? Or perhaps what I’m asking is what is the meaning of abstraction? When

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does abstraction, which applies as well to tech talk, to language itself, to the language of power especially, to a rhetoric of specialties, to distance as a way to connect, become a cover or excuse or lack of courage to investigate the real? Or/and is there any ‘real’ to begin with? Is this question moot? In light of the present? Another friend underlines that the same gesture means something different in different contexts, different eras. So that, for instance, the sound and art of the early ’70s, which are often echoed in minimalist works of today, stem from different aims: in the ’70s the quest was epistemological, whereas now it has more to do with contemporary life space, post disco, post ‘airport music.’ In any case, is our flesh a kind of limit? Can I void these questions? They keep bobbing through the weave of this article – limits, flesh, contact, body, surface, depth, meaning, abstraction, political manipulation, economic manipulation. Am I being nostalgic for the material body? Can I say nothing’s gained aesthetically through digi except speed? Does it matter if an aesthetic response is diminished in a medium if this is the contemporary state? The quality of the ‘sacred’ has declined in Western culture. Have other aspects offset this loss? What are they? Whenever we talk about pathways on this project, I think of Piaget’s structures of cognition and his essay on structuralism, where he speaks of ‘wholeness as a defining mark of structures’ with its high hopes for organizing systems or information: our trees of video involving many branches, in connecting and indexical structures.3 Piaget points to Godel’s discovery ‘that the formalist program cannot be executed. In the first place, he showed that no consistent formal system sufficiently ‘rich’ to contain elementary arithmetic’ can demonstrate its own consistency. Piaget concludes: ... rather than envisaging human knowledge as a pyramid or building of some sort, we should think of it as a spiral the radium of whose turns increases as the spiral rises. This means, in effect, that the idea of structure as a system of transformations becomes continuous with that of construction as continual formation.4

Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue


8-21 As an artist involved in making, this seems irresistible. Structural, too, is the live feed component of simultaneous broadcast, whether that be coverage of war or a trip to the moon. Still other structures of video/digital are transmission problems that haunt the reporter appearing on your television screen, reminding you of the frame of the presentation, of the fragility of life on tape, elements peeling off, or interfered with in air, intercepted, at war. We witness through degradation the short life span of various media modes, all with a shorter life span than classical art forms, such as the book, painting, drawing – now CDs you make yourself have a two-year life, VHS ten years, digital twenty years, on the outside.5 8-22 He describes himself as ‘on the outside looking out.’ 8-23 Has the human achievement been to constantly overcome the limits of the body, in order to last? Has art practice focused on the making body, the groundedness of body, the handmade or the translation of the energies of the body, the paradoxes of the body in vital contrast to the objects that survive? Has not reproduction long worn away the grain of the sacred? Benjamin’s ‘aura’ left dangling in ether? Sacred becomes cartoon power as transmitted into digi-cyber culture: machines attached to body, in sexual-social fantasy, as populist intervention. How can we resist the fetishistic speed, convenience, and omnipresence of digi/video? It’s cheap (at least to shoot), it’s bubbly (all those plastic colours), it’s everywhere, potential live feed. Chicago ’68, Tiananmen Square ’91, Seattle ’99, New York 9/11. Digital utopianism confronts crass commodity/distribution, not as an inversion but as opposite sides of the same sphere, co-existing in contradiction. Music decides the path. 8-31 The miniaturization of information in digital allows for omnivorous inclusion; the 01s code files, résumés, music, stills, moving images, books. The laptop becomes a library in a box, an encyclopedia at hand, word processing a kind of printing – similar to letterpress (surprisingly) in the sense that there are a set of parts to be combined, printed/saved, and then recombined for the next page. This sense of structural elements that can

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recombine; this sense of time to research or time to compose, then print forever (lightly), and bring back to zero. A powerful sense of invention, combination, and multitudes is indicated. Regarding the fetish aspect of miniaturization, we think of Star Trek and the characters’ inevitable diagnostic palm computer/transporter. More on Earth: at the Langlois Foundation building in Montreal, a black one-inch round metal piece is the key that magically opens doors when you hold out your hand. More remotes. More locked remotes. Reminding me of the way New York is often behind technologies of Europe and Canada; it’s actually comfortably old-fashioned if foolishly parochial. People move to cities to be bodied together. A concentration of flesh in which technology is not deployed as contact so much as consultation. There will be nothing random in the branches of images we produce. Rather the public will perform a meta–data search among authored clips, using language to activate the parts of the weave to create an architecture or new patterning through the system. 9-3 The only site on the Web I know that exists without text, without language, is Matt Mullican’s http://www.centreimage.ch/mullican/WorldFramed.html. It shocks because it has no information. An ideal of distribution without purpose. On another hand, the Internet O Internet provides a forum for politics. The march in New York City in 2003 is testament to Web organizing and to Howard Dean’s banished presidential campaign. The ability to pinpoint interests makes the Web an intrusive commodity machine but also a profound tool for getting you out on the streets, voting, spreading information. Degradation as Genre. Analog video editing is linear, which means it does not ‘open’ when you insert a shot, as does digi and film long before. One could argue digi was developed to solve the non-linearity issues of analog video. In analog editing, when you wish to insert a shot, you need to copy the sequence that follows, to make the insert and re-edit the previously cut piece back in. Eventually, the image quality degrades. It is a copy of a copy, a generation or more down, and before digital, that means the colours degrade, the edges of objects bleed until eventually the video image is five or six generations down, utterly frus-

Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue


trated, the image melted, pixels leached, pouring off the surface, its reds and greens sliding like a high-contrast duplicated film print at old drive-in movies where the pizza ads look bloody and hysterical. I always liked that ‘look’ myself, but it is fabulously unstable – an artifact as out of date and appealing as drive-ins themselves. 9-5 Why is everything processed? Why wish it weren’t? Film is the digi model clearly: ideas of ‘bins,’ cuts, dissolves, frames, non-linear timelines – all reference mainstream cinema practice – while these, plus ideas of discontinuity, gaps, jump-cuts, systems, interruptions, weave, and repetition explicitly reference experimental film practice.6 9-6 Why do multi-screens seem so palpable, so delicious, right now? They jump the film model entirely – there is no uni-focus and more clearly multiple screens recreate the way information comes in at us, impossible to take in at one time. We come up with Corn syrup Saccharine Zylotol Aspartame Glucose Sucrose Honey

Let me finish my recap. You could make tweaks. You could edit the numbers. We represent precedence (hierarchy). Who is that ‘we’?

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We represent volume. We represent breakpoint. Haunted by thoughts of degradation when we read that the cloned sheep Dolly is/was aging more rapidly, we realize digi life may have a short future as well. What we thought were exact reproductions, material copies imagined out of factory models, permanent dupes, are nothing so much as Xeroxes: fading copies. Time, or is it space, demands unique particularities, however transitory. It’s a different kind of time certainly, more spontaneous, more exploratory (potentially): all these versions available and re-available, redo and looping functions, immediate feedback, ability to insert words and phrases, dates and intertitles at the moment of ideation. A very immediate performative time at the edit bench. Waiting to render. 9-10 I buy hand weights to have beside my editing table to work out my upper body while I’m waiting for rendering or the machine to come on. THE MACHINES ARE TRAINING THE BODY. Go around non-stop Change to plastic money Jacket and sneakers mark globalism Creating a universal system of clips with directory and database of views We get stuck with engineering A scatter bulletin view 9-12 Am I wedded to depth? How a timeline keeps going? Handcrank that globalism. Early on in the editing of 16 mm, I’ll go through all my material a second time and more for selects. I’ve often thought the best shots show up now – not the obvious ‘good’ take, but the strange, witty, oddball material. When the piece is close to being done, I am usually looking for some remembered shot or seeking some ‘bridge’ and might go through

Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue


all my material again. I’ve adapted this process to digi. It works best when you digitize every shot of your original; otherwise, the later process is complicated by the need to digitize all parts you missed. Either way, it’s a time-consuming process. Some makers have their digi masters transferred to VHS to protect the fragile original while they log and familiarize themselves with the material. This is a reconstructed ‘workprint’ model, underscoring the idea of original and copy, alien to the concept of digital, yes, but a practice that acknowledges digi-tape’s real-life fragility. 9-13 Drop outs Crackling Rumble Flipping Sounds like turning motors Ripple delete Cocks and guns In the can The other screen has genitals Set it Forget Our Method of investigation involves a deliberate poetics. We aim to create an interface. 9-14 How many paragraphs could be written on that word interface? The language of the new technology is suggestive of and strangely references analogue processes and meta-definitions – this insistent reference to the arguably outdated body. Connect any cold to hot lead Wrap what happens at edge to go further Don’t do anything until we harness the cold lead Reds are potentials From 1973 to1975, WNBC editors are still working with hand-cranked rewinds and a jerrybuilt system that rigged the sound rolls under the viewer, to be read off a magnetic head on the synchronizer. With these

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improvised and funky mechanics, these news editors could cut synchronous pictures amazingly fast. And they were using a technology already fifty years old [rumour has it that at CNN, editors are working analog since they haven’t retooled!]. On a motorized editing table, invented in the 1950s, you feel physically exhausted after a solid eight- to twelve-hour day. Usually it’s been a dance of getting up to the bin, reaching over, searching or picking out shots, stopping and returning the film to fast rewind and relooking. [Does this sound nostalgic at this point in time?] As far as getting a notebook or a cup of coffee, these activities recur in the eight- to twelve-hour day on the Avid/FCP, but the muscle/bone dance has been in a smaller circle – the bin is a click away, after all – making decisions faster, less bodily structured. And it’s much harder on your eyes. In 1989, I edit 3/4” analog video and have a different kind of headache that night than I had ever had before. My body aches. My brain circuits do adjust. I don’t have headaches every time I edit now, but I do feel a video effect on the brain and eyes, under the gaze of the computer. That was nothing. Unlike other views, geometry counts. We have Scatter view, Space view, and Time view. Data index is Bin view. We are going to have chains of processing channels composing ladders of operations across everything. This is spatial?

I’ve only just invented this and we may not make it. A chain of vast plug-ins 9-16 We’re making Vertov’s dream plebian All access depends on how we navigate, i.e., how we name history. Plant sign posts Reuse a phrase Trans-global ELITE Neo PETS Hacker conventions and a doc plot Letters talking across borders Time and money BETAVILLE – the Premise: imagining technology more accurate than human sight

Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue


9-17 But isn’t that replaying Dziga Vertov’s outdated optimism? His 1928 formalist film masterpiece Man with a Movie Camera combines humane city symphony with exhilarating referential film form. By the 1930s this energy is not so much exhausted as controlled, stymied by Stalin. You see the beginnings of this decline in Vertov’s sound film Enthusiasm (1931) with its billowing factory smoke and darkening drums. Today we exist in a more pessimistic, slicker state. We experience the corporate machine as surveillance of the local. A reversal of the pyramid of power and information is what is needed, but will we be able to sludge through it? How to negotiate the fear of the human body disappearing into the Net? We have incorporated – taken into the body, into our day – the ephemeral, distance, pause button and absence. We use it to ‘get closer.’ Perhaps Peter Kubelka’s Pause (1976) marks a significant moment. This 16 mm film by the great Austrian film experimentalist is a monument to the inability to speak face to face. Emotion refigured in non-language. Duration filled with expressive body movements suggestive of intent but unreadable. Kubelka has before and after Pause been involved in an ongoing unfinished film project: Monument for the Old World (Denkmal fur die alte Welt). It is tempting to think of Pause in relation to Beckett, tape overwhelming Kubelka’s avowed classicism. Then comes the question of ownership? We discuss Leningrad vs. Legend examining different ways to collaborate. ‘Man. I was blown away. It was a girl doing electronics.’ Some things never change. Maybe we should begin each statement with ‘Bastard.’ How to move into another environment? A file handler can solve these problems? In a real-world scenario rounding them up. There’s a latency issue here. A head room issue. Containers are where the mutability occurs.

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Error as Genre: The mistakes one makes on the flatbed with celluloid in hand are different from those encountered on a computer. Cutting film directed me to these structural errors and fortuitous possibilities – grabbing the ‘tail’ [end] of a shot when one wants the ‘head’ [start], seeing the upside result. My film DARK DARK (2001) is constructed around just such ideas, described as ‘a montage of footage from four pre-existing films, composed and ordered by what seems an incredibly complex design. Narrative chronologies are alternately ‘straight’ or inverted, within each of which the individual shots proceed alternately forward or in reverse – the film simultaneously goes backwards forwards and forwards backwards. The result is experienced as multiple waves of counter-intuitive time that collide with each other like ripples in a bathtub. The disorientation of duration is complicated by the film’s physical disorientation: it’s frequently ‘rotated about the horizontal or vertical axes.’7 The point – that this is a kind of mistake you won’t encounter on digital. Though you can ‘reconstruct’ them. In the digi realm, there are other errors: for example, on the time line, things get moved, covering up one track or another, creating rhythms and unexpected counterpoint. In this case, the image is printing over material, a process that is intrinsic to analogue video as well, but not to film editing. There are also artifacts, fallacies of cloning and looking for a source that mistakenly lies under same names. Labels become essential in digital even as an indexing error can cause fruitful digressions. We already have a ton of names. Implicitly created directories as opposed to explicit and unconsciously created directories All the past available all the time That would be a key word thing. Searches are alive You want a dead search? Why? 9-18 Using physics, the hard-drive spins A set of instructions for my notes Many alphabets for instructions Many letters for action Shift drag backwards. I want to upset the file holders

Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue


What about the unadvanced? We’ve finished the recap I’m serious, I don’t want to go there. It’s in my dossier. The process is a conversation There will be nomenclature

Wiki it out. 9-19 O wick wick wacky. The future is behind us. Protocol of long distance collaboration: off the hook, out of control, the phone is ringing. Rapid fire Thumbnails Bites • Points • Modifications Edit the view mode Property can change Meta-data you can’t Change newer than one hour will be red Hybridity lives! Colleagues shoot a feature in half-inch because they like that ‘slippery’ look, edit on digital and transfer back to film for projection. Students shoot off the screen and combine that with digital and process through Premiere, happy with their dub. It seems film will struggle on until Hollywood decides to shift to hi-resolution DV, and then there’ll be more years of activity among persistent artists celebrating the fragility and light-projected hallucinations of film and mixed mediums. By then there will be mini hi-def DV, cheap(er) and sophisticated systems with user-friendly interface and add-ons. There will be wall TV, multiple-screen movies, and mini single-channels everywhere, as are now on Viennese subways and in New York cabs. Fulfilling Venturi’s prophecy of the mobile spectator by mobilizing the billboard as well. There is no escape from the barrage of commodity ads, inducements, and time entrapments. As what we describe as ‘memory’ grows ‘cheaper,’ the ambivalent Luddite in us all wonders how and if our real memories are being diluted, sabotaged by stereotypical sentimentali-

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ties, exhausted by no ‘off’ time for creative meditation, by distance as relation, multiplied into ether, random, convinced, unconvinced. Speed is a censor Naming gives the action Speed is a SENSOR Reversing input Flip is a form Connecting by clicking and dragging name to key words Generates Flag morph to Flower to Pirate Picaresque One-eyed Cyclops to war victim Texts or rants that horrify

Make interventions be the image 9-21 We double star that line ** 9-22 ‘One of the first applications (of interactive television) will obviously be pay-per-view movies.’ So reads the latest bulk mailing I receive from a nationally based cable company. The cynicism and opportunism of commodity capital is obvious. Rather, we are seeking to make interaction more than a choice among limited givens. When the cell is saturated it is simply sub-divided. Function follows tool, migrates – immigrates, emigrates, and, finally, assimilates. Digital is a drift from the body whatever its connections to film editing. It changes the type of edit, it refines the edit from the butt cut of celluloid, it destroys the pretty picture and the detail of the long shot. It combines and recombines, it layers and it reproduces. Its radiant room energies and physicality in-the-making are different. So, a web of anecdote and transitory experience, waiting for new conditions. 9-25 A disposable technology. Your speed reinvents and recombines. Artificial and fictive: a kind of crumbly, non-lasting mock-heroic, nifty historical device. My mobile went out to hear. Your SPEECH which is the physical

Handcrank That Globalism: A Digi-Dialogue


manifestation of b r e a k – u p. Mars shadow ate up the lander. There were no signals coming back.

NOTES With thanks to Playlist originators Willie La Maitre and Eric Rosenzveig, as well as Henry Hills and Melissa Ragona, all of whom read and advised. Any remaining errors are mine. 1 Robert Venturi, Museum of Modern Art Papers on Architecture (New York: MOMA, 1968). 2 Dara Birnbaum, architect-turned-videomaker, whose early works from 1979, Wonder Woman and Kojak/Wang, used looping and interruption from contemporary TV shows and advertisements to humorously investigate and critique mainstream gender stereotypes. 3 Jean Piaget, Structuralism, trans. and ed. Chaninah Maschler (New York: Harper Colophon, 1970). 4 Ibid., 34. 5 The information about the life of CDs comes from a column on computers in the Village Voice, ‘Mr. Roboto,’ 18 September 2003. 6 See Lev Manovich’s Theory of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000) for a more lengthy analysis of how avant-garde film practices predicate ideas embedded in the digital explosion, how a library of film facts parallels the idea of data bank, and how film’s ability to transpose, invert, insert, and move non-linearly in the editing process etches out decades earlier these same processes in the digital revolution that takes place at the end of the twentieth century. 7 From an interview conducted in September 2003 via e-mail with Jeremy Rigsby, Media City Program Director, Windsor, Ontario, for publication in XX, a quarterly published by the Windsor Feminist Theatre (winter 2004).

6 From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor ron b u r n e tt

Introduction Discussions of digital aesthetics in the context of new media tend to focus on characteristics that are for the most part drawn from previous media and art forms. The question is: are digital forms of expression genuinely transforming traditional forms of representation and expression from literature to media?1 Are we dealing with a new set of phenomena and practices that require a different approach to the analysis of digital cultures and the discourses and representations that they produce? The answers to these questions may well be found in new ways of thinking about the photographic foundation upon which so much traditional and new media are built. My response to these questions has been to develop some new terms that, for me, explain more easily the synthesis of new media with conventional forms of expression that use images. I offer these for debate and discussion. I am convinced that new discourses are needed. This essay tests out that claim. One of the central characteristics of new media, especially with respect to spectators, that Lev Manovich discusses in his book The Language of New Media is the change from ‘viewer’ to ‘user.’2 Most of the literature on new media carves out similar distinctions – old media are for passive viewing and new media allow for, even encourage, interaction or use. ‘User’ is not a term I am comfortable with, not only because it is derived from the early days of research in the computer sciences,3 but also because it constrains our understanding of how computers actually work, as well as how humans use them. The term ‘user’ refers to how people interact with the screened interfaces of a computer and what they do or accomplish in the process. As a term, it

From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor


actually devalues the intricacy of interaction because it narrows down the complexity of human–computer relations as well as simplifying our understanding of human subjectivity.4 This narrowing is largely the result of fundamental misunderstandings of the role of spectators, navigators, and surfers in generating their own experiences in viewing any form of media expression.5 In other words, I do not believe that people who interact with media are just using the technology. The term is just too reductive to explain the complex relationship people have with images irrespective of their digital or analogue origins. The more puzzling and important question is why the cultural notion of use has become such a normative constituent of the thinking around interactive media in general. Manovich’s suggestion that the move to user is a defining moment that distinguishes new media from old is steeped in a set of assumptions about human experience that are at best behavioural in orientation and, at worst, extremely reductive. Part of the reason for this is that the engineers and computer scientists who have been largely responsible for the creation of digital technologies think about the communication of information through models that ‘treat knowledge as a purely cognitive phenomenon,’6 which feeds into a limited and limiting understanding of the complexity of human interaction with digital media. There is an unproblematic understanding of the way in which information and experience contribute to the development of knowledge and human understanding. Forsythe also suggests that for knowledge engineers, ‘thought and action are isomorphic,’ and there is a guiding assumption that ‘knowledge is conscious.’7 ‘In short,’ Forsythe continues, ‘to knowledge engineers, “knowledge” means explicit, globally applicable rules whose relation to each other and to implied action is straightforward. Knowledge in this sense is a stable entity that can be acquired and transferred.’8 The user operationalizes the scenarios that have been put in place for him or her, and this is described as ‘interaction.’ The problem is that new media are supposedly about completely different paradigms of interaction that radically alter the ways in which meaning, communication, and reflection are pursued. If the knowledge model is so weak, then the challenge to find new discursive models will require us to revisit conventional notions of interaction as enunciated by the creators of the technology. Tor Nørretranders makes the claim that the concept of user is a metaphor for a series of activities that are part illusion and part reality. The graphic user interface (GUI) on a computer, for example, is a visualiza-

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tion of computer functions. There is not really a garbage bin to throw out files. There is a hard disk, but an icon is hardly a representation of its complexity. There are not folders and so on. Computers are about electrical interactions and the speed of connection between ones and zeroes. The interface is just a convenience, but it is essential to the humanization of the experience. The question is: what are you doing when you manipulate the GUI of your computer? When you are playing a computer game and using a joystick are you actually moving characters on the screen? Or are you playing within a fairly limited set of variables that generate the illusion of choice? Do these questions matter if the illusions work? The GUI (or the dock or the window) is taken as evidence for a series of hierarchical organizing principles that are supposedly mirrored in use. In other words, the ‘visualization’ of computer functioning through a series of iconic representations suggests more about human expectations than about the computer itself. For the purposes of this essay, it is necessary to recognize that the metaphor of ‘use’ has infiltrated all aspects of new media. It is an irony that even the most sophisticated of experiments in virtual reality rely on forms of visualization that are derived from initial interactions, development, and creativity at the GUI level. (Even the most sophisticated animations begin their lives within the confines of two-dimensional, GUI-based spaces.)9 In response to these issues, I believe that we need to fundamentally rethink how images have evolved since the invention of photography in light of what new media technologies are suggesting about their function and purpose, and about audiences. It is only when the history of images – their evolution and aesthetic patterns – are firmly situated in the context of new media that we may be able to argue persuasively for some of the transformative shifts that digital technologies are engendering. This is as much a claim for the importance of new media as it is an attempt to question whether radical innovation is in fact one of its characteristics.10 If we are in the midst of a revolution, then one of the main elements of that change will be found in what people do with the media they encounter on a daily basis. We need to inform the examination of these issues with more interdisciplinary work that makes use of lessons learned from the social sciences and the humanities as well as engineering and the computer sciences. Another line of argument about new media makes claims about changes in the ways in which the human body is perceived and experi-

From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor


enced within virtual environments.11 Yet, too little is presently known about the interactions of perception, physical sensation, information, and awareness in digital spaces to give these arguments real substance. Even in those areas of the cognitive sciences where great strides have been made, an understanding of how mind and body interact to make sense of sensation remains a subject of debate and dissension.12 I am not suggesting that wearing a helmet and engaging with a virtual space (see, in particular, the work of Char Davies) are simply duplications of previous forms of media practice and experience. Rather, digital technologies need to be contextualized within a historical framework of human experience and immersion within media of all types. Thus, the clear links between performance, rituals, theatre, the circus, painting, and what we are describing as immersive, virtual experiences need to be brought into the foreground of critical work on digital technologies.13 Is there something specific about new media that shifts the parameters of human perception beyond what conventional media have provided? If the answer to this question is ‘yes,’ then what methods of study are available to examine these changes? If, for example, telepresence signals a move from proximal relations to more distant ones, then how do we evaluate that shift? Telepresence ranges from the use of an avatar as a representative of a human player in a game to doctors who examine patients from a distance. What are the modalities of interaction within a computer game that make use of avatars or the remote manipulation of a robotic arm to perform surgery on a patient? What are the implications of these activities for conventional definitions of the human body and for the ways in which images are used as devices of interaction? It is ironic that, within this evolving and complex area, the aesthetic base for most of new media remains photographic. That is, even the screen of a computer and the interface that provides access to its parts is structured along a compositional framework that is two-dimensional. It must also be remembered that the icons of a GUI are for the most part titled to make sure that the meaning is clear. Flat surfaces have a variety of visual constraints that upset the hierarchical order needed to operate within the visual space of the computer. This is really a photographic space, and it is powerful precisely because the discourse that we have available to analyse its meanings is both established and full of acceptable conventions. However, have the underlying characteristics of digital technologies

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changed the way photographic/image environments operate?14 In other words, what happens to a two-dimensional GUI in a context that is increasingly driven by more and more complex forms of visualization? Imographs This then leads me to ask whether we have moved from the era of photographs to that of imographs (pronounced ‘eye-mographs’).15 I have chosen to combine image and photograph into ‘imograph’ as a way of acknowledging the foundational role of photos in the development of digital media. Imographs are images that can be transformed through the use of software within digital environments. Imographs also refer to the power of morphing and the ability to introduce a high degree of elasticity into digital images. Photographs and images of all sorts, from still to moving, no longer exist in isolation from the many different ways in which they can be transformed and networked. ‘Imography’ is a term that brings photography into a close and interdependent relationship with the word ‘image’ and that recognizes the foundational role now played by digital tools in the creation and dissemination of meaning and messages. Imographs can be placed into real-time contexts, changed, and manipulated by a variety of real and potential authors. Imographs can simultaneously be in many places at once and move in and out of different software programs; therefore, authorship in the traditional sense is transformed. This fluidity challenges not only meaning, but also conventional notions of representation. Moving images have always been kinetic, but what happens when still images can be converted into pieces and then layered into other images, or even become the basis for a series of moving images?16 Distinctions between still and moving images also lessen in the world of imography (witness the still-photo function in most DV camcorders), in large measure because digital images are essentially highquality video images. The dynamic interplay of software and imographs means that conventional notions of look and feel are disrupted. What happens when imographs are produced from the interactions of computer programs without the direct intervention of humans? To what degree are digital cameras out of the control of imographers and as a result reconfiguring some fundamental ideas about photography and human subjectivity?17

From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor


As I have mentioned, most of the technologies used to create digital forms of expression as well as different forms of digital communication are based on two-dimensional, GUI-based creative environments. (3-D work continues to remain at the margins of creative activity in the arts and media.) Screens – that is, the screen of a computer or video monitor – largely define these activities. Nevertheless, these two-dimensional environments have facilitated the creation of a multiplicity of expressive forms that include the body, voice, sound, images, language, movement, music, and so forth. This is an interdisciplinary space, bound to time with more and more layers of artifice built into the very fabric of the work.18 Waking Life In the world of imography, it is possible for all of these elements to form the foundation for a new aesthetic in which clarity, for example, or clear focus is not a requirement for the imographs to be used for communicative purposes. Digital media depend on the continual fluidity and shifting expressiveness of imographs in motion. One of the best examples of this is the recent film Waking Life by Richard Linklater (2001), which uses digital video and rotoscoping to remake video images into imographs. Waking Life moves between digital video and animation such that it is possible to ‘see’ both forms at play at the same time.19 Even more important is the shifting nature of space and time within the world of the characters and the way the imographs become concrete visualizations of their inner states. Another example is computer games, which are not just images in motion, played with and manipulated by players. The games are about a completely different use of colour and form, composition and graphic design, which gives meaning to movements and exchanges that are often unpredictable but also, to some degree, in the control of players. In other words, the aesthetic is defined by the orientation of the playerscreen-design space – a space that, in fact, is not using the traditional parameters of the screen to achieve its results. The arrival of haptic interfaces for games and other forms of physical manipulation will further break down the boundaries between screens and humans to enhance the fluidity as well as unpredictability of potential outcomes to imographic processes. Visualization and experience combine in new aesthetic forms of expression and representation. A further example is editing film or video using digital tools. (The

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use of Final Cut Pro to edit a film is not just a duplication of what might have been done with machines like a Steenbeck or a Moviola.) What do virtual fish swimming in a virtual fish tank ‘look’ like? What kinds of discourses are we developing to deal with increasingly intelligent objects like the Sony robotic dog Aibo? What does it mean to visualize the human body through techniques that have been drawn from holography? Remote sensing permits the visualization of contexts that are far removed from the viewer, yet, at the same time, the construction of the screen space allows for interaction. What must be understood in all of this is that representational and symbolic processes have been transformed into geometric and mathematical activities. Can we talk about an aesthetic of the mathematical? Should we?20 Imagine a context within which you could actually, physically pick up a mathematical symbol and then throw it into a space and watch the symbol morph into a character. This is precisely the kind of dynamic media environment that begins to describe the aesthetic potential of imographic activities and is, quite appropriately, at the centre of the aesthetic concerns of the Matrix series of films. Aesthetics As the digital infiltrates every aspect of our lives, transforming objects into intelligent vehicles for visualization and representation, the question of aesthetics will become ever more urgent. For example, what will happen when a fridge is given the ability to talk? Will we begin to wonder about its shape and colour in a completely different way? If televisions are going to make choices for us based on our viewing patterns, are we going to have to rethink what we mean by television screens? What happens when rendering processes create three-dimensional worlds inside computers? Can the polygons that are the basis for the creative work here become the objects of analysis and critique? All of these questions need to be explored with a different set of discourses from the past and a heightened sense of the radical transformations that digital forms of expression are making possible. Digital tools are changing the landscape of expression and creativity, not only in the arts but in every cultural form. It will be necessary to respond with new critical languages and new categories if we are to critique digital cultures with more than just a descriptive response or a duplication of previous models of aesthetic analysis (fig. 6.1).

From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor


Fig 6.1 This is a good example of an imograph. It was created using Photoshop. Does this mean that the word ‘text’ is different when placed on this page using Microsoft Word than when placed within the context of a JPEG built using the tools of a graphics program? Are all of the variables different enough here to suggest that the word ‘text’ has become an aesthetic object? How does this differ from what the poet ee cummings did with words on a page? In the first instance, both the word processor and Photoshop encourage manipulation, transformation, and playfulness. The screen turns into a canvas with powerful tools including the possible use of network-based elements. Second, the fact that figure 6.1 is a file means that it can be converted and changed further by anyone. As a file, it is just data. On the printed page, it turns into a more fixed form, but now can be scanned into a computer and, once again, become data. It is this set of possibilities and potential shifts (both in character and quality as well as location) that make figure 6.1 an imograph.

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Transformations The key term here is ‘variables.’ Within the context of the computer that I am using, it would be possible to add sound to fig. 6.1. It would also be possible to extract the imograph and move it to another program. In other words, unlike the book that you are holding in your hands, all of the elements of fig. 6.1 can be transformed. Now, it can be argued that a Xerox copy of the page in which this illustration appears has many of the same possibilities. This is true. The distinguishing factor is that the computer builds all of these variables into its operations. Many different stages of creativity can be developed, imagined, and generated within a time frame that is compressed and very fluid. Digital environments build on these potential transformations, and, as more and more texts and images appear within computerized environments, the role of the printed page will change into an artifact with many variables – in other words, the printed page will become more fluid. I would go further and suggest that digital technologies encourage transformative and playful forms of interaction. This in no way precludes the fact that the same activities can be pursued using analogue tools. It is simply that an imograph housed within a computer becomes, as I have said, the equivalent of data, and this makes it possible to reduce or to expand upon all of its elements instantaneously. The ‘material’ of the digital world is radically different from conventional materials, and the results are a variety of windows, maps, and configurations of information that often defy easy classification. Fig. 6.1 was created using a series of mathematically defined codes that translate fragments of an image into a series of ones and zeroes. The presence of the underlying code has no material impact on the relationship viewers or readers develop with the imograph, in large measure because it is invisible. In other words, it is not possible for me to ‘recode’ the programming logic of Photoshop, and yet my use of some of its elements binds me to the program and many of its aesthetic assumptions (fig. 6.2). Networks I would suggest that imographs no longer operate outside of the networks into which they can be placed. This will have a profound impact on potential interlocutors and also on the nature of the viewing process. It means that the reproduction of imographs can take place within so many different venues, and using so many different tools, that the

From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor


Fig 6.2 This imograph was taken using a digital camera at low resolution. It was loaded into a Macintosh G4 and further altered within Photoshop. It was then imported into Microsoft Word. In the digital world, I could send this imograph via e-mail and ask for feedback or place it onto a Web page. On the printed page, the feedback can only be asynchronous. On a computer this image can be e-mailed to another individual’s graphics program and then altered in a variety of unpredictable ways. This is very similar to sampling in music, and there are resonances with the process of creating a collage in analogue media. This ability to borrow from a variety of different sources is made easier within digital environments in part because of the fluid way in which imographs and sounds can be networked.

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various stages of creation, production, and dissemination move further and further away from any initial context, raising important questions about history and meaning. The distance of imographs from the time during which they were taken to further production and then interaction can be as broad as is needed and as narrow as the imographer demands. Compare this with the constraints of painting, sculpture, and more traditional forms of expression that are beholden to galleries, museums, and other institutions of display. The difference with imographs is that uniqueness and originality are far less important than networking. Distribution and dissemination are foundational rather than an outcome of the creative process. Creative Projects and Imographs In order to understand these changes let me focus on a few examples of works that explore the multi-dimensional layers that I have been discussing. (1) ‘“Dinner Table #1” is a table and a machine that listens in on table talk, spins stories according to the events surrounding it, and translates these events into interactive games.’21 Imographic spaces are about the possible eruption of meaning from objects. The table becomes ‘intelligent’ to the extent that the imographs visualize both the game and people’s reactions to the games. As a result, objects become possible sites of visualization. The screen is no longer a privileged entry point for experience. (2) ‘“Sinking” is an interactive video installation that seeks to explore how diving under the water can act to slow your body down into a relaxed contemplative state. You walk into a room, which has two rearprojection screens floating in a space; projected on these screens are images of waves lapping around you as if your head was just at the surface of the water. The light and colours from these reflect around the space, which becomes one full of flickering light. When you stop moving, the image shows you dropping down to the bottom of the sea. Compared to the other images, the images are still and the sounds are softer and slower. The still greens of the image reflect around the space. Then, when you move again, the space erupts in a jolt and the images return to the surface. The system takes into account whether or not you are moving more or less than the average visitor to the work. So if you are slower to move and stand still for some time, then the overall images and sounds are softer.’22

From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor


Fig 6.3 Stereogram from ‘Microworlds, Sirens and Argonauts,’ 1997, © Agueda Simó.

This piece is open to change as the participant moves around in it. It remains intensely metaphoric; however, the notion that images ‘respond’ to movement and that meaning changes according to the type of motion suggests that imographs no longer need to be fixed. This installation is about navigation as much as it is about creating a new kind of imographic landscape and is akin to the work of Bill Viola. (3) ‘“Microworlds, Sirens and Argonauts” introduces the concept of “living narrative landscapes”: virtual spaces that allow users to successfully construct their own navigational maps and to build their own representational models that can co-exist with the narrative of the environments. Thus, the virtual space becomes a living narrative landscape as the Argonauts (users) navigate along time and space, taking part in the complex visual and aural behaviours of the environments.’23 The flexible articulation and visualization of meaning through a combination of different colours and shapes now moves from the screened space to a ‘living narrative landscape.’ Imographs use objects, images, and sounds to ‘envision’ an aesthetic that becomes an on-thefly dynamic expression of an ecological experience. The ‘Argonauts’ choreograph not only their own physical movements, but the imographs as well (fig. 6.3). (4) ‘The Iliad Project (2002) performance architecture by Jeff Burke, Adam Shive, Jared Stein. This new work is being constructed as a process that the audience intersects with and influences, not simply a single, repeated performance that uses new technology. It will merge an on-line exploration of the world of the piece with a combination of interactive galleries and performance spaces. Through careful integration of a database of audience information, sensing and image capture

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technology, and dynamically processed media, the piece will engage the audience-participants by modifying its own text and design elements based on the groups of people who visit the website and attend a particular performance.’24 The Iliad Project makes active use of another crucial characteristic of imographic media: databases. As more information is gathered about participants, their activities and actions become part of the ‘memory’ of the performance. The computer can then translate these data into rudimentary scenarios. The process builds upon itself with the result that generations of audiences ‘interact’ without necessarily knowing what they have shared and why. Even more interesting is the relationship that is developed between the remoteness of the Web and the immediacy of the performance. (5) ‘Blue Window Pane is a CAVE virtual reality art experience that includes networking, live video, and sound-activated graphics. Participants explore and actively ignite events to gain a knowledge base through exploration and perceptual interaction. Events are triggered by the participants’ approach to an object. Proximity or waving the navigation wand causes the environment to react and demand reaction. The CG characters are activated by the music dancing to its rhythms and beats’ (fig. 6.4).25 Like many experiments in this area, the goal of Blue Window Pane is participation. The difference is that the CAVE environment increases the degree of immersion because most of the space is screens. Different levels of dimensionality are added through 3-D glasses and various pointers. The most important element of this example is the responsiveness of the avatars. As with computer and video games as well as online games, the desire is to move from outside of the screen into the actual virtual environment. The screen becomes both a tissue and a barrier: what artists like Dolinsky are trying to do is break down the differences between the real and virtual. Conclusion In all of the above examples, reality and its virtual offshoots co-exist, and this may well be one of the crucial outcomes of digital processes. However, when the activities of computers take on an automatic role, that is, going beyond the parameters that have been entered into the coding of a program, imographs become the interface to meaning. Due to the mathematical nature of digital technologies, programmers can

From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor


Fig 6.4 Blue Window Pane (CAVE), © Margaret Dolinsky (used with permission).

create a series of random interactions among various strings of code. Random interactions produce unpredictable results. In some senses, an evolutionary process develops, and, through it, some experiments have produced generations of imographs representing a physical output that could not have been achieved any other way.26 Generally, the imographs are non-figurative. It is hard to imagine a process that would evolve with enough consistency to produce an interesting and original figure. What I am getting at here is the manner in which increasingly complex physical forms approximating human shapes and looks have become the holy grail of imographers. The drive to reproduce the human body within imographic spaces is a rearguard action, because imographs inevitably shift bodies into data and then into form. The aesthetic power will come from the strength of the narrative and not necessarily from a naturalist approach. Imographs presage an era of exploration when it will be possible to touch images and grasp their physical form. Notions of content, infor-

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mation, and knowledge will have to change in order to accommodate the drive to create a new aesthetic. Imography will increasingly reflect the variables of multimedia mixing and pastiche, and, in some senses, any aspect of life will be open to inclusion within digital environments. This will challenge not only what we mean by ‘the real,’ but also what we mean by content, communications, and learning. Perhaps we need to transform the engineering term ‘user’ into learner. After all, new discourses are most effective when they encourage learning. Imography may well be the first stage in a long-term evolution that will transform human–computer interaction into unpredictable forms of learning and experience.

NOTES 1 Janet Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997); Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001). 2 Manovich, Language of New Media, 205. 3 M. Mitchell Waldrop, The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal (New York: Viking, 2001). 4 Tor Nørretranders, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size (New York: Viking, 1998). 5 See the first chapters of Ronald Burnett, Cultures of Vision: Images, Media and the Imaginary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995) for an exploration of these issues. 6 Diana Forsythe, Studying Those Who Study Us: An Anthropologist in the World of Artificial Intelligence (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 52. 7 Ibid., 52–3. 8 Ibid., 53. 9 Richard Coyne, Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999). 10 Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999). 11 Ken Hillis, Digital Sensations: Space, Identity, and Embodiment in Virtual Reality (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999). 12 Gerald Edelman and Jean-Pierre Changeux, eds, The Brain (London: Transaction Publishers, 2001); Brian Cantwell Smith, On the Origin of Objects (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998).

From Photography to Imography: New Media as Metaphor


13 Oliver Grau, Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003). 14 Marie-Laure Ryan, Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). 15 William J. Mitchell, The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992). 16 N. Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002). 17 Patrick Maynard, The Engine of Visualization: Thinking through Photography (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997). 18 Steven Holzman, Digital Mosaics: The Aesthetics of Cyberspace (New York: Touchtone, 1997). 19 For further information on this extraordinary film, go to http://www. wakinglifemovie.com/. 20 Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information (Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 1990). 21 Marc Böhlen, http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/%7Ebohlen/ dinnerTable.htm (site now discontinued). 22 Robin Petterd, ‘The Language of Interactivity in the Context of Immersive Video and Sound Installations’ (31 May 2001), http://www.otheredge.com.au/exchange/writing/language_of_interactivity.htm. 23 Aguedo Simo, ‘Microworlds, Sirens and Argonauts,’ http://anim.usc.edu/ simo/. 24 Fabian Wagmister, Jeff Burke, et al., ‘Networked Multi-Sensory Experiences: Beyond Browsers on the Web and in the Museum,’ Museums and the Web 2002, http://www.archimuse.com/mw2002/papers/wagmister/ wagmister.html. 25 Margaret Dolinsky, ‘Blue Window Pane – CAVE Art Environment,’ http:// dolinsky.fa.indiana.edu/bwp/synopsis.html. 26 Gary Greenfield, ‘Simulated Aesthetics and Evolving Artworks: A Coevolutionary Approach,’ Leonardo 35, no. 3 (2002): 283–9.

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7 Feminist Digital Aesthetics: The Everyday and Yesterday cai tlin fis her

I’m trying to explain core imagery to an Introduction to Women’s Studies class as part of my ‘Why have there been no great women artists’ lecture. I arrive at the 1970s, peel off a layer of clothing to reveal my lavender Calyx Retrospective T-shirt. It’s got a huge vagina on it, with little flower petals around the edges. ‘What’s that?’ says a girl in the front who should know better. I want to hand her a speculum. ‘It’s a vagina,’ I explain, patiently. Some students in the back stifle a ‘euuuw.’ I lift a copy of Tee Corrinne’s Cunt Coloring Book off the podium. (On the back it reads: ‘Women’s Studies. Adults only. XXX.’ I don’t want to get too off-track unpacking this. Just show the pictures.) ‘Core imagery,’ I start again, ‘vaginas, flowers, seashells – recall Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party ... (I click the image on the screen). See, look closely – every plate has a famous woman’s vagina on it.’ ‘Euuuwwwww!’ ‘Okay,’ I begin again, ‘why would artists want to use this kind of imagery? What was going on politically at the time? What do you remember about feminism in this period?’ A hand shoots up: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe?’ ‘Hmmm. Let’s get back to that. Others?’ How quickly things are lost. And how odd it was for me, then, at the turn of the millennium,1 to find so much of this ‘lost’ feminism again, online, proliferating in feminist hypertexts. An uncanny number of women working online were describing digital writing technologies through the invocation of second-wave feminist terms like ‘the everyday,’ ‘women’s time,’ and embodiment, and contrasting these with the demands of geometric space and linear time, often posited as masculine. And while some hypermedia works I was exploring did use fragmented writing spaces and multivocal narratives to deconstruct ‘Woman,’ there was less interest in deconstructing her than you might imagine. Alongside hybrid

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ontologies and experimental narratives, I found, online, a widespread return in digital hypermedia practice to standard 1970s ‘female themes’: cooking and recipes, ephemera, family albums, recovery of lost ‘herstories,’ body art, écriture feminine, small stories, and interior spaces – ‘the everyday’ – all woven together with striking consistency. This digital work recalled the theoretical and practical preoccupations of much 1970s feminist artistic practice and constitutes a return to what would seem to be a feminist yesterday, complete with core imagery, consciousness-raising manifestos, herstory archives, and women-only spaces. Perhaps it’s not much of a surprise that issues and strategies and theories that exist outside hypertextual discourses would also be present within them. Surely not. But I was curious as to why this theoretical and political moment was seemingly privileged, even in the face of more contemporary feminist theoretical preoccupations – the difference debates, performativity, and anti-essentialism coming immediately to mind. Why here? Why now? And to what effect? Online, a flirtation with essentialism in discussions about technology is easy to find. Hypertext practitioner Carolyn Guyer writes, for example: When I first began using hypertext almost ten years ago, I believed it was ‘natural,’ designed to work associatively, as the human brain does. I still believe something like that, but amplified ... From those first days till now, I have continued to see this medium as very life-like. I see it in the form of a quotidian stream. The gossip, family discussions, letters, passing fancies, and daydreams that we tell ourselves every day in order to make sense of things ... We live and make our stories in a line of time that wraps and loops on itself, trying to contend with the geometries of space we also inhabit. Affected by nearby hues we cannot or will not understand, we follow our influences, oppose, match, and continue, even in an electronic milieu, to measure with our bodies.2

And Guyer is certainly not the only woman to describe digital writing technologies in terms of the body and women’s ‘everyday.’ Hypertext author Judy Malloy writes, along the same lines, ‘hypernarratives imitate the associative, contingent flow of human thought and the unpredictable progression of our lives.’3 While the mapping of this technology with the body is famously found as far back as 1945 in media pioneer Vannevar Bush’s ‘As We May Think,’4 we do find the argument gendered in interesting ways. The gendering is implicit in

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the texts above, but theorist Sadie Plant makes the connection between multitasking hypermedia and the feminine explicit: ‘Think of the difference between DOS and Windows and you’ll see that the future is female.’5 Core imagery abounds, too. Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry’s hypertext ‘Izme Pass,’ for example, is a collaborative response to Michael Joyce’s hypertext ‘WOE, or a Memory of What Will Be’ – indeed, ‘Izme Pass’ subsumes ‘WOE’ within its structure. Written using Storyspace, a hypertext authoring package with a spatial interface (each hypertext screen is represented by small boxes that can be moved around to form diagrams and images), Guyer and Petry rewrite Joyce’s ‘mandala’ layout with their own: ‘a diamond- or o- or almond-shaped map headed by a Mandorla, the Asiatic signifier of the yoni, the divine female genital.’6 Shelley Jackson’s online hypertext My Body: A Wunderkammer contains the following vivid invocation of écriture feminine: ‘My vagina had rewritten Joyce. It was then I knew I was going to be a writer.’7 The allusion is certainly to James Joyce, but possibly to Michael Joyce, as well, rewritten and swallowed up, as you recall, by Guyer and Petry’s text. And VNS Matrix, an Australian group, writes, in their ‘Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century,’ we are the modern cunt positive anti reason unbounded, unleashed, unforgiving we see art with our cunt we make art with our cunt we believe in jouissance madness holiness and poetry we are the virus of the new world disorder rupturing the symbolic from within saboteurs of big daddy mainframe the clitoris is a direct line to the matrix.8

This kind of radical feminist discourse, while never disappearing entirely, has long fallen out of favour. Indeed, the feminism I ended up teaching – arguably less lyrical and decidedly less sure-footed, unable to be women-centred in part because poststructuralism had taught us that there were no women really – struggled explicitly against this kind of formulation, against the uncomplicated dualisms and the unabashed acceptance of a chaotic, intuitive power originating from within women’s bodies themselves.

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As I continued to explore hypertexts online, I found dozens of examples of pieces that seemed politically and aesthetically anachronistic – action taking place in the ‘women’s spaces’ of kitchens and bedrooms as if the public–private split were only now being considered and interrogated for the first time, rather than thirty years ago in important visual art, feminist video work, as well as political texts. Flash animations of bodies, bodies, and more bodies, seashells, the ocean, vagina as interface, images of naked women floating through the air – it was Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party all over again, and even if the plates were more vagina dentata this time, this widespread attention to woman versus ‘big daddy mainframe,’ this allegiance to gender binaries, would seem to beg critical intervention. Jouissance, madness, holiness, and poetry we could use more of, undoubtedly, but what about the difference debates? What about the feminism that moved beyond this kind of essentialism and this kind of dualism? What might the return of these familiar themes and devices in hypermedia in the year 2000 signal? The computer seemed, to me, a fluid screen, indeed, through which these themes had passed, apparently effortlessly across a generation, uninfluenced by thirty years of debate. Did the appearance of these texts point to a calculated rejection of contemporary feminist theoretical preoccupations? To ignorance of key issues in Western feminism? Were they an expression of a longing I had yet to identify? My first thought was that these hypertexts should be read as being as much about nostalgia as about the future. And it was impossible for me to discount the fact that so many of these hypertexts were apparently being produced by white women. Blair and Takayoshi remind us that ‘the Web is yet another cultural site where users are bombarded with representations of women based more on an essentialist definition of woman than the lives of real women from varying cultural backgrounds.’9 And Faith Wilding, a feminist artist active in the 1970s (famous for her knitted ‘womb room’’at Womanspace) and one of the very few of those women working with electronic media today, has also observed that ‘a more negative cycle is also repeating itself, as the women who have found their way into cyberterritories are generally those who have economic and cultural advantages in other territories.’10 Issues of sameness and access to cultural texts and production become urgent again. Culture is tied, of course, to a sense of place – to home – home as a site of exploration, negotiation, and cultural reproduction. Perhaps more

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hauntingly, of course, culture is tied to an imperial centre, too. When I first encountered feminism, there was an often publicly expressed feeling of ‘homecoming.’ There wasn’t much public discussion until later, of course, about who exactly felt at home in that second-wave feminism and why, or about how those who found feminism as theorized then so comforting could possibly imagine that some women found the theoretical as well as the physical spaces of feminism uninviting, disappointing, or irrelevant. Maybe it should come as no surprise to find texts that suggest, at least to me, a certain longing for the feminisms ‘we’ who felt at home fifteen years ago knew – before sexuality and gender were uncoupled, when something like the sisterhood still seemed viable. Nostalgia perhaps isn’t surprising. After all, we’re already living ‘The Retro Apocalypse,’ according to one writer, where there is such a glut of nostalgia that ‘we get so nostalgic for nostalgia that culture implodes.’11 ‘What WAS nostalgia?’ asks Linda Hutcheon, pointedly, going on to identify ‘its Greek roots – nostos, meaning “to return home” and algos, meaning “pain.”’ Homesickness, then. Hutcheon continues: Nostalgia requires the availability of evidence of the past, and it is precisely the electronic and mechanical reproduction of images of the past that plays such an important role in the structuring of the nostalgic imagination today ... Thanks to CD ROM technology and, before that, audio and video reproduction, nostalgia no longer has to rely on individual memory or desire: it can be fed forever by quick access to an infinitely recyclable past.12

Consciousness-Raising It’s not surprising, then, perhaps, that we witness indulgence for those narratives of feminism for which ‘we’ remain nostalgic. And some feminists make the connection between the kinds of practices hypertext enables and the nostalgia it can trigger explicit: Australian feminist theorist Susan Hawthorne, for example, in words resonant with Guyer’s assertion that hypertext – as a technology – is particularly feministfriendly, notes that hypertext is described as a practice wherein ‘ideas of centre, margin, hierarchy, and linearity’ are replaced by ‘multilinearity, nodes, links and networks.’ She writes: Apart from multilinearity these were words in common usage among feminists in the 1970s, and multilinearity certainly describes what we were

150 Caitlin Fisher doing in consciousness-raising groups and collectives. We were privileging the previously unheard, unspoken, unimportant, linking with one another through common or different experience, making associations across those experiences and expanding those associations into a cultural life which was built on a strange scaffold that only we could see as it slowly grew into what we now know as a culture centred on women’s experience.13

Online, we return, as Hawthorne suggests, to the consciousness-raising (CR) group: ‘I have this theory,’ one online journal manifesto reads, ‘we could take events in our own lives, which have mystified us since their occurrence, and search the Web for similar encounters. We could compare and contrast other’s experiences and draw deeper meaning into our own experience. We might too, find the one piece of information that will transform an experience we had nearly forgotten into a life changing moment which has been waiting years to unfold.’14 It certainly sounds like a consciousness-raising manifesto, except that rather than have twelve women sitting in your kitchen, the members of your CR group would be an unknown quantity. ‘What could be better than hypertext?’ writes one Net observer, ‘to engage the too long either-or of writing as personal expression vs. writing as public discourse? Writing as process? What else is HTML?’15 But consciousness-raising groups have been critically observed to work best when their participants are fairly homogeneous (‘that happened to me exactly the same way’). Archives Some feminists online aim to construct new narratives and stories or resistance – ‘new “wholes” replacing “holes”’ – encyclopedic, accessible, consciousness-raising. These digital projects often collect individual women’s ‘authentic’ personal stories creating archived, encyclopedic sites that aim to tell collective truths. Abbe Don’s site Bubbe’s Back Porch, for example, invites ‘women from around the world [to share] stories in real time and then post them to Bubbe’s Back Porch. If you want to add a story, you can simply email your text and a digitized photo (if you have one) to [email protected].’ The stories here foreground women’s roles as mother, as daughter, as Jewish. A picture of Matzo Ball mix alerts us to a repetition of familiar domestic themes: birth stories, death stories, grandmother stories, the sharing of recipes

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and wisdom among a community of women. ‘Bubbe’ writes: ‘Nothing makes me kvell more than seeing people connect with a dormant part of themselves or their past. Ever since I began putting stories on the Web, I realized there’s something about stories that enable us to learn from each other and make a connection between our heads, our hearts and our kishkes.’ Bubbe’s Back Porch also urges women to meet face-toface, too, ‘like a quilting bee.’16 Another example of an encyclopedic, consciousness-raising site, Mother Millennia, gathers stories about mothers. Themes on this extensive site include adoption, biography, stories of pregnancy and birth, food, grandmothers, and oral history.17 After you visit the mother archive, visit the World Lesbian Biography site with its archived stories of Home / Dream / Style / Sex / Biography / Politics / Art / Relationships / Adventure. ‘MEMORY IS CORRUPTIBLE,’ the site proclaims in menacing CAPS, ‘STRUGGLE TO REMEMBER – CONSTRUCT AN ARCHIVE.’18 What is striking, given current feminist projects aimed at deconstructing identities and challenging even the building of narratives or bodies to inhabit, is the lack of critical framework offered by the women constructing these archives. What past is being valued here? What kind of culture is being supported and reproduced in these homepages? Whom are we saving for? And what do we tell ourselves about these collections, these theoretical homes, these spaces of comfort, meeting places of sisters whose visions of the world were coincident with what you’d known all along but had never before communicated: this feminist culture? Perhaps this online work, like early CR groups, allows privileged women to find one another to theorize (and problematically generalize) on the basis of that experience. ‘I just found it around the house’ Like much second-wave feminist aesthetic practice – think video, collage work, and so forth – many feminist hypertexts make use of recipes, ephemera, and, perhaps especially, family photographs. Collections of family pictures have been noted as strengthening the metaphor of home online. ‘I would say traditionally that it has been the women in families who organize and cherish the family photo albums,’ writes Dawn Stoppiello in the ‘Gender & Identity in New Media: Open Forum’ bulletin board. ‘I like the idea of Web pages as the fat photo wallets my adolescent friends and I carried in the 1950s, mini-shrines we

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whipped out of our gigantic purses, seemingly personal but made for show. Perhaps it’s not surprising that so many feminist hypertexts make use of family photographs.’19 The fat photo wallet is deployed again in Judy Malloy’s fictional Its Name Was Penelope, a text that makes extensive use of photographs. In the work, old photos represent individual memories whose associations are changed each reading as the photographs are constantly shuffled by the computer.20 While her work has been compared to the cinematographic montages of Trinh T MinhHa’s films in which fragmentation and discontinuity simultaneously lead to opening spaces for multiple readings,21 this kind of digital photographic practice, especially given its thematic relationship to ‘private’ domestic space, resonates at the same time with earlier, less experimental feminist work like collage work and quilting, in which the personal and the visual meet. Recovering Herstories Third Generation: A Website Project on Family Photographs and the Rhetoric of Memories of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust is a lifewriting website project by Rachel Schreiber, Andrea Slane, and Jael Lehmann that also uses family photographs to explore the relationship of personal history to public politics while at the same time continuing the longstanding feminist project of telling the ‘lost stories’ of women. Each of the project members identifies as a granddaughter, positioning herself on the motherline. Each of the project members was raised looking at these photographs, along with historical photographs of Nazi atrocities taken at the end of the war. The photographs, they write, ‘are often ordinary: holiday celebrations, vacations, family gatherings, portraits – but their larger historical context makes them extraordinary as well.’22 Pascal Trudel’s hypertext Synchronicité also takes domestic themes of the family album as a space of departure. ‘The project is composed of ten animations and soundtracks inspired by ten old black and white photographs of my family,’ she writes, ‘most of them taken between 1910 and 1940.’ Like the photographs we see in Third Generation, Trudel’s photographs are ordinary, everyday fragments, captured in albums across families: Two children and their mother / Two boys and two cats / Two girls and a ball / The brass band / Venice / The nurses / The wedding / The honeymoon / The young woman / The labyrinth.23 It is their ordinariness, in fact, that Trudel sees as poetic and magical – photographs so specifically grounded in narratives of family

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life that they take on a universal quality, revealing these snapshot moments as being less about individual families than about the narratives that structure family life in specific times and places. Trudel’s site reminded me of how I had once found a blank photo album at Goodwill and all the pictures had been taken out but small typed captions had been left beneath ghost outlines of the spaces once occupied by photographs (where are they now?). I loved it precisely because this could be anyone’s album: ‘Uncle Harold standing in front of the Louvre’ (and I can see him there), ‘View of Eiffel Tower from the street,’ ‘Uncle Ernie and Aunt Phyllis, 40th anniversary, cutting the cake together,’ and so on. Longstanding feminist preoccupations with recovering lost stories find a more explicit place in digital work, too. Deena Larsen’s Marble Springs, for example, is an interactive poetry hypertext that explores the lives of frontier women of the American West.24 Along the way, readers encounter lexias about cooking and quilting and uncover, guided by the complex linking structure, relationships among diverse women. The reader is also presented with ‘anonymous’ poems found in an abandoned ghost-town church and is invited to excavate textual clues as to the poets’ identities, in a manoeuvre suggesting the recuperation and rediscovery of ‘forgotten’ and anonymous women artists that was also a focus of second-wave feminism.25 Feminist hypertexts also tell the stories of private domestic spaces that so often go unnoticed. While some of this work makes use of personal photographs, as discussed, Olia Lialina’s hypertext My Boyfriend Came Back from the War, for example, tells a story of reunited lovers through the montage of a series of haunting black and white images that take different shapes and occupy different territories on screen. Large images divide by two (and divide by two again and again) as the reader follows Lialina’s links, creating smaller, more intimate spaces which, juxtaposed with the images of the explosive outside, eventually become claustrophobic.26 Craft From the root of the word hypertext itself – texere, ‘to weave’ – there are explicit and ubiquitous references to women’s traditional needlecrafts (weaving, sewing, stitching, patching) and the urgency to mimic and resurrect them in hypertext works produced by women. This echoes much earlier feminist preoccupations, of course – for example, Faith

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Wilding’s knitted ‘womb room’ mentioned earlier, and the collage work of Miriam Schapiro called ‘femmage’ (female + collage). Influenced by the feminist movement of the early 1970s, Schapiro ‘used textiles as symbolic of feminine labour.’27 In her hypertext ‘Fretwork: ReForming Me,’ Carolyn Guyer talks about purchasing bits and pieces of a discarded mola (a Kuna quilt). First she attempts to fix it and in so doing conjures the women who first sewed the quilt, and soon she is adding to a palimpsest of stories. She writes, ‘I imagined these stories as I sewed. Then, I couldn’t resist making a mola myself. When I did a small one, only about a quarter the size of one of the Kuna pieces it was not particularly fine work, but the next one was better, and the one after that better still. I stitched these beginner’s pieces into the quilt top, adding new stories to old.’28 Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl or A Modern Monster by Mary/Shelley and Herself – ‘a graveyard, a journal, a quilt, a story, and broken accents’ – begins with the figure of the stitched female body, and the hypertext is composed around the figure constructed carefully to accommodate the parts. There’s a graveyard, with tombstone lexias, a crazy quilt, and a journal, that ubiquitous woman’s art, makes an appearance too. Patchwork Girl riffs on both Frankenstein and The Patchwork Girl of Oz as well as women’s traditional craftwork and works outward from a speculation: what if the monster was a woman, and what if she fell in love with her female maker?29 Like some of the other work discussed here, Jackson’s text also deploys another classic feminist strategy: retelling the stories we have been told from a different vantage point. Literary intertexts in feminist digital work abound, from Frankenstein (a feminist favourite), to the overtly misogynist Malleus Maleficarum (‘The Hammer of Witches,’ the bible of witchhunters) in Juliet Martin’s A Witch’s Work Is Never Done,30 to Deena Larsen’s work Samplers: Nine Vicious Little Hypertexts. Samplers is richly suggestive of women’s needlecrafts but also returns to oral forms of telling and incorporates Navajo myths of creation, Hopi tales, and Coyote.31 Essentialist arguments about technology, core imagery, consciousness-raising, lost stories, domestic themes and tools – is it all just retroapocalypse? A digital doorway to the ‘infinitely recyclable past?’32 Nostalgia for an unchanging feminist home, now digitally canonized? ‘The future, as Disney and Spielberg have taught us,’ writes hypertext theorist Stuart Moulthrop, ‘is a place we must come “back” to ... Tomorrow will be a heyday of nostalgia, an intensive pursuit of “lost” or “forgot-

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ten” values.’33 If collecting can be understood as a consoling substitute and, as one writer puts it, ‘evidence of continuity and symbolic communication with the past,’ to what extent should these feminist hypertexts and digital archives be read as attempts on the part of some women to shore up against the loss of this feeling of coming ‘home’ some women found in ‘feminism’? How many of these digital works, then, function merely as nostalgic reconstructions of an imagined (much better, less fragmented) feminist past? As a fluid screen between the second wave and now, unmediated by lessons learned? But is there only one way to tell this story from the naive 1970s to the sophisticated here and now – except online? Do all of the old criticisms apply in exactly the same ways? What would happen, hypertext theorist Johndan Johnson-Eilola urges us to consider, if we were to ‘allow our nostalgia to channel new possibilities into old pathways?’34 Rather than dismiss these formulations as old, essentialist, or naive, I would like to suggest that productive tensions and pathways might generate new texts. Much of the new digital material is generated by young women and women new to feminism for whom these debates are being staged for the first time, and who bring new experiences and, possibly, expectations of hybridity and diversity to the encounter. To the extent that this is true, perhaps the ‘feminist yesterday’ I see all around me has more to do with my own reading practices. If so, not all of the old criticisms of essentialism, of the homogeneity of CR groups, of the sisterhood, of repetition and so forth, can apply in exactly the same ways. Could these hypermedia practices disrupt understandings of the boundaries of feminist theory and the stories we tell ourselves by dislodging our assumptions about, for example, what’s already been done and what is no longer worth pursuing to produce jarring and inspiring new insights? Rosi Braidotti offers that the new is created by revisiting and burning up the old ... like the totemic meal recommended by Freud, you have to assimilate the dead before you can move on to a new order. The way out can be found by mimetic repetition and consumption of the old. We need rituals of burial and mourning for the dead, including and especially the ritual of burial of the Woman that was.35

Following Braidotti then, even if feminist hypertext practitioners are not consciously engaged in the ritual of burial, the rehearsal of the ‘old’

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may have surprising value, revealing tensions and pathways that prove to be productive for feminisms. By revisiting 1970s feminist preoccupations in hypermedia a new kind of critical space may be opened up with fresh answers as to where we might go from here. This return to the body, arguably this reconstruction of ‘Woman,’ here in the digital realm, this return to familiar domestic scenes, can also be read in the context of being produced by hypertext practitioners who have no idea that they are engaged in repetition and whose entry points are various. They are indebted to growing up with the legacy of feminism in popular culture and a curiously ahistorical cyberfeminist girl power that at least occasionally gives a nod to both Haraway and Irigaray. The Web offers a different arena for politics with the possibility for wide dissemination. Intriguingly, it might well be through this kind of work, in the context of hypertext projects whose centre is always shifting, that we will be challenged to arrive at, for example, a real rethinking of the place of essentialism in feminist thought or the continuing need, across generations, to share individual stories in search of pattern. Alongside monstrous reading practices we may wish to bring to these texts, some of the core imagery online is already pretty monstrous, no longer so easy to imagine as being possible thirty years ago. Linda Dement’s inspired little cyberflesh girlmonsters are visually suggestive of the weaving together of cyborg and speculum: linda dement (ld): I collected body parts from women, they donated their body parts digitally, and I put those bits and pieces together to create little monsters. From that I made a work that is really about monstrous femininity, it’s like a black comedy, there are little monsters and digital videos of various monsters’ behaviours and stories and medical information about the physiology of certain monsters. miss m: What kind of monsters are they? ld: Very fleshy, female, conglomerate. All of the monsters are made up of women’s body parts, different body parts. They are conglomerations. miss m: To give people a picture who have not had the chance to see [the work] what do you mean by body parts? ld: Everything. Lots of people sat on the scanner. We’ve got hands and faces, not many though, because it’s hard to put your face on the scanner, the lights are too bright. A lot of scars, bums, feet, hands, anything. And by the time I’ve made the monsters you can’t really recognize particular things anymore. They are just strange, fleshy shapes.36

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This collage of parts to produce composite monsters, this homage to Frankensteinian femininity, encourages the reader/viewer to think in complicated ways about identities – both individual and collective – and their relationships to bodies. George Landow, writing about Shelley Jackson’s own patchwork tale about monsters, notes that in reading hypertexts ‘we increasingly come to realize an assemblage of points, one of the most insistent of which appears in the way we use our information technologies, our prosthetic memories, to conceive ourselves’37 – a palimpsest of theories and stories, then, in which the linking structure itself signals a departure from uncomplicated telos. As Jackson herself writes in Patchwork Girl, ‘we are ourselves ghostly. Our whole life is a kind of haunting; the present is thronged by the figures of the past. We haunt the concrete world as registers of past events, we are revenants. And we are haunted, by these ghosts of the living, these invisible strangers who are ourselves.’38 These feminist hypertexts, arguably as much about feminism’s past as about its present, able to be read as both naive and fresh, dangerous and productive, disrupt the easy linear developmental tale of the feminist then to the feminist now, and in so doing reveal new possibilities, through their performance of feminist theories, wrapping and looping on themselves, suggestive of new ways to think about who we think ‘we’ are and what we carry within us.

NOTES 1 Most of the hypertexts discussed in this paper were visited in 1999–2000. 2 Carolyn Guyer, ‘Along the Estuary,’ Mother Millennia, coordinated by Carolyn Guyer (2000), http://mothermillennia.org/Carolyn/Estuary.html. 3 Judy Malloy, ‘Hypernarrative in the Age of the Web’ (2003), http:// www.well.com/user/jmalloy/neapaper.html. 4 Vannevar Bush, ‘As We May Think,’ Atlantic, July 1945, 101–8. 5 Sadie Plant, ‘The Future Looms: Weaving Women and Cybernetics,’ in Clicking In, ed. Lynn Hersham Leeson (Seattle: Bay Press, 1996), 134. 6 Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry, ‘Izme Pass,’ and Michael Joyce, ‘WOE,’ Writing on the Edge 2, no. 2 (spring 1991). 7 Shelley Jackson, My Body: A Wunderkammer, Alt-X Publishing Network (1997), http://www.altx.com/thebody/. 8 VNS Matrix, ‘Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century’ (1996), http://sysx.org/vns/manifesto.html.

158 Caitlin Fisher 9 Kristine Blair and Pamela Takayoshi, ‘Navigating the Image of Woman Online,’ Kairos 2, no. 2 (1997), http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/2.2/ binder2.html?coverweb/invited/kb.html. 10 Faith Wilding, ‘Notes on the Political Condition of Cyberfeminism,’ Art Journal 57, no. 2 (summer 1998), http://www-art.cfa.cmu.edu/ www-wilding/notes.html. 11 http://www.goingfaster.com/angst/harleyculture.htm 12 Linda Hutcheon, ‘Irony, Nostalgia, and the Postmodern,’ University of Toronto English Library Criticism and Theory Resources (1997), http:// www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/criticism/hutchinp.html. 13 Susan Hawthorne, ‘Introduction,’ in Cyberfeminism: Connectivity, Critique, and Creativity, ed. Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein (North Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex Press, 1999), 12. 14 Julie Ann Chiron, Awaken.org, http://www.awaken.org/. 15 Douglass H. Thomson, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Electronic (Re)Production,’ Romanticism on the Net 10 (May 1998), http://users.ox.ac.uk/ ~scat0385/work.html. 16 Abbe Don, Bubbe’s Back Porch, http://www.bubbe.com/. 17 Mother Millennia, coordinated by Carolyn Guyer, http://mothermillennia. org/. 18 World Lesbian Biography Site, http://www.echonyc.com/~lesbians/. 19 Dawn Stoppiello, Web forum posting, 10 August 1999, ‘Gender & Identity in New Media: Open Forum,’ http://www.judymalloy.net/identity/ open.html. 20 Judy Malloy, Its Name Was Penelope (Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, 1993). 21 See Jaishree Odin, ‘The Edge of Difference: Negotiations between the Hypertextual and the Postcolonial,’ Modern Fiction Studies 43, no. 3 (1997): 598–630. 22 Rachel Schreiber, Andrea Slane, and Jael Lehmann, Third Generation: A Website Project on Family Photographs and the Rhetoric of Memories of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust (1999), http://www.mica.edu/schreiber/thirdgeneration.html. 23 Pascal Trudel, ‘Synchronicité,’ Maid in Cyberspace – Encore! (Studio XX, 1998), http://www.studioxx.org/maid-encore/intros/trudel.html. 24 Deena Larsen, Marble Springs (Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, 1993). 25 Molly Abel Travis, ‘Cybernetic Aesthetics, Hypertext, and the Future of Literature,’ Mosaic 29, no. 4 (December 1996): 115–29. 26 Olia Lialina, My Boyfriend Came Back from the War (1996), http://www. teleportacia.org/war/war.html.

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27 Missoula Art Museum, ‘Miriam Schapiro: Works on Paper, A Thirty-Year Retrospective,’ Resource Library Magazine, 9 November 1999, http:// www.tfaoi.com/newsm1/n1m552.htm. 28 Carolyn Guyer, ‘Fretwork: ReForming Me,’ rev. ed., Mother Millennia, coordinated by Carolyn Guyer (1999), http://mothermillennia.org/Carolyn/ Fretwork1.html. 29 Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl, or a Modern Monster by Mary/Shelley and Herself (Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, 1995). 30 Juliet Martin, ‘A Witch’s Work Is Never Done,’ Maid In Cyberspace (Studio XX, 1997), http://www.studioxx.org/maidincyberspace/index.html. 31 Deena Larsen, Samplers: Nine Vicious Little Hypertexts (Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, 1998). 32 Hutcheon, ‘Irony, Nostalgia, and the Postmodern.’ 33 Stuart Moulthrop, ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Hypertext and the Laws of Media,’ Postmodern Culture 1, no. 3 (May 1991), http://jefferson. village.virginia.edu/pmc/text-only/issue.591/moulthro.591. 34 Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Nostalgic Angels: Rearticulating Hypertext Writing (Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing, 1997). 35 Rosi Braidotti, ‘Cyberfeminism with a Difference’ (University of Utrecht, 1996), http://www.let.uu.nl/womens_studies/rosi/cyberfem.htm. 36 Miss M., ‘An Interview with Sadie Plant and Linda Dement’ (1997), http:// www.t0.or.at/sadie/intervw.htm. 37 George P. Landow, ‘Stitching Together Narrative, Sexuality, Self: Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl,’ Cyberarts and Cyberculture Research Initiative (2000), http://www.cyberartsweb.org/cpace/ht/pg/pgmain.html. 38 Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl, or a Modern Monster by Mary/Shelley and Herself (Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, 1995), unpag.

8 The Sight of Sound: The Last Angel of History ri naldo walcott

The basic labours of archaeological reconstruction and periodization aside, working on the contemporary forms of black expressive culture involves struggling with one problem in particular. It is the puzzle of what analytic status should be given to the variation within black communities and between black cultures, which their musical habits reveal. The tensions produced by attempts to compare or evaluate differing black cultural formations can be summed up in the following question: How are we to think critically about artistic products and aesthetic codes which, though they may be traceable back to one distinct location, have been changed either by the passage of time or by their displacement, relocation, or dissemination through networks of communication and cultural exchange?1 Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic

Introduction: The Emergence of the Sight of Sound Let me begin with an obvious observation. It is undeniable in the age of music television that music can be seen. That is, music now has a sight to it as well as a sound. The post-MTV era (or post-MuchMusic, to Canadianize, and post-BET, to blacken it) has given sight to sound. Music videos have changed how many of us respond to music and how we make meanings of, and out of, music.2 This ‘new’ relation to music, a sonic sighting if you will, has inevitably changed the shape and sound of music and how it is represented or seen both in our imaginations and, for my purposes in this essay, in the filmic text. This new relation of the sight of sound and a new history for the relationship between the ear and the eye have profound effects for the future of musics and the

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future of popular musics in particular. In short we must now confront the optics or the visuality of sound. It is the sight of sound in its black diasporic tones, rhythms, and gaze that I want to explore in this essay in relationship to John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History (1995, 45 minutes). The film is a theoretical excavation of the relationship between black popular musics, futurism, science fiction, and the alien history of transatlantic slavery. It posits quite explicitly a critique of the assumption that black people have been more alienated from technological innovations than anyone else. Instead it posits a relation to technological innovation and its discourses that sees black people as intricately tied to technological innovation. In short, the film offers a partial but important critique of some narratives of modernity by demonstrating how black musics have fashioned a relation and a discourse of futurism that both borrows from and sits in relation to yet simultaneously alongside other modernisms – the film works with music to accomplish this claim. The film gives sound sight, producing the optics of music. For Akomfrah to achieve his intentions it must be understood and taken as serious that the first technology of the modern was the enslaved bodies of Africans made into machines in the plantation economy. But because those bodies refused such a limited designation, they immediately became cyborgs, as Kodwo Eshun argues in the film. In short, the film calls into being a cinematic sonic diaspora constituted through the ‘Internet of black cultures.’ The metaphor of the Internet is apt for the black diaspora. The World Wide Web, in its dispersal and yet its apparent coherence, and simultaneously its knowability and uncertainty, parallels the black diaspora. In recent scholarship, black diasporic response to the continuing and increasing presence of the World Wide Web in human life has been a feeling of disenfranchisement. This disenfranchisement is understood mainly as access to technology, but in its most problematic forms it is produced as a form of black anti-technological attitude that is somehow mysteriously embedded in the African cultural psyche. Scholarship pioneered by Lisa Nakamura and Beth Kolko has been important for demonstrating how various colonial narratives of race and nation have come to characterize how black people and other people of colour are represented on the Web. It has been important for demonstrating the ‘worldliness’ of the Web. However while that scholarship plays a crucial role in pointing to how various forms of sedimented whiteness organize assumptions on and about the Web, such scholarship does not account

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for actual black peoples’ ongoing relations and engagements with resignifying various technological forms. It is in part my argument, and I think Akomfrah’s, that when black people engage the technological they make its appearance different from what it was intended. They make the technological utter its form and its content otherwise. That is, black people attempt to make the technological human and not otherwise, as Derrick May articulates in Last Angel of History. For example, the remaking of the turntable into an instrument ‘releasing the inert energy’ within it, as Eshun points out in the film, is a case in point. It is part of the goal of this essay to think about the ways in which music has been continuously visual and optical for black diaspora peoples even before the advent of music television and the music video. That is, music has played a fundamental role in the shifting and re-education of a racist gaze positioned on black bodies in an attempt to force an understanding of black bodies as bodies which inhabit the qualities of humanity. This provokes a confrontation with those discourses of modernity which seek to render black people less than human. In short, the visuality of the black body has played a role in claiming its humanity through sound/song and thus offering another narrative of modernity that is aurally visual. First, let me suggest that by the sight of sound I am reworking what Arthur Knight calls the ‘sight of music’ in an essay on the use and abuse of jazz in Hollywood films. Knight writes, ‘the sight of music becomes the object of industrial mechanisms and forms.’3 He further states: ‘What music looks like relates crucially to how it sounds and what it can mean. Whether viewed in performance, depicted on the cover of a score or record, or suggested by program notes or words of a radio announcer, the “look” of music influences how listeners categorize what they hear. Is it “art” or “commercial claptrap”? Is it music or noise? What is its relation to me, to us? The look of music helps define and answer such questions.’4 I am re-inflecting Knight’s phrase to move it beyond the genre of jazz to account for a larger body of black diaspora musical sounds – rap, house, techno, funk, reggae, drum ’n’ bass, jungle, avant-garde jazz or free jazz – to name a range of black musical languages and noises. These contemporary black noises are wholly imaginary sounds, as David Toop understands them. These musics that are constructed mainly in the studio represent black peoples’ deep engagements with technology. But most importantly these engagements with technology resignify and rearticulate it, making it speak an experience and a history that it was

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often largely not intended to speak. Many of these engagements suggest new and different histories. These new or different histories require that we rethink the place of black people in the modern and postmodern articulations of our times. I am interested in the sight of sound as it recombines new and old musics to create new ‘sound sculptures’ that our ears have not borne witness to before.5 These musics provide a new history of the ear. They share a discontinuous history with some previous black musics, most of all what is referred to as free jazz or avantgarde jazz, a sound and practice of ‘noise’ which had to retrain the ear’s sensibilities to make it intelligible to listeners. However, these new technologically driven musics occupy a place within black diaspora cultures through which the communicative aspects of transnational community are maintained and transformed for local consumption, all the while fitting contradictorily into the networks of global capitalist relations – for these musics are produced for consumption and are consumed. Additionally, these musics are as much related to the very specific personalities who make or create them as they are tied into a complex network of nightclubs and other parties which provide a transnational network of demand and consumption. However, we should also be cautious and note that not all consumption is the same. Consumption varies with regards to historical relations of production. Do black people consume these musics differently from others? Are there different ways in which black people in Toronto, London, and Detroit consume these musics? And what about the overwhelmingly large consumption of these musics by white cosmopolitan youth and others? One cannot be too glib about the complex terrain of consumption and desire that these computer-driven sounds occupy in contemporary musical taste cultures. What is crucial is that the music and its consumption must be placed in the discontinuous history of black Atlantic music-making and its specific historical context. In W.E.B. DuBois’s seminal text The Souls of Black Folk, music plays a central role in his suggestion that African Americans have given the United States any folk culture that it might have. In the chapter ‘Of the Sorrow Songs’ – popularly known as the Negro spirituals – DuBois suggests that these songs/sounds represent the only authentic cultural expression of the United States, forged in the crucible of the conditions of early nation-state formation – that of chattel slavery. DuBois writes: Little of beauty has America given the world save the rude grandeur God himself stamped on her bosom; the human spirit in this New World has

164 Rinaldo Walcott expressed itself in vigor and ingenuity rather than in beauty. And so by fateful chance the Negro folk-song – the rhythmic cry of the slave – stands to-day not simply as the sole American music, but as the most beautiful expression of human experience born this side the seas. It has been neglected, it has been, and is half despised, and above all it has been persistently mistaken and misunderstood; but notwithstanding, it still remains as the singular spiritual heritage of the nation and the greatest gift of the Negro people.6

While DuBois is concerned to position the folk/volkgiest of the United States as largely African American, he is attempting to suggest that the music is American folk music because of the ways in which it evokes the humanity of those who were enslaved. This in a manner not witnessed to the same degree and with the same spirit in other American cultural texts. The significance here is that the music articulates one of the fundamental tenets of modernity – a desire for liberation and freedom. But what is equally important about DuBois’s text is the way in which he deploys the use of musical texts or bars of music. Each chapter of the book begins with a bar of music from one of the Sorrow Songs. This music in retrospect signals what I would characterize as DuBois’s attempt to bring sight to sound. In its simplest form, reading is a kind of seeing, a form of optical relations to the word, the page, the text. DuBois’s musical epigraphs force us to consider the sight of the Sorrow Songs; as we range or read across the pages, we are forced to visualize the music of black humanity and therefore to embody the music and in some ways its message. This use of music forces readers to confront music as more than tonal, verbal qualities; its language becomes more wide-ranging and thus forces other kinds of questions. The music in Souls stands as a kind of visual demand of black peoples’ demands for freedom. DuBois thus inaugurates the sight of sound in Souls. This sight of sound has its parallel in the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ travels to Europe.7 The massive curiosity that greeted the Fisk Jubilee Singers as they travelled in Europe to raise funds for their college also brought sight to sound as well. Many were as interested in seeing these black ‘ambassadors’ of song as they were interested in hearing their stirring songs. In the latter case, the gaze is posed through an exoticism of the quaint African-American performers. Black musical performers have had a long and sustained relationship to the look of their sound. Think for example of Miles Davis’s practice of turning his back on his audience as he played his horn; such a prac-

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tice was as much about the look of masculinity and a certain kind of creative insubordination as it was about the performative qualities of Miles Davis as entertainer. This look of sound as mapped onto the body of the entertainer takes its ultimate spectacle in Michael Jackson’s recreation of himself as a kind of multiracial, deracialized body.8 But the era of music television has such a profound impact on the look of sound that a film like The Last Angel must negotiate some difficult terrain in terms of how to represent sound visually without creating a music video. In numerous hip-hop videos technology and computer paraphernalia are everywhere seen, but what Akomfrah does is to refuse the cybernetic as spectacle but to integrate it as one important component of sound. By so doing the film fashions a site of sound, which engages with the cybernetic as source, and yet something more; that something more is the cybernetic as cipher of transnational communicative practice – a web of historical and contemporary conversations, disagreements, pleasures, and disappointments. The Workings of Diaspora Kobena Mercer, in ‘Diaspora Culture and Dialogic Imagination: The Aesthetics of Black Independent Film in Britain,’ writes of a ‘critical dialogism.’ For Mercer a critical dialogism allows for a reworking of both nation and community as multiple. In this way, questions of race and class are irrevocably linked with questions of gender and sexual politics. This irrevocable mixing or creolizing of the conceptual terrain of thinking the Human and therefore thinking community is Mercer’s attempt to ‘overturn the oppositional relations of hegemonic boundary maintenance.’9 Mercer continues to argue that ‘critical dialogism questions the monologic exclusivity on which dominant versions of national identity and belonging are based.’10 A generous reading of diaspora perambulations can be ceded within Mercer’s conceptualization of critical dialogism. This is so because diaspora concerns itself with both the national, or more specifically the local, and its outer-national identifications. Critical dialogism allows for both antagonism and connection within and across the black diaspora as well as within and across national boundaries. What is at stake within diaspora workings when we confront moments of critical dialogism is how to understand and make community. In this way community is struggled over and not assumed despite or in spite of some common historical moments. Mercer is interested in critical dialogism because he wants to author a the-

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ory of aesthetics that can move beyond the invocation of mythical and singular origins. Furthermore, Stuart Hall tells us that diaspora is about a point of departure that does not necessarily only mean a place of origin or an original homeland. For black peoples, the place of origin is often signalled as that Enlightenment invention of continental space/place known as or called Africa. In an essay in which he looks at Caribbean diaspora identities in England, Hall tells us that instead departure might suggest ‘axes or vectors ... the vectors of similarity and continuity; and the vectors of difference and rapture.’11 These vectors signal the more nuanced and complex facets of black diaspora identifications instead of a return to origins as a site of certainty and knowability. Hall is careful to chart history not as a linear progression but rather as meandering and much more Creole than we sometimes are willing to acknowledge. We shall see shortly how these vectors of difference and continuity, similarity and rupture, work in Akomfrah’s film. Hall also points out that ‘diaspora identities are those which are constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew, through transformation and difference.’12 Therefore diaspora identities are not locked into uncovering their relation to a lost past, but rather diaspora identities seek to come to terms with a past interrupted and to make sense of the new modalities through which life is lived, modalities which recognize both pleasure and pain, desire and disappointment as the conditions of its humanity. Hall cautions us and I follow him: I use the term [diaspora] metaphorically, not literally: diaspora does not refer us to those scattered tribes whose identity can only be secured in relation to some sacred homeland to which they must at all costs return, even if it means pushing other people into the sea.

Hall further states: ‘The diaspora experience as I intend it here is defined, not by essence or purity, but by the recognition of a necessary heterogeneity and diversity; by a conception of “identity” which lives with and through, not despite, difference; by hybridity.’13 Thus Hall’s caution is against a search for origins into what might be needed in this moment; instead a different kind of archaeology is needed. It is an archaeology concerned with uncovering the ways in which our remaking can allow us to live with and through the complex communities we inhabit. This cinematic nearness is an indication of the relationship between

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black cultures and what Hall calls ‘Présence Européenne.’ The central importance of Kraftwerk’s The Man Machine to contemporary black electronic musics is a case in point. This nearness cannot be too easily overlooked, for it complicates the question of how we might call community into being and how we might understand the historical relations of what community we attempt to call into being in specific political moments. The European presence in the Americas in relation to blackness obviously conjures up the violence of colonialism, imperialism, and contemporary racisms. However, the relationship is also somewhat more complex than the technologies of victimhood used to subordinate black peoples. As Hall has pointed out concerning the complexity of the situation: In terms of popular cultural life, it is nowhere to be found in its pure, pristine state. It is always-already fused, syncretized, with other cultural elements. It is always-already creolized – not lost beyond the Middle Passage, but ever-present: from the harmonics in our musics to the ground-bass of Africa, traversing and intersecting our lives at every point. How can we stage this dialogue so that, finally, we can place it, without terror or violence, rather than being forever placed by it? Can we ever recognize its irreversible influence, whilst resisting its imperializing eye? The enigma is impossible, so far, to resolve. It requires the most complex of cultural strategies.14

In Hall’s conception of the ways in which Europe figures in New World black creolization, a call is made for both an understanding of the terror of the effects of transatlantic slavery and then something else. This cinematic creolizing moment is important because it signals a much more complex archaeology of the nation and its history than we often encounter. This cinematic move is in part a move to figure out how New World blacks can make reparation with the violent birth of their ‘newness’ within the contexts of an emergent, vicious modernism stemming out of Europe but for which they are both its examples and its detritus. In many ways The Last Angel takes us in another direction towards answering this question. The Last Angel of History: An Aesthetics of Cut ’n’ Mix Given my comments above, I want to continue to suggest that the film under discussion is about more than recording a history or histories of

168 Rinaldo Walcott

black music. That is, it is more than figuring origins; it is about black music and something more. The something more is a nation of a community born into but more usefully a community built out of meaningful political dialogue. Even more specifically, I want to suggest that music is given sight in the film so that the workings of diaspora in its ephemera, sensibilities, consciousness, material and other conditions, its disappointments, pleasures and pains, and its political identifications might be partially exposed – might be seen. Last Angel, then, is a double project or what Hall calls ‘the double inscription.’15 It seems to document contemporary black musics and their relationship to technology, and it also seeks to mirror those musics in content and form in its cinematic language. Following Hall we can now come to terms with diaspora as being more than a traumatic dispersal from an original homeland – yes it is that, but it is also much more. To reiterate Hall, diaspora is about renewal. Last Angel gives sight to the process of renewal through the cybernetic orderings and disorderings of contemporarily derived technological practices. The real vision of the film is not, I would suggest, in its Afro-futurism but rather in its unsentimental gaze backwards. As the Data Thief or narrator tells us, returning home is impossible. Highlighted in the film is the ambivalence of history, genealogy, and archaeology as fixed signals of time, community, and identity. Instead, something else is being appealed to. It is the ‘displacement, relocation, and dissemination’ that Gilroy alerts us to that gives music sight in the film.16 Last Angel maps a history of the trauma that ushered in contemporary black musicality. By musicality I mean something broader than music as form and content; I mean an entire cultural apparatus and sensibility encapsulated in something called black sound/music. But also Last Angel takes this musicality to reframe cinematic language, and this is where the sight of sound becomes both evident and blackened. The film itself draws upon black diaspora sonic aesthetics. In particular a cut ’n’ mix aesthetic structures the film’s narrative. That is, the film refuses linearity in favour of a back and forth, a constant crossing, a kind of collaging of image and sound text to frame the cut ’n’ mix of black diaspora sensibilities and histories. As Dick Hebdige put it some time ago: ‘The roots don’t stay in one place. They change shape. They change colour. And they grow. There is no such thing as a pure point of origin, least of all in something as slippery as music, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t history.’17 Akomfrah draws on the music and its untraceable genealogy to produce a film that while aware of the place

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or history of Africa – in Hall’s sense of placing – does not concern itself with tracing the origins or source of contemporary black musics. Instead Last Angel is concerned with the ways in which the use of technology, in particular computers, drum machines, synthesizers, and sampling machines remake soundscapes in both imaginary and socially realistic ways. The ‘imaginary musics’ under discussion in the film are musics that take history as both the ground of their movement and the category that must be exceeded. In this way the musicians discussed in Last Angel offer a dynamic revisioning of black diaspora history in their musics that is pedagogical in terms of how to enact the kinds of creolization or hybridity discussed earlier. These musicians and musics are not lodged in a moment from which a concern with origins is all that they can tolerate. The film takes its tenor from this attitude as well. This is not a dismissal of history, but rather an attempt to make history usable. The Data Thief returns to Africa as source but only ambiguously and ambivalently. For Africa can now only be but one place or spot on the postindustrial production line of black imaginary musics. The music of techno, house, drum ’n’ bass, free jazz and reggae, or dub featured in Last Angel defies any search for origins. These are pleasurable mongrel musics. Instead, the echo of Africa in these musics lies in their use of the drum, or rather what we must now call drum effects in the technological era, since these effects are often produced through means far removed from the drum as we know it. But nonetheless the Data Thief is still engaged in an archaeological project. But it is a project that seeks to uncover not the stability or certainty of origins, but rather the messiness of historical recombination, dislocations, and new locations. This new emphasis is in part the attempt to make reparations with the new humans or what Sylvia Wynter calls ‘new forms of human life’ produced in the moment of the post-1492 European voyages to the Americas. The Afro-futurism that Last Angel chronicles and fashions as its theme and form – its practice – is one of the elements of diaspora sharing, invention, and renewal. Angela McRobbie writes of this new music, specifically drum ’n’ bass: It is possible to hear the full force of the improvised tradition of jazz, combined with reggae sounds and toaster voiceover of the Jamaican dancehall, with the hip-hop tradition of the rapper, now souped up by technological means to produce a thunderous and uniquely black and

170 Rinaldo Walcott British underground sound. But there is no crude ethnic absolutism inscribed within this form, instead its openness and fluidity and serious, indeed scholarly, concern with the music celebrates the movement between black, white and Asian mixes which is such a hallmark of this musical style.18

As Greg Tate tells us in the film, technological advances have allowed for access to an almost complete archive of black music now available to these DJs and MCs, who have emerged as the most creative musicians of the late twentieth century. Access to this archive, or, as Tate puts it, this ‘digitized race memory,’ has meant that the play with musical history and history more generally is much more open and malleable now than for previous generations. As Goldie confirms in the film, riffs from particular songs can now be lifted and placed in sequence with other sounds to produce sounds/musics that the ear has not heard before. This use of technology refigures the black body in modernity and postmodernity because, as DJ/musician Derrick May suggests, the effort here is not to demonstrate the alienation of technological innovation but rather to humanize technology. The irony of May’s assertion is obviously not lost on viewers who must continually confront a discourse and practice of modernity that strove to make black bodies less than human – to make them machines – in early modernity. In fact, the attention to the alien experience in the film, as pointed to by Greg Tate and, most forcefully, by Ishmael Reed and science fiction writers Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler, along with DJ Spooky and Kodwo Eshun, pinpoints the alien experience of transatlantic slavery, which is one aspect of the genesis of these ‘imaginary musics of the future.’ The discussion of the drum as an instrument for covering communicative distance and its illegality in plantation slavery serves to bring historical weight to bare on the renewal and inventiveness of black diaspora musical practices. But these musics can also be read back through a genealogy of black musics, which centre some concern on the discourse of hope. As DuBois pointed out in his essay on the Sorrow Songs: ‘Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope – a faith in the ultimate justice of things ... that sometime, somewhere, men will judge men by their souls and not by their skins.’19 It is exactly the question of justice that Reed tries to articulate when he declares the experience of African Americans in the United States as an alien experience, as ‘far out.’ Reed is speaking to the contradictions of modernity and its inability to ever allow full access to the subaltern. These new musics are exemplary of what Paul Gilroy calls a counter-

The Sight of Sound: The Last Angel of History


culture of modernity. These musics occupy an ambivalent place in capitalist relations of production not only as exchange value but also importantly as use-value. It is the use-value of these musics that Last Angel engages in an ‘archaeological dig into the crossroads’ for viewers to see. The crossroads in West African cosmology are places of danger and possibility where communication can occur, and this notion has travelled to the New World.20 The trope and language of travel, migration, and movement is central to Last Angel. The language of movement is important to diaspora aesthetics, forged as they are within the contexts of dislocations and displacements. The film’s thematic focus on three musicians who call on the trope of movement to give sight to their sound – Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Lee Scratch Perry and his Black Ark, and George Clinton and Parliament and their Mothership Connection – brings into the discourse of black diaspora aesthetics and narratives the futurology of the past. By this I mean that the Exodus narrative is a central aspect of the narrative myth-making of the black diaspora. This myth understands black people as being displaced, sometimes roaming in a place they do not belong to and requiring a necessary return to their original homeland. The iconography of space and alien beings used by these musicians when they visualize their music is as much about futurology and its potential for liberation from an alienating ‘real’ world as it is about the historic alien experiences of black life in the Americas. But the important thing about renewal in the context of the postmodern world is not a return to the invented space of Africa, but rather an Africa that lives through digital and cybernetic relations. A downloadable Africa. This downloaded Africa is, however, not devoid of its presence and its present – that is, its current and past historical contexts. In the film Africa is also a specific place with a specific history, and the invocation of Ghana, in particular, raises many questions concerning issues of place and displacement as well as citing the filmmaker’s birthplace. This citation of birthplace is one way in which the ‘advanced’ technologies of the music under discussion and the relationship of filmmaking to Africa as a geopolitical entity are made evident. However, specific musical trends now cross each other in ways that allow for far more multiplication than we can sometimes immediately acknowledge.21 The Sight of Sound and a Sonic Diaspora Community Part of what I am suggesting is that struggles around the making of community are a central aspect of our thinking about what diaspora

172 Rinaldo Walcott

might mean. Issues of community and diaspora raise such questions as: What kinds of transnational or outer-national political identifications are worthwhile and useful? What new codes of belonging will be developed that would allow for a much more far-reaching notion of what constitutes the human? At stake is what Derrick May calls a ‘species jump’ in his attempt to argue for a humanizing of technology. This species jump should complicate the categories through which we live out our social and cultural identities. Last Angel gives two interesting examples of the struggle to make sonic diaspora or digitized community and their potential pitfalls. The question of origins lies at the heart of both. For example, the astronaut Bernard Harris tells us in the film that on an intended tour to Africa he would be displaying a flag that is a combination of all the flags of the nations of Africa, since, as a ‘son’ of Africa he had made it into space as their representative. Harris’s desire to place Africa in a central position vis-à-vis his space experience is part and parcel of the relation between those in the diaspora and the imagined lost homeland. But the collage flag that he is forced to carry actually highlights the problem of origins, for his flag cannot pinpoint any one or specific ‘African’ place but must instead forge a unity that can only be an ambivalent and ambiguous site of desire and representation. Harris’s desire to return to origins is already complicated by his having to stake a claim to an invented Africa. It is, however, an Africa he needs. It is also an attempt to make community through a particular and specific appeal to history – a history of origins and, in his case, affiliation. Last Angel returns to Africa as source, imaginary desire, and, importantly, as a code for understanding modernity as we know it and live it, in all its viciousness and possibilities. Similar tensions exist between musicians/DJs Derrick May and A Guy Called Gerald. May’s and Gerald’s disagreement centres on the use of the term ‘jungle.’ What is interesting about this disagreement is that it highlights the antagonisms of divergent yet related histories. May brings to the conversation a U.S. rejection of the term ‘jungle’ and therefore cannot understand why black London calls their music Jungle. Gerald, who credits his desire to make music to having heard May’s music on the radio, has a different history of the term ‘jungle.’ As he tells it in the film, Jungle as a name comes out of an area or neighbourhood in Jamaica referred to as ‘the Jungle.’ Thus black London’s music takes its name from the back and forth movement between Jamaica and London. What is highlighted in this debate are the differ-

The Sight of Sound: The Last Angel of History


ent ways in which knowledge, connectedness, and disconnectedness circulate across the black diaspora or more specifically the Black Atlantic. The film brings sight to this transatlantic debate, each speaker framed within a split screen that clearly features their presence on computer screens – a cinematic double inscription. In this sense viewers are faced with a different relation of black bodies and ‘black debates’ to and within the technological and, more specifically, the cybernetic age. Historically, there is a more immediate relationship between black Britons and Jamaicans than between African Americans and Jamaicans. It can be convincingly argued that black London’s cultural forms rely as much on European and African genealogies as they do on Caribbean and more specifically Jamaican cultural forms. The percentage of Jamaicans who moved to England in the post–Second World War migrations had a much larger impact on black British culture than similar migrations to the United States. This demographic difference has much to do with the different naming and the different levels of comfort with the naming. In short, May is concerned to read the name Jungle through the racism of his locality – since one of the central recurring myths of racism in the United States is that black people hail from the jungle, thus marking them as primitive and uncivilized. While such a discourse can and probably is a part of the reason why a neighbourhood is called the Jungle in Jamaica, it is not necessarily the only reason. Thus what we encounter in the debate is the limit of transnational political identification. Even within the black diaspora the struggle to make community cannot be assumed as a foundational basis that is immediately explanatory to all who inhabit the space and conditions of diaspora. Instead, other moments of one’s making must also be taken into account. Gerald seeks to account for another moment and must therefore disagree with May. The immediately felt presence of Jamaica or Jamaican-ness among black Londoners frames this diasporic disagreement. What is ultimately at stake are the points or the cracking of the code upon which community might be made – in the above case the different codes of history. This means that diaspora discourses do not call into being an immediate and identifiable community founded in the original dispersal and then stop there. The intervention of history means that other kinds of political positions, identities, and political commitments and affiliations are also at stake. Thus to invoke a black diaspora is not to invoke a foundational, transnational community that is immediately knowable. In fact, part of the reason why the Data Thief cannot

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return home is that home too is dispersed and is no longer a clear-cut prospect. Therefore a new politics is required for the making of community. It is the kinds of politics that will be the foundations of this community making that are crucial to the workings of diaspora – only a species jump can produce a new kind of community and politics. Conclusion: Afro-Futurism or the Future of the Past As I suggested earlier, black musics have always been characterized by a certain kind of visuality. For example, is it possible to think of Cab Calloway’s music without seeing him in his tails; to think of Sammy Davis Jr, the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson, the artist now again known as Prince, Bob Marley, or any number of black musicians without also thinking of their image simultaneously? Rappers have taken the visuality of music to a new height, helping to usher in a ‘visual diaspora’ where fashion codes designate one’s relation to hip-hop culture as a sign of ‘passionate attachment’ to the music. In short, black music has always played an optical illusion on its listeners so that other kinds of messages or conversations might be had when one encounters the music. The film I have been discussing is representative of the elements or the conditions of a visually sonic diaspora and the history of remembering that unfolds within the expressive cultures that give life to the diaspora. The Last Angel of History is concerned with how we remember. The site of memory, as Toni Morrison put it, is a place where the traumas of history can be differently mediated and where we can take some control over how history shapes us. In the realm of black diaspora art-making, memory and how we remember mediate against attempts to render blackness either subordinate in terms of all of human history or, in its most extreme case, non-existent. However ‘re-memory’ is a politically active site where history and the terms of remembering are crucial to rethinking the self. This politicization of memory highlights the fact that knowledge is not innocent. In the case of black diaspora musics in the cybernetic age, digitized race memory allows for a musical memory which can mediate between musics of the past and musics of the present-future in ways that continually return to important moments of cultural sharing, renewal, and other unknown possibilities. The Last Angel of History highlights how this works. The film highlights the optical illusions of social reality through the ways in which memory works to imaginatively represent the social, cultural realities of life in

The Sight of Sound: The Last Angel of History


late capitalist culture. In this way the sight of sound the film offers us is an archaeology of our present-future. This different archaeology allows us to assess the ethics of race, nation, community, and diaspora belonging. The film offers up an ethics of what, in the words of desire in Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin White Mask, a ‘new humanism’ or, to cite Derrick May again, a species jump may look like.

NOTES 1 Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 80. 2 See Andrew Goodwin, Dancing in the Distraction Factory: Music Television and Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 1992); Simon Frith, Andrew Goodwin, and Lawrence Grossberg, eds, The Music Video Reader (London: Routledge, 1993). 3 Arthur Knight, ‘Jammin’ the Blues, or the Sight of Jazz,’ in Representing Jazz, ed. Krin Gabbard (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 13. 4 Ibid. 5 Quincy Troupe, Avalanche (Minneapolis: Coffee House Books, 1996). 6 W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Signet Classics, 1982), 265. 7 Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 80. 8 See Michael Akward, Negotiating Difference: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Positionality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). 9 Kobena Mercer, ‘Diaspora Culture and the Dialogic Imagination: The Aesthetics of Black Independent Film in Britain,’ in Blackframes: Critical Perspectives on Black Independent Cinema, ed. Mbye Cham and Claire AndradeWatkins (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988), 59. 10 Ibid. 11 Stuart Hall, ‘Cultural Identity and Diaspora,’ in Diaspora and Visual Culture: Representing Africans and Jews, ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff (London: Routledge, 2000), 24. 12 Ibid., 31. 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid., 30. 15 Stuart Hall, ‘Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies,’ in Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, ed. David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen (London: Routledge, 1996). 16 Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, 80.

176 Rinaldo Walcott 17 Dick Hebdige, Cut ’N’ Mix: Culture, Identity, and Caribbean Music (London: Comedia, 1987), 10. 18 Angela McRobbie, In the Fashion Society: Art, Fashion, and Popular Music (London: Routledge, 1999), 16. 19 DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk, 274. 20 Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of The Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy (New York: Vintage Books, 1984). 21 See George Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music, Postmodernism, and the Poetics of Place (London: Verso, 1994).

9 History and Histrionics: Vision Machine’s Digital Poetics m i ch a e l u w e me d i m o a nd j o s h ua o p p e n he i me r , for vi sion mac hi ne

Forgetting to Remember One thing still upsetting me, however, is that no one kept proper records of meetings or decisions. This led to my failure to recollect whether I approved an arms shipment before or after the fact. I did approve it; I just can’t say specifically when. Ronald Reagan, Iran-Contra scandal admission1 I have found it so difficult to believe what people told me of what happened under the Khmer Rouge regime, but today I am very clear that there was genocide ... It was so unjust for those people. My mind is still confused. Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge leader2 The plaintiff complains that he has been fooled about the existence of gas chambers, fooled that is, about the so-called Final Solution. His argument is: in order for a place to be identified as a gas chamber, the only eyewitness I will accept would be a victim of this gas chamber; now ... there is no victim that is not dead ... There is, therefore, no gas chamber. Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend3 The Indonesian army did not kill anybody ... I’ve never heard of the civilian death squads. Kemal Idris, Indonesian Army General who oversaw the extermination of the PKI4

Towards the end of his life, Ronald Reagan could remember nothing. The holes in his memory into which slipped illegal arms shipments,

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and much else besides, had opened alarmingly. His memory was all hole from which no fact, figure, or image could escape. It was not so much that he had forgotten, it was that he could not remember. The mind of Khieu Samphan by his own account is still confused. Like Reagan before, his memory became all black hole. He recognizes that something happened, but he just cannot say specifically what happened; he too has trouble remembering. Both these examples of troubled recollection were staged within the purview of a judicial and forensic apparatus that affirmed the reality of a historical event whose details called for determination. Plainly put, in both these cases there had been at least an admission that something had happened – something criminal, something terrible, something whose details needed to be remembered. Much harder is a process of remembrance where no such apparatus exists, where no event is admitted to have passed. This chapter sketches out a practice whose aim is to seek a media form that might adequately address a history that refuses to recollect its systematic violence within a judicial, ethical, or forensic frame – a history that nonetheless conjures and casts the spectral threat of that violence. We propose a practice that is at once intervention and investigation into history as terror, specifically the history of the 1965–6 Indonesian massacres. This essay reflects upon the implication of the digital in this practice’s methods and processes, suggesting ways in which a hitherto untheorized ‘digital poetics’ may inform the notion of history on which the practice is predicated and the mode of historiography through which it proceeds. Martyrs and Memory On the night of 30 September 1965, six of Indonesia’s top army generals were abducted and murdered in an abortive coup attempt. ‘Who was ultimately behind this operation, as well as their final objectives, remain unclear.’5 In a response that appears to have been remarkably well rehearsed, General Suharto seized control of the armed forces and instigated a series of nationwide purges to consolidate his power. The CIA provided radio equipment and arms, MI6 provided ‘black propaganda’ (propaganda whose imputed source is the enemy), the U.S. military provided training and cash, the U.S. State Department provided death lists, and the Agency for International Development provided support for ‘youth groups’ that were groomed to become

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death squads.6 With this assistance, General Suharto engineered and set in motion a killing machine whose chain of command reached into every region and every village, murdering alleged communists, trade unionists, organized peasants, members of the women’s movement, and anybody else the army considered a threat. The campaign was deliberately organized so as to implicate the ‘masses’: much of the killing, though under the supervision of the army, was actually carried out by paramilitary branches of political groups in competition with the Communist Party of Indonesia (Partai Komunis Indonesia, or PKI) and affiliated groups. As pro-Suharto U.S. diplomat Paul F. Gardner observes, ‘[Surharto] did not wish to involve the army directly ... he preferred instead [quoting Surharto], “to assist the people to protect themselves and to cleanse their individual areas of this evil seed.”’7 The massacres that swept the archipelago in the months after October 1965 were one of the most savage and systematic genocides of the twentieth century. Western governments, covertly and deeply involved, made no official protest and little public mention of the slaughter, save the odd encouraging message of support.8 The Western press was equally mute. Since then, the events have been all but erased from official histories; no national or international juridical process has been launched. No trials, no memorials, no days of public mourning for the victims of the massacres. While martyrs were made of the seven murdered generals, their memorialization served at once to justify and mask the memory of the massacres. Tales of ritualistic savagery inflicted on the murdered generals were circulated widely. These tales of savagery served to conjure an overwhelming and spectral threat facing the nation – the ‘evil seed’ as Suharto called it. In the face of this threat, the massacres were not murders; they were at once justice, self-defence, and victory. In any case, ‘the Indonesian army did not kill anybody.’9 A History of Holes: The Crocodile Hole Lubang Buaya (Crocodile Hole) was the name for the area, within the Halim Perdanakusumah Air Force Base perimeter [Jakarta], where the bodies of the assassinated generals were disposed of (dumped down a disused well). In 1965–66 a successful psychological warfare campaign was launched by the army to persuade anti-communist notables and political leaders that the PKI had secretly prepared thousands of comparable ‘holes’ for their burial after execution.10

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This psychological warfare campaign was part of a systematic extermination program in which anywhere between 100,000 and 2,000,000 people were murdered.11 These figures are impossible: on the one hand, they are radically deflated and kept from circulation so as to shield the operation from the condemnation of the ‘international community of conscience.’ On the other hand, higher figures, even inflated figures, are deliberately allowed to circulate threateningly.12 Such divergent estimates render attempts to count the dead, to recount their history, and to hold to account the murderers fraught with terrible uncertainty. That is to say, the trail of noughts in these tallies are more precisely ciphers in that they mark both mass graves and empty graves – graves waiting to be filled. They are threatening placeholders, as were the rumoured ‘crocodile holes’ that supposedly awaited the anti-communist notables and political leaders. A history of the massacres would be a string of such holes, and the ciphers in the tallies of the dead form an abysmal archipelago, a network of absences and silences haunted by whispers and by a sometimes spectral, sometimes spectacular, violence. This history itself does not seek merely to deny or hide its violence but to allow it to circulate as a haunting force that suddenly, from time to time, flares up in an awesome display of violence.13 Snake River At the National Security Archive in Washington, DC, an anonymous and untitled folio of notes records some of what little is publicly known of the 1965–6 Indonesian genocide. A Sumatran massacre of 10,500 people is recorded in a typical entry as follows: CARD NO: 20 143 DATE: NO DATE INDIVIDUAL: N. Sumatra ITEM: From North Sumatra came a report of the slaying of 10,500 prisoners, who had been arrested for PKI activities. Their bodies were thrown into the Sungai Ular.

The Sungai Ular, or Snake River, is distinguished only by its size and relatively swift flow. It was for this reason that it was chosen as an execution site – unlike slower, smaller rivers, the Snake River could be relied upon to carry the dead out to sea.14 Before the river meets the sea,

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it passes under the trans-Sumatran highway at Perbaungan, about thirty miles southeast of Medan, North Sumatra’s capital city. Within sight of a bridge where the highway spans the river is one of the clearings in the plantation where the Snake River was loaded with its nightly freight of bodies. Since 2001, Vision Machine, a collective of filmmakers, theorists, and activists, has been working collaboratively in this region with a community of Indonesian ex–political prisoners, former bonded plantation workers, and union activists all based in North Sumatra. In various infiltrative modes, they are working with political, military, and paramilitary groups in the same region. The work of the collective consists of research into and performance of this impossible history. History and Histrionics: An Archaeological Performance To excavate the history of the massacres, Vision Machine has developed a research and production method that is perhaps best thought of as an archaeological performance. Between a buried historical event, and its restaging with historical actors, this method opens a process of simultaneous historical excavation (working down through strata) and histrionic reconstruction (adding layers of stylized performance and recounting). An archaeological performance entails successively working with, and working through, the gestures, routines, and rituals that were the motor of the massacres. The successive performances aim both to tap an embodied memory of singular gestures and to reveal the body’s singular movements as moments of the minutely geared motions of a killing machine that mobilized well-rehearsed ideological roles.15 The method seeks to reveal what was at once singular, and scripted, and to do so by going through the motions of historical events to develop a densely layered artifact. Here each layer is at once rehearsal and performance, re-enactment and response. This method, which typically moves from interview via narration and re-narration through increasingly elaborate restagings, relies in large part on digital media as the relay channel between different participants, or the same participants at different stages of the process. Let us turn to one series of reconstructions and encounters. There is a chilling scene in The Globalisation Tapes (2003), a video that Vision Machine co-produced in Indonesia, in which a small girl, Intan Sinaga, looks on, bored, at her grandfather, Sharman Sinaga. A former Komando Aksi executioner and hired thug of the plantation manage-

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ment, Sharman Sinaga stands up during an interview to demonstrate for the camera how he killed a plantation worker considered kebal or ‘invincible’ – he couldn’t be killed with knives.16 He held him upside down in a flooded field. He mimics the gargles his victim made as he choked in the mud. This brutal and direct account is the first layer in the archaeological performance. It is for the most part a conventional interview. However, even here, Sharman is encouraged not merely to tell but to show. The interview moves already beyond recounting towards re-enactment. It seeks out what might be lodged in embodied memory and asks questions of the position of the body in the motions of history. The interview is not relegated to a merely informational source, nor are its words privileged as a source of truth or of untruth from which truth is somehow extracted. Rather, it is one layer in a densely layered series of performances. As a result of the interview’s disclosures, Vision Machine invited Sharman Sinaga to reconstruct his nightly routine on the banks of the Snake River, where he dispatched perhaps many hundreds of people. The words and gestures of his interview continue to haunt this scene. This re-enactment is the second histrionic layer, a layer constituted by a field of action that directly overlays the site of the historical event. His demonstration veers between chilling pantomime and forensic reconstruction. On the one hand, he details most precisely the modes and methods of decapitation, illustrates angles of approach and attack, explains the organizational and operational structure of the killing machine. On the other hand, as he plays to the camera, staging himself for an imagined movie audience, the rehearsal of recursive motions breaks into a performance of disturbing improvisational flourish. He elaborates kung-fu movie-style sequences, displays his own ferocious machismo at the same time as he speaks the script of the purity of the heroic national struggle against ‘atheist communism.’ His projected self-image is clearly inflected by the imagery of genre (he imagines himself a kung-fu movie star). Equally apparent is that this self-image is projected and refracted through a symbolic universe of ideological tropes, those of the ‘heroic and pure national struggle.’ Yet there are gestures that appear to break out by reflex, that appear to motion from a still-vivid and singular scene. There is a tension here between remembrance (an attempt to recall an event in its singularity) and performance (the acting out of a role and speaking of a script that is generic). His performance, then, begs questions not just of what happened at Snake

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River, but also of the relationship between trauma, memory, history, and the politics of genre. This method begins to suggest the ways in which what happened was itself already staged and scripted, the ways in which the massacre mobilized well-rehearsed ideological roles and relations, and the ways in which genre inflects the memories and imaginaries of those who were its historical actors. Sharman’s performance constitutes a layer whose contours are defined at once from underneath, as it were, by the now-buried events that passed at this site, as well as by downward pressures from the sedimented layers of historical revision that have buried them there. His words and re-enactment stretch a spectral screen between these strata. So staged, Sharman’s performance becomes a kind of ghosting, or shadow play – it both accentuates the terrible absence of the victims and conjures their spectres. Soon after this shoot, footage of Sharman Sinaga demonstrating what happened at the Snake River is screened back to Sharman for him to narrate. This re-narration is the third stage of the process. The footage is transformed from a chronicle of events at the riverside clearing into a reflexive document of how Sinaga sees himself and how he would like to be seen by others. It becomes his own reflection on his own representation of himself as hero to the audience. From this staging emerges a complex artifact that gestures not only to the past but to the operations that continue to bury the past. This process of layered performance and response simultaneously reiterates the irrecoverability of the historical real and resists its erasure. This material is then taken to survivors of the massacre and families of their victims. The content is described to them, and they are invited to review it. During the screenings of this material they are asked to voice their responses. The material is then re-screened, and another layer of response and re-narration is added. Each screening and each response is a mnemonic trigger, spawning further narrations and re-narrations, stories and stories about the stories, memories and memories of the process of remembrance, constructing in real time a crystalline constellation of voices that speak of the relationships between history and trauma, recounting and remembering. As they watch and speak, they not only recount their own experiences but also imagine and attempt to determine the motives and processes of the killers. This cinematically mediated exchange between perpetrators and survivors opens a historical process that is not merely recuperative but transformative. The encounter with the screen is a moment of remembrance. It is also an encounter through which the sur-

184 Michael Uwemedimo and Joshua Oppenheimer

vivors imaginatively infiltrate the history from which they have been excluded. The process offers a medium through which they can respond to events that they are unable to forget but have been forbidden to remember. Recording their responses to the contemporary performance of a history of terror, a history that is itself an instrument of terror, allows them to speak and to speak into their own history. It is a form of memorialization, mourning, and a moment of healing. Perhaps it is a first step towards justice in a context where no effective judicial framework has been established or is likely to be established soon. Yet another histrionic layer is added as this footage – re-enactment overlaid by re-narration and response – is used as source material for a performance by the local Ludruk troupe, a Javanese improvisational popular village theatre. Ludruk incorporates dance drawn from the Javanese martial art pencak silat and borrows promiscuously from a host of sources, high and low. Decidedly carnivalesque, its subversive mocking of established orders has at times been met with severe official response. Durasim, widely considered one of the form’s greatest talents, was tortured to death by the Japanese military administration in the early forties.17 The scenes, based on the layered film material, are performed in the village, to an audience that includes Sharman Sinaga and those he once terrorized on the London-Sumatra plantation. This show and its reception are also filmed, performance and response together becoming another stage, another layer. Whereas the staging of Sinaga’s performance invites a consideration of the connections between history, memory, trauma, and the politics of genre through a performative investigation of the ways in which the televisual and cinematic imaginary has shaped historical imagination, this staging suggests the subversive and therapeutic possibilities offered by popular genre forms in the recovery, recounting, and working through of traumatic memories and histories that are otherwise repressed or suppressed. Again, the possibilities of ‘going through the motions’ are moments not only of historical recovery but of imaginative transformation. If Sharman Sinaga demonstrates one mode of revisionism, then the Ludruk appropriation of his performance instances another form of historical revisioning. These experiments with genre are one passage, one path towards transformation, towards becoming other. Here lies the redemptive potential of the method. The aim is to both reveal and resist what the method makes manifest, to imagine oneself as other in the act

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of remembering, to make one’s history one’s own at the moment of transforming the self. This process of becoming other was dramatically illustrated by the sudden possession of one of the Ludruk players by the spirit of William Colby, one-time director of the CIA and architect of the Phoenix civilian extermination program in Vietnam. Here, a spectral figure who haunts the history of the region is suddenly given body and voice; a figure who lurked in the wings literally steps onto the stage. This is not a case of a performance making explicit a shadowy aspect of this history (here the CIA’s involvement); the significance of Colby’s convulsive cameo resists résumé. Indeed, the aim of the project is not to restage the performance of terror in the journalistic genre of exposé (which would attempt to render a coherent summary of a violence that defies summary). Rather this project intervenes in an official history of post-1966 Indonesia that has been consistently staged so as to terrorize precisely through what it renders obscene, unmentionable within the terms of the official discourse. The systematic and deliberate nature of the massacres is excluded from the official script; it waits in the wings, threateningly spectral. Wherever the official history is rehearsed, the script is deliberately and necessarily incoherent, unconcerned with adequacy to actual events. It is not a history in the realist register; it does not speak in order to refer; rather, it is rehearsed in order to exercise a power. It is a history in the performative register. This project’s intervention is to restage this history differently from its ceaseless rehearsals in schools, on national television, on days of official memorial – to restage it in such a way that the operations of its obscenity can be grasped, so that the spectres it produces can enter the scene and be addressed, acknowledged, and contested. Digital Palimpsest: Supplementary Layering Digital technology is key to the process of political and historical reimagining and to a method of archaeological performance. This can be neatly illustrated by an emblematic experiment with the re-narration of an archival film of William Colby. Images of the former CIA director giving a speech on the progress of the pacification of South Vietnam are taken from the National Archive in Washington, DC. The sound remains classified, and so Vision Machine employs a deaf man – a lip reader – to read Colby’s lips. It is not easy because the footage is blurry and the lip reader requires eight passes to produce even a fragmentary

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picture of what Colby is saying. With each pass, the lip reader picks out more and more phrases like ‘from time to time,’ ‘isolating the population,’ and ‘sportsmanship.’ The words from each pass are layered over the others, each at the same relative point of utterance. This results in a thick and strangely contoured voice track – some moments become dense with the same words or phrases, a crowd of echoes seemingly to issue from Colby’s mouth. At other moments, different words are read from the same mouthing, the syllables of each interfering with those of the others to produce a perverse double- (or triple-) speak. Some words are picked up on one pass and not another. William Colby is saying different things at the same time; but, of course, he is saying nothing. The silence beneath the re-narration is telling. It speaks at once of the uncertainty of historical knowledge and of the deliberate attempt to erase it. In place of an account of the murders, and in place of the voices of the murdered, we have footage of a small, spectacled man in a suit mouthing banalities in silence. Whereas in the Ludruk performance the spirit of Colby possessed the performer, here we possess Colby. We speak as Colby; we give him a voice. As he mimes, he is mimicked, both mocked and mined for what he withholds. Some historical knowledge is yielded, and something more is made known of the regional policy that he was instrumental in shaping and administering. More tellingly, the banal administration of tremendous power and violence is made to speak through his silence, and the official history that he authored is given another voice that speaks out against it. It becomes the material of a historical imagination it would want to destroy. This process is a form of archaeological performance. The historical fragments that are recovered are artifacts of the present. The speech of the past reaches us only as a contemporary performance.18 Each stage of the interpretation exerts pressure on the preceding and subsequent stage yet remains, in itself, distinct. With analogue technology, this process would be all but impossible. Unless one had dozens of small, portable tape recorders for recording and playing back successive narrations, the best one could do is replace one of two soundtracks on a videotape or else use a mixer to blend the narrations which could not be unmixed. Thus, digital technology makes possible a method wherein each new layer is an addition or a supplement, rather than something that erases earlier versions. In a project on historical remembrance and excavation in situ, this is essential.19 A digital palimpsest is fashioned where overwriting does not entail writing out. Each layer interacts with

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and refracts the others, yet its singular features remain intact. Layering, of course, is built into the architecture of the editing software. Digitally layered artifacts pervade contemporary media space. The process can be heard in any pop song where voices are filled out, in multi-screen news initiated by CNN, or in the voice-over commentary on DVDs. For Vision Machine the tools of digital post-production offer an ideal figure and metaphor. The material infrastructure informs our conceptual framework and a working methodology of successive reenactment, circling the same gesture, the same scene, the same event, asking participants to repeat and rehearse, and then relaying these rehearsals to different participants, projecting them onto each other and into different generic contexts. Importantly, this process of digital layering allows the figuring of a particular construction of spectrality, of ghosts informing the quotidian field in which the digital project unfolds. After all, the history that the project addresses is quite literally haunted. That is to say, it produces and is populated by ghosts. The production process must include both the community of spirits and the fraternity of metaphors. Indeed the video itself has conjured spectres, precipitated possessions. The domain of ghosts is parallel to, and distinct from, the world of the living. Yet it occupies the same space. This spectral realm is not so much contiguous with the corporeal world as it is co-extensive with it. Contrast the digital process of layering with the analogue process of montage. Let us take for example Marcel Ophüls’s film The Sorrow and the Pity (1972), which is essentially a montage of testimonies. Memory, and the resistance to remembering, speak through testimony. It is montage, however, that re-members, puts together fragments of testimony, articulates memory into historical chapters. This conception of remembering history is predicated on the possibility of recovering and articulating a coherent and original historical event and truth. This articulation proceeds by way of a subtle cross-examination whereby one account is held up to the next, inconsistencies exposed, denials made to betray themselves, confessions teased out. If in The Sorrow and the Pity each account that abuts the next in some sense betrays the other as ‘untrue,’ the elements are nonetheless the lies from which emerges the truth – a truth against which the lies can be judged even if it can be arrived at only via these lies.20 The instrument of this cross-examination is montage. The hinge of the edit is the pivot of the scales that weigh one account against the other, and the totality of accounts

188 Michael Uwemedimo and Joshua Oppenheimer

against a notion of justice, truth, and authenticity. Much is in the balance. Thus, Ophüls uses montage to deliver justice from history. Indonesia’s relationship to the massacres of 1965–6 remains beyond the frame of judicial scrutiny, and much of the evidence that might supply a coherent account has been destroyed. Here the judicial figure cannot be drawn on and history has been rendered incoherent by a stillpresent terror; collecting the fragments and gluing them together will not produce a coherent whole. Freud’s figure of the ‘eternal city’ is appropriate here. The image of contemporary Rome superimposed on the sedimented ruins of ever more ancient settlements served Freud as a spatial metaphor for the psyche. Freud found the analogy ultimately unsatisfactory, however. The architectural figure points to the physical impossibility of two objects occupying the same space (one building can be built only on the ruins of another), while in the psyche this co-extensivity is achieved. A spectral co-extensivity structures the field of social relations the film involves, and digital layering allows working methods, and produces works, structured by the possibilities of a congruent spectral coextensivity. In his ‘Theses for a Philosophy of History,’ Walter Benjamin provides another figure through which to imagine this difference between a process of chronicling structured by syntagmatic contiguity and a historiography that works through successive layering: Where we perceive a chain of events, he [the angel] sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.

Rather than a chain of events, we have layer after layer of wreckage. It is down through these layers, paradoxically by a working up, that the archaeological performance proceeds. Working with digitized elements allows for this simultaneous working down and working up. These figures tentatively suggest a critical difference between an analogue process of montage and a digital process of layering. They point to why the formal and technological approach of layering – a digital

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poetics – is appropriate to the historical site and historiographic approach of the film project. Shared Time While it may be a relatively obvious point, digital technology enables practices to be driven by an economy of enthusiasm and commitment rather than cash; that is, digital technology is relatively cheap. The low cost of digital video equipment has been a decisive factor in the evolution of not only Vision Machine’s practice but that of innumerable activist and community video projects. Digital technology has been a means of exploring not only media forms but media forums. From production through to exhibition, from simply being able to distribute tapes, disks, and cameras to developing online collaborative editing environments, distribution channels, and satellite links, the digital has opened new ways of generating webs of stories and networked solidarities. Working with relatively localized communities (for instance, palm plantation workers in North Sumatra or former child soldiers from El Salvador in Los Angeles), Vision Machine aims to give voice and vision to the singular stories of these communities. Coming together to make a medium of creative reflection, the collectives that Vision Machine works with swap footage and experiences, share tactics of resistance, and create intercontinental chain stories to fashion dense, multi-layered works. In effect, these collectives produce a narrative geography. To underpin the network of collaborators, we are developing a network of social technology. In time, we hope to develop a global Internet-based video-on-demand and streaming system. Collaborating collectives will upload, download, and recut each others’ footage as well as contextualize their work with writing, activist and cultural links, and other documentation. In London, England, the network exploits the local East End free wireless network. In more remote locations, we hope to use satellite broadband as well as other available community broadcast infrastructures. It has long been the dream of activist and avant-garde artists to create robust alternative distribution and exhibition circuits. Indeed, many exist. What digital technology offers practices such as ours are tactical opportunities to exploit a massively expensive global infrastructure. One of the perennial promises of the Internet has been the possibility to radically transform the relation between moments of production, dis-

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tribution, and exhibition. In ways that we hope will go well beyond the experiments of the twentieth century avant-garde, this is a promise that Vision Machine hopes to fulfill.

NOTES 1 From a speech broadcast on PBS, 4 March 1987. 2 Seth Mydans, ‘A Top Khmer Rouge Leader, Going Public, Pleads Ignorance,’ New York Times, 3 January 2004. 3 Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, trans. Georges Van Den Abbeele (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988). 4 From a filmed interview with Vision Machine, 21 July 2004. 5 See especially Benedict Anderson, ‘Petrus Dadi Ratu,’ New Left Review 3 (May–June 2000): 9. 6 For excellent background on the United States’ role, see Peter Dale Scott, ‘The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno, 1965–1967,’ in Pacific Affairs 58 (Summer 1985): 239–64. For the CIA, State Department, and U.S. Defense Department’s roles, see especially Foreign Relations of the United States 1964–1968, vol. 26, documents 142–205 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office). Regarding death lists, see document 185, along with the research of journalist Kathy Kadane. 7 Paul F. Gardner, Shared Hopes, Separate Fears: Fifty Years of U.S.–Indonesian Relations (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), 229. 8 See Scott, ‘The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno,’ and also John Pilger’s film The New Rulers of the World (2001). See also Jeffrey Winters’s Power in Motion: Capital Mobility and the Indonesian State (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996). 9 Commander of Kostrad (Indonesian Army Strategic Reserve) General Kemal Idris, from a filmed interview with Vision Machine, 20 July 2004. Footage available upon request. Vision Machine cassettes I3–17 through 20. 10 Benedict Anderson, afterword to ‘Am I PKI or Non PKI?’ Indonesia 40 (October 1985). 11 Indonesian member of parliament Permadi received the deathbed confession of Sarwo Edhie. In a July 2004 interview, he says Edhie claimed that two million were killed. The same report appears in Anderson’s ‘Petrus Dadi Ratu.’ The CIA cites a figure of 100,000 in their own research study internal report, ‘Indonesia 1965: The Coup That Backfired,’ December 1965. Robert Cribb cites 500,000 dead in The Indonesian Killings of 1965/6: Studies from Java to Bali (Clayton, Australia: Monash University Press, 1990).

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12 So, for instance, though the systematic terror of the massacres was downplayed for an international public, that very terror was deliberately conjured by the CIA six years later, when, going after Salvador Allende, they sent cards to key figures on the radical left and the ultra-conservative right, each day for a month, reading ‘Djakarta se acera’ (Jakarta is coming). See Scott, ‘The United States and the Overthrow of Sukarno,’ and also Donald Freed and Fred Simon Landis, Death in Washington (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill, 1980), 104–5. 13 Vision Machine interviews with victims’ families suggest that the trauma of this spectral threat is always linked to the fear of the spectacular return of the violence. 14 Rivers like the Sungai Brantas, flowing from Kediri through Surabaya, in East Java, were choked. See P. Rochijat, ‘Am I PKI or Non PKI?’ Indonesia 40 (October 1985); Cribb, The Indonesian Killings; Peter Dale Scott, ‘Using Atrocities: U.S. Responsibility for the Slaughters in Indonesia and East Timor,’ unpublished monograph. 15 ‘Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through’ is the essay in which Freud first outlined his ideas on the ‘compulsion to repeat.’ 16 Vision Machine film project, The Globalisation Tapes, 70 minutes, 2003. 17 Petra Christian University, ‘Performing Art: Ludruk, Popular Theater from East Java,’ http://www.petra.ac.id/eastjava/cities/sby/performing.htm. 18 The contemporaneity of this historical project is important to stress. The profound violence of 1965–6 still haunts national life; it is neither spoken nor unspoken, rather, it is whispered, threatened, insinuated into the subtext of daily discourse. 19 Even where multiple analogue tracks might produce comparable results, similar experiments with re-narration certainly would not be portable enough to bring to remote villages in the Sumatran plantation belt. 20 The phrase ‘two lies between which emerges the truth’ is Susan Lord’s. Several of this paper’s key insights were offered by her.

10 From Sequence to Stream: Historiography and Media Art susan lo rd

When this present itself ... has become progressively unmoored from tradition, when media saturation wipes out spatial and temporal difference, by making every place, every time available to instant replay, then the turn to history and memory can also be read as an attempt to find a new mooring ... The art of memory counters aesthetic desublimation and the ideology of the anti-aesthetic.1 Andreas Huyssen, ‘Memories of Utopia’

Introduction With the concurrent emergence of database narratives, copyleft, archive plundering, file sharing, access to classified documents, we are seeing new elements and formations of the historiographic imaginary of media artists. In this essay, I explore the relationship between these elements of digital technologies, archives, and databases in the context of globalization and the political affinities forged under these conditions. I argue that there is a historiographic imaginary and an aesthetic specific to this confluence of events and processes, and I use the occasion of this essay to investigate that imaginary. The first part of the essay is focused on the post-1968 instability of futurity, which finds its expression in many social and political forms (dispersions of identity politics after the end of cohesive structures) and which in media arts is expressed through the language of the history/ memory debates. The second focus of the essay is on the work by digital media artists from the late 1990s until today. The shift from politics as a project connected to left history, anchored to class analysis and struggle, to politics as subaltern emergence, affiliated with decoloniza-

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tion struggles, has found artists of commitment operating with very different tools, vocabularies, and ontologies. The difference between Emile de Antonio and Walid Raad is perhaps the most extreme comparison of that which can be found between Sara Diamond’s work of the 1980s and Vision Machine’s project in development since 2000: the ontological status of the archive, its truth-yielding potential, has become unusable for the production of counter-truths. In other words, this is not merely about timelines of capital or about the ruined index; it is also about new movements of time and uses of technology that take place with ‘liquid modernity’: the infinite multiplication of truth claims and their correlative commodification create a condition in which the interested artist (one concerned with, for example, the Lebanese wars, Iran-Contra’s effects, Indonesian genocides, ‘guest workers,’ a thirtyfour-year civil war in Guatemala) is now forced to relinquish the future of truth (and, hence, justice) that the interrogated, critically montaged archive had promised. The archive no longer offers artists a hardsought kernel or crystal of revelation. The archive is now babble – the noise of power. If this is the condition of the archive for Vision Machine, Walid Raad and the Atlas Group, and The Speculative Archive for Historical Clarification then why use it? These are not cynical or merely formalist projects. These artists are deeply interested in the universals of their time: the suffering and injustice of global capital. Perhaps what they share is the effort to create a form for this truth that can get a purchase on the contemporary realization that a history of colonialism produces an archive of spoils through which an artist makes and unmakes his or her history of the present. History and Memory The media arts of the last twenty-five years contain innumerable examples of tangles with history. Some of the most important works of historiography come from feminist artists such as Sara Diamond and the Women’s Labour History Project and the post-colonial identity projects of, for example, the Black British film and video collectives of the 1980s and early 1990s. Isaac Julien, the Sankofa Collective, John Akomfrah, and the Black Audio Film Collective took on the enormous project of historiography of the African diaspora from the decidedly post-colonial vantage of hybridity and personalized passages. Similar to Julie Dash, Rea Tajiri, some of the work of Trinh T Minh Ha, and Richard Fung, these identity-based projects differ from the work of Walid

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Raad’s because they believed an alternative history – the untold story, the counter-history – could be spoken, or, more precisely, imaged. Such imaging was refracted through the working-through of trauma, memory, fantasy, and forgetting. But, the imaging was referential. There was an ethical imperative in this work. Andreas Huyssen discusses the history/memory debate in terms of the problems of futurity: Whatever the specific content of the many contemporary debates about history and memory may be, underlying them is a fundamental disturbance not just of the relationship between history as objective and scientific, and memory as subjective and personal, but of history itself and its promises. At stake in the current history/memory debate is not only a disturbance of our notions of the past, but a fundamental crisis in our imagination of alternative futures.2

The shifts in historical consciousness are brought into focus when we consider the memory works of politically engaged media artists of the 1980s and 1990s alongside the contemporary activist media artists. Activist media in these opening years of the millennium has burgeoned from a few ‘in the crowd’ left-wing media artists to thousands of digitalvideo-carrying protesters from the anti-capitalist, largely anarchist, international crowds.3 Images, evidence, testimonies, factoids, and demands for change comprise the intense present of the activist archive. This present tense is arguably part of digital culture, broadly speaking, and it has been met with a range of responses, from fear of the loss of cultural memory to jubilation over the instantaneousness of what is hoped to be history-in-the-making. In response to Homi Bhabha’s assertion that ‘there is a danger that the “presentism” of the net may drain everyday life of its historical memory,’4 the Indymedia.org people’s message is that there is no time but the present to help hunger-striker Simon Chapman (a young man arrested by Italian police during the antiglobalization demonstration in Genoa, 2001). Although Indymedia .org’s website offers a page of Internet links to activist libraries, few of the images I could find date from before the mid-1990s. That the activist media are being undertaken by a largely under-thirty-year-old group of people raised in a vehemently anti-aging era is but one way to understand the shift in temporal consciousness that has taken place since the activist/politically engaged ‘old’ new-media artists of the 1970s and 1980s busied themselves in the interrogation, assemblage, and reordering of archives. That work on the archive was a critical engagement with

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history as a project of human creation and, as such, an extension of a modern, Western project of historicity and political imagination where the future was thinkable, albeit unknowable and unstable, and where one sequence of temporal events, although internally unified, can be radically discontinuous from another. This kind of temporality can also be understood as filmic, and its practice is that of montage. Media artists of the ’70s and ’80s were, however, situated between the filmic and digital consciousness; they were more properly in the flow of televisual broadcasting – thinking in video (Sara Diamond), television (Emile de Antonio), and heterogeneous modes (Chris Marker). Thus, the archive raiders of this period were granted a moment of collision between time zones, historiographical processes, media, and politics.5 The juxtaposition of these two moments of political media – that of, say, Indymedia.org and Grin without a Cat or Millhouse or The Women’s Labour History Project – produces a series of questions about the politics of time as it relates to the takeover of historical documentary by The History Channel, the privatization of archives, the de-lefting of anticapitalist culture, the culture of obsolescence and the expansion of the memory industry, and the institutionalization of the artists and intellectuals of the 1970s and 1980s. If we accept Allan Antliff’s claim that all activist media is anarchist, then the culture of the left is not only concerned with history, it has actually become historical.6 But there is more to the story. The intense present of digital activism lives alongside what Andreas Huyssen calls the global ‘memory industry’: ‘the seduction of the archive and its trove of stories of human achievement and suffering has never been greater.’ ‘The form in which we think the past is increasingly memory without borders rather than national history within borders’ and has been read variably, argues Huyssen, as a bulwark against obsolescence, an attack of the present on the rest of time, and a sign of the loss of national or communal memory.7 In their ‘interview/conversation’ of Chris Marker’s Grin without a Cat, Yael Simpson Fletcher and Nalini Persaud discuss the cascades of time and event that replace a linear historiography of the left in Marker’s film. I quote the following passage at length because it points to several important aspects of Marker’s project that concern me here: the creation of an aesthetic and politics of time; the expansive media archive; the particularity of human suffering. One of the difficulties with discussing GWC is that the overt chronologies indicated in the initial voice-overs for each section – ‘From Vietnam to

196 Susan Lord Che’s Death’; ‘May 1968 and All That’; ‘From the Prague Spring to the Common Program of Government in France’; ‘From Chile – to What?’ – make us think that there is a clear linear narrative, but really it is narrative segments swirling around, making all kinds of marvelous patterns. And the titles of the two parts, ‘Fragile Hands’ and ‘Broken Hands’ [referring to the May 1968 poster ‘From the Fragile Hands of the Students to the Strong Hands of the Workers’], bring us to the powerful poetic dimension of GWC. Time and space don’t appear to be defined by the linearity and contiguity imposed by our experience of one day appearing after another day only to go into another day. Instead, one precipitating event leads to a cascade of other events as a way of explaining what has been viewed. And mixed with footage of the various presents are interviewees’ and narrators’ voices assessing events from the vantage points of the time during the assemblage of the film [early to mid-1970s], sometimes of 1977, when the film was completed, and sometimes of 1993, when the reedited video was released. In many ways, the continuities lie in the images: funerals, crowds of demonstrators, police repression, leaders speaking.8

The abiding concern for class in the political media arts from the 1960s to the 1980s was inextricable from a historical consciousness about political life; that is, to be left was to be historical insofar as the future was thinkable. The image banks that constitute the work undertaken by Marker or Sara Diamond, for example, can be understood as having emerged from a process of working through the problematic polarity between historical consciousness and memory work: images taken from public archives are set within a Brechtian fiction (Diamond) or poised against the personal archives of social subjects of the documentaries; personal testimonies are set against public records; and, in Diamond’s own personally derived works, layers of memory are strewn between and disturb the public face of the loved one. The dual work on history raises a series of questions relevant beyond the specifics of any one artist’s work. What do we want from the past? What longing is the image performing? Is the image from the past activated by an interrogation of its status as truth or is the image from the past an unquestioned testimony of injustice? But what meaning for the present or future is suffering supplying for us? The answer to this question, as posited from a Marxist position, is the fact of the continuity of oppression. This consciousness is what motivates the assemblage of a left archive and what informs the montage of sequences. In an article analysing Patricio Guzmán’s films about Chile, memory, and history, Tho-

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mas Miller Klubock discusses the dynamic between the distortions of memory found in testimonial footage and history’s meta-narratives found in archival material as a necessary tension for the process of social change: ‘While memory guides history to issues of critical importance for the present, history critically engages personal memory to establish the conditions for collective forms of recollection and solidaristic action.’9 Working on this project today, as we view one night Indymedia.org’s footage of police beating protesters and then the next day images of the beatings of the On-to-Ottawa trekkers in 1935, of the junta’s disappeared, of the American government’s hide and seek with Vietnam, the issue of ‘learning from the past’ comes hard and fast to mind. Yet, as Huyssen writes, ‘the enlightened notion that one can learn from history has been so violently disproved both at the social and political levels as well as in its experiential dimension that the very legitimacy of the historical enterprise is shaken.’10 Here, the artists of globalism and the third millennium present us with new soft architectures of being historical. The Image of History and the Politics of Time When Roland Barthes mourns the death of his mother in a series of meditations on the photograph, he writes, ‘History is hysterical: it is constituted only if we consider it, only if we look at it – and in order to look at it, we must be excluded from it.’11 Walter Benjamin’s formative text for our thinking about history, our responsibility to the past, is likewise practised through the act of looking at an image ‘which flashed up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.’12 And Hayden White’s contribution to modern historiography presents us with the question of not just the fragility, instability, or ephemerality of modernity’s historical referent, but of the very possibility of representing the modern ‘historical event.’ In each instance, it is the image and its readability – or our ability to read the image – that redeems history. History is the supplement of the image. In Gilles Deleuze’s ‘Letter to Serge Daney,’ wherein he engages Daney’s work on cinema, he presents a periodization of cinema in terms of three functions of the image: the encyclopedia of the world and the beautification of nature (early cinema); the pedagogy of perception and the spiritualization of nature (postwar and visionary cinema); and the professional training of the eye (television), which is ‘about being in contact with technology ... a

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privileged spectator allowed into the wings, in contact with the image, entering into the image.’13 The function of the image for thought (Deleuze’s question) raises different questions than does the status of the image in relation to its historical referent, its status as document or visible evidence. Deleuze and Daney’s periodization is helpful for understanding the work of media artists who think history in terms of images. The ‘modern event’ – the ‘holocaustal event’ – which White discusses as that which exists as image, was confronted by filmmakers such as Alain Resnais as a problem for seeing: ‘can I bring myself to look at what I can’t help seeing.’14 Behind the image is nothing: ‘You see nothing’ as El says to Elle in Hiroshima Mon Amour; thus it is the surface of the image itself that we must learn to read as it unfolds before us. ‘Montage became secondary, giving way not only to the famous “sequence shot,” but to new forms of composition and combination.’15 The new-media artist of the contemporary period works within the third phase of periodization; and this idea of slipping into an image because ‘each image now slips across other images’ could best be understood in terms of streaming. In the shift in historiographic practices from sequence to stream, the works reflect on the political, ethical, and aesthetic stakes and possibilities of space–time compression, instantaneity, simultaneity, and so forth that arise with the confluence of globalization and digital media. The vertical historiographic imaginary of these practices is one built on a given of the intense interconnectivity of global flows. Sean Cubitt’s chapter in this volume is concerned to present a specificity of the digital aesthetic. Networks and connectivities of technologies of capital become the content of works whose ostensible subjects are unavailable to the sequential forms of representation: In the information economy, the nodes are functions of their networks. The global today is necessarily prior to the local, especially those localities that, like the border-free trade zones of Tijuana studied by Coco Fusco, are sites of oppression. The reality of a woman forced into prostitution by the strategic requirements of the global economy cannot be photographed. No indexical account, anchored in the preeminence of the local in industrial culture, would be sufficient to understand the forces acting on her. A photograph would only stir the sentimentality defined a hundred years ago by the novelist Meredith: pleasure without responsibility. Responsibility today derives not from empathy, and certainly not from metropolitan prurience, but from understanding the networks that force her into this double economic and sexual oppression. The task of an iconic art is no longer

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to depict but to articulate the symbolic regimes that describe, define and give meaning both to her experience and to that of her oppressors, who include every user of the computers she builds when not supplementing her non-union subsistence wages with sex labour in the tourist economy. The digital artwork must be networked, and the formation of alternative networks is a critical function of them.16

Streams, Simultaneities, and Recombinant Histories As Jeffrey Skoller makes clear in his recent Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film, the experimental tradition of cinema offers a dynamic range of works that resist or refuse to represent or re-recreate the past, for such specularization and literalization of the past construct a gap between now and then, ‘closing off past from present, limiting the complex ways different moments of time commingle, inscribe, and inflect each other.’17 Instead, the avant-garde tradition attends to the unseen, unspeakable, ephemeral elements of the past, the very unrepresentability of which makes the present. Films such as Signal – Germany in the Air by Ernie Gehr or Utopia by James Benning (as well as the numerous other works Skoller discusses) think history through the materiality of the cinematic form and make present the past through strategies of duration, editing, and sound–image dissonance. Of Skoller’s impressive range of analysis, I have found two formulations especially useful for the digital work I discuss in this essay: the concepts of ‘sideshadowing’ and ‘virtuality.’ Virtuality is taken from Deleuze as a dynamic between the actual and the virtual, between incompossibles (co-existence of exclusive or divergent ‘not-necessarily true’ pasts). The virtual is not the possible but the potential for change over time that is generated by the powers of the false: ‘undecidability between what is true, what was actual, and what is potential.’18 Work by Walid Raad and the Atlas Group is especially given to a ‘virtual’ analysis. This is also true, but to a lesser intensity, for The Speculative Archive and the Terminal Time project. Sideshadowing is developed by Michael André Bernstein in his Foregone Conclusions: Against Apocalyptic History as a means to create historical narratives in which the multiple possibilities for the outcome of historical events can coexist alongside the actual outcome of events. By critiquing older narrative tropes of historical writing such as backshadowing and foreshadowing as producing the sense of inevitability or causality in

200 Susan Lord what are actually random events, sideshadowing opens the possibility for narrative forms that can render events in all their complexity rather than as binaristic narratives of cause and effect ... While sideshadowing does not deny the reality or historicity of an event, it creates an awareness of the indeterminacy of relations between events. There is no inevitable outcome to anything, because so many things are happening simultaneously.19

In Skoller’s elaboration of this form of historiography in the experimental traditions, he turns to Eleanor Antin’s The Man without a World, Ken Jacob’s Urban Peasants, and Daniel Eisenberg’s Cooperation of Parts. Each of these films reflects on the Jewish cultural histories that were lived out during and after the Holocaust. The indeterminacy between events, the simultaneity of events, and the unfulfilled or unrealized possibilities of the past are qualities that adhere to works such as the database narrative Tracing the Decay of Fiction by Pat O’Neill (in conjunction with the Labyrinth Project at USC’s Annenberg Center for Communication); the Recombinant History Project’s Terminal Time; Linda Wallace’s Living Tomorrow; and Ross Gibson and Kate Richards’s Life after Wartime. For each of these works, ‘the structure exposes or thematizes the dual processes of selection and combination that lie at the heart of all stories.’20 The coeval relation between events is heightened through the deployment of a random dynamic between archive and database. For example, Gibson and Richards’s Life after Wartime is a CD-ROM and installation project that comprises images from an archive of crime scene photographs from Sydney, Australia, from 1945 to 1960 combined with remains of text fragments that function as captions to the images when the work is played. The combination of digital archive and random-selection database yields a heightened sense of simultaneity, temporal interconnectivities, and vertical narrative structures. The explanatory text for the CD-ROM underscores the ‘select and combine’ historiographic mode: There are 2 scenes in the Life After Wartime CD-ROM. In the first, choose from the image stream by clicking on an image. After 3 choices an image/ text/music sequence plays. Choices in scene 1 influence the image flow in that scene. Each choice in scene 1 is constructing a web-like meta-narrative in the other scene, forming around various characters and locations. These are represented by accumulated ‘glimpses,’ ‘rumours’ and ‘facts.’ Hold the mouse down on the ‘glimpses’ thumbnails to see the enlarged image. Toggle between scenes using the spinning icon. The ESC key returns you

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to the startup screen at any time without affecting progress (click on PLAY to continue). It will take you hours to explore Life After Wartime. It is recommended that you SAVE/LOAD your progress from the startup screen.21

In her exhibition text for Linda Wallace’s work Living Tomorrow, Victoria Lynn elaborates on the connection between streaming, layering, and the indeterminacy of the archives’ limits: ‘Linda Wallace has created an archive of images which are transferred into Mpeg2 files that then (in Linda’s words) “peel away” from the database, “streaming” (metaphorically) into the three separate yet connected screens you see here. The question raised by the work is: where does the archive begin and end and where does the interface to it begin and end?’ She further discusses the digital artist’s work by differentiating it from the modernist montage: ‘The digital “stream” makes montage dynamic. While a collagist travels through imagery and memory at their work table, an electronic media artist can travel through imagery within space and time, distorting, reversing, editing, remixing, splintering, fragmenting, pivoting, mirroring, masking and layering through software filters.’22 What we need to add to this formalist approach is the political concerns that inhere not just as content but as that which yields specific forms. In post-colonial and globalization studies, the representational strategies employed to address the radical temporalities that emerge in the contexts of cultural difference and the politics of decolonization have been analysed by writers such as Homi Bhabha and Dipesh Chakrabarty, as well as Latin Americanists such as Nestor Garcia Canclini and Angel Rama, who have been influenced by Fernando Ortiz’s theory of transculturation. Bhabha and Chakrabarty in particular argue that the analysis of the social formations and cultural enunciations of temporality permit us to think other forms of ‘worlding’ (Chakrabarty) as coexistent and as possible.23 As Bhabha has written: ‘What is in modernity more than modernity is the disjunctive post-colonial time and space that makes its presence felt at the level of enunciation.’24 In Latin American studies, Canclini and Rama advance Ortiz’s theories of transculturation, as opposed to acculturation, as a means by which to understand how cultural difference fractures the time of modernity. In the formation of cultural identity in cross-cultural encounters there are, of course, various cultures of time and accompanying orders/theories of history: aesthetic-narrative, economic-rationalist, national-monumental, cultural-ritualist, gender-psychic, revolutionary-utopian, and

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so forth. And these larger or macro-temporalities never exist one without another; nor do they exist without a correlative practice in everyday life. These macro-temporalities come into existence as such with modernity, and hence with colonialism and with the difference the encounter brings into history. Of the many Eurocentric traps available to the critic studying cultures of time is one laid out extensively in Johannes Fabian’s Time and the Other. His critique concerns the moral, ethical, and epistemological consequences of anthropology’s advancement of colonialism through the tool of evolutionary time (the sequentialization/ spatialization of time): ‘It promoted a scheme in terms of which not only past cultures, but all living societies were irrevocably placed on a temporal slope, a stream of Time – some upstream, others downstream. Civilization, evolution, development, acculturation, modernization (and their cousins, industrialization, urbanization) are all terms whose conceptual content derives, in ways that can be specified, from evolutionary Time.’25 Written in 1983, this critique of Eurocentric, modern anthropology is now familiar, and specific variants have been vigorously taken up in ethnography and documentary film studies. Particularly useful to the digital forms of database narratives and recombinant histories is his corrective: an argument for coeval temporality. He argues that because the history of the discipline of anthropology reveals that the use of naturalized-spatialized time almost invariably is made for the purpose of distancing those who are observed from the time of the observer, a critical praxis can be built through, first of all, a recognition of the contemporaneity and synchrony of observer/observed. Two works that are particularly interesting to consider in terms of this idea of coeval temporality within the context of colonial history and globalization are Terminal Time and Vision Machine’s ongoing project about the genocides in Indonesia. Terminal Time is well described and analysed by Steve Anderson in ‘Past Indiscretions: Digital Archives and Recombinant History’26 and Vision Machine’s project is presented by two of the collective members, Michael Uwemedimo and Joshua Oppenheimer, in this volume. Briefly then, Terminal Time, created in 2000 by a group of artists, computer scientists, and filmmakers, is an ‘artificial intelligence-based interactive multimedia apparatus that constructs real-time historical documentaries covering the past 1000 years of human history.’ The database consists of thousands of image stills, commentaries, and video clips. The recombinant histories produced from this material are broken down into three parts representing three epochal periods of time. The interactivity is enacted through audience responses to the presentation of the apparatus (survey questions are

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measured and coded through the use of an applause meter) – first in the form of genuine responses to survey questions that are ‘intended to refine and focus [the audiences’] attitudes towards ideologies of race, gender, colonialism, technological positivism, etc. The content of the documentaries reflects a slightly exaggerated version of the audiences’ stated values’; and in the second presentation they are asked to elicit different responses to the apparatus. These are then recombined, and the apparatus presents a final version that reveals the structuring of historical thinking and ideological interests in history, as well as the layering of discontinuities, webs of stories, and the coeval temporalities of contested interests in historical events. According to Anderson, ‘Terminal Time presents a three-pronged critique of documentary conventions, historical authorship and utopian discourses of interactivity ... Terminal Time offers a form of participatory history in which individuals and groups are positioned as possessing the potential to radically alter conceptions of the past.’27 Terminal Time’s politics of time is activated through its performative layering of history’s construction, as well as through its critical deployment of the technology of storage and retrieval systems, artificial intelligence, communications industries, and foreshadowed paths of history. While all of Terminal Time’s ‘facts’ are true, the apparatus is interested in demonstrating the productive power of the false. Vision Machine’s project also works with documentary material and participant-observers, but here the interactivity is not given to database narratives but to re-enactments and digital layerings of evidence and interpretation, obfuscation and silence. While ideology critique is certainly an effect of their project, the trauma that lies at the heart of Snake River and The Globalization Tapes requires a different mode of analysis: digital layering of historical excavation and histrionic reconstruction, which combine to produce what they call an ‘archeological performance.’ The historiographic method produced by Vision Machine produces a density most usefully understood in terms of sideshadowing because the history is literally haunted with an unrepresentable and irrecoverable history of the genocide of between 100,000 to 2,000,000 Indonesians during the anti-communist campaign of terror that began in October 1965. The innumerability is also used as a form of terror. As Uwemedimo and Oppenheimer explain, ‘To excavate the history of the massacres, Vision Machine has developed a research and production method that is perhaps best thought of as an archaeological performance. Between a buried historical event, and its re-staging with historical actors, this method opens a process of simultaneous historical

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excavation (working down through strata), and histrionic reconstruction (adding layers of stylized performance and recounting).’ There is one specific part of Vision Machine’s project – ‘Reconstructed Speech: Successive Layers over Silence’ – that presents this most clearly. Vision Machine retrieved previously classified footage of a speech by William Colby, head of the CIA during the 1960s, about the ‘progress’ of democracy in Southeast Asia; while the image track has been unclassified, the soundtrack remains classified. In order to bring the text to light, they hired a lip reader to interpret Colby. Each pass at the interpretation is layered upon the previous. After eight passes, which captured only fragments, they showed the tape to one of Vision Machine’s collaborators in Indonesia who is a visionary. During one of the Ludruk troupe’s performances, the visionary was possessed by the ghost of William Colby. In the trance, Colby’s bureaucratic language was replaced by commands from Colby to an executioner in the same village as the visionary. So, in this one fragment of the project William Colby is standing and moving his lips, the audio passes are heard in overlapping registers of differing volume and tone of the lip reader, the passes are registered on the image track like waves, and then an Indonesian voice is layered among the others. The executioner, in another part of Snake River, re-enacts his acts of execution as historical performance. The use of Indonesian opera and other generic devices is a means by which the successive layers of trauma are made present. As Uwemedimo and Oppenheimer write, ‘The domain of ghosts is parallel to, and distinct from, the world of the living. Yet it occupies the same space.’28 The contemporary projects of Walid Raad and the Atlas Group, Vision Machine, and The Speculative Archive for Historical Clarification each undertake their historiography from within a digital aesthetic. And, for all three, the politics of globalization is rooted in the arms trade and militarization of the world from the Vietnam period through the Iran-Contra and the contemporary history that such forms of globalization have produced. For Vision Machine and The Speculative Archive, the secret and the hidden, the obfuscated and the erased, form a powerful imaginary for their historiographies. The work on and with historical evidence – testimony, material from the recently unclassified archives of the American government, and other records of historical fact – yields a network of truth and falsehood. But where for Vision Machine the ghosts and sideshadowed histories expand the screen of historiography, The Speculative Archive is concerned with the way in which the document is always about secrecy and obfuscation.

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That is, the ostensible fact is a productive fiction. The project produces ‘documents’ based in the declassified and partially declassified materials from the United States government; as well, they work with the way in which the government documents classified material – that is, the way the state creates its archive of secrets. The Speculative Archive is interested in the way state self-documentation functions to produce both a particular history and a potential history – a fork in time that brings multiple secrets into a type of composite. For example, their tape ‘It’s Not My Memory of It’ is composed of three sets of potentialities, each one opening with an interview given by a government official involved in the regulation and release of secret material. The confidence of power that gives agency to these officials and the way in which a particular historiography is produced by the culture of secrecy are themes that in themselves deserve attention. I want to briefly discuss the first of the three parts. It opens with Charlie Talbott – deputy director of the Directorate for Freedom of Information and Security Review in the Pentagon – speaking about how the Freedom of Information Act functions. He provides an example of how in the time of the Iran hostage crisis during Jimmy Carter’s administration the Washington Post requested all the top-secret information on the crisis; ten years of litigation later, thirty-two linear feet of paper was reduced to one linear foot. He explains the way in which declassification guidelines work and so forth. After his ‘testimony,’ the tape continues with a rescued document: a text that had been shredded by the U.S. embassy in Tehran, rescued by a group of Iranian students, and pieced back together. The Speculative Archive’s project here is to animate the restoration of the text, with a voice-over of a subject of the text – an Iranian man named as a CIA informant. In the animation of the text, strips of shredded paper are aligned and realigned in an effort to bring sense to the text. The voice-over analyses the various potentialities of meaning in the recombinant secrets as they are streamed before us. Walid Raad and the Atlas Group is virtual and is located between Beirut and New York City. In the project’s use of fictive and historical data of the Lebanese wars, it undertakes the unmaking of the archive and its ‘atrocity aesthetics’ by deploying the power of the false and a constellational historiographic mode facilitated by digital processes. While the ‘Atlas Group’ is the virtual diasporic name of Walid Raad’s art context and collaborative network, Raad himself appears with the work, performing the inevitable artist’s talk as an extension of the work of debilitating the fetishization of fact. In one instance of this perfor-

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mance, Raad, while performing the ‘set up for the presentation’ projected his computer’s desktop on the screen. The desktop is replete with folder icons, each given a precise ‘archival’ title such that in combination we see the potentiality of a complex history. In fact, each folder is empty – producing one moment in a virtual historiography of the Lebanese wars. Other elements in the project include a videotape of The Dead Weight of Quarrel Hangs, archival photographs from media events where important political and military figures are shown standing around bomb craters, an installation sculpture of one such bomb crater, a digital database of information about the Lebanese wars, and material from a historian of Lebanon. This diary is filled with notations related to the horse races attended by Prof. and other intellectuals. The concern over the winning horse, the timing of that win, and so forth are at once obsessional absurdities of the control, precision, and measurement of facts that anchor war to both capital and national history, and are expressive of the sense of the gamble of history, the random access to events, the impossibility of certainty, and the incompossible relationship between chance and structure. This mapping of virtual history is at once fictive and virtually true. The relationship between chance and structure is expressed here by one critic’s description of a part of the project: Generally, My Neck is Thinner than a Hair deals with the history of car bombings during the civil war. Specifically, it delves into one particular explosion, a car detonated in the Beirut neighborhood of Furn al-Shubbak on January 21, 1986. With colleagues Tony Chakar and Bilal Khbeiz, Raad formed a research team of sorts, gathering anything they could get their hands on, and limiting their search to a fifty-three-day frame. The three assembled press reports, television news footage, radio programs, and interview transcripts. They trawled through the neighborhood and interviewed people living there now about the bombing.29

The Atlas Group resists the atrocity aesthetics that are inevitably produced through the victimologies of documentary projects by interceding with potential narratives and random structures of composition. Conclusion The storied or fabular nature of historical knowledge – the meaningfulness given to fact – has been taken by new-media artists as a given,

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which they then work on through their particular ethical, political, and aesthetic projects. While they are arguably artist-historiographers, whether working through public archives, classified documents, or abandoned materials, they produce a historicity that asks us to think otherwise about records or dominant formations of historical knowledge. They also require from us an attention to the interconnections of silence upon which the babble of the archive is built – a silence produced by genocide, by the political jockeying over and fetishization of facts, by excisions and direct acts of censorship, by the arms trade, and by fear. This essay works through a number of historiographic modes developed by media artists since the 1970s. I explored the shift from sequenced temporal relations and the attendant political engagements of left history to the streamed aesthetic contemporary digital sideshadows and virtual images of potential histories and global networks. I wish to end the essay with a dialogue about history that took place between Walid Raad and Tony Chakar because it expresses the problematics faced by the engaged, historiographic artist. ‘There is this notion of chronological history where the past is certain, the present is certain, the future is certainly coming,’ says Chakar. ‘But there is no history. There is a huge catastrophe that’s in the making all the time. There is wreckage that is piled upon wreckage and that’s it. I don’t like when work I do or that Walid does is presented as an alternative history to something else, as if it is trying to find a place so it can evacuate the other history.’ ‘I wouldn’t give up the term “alternative history,”’ adds Raad. ‘But not an alternative history that is necessarily additional or that must be thought of as something that completes something that was missing. It might contradict, it might just add temporarily and then disappear ... A reductive notion of traditional history is written as a chronology of massacres, of events, or a biography of participants. We are not saying history should not include this. We are certainly saying that history cannot be reduced to this ... We are trying to find those stories that people tend to believe, [that] acquire their attention in a fundamental way, even if they have nothing to do with what really happened. Traditional history tends to concentrate on what really happened, as if it’s out there in the world, and it tends to be the history of conscious events. Most people’s experience of these events ... is predominantly unconscious and concentrates on facts, objects, experiences, and feelings that leave traces and should be collected.’30

208 Susan Lord NOTES 1 Andreas Huyssen, ‘Memories of Utopia,’ in Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia (London: Routledge, 1995), 100. 2 Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 2. 3 This discussion of activism, yesterday and today, is drawn from my essay ‘Activating History: Sara Diamond and the Women’s Labour History Project,’ in Working on Screen: Representations of the Working Class in Canadian Cinema, ed. Malek Khouri and Darrell Varga (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006). 4 Homi Bhabha, preface to Home, Exile, Homeland: Film, Media and the Politics of Place, ed. Hamid Naficy (London: Routledge, 1999), viii. 5 For more on the relation between modern historiography, temporality, and media, I strongly recommend Philip Rosen’s Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), especially chapter 3, which works through the theories of historiographer Reinhart Koselleck, and chapter 8 on old and new media. 6 Allan Antliff, Anarchist Modernism: Art, Politics and the First American Avant Garde (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). 7 Huyssen, Present Pasts, 5 and 11. It should be noted that much of the literature on memory to which Huyssen refers addresses the Holocaust and other, more recent, traumas of global violence, such as the disappeared of Latin America. While I am not making a homology between the subject matter of Diamond’s tapes and the Holocaust, for instance, there is much to be said about the trauma of gender and class violence and poverty and their occlusions and distortions in the written and visual history of modernity. The reliance on oral testimony for the production of a counter-history of class and gender makes Huyssen’s remarks especially cogent for the material with which Diamond is working. 8 Yael Simpson Fletcher and Nalini Persaud, ‘Scenes from the Revolution: A Dialogue on Film, Politics, and History,’ Radical History Review 91 (winter 2005): 172. 9 Thomas Miller Klubock, ‘History and Memory in Neoliberal Chile: Patricio Guzmán’s Obstinate Memory and The Battle of Chile,’ Radical History Review 85 (2003): 274. 10 Huyssen, Present Pasts, 5. 11 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang/ Noonday, 1981), 65. 12 Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History,’ in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1969), 255.

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13 Gilles Deleuze, ‘Letter to Serge Daney: Optimism, Pessimism and Travel,’ in Negotiations, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 72, 71. 14 Serge Daney, quoted in Deleuze, ‘Letter,’ 69. 15 Deleuze, ‘Letter,’ 69. 16 Sean Cubitt, ‘Precepts for a Digital Artwork,’ in this volume. 17 Jeffrey Skoller, Shadows, Specters, Shards: Making History in Avant-Garde Film (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2005), xv. 18 Ibid., 97–8. 19 Ibid., xxxix. 20 Marsha Kinder, cited in Steve Anderson, ‘Select and Combine: The Rise of Database Narratives,’ res magazine, January–February 2004, 52. 21 Ross Gibson and Kate Richards, ‘Read-Me.txt,’ Life after Wartime, CD-ROM (Australia, 2003). 22 Victoria Lynn, ‘Archive Montage Network: The Art of Linda Wallace,’ Opening Remarks, Montevideo, 11 March 2005, www.machinehunger. com.au/LivingTomorrow/VictoriaLynn_launch.pdf. 23 Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘Marxism after Marx: History, Subalternity and Difference,’ in Marxism beyond Marx, ed. S. Makdisi, C. Casarino, and R.E. Karl (London: Routledge, 1996), 62. 24 Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 251. See also ‘DisseminNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation,’ in Nation and Narration, ed. Homi Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990). 25 Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Other (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983). 26 Steve Anderson, ‘Past Indiscretions: Digital Archives and Recombinant History,’ in Interactive Frictions, ed. Marsha Kinder and Tara McPherson (Berkeley: University of California Press, forthcoming ). 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, ‘The Atlas Group Opens Its Archives,’ http:// www.bidoun.com/articles/atlasgroup.html. 30 Quoted in ibid.

11 The Birth of Tragedy in Digital Aesthetics gl e n n wi l l mo t t

We are used to the idea that everything is a medium: everything is structured, coded, communicated, instituted, informed, textualized, and thus mediated. We are used to the idea that nothing is simply present to us, without that supplement of a medium, the medium and its own message. We are even used to the artist who gestures toward that, who routinely abandons herself, himself, and ourselves – that part of ourselves subject to forgetting – to the prisonhouses of media. Even the most superficially strange, the most desperately new, aesthetic form all too readily cloaks a compulsively reproduced art object, that mirror in which we see ourselves – artists and audience alike – over and over again as a McLuhanesque cliché, the media artist. What kind of art could work otherwise? Can art help but objectify as object or event, as mastered form and product, the work of the media upon us – work that is driven by bodies of force and desire, dead and living, beyond any such self-image, any such mastery? This question has been asked before, as early as the modernist dada events and other happenings. But the digital revolution, if Sean Cubitt is right, recasts this question as a demand: ‘against the thingness of world, body and other’ and, one might add, of art itself, arises a demand for ‘their mutual interpenetration,’ so dissolving self and mastery in a deliberate invocation of the ‘liberating void’ that is the presence of loss and death in a materialist universe.1 The grounds for such an aesthetic have already been laid. For the limits of self and mastery, and, moreover, says Nietzsche, the limits of representation itself, are the domain of tragedy. In digital art, tragedy is being reborn.

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Deep Media But there are surface media, and there are deep media. On the surface are all those particular media of which we are normally aware, because they are immediate to us and are the media with which our bodies and senses directly interface (the computer terminal our hands are typing upon, the electric light our eyes are ranging across, the roads our vehicles are traversing, the radio our ears are hearing). Deep media, however, are never immediate to us, as they underlie the current production and existence of surface media themselves (machinery behind the electronic network, the labouring body behind the machinery, the electronic network behind the weapons of mass destruction). When you have a deep medium that is dominant in a society, that underlies at some level all or most other media (hence social communication and individual subject formation), you have the ‘oral’ or ‘print’ cultures described by McLuhan, the ‘gift’ or ‘commodity’ cultures described by Mauss, or the ‘artisanal’ and feudal or ‘industrial’ and capitalist cultures described by Marx.2 Whether deep media are thought more in terms of language systems, or of economic or other systems, their function has always been grounded in symbolic exchange and the reproduction of values, which is to say, a signifying system, a textuality. I might set before myself a typical commodity, say a small tin can containing cocktail sausages. Such a tin does not simply present to me the anticipated referent within, of course, but also communicates to me its label, the image, the printed text, and a whole world of fantasy and desire, a mythology of weiner-sausageness the depths of whose connotations only Roland Barthes could plumb, and whose commodification only Andy Warhol could completely de-reify in the absurdity of a restored human creative gesture. It does all this, even as it also presents the can itself, which I try to forget, but which I’ve bought into – the world of preserved food storage that structures my diet, of industrial processes and countless scientists, investors, managers, labourers, who make the can, refine the metal, dig the ore, etc. – the whole world of global work and movement of capital which makes this unobtrusive little thing possible, as Marx reminds us. There is a great grinding, suffering, joyous world – a world that is no more or less than a particular and powerful, perhaps precarious, condition of our present history – produced and reproduced, which is to say textualized and communicated, in my purchase and consumption of these sausages. This is a

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world that depends on and is now inseparable from systems of digital technology. Not only are media everywhere, but so is the digital, at some profound, mundane, and subsonic level, increasingly making all of the systems described above possible. That is the revolutionary interest of the digital – not as a special or new medium, but as a newly containing or enabling medium that reaches far beyond its own hardand software to create new foundations for us: our art, our weather, our work, our friendships. Its etymology already warns us it’s got its fingers in everything. If you think the fingers are your own, you incline toward a bright digital romance; if not, toward a dark digital fate. But if you feel that both romance and fate ring somehow false in the virtual world, you have felt the digital revolution. Digital Revolution Existing ideas of digital revolution have generally articulated one of two romances: (1) the digital object world, i.e., automation as the basis of a ‘postindustrial’ information economy, will free us collectively from all but virtual labour, and a real-time utopia will flourish; or (2) the digital subject world, i.e., cybernetic communication as the basis of a ‘postmodern’ sense of identity will free us individually in the development of ourselves, and a virtual utopia will flourish. Neither romance implies the other, nor, most of us will again agree, is likely in itself. Yet these antithetical romances, objective and subjective, may be seen as complementary fantasies emanating from our brushes with new deep media in which the real and the virtual lurk without distinguishing themselves, as do banality and bliss. For if Jim Davis and Michael Stack are right, the digital deep medium is initiating a radically new mode of production which is, tendentially, the basis of a world in which work and play, art and life, are no longer the antinomies they have become in the modern world.3 This is not simply another utopian vision extrapolated from what digital machines can do, nor the experience offered to their users, as with the romances mentioned above. Digitization promises something deeper, less visible, and immediate, which is to liberate production itself from commodification – hence culture from reification, labour from alienation, and scarcity from class struggle – so bringing capitalism and its particular evils, as Marxist philosophy has long understood them, to an end. This is a tall order, but while Davis and Stack’s utopian argument may have its

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weaknesses, its point of departure, which is to see digitization at the roots of a structural mode of production below the surface of other media, is for Marxist dialectics and digital aesthetics alike highly suggestive.4 This point of departure allows the digital product to be grasped in our times as a capitalist product, a commodity, whose value depends upon ratios of labour and other commodity values in the marketplace (in relation to a surplus value or profit, of course, which is accumulated by a wealthy class at the expense of a deprived one). In brief, Davis and Stack argue that digital production will lead to a catastrophic depreciation of labour value, thus to the dissolution of commodity value as required for the generation of profits. The digital revolution is not a revolution in objects, nor in subjects, but in the values – the systems of value production, reproduction, and exchange – that circulate between the two. Digitization offers a ‘universal rendering that is resource-conservative, cheap to store and transport, and easy to copy, meter, and manipulate. Digital rendering thus liberates information from the constraints of any particular medium and raises the possibility of the liberation of “information” from the constraints of scarcity and rationing by price: easy and cheap replicability means that whatever can be digitally rendered can be made universally available.’5 So, not only does digitization tendentially destroy by supplanting the commodity value of human labour across nearly every sector of our productive activities (as imagined by the automation romances in terms of an object world of surface media), but its replicability further depreciates (in the downwardly spiralling cheapness of the production of the copy) whatever commodity value – or profit margin – inheres in any product. The latter, Baudrillardian depreciation arises from the unlimited ‘dissemination’ effect of the digital medium as supplement to our intentionally created content (as imagined in the decentred values and identities of poststructuralist romances). The net effect is to erode the commodity basis of the capitalist mode of production itself, and throw the value of all our labour time, in work and play, into a maelstrom. Is this another romance? For Davis and Stack, the most profound product of the new deep medium is a crisis in unemployment and underemployment, as capitalism, through myriad last-ditch efforts, tries desperately to squeeze marginal values out of its own hyperproductive digital economy. This can never be solved, they suggest, by strategies from the capitalist past, for the social contracts that have always inhered between capital and labour are in the digital age severed. An underclass is fated to grow in

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size and discontent, because the work that most people can do is no longer valuable in the virtual factory and marketplace. The poor are freed from commodified labour, and indeed from alienation as such. This is a profound gain, perhaps, but must come at the cost of the social wealth, which remains in the hands of the few still locked inside the capitalist cage (who can perhaps fetishize, as in the white appropriation of rap, the dispossessed creativity glimpsed without). On the other hand, for these few themselves, the experience of virtual play – on the Internet, in the game world – floats up like a mirror image of this real, tragic freedom, even as it is recontained in the commodity form of specialized leisure products. For the leisure time of the virtual reality (VR) user is, as has often been pointed out, dependent on the devalued work time of an underclass. Behind every screen is a sweatshop. The homeless kid roams the pavement while the computer kid surfs the Web, the dialectical twins of a new age. Not the digital user but the underclass is the real, if immiserated, subject of the new economy. The userclass knows its uncanny kinship, and wears the digital nomad like a second skin, a tattoo. The digital revolution is not, therefore, a merely technological one, because the distribution of wealth can be unfair under any conditions. Digitization can only create the situation wherein a human revolution can begin, whereby production may be seized in the name of new values because, unlike in the past, its technology has exhausted one system of value creation and opened up the possibility of another. Centrally, the value of labour time – the sheer temporality of human effort in production – that is shucked off by the new commodity is ready for new energies to inhabit and expand, without any common principle of organization, without a negotiated plan. Bungled Time These are precisely the new digital media parameters explored by Stanley Kim Robinson’s epic novels of the civilization of Mars: the power of digitized analysis, production, and automation is there complete, and all that is left is to create a human world in which this power is justly distributed – with revolution.6 But the new temporality is also curiously thematized. The twenty-four-hour Earth clock keeps on ticking, but an extra fifty-some minutes spills open at midnight, when the clocks stand still – and time is set free – to signify the difference of the Martian day.

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The best way of grasping the implications of the digital revolution, therefore, is as the opening up of this radically different and subversive valuation of time. If everyday time was once metered on the inescapable clock of commodity production – a clock now stuttering and wheezing (as Dostoevsky’s Underground Man first heard it) – then our time is henceforth transvalued, non-uniform, and in the systemic sense, chaotic. We can already experience this new temporality directly in any work which interfaces the dizzying registers of financial markets, or paradigmatically, in any electronic play which interfaces the shapeshifting registers of VR. But most of us feel it indirectly, in the new sense of radical mutability, of instability, in the world of institutions, demographies, jobs, and conflicts in which we are ineluctably, digitally implicated. In modern times, it was the outsider – like Camus or Beckett – who felt, in the force of a revelation alien to his or her clockbound milieu, that time was absurd. Now it is the insider, the citizen and consumer, unemployed or working overtime, who embraces it as cliché. We are liberated to enact equally fantasies of utopia and fantasies of terror (and condemned to be acted upon by them), without regarding either as unreal or beyond what seems the normal progress of history. Take Mr Bungle. He and his crime are an exemplary expression of this dialectically ambivalent new mode of production in the aesthetic sphere. He was a persona in the leisure-time VR system called LambdaMOO, and he deserves to be remembered in a pantheon of original, mythic VR types. I learned his story from Julian Dibbell, the Village Voice cyberspace writer who in 1993 (in a decade that may now be considered the archaic period of popular VR space, in which the complexities of subsequent developments writ themselves large in a simpler, more heroized and demonized, less mundane digital world) witnessed some of the events and wrote them up.7 MOO stands for MUD (MultiUser Domain)–Object-Oriented, to distinguish its all-textual format from VRs that include images and/or sounds. This one is a software product stored on a Xerox Corporation computer that allows multiple users from anywhere in the world to interact with the object world of an architecturally mimetic, fantasy chateau and with each other in real time (so they can do things in and to the rooms and corridors of the chateau, and interact gesturally and verbally with each other, in a virtual time very close to real time). The utopian experience of a VR is obvious in LambdaMOO: the world is there for the user, who can invent any persona he or she likes, having any physical or emotional characteristics, and indulge both in realistic action and conversation and in the cre-

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ation of fantasy objects and situations. It is very like a nostalgic vision of community. Strangers talk to you and take an interest in you, as a rule rather than the exception. There is no work. Rather, there is no need to work, because there is no need (as in classical cinema, the bodily routines of needful labouring, eating, expelling, etc. only appear when they belong to the plot of desire, to the symbolic order), and no scarcity (for example, you can create a personal room of infinite dimensions). All this is even more emphatic in the commercial-product MUD called There (at http://www.there.com), whose welcome pages look like travel brochures advertising the social opportunities and leisure activities one associates with a luxury cruise. But from another perspective, everything is work: the user is engaged in a continual activity of production. The work of creating a persona, of interacting with others, and of making objects like clothing, tools, or gifts – indeed, the work of doing whatever is done in VR – is work in the realm of play, or a kind of play whose pleasure and ends are in the creation and re-creation of the self and its social and physical environment. This is nothing less than the reproduction of life, the domain of work translated to the VR world. It feels like play and may even confuse itself with the formal playfulness of art because – just like the work imagined in William Morris’s aesthetic utopia News from Nowhere – it is work free of alienation (within VR); it is not sold to anyone under any system of surplus value (i.e., commodification, which if Davis and Stack are right, could not be sustained even if itself created in VR). The experience of time, therefore, is the experience of creativity without the alienation of an object world, and social world, that disowns the producer. In a radical sense, one’s time is one’s own. The user loses track of time because the fullness of time presents itself. This alternative time sense may be felt, paradoxically, even in those MUDs that impose strict limits on time and agency, such as the noncommercial version of There developed in 2003-4 for American military training, which simulates an urban terrorist conflict zone under military authority. Need, scarcity, and death are no longer absurd, as they were for a Catch-22 or M.A.S.H. generation, but subsumed into play rather than productivity, process rather than product. In a VR world in which ‘why are we here?’ has no meaning apart from the will and agency of the player seated before the screen, such ironies are obsolete. Despite its attempt at VR realism, indeed, a soldier at the first military ‘test drive’ of this MUD responded: ‘Cool ... It’s like “The Matrix.”’ One reason such realism dissolves into a more utopian time sense is that

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even in the military There, there is no boredom. ‘Boredom is a key part of training,’ another soldier reported, ‘since part of the challenge of gun battles is that they often come out of nowhere after hours of tedium.’8 In real-life (RL) boredom, you have nothing to do; the world goes on without your work or your play. But the premise of the VR screen is that you always have something to do. It is a silent contract between the screen and the player. The VR world is a totally possessed, creative world, a holistic field of action in which the player, like the hero of Northrop Frye’s notion of romance, is an intrinsic part. There is no room for alienation even in this community, then, whose realist war zone is the occasion for an ecstatic expenditure of individual will in a utopian world in which even death is created, and makes perfect sense. How then to explain Mr Bungle, a persona who evidently failed to appreciate what Dibbell called the milder ‘communal spirit’ of LambdaMOO,9 when Mr Bungle used it serially to rape other personas until restrained, tried by an ad-hoc court, and destroyed by a Xerox arbitrator? In the surreal world of VR, Mr Bungle presented himself to his fellow users as a grotesque, misogynist clown. His crime was to force the personas of other users into abusive or violent sexual acts with a voodoo doll. In some respects, this was merely an importation of the antisocial fantasy life of other VR systems (such as games) into a more neutral and creative environment. It differs in the non-compliance, hence virtual rape, of other users. Dibbell sees in the profound feelings of violation and subsequent political will of the LambdaMOO users a revelation of the indistinction, in VR, of word and act, of symbol and reality. It is a quality as dangerous as it is utopian that he sees in the digital world reaching far beyond LambdaMOO and beneath us. Yet I am inclined to believe that if Mr Bungle contradicts the essence of LambdaMOO’s VR, it may just as likely be due to LambdaMOO’s own contradiction as VR with actual power structures and alienated social relations, and their sexist codings, in RL – whence Mr Bungle ultimately comes. I have suggested the digital utopian register of MUDs like LambdaMOO: it is free of the structural alienation of self and degradation of time that so constrains our productivity in the real world. But this is only true in VR. It may offer a virtual disalienation experienced in a virtual time, but the VR system is itself a materially and institutionally bounded form of alienation, as Sean Cubitt has argued.10 It is thus paradoxical, an alienated disalienation, an actual utopia that depends on escape from (and within) – rather than revolution of – existing social relations. Mr Bungle’s violence, from this van-

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tage point, reveals itself to be violence directed toward VR itself, for not being real (enough) – that is, violence directed toward VR as a real product, and its personas as the productions of real people. Hence Mr Bungle’s desire, not to indulge fantasy violence in a VR game with merely VR characters (like a video game), but to strike out at fellow VR users themselves, through their created personas, and specifically at the illusion of power (the users as their own producers, rather than the interfering Mr Bungle, i.e., modern economy) of VR. Mr Bungle’s voodoo doll’s actions may thus be read as overdetermined performances of alienation – both for Mr Bungle (as doll) and his victims (ventriloquized). It is this violating appropriation of others’ work of creation, rather than the imaginary abuse alone which doubles it in content, that is so horrifying, and so uncanny. For VR, Mr Bungle is the return of the repressed. Gates in Time Mr Bungle’s story expresses in digital aesthetics the archaic tragic structure – as opposed to romance – of the digital revolution. If Mr Bungle is a kind of sadomasochistic double of the repression of the real in VR, he is from this perspective akin to the normal user, even as he is from another, a deviant – a kind of structural fate or revenge. For his readers, the suffering inflicted by his virtual crimes is not simply evil, but revelatory and, as Dibbell says in his title, productive of a new kind of community. This is digital tragedy.11 Does the tragedy belong to life or to art? Is the virtual community’s ongoing re-creation of itself through narrative text an art or everyday life? The shifting ontologies of VR and RL make these questions difficult to answer. If MUDs are a sign of things to come, these questions point to the end of art as mastery of form in commodifiable space and to its rebirth as mastery of initializations in a postcommodity flux, of the gateways in what Lord and Marchessault call our fluid screens. For the artist in a VR community like LambdaMOO or There can only be identified by productions (narrative actions, object creations) that stand apart by initiating or diverting the flow, by producing new gates which send the digital user toward the unseen creative depths, limits, and possibilities of the virtual medium. The programmer who creates or alters the software foundation of a MUD is thus engaging in artistic production, just as any user is who, like Mr Bungle, sets new parameters for self and community reproduction in VR. Of course, while Mr

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Bungle’s user, and perhaps the VR programmer, merely indulge in fantasy or dream creation along with the culture industry at large (Cubitt has said that MOOs articulate an infantile maternal world),12 the work of the artist will always be what T.S. Eliot called disciplined dreaming: play grasped precisely as work, in the symbolic rather than imaginary orders. For the digital artist, immersed in the flow of the deep medium, producing new origins and parameters from within, rather than expressive forms from without, a tragic embrace of the suffering-liberating ambivalence of the digital revolution is unavoidable. The form of the virtual work of art is contingent not only on its media and mediation but on the past and future work of others; it finds completion as product in the propagation of work beyond it. For this reason the VR community is not just one digital product among others, nor simply the dialectical antithesis of a real-life digital society described above. The VR community is the tendential product of any radical or fully immersed digital art. This is most readily seen in digital art created in interactive surface media, as in interactive installations and Internet programs. But it is also echoed in spectator surface media, such as digital theatre, video, and cinema. Interactive Spectacle Peter Lunenfeld describes the CD-ROM installation work created by Graham Harwood, A Rehearsal of Memory, as just such a tragic gate: Harwood went to Ashworth Mental Hospital in Liverpool, where he recorded the thoughts and memories of the inmates ... [He] scanned the inmates’ bodies, stored them in memory (note that Rehearsal of Memory abbreviates as ROM), radically modified the raw images, and created a series of composite naked figures to form the ground for his interactive work. Using a mouse, users scroll across Harwood’s patchwork prisoners. As they pass over this fleshy sea of scars and tattoos, users trigger memories: with sounds from the hospital resonating in the background, the patients offer anecdotes about their crimes and sufferings.13

By digitizing the bodies and memories of mental institution patients, the artist here creates the parameters for a virtual narrative activated by the user. While Lunenfeld finds the work suffers from a romanticism and sentimentalism regarding the violent and mad (no doubt with Foucault in mind), this may put too much emphasis on the content as

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opposed to the medium and form. The surface technology employed here uncannily duplicates the medical technology of diagnosis and monitoring familiar to hospital rooms and operating theatres. The user is invited to probe the tattoos and scars of the virtual body just as a doctor examines it for signs and symptoms. Hence a kind of performance of real work takes place in order to generate the work of art, which must therefore be grasped precisely as work on the part of the user. This physical and imaginative sensation of work is counterposed to the virtual traces, somatic and psychic, of bodies severed from work, from the ability to work productively in society: the insane who, like the growing dispossessed, are free from one kind of work (as alienation) but deprived of another (as reproduction of social wealth). If it were the memory of the mad and violent which needed to be ‘rehearsed’ by users of Harwood’s digital machinery, it would indeed signify a Foucauldian romanticism deserving of Lunenfeld’s hesitations. But clearly it is the memory of the user that is called to rehearsal, the user trying to forget the tightrope that body and mind must walk between digital value and worthlessness, between digital society and exclusion, between digital misery and paradise. The virtual community implied by A Rehearsal of Memory is not that of the inmates (whose real community – the individual bodies – and devalued productivity – the stories – have been dissolved and recomposed in a ‘fleshy sea’ sutured together by institutional noise, and so become parameters for virtual community production at another level), but of its serial users, all those able to emulate and navigate the VR of the doctor’s work. Linked thus to the work of others, both of the inmates and the users, both virtual and real, the individual user necessarily works on his or her own memory, somatic and cognitive, to produce a new narrative flow. The beauty and magic of the point-andclick, virtual narrative is married to the inhospitability of its intimate, real depths. Need tragedy be so dark? The suffering of tragedy was by Nietzsche paradoxically identified – as having a common basis in flux and transvaluation – with the pleasure of play. This kind of tragic play may be felt in the ecstatic narratives flowed by children through the gate work of Japanese artist Toshio Iwai. For example, Iwai created an interactive VR television program for children users, Ugo Ugo Lhuga, in whose ‘Voice Sumo’ segment individual users’ drawings of creatures of their own imaginings, mailed in on postcards, were digitized and engaged in virtual sumo bouts onscreen.14 The outcome of the combat would

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depend on the audience of users telephoning in their support with shouts, in real time, for one creature or the other; the loudest side winning. The elegance of this interactive work is its integration of individual creative work with collective interaction (a characteristic of Iwai’s work generally) and the brilliant re-appropriation by the child artist of commodity products and the commodified work stored in them and in their value (rather like do-it-yourself Pokémon monsters). The agon, the ritual combat which is the purified basis of the work, will doubtless recall the shadowy nature of Mr Bungle’s appearance in VR. But where the tragedy of real-life digitization is channelled in Harwood’s work through the insane as a socially unproductive (or improperly productive) body, the same body in Iwai’s work belongs to children. The VR community of children users is invited to participate in a festival of destruction, but contrary to Mr Bungle’s example, their productions affirm and reinforce rather than appropriate the creative work of others. The result is perhaps the closest thing to a Dionysian celebration of the terrible and violent ephemerality – yet overriding and ecstatic creativity – of self and mastery as spectacle that art has offered to Nietzsche’s future.15 When we understand tragedy, says Nietzsche, we ‘understand the meaning of our desire to look, and yet to long to go beyond looking,’ and recognize ‘a Dionysiac phenomenon, one which reveals to us the playful construction and demolition of the world of individuality as an outpouring of primal pleasure and delight, a process quite similar to Heraclitus the Obscure’s comparison of the force that shapes the world to a playing child who sets down stones here, there, and the next place, and who builds up piles of sand only to knock them down again.’16 Spectacular Interaction While interactive media works may seem uniquely able to represent, in the still barely recognized forms of aesthetic gateways, the anatomy of the digital revolution, it must be remembered that even these – as I asserted in the case of LambdaMOO – produce VR communities that are relatively contained systems proper to the leisure worlds of art and recreation. At this level they are spectacles, with a measure of safe voyeurism, just like theatre and cinema. Conversely, art in these latter media need not be any less authentic in its emulation of the digital world. Chris Marker’s film Level Five (1996) uses digital cinema technology

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in both form and content. It alternates between two spaces, real and virtual: the real concerns a woman searching the computer memory of a vanished friend, never seen in the film; the virtual concerns the history of the Japanese island of Okinawa during the Second World War, which is digitized in the friend’s computer memory, at a hidden depth of digital architecture cryptically coded ‘level 5.’ The VR community explored by the film is twofold, since both the relationship between the missing friends (the communication between their very souls) is now in VR, and on a larger scale, the relationship between the French present and the Japanese past (the communication of history as social memory) is also in VR. The one VR is allegorical of the other. The personal and the public are alike digitized communities, each confronting the recognition of hardly representable suffering and the creative value of survival. The gates in Level Five are the characters – that is, there are no characters. There are only text and image traces that function as somatic and cognitive gates, allowing memory to flow without pooling or stabilizing in any character (woman or man) or setting (Paris or Okinawa, past or present). The digital production is not technological, then, for either of these VR communities. It is insistently intersubjective, dependent on the navigations of the user – the woman or the cinematic audience. For the woman user represented in the film, who navigates in this way, this kind of work is bewildering enough. For the passive user of Marker’s digital cinema, who must develop an imaginary identification with this work in VR but cannot navigate it him or herself, the horror is twofold. There is a sense of failed navigation or paralysis of memory – viewing the othered work of the film, one’s own work excluded from it. This effect of the organization, the parameters set in the organization of the surface medium, fuses with the horror of failed navigation or paralysis of history itself, (not resisting) the tragedy of Okinawa: (not viewing) the work beyond the film. Like A Rehearsal of Memory, the work is a call to remember oneself in digital flows into, out of, and apart from the work of others. Tragedy grasped as the double-edged, utopian and terrible, spectacle of digital immersion in history is also witnessed in Daniel David Moses’s ‘play of light across and through and in and out of the open face of the planet,’ the stage drama Kyotopolis (1993).17 Here the digital production – using sound and video to create VR spaces and worlds which interact with real ones – evokes not the past, but the future, ‘that almost present dream of the city of tomorrow,’ which is ‘the global

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Indian village.’ Moses recasts the digitally transformed and interconnected world, foreseen by McLuhan, as the re-appropriated product of Native history, and its real and virtual communities as the extended relations of Native family. At the heart of the drama are three characters more virtual than real: Babe Fisher, a ‘little Indian girl’ who is the star of a VR community of ‘Little People’ mediated by television (but who is now literally lost in space, her only trace the televised image of a rotating spacecraft, her face perhaps at the window); Tommy Hawk, an ‘Indian clown’ who is host of and presiding genius behind the ‘Little People’ TV program (a shape-shifter whose production studio is a Batcavesque hideout inside a Hawaiian volcano); and Mary Oh, a VR media celebrity (and grown-up Little Person, who seeks the life story of the orphan Babe). It is the latter plot, the utopian (because global village) identification of the non-Native with the Native character, and the suffering she must confront and work through as she pushes this identification further into the truth of Babe’s life, that is central and the tragedy of Kyotopolis. In a word, as VR communities perform a (utopian) reverse-assimilation of non-Native to Native life and history, RL society persists in the (oppressive) appropriation of Native to non-Native prejudice and economy. This dialectic is played out by Mary, who must ultimately confront the (real) joyous, creative power of the digital trickster Tommy as well as the (real) exploitation and misery of the virtual idol Babe. For Mary and the other characters, and for us, Babe’s death is explicitly Christlike: she becomes the hurt and loss at the centre of things that allows the characters ‘to turn and talk to each other’ – she becomes their part real, part virtual, common ground. Near the end of the play, a cycle of projected images appears in the chaotic wake of a butterfly: The butterfly disappears into a shadow as the other pulsing places, the projected petroglyphs and city and Milky Way, also return, in their cycling, and the space station, Moon Two, rises above a clearing bank of clouds. It’s moon bright and large, a spectacle of rings and squares, spheres and cubes – a gigantic high technology astrolabe, a turning tesseract, a future spirit catcher.18

This repeats a cycle of images, creating a virtual ‘path’ down which Babe tries to dance, from the outset of the play – except for the new element, here, of a transformed moon, at once digital life world and guidance machine, dreamed of by Babe and now realized. She required the

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words of the others to complete her own dream, and the work of the others to complete her life. As a drum beats at the close of the play – each beat a pulse of energy, a digital unit of light in dark – Babe finds her steps and dances away on this path. Zero Work The digital world has produced its romances. McLuhan’s was perhaps the first: the digital world as an apocalyptic good, an ultimate freedom of the senses – that is, the senses of that literally unlimited and indeterminate human community he called the global village – to interact totally and simultaneously. McLuhan imagined the totality of human existence as a single, interconnected work of art – which meant the final ranging of forces of good and evil toward some unthinkable utopian or dystopian future. But the romance of the digital has taken many forms since: an enthusiasm for unregulated, public forums, or for interactive play, as democratic ideals; or for the disruption of orthodox notions of the text or the self in digitally structured communication. Of course, everything we do in media as artists or otherwise has a value-laden purpose, belongs to some romance, that someone – some cybertopian or cyberphobe – might expose. What my digital sausages warn me is that the digital is not one vehicle for such values or romances among others. It is not one thing out there among other things, good or bad, but is now everywhere, has all other media as its content. We consume and incorporate it everywhere. Hence digitization is not something new coming into the world to tip the balance toward good or evil. It is the balance. It is beyond good and evil. This is where the idea of digital art is most interesting – not when it purveys another romance to consume of the good, the democratic, the liberating – but when it (equally) astonishes us, in a manner seductive or terrifying, by descending into the digital as mundane, as everyday, as the ultimate technological exercise of power over time itself, as the closest thing to the language of the will deployed across time, which Nietzsche failed to dream of, except as music. Nietzsche thought of music as the medium closest in form to the reality of power and historical time as an unpredictable, blithe, or turbulent rhythm. But what Nietzsche really saw was not time, but the mastery of time as history (but also the unmasterability of time as history) that music stood for – the barely imaginable, ultimate technical rhythm of human control over nature and remastering of communication, the rhythm precisely of

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smallest, virtual units in time, the rhythm of the digital. The digital is Nietzsche’s true element – willful yet mercurial, ephemeral yet consequential, seducing and flaming. It is worth trying to imagine what tragedy born not from the spirit of music, but from the spirit of digitization would be like. It will not at present be sweetness and light; it may not be recognizable as culture. It is always, already too degraded to be separated out as culture. It is always, already impertinently insisting upon the mediating, artificial, commodifying rhythms of digital engines chugging away beneath any message, any moment of time, any work of art and its audience. We don’t like to look at that, even as, with tragic fascination, we do. But digital tragedy is perhaps a way of thinking of degradation, of the fate of media, as itself a creative process, with an immediacy that no other media could have. That is, degradation, or digitization, is human, is somehow and radically our own (not out there beyond us, as in market forces or new technologies, but within us, yours and mine). This degradation must be thought of, as Sean Cubitt says of textual communication, as a kind of sociality degree zero, or social noise,19 in whose digital form the terrible and seductive flux of time as history reveals itself, but at least reveals itself in a virtual mirror of collective desire, as a material, malleable, human thing. We must inhabit this zero that ‘is no longer void but has to be rethought as a kind of solidity: a break in the flow that marks the negentropic intervention of intelligence, human or technological, in the timeless time of the electromagnetic.’20 We may justly believe, therefore, in a utopian role for art today; but if it is to come from digital art, it will perhaps have to come from this overcoming of time as masterful objectification and degradation, and release us to new possibilities for, because also beyond, our sense of pleasure and work alike.

NOTES 1 Sean Cubitt, Digital Aesthetics (London: Sage, 1998), 23–4. 2 A theoretical note on deep media: The cultures I list here are all multiple media social formations encompassing a heterogeneous array of material and institutional technologies, economic practices, and zones of sensory and psychical experience. The concept of deep media is not totalizing but generalizing. A deep medium is pervasive enough to affect all other media (including the negative effect of marginalization or transvaluation of media

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5 6 7

outside its realm) and the zones of experience they produce, while itself remaining only sporadically or partially affected by other media. For example, digital technology has completely transformed personal written correspondence, but personal written correspondence cannot be imagined, in similar proportion, to have transformed digital technology. For McLuhan, media were not only ways of communicating but ways of knowing, feeling, and making (of making things, or making things happen). As extensions of ourselves, media translate us, create us, numb us, and excite us, in countless specific and different ways. Even so, the deep media that I have called dominant in this regard, at the bedrock of culture, cannot be identified with what Marxists have called modes of production. The latter term is a historicist one that already signifies human power over what gets ‘made’ for whom, and why; it enfolds group values and decisions that are properly institutional. Deep media may profoundly affect our subjective lives, but they are not themselves other than objective processes. A mode of production is perhaps best thought of as the intersection of human institutions which create, distribute, and adjudicate value, with a dominant or deep medium. Postmodern critics, both Marxist and non-Marxist, remind us that these institutions are also multiple and irreducible to a total system, so that we speak of a dominant institution such as contemporary capitalism as a mode of production in the understanding that we are speaking of a general condition rather than a dystopian or utopian unity. In shorthand, it is now possible to identify social and economic institutions as modes of information, a dominant mode of institutional formation as a mode of production, and the dominant technology of interface or translation among institutions as a deep medium. Jim Davis and Michael Stack, ‘The Digital Advantage,’ in Cutting Edge: Technology, Information, Capitalism, and Social Revolution, ed. Jim Davis, Thomas Hirschl, and Michael Stack (London: Verso, 1997), 121–44. Given current world population and pressure on resources, an ‘end to scarcity’ is hardly imaginable, nor a struggle between classes for control of them. Rather than posit a Marxian class revolution on the grounds of such class struggle, Davis and Stack postulate (contra Marx) a redistribution of wealth that should follow from the end of productions of surplus value, hence the end of capital accumulation as such. Davis and Stack, ‘The Digital Advantage,’ 128. Kim Stanley Robinson, The Mars Trilogy, 3 vols (New York: Bantam, 1993–6). Julian Dibbell, ‘A Rape in Cyberspace; or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database into a Society,’ in High Noon on the Electronic Frontier: Conceptual Issues in Cyberspace, ed. Peter Ludlow (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996), 375–95.

The Birth of Tragedy in Digital Aesthetics


8 Clive Thompson, ‘The Making of an X-Box Warrior,’ New York Times Magazine, 22 August 2004, 35, 36. 9 Dibbell, ‘A Rape in Cyberspace,’ 377. 10 Cubitt, Digital Aesthetics, 16. 11 I am drawing on Raymond Williams’s notion of tragedy as a historical genre in which disorder is suffered in order to reshape and renew a community – in short, for modernity, a viable aesthetic for revolution. 12 Cubitt, Digital Aesthetics, 16. 13 Peter Lunenfeld, Snap to Grid: A User’s Guide to Digital Arts, Media, and Cultures (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000). 14 Toshio Iwai, Ugo Ugo Lhuga (Fuji Television, Japan, October 1992–March 1994). 15 Whereas either pleasure or violence is an implicit, if powerful, register of the tragic gateways digitized above, their complicity itself is the explicit theme of recent cinematic works by David Cronenberg. Above all, Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (1999), which is about a VR community interacting in a three-dimensional game world, explores at the level of digital surface media the repetitive compulsive seduction and destruction plots that overtake users’ personas and relationships as they lose the ability to distinguish between VR and RL. Cronenberg’s films, however, perhaps tend toward dystopia more than tragedy; even the most seductive of his works, M Butterfly (1993), is by virtue of its political and betrayal plots, tinged with the same cynical horizon. 16 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, trans. Ronald Speirs, ed. Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). 17 Daniel David Moses, Kyotopolis (Toronto: Playwrights Union of Canada, 1993). 18 Ibid., 91. 19 Cubitt, Digital Aesthetics, 23. 20 Sean Cubitt, ‘Good Vibrations: Time as Special Effect,’ abstract published in the program for Images: The 13th Annual Images Festival of Independent Film and Video (Toronto, 13–22 April 2000). A revised version of the talk may be found at http://www.waikato.ac.nz/film/staffpages/sean/ as.html.

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12 Armed Vision and the Banalization of War: Full Spectrum Warrior ni ck dy e r- w ith efo r d a n d gr ei g de peuter

Games of Empire Video and computer games are exemplary media of contemporary empire. Just as the eighteenth-century novel was a textual machine creating the bourgeois subjectivities requisite to an emergent capitalism, and as television and film were media vital to twentieth-century Fordism, today digital play – a global industry whose revenues exceed those of the Hollywood box office – is a constituent component of both planetary hyper-capitalism and of insurgencies against it. And nothing is more central to games or empire than war. In this essay, we briefly review the historical relationship between military simulation and digital play, and then focus on one instance of this connection – Full Spectrum Warrior, a dual-purpose simulation designed both as a training aid for the U.S. army and as a commercial game. Such games are among the visualization and virtualization technologies of what Jordan Crandall calls ‘armed vision,’ which, he argues, are essential to new global complexes of military power.1 In their crossover of combat training and popular entertainment, digital war games are a major site of the ‘banalization of war’ that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri describe as necessary for habituating imperial biopower to perpetual conflict.2 MIMENET and the Institute for Creative Technologies Several recent studies of the military-entertainment complex, ‘militainment,‘ or what James Der Derian calls MIMENET (‘the militaryindustrial-media-entertainment network’), have delineated the shared genealogies of digital play and military simulation.3 At first, the domi-

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nant partner was the U.S. national security state. Pentagon funding supported the computer laboratories where Spacewar and other protogames were created in the 1960s.4 By the 1990s, however, post–Cold War military budgets were declining, while commercial games had advanced so fast as to be superior to the Pentagon’s in-house simulations. A newly frugal military began to adopt or adapt civilian games for training purposes. ‘9/11’ gave this rapprochement a massive boost. U.S. military budgets shot back near to Cold War levels, but alliances between games companies and armed forces did not disappear. On the contrary. The military poured funds into co-designed simulations to anticipate the new challenge of the ‘war on terror.’ Developers rushed to capitalize on market opportunities created by media coverage of terrorism and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq: Sony infamously attempted to copyright the slogan ‘Shock and Awe.’ War game sales rocketed, and collaboration with the military gave such products the cachet of authenticity that console-warriors craved. Some instances pushed the intersection of virtual and actual war to the extreme. One was the U.S. Army’s widely discussed online computer game America’s Army, launched in 2002 to recruit young Americans with no experiential connection to war, but plenty to video games. Another, starting from a commercial basis, was Kuma Reality Games, an online gaming service launched in 2004, whose website reports the war on terror in a format mimicking CNN or Fox, and then invites paying subscribers to ‘re-live’ an event in the form of ‘playable missions’ – an attack on Al Qaeda in the Afghan mountains, the capture of Saddam Hussein, or the assault on Fallujah: ‘Wherever the war takes our forces, we’ll put you there.’5 While America’s Army and Kuma Reality received most attention in the mainstream press, military–game industry overlaps were ubiquitous. The Department of Defense Game Development Community, a network aiming to connect ‘the entire community developing games within the US military’ and supported by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), currently lists some forty games ‘custom made’ for military purposes, about twenty-five ‘off-the-shelf’ products considered useful, as well as several ‘mods,’ or game modifications.6 Even in this crowded field, however, the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) occupies a special place. ICT epitomizes the intersection of military planning, computer simulation, film studios, and video game developers in what Der Derian terms ‘a new configuration of vir-

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tual power.’7 Based at the University of Southern California, it was created in 1999 by the army and funded to the tune of $45 million to tap into the entertainment industry’s high-tech expertise. A senior official, Michael Macedonia, describes its goal as ‘to produce a revolution in how the military trains and rehearses for upcoming missions’ by ‘develop[ing] the art and technology for synthetic experiences’ to a pitch ‘so compelling that participants will react as if they are real,’ thus providing a ‘quantum leap in helping the army prepare for the world, soldier, organization, weaponry, and mission of the future.’8 The ICT hired talent from game companies and film studios to collaborate in this mission: the artists who designed the special effects for The Matrix and Total Recall, screenwriters for films such as Training Day and The Fast and the Furious, a designer from the Alien movies. The deal was clear: the military got sophisticated training aids for its soldiers, entertainment companies got insider military knowledge – and products to sell. ICT creations include simulations with ‘branching storylines’ to train U.S. officers negotiating with Afghan warlords; ‘compelling filmed case studies’ of ‘interpersonal military leadership issues’; investigations of neurobiological discoveries linking affect to learning, aimed at harnessing ‘emotional valiance and training retention’; anticipatory visualizations of future war, such as the award-winning film Nowhere to Hide, ‘a sweeping vision of the Army’s Future Force in action’ depicting ‘vertical envelopment conducted against a fleeing asymmetric enemy’; ‘FlatWorld,’ which ‘allows users to experience virtual worlds – say a Baghdad street corner under enemy fire – without wearing clunky goggles’; and the Sensory Environments Evaluation program (SEE), an ‘immersive virtual-reality tunnel that can re-create unpleasant environments’ – such as abandoned bunkers filled with bats – ‘with astonishing verisimilitude.’ The aim, according to one ICT spokesperson, is ‘to create veterans who’ve never seen combat.’9 Not the least of ICT progeny are a series of game-like training simulations: Full Spectrum Commander, Full Spectrum Leader, and Full Spectrum Warrior. To understand these titles requires a short excursion into military doctrine. Full-Spectrum Dominance ‘Full-spectrum dominance’ is a concept whose centrality to Pentagon thinking was announced in Joint Vision 2020, a planning document released in 2000 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Its opening page declares

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the U.S. military aim over the next two decades to be ‘the creation of a force that is dominant across the full spectrum of military operations – persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict.’10 Joint Vision goes on: The label full spectrum dominance implies that US forces are able to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with combinations of forces tailored to specific situations and with access to and freedom to operate in all domains – space, sea, land, air, and information.11

Additionally, ‘given the global nature of our interests and obligations,’ full-spectrum dominance requires that the United States ‘maintain its overseas presence forces and the ability to rapidly project power worldwide.’12 So ‘full-spectrum’ designates military force that can flexibly modulate its activities across different types and theatres of operations, scaling its responses up and down as its goals and circumstances require, shifting seamlessly, from, say, tactical nuclear options to guerrilla war, with planetary reach.13 The possibility of ‘full-spectrum dominance’ is in turn given by the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), a transformation in military practices occasioned by the shift from industrial to informational warfare. The possession of overwhelming strategic, operational, and tactical advantage is determined by superiority in high technology, especially in communications and computing, rather than quantities of manpower or even equipment. RMA identifies a situation of ‘virtual war,’ fought out ‘onscreen,’ in which the enemy becomes visible, knowable, and destroyable through the mediation digital technologies, from satellite-generated maps to heads-up display systems, and computercontrolled and dispatched weaponry. What causes greatest disquiet to U.S. planners, however, is the threat of low-tech opponents and ‘asymmetrical conflict.’ The NATO and Red Army forces that faced each other in the Cold War were ‘symmetrical’ enemies, mirror-images, each with missiles, tanks, artillery, air and infantry, and tactical and operational doctrines that fell broadly within the same plane of military logic. But the U.S. troops fighting Iraq or Afghanistan face ‘asymmetrical’ foes: insurgents massively outgunned in terms of high-technology firepower, far less well trained, but retaliating with practices, such as suicide bombing, assassinations of civilian collaborators, and other forms of terrorism that seem, to imperial eyes, alien, uncivilized, and inhuman. Joint Vision 2020 identifies such ‘asym-

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metric approaches’ as ‘perhaps the most serious danger the United States faces in the immediate future.’14 Associated with ‘asymmetric’ conflicts is yet another acronym: MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain). As Mike Davis has noted, Pentagon strategists consider the Third World city to be the ‘key battlespace of the future.’15 The view that ‘the slum has become the weakest link in the American empire’ is based not only on the disasters that befell U.S. occupations of Mogadishu and Beirut, but also on Israeli experiences in Gaza and the West Bank. If ‘the future of warfare ... lies in the streets, sewers, high-rise buildings, and sprawl of houses that form the broken cities of the world,’ special training is required for the soldiers who will fight in such conditions.16 MOUT tactics are applied on a daily basis in cities such as Baghdad, Fallujah, and Nadjaf. Preparation for such fighting involves incessant war games, physical and virtual.17 ICT’s ‘full-spectrum’ simulations are part of these rehearsals. All are onscreen, digital trainers, modelling asymmetric combat: Full Spectrum Command aims to train company-level leaders, in charge of about 120 men; Full Spectrum Leader works at the level of thirty-men platoons. Full Spectrum Warrior (FSW) deals with very small-scale squad-level operations: the army intends it not to train officers but to help soldiers understand what their leaders are asking them to do: ‘By taking the boss’s job, Soldiers might deepen their appreciation for the correct execution of dismounted battle drills in the urban context.’18 What really distinguishes FSW, however, is that it is a military–civilian co-development with two versions. The military version teaches soldiers how to make smart decisions in the nightmare of urban combat. The civilian version, released in 2003, makes this an entertainment experience. Under the auspices of ICT, Pandemic Studios developed both versions, with Sony Pictures Imageworks doing special effects. The giant game publisher THQ Inc. later prepared the game for commercial sale. Civilian and military versions alike are playable on Microsoft’s Xbox, with the commercial version later being ported to the PC and PS2. From the army’s point of view, ‘leveraging Xbox’ capabilities saved on special simulation devices, and capitalized on young recruits’ familiarity with game consoles, creating a ‘potential efficiency in “training for training.”’19 The army invested $5 million. Pandemic and Sony did the development, promising $2.6 million worth of in-kind work. In return, they got the rights to the commercial game. It is with this entertainment version of FSW that we begin.

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Mission to Zekistan Turn on your console, load FSW; skip the manual, the tutorials, and the introductory video; jump directly to the first ‘mission.’ Here is the dusty, deserted, sinister Middle Eastern town, with its labyrinth of winding streets. Here ‘we’ are, your point of view embedded in the midst of a U.S. infantry squad. Already barely visible enemies have opened fire from ambush; in front of you, a truck burns; its driver lies wounded; automatic weapons chatter; distant explosions reverberate. You are a soldier-subject in the war on terror: kill or be killed. And this is all you really need to know. After a few mission failures you may return to the tutorials, or the manual. There you find the backstory. Zekistan is an imaginary Central Asian country with a ‘three thousand year’ history ‘punctuated by violence and bloodshed.’ After guerrilla struggle against Soviet invasion comes a civil war in which ‘Mhujadeen fighters’ led by the charismatic ‘Mohammed Jabbour Al Afad’ emerge supreme. Afad’s regime converts the country to ‘fundamentalist worship’ and persecutes the ‘ethnic Zekis, the nomadic mountain people that had originally settled the region,’ practising ‘genocide’ and ‘forced sterilization.’ Thousands of ‘ex-Taliban and Iraqi loyalists’ set up ‘terrorist-training facilities and death camps.’ Following a ‘devastating wave of terrorist attacks’ across ‘Europe and South East Asia,’ U.S. intelligence tracks the source to Zekistan. After ‘repeated warnings and failed diplomatic resolutions in the UN,’ NATO votes to invade. Massive air strikes prepare the ground for infantry and armour to begin the ‘land war’ – which is where you, the virtual warrior suddenly inserted beside a burning truck on a dirty street, come in.20 This is a complex geopolitical story. But it is basically irrelevant. All the parts are familiar from innumerable CNN reports, news photos, and movies: the political premises, the allotted roles, and the desired outcome predictable. In a prophetic essay, ‘Requiem for Our Prospective Dead,’ written at the time of the first Gulf War, Brian Massumi observes how, in a situation where ‘war and nonwar was getting harder and harder to tell apart,’ the legitimation of state violence operates primarily in ‘an affective register, through the mass media.’ This ‘affective circulation’ depends on a series of conversions, elisions, and blurs. On the one hand, the enemy combines attributes of military opponent, despot, terrorist, thug, genocide perpetrator – omni-purpose evil. On the other, there is an implied identification between U.S. soldiers, media audiences, and foreign populations supposedly being philanthropi-

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cally aided by ‘our’ side. As Massumi puts it, ‘All you need do is feel – a oneness with the prospective dead hero, and, based on that, hostility for the hypothetical enemy.’21 Such is the universe of FSW. Zekistan is Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo; Al Afad, bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Milosevic; his Zekistan Liberation Front are composite tyrannical, ethnic-cleansing, weaponscaching terrorist malefactors. You, the player, are ‘our’ troops, at once defending the homeland and liberating oppressed inhabitants of invaded countries. One of the U.S. soldiers whose position the player adopts displays on his helmet the letters ‘NYPD’: New York Police Department. U.S. soldiers in Central Asia are planetary police. In a moment of scripted dialogue, after a ferocious firefight has left bodies strewn all across the streets, one of our infantrymen reflects aloud: ‘I think just by being here we help.’ First-Person Thinker The virtual experience of FSW is that of commanding two four-person teams of U.S. infantry: Alpha and Bravo. The player’s point of view is normally from behind the shoulder of the sergeant commanding a team. He voices orders entered by the player on the console pad or computer keyboard – ’Bravo, pay attention! Move!’ – which are then executed by the fire team as a group. But the player’s in-game subjectposition is more complex than it first appears. One can switch from leader of Alpha to that of Bravo, and back again. Indeed, one can ‘see’ from the position of any member of the team if it is necessary to get a specific line of sight on an enemy position. Even if a sergeant is hit, his team continues to operate and can carry him to medical aid. So it could be said that the player’s implied position is that of a ‘ninth’ officer, invisible and invulnerable, commanding both fire teams (and indeed in the military version this figure is included, and can move between Alpha and Bravo). But even this officer could not ‘see’ from all the perspectives available to the player. Ultimately, the player of FSW has a trans-individual position, as the consciousness of a collective entity. The protagonists are Alpha and Bravo, a military team experienced as microcosmic group mind. The player must complete a series of increasingly challenging missions. Alpha and Bravo clear streets, evacuate wounded, relieve surrounded comrades, discover mass graves, eliminate anti-tank weapons halting U.S. armour, call in air strikes on enemy vehicles, fight their

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way through a palace, a university, and an oil refinery, rescue captured aircrews, and eventually unearth ‘Al Jafad’ himself. And all this, according to the in-game clock, happens on 24/09/2004. It’s a busy day. The necessary skills are rapidly learned in the in-game ‘MOUT Training Course.’ There are two types of commands: fire and movement. Fire commands select weaponry, targets, and the intensity of fire: ‘point fire’ takes out specific targets, ‘suppression fire’ unleashes a maximum volume of bullets compelling foes to keep their heads down or die. Movement commands direct the team to its next location, with the cursor showing exactly where each member will end up; teams can ‘rush,’ moving with maximum speed, or ‘bound,’ advancing cautiously keeping weapons trained where enemies may appear. The player, as squad leader, doesn’t directly fire weapons, but rather orders others to do so. The art of the game is the balance of fire and movement; the rapid detection of enemies; the location of covered positions with commanding fields of fire; and the interplay of support between the two squads, manoeuvring one so that it can cover the other’s assault, all while managing ammunition supplies and navigating through a city. The process is remarkably cerebral, geometric, almost chess-like. Contrasting FSW with conventional ‘first-person shooters’ games, Michael Macedonia calls it ‘a first-person thinker.’22 Alpha, Bravo, and the Tangos But FSW has its affective dimensions. It goes to some lengths to personalize the members of Alpha and Bravo, whose backgrounds are described in detail in the game manual and, in the Xbox version, in introductory scenes. Thus of Sergeant Santiago Garcia Mendez we learn that he is a ‘first generation American,’ born to Cuban immigrants who instilled ‘his strong work ethic and drive to better himself and his community’ and that he is ‘a fiercely protective and loving father, a trait which comes through in dealing with his squad.23 Cpl. Andre Ellis Devreux (‘Crawdaddy’) is an African American who had ‘a typical suburban middle class upbringing, complete with little league, summer camp and a trip to Orlando, Florida when he was ten. That was the summer before he lost his mother to cancer.’ ‘Nova’ Picoli ‘grew up in a crowded household with four older sisters’ and joined the army to escape debt, and Private ‘Gidget’ Ota is ‘the middle child of a single working mother in Honolulu.’ In a bow to Middle Eastern amity, the squad includes both Arab-American Private Asher Shehadi

Full Spectrum Warrior


Ali (‘although he finds aspects of his parents’ culture fascinating and takes pride in his heritage, he is also a proud American’ and considers himself ‘no different from any other Southern California guy’), and the ‘Caucasian,’ but clearly Jewish, Private ‘Philly’ Alexander Isaac Silverman, is Alpha team’s ‘resident smart ass.’ One of the game’s main tropes is thus that of ‘Band of Brothers,’ familiar in war movies. In their mix of ethnicities and classes, Alpha and Bravo are an equal-opportunity paradigm. Of their eight members, three are Caucasian, two black, one Arab, and one Polynesian. There are four high school diploma holders, one graduate from university (pre-law), two from college, and one from police academy. Though programmatic in its inclusiveness, this is actually a semi-plausible representation of a combat squad in the contemporary professional army, which is ‘in essence a working class military,’ enlisted from people who are ‘upwardly mobile’ but from families ‘without the resources to send them to college.’ With ‘minorities overrepresented and the wealthy and underclass essentially absent,’ its composition resembles that of ‘a two year commuter or trade school outside Birmingham or Biloxi.’24 Alpha and Bravo are somewhat better educated, and more ethnically diverse, than the statistical norm, but not unbelievable. This militarized multiculturalism is explicitly thematized in the game. At the end of one mission, there is a cut scene where one of the white soldiers tries out some hip-hop rhyme. ‘You are not, nor ever have been, black’ remarks one of his Afro-American team. ‘Blackness is a state of mind, brother,’ he retorts. Sergeant Mendez then intervenes with a proper assertion of uniformed race-blindness: ‘There’s only one colour in this army, green.’ ‘Philly’ Silverman pipes up, ‘With respect sir, I think that’s brown’ – presumably referring to the actual colours of camouflage battle gear. ‘Yo, shit brown,’ quips another black trooper. In the imperial army, race and class antagonisms are subsumed, not only in the common uniform, but also in the shared, shitty grittiness of soldierly life. The ‘buddy’ ethos is sustained throughout the gameplay. When a squad member is hit, his team members cry, ‘They got Philly!’ (or Mendes, or whoever). Soldiers comment on the heat: ‘I wish I had a pop, nice and cold’; the pathos of war: ‘It doesn’t have to be this way’; inactivity: ‘Nothin’ wrong with chillin’ for a while, I suppose’; and become agitated if exposed to fire without cover: ‘I thought standing out in the open was pretty much what they told us not to do!’ Remarks range from the salacious: ‘You should see my wife in the morning, just

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after she gets out of the shower’; the properly domestic: ‘Should be a letter waiting for you from your family’; the derogatory: ‘This place sure is fucked up in all kinds of ways’; and the virtually self-reflexive: ‘When we get back to base, I’m going to whip your ass on the Xbox.’ The enemy is, of course, different. Apart from the Osama bin Laden surrogate, ‘Mohammed Jabbour Al Afad,’ they are nameless and mostly faceless. At the beginning there is a fast cut scene displaying masked figures opening a crate of rocket launchers as the U.S. troops roll into town. Other than this, the Zekistan Liberation Army always appears from the perspective of its U.S. opponents, as rather rudimentary figures, usually in the mid to far distance, at the end of streets, behind sandbags, or on rooftops spraying fire down the street. Scarves often hide their faces. When they are spotted, Alpha and Bravo identify them as ‘Zekes,’ ‘Motherfuckers,’ or, most often, ‘Tangos,’ from ‘T’ for ‘target.’ They appear with small icons above their heads indicating whether they are ‘under cover,’ ‘engaged’ (that is, pinned down by incoming fire), or dead – marked with skull and crossbones. They thus do seem like targets on a firing range. When they die, and of course they must die, nearly all of them, for the player to succeed, they crumple into inert heaps. As Alpha and Bravo pass by, they occasionally give them an epithet: ‘Should have done something else today, Zeke.’ Armed Vision FSW features aspects of contemporary warfare beyond simply the firepower and discipline of U.S. light infantry, aspects specific to new media of visualization and virtualization. In an incisive analysis of ‘armed vision,’ Jordan Crandall posits that in the history of visual technologies such as photography, cinema, and video, one can distinguish two major perspectives: horizontal and vertical.25 The horizontal orientation is set at ‘ground level’ and concerned with ‘the advance or retreat of sightlines and perspectives along the terrestrial expanse of the earth.’ In contrast, the ‘vertical, ‘ or ‘aerial,’ orientation is concerned with looking downward rather than sideways. The vertical dimension is in origin an optic of surveillance and command: ‘Mapping changes and discovering patterns, the objective was to understand what moves (troops? construction materials?), how it moves, and how that movement can be intercepted or exploited.’26 It adds to our visual experience an orientation that is somehow ultimately not ‘for us,’ but rather is the perspective of a militarized, machinic eye involved in ‘modes of posi-

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tioning, tracking, identifying, predicting, targeting, and intercepting/ containing.’27 Each loading of FSW opens with a vertical perspective, a view as if from a surveillance satellite: first the earth from space; then a ‘continental’ view of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia; then a city image; finally zooming to an overhead view of streets where combat is occurring. These overhead views are granular, with static intereference, a marked mediated techno-vision, the optic of miltary command, scoping out the battlefield from an ‘eye in the sky.’ Then you are down at street level with Alpha and Bravo, in the composite collective eye of the squad, making your way through Zekistan. Here you progress horizontally, street by street, building by building, corner by corner. The virtual urban landscape is lavish. Papers blow on the streets, burnt-out cars litter the crossroads, smoke from conflagrations billows thickly upward, crows and cats rise and run as your squad passes. The squalor of debris, the beauty of tilework in Islamic palaces, the colours of flaming sunsets glimpsed at the end of streets, all are rendered in gorgeous detail. But be entranced at your peril. Simply finding a designated objective can be a challenge. And since Alpha and Bravo are often outnumbered and always moving in the open, in the face of waiting enemies, vulnerable to ambush, it is only by getting some advance warning: in other words, by invoking vertical vision. At any moment, pressing key ‘E’ gives the player, as team leader, a view of his global positioning system (GPS) receiver. Here you see a city map, with a view of several blocks surrounding your current position; the two teams are marked; your field of view shows as a green cone; medical aid points and objectives are displayed; and enemies appear as red icons. Additionally, you can request helicopter reconnaissance.This invocation vertical vision is especially strongly marked because the helicopter pilot, although only present as a radio voice, is the one persistent female presence in the game (the only other women are medics and aid workers who appear fleetingly). She is (going by the accent) a black American: ‘Louise.’ So the move from the horizontal orientation of the grunt infantry on the ground to the vertical, aerial dimension breaks the game’s gender code. If a flight is available, the pilot confirms her approach via radio. The helicopter can be heard, and, in some of the most striking visual moments in the game, seen, circling in the sky through gaps in the city skyline. As she passes overhead, Louise marks enemies on the GPS and informs the player whether their presence is heavy or light: ‘Tangos

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galore,’ ‘Tangos like ants on soda,’ ‘Targets up.’ Such flights are, however, limited: use too many, and Louise may respond to your panicstricken request with a cool ‘Sorry Charlie, that’s a negative.’ Sometimes fire can be summoned from the sky. A crucial role for Alpha and Bravo is not directly defeating the Tangos in firefights but spotting for devastating air or artillery strikes. Here the role of the infantry is thus, in Crandall’s words, ‘to act as a direct human interface to a machine that cannot yet fully interface with all of the ambiguities of a material world’ – a function performed in-game by placing a special green bomb icon on target. After a few moments the screen is rocked with spectacular explosions, providing a pyrotechnic gratification acknowledged by one virtual soldier’s scripted comment: ‘Ahh never get tired o’ that.’ This interplay of vertical and horizontal is of course integral to ‘fullspectrum’ doctrine, which depends on the combination and cooperation of airforce and army into a single invincible striking power. The first Gulf War was christened the ‘Nintendo War’ because it introduced television watchers to game-like perspectives of gunsight and bombnose cameras. FSW takes things further, by offering both vertical and horizontal perpectives on war, in a situation where the role of the human horizontal sight is to vector in the apocalyptic power released from the vertical heights. We experience, virtually, what Crandall terms ‘the integration of analyst, operator, database, and weapons network into a smart image ... unlike anything we understand in civilian perspectives.’ FSW is one of what he calls the ‘new kinds of militarized formats’ in visual media, fusing ‘technological innovation and the erotic charge of combat’ in ‘renewed, compulsive militarization.’28 The Big Lie That videogames are ‘too violent’ is a common claim. Full Spectrum Warrior is perhaps not violent enough. As we have noted, the game is cerebral, almost chess-like. And the price of failure is remarkably low. If soldiers in Alpha and Bravo are lightly injured, ‘blood’ spatters across the screen. If one is more seriously wounded, he falls, and will, unaided, eventually die. He can, however, be carried by his squad back to a casualty evacuation point, where healing is almost immediate. The wounded man staggers to his feet to upbeat comments: ‘You’ve still got your looks,’ ‘Wow, am I glad to see you again sarge!’ ‘He’s one tough son-of-a-bitch.’

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If two or more soldiers are seriously wounded, the mission ends abruptly. There is a sudden cut to cinematic animations of your team falling to enemy fire. Soldiers jerk back, crumple to the ground, or are lifted off their feet by the impact of bullets and hurled through the air in balletic arcs; fountains of scarlet blood jet from the punctures stitched across their bodies. The animation and game physics involved in these moments is extraordinary. Bodies fall realistically in the precise situation where they were hit. So, for example, an infantryman seeking cover among a stack of crates is caught in a burst of machine-gun fire; not only is the chipping of containers by bullets striking them and ricocheting around visible, but the unfortunate soldier’s cheek slams against the side of the crate as he is hit, his head snapping back convulsively before he slides to the ground. All this, however, only lasts an instant. Almost before the player registers that they have led Alpha and Bravo to death and disaster, a voiceover comes up with some good advice: ‘Always use cover.’ Then the ‘Mission Over’ screen appears – with the ‘Return to Last Save’ option, which restarts the game at the most recent of the designated save points scattered through its course. This may mean having to repeat several minutes of manoeuvres, and re-kill a number of ‘Zekes.’ Let this happen a few times and whatever horror you may have felt at the deaths of your men turns to exasperation. It is essential to FSW that time can be reversed and every mistake undone; the ‘save-die-restart’ sequence makes Alpha and Bravo immortal.29 This is, of course, the big lie of war as game. There are other, minor, subsidiary lies in FSW’s virtual war. That missions end if you have more than one serious casualty reflects the U.S. military’s well-known concern for (and success in) minimizing politically volatile losses to its highly trained post-Fordist techno-soldiers (‘The US Army has zero tolerance for casualties!’ the manual sternly declares). But it also means you never witness the annihilation of numbers of your own troops. And – need it be said? – this is war where no one lies for hours shot in the abdomen shrieking for their mother; has their testicles blown off; or wakes in hospital finding they have lost a limb. It is war without mutilation or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also war without moral dilemmas. There are almost no civilians. The miracle of Zekistan is streets are deserted, and houses empty, apart from the ubiquitous Tangos (who all die instantaneously when hit, vitiating problems of prison guards or enemies wounded). Air and artillery strikes do not hit wedding parties. There is no collateral damage. War is peace.

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HA2P1PY9TUR5TLE: Decline and Fall? ‘Based on an actual training aid for the US Army,’ declares the FSW packaging. Immediately after release it was discovered that entering a ‘cheat code’ – ‘HA2P1PY9TUR5TLE’ – into the Xbox commercial game unlocked the army version (this option was disabled when the game was ported to the PC and PS2, suggesting the disclosure was unwelcome to the military). As many reviews of the game attest, a major attraction of FSW is that it gives gamers a glimpse, if not of real war, at least of real military virtuality. The military version plays like the commercial game, but with significant differences. It spans two theatres of war, the Middle East and the Balkans. The personalization of and banter between soldiers is removed. So are much of the graphic polish, special lighting, blur effects, and visual detail. There are no cut scenes. The audio quality is markedly lower. The rich musical score that added excitement and intrigue is gone. Apart from faint wind and distant gunfire, all is quiet in the streets – with one exception: civilians speak to your soldiers more often. In the commercial game this happens very occasionally and is entirely benign: in one cut scene Arab-American Private Shehadi gets directions from a friendly ‘Zeke’ (after a lengthy dialogue in Arabic, the sergeant asks ‘What did he say?’ ‘North,’ replies Shehadi). In the military version, there is some of this fraternization – ‘Come this way, America’ – but also many expressions of hostility: ‘Filthy American pigs!’ ‘This is our home, capitalist pigs,’ or, when the U.S. troops are facilitating elections, ‘Go home, don’t vote.’ While the civilian game presents a war of liberation, the military version more accurately familiarizes U.S. soldiers with being unpopular. Less spectacular than the civilian version, the military game is harder to survive. Cover is scanter; fewer onscreen icons give information about the vulnerability of friends and foes; there are more civilians, so identifying ‘hostiles’ is harder. The enemy attacks more aggressively, from a greater variety of directions; the awkward behaviour of weapons like grenades is more accurately represented. Rather than a ‘global positioning system,’ the soldier gets a crude hand-drawn map of the missions, although the interplay between ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ vision is preserved by the ability to lift the point of view hundreds of feet into the air, seeing the entire map from bird’s-eye view in real time. It is possible to modify the quantity and aggressiveness of opposing force and civilians, and also to change the capacities of one’s own

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troops, altering their accuracy and reaction times. Wounded soldiers cannot be carried to evacuation points: you gather their weapons and ammunition and move on. On balance, the military version is a sparer but more complex and challenging simulation than the civilian game. But perhaps not complex and challenging enough. In 2005 scandal erupted around FSW when Taxpayers for Common Sense, an organization critical of the Bush regime’s military spending, suggested Sony, Pandemic, and THQ had obtained massive public subsidization for a commercial venture that fell far short of military training needs. News reports suggested FSW should be reinterpreted as ‘Full Spectrum Welfare’ and that the army had been ‘out-gamed.’30 The main source was a whistle-blowing graphic artist, Andrew Paquette, who claims he was fired from the FSW development team after writing repeated memos warning that the game would not be realistic enough for the army. His main objections concerned the inadequate modelling of the urban environments it purports to represent. Most of the city buildings, Paquette pointed out, are just facades: those that have interiors can be entered only on one level. Hence what is usually considered the worst parts of urban combat – floor-to-floor house clearing with enemies lurking in cellars or upper floors – simply doesn’t exist. ‘What they did,’ Paquette said, ‘was give the Fisher-Price version of a city.’31 Suing both Sony and Pandemic for wrongful dismissal, he said the companies ‘didn’t pay attention to what the army needed’ and that their attitude was ‘We don’t care about the army, we’re making money off this.’32 These complaints were echoed from other sources. Taxpayers for Common Sense unearthed internal ICT e-mails warning ‘we have a huge problem on our hands’ because the army ‘was not satisfied.’33 Military personnel involved in training corroborated this, saying that the game was ‘incredibly shallow’ and had a ‘very limited set of situational challenges.’34 ICT spokespeople recouped the situation by ceding ground, declaring FSW a useful experiment that would improve other training aids. ‘We have learned a lot,’ said Macedonia, ‘and that’s the purpose of research – to learn those types of things, not to deliver a product.’35 Set against the daily death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan (where insurgents now refuse the sort of combat practised in FSW, resorting instead to tactics of destabilization and mayhem), the scandal around the ICT expenditures seems trivial. But it provides an insight into the Achilles heel of ‘full-spectrum’ doctrine. The Iraqi insurgents or the Taliban cannot better the U.S. army in the field. But they may spend it into the ground. The low-casualty (for the United States), high-technology

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strategy on which the Pentagon depends is monstrously expensive. Empire’s vulnerability is not battlefield defeat, but economic crisis caused by the collapsing overhang of military budgets. The heist of $5 million from the U.S. army by Pandemic, Sony, THQ, and Microsoft is dwarfed by the war profiteering of corporations such as Halliburton, but it offers a microcosm of imperial decline and fall. The Banalization of War In the short term, however, Full Spectrum Warrior was a success. The commercial game earned enthusiastic reviews and industry awards, sold about a million units, and grossed $50 million (U.S.). Pandemic will release a sequel, Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers, in 2006. And despite the furor over funding FSW, on 20 November 2004 the army awarded ICT a new five-year, $100 million contract. Military–civilian game collaborations are an aspect of what Paul Virilio calls ‘pentagoncapitalism.’36 Such partnerships contain the possibilities of boondoggles such as occurred with FSW. Yet, in the larger imperial perspective, even this may be considered money well spent. Here we should return to the notion of ‘full-spectrum dominance.’ Implicit in this doctrine is a lucid understanding of war as a project with not only military but also ideological and political dimensions. Maintaining an imperial populace’s will to fight is as important as battlefield dominance. In a U.S. context, this is reflected in neoconservative determination to cure the ‘Vietnam syndrome’ of peacenik disaffection to which historic humiliation in Southeast Asia is ascribed. From this point of view, whatever the success or failure of simulators such as FSW in preparing soldiers for Baghdad, their role in habituating civilians to perpetual war may be as or more important. To suggest games such as FSW prepare not only soldiers, but also civilians, for war is, however, to enter a complex and frustrating debate about the links from virtual to actual. The success of military simulators in improving soldiers’ battlefield performance – for example, learning to fire swiftly and accurately – have led video game critics such as Lt. Col. Grossman to claim first-person shooters constitute informal ‘training to kill.’37 Such assertions, widespread after the Columbine massacres, have been revived by the demagogic lawyer Jim Thompson, who while seeking publicity for victims of alleged video game–induced shootings, denounced ICT as a ‘tax payer rip off’ responsible for ‘training’ terrorists.38

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We find these unilinear media-effects claims tempting but unconvincing. Media audiences are composed of subjectivities that are multiplicitous, assembled in manifold and contradictory social formations. Positions inscribed in games (or other media) are not necessarily replicated by players (or audiences). Simulators in military training are one relay among the myriad circuits of the ‘war machine’ – part of what we can loosely term ‘diffuse barracks.’ From this perspective, virtual violence is part of an ensemble of practices aimed at disinhibiting, disciplining, and directing deadly aggression, ferociously etching direct lines from simulation to actuality. The idea that these conditions are replicated every time a shooter is played in a civilian living room is naive – but that they are a component of a broader ensemble of ‘affective circulations’ that ready bodies and bolster legitimation for war is less so.39 For when the same identities and assumptions are reiterated by numerous media channels, and asserted by many institutions, the chances for their successful reproduction rise. In societies on a war footing, militarization becomes part of the ambience of everyday life. We enter a version of ‘the society of control,’ where the boundary between barracks and the living room is imploded:40 hatred towards an officially designated enemy, triumph in his death, or at least indifference towards its necessity, vigilance for his wiles, acceptance of casualties in the course of struggle, uncritical loyalty for ‘our’ side, all become values promulgated across a wide social bandwidth, on a ‘full spectrum’ from the president’s podium to daily news reports. In the era of ‘war on terror’ this is the situation in the heartlands of Empire, and especially in post-9/11 United States. In these settings, games such as FSW generate subjectivities to which war – and a very selective rendering of it, as we have seen – is increasingly normalized. Such games prompt not atrocities of gothic delinquency but, we would wager, of loyal support for the president and the troops. Their virtualities enter a polyphonic affective, visual, and ideological chorus supporting militarization. Dissonance is still possible.41 The persistence of anti-war activism within digital game culture itself is a potent reminder that ludic militarism is contested.42 But the battle song is loud, the opponents asymmetrical. Referring to the process of socializing populations for participation in and endurance of endless imperial counter-insurgency conflicts, Hardt and Negri use the phrase ‘banalization of war.’ This phrase, which echoes Hannah Arendt, conveys a situation in which ongoing war is a normalized condition in which the enemy is regularly depicted as ‘an absolute threat to the eth-

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ical order’ and ‘reduced to an object of routine police repression.’43 FSW contributes to this banalization of war by promoting uncritical identification with imperial troops; by celebrating the virtue of their cause and the justice of their activities; by routinizing the extermination of the enemy; by diminishing the horrors of battle and exalting its spectacle; by forming subjects of, and for, ‘armed vision’; by investing pleasurable affect in military tactics and strategy; and by making players material partners in beneficiaries of military technoculture. Virtual involvement of civilian populations in actual imperial war makes military games a home-front component of ‘full-spectrum dominance.’ ‘Don’t bring out the general in you!’ goes Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s ethical injunction.44 But as one of the developers of Full Spectrum Warrior said of the game: ‘The bumper sticker version is, “Everyone’s a general.”’45

NOTES 1 Jordan Crandall, ‘Armed Vision,’ Multitudes (29 May 2004), http:// multitudes.samizdat.net/article.php3?id_article=1491. 2 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 13. 3 James Der Derian, Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media Entertainment Network (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001); Jonathan Burston, ‘War and the Entertainment Industries: New Research Priorities in an Era of Cyber-Patriotism,’ in War and the Media: Reporting Conflict 24/7, ed. Daya Kishan Thussu and Des Freedman (London: Sage 2003), 163–75; Tim Lenoir, ‘All But War Is Simulation: The Military-Entertainment Complex,’ Configurations 8, no. 3 (fall 2000): 289–335; Stephen Stockwell and Adam Muir, ‘The Military-Entertainment Complex: A New Facet of Information Warfare,’ FibreCulture 1 (2003), http://journal.fibreculture.org. See also Tamara Vukov, The War Game Room, http://www.pomgrenade.org/WGR, which provides an outstanding graphic and aural archive of the topics explored here. 4 See Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, and Greig de Peuter, Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing (Montreal: McGillQueen’s University Press, 2003), 84–90, 99–101. 5 KumaWar, http://www.kumawar.com/. 6 Department of Defense Game Developers’ Community, http://www. dodgamecommunity.com/index.php. 7 Der Derian, Virtuous War.

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8 Michael Macedonia, ‘A View from the Military,’ Defense Horizons (11 April 2002), http://www.ndu.edu/inss/DefHor/DH11/DH11.htm. 9 ICT Web page, http://www.ict.usc.edu/disp.php?bd=about. 10 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2020 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, June 2000). Inside front cover available online, http://www.dtic.mil/jointvision/jvpub2.htm. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid. 13 For discussion of the ‘full-spectrum’ concept, see Rahul Mahajan, Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond (New York: Seven Stories, 2003). 14 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2020. 15 Mike Davis, ‘The Pentagon as Global Slumlord’ (19 April 2004), retrieved from http://www.tomdispatch.com. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 James Korris, ‘Full Spectrum Warrior: How the Institute for Creative Technologies Built a Cognitive Training Tool for Xbox,’ http://www. asc2004.com/Manuscripts/sessionI/IP-09.pdf. 19 Ibid. 20 Full Spectrum Warrior Instruction Manual. 21 Brian Massumi, ‘Requiem for Our Prospective Dead: Toward a Participatory Critique of Capitalist Power,’ in Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy and Culture, ed. Eleanor Kaufman and Kevin Jon Heller (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1998) 40–64. 22 Quoted in Bill Adair, ‘Did the Army Get Out-Gamed?’ Washington Times, 20 February 2005. 23 Full Spectrum Warrior Instruction Manual. 24 David M. Halbfinger and Steven A. Holmes, ‘Military Mirrors Working Class America,’ New York Times, 30 March 2003, http://www.radicalmiddle. com/military_mirrors.htm. 25 Crandall, ‘Armed Vision.’ 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 For discussion of the argument that ‘save-die-restart’ makes games inherently trivial, see James Newman, Videogames (London: Routledge, 2004), 84–6. 30 Adair, ‘Did the Army Get Out-Gamed?’ 31 Ibid.

250 Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter 32 33 34 35 36 37 38

39 40 41 42

43 44 45

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Paul Virilio, Strategy of Deception (London: Verso, 2000). David Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Costs of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Boston: Little Brown, 1996). Jim Thompson, ‘Open Letter to the Members of the Entertainment Software Association’ (14 July 2005), available online at http://www.kotaku.com/ gaming/top/thompson-calls-for-esa-pres-resignation-112565.php. Massumi, ‘Requiem for Our Prospective Dead,’ 44. Gilles Deleuze, ‘Postscript on the Society of Control,’ October 59 (1992): 3–8. See Vukov, The War Game Room. We discuss counter–war games in our essay ‘A Playful Multitude? Mobilizing and Counter-Mobilizing Immaterial Game Labour,’ Fibreculture 5, http://www.journal.fibreculture.org. Hardt and Negri, Empire, 13. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 24–5. James Korris, quoted in Steve Silberman, ‘The War Room,’ Wired, September 2004.

13 The Dialectics of Canadian Film Labour: Technology, Globalization, Nation j o h n m c cullough

It’s changed from working in a coal mine where you handle the film and it’s more physical – to feeling a bit atrophied because you sit all the time and your mind and eyes carry all the weight ... mostly you don’t get up because it’s so fast and easy. Dede Allen, editor of Bonnie and Clyde, Dog Day Afternoon, Reds1 The studios used to be the schools. Now [the schools] are just churning them out. I don’t know where all these kids go. The market can’t sustain it, unless the world is turning into a big entertainment centre. Marv Newland, CEO, International Rocketship Productions (Vancouver)2

With sequels of the Gulf War and the latest Hollywood blockbuster occupying our ‘free time,’ Newland’s observation about the world as a ‘big entertainment centre’ seems somewhat banal. But the underlying logic of the state of affairs he describes is actually a complex story about culture, labour, and meaning. For instance, one of the implications of Newland’s comments is that not only is the real world being effaced by image-based entertainment, but this simulated world is a response to a labour crisis in the overdeveloped animation sector of the volatile global film market. His comments also draw attention to the particularly dynamic nature of the Canadian film industry, which now consists of a large number of independent producers who use local and regional inducements (including surplus labour pools and tax relief) to compete globally. This process, which sees Canadian cultural production transform itself into global economic activity, is a central theme of this essay, and I hope that my analysis will be useful in suggesting the

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place of labour in contemporary culture. For, as Newland and Allen make clear, there remains an intimate relationship between the nature of work and the forms of culture, even in the ‘post-work’ world of digital entertainment. Contemporary global image-making is characterized by scattered independent production, rigorously controlled centralized distribution (including copyright enforcement), and extraordinary dependence on high-end technology. This last characteristic has most recently featured the extensive use of computers to construct film worlds. There are several good examples, including Pixar Animation Studio and Lucasfilm’s success with digital image technology. In fact, the extensive use of computer-generated image (CGI) techniques and software in all films and commercials, as well as video games, television shows, and films, generally, has fuelled the emergence of multimedia conglomerates exploiting both information and entertainment markets. Advanced digital technology has helped create a fluid, powerful, and global ownership structure, reflecting neoliberal economic beliefs and a dominant ideology which welds technological innovation to popular culture and entertainment. The political economy of contemporary media features virtual monopolies, dedicated to information and cultural management, and a contracted labour force which is organized around a number of highly specialized tasks and widely dispersed production sites.3 This essay presumes that the conditions described above are generally accurate for global media practice. My analysis of Canadian film and television labour assumes that inasmuch as Canada is a cultural exporter and importer, thoroughly dependent on the global image market, a materially sound description of contemporary media culture can also serve as a useful introduction to Canadian image culture. Furthermore, to the extent that Canadian film and television production and consumption are typical of generally recognized global patterns, it is difficult to think of Canadian film and television culture as authentically unique. In fact, this is the assumption that underlies Richard Collins’s concept of ‘Canadianization,’ which he uses to describe Canada’s responses to the, by now, worldwide phenomenon of American cultural imperialism.4 Those who borrow Collins’s perspective argue that attempts by Canadian state institutions and policies to impose, or induce, a nationalist cultural identity in order to protect a national polity do not secure Canadian sovereignty or identity so much as admit the failure of the project.5 From this perspective, any national culture that needs to be insulated from a variety of historical and existing eco-

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nomic, political, legal, pedagogical, geographical, and social contradictions will inevitably create abstract and idealized standards of national identity. By contrast, lived Canadian culture has always been experienced as fully contradictory. The imposed ‘national culture’ (which is always a negotiation with international commercial interests) is a ‘simulation’ and is usefully understood in the context of the critique of the culture industries as developed by Adorno and Horkheimer and, later, Debord and the situationists. As well, this critical commentary on inauthentic national culture is related to some of the scholarly analysis that has focused its attention on the mechanism of Canadianization – the Canadian state. Ted Magder, Manjunath Pendakur, and Michael Dorland have all analysed Canadian state film policy, as well as the historical organization of film and television industries and audiences in Canada.6 Dorland points out the resistance, in Canada, to understanding culture and economy as overlapping spheres. As he points out, this gap ‘derived in part from the fact that cultural activities were not as profitable as economic activity.’7 Nonetheless, while the federal government may have been slow to see the economic value of cultural production in Canada, preferring to use film as an information and propaganda tool, some regional and provincial jurisdictions have used movies and television as an economic engine for decades. Gasher points out, for instance, that the British Columbia government has been involved in creating a favourable environment for Hollywood since early in the last century.8 I will argue from a relatively typical position that the two forms of development (cultural and economic) must be understood as conjoined, particularly in the context of what is now called globalization. Fredric Jameson makes the overlap of culture and economy explicit when he observes that, for instance, ‘commodity production is now a cultural phenomenon, in which you buy the product fully as much for its image as for its immediate use.’9 Consider the ‘case’ of Molson’s. This once-Canadian brewing concern has performed well against its main competitor, Labatt’s (which was once also fully Canadian owned), by emphasizing Canadian national identity, particularly when advertising its ‘Canadian’ brand. For example, prior to 9/11, Molson’s produced a series of audaciously nationalist (in some cases, anti-American) television commercials that serve to emphasize Jameson’s point about the overlap of economy and culture. In a neoliberal economic context, in which the state mobilizes to accommodate globalization, it is not surprising to find the market replacing

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the state as the promotional arm of the Canadian nation. The explicit convergence of patriotic propaganda and commercial advertising was well received, but it is unsettling in its implications for the further erosion of the distinction between corporate and national identity and, more generally, capitalism and democracy. Moreover, the chauvinism and xenophobia expressed in the ads were notable, and it is hard to imagine that such a tone would be tolerated in a state-sponsored commercial or political statement. This suggests one more area of contemporary social life in which the state has been outpaced by the market’s response to populist desire. One campaign, ‘I Am Joe,’ was so popular that it became an alternate national anthem during hockey playoffs in 2000 and 2001. Ironically, and predictably, the actor who played Joe was so encouraged by his success as a national icon that he moved to Hollywood. With these types of stories in mind, and particularly in light of Telefilm (1982) and free trade (1988), I consider Canadian film and television to be involved in a dialectical struggle which is alternately cultural and economic. Which is to say that Canadian film and television culture is an ideological construct of an imagined industry and an imagined national identity. What follows is an admittedly general institutional analysis of the Canadian film and television industries. It provides a series of insights that serve, provisionally, to describe the current conditions of industrial cultural production as they are influenced by changes in the international division of film and television labour. One of this essay’s central arguments is that the recent reorganization of film and television labour has had the consequence of altering media workers’ relationship to traditions of image-making. My analysis will focus on four areas: (1) atomization and the current ambiguity regarding responsibility for image-making; (2) changes in technology and the ‘loss’ of the workforce; (3) non-U.S. labour used ‘in’ Global Hollywood; and (4) the contemporary Canadian film and television labour experience. Each of these areas provides a variety of insights, but I will tend to generalize in order to provide a useful sketch of the overall situation. Conditions of film and television work have changed considerably since the first conceptions and discourse emerged about filmmaking, but these conditions are rarely portrayed or acknowledged except as corporate celebrations of the media industries’ evolution, or as denigration in regards to the perceived low artistic standards and coarse craftsmanship of contemporary image-making. In many cases, there has been a deskilling and instrumentalization of film and television labour, which is related to increased commercial, technocratic, and technologi-

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cal interference and mediation. One can imagine a variety of examples drawn from all areas of the industry: cinematographers who are constrained by commercial imperatives, editors whose work is now organized by digital editing and software innovation, and projectionists whose job has been changed by platform systems and digital projection. All of these examples speak to the potential degradation of work, but there has also been a democratization of the knowledge and technology involved in making and distributing images in contemporary culture. These contradictions emerge and form the backbone of culture (national and otherwise) in the contemporary context, and my argument is that the analysis of national culture looks different through the lens of labour than it does through that of the state or that of cultural or corporate elites (groups whose views have been widely perpetuated and legitimated). Atomization and Responsibility in Image-Making In an early conceptualization of the photographer, which has had implications for cinematographers (especially documentarists), the theme of responsibility is prominent.10 The image-maker, from this perspective, is responsible to the subject photographed, to the context lost due to framing, to the manipulation and distribution of the image, and to the traditions of culture which impact on the process of image-making. These ethical parameters were developed as the means by which the practice of image reproduction could be controlled, in a way that did not solely relate to economic exploitation or the concept of offering whatever the market would bear. In this sense, image-making was considered a substantial privilege, with attendant responsibilities which capital did not necessarily erode. Ultimately, the pressure to market images, and to use images in a commercial context, has led to a series of more or less misguided discussions of the ethics of taking pictures and image-making. From the perspective of contemporary media culture, these discussions now appear somewhat quaint, as well as being admissions that liberal humanism, and the responsibilities of so-called civil society and, by extension, the concept of the rationality of ‘the public sphere,’ are in the last stages of their dominance in the North. Daily, humanist sentiment is overwhelmed by the commercial demands of the culture industries, as though culture is now only about getting noticed and making money. At the same time, we are encouraged to believe that technological developments guarantee greater objectivity in the

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image-making process and thus the possibility of increased access to ‘the real.’ But, in the contemporary setting, with the ability to take, make, and distribute images without human participation, there has developed a complex social realization that we live and breathe in a surveillance society of the spectacle. Only the thinnest of lip service is paid to ‘image ethics,’ and there is a general consensus that Orwell’s Big Brother does exist. Further, there is a willingness to believe that if humans do not get paid for images, machines will. In fact, getting paid is the single greatest influence in contemporary image culture. The turning over of culture to commercial entertainment industries and the aggressive marketing of culture have given rise to a labour force which is dedicated to receiving fair market value for their images, their skills, and their technology. Due to owners’ concentrated wealth and power, and labour’s largely specialized, dispersed, and freelance status, all of this is negotiated in an increasingly unregulated and competitive image and labour marketplace, which is generally, and overwhelmingly, a buyer’s market. This leaves workers and their locals (when they are organized) typically isolated and overpowered by ownership. In fact, one of the problems of perceiving and understanding labour’s role in contemporary media culture is its organization around atomized tasks, disparate and ‘hidden’ worksites (e.g., homebased workstations), and individually contracted (and sub-contracted) labour. On top of all this, neoliberal state initiatives and representatives eagerly encourage American and international investment in Canadian cultural production by bending or breaking organized labour’s negotiated contracts. These features of contemporary film and television labour create a situation in which cultural work is made somewhat ephemeral, and even transparent, and seems to not be work at all. In fact, to raise the idea of the film and television workforce, in the contemporary context, is to run into difficulty defining the object of study in a way that was never so acute when considering the world’s studio systems. These earlier examples of image culture industries provide fixed spatial sites, which can be considered tangible as ‘fixed capital.’ In these cases, the designation of a workforce, which was present in the studios, actually makes sense, because these workers were a clear force to be negotiated in the production of culture. Nowadays, films are made in a variety of locations (real and virtual), and the concept of the Hollywood studio and backlot, as a factory (although these resources are still utilized), is perceived as an anachronism. Even television studios fail to impress the viewer as worksites so much as technology and research centres (e.g., CNN and CHUM-CITY). Within the new media spaces,

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contract technicians and freelance specialists hover at computer consoles, which are their point of entry into a network that provides them access to power and identity. From some perspectives, the network connection that is encouraged by digital filmmaking and television can be understood as rhizomatic and utopian. But the dystopian characteristics of this technology relate to the increased potential atomization prevalent in computer networks. Baudrillard once described the identity encouraged by this structure as being as grand as a node, enmeshed in ‘the screen and network.’11 Scott Bukatman calls this ‘terminal identity,’ which well describes the subjectivity emblematic of the globalized digital factory.12 It is also the work experience described by John, a digital animator driven to anonymity in order to protect his job: ‘Work is so desperate that people will do anything to stay on, people are working themselves to death.’13 Technology and the ‘Loss’ of the Workforce While there are a variety of reasons for the changed perception of film and television work, it is necessary to think of technology as absolutely crucial in definitions of contemporary culture industries, including ideas about the workers in that industry. Foremost in this regard is the fact that while the culture industries, globally, have expanded enormously since the Second World War (and with it labour forces), competition between owners to reduce the cost of labour has also intensified. One of the ways this has been achieved is through the introduction of machines, which rationalize the production process. For instance, the Avid editing system allows for reduced overhead costs such as maintenance of an editing room, but it also, remarkably, helps to control flexible costs of production by regulating and storing a typically timeconsuming labour practice (e.g., recutting versions of the film). In a sense, what makes Avid an ‘offline’ machine is that it allows for the meter of labour costs to be turned off. While this often provides greater flexibility for independent filmmakers, editors in the industry become subject to the effects of ‘flexible accumulation.’ David Harvey describes these effects in the following way: New technologies have empowered certain privileged layers, at the same time as alternative production and labour control systems open up the way to high remuneration of technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial skills. The trend, further exaggerated by the shift to services and the enlargement of ‘the cultural mass,’ has been to increasing inequalities of

258 John McCullough income, perhaps presaging the rise of a new aristocracy of labour as well as the emergence of an ill-remunerated and broadly disempowered under-class.14

The advantages to capital of such technology are obvious, but this change to labour practice must also be considered in the context of the loss of the ‘space’ of editing, which used to contribute to the overall ‘space’ of film production. I am thinking here, for instance, of Dorothy Arzner’s fond recounting of her apprenticeship as an early hand-cutting editor and her subsequent development as a feature film director.15 Specifically, it is necessary to recognize how her sense of autonomy contrasts with the potential atomization of digital editing. In digital editing, the instrumentalization of the editing process encourages everyone to present themselves as skilled editors, although the skills have been achieved not so much through production as through consumption (of technology and software). One of the results of digital editing is an intensified fragmentation of the filmmaking process and a devaluation of the various skills invested in making movies. Dede Allen explains: Often the studio would get involved with a cut and executives would go down to the Avid and want to see it. I think digital editing has created an environment where everybody thinks they know how to be a filmmaker, even if they don’t have any idea how to do it.16

For those workers who gain privilege in the context of ‘flexible accumulation,’ they become, as Harvey describes them, an aristocracy within the film labour force. No doubt, this new aristocracy knows the value of ‘having the right tools.’ For example, in an interview with Lee Unkrich, supervising editor on A Bug’s Life (U.S., 1998, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton), the overwhelming impression is that the editor’s talents and obvious enthusiasm are tied to the technology just as a cart is yoked to an ass. Nonetheless, part of the attraction of Unkrich’s job as a supervising editor is that, in the combination that is him and his machine, he has the ability to play a significant role in the creation of a multimillion-dollar cultural artifact. The reason his contribution is significant is that his position, according to the division of labour in his digital factory, allows him access to most parts of the production process. He is, in this sense, an important node in the production network. While the job is standardized by the technology, the status that the technology confers is substantial and pays off in terms of being able to ‘pipe

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in and shape the film, define the characters, and just knock ideas around.’ Ultimately, the job seems to be equal parts creative expression and surveillance. Unkrich explains: ‘I have to be the one person who is looking at the film as a whole, looking at global continuity issues, because everyone else is really focused on the minutiae of the shot they are working on.’17 So, while the supervising editor, working through the Avid, claims global perspective, there are two points worth noting: (1) the workers under the supervisor are regarded as working on minutiae, and this reminds us of the hierarchic, highly structured, and specialized nature of the work, and (2) the global view is one that is only directed at the film structure as the largest possible unit of meaning. Here, not even the A Bug’s Life franchise comes under Unkrich’s view, let alone the larger frame of the responsibilities inherent in cultural production, specifically the politics and ethics of image-making. The disconnectedness of this workforce from earlier traditions of imagemaking is amplified when their freelance status is considered. Without an identity grounded in a place, or organized by a collective activity, these workers assume identities derived from the values that dominate the other spaces they occupy – especially those of the market. No doubt, the market is the predominant space and force in these workers’ lives and, because the contemporary film and television workplace rarely looks like or operates like a production plant, these workers consider themselves, and are considered to be, white-collar professionals, not blue-collar labourers. This is an achievement which favours capital, and it is an astounding ideological triumph which even eluded the union-bashing monopolies of the golden age of Hollywood, which, at the very least, had to negotiate with organized labour.18 New Hollywood has left the troublesome battle with labour to independent producers and politicians, but this has tended to fragment the labour movements in the entertainment industries, as independent operators use one group of workers against others, technology against workers, and one state subsidy against another. In some extraordinary cases, union locals work to undercut their brothers and sisters in other locals in order to secure contracts. The obvious net result is the loss of power for organized labour in the culture industry. Non-U.S. Workforces ‘in’ Global Hollywood U.S.-based producers also undercut film labour by introducing nonunion and non-U.S.-based workforces into the production cycle. This practice resembles export-processing industrial models, which attempt

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to achieve structural efficiency by retaining high-income specialty jobs in the domestic market (e.g., in the culture industries these would include talent, casting agents, producers, writers and directors, designers), while shifting labour-intensive tasks to low-wage areas of the world.19 This creates a situation in which lucrative and glamorous design-oriented jobs are centred in Los Angeles and its surrogate cities around the globe; low-paid general skill jobs are completed in contexts of underdevelopment; and high-speculation profitable promotion and marketing jobs are clustered in metropolitan centres. While this strategy is generalized across all media production, it is most obvious in commercial work and, in particular, television product and especially labour-intensive processes such as animation. The Simpsons is a good example of this, and, predictably, one of its episodes even satirizes its complicity with this mode of production. This also routinely occurs in the well-known production practice that sees American film and television productions ‘run away’ to cheaper Canadian resources in order to offset the costs of celebrity U.S. screen talent.20 In the context of this particular business strategy, the theme of Canada’s ‘brain drain’ gains prominence. That is, to the extent that some Canadian workers have elite training and skills, it is in Hollywood’s interest to control or manage this resource for its own specific benefit. On the one hand, the principle of leaving these specialists in Canada, and underpaying them accordingly, is sometimes an effective form of control. Canadian actor and three-time Dora award winner Kristen Thomson describes this situation well: I loved working with Stockard Channing and Sam Waterson, who were both gracious and fine, but we’re not in the same orbit anyway ... We don’t really do the same job. They are leading actors in a particular kind of film and I’m just getting some experience.21

Notable in her account is her sense that she’s ‘just getting some experience’ when working for Hollywood. The meaning of this is quite slippery, though, as it can be read in at least two different ways. First, we can read these comments as indicating that she thinks her work is different from that of the American stars and, moreover, that this difference is marked by Canadian inferiority. This internalized form of control, which is one manner of colonization by Hollywood, can be seen to affect a variety of Canadian producers, directors, actors, cinematographers, and postproduction staff. As Gordon Hardwick, man-

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ager of community affairs for the B.C. Film Commission, admits: ‘One of the biggest problems we’ve had is the negative campaign from the States ... and nothing is necessarily going to change their attitudes except a positive show of Canadian integrity.’22 Of course, Hollywood can presume this paternalistic posture and demand ‘integrity’ (which really means Canadian subservience), because the Canadian economy is fully integrated with U.S.-based media interests. Dan Johnson, film policy consultant and CEO of Humewood Communications, explains that multimillion-dollar investments in Canada by American productions generate significant service sector economic activity affiliated with the film industry. He correctly observes that ‘if Americans were discouraged from making movies in Canada, it would adversely affect companies which supply equipment, trucks, food, locations and so on.’23 Hollywood also exerts substantial explicit control over elite workers by hiring them as part of the American domestic workforce, and this is what constitutes the official ‘brain drain’ by Canadian standards. In response to this situation, Canadian nationalists and certain offices of the state charged with resource management argue that Canadian culture is being diluted due to the economic disparity between the homegrown film and television industry and Hollywood. This is the basis for the venerable Canadian tradition of blaming economic underdevelopment for cultural underdevelopment. But it rings hollow for three immediate reasons: (1) the elite training received by Canadians must always be seen within the context of the exigencies of specialist work discussed above, which tends to subvert national or regional identities in favour of generic skill competency; (2) elite training is often supported by the Canadian state and corporate sector in order to bolster Canadian industry not Canadian identity (and so it is naive to assume that these workers should restrict their aspirations to the farm team if they have a shot at the majors); and (3) workers usually invest in specialized training to augment their own conspicuous consumption, not to make conspicuous their Canadian cultural identity. To return to Kristen Thomson, we can see that when she says she’s ‘just getting some experience,’ this need not be read as a lament for the nation, but as an admission that she is apprenticing in Hollywood, with an eye to gaining all the privilege which that implies. In this sense, the ‘domination thesis’ is subverted by workers who understand Canadian dependency and work to advance their own economic security and career trajectory.

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The Contemporary Canadian Film and Television Labour Experience There are a lot of people floating around. We’re getting calls from all over from people looking for work ... It was bound to happen. Mark Freedman, President, Association of British Columbia Animation Producers24

The theme of U.S. cultural imperialism, always a significant feature in Canadian cultural debates, is intensified in the current global context, which has enthusiastically embraced neoliberal market principles in relationship to cultural production. But this dominance manifests itself in contradictory ways in the contemporary setting. On the one hand, films and television made in Canada (if not in numbers, then at least in dedicated resources) are overwhelmingly made to be sold in an international market that nonetheless speaks the language of Hollywood. The producers of these cultural artifacts, then, are doing various degrees of indirect branch plant service to the extent that they are making Hollywood product. By slight contrast, another group of Canadian film and television workers get their paycheques directly from Tinseltown. This group directs, writes, lights, grips, plans, shoots, and edits Hollywood films and television (both in Canada and around the world), almost exclusively in the form of contract labour. If they work internationally, these workers are truly an elite and they live a life of professional privilege, which includes high stress, air miles, and moving bills. If the job is done in Canada, there is a good chance that it will have been fought over by several jurisdictions (e.g., municipalities, provinces, regions, and even union locals), all of which now understand culture to be fully economic. In fact, so much of this inter-jurisdiction competition has emerged in Canada that it allows some regional workers and ‘industry’ to anticipate a year-round cycle of work. The shortcomings of this have included a generalized resentment towards, or wholesale abandonment of, the union project by many cultural workers. As well, there is a renewed and intensified influence of the state, not only in negotiating deals, but aggressively closing them. This process has also involved the expanding assumption that Hollywood is a legitimate standard for cultural production. Such reification of national cultural production is seen particularly clearly from the Canadian perspective. Specifically, to the extent that Hollywood is integrated into the careers and livelihoods

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of thousands of Canadian workers associated with the film and television industry, as well as providing entertainment which orders these workers’ leisure time, Hollywood can be said to have effectively capitalized on its legitimation, by exploiting them as both producers and consumers. But for many Canadian film and television workers, Hollywood is not the enemy because, despite the fact that it orders their free time and seduces away their paycheque, it also provides their paycheque. And because Hollywood is still ‘Hollywood,’ these paycheques are considered to be value-added. Given all this (i.e., specialized and atomized tasks, new technology, and Hollywood’s market dominance), Canadian film and television worker identity is necessarily and thoroughly contradictory. It is characterized most obviously by: (1) the loss of autonomy and craft, which has been superseded by technological interfaces and standardization; (2) a sense of displacement associated with the job (both spatial and social); (3) the dubious fortune of living in a U.S.-supplement nation; and (4) the emergence of a global cultural sphere, which is characterized by aggressive neoliberal capitalism and atrophied state support for non-commercial culture. In such a context, it is highly unlikely that a unique or discernible Canadian film and television culture will emerge. In fact, what is interesting about the Canadian situation is that it is becoming the norm, and this suggests something about changes in the concepts of culture and national culture that will become increasingly problematic. By looking at cultural labour, one can understand the true heterogeneity of contemporary entertainment. For instance, recently in Toronto, the cinematographer Derek Vanlint, who is famous for his chilling images of dystopian futurescapes in Alien (UK/U.S., 1979, Ridley Scott) – images of such graphic power that we must consider the possibility that we have already seen our futures – was busy shooting a pizza commercial. Not only that, but this international talent (now based in Canada) was working second unit on the commercial, applying his particular talents to capturing the beauty of rising crusts. Despite the fact that this commercial work seems to be a retrograde creative move for someone of such obvious talent and stature, it is important to realize that for elite media workers, the ultimate goal is often to work on commercials, given that they require less commitment in terms of time and energy, and the pay is proportionately greater. In such a situation, it makes sense that workers would prefer work that, by standards of national culture or artistic vision, seems degraded and generic, because Global Hollywood teaches us that commerce is the

264 John McCullough

heart of film and television culture, and that risk must constantly be avoided. This message is learned by everyone in the industry, and especially those who have survived the industry (such as Vanlint); and in order to understand the value and meaning of culture today, one must appreciate these labour conditions. This is also fundamental to understanding the ways in which independent producers and cultural workers are integrated into Global Hollywood. For instance, to return to Pixar, we see that the extraordinary talents of independent digital animators gave rise to a particular ‘look’ in Toy Story, but this talent is now locked into this aesthetic style, which has effectively become recognizable as the Pixar brand, and hence protected by everyone involved in the franchise who see this aesthetic as their guarantee of a paycheque. This logic encourages repetition, standardization, and eventually the routinization of work done at Pixar, as investors focus on expanded distribution of the commodity and protection of the brand and invest proportionately less money on experimental research or development of a new style. Moreover, in order to ‘cut through the clutter’ of a glutted entertainment market, there is an unwritten rule that unique, sometimes personal, ‘style’ (beyond content) is absolutely mandatory in attracting an audience. So there is an intensified emphasis on marketing product which amplifies the role of design and aesthetics, including the design of logos, titles, and packaging (including websites, press kits, and information packets). While this is not new to industrial media production, its scale is unprecedented, and the result is that it is difficult to find a space in visual culture that is not touched by the influence of Global Hollywood. All film and television workers now have to think about labour issues, in particular their own jobs, in relation to the marketing of culture, for the more legs their project has, the greater the chance they will continue working. This frenzy of self-promotion is so generalized that even avant-garde, documentary, and alternative filmmakers, having internalized the logic of consumerism, also put a lot of work into promoting their work, including designing a ‘package’ that signifies their ‘brand’ of art. The use of culture to generate capital, generally, is related to a long history of attempts to give aesthetic value to standardized, marketable commodities. Walter Benjamin recognized this democratization of the aesthetic as the end of ‘aura.’ The amplification, in the digital age, of Benjamin’s revelation forces us to confront the seemingly inevitable conclusion that art has become a displaced and empty signifier, serving now only to ‘aestheticize’ history. It recalls the scene in Ken Finkle-

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man’s The Newsroom (Canada, 1996–7, CBC-TV) in which the news producer and technician, looking for images to pastiche together to introduce their fast-breaking story, huddle over an editing console, flippantly sorting through files of famous images of tragedies in history, juxtaposing histories that are politically volatile or trivialized by their new context. The scene is comedic because the images are both more empty and more ‘loaded’ than expected, but the underlying tragic theme is that photography allows, and encourages, an irreverence to the markers of history and to the idea of history itself. My intention, in opening this essay with reference to ‘image ethics,’ was that, at a certain point, the ‘loss of aura,’ or lack of ‘grounding,’ inherent in modern image technologies (from 1830 to present), engenders a series of boundary transgressions that touch on significant ethical issues. For instance: the real becomes effaced by the image, the affect is valued independent of its cause, the artifact exists apart from its production, the ‘aesthetic’ masks the apparatus of industrial commerce that structures the uses of ‘art.’ These points draw attention to the aesthetics, technologies, and workers involved in the creation of that increasingly valuable commodity that is culture. The dialectic of labour and culture includes, for example, the ways in which music videos have appropriated aesthetic value from young workers (e.g., the directors, shooters, performers, technicians, programmers, designers, and so on) and have ‘rewarded’ many of these young workers by putting them in other products owned by the ‘parent’ company (sometimes a transnational corporation) – in a sense, to use unique work as a saleable commodity, by calling it style. The careers of David Fincher, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, and Canada’s Mr X are fair examples. Or take Spike Lee’s ‘aesthetic value’ as he moves from ‘auteur’ film, to ads, to the sidelines of Madison Square Garden for Knicks games. In each manifestation, his cultural value is understood to be real value (i.e., capital), and these values are related, in complex ways, to labour value. When Lee is seen making a film, he is understood to be labouring for love and art; when he shoots the ad, he is doing ‘trash for cash’; and when he promotes New York City (and himself) at MSG, he doesn’t seem to be working at all (which, this suggests, is one of the fringe benefits of being a cultural producer – it’s not really work!). By treating film and television labour in this fashion, the industry is able to generate a variety of stories about the perceived value and meaning of culture. These are also stories about the capitalized value of contemporary aesthetics, and they encourage people in the world to consider how these different

266 John McCullough

labour situations, and the styles they help generate, manifest themselves as differential registers of individual, personal wealth. While my focus on labour highlights the contemporary aesthetic from the perspective of pragmatic decisions regarding deployment of industry resources, it is also clear that this is not simply a story about the political economy of Canadian film and television activity. I have shown that the labour perspective helps us understand the impossibility of precisely naming a national culture, but this then introduces the possibility that we could think of culture as something that is made according to prevalent conditions of practice, and hence inspired by the heterogeneous ways in which we can imagine film and television playing a role in our lives. The point, then, is less to name culture than to understand the box within which it exists. In this sense, my emphasis on market imperatives helps us understand the influence of commerce in the style, treatment, and forms of all contemporary film and television cultural work, including that which is not primarily intended for commercial consumption. The role of advertising, and the central place of consumerism in cultural artifacts, not only is standard operating procedure in the private sector of media culture, but it actually provides a sense of foundation to an activity which has lost connection to earlier aesthetic, political, and social traditions. In fact, recent National Film Board of Canada (NFB) advertisements, intended to recruit new workers, emphasized that the successful candidates would be joining ‘a team of dynamic, young, media-savvy professionals,’ proving that even state filmmaking agencies have begun to speak the language of Global Hollywood. It is interesting, then, to reassess the various earlier attempts by the Canadian government to organize a national film and television culture around the centralized and service-oriented projects of the NFB and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). These efforts effectively brought workers within a somewhat uniform work schedule and labour contract and, in doing so, provided the basis for a similarly uniform cultural project. That cultural workers were used in this manner, to develop an affirmative image of the nation, is common knowledge to most film and television scholars in Canada. But it is worth considering the national identity-image that is being constructed by contemporary Canadian media industries and their workers. Brenda Longfellow’s analysis of The Red Violin (Canada, 1998, François Girard) is instructive in this regard, for it claims that a reading of the film must acknowledge the ways in which capital represents itself and is figured in media arti-

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facts (even those which claim to be expressions of national and not commercial culture). In the case of The Red Violin, its fetishization of the instrument (and the artisan labour that produced it) is related to the film’s subterranean desire to privilege commodity fetishism in the context of globalization. Longfellow claims that the deployment of such a ‘romanticism exists only as a nostalgic alibi for the ubiquitous and overweening power of money.’25 This should remind us of the enduring relevance and possible contemporary applications of Peter Morris’s provocative phrase ‘embattled shadows.’26 We have to ask: what is being obscured in the Canadian film and television industry during globalization? My argument would be that labour, like capital, is also figured in the ‘identity’ of a cultural artifact. But in this conjuncture, in which the market is hegemonic, film and television workers are paid to live in the shadows of Hollywood: obediently consuming their productivity and misrecognizing their labour as the figures of triumphant global capital. Torontobased actor Alex Poch-Goldin describes the challenge of acting in a Hollywood product: ‘I have to tell myself that I’m here to do a job. My job is to provide support for the lead performer.’27 Almost invariably, of course, the lead character is an American star, and, in this instance, it is easy to understand what Marx and Engels meant when they wrote that, in its initial stages, class struggles correspond with national struggles.28 Daily, Canadian workers negotiate a space, within Hollywood, for their labour. Ultimately, we see cultural forms which correspond to these class, national, and labour relations, and, judging by the product, the lesson to be learned is that the world’s film labour cannot afford to resist Hollywood.

NOTES 1 Quoted in Mia Goldman, ‘Dede on Digital: An Interview with Dede Allen (Part 1),’ Motion Picture Editors Guild Magazine 21, no. 3 (May–June 2000), http://www.editorsguild.com/newsletter/MayJun00/dede.html. 2 Quoted in Sarah Schmidt, ‘That’s All, Folks,’ Globe and Mail, 29 May 2000, R1. 3 George Gerbner, Hamid Mowlana, and Herbert I. Schiller, eds, Invisible Crises: What Conglomerate Control of Media Means for America and the World (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997). 4 Richard Collins, Culture, Communication and National Identity: The Case of Canadian Television (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990).

268 John McCullough 5 For a succinct overview and current collection of essays which discuss efforts to define Canadian national culture, see Jody Berland and Shelley Hornstein, eds, Capital Cultural: A Reader on Modernist Legacies, State Institutions, and the Value(s) of Art (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000). 6 Ted Magder, Canada’s Hollywood: The Canadian State and Feature Films (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993); Manjunath Pendakur, Canadian Dreams and American Control: The Political Economy of the Canadian Film Industry (Toronto: Garamond Press, 1990); and Michael Dorland, So Close to the State/s: The Emergence of Canadian Feature Film Policy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998). 7 Dorland, So Close to the State/s, 39. 8 Mike Gasher, Hollywood North: The Feature Film Industry in British Columbia (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002). 9 Fredric Jameson, ‘Globalization and Political Strategy,’ New Left Review 4 (July-August 2000): 53. 10 Larry Gross, John Stuart Katz, and Jay Ruby, eds, Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs, Film, and Television (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2001). 11 Jean Baudrillard, ‘The Ecstasy of Communication,’ in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (New York: New Press, 1998), 146. 12 Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993). 13 Quoted in Schmidt, ‘That’s All, Folks.’ 14 David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990), 192. 15 Kevin Brownlow, The Parade’s Gone By ... (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), 283. 16 Quoted in Goldman, ‘Dede on Digital.’ 17 Nick T. Spark, ‘Working Out the Bugs: An Interview with Pixar’s Lee Unkrich, Supervising Film Editor of A Bug’s Life,’ Motion Picture Editors Guild Magazine 20, no. 1 (January-February 1999), http://www.editorsguild .com/newsletter/JanFeb99/int_unkrich_bugs_life.html. 18 Danae Clark, Negotiating Hollywood: The Cultural Politics of Actors’ Labor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995); Michael Denning (with Holly Allen), ‘“Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Walt?” Disney’s Radical Cartoonists,’ in The Cultural Front (New York: Verso, 1997), 403–22. 19 Joyce Nelson, Sultans of Sleaze: Public Relations and the Media (Toronto:

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20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28


Between the Lines Press, 1989), 96–124; John Allen, ‘Post-Industrialism and Post-Fordism,’ in Modernity and Its Futures, ed. Stuart Hall, David Held, and Tony McGrew (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1992), 169–220. Toby Miller, et al., Global Hollywood (London: BFI Publications, 2001) and Global Hollywood 2 (London: BFI Publications, 2005). Quoted in Kamal Al-Solaylee, ‘More Than Guns for Hire,’ Globe and Mail, 6 January 2003, R1. Quoted in Andre Mayer, ‘Studio Builders Do Boffo Box Office,’ Globe and Mail, 10 December 2002, B17. Quoted in Cathy Carlyle, ‘Discussing Policies on Canadian Film-making at York,’ Gazette (York University), 4 April 2001, 1. Quoted in Schmidt, ‘That’s All, Folks.’ Brenda Longfellow, ‘The Red Violin, Commodity Fetishism and Globalization,’ Canadian Journal of Film Studies 10, no. 2 (fall 2001): 19. Peter Morris, Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema, 1895–1939 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1978). Quoted in Al-Solaylee, ‘More Than Guns for Hire.’ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party,’ in The Marx–Engels Reader, 2nd ed., ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 482.

14 Screening the Call: Cell Phones, Activism, and the Art of Connection ki rs ty robertson

As at any other symphony concert, the sounds of coughing, shuffling feet, and creaking chairs greeted the opening of a September 2001 performance at the Brucknerhaus Auditorium in Linz, Austria. Audience members took their seats, the lights dimmed, and a pre-concert hush fell over the crowd. The silence was suddenly broken by the sound of a cell phone, ringing somewhere in the theatre. However, the familiar noise of interruption was greeted not with hushes, but with a second ringing telephone, and then another, until eventually a symphony of two hundred mobile phones filled the auditorium. Dialtones, a coproduction of artist Golan Levin with the 2001 Ars Electronica Festival, was a large-scale ‘telesymphony’ concert performance, ‘produced through the carefully choreographed dialing and ringing of the audience’s own mobile phones,’ each of which had been registered before the concert and given a specific ring tone that could then be ‘conducted’ by the techno-musicians on-stage.1 Part symphony, part artwork, and part social commentary, Dialtones can be read not only as a playful reworking of the ring tone, but also as a way of rethinking the cell phone as a tool of community formation and mutuality. ‘By directing our attention to the unexplored musical potential of a ubiquitous modern appliance,’ write the artists, ‘Dialtones inverts our understandings of private sound, public space, electromagnetic etiquette, and the fabric of the communications network which connects us.’2 By presenting a radical reworking of the ‘cellular,’ the anti-social and the dialogic (as opposed to polylogic) aspects of mobile phone use, performances such as the telesymphony instead generate playful adaptations of social communication, questioning any solely instrumental understanding of the use of cell phones. In this paper, I use a number of

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performative art/activist works to ask how mobile phones might be used as an activist tool within expanding networks of global capitalism and neoliberalism. In order to do so, I argue for an understanding of cell phones that takes into account both their productive communicative potential as well as their material production in order to posit an activism that takes place within the very zones of overlap and negotiation created by the spread of capitalism and the imaginaries of contemporary society. As their use proliferates across the globe, cell phones have become at once machines that create invisible threads weaving together the (apparently) seamless space of global capitalism, and also the opposite – a technology of caesura and of interruption in the seeming inevitability of global integration. Mobile phones are both participators and negotiators; they are, if we are to believe the numerous pundits, economists, and futurists, the tools, the mouthpieces, of a new, constantly connected, globally interacting society. However, the outward transcendence of a (global) sociality based on networking and connection depends exponentially on the material elements of communications technology, that is, the hardware necessary to create an illusion of ubiquitous (invisible) communications. The manufacture, use, and disposal of cell phones shadow the path of global communications and, I suggest, often act as a haunting, an absent-presence, in the use of mobile technologies. Through the history of the manufacture of cell phones runs a vector that connects the frenetic global circulations of commodities with the vast networks of communications, as well as the potential for both radical activism and also environmental destruction. The sociologist Manuel Castells wrote in 1996: ‘Our society is constructed around flows of capital, flows of technology, flows of organizational interaction, flows of images, sounds and symbols. Flows are not just one element of the social organization; they are the expression of processes dominating our economic, political and symbolic life.’3 Focusing on the role played by new technologies in the economic restructuring of the 1980s, Castells describes the globalized world as a space of fluidity wherein global information networks restructure not only economies but also social life. From above and from below, electronic, informational, and communicational flows integrate the globe through a distributed and reticulated global network. From the postFordist capitalist economy to the anti-capitalist ‘movement of movements’ that defined alter-globalization protest, the circulation of information has been essential to recent imaginings of globalization. And,

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perhaps not surprisingly, one of the essential tools creating and maintaining the global flows that underlie the network is the mobile phone. Used by both activists and consumer capitalists, and increasingly available across global lines of wealth and poverty, the cell phone has prompted revolutions, invented new languages and literacies, produced wars, transformed the sonic environment of the late twentieth century, formed new communities, encouraged new art for(u)ms, led to an increased jostling for supremacy in space, altered the choreography of people in urban environments, changed landscapes, and promoted new forms of communication. Though a tiny gadget, the cell phone is a life-altering prosthetic. To see it as such is also to rethink ideas of public space in terms not of concrete gathering places but also of fluid social fields that constantly shift and re-form. It demands, in other words, a powerful rethinking of the public sphere through ideas of confluence, vectors, trajectories, constantly transforming mutualities, and communities. The question then becomes whether such fluidity, such choice, and such speed lead to inertia or to potential. Appropriating the polysemic use of the word ‘screen’ in the realm of cell phones and communications, this paper suggests that not only do mobile phones act as a screen, obscuring the current inequalities of neoliberalism through a conflation of communication and freedom, but they also provide a performative canvas for new social roles, collectivities, and art forms. I suggest that it is this very multivalency that opens the discussion for possible new types of activism located within the space of global flows of technology, capital and communication, creative industries, and knowledge economies. To make this clearer, in a connected world, what spaces are opened up that might not even have been recognized as resistant? In the realm of global networked power, surely there are meandering traces of resistance that belong neither to the traditional dichotomy of capitalism and Marxism nor to the exhausted traditional left-wing critique. Refusing to choose between the pathways of transcendent communications or material commodity, I posit the in-betweenness of cell phone use as a place of potential, one that balances and questions the complex and fragmented spaces of contemporary capitalism. [ntrdctn] In the opening chapter of his book Constant Touch, Jon Agar comes into direct contact with the absent-presence of the material history of con-

Cell Phones, Activism, and the Art of Connection


temporary communications technology when he takes a hammer to his cell phone. With his phone in pieces, Agar traces the history of engineering, design, and microprocessing behind the ultra-small secondgeneration (2G) phone he has just smashed, arguing that within the detritus there is ‘a new global politics [that] can be found among the dust.’4 Agar reveals the global passages of goods that had previously been hidden by the plastic casing of his phone. His act of destruction exposes nickel in the batteries from Chile, microprocessor chips and circuitry from North America, plastic casings and liquid in the LCD made from petroleum products from the Middle East, Texas, Russia, and the North Sea, and plastic and moulding from Taiwan. Assembled in factories around the world, and coordinated in corporate headquarters in Northern Europe, Korea, Japan, and New York, the cell phone is revealed as a global gadget.5 At each stop both the emancipatory and the destructive aspects of the mobile phone can be unwrapped – the ability to communicate across distance in areas without landlines, to transfer money for those without bank accounts, to call a doctor in an emergency, and to keep in touch at prices accessible even to the poor contrasts starkly with the working conditions and exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic toxins used at Mexican maquiladora factories in the production of mobile communications technologies, and the environmental destruction wrought by discarded units. As Agar continues his dissection of the phone, he notes capacitors that regulate voltage and store energy made from tantalum, a metal found in Canada, Australia, and Africa. A little-known material before its use in cell phones, columbite-tantalite, known as coltan, now has a skyrocketing price on the commodities market, combined with a shadowy history of extraction. Tantalum is mined in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), scene of a civil war that has seen tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in a conflict waged in part over mineral rights on the disputed borders between Uganda, Rwanda, and the Congo.6 Profits from coltan fund the war, while a world both in and out of touch with the conflict in the DRC demands more, leading to soaring prices, which in turn exacerbate the fighting.7 Caught in the middle are great ape populations in the area. Dependent upon intact forest regions, such activities as mining, forestry, and hunting have decimated great ape populations by up to 90 percent in less than a decade, leaving only 3,000 animals alive.8 In this circle of destruction and war, exacerbated by miners, militias, and

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European forestry companies, the mobile phone is the tool of communication that keeps the bushmeat hunters on top of the location of both animals and police, the warring factions in conflict, and the often illegal trade of coltan in operation.9 The forgetting of the plight of the apes is echoed in the factory conditions where mobile phones are assembled. The demand for more phones, and the promise of constant progress, instant newness, and rapid obsolescence, create conditions wherein technological devices are often built in less-than-ideal conditions, in the low-wage and tax-free havens of global factories often divested of direct linkage to their corporate parents. Even more so than computers, cell phones as fashion statement, technological gadget, and mobile communications device have their obsolescence built triply in. As such, their evolution as gadgets overshadows and erases the global passages through which their manufacture takes them. Rather than prompting a call for politically and environmentally cleaner components to cell phones, the plight of the great apes, the war in the Congo, or the conditions of manufacture are largely erased from discussions of cell phone use and innovation. These stark contrasts are not uncommon in neoliberal systems, where, as outlined by George Yúdice and others, profits are tied up in ‘wealth creation’ – the granting of property status to what had before been inviolate, intangible, and outside of commodity status.10 Part of the fully integrated network described above by Castells is the growth, since the 1980s, of international trade, the expansion of direct foreign investment, and the (intangible) stock, bond, and currency markets. Combined with the proliferation of international trading bodies (such as the WTO and the IMF), and international trade agreements, the transnational governance of capital is collapsed into an intricate global system of regulatory bodies that act at both national and transnational levels. Where knowledge, software, and experience can be characterized as property, and capitalism is increasingly tied up in the transcendental flows of information production, the plight of 3,000 apes becomes increasingly difficult to imagine. Factory workers and apes do not figure except in that their very tangibility seems somehow less real than the movement of information. In other words, the collapse of space and time promised by globalization is far from inevitable, and, in fact, the fluidity that comes as part of a networked system seems rather to flow inexorably around that which might halt its passage. That which is most tangible, such as ape populations and factories, somehow

Cell Phones, Activism, and the Art of Connection


becomes virtual. It is not so much that they do not matter as that in a lexicon that presents an object (phone) as already made when it arrives in the hands of its user, all nodes on the chain of the phone’s existence to that point cease to exist except as the virtual – accessed only with a hammer and research. It is perhaps not surprising then that the cell phone consumes its own material history – even among activists using cell phones to organize alter-globalization, anti-war, and environmental protests, production remains largely effaced. Rather, it is its productive capacities that tend to interest activists – how might cell phones be used to forward a struggle? Rather than focusing a criticism on this politics of contradiction, instead, I suggest that it is this very mutability, and the stories of hardship that it silently carries with it, that makes the cell phone as prosthetic, as wearable technology, a potentially embodied tool in an ongoing power struggle in which the boundaries are becoming increasingly diffuse. Though the links between production and use of cell phones remain largely effaced, when these links are made, activists will have at their disposal a particularly rich and layered tool with which to question and challenge the ever-adaptable status quo. The first step here might be play. How have artists and activists used play to refashion the cell phone as a technology of tangible interpersonal connection, and, in turn, how might this be used to open new spaces of opposition? The Nomadic City Ideas of mobilization bring up notions not only of the global movement and exchange of goods but also of the flâneur in the city. Moving through the city space, observing the passing of life, the flâneur has traditionally been imagined as the pastime of a privileged male class, possessing money, leisure time, and comfort with the public space of the city. Though the flâneur is primarily associated with the nineteenth century – Walter Benjamin, for example, observed that the ‘unfocused longing for an unexpected (erotic) encounter’ gave way by the end of the century to the fragmented experience of the passer-by11 – ideas of mobility and of sensing in the city can be rethought through the use of the mobile phone. It is these new solitary and collective spaces of possibility that interest Adriana de Souza e Silva, who writes, ‘with the aid of nomadic technology devices, virtual social communities, in which members do not occupy the same contiguous space, now emerge in physical spaces.’12 In this context, cell phones are active, creative, and

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productive, generating new social communities. In other words, what is important here is perhaps less the transcendent communications across space than the way in which mobile technologies can also be used to bring together real people in real space. Pointing to ImaHima, a program that causes one’s cell phone to beep every time a user in a ‘buddy list’ is in the area, de Souza e Silva notes: Virtual communities have often been studied as narrative places in which users create collective non-linear stories, and build up environments solely via text. In the first decade of the 21st century, I shall risk to say that cyberspace is gone. The idea of a virtual world, a simulated space, completely disconnected from our physical environment, is challenged by the emergence of mobile technology devices, such as cell phones.13

The mobile phone, suggests de Souza e Silva, brings about the creation of narrative and imaginary spaces, nomadic interfaces that actually heighten the awareness of physicality when dealing with digital space.14 The flâneur is no longer a solitary creature but is connected to others through a logic that can be described as anti-binary, that is, both embodied and disembodied, both material and transcendent. Encouraging both community and individual spaces of reflection and collectivity, the mobile phone is a perception machine, an auditory, visual device that situates the subject as embodied, as immanent. In the following section, I enter these two perceptive realms in greater depth – the cell phone as both a prosthetic ear and eye – and, through an analysis of several art works specifically using the mobile phone, suggest how they might extend the perceiving body through and into space as a way of encouraging community formation. I will then return at the end of the paper to discuss how the history of the cell phone’s manufacture might be made material through the work of activist and artist groups, thus bringing together the threads of this argument. [da na na na, da na na na, da na na na na] The ringing cell phone introduces a forced intimacy in the city – an intrusion into half conversations. Cultural critic Sadie Plant talks about a certain collectivity maintained by the ringing phone – everyone wants to answer it, everyone recognizes the sound, and reaches out for it across space, only to be apprehended at the last moment.15 The reaction to the ringing phone described by Plant is a moment full of potential.

Cell Phones, Activism, and the Art of Connection


How might this potential come to fruition? Artists involved in Sale Away created a mechanical orchestra of ‘vacuum cleaners playing flute, organ and brass, rattling kitchen mixers, buzzing ventilators, radio playing toy trains, wobbling jigsaws, dancing tumble dryers, [and] humming refrigerators’ that could be ‘played’ by people dialling in with their cell phones. Shown in Osnabrueck, Germany, in 2004, Sale Away, like Dialtones, was put together to engage pedestrians and viewers in a different sonic space. But in this case the action was not purely affect, but was based on a participatory engagement designed to connect passers-by with the people around them, thereby directing attention away from the commodities in the shopping centre where the piece was shown, and towards each other.16 The cell phone as symphony creates a sonic web that relies largely on collective participation to bring people together. How then might mobile technologies be used to move the collectivities into action? During the 2003 protest gatherings against the Republican National Convention in Manhattan, organizers made extensive use of mobile phones and text messaging to organize protesters, to avoid violent confrontations, and to keep track of hot points in the activity. As in the Philippine demonstrations in 2001 that relied on mass text messaging to organize protests and actions, eventually resulting in the ousting of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, in New York, text messaging became a way of organizing instant support and seemingly spontaneous protests.17 Combined with mobile reporting, hacking, and collective organization, Moport.com was an attempt to put the media back in the hands of the people. By phoning in their reports, text messaging ideas and events, and sending pictures taken by digital phones to the central website, Moport became a centre for the reconfiguration of the events of the National Convention protests in activist terms.18 It is an idea of speaking out, of reaching out, that speaks, for many, to the power of interpersonal communications of mobile phones. The titles of two recent books, for example – Perpetual Contact and Constant Touch – suggest a sonic tactility that turns the cell phone inside out, from gadget to microphone. One Free Minute, a mobile sculpture ‘designed to allow for instances of anonymous public speech,’ uses a cell phone that can be called, connecting people for exactly one minute to a 200-watt amplifier and speaker.19 Outside of the surveillance and tracking that goes hand in hand with cell phone use, participants can either call live, when the sculpture is in situ, or can leave a message on a trans-global answering machine. The artists behind One Free Minute write that its

278 Kirsty Robertson

intent was to ‘investigate how public discourse has been changed by technology.’ Arguing that cellular phones bring private space into the public through overheard conversation, One Free Minute ‘break[s] the soundscape of public space with unpredictable acts of improvised, anonymous public speech.’ Outside of billing, outside of speech regulated by pay-by-the-minute, the sculpture allows anonymous callers to control public soundscapes, if only for a minute. Here the city is screen onto which are projected the thoughts of the populace. The cell phone encourages the ‘seeing’ of the city as something that can be changed – with the cell phone, the city becomes mutable. It is a take on this idea that comes up in the Canadian [murmur] project. Walking through the city, passers-by might spot a small green sign, shaped like an ear, with a phone number written on it. Calling the number from a mobile phone, participants are greeted with a recorded message telling a story of the history of the site. Occasionally funny, sometimes tragic, the stories of the [murmur] project invest the spaces of the city with the memories of those who have been there before. The stories grant texture to the city spaces; they are gaps in the smooth facade of capitalism. In a slightly more technologically sophisticated project, URBANtells, a project by Steve Bradley, Joe Reinsel, and James Rouvelle, participants use a specially designed ‘digi-diviner,’ a handheld cell phone–like device that allows users to explore neighbourhoods on foot, collecting and listening to recorded experiences of the city. An evolving database collects ‘layers of embedded histories and experience that define the urban experience.’20 Recordings of residents, street sounds, and historians are mixed with recitations, music, and processed sound, ‘addressing the complex layers of personal and collective.’21 Using the diviner, participants can capture sound clips and still images and write texts, which can be plugged into the database, each participant adding another layer to the urban environment. Arranged on layered maps in the database, users can either follow the directions of a predecessor, mapping their own sights and sounds onto the city, or create their own sonic spaces. URBANtells and [murmur] are both insular projects – they both emphasize the solitary, flâneur-like nature of the cell phone user. Like the use of mobiles at social and protest gatherings, in maintaining anarchist communities and long-distance relationships, cell phones can encourage the maintenance of already established links and collectivities. Through their use they encourage the reaffirmation of mutualities and the performance of community.

Cell Phones, Activism, and the Art of Connection


[Screening the Call] Third-generation (3G) cell phones are increasingly less about talking and more about images. From the eerie, soundless shots of the London Underground after the 2005 bombings, to warnings on change-room doors that cell phones are not allowed, to photoblogs and snapshots, the mobile phone as camera has opened a whole new level of access to art making and sharing. According to the prospectus for a California exhibition Cell-Outs and Phonies, ‘As the digital world grows to encompass all aspects of our life, we see the gadgets of our day-to-day existence evolving into expressive art mediums.’ The accessibility of photography and digital filmmaking through cell phones, according to the exhibition curators, erases boundaries between art and technology, between amateur and professional. Opening with a performance of ring tones by the German experimental group Super Smart, and followed by continuous screenings of cell phone videos, Cell-Outs and Phonies moved the phone into the gallery, not as an object of design, but as a tool of artistic emancipation.22 These projects bridge a fascination with the new and a limited engagement with politics. freeSTYLE, a project by Dana Karwas, for example, turns cell phone text messaging into spoken word and customized graphics, recreating text messaging as visual hip-hop. ‘Mobility is constantly defining, recycling, disposing, and reinterpreting the idea of identity,’ she writes. ‘Cell phones offer an extension of and a portal into one’s own identity. freeSTYLE exposes the very conscious connection to one’s mobile identity by bringing the sounds and visions of mobility to the edges of digital space.’23 Thus far, then, we have seen projects that highlight identity and group formation. Collectives can have a great deal of power. In a recent text, visual culture scholar Irit Rogoff talks of the potential for collectivity outside of prescribed cultural roles (for example, viewer at the art gallery, listener at the concert). Through participation, viewing art becomes about the relationships between viewers, even at an unconscious level. Rogoff argues that in these potential mutualities lies a new definition of community, a new ‘we’ that obfuscates identity for ephemeral but often strong collectivities. For Rogoff, the creation of ephemeral bonds through the often unconscious meetings of people offer a way of constructing a connectivity with revolutionary potential for rethinking the relations between and among people, from the end product of cell phone art, through links back to the disrupted habitat of the great apes

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Fig 14.1 An image from the Green Arts Barn event, taken from the SEED Collective’s online gallery at http://www.seedcollective.ca. Audiences use their cell phone keypads to grow a collective virtual forest.

in the Congo. These links, however, remain largely unexplored, with the production of cell phones largely hived off from its productive capacities. It is with a project that I believe makes this relationship tangible that I would like to end this discussion of cell phone art. In 2004, artists of the Canadian SEED collective came together with Canadian Film Centre’s Habitat New Media Lab to put together SEED, a project that ‘explores the convergence of rich media and wireless technology in the creation of a collaborative and evolving work of art.’24 Using their cell phones to dial a particular number, participants are given a ‘seed,’ which is grown through the choice of keys on the pad of the phone. Participants are given the choice of tree they want to plant and the ability to change its texture and colour. In the final project, the participants’ trees come together to create a virtual, colourful, individual, yet communal forest (fig. 14.1).

Cell Phones, Activism, and the Art of Connection


The SEED Project, to my mind, manifests the potential of cell phones as tools of collectivity. People work together to grow a colourful forest, often unaware of the participation of other viewers. The affective relations noted by Rogoff are here visualized in the forest of virtual trees. The SEED Collective has also worked hard to bring their project into a tangible reality and has turned profits and donations into real trees. As a first step at bringing together the productive capacities of the cell phone with discussion over urban decay and environmental destruction, the SEED Project’s planting of actual trees in urban environments speaks to the potential of artists working at this juncture to bring about real change. As charities have begun collecting and recycling cell phones, this has become an area rich in potential for activists, artists, and mobile phone users. Although the future of such activism, of the precarious situation of factory workers, and of the great apes remains uncertain, these links are waiting to be made. Epilogue: The Silent Cell Phone As mobile phones have progressed from first through third generations, the search for the ‘killer app,’ the application that will get all users to upgrade their phones, has been just that – a search that has wrought destruction on a variety of areas of the globe. But the cell phone has no master narrative, no single tale of manufacture, development, and use. In its unpredictability lies its potential, and as I hope I have shown here, the health, environmental, and surveillance concerns raised by some observers are not the concerns of Luddites but of users heavily invested in the social circumstances created by mobile phones. As an example of how neoliberalism can be opened up through the use of its own developments, the cell phone has a mutability that allows it to create an always diffuse and always open theorization of its own existence. As an example, one might look to the future of cell phone and mobile technologies. As cell phones are adapted into soft fabrics, clothing, and belts that can be worn right next to the body, clothing is also manufactured to protect against the low-level radiation brought about by the use of cell phones. The answer here is not to question the uptake of cell phones in general, but to question how they might be used. And for those for whom the cell phone is at best a loud annoyance, there might yet be hope. Developed largely by NASA, a silent cell phone might one day be on the market. Put together largely for use by stroke victims and for covert military operations, the silent phone picks up subvocal

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speech, transmitting and translating it to a ‘listener.’25 The noise of the city might yet change again ... this time to one of silence. [click].

NOTES 1 ‘Dialtones: A Telesymphony,’ Flong, http://www.flong.com/telesymphony/. 2 Ibid. 3 Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 412–13. 4 Jon Agar, Constant Touch: A Global History of the Mobile Phone (Cambridge: Icon Books, 2003), 9–12. See also Kenneth Gergen, ‘The Challenge of Absent Presence,’ in Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance, ed. James E. Katz and Mark Aakhus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 227. 5 Agar, Constant Touch, 14. 6 Ibid., 13. See also Susanna Paasonen, ‘Mutation and Money: Arguing with Sadie Plant on the Mobile,’ Horizon 4, http://www.horizonzero.ca/textsite/ touch.php?is=4&file=15&tlang=2. 7 Ibid. 8 EcoISP, ‘Species on the Brink,’ http://www.ecoisp.com/species20.asp. 9 Ibid. Determined to keep their hands free of a bloody diamond-sized scandal, companies such as Nokia, Motorola, and Ericsson buy already-made capacitors from manufacturers who must obtain coltan from shadowy intermediaries. 10 George Yúdice, The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 194. 11 Walter Benjamin, quoted in Katherine Sykora, ‘Merchandise Temptress: The Surrealistic Enticements of the Display Window Dummy,’ in Shopping: A Century of Art and Consumer Culture, ed. Christoph Grunenberg and Max Hollein (London: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2002), 130. 12 Adriana de Souza e Silva, ‘Are Cell Phones New Media?’ Trace: On Line Writing Centre, http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/Opinion/index.cfm?article=121. 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid. 15 Sadie Plant, ‘On the Mobile: The Effects of Mobile Phones on Social and Individual Life,’ http://www.motorola.com/mot/doc/0/234_MotDoc.pdf. 16 ‘Sale Away,’ Staalplaat Soundsystem, http://www.staalplaat.org/ sale_away.html.

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17 New York Associated Press, ‘The Latest Protest Tool: Texting,’ reblogged at Rhizome.org, http://rhizome.org/thread.rhiz?thread=14421&page=1. 18 Ibid. 19 One Free Minute, http://www.onefreeminute.net/. 20 ‘URBANtells,’ Joereinsel.org, http://www.joereinsel.org/urbantells/ index.htm. 21 Ibid. 22 Laura Merians, ‘Cell-Outs and Phonies,’ Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, http://www.lacda.com/exhibits/august.html. 23 Dana Karwas, ‘freeSTYLE,’ The Suburb, http://www.dk22.com/suburb/ index.php?p=44. 24 SEED Collective, http://www.seedcollective.ca. 25 Stacey Young, ‘Secret Speech Aid,’ ScienCentral News, 16 September 2005, http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?type=article&article_ id=218392411.

15 Immigrant Semiosis l au r a u. ma rk s

On an autumn day in 2002, I visited the mountain home of some Lebanese friends. Worldly people and, fortunately for me, fluent in English, they made pains to accommodate me to my unfamiliar setting. Indeed, the surroundings were glorious: scrub-clad mountains descending to valleys thick with olive trees and, further, plunging to the cement factories just south of Tripoli and then to the sea. The mountain breeze, the scents of frangipani and roasting eggplant, the clatter of jackhammers at the construction site across the valley, the metallic Bach jingling from mobile phones – they all stimulated my senses and my imagination. I clambered around their orchard, sinking my toes in the crumbly red earth, examining the growth of olives, and also, for my friends are keen importers, kiwi fruit and persimmons. On my return, one of my hosts said, ‘Are you making discoveries? [with a laugh of recognition] The Discovery Channel.’ Later, as the sun began to cast long shadows in the orchard, another friend pointed to an animal on the opposite hill. ‘It’s a fox. [laugh] The Fox Channel.’ Which of my experiences that day were my own, and which came to me pre-formed? An ancient valley bustling with the construction of post–Civil War returnees: do I experience this with my senses or my intellect? Is a kiwi vine in Lebanon a plant or a sign? Is it a fox or a ‘Fox’? That beautiful afternoon was rich for me with affective experience. But much of it came to me already encoded in concepts that were not mine, nor ours, alone. And that’s a Lebanese mountain: what of the billion banal urban milieus impregnated with corporate mediation, like riding a bus through streets thick with signage, advertising posters overhead, Old Spice and CK One wafting from fellow passengers, cell phones jingling bastardized Bach? In the age of hypermediation, how can we have our own experience?

Immigrant Semiosis


Two accelerations have occurred in the last 150 years. First, the global flow of capital and information has accelerated. Second, and necessitated by the first, the translation of embodied experience into disembodied information has sped up. If, as I will argue, what makes us human is our ability to participate fully in the process of mediation, these accelerations appear to have a dehumanizing effect. As a result of these two speedings-up, corporate interests have built a faux sociality in which meanings look like they are the product of democratic human communication but they are not. Corporate meaning is imposed, at a fractal level of detail, on every level of life. Even the meaning of individual, embodied experience appears to be increasingly colonized by corporate culture. My Lebanese mountain anecdote hints at the way corporate branding and other forms of predigested experience permeate the very life of the senses. Other examples abound, like the interesting recent phenomenon that youths who communicate via SMS messages on their mobile phones are starting to grow unprecedentedly large thumbs with extra nerve endings. So I expand my initial question into a series of questions that structure this essay: Where can we find individual experience, at the levels both of embodied sensation and of thought, in the flow of mediated images in which we are enmeshed? How can our experience be meaningful? How can this process be truly social, as opposed to the false sociality by which corporate interests invade our very bodies? Are there people especially capable of immediate experience? Further along I will suggest that indeed there are such people, who have no choice but to experience firsthand while the rest of us languish in the sweet suffocation of corporate interpellation. These are people who, falling out of official information grids, must forage on the precarious shoals of real experience. In particular, they are immigrants. Not those immigrants who are cautiously solicited, with their master’s degrees, marketable skills, and lack of dependents, by the wealthy countries of the West.1 The agents that I privilege in this essay are those who make the crossing out of dogged desperation, immigrants who are unacknowledged and generally illegal. These are Algerians who, having spent their savings on fake papers, smuggle themselves into Spain to work in construction; Afghanis who survive the Channel Tunnel crossing clinging to the underside of the Eurostar; Nigerian women who pay extortionate amounts to a sponsor to become prostitutes; Mexicans who cross the U.S. border by foot through the desert to fill the labour market for fruit pickers and hotel cleaners. Illegal immigrants are not only an essential and disavowed source of cheap labour from

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Parma to Phoenix but also, I will argue, the twenty-first century’s best hope for experience that is immediate, communicable, and meaningful. As part of the process, these agents of social meaning reinvent popular media, such as the Internet and the mobile phone, as networks that offer sustenance, exchange, and – when necessary – disappearance from the grid. To analyse the apparent problems with the speed of mediated information, I rely in the following on two philosophers writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the French Henri Bergson and the American Charles Sanders Peirce. Why these two? Bergson and Peirce, both of whose research was informed by contemporary experiments in psychology, analysed acutely the rich process of embodied, multisensory perception. Both attempted to define a process by which individuals, through their attentive perception of the world, come up with rich and reliable information about it. Interestingly, both philosophers were defining these capable and relatively autonomous subjects of perception just when European and North American societies were being pervaded by mass-produced image media: photography, advertising, and cinema. Industrial production and mass media were bringing into being a new kind of person, an attentive yet distracted subject susceptible to instrumental control.2 Just when the new field of psychology was yielding data on perception, the subject of perception was changing. Thus, their efforts to describe the human subjects of attentive recollection (for Bergson) and the semiotic process (for Peirce) have a certain anxious, hortatory, at times even elegiac quality. Yet, for these reasons, Bergson and Peirce provide useful models of a sensuous and knowledgeable subject at the beginning of the hypermediated age. The complementarity of their thought is attested by their mercurial union in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, which informs my own thinking. I return more frequently to Peirce in this essay, for reasons I will explain later. Let me sketch, through a Peircean lens, the relationship between perception and meaning in the information age. For Peirce, the semiotic process (or, to use his term, semiosis) is a rich and constant process of mediation, a continuum between impression, perception, and thought. This life-giving process invites us, indeed demands us, to feel and sense (Firstness), to distinguish among these feelings and act accordingly (Secondness), and to synthesize and generalize (Thirdness). Everything in the world, from crystals to hard drives (to crystals in hard drives), takes part in this process, a flow so continuous that it is difficult to iso-

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late its separate moments. What makes us humans superior to other beings in the process of semiosis is that we are not only embodied but also have unique imaginative powers.3 What makes us superior to our technologies in the process of semiosis is that we have an unconscious, in the sense that the majority of what goes on in our minds-bodies never enters the narrow light beam of our consciousness. In other words, we are rich in the preconscious field of Firstness, as well as in the synthesizing, symbolizing powers of Thirdness. Peircean scholar Floyd Merrell suggests that we may characterize different eras according to different relationships among Peirce’s categories of First, Second, and Third.4 I suggest that our current era, the era of information, is dominated by Secondness, since attention, rather than either raw sensation or synthesis, is the ability called on most often. Nowadays many perceptions arrive to us with ready-made instructions for their use. Traffic signals ask only to be obeyed. Computer games reward quick reflexes. The logo of a brand of ramen noodles elicits salivation in some people. Such perceptions rest in the realm of Secondness, as described by Peirce: they prompt us neither to be open to the broad expanse of perceptible experience, nor to synthesize, but to act. Also they are fairly accessible to consciousness: if we are not aware at the moment that certain images make us salivate, click an icon, or slam on the brakes, it is easy to retrace the process a moment later. Clearly something is lost in the speed of this semiotic handover. Or rather, two things: the ability to receive our own impressions (Firstness) and the ability to make our own judgments (Thirdness). If experience consists of the lively flow between impression, perception, action, and reflection, then – especially for those of us living in postindustrial, information-dependent societies – these breaks in the semiotic flow make it difficult for us to have our own experience. In the following I will take a look at these two bottlenecks in the semiotic flow, what comes First and what comes Third in experience. I will ask Bergson as well as Peirce what we gain from these aspects of experience, ask why information culture is weak in them, and suggest ways we and our media might revive the rich and ceaseless flow of experience. If this sojourn has a motto, it is, ‘Take back the flow!’ Firstness The moment at which the world first brushes up against our senses and feelings is precious. It is in the movement between First and Second

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that a metallic jingle jolts me, before I identify it as a personalized cell phone ring. It is here that a sharp, boundaryless pain briefly overwhelms me, before I can identify its source as the piece of broken glass I stepped on. (People who live with chronic pain hover closer to the First end of the continuum, and their suffering reminds us not to romanticize precognitive states.) Research in perceptual psychology suggests that our senses receive about one million times as much ‘information’ as our consciousness processes.5 In other words, what takes place First is the property of our sense impressions, which is only very occasionally accessible to our conscious selves.6 (More puzzlingly, it is in this movement of Firstness that joy transports us before we identify its source. The feeling of joy, Peirce says, is already a predicate: ‘This is delicious.’)7 I have referred to the ‘movement between First and Second’ because we cannot grasp the fleetingness of Firstness in itself: as soon as we perceive something, it is distinguished from other things and ceases to exist for us in itself. Firstness endures only for a flash. But a sense of the flow from feeling to action, or First to Second, is the wellspring of human experience. The semiotic process is one of constant mediation, but we humans have also developed numerous technologies that carry out mediation for us. When people worry that information culture is creating a population of disembodied subjects, they are reacting to the appearance that signs appear ready-made and do not need to be felt, distinguished, and interpreted in the semiotic process. As Tor Nørretranders points out, the so-called information culture is actually poor in information flow. What we receive from our computers, traffic signals, newspaper headlines, and so on, is not as rich in Firstness as what we receive from exploring olive groves or stepping on glass. Information necessarily bypasses the step of Firstness. Its creature, the computer, begins life at Secondness, acting on the basis of distinctions that have already been made by someone else. The computer’s Secondness begins at the digital level. There its signs consist, to use Peircean terminology, of a representamen 0 or 1, an object, off or on; and an interpretant: the convention that 0 always indicates off, 1 on. This sign in turn becomes a representamen for a more sophisticated sign. Thus at a higher degree of complexity exist signs whose representamen is an algorithm, their object a calculation, and their interpretant a guarantee that this algorithm always produces this calculation. Innocent enough exertions of control; we cannot have electrons spilling in the guts of our computers, making calculations unreliable.8 It is at a higher

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level of complexity still that the pre-emption of Firstness in computerbased experience starts to feel coercive. When computer programs prescribe specific choices and make others inadmissible, identify certain calculations as meaningful and have no tools for others, enjoin certain actions and not others, we feel the cramp of no-Firstness. These decisions, of course, are not properties of computers themselves but reflect the interests of their builders and investors. The currently dominant branch of psychology, cognitive science, tends to construct a model of human experience without Firstness, insofar as it retroactively models consciousness on information processing.9 The reason cognitive science is hegemonic in academic and corporate research now is that it offers a model of a human subject that can act on quantified information, as a computer does, and thus can be monitored, quantified, and directed as a computer can. So the reason we in postindustrial societies are acting more like computers is not just due to some general ‘alienation’ but because the corporate interests that want to understand and influence human behaviour are applying a powerful model of human psychology based on information processing. We slam on the brakes, salivate on command, and click those damned pop-up windows because corporations consult with cognitive scientists whose computer-derived psychological model, if insulting to the delicate infinity we’d like to imagine is the human being, delivers results. We can trace the current fixation with information processing and, concomitantly, with applied psychology to the nineteenth-century fascination with attention, which, according to Jonathan Crary, became a central category for philosophy and the new field of psychology in the latter quarter of that century. Attention, measured in fractions of a second by Wilhelm Wundt at the world’s first psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig in 1879,10 was, of course, a skill newly required for the repetitive work of the assembly line. It meant narrowing the field of perception adequately to concentrate on a given object, but not so much as to become rapt in it. Although it was cultivated by industrialized labour, Crary argues, attention became the privileged form of spectatorship for the new mass art of cinema. Thus the same form of cognitive, reactive information processing came to dominate both work and leisure in the twentieth century. Indeed, Crary points out, Thomas Edison saw his Kinetoscope not as a medium of entertainment so much as a machine for the distribution of quantified and commodified information, along the lines of his earlier invention, the telegraph-stock ticker.11

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The implications of this history for early twenty-first-century perception, at least among us in the first world, are vivid. A century of practice has moulded our perceptual processes to privilege Secondness, conscious perception, and attention. We have become very good at paying attention to numerous parallel sources of information, whether working on computers, monitoring aircraft paths, telemarketing, or listening to music on an iPod, sending text messages, walking, and drinking coffee. In terms of perceptual processes, leisure is just practice for work. This divisive perceptual practice extends to less mediated activities, like the commodified experience of ‘quality time.’ In all these activities, the narrow band of our semiotic process that is attentive consciousness is hyper-stimulated. The moment of affect, of wonderment in the sensory brush with the world, of latency – of Firstness – is elided. Yet information culture also introduces a new kind of Firstness into experience. This is actually a condensed Thirdness; contemporary media reintroduce processed information that arrives to our experience as a First. What I might call Information-Firstness occurs in several ways. A first way is by incorporating affect into instrumental goals. Commercial media tend to introduce symbols of affect, which harness the embodied response to the affection image.12 This kind of affection image leads resolutely to action. Epic-action movie director James Cameron insists, ‘Adrenaline is not an emotion!’13 but I think he protests too much. Harnessed affection images arouse bodily responses that lead not inward but onward. Violent computer games employ the conventions of splashing blood and the cries of the vanquished. Burger King ads entice with the glistening beads of grease on a hamburger. Commercial porn employs conventions for arousal – the well-lit genital close-up, the sound loop of ecstatic moaning. These conventions appeal to our conscious attention, and we respond to them as we do to symbols. They operate in the relatively impoverished realm of pre-processed, pre-thought images; they only look like they are embodied. A language that speaks our bodies from without, faux-affect is a powerful tool of colonization.14 A more promising route back to First is through those media that speak directly to our bodies without harnessing affect to an instrumental chain. This Firstness is not an end in itself but a beginning. As Deleuze writes, ‘Not that the body thinks, but, obstinate and stubborn, it forces us to think, and forces us to think what is concealed from thought, life.’15 The best way for us to experience our bodies’ stubbornness might be to fall asleep and dream, for there, when our bodies are

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incapable of acting, the waves of Firstness wash over our unconscious perception. Similarly, our bodies are perhaps most engaged by movies in which nothing much happens: lacking the usual demands upon our attention, perhaps we daydream. Some media objects daydream for us, declining to force these dreams along the path of instrumental meaning. And then, speedy movies that flood our bodies with adrenaline but do not tell us how to interpret this feeling – sublime movies – also facilitate our embodied process of meaning-making. Beauty, horror, absurdity seem to lie on the surface of the work for their own sake.16 Bypassing cognition, they speak to our bodies, announcing our ignorance and hinting at the possibility of knowledge, or better, of life. The third way our information media reintroduce Firstness is the most important if we are to appreciate the potential of information culture. The elision of Firstness characteristic of the information age is not a reason to reject all media and go live in the olive grove. The new kinds of experience afforded by hypermediation afford their own pleasure and intellectual richness. To describe a third way that information media arrives back to us as First, let me return to Peirce’s category of Firstness. Often what we receive as Firstness is already a condensed Third. The olive tree arrives to me already encoded in my notions of agriculture, of Mediterranean weather, of velvety texture and sharp odour. Even as I engage with it sensuously, my initial approach is informed by prior analysis and belief. These prior knowledges, like memory for Bergson,17 allow me to perceive more and learn more from the olive tree than if I did not possess them. So with information media. Peirce’s concept of the Real, what strikes us as primary experience, is not only what is material and sensuous. In his flexible semiotics, an idea can be primary material, as can a mediated image. What was Third for someone – for example a concept, a video image, or a seductive caress – returns to someone else as primary material, as First. I have developed a Peircean triad to describe the status of the image in information-capitalist society.18 It is Experience (1) : Information/ Capital (2) : Image (3). Briefly, I argue that, in information capitalism, experience which comes First is selectively taken up by corporate and state interests according to what is useful as Information or as Capital (a brief consideration will reveal that they are practically the same thing). This process yields Images (not just visual but perceptible in general) that are not direct translations of Experience but selective crystallizations of Information and Capital. An example of such an Image is a char-

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acter from the Pokémon game craze, going strong since 1996. From the experience of both game developers and children (First), Nintendo’s canny investment and market research (Second) developed the intricate game with its characters so attractive to children (Third). So the character Pikachu is not a visual image but an argument that this image will extract money from children (and their parents). The sign Pikachu is dense with information, which in turn is dense with experience, although these are special condensations developed with revenue in mind. Luckily, though, the richness of Peircean semiosis is that Thirds become, in turn, Firsts of a new and never-ending semiotic spiral. So the Image, though it condenses within it information and experience that may never be unpacked, still returns as a First, as raw material of experience. The Pokémon phenomenon drove crazy parents and aunties (like me) who feared that their children were subsisting bug-eyed in a predigested world composed on information gleaned by the corporation precisely in order to keep kids in thrall. But have you ever watched a child draw Pikachu or another Pokémon character? There you witness the translation of an image that is entirely Third into a First, the world about to arise to perception, and a series of Seconds, as the child selectively perceives the little figure, and a Third as she or he draws it, ever so carefully, each crayon scrawl a considered judgment. Every Third returns as a First, and each time differently.19 Are you not convinced that the Firstness of Pikachu is not as rich as the Firstness of digging your toes in the soil under an olive tree? Bergson can help think through the relative wealth and poverty of these two experiences. Bergson was anxious about photography and other ‘readymade’ replacements for memory images.20 Attentive recollection, as Bergson describes it, is like twinned buffet tables between which we bound until deliciously surfeited, on one side, with the dishes of perception, and on the other, with the seasoning of memory.21 (Or, memory is the dish and perception is the spice: maybe it depends on how old you are.) But what if, to employ a rather disgusting image, each of these tempting arrays is already predigested? For the philosopher of Matter and Memory, the danger posed by the new mass media was that the circuit between perception and memory, crucial to the enrichment of each, was closing. That the objects of perception are becoming ever more homogeneous for us in postindustrial, first-world societies is constantly being demonstrated with more or less cogency. What about the memory buffet table: are our very memories also becoming more homogeneous? In some

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ways, yes. The example of Pokémon and other heavily scripted games is only one of the ways children and even infants come up having experiences that are not theirs alone. Parents show alphabetic flash cards to babes in the cradle; three-year-olds play with ‘educational’ DVDs. It would seem that to the extent that the experiences that form our memories are homogeneous, our memories will come to resemble each other. And where is the subject then? Yet I doubt that a heavily symbolic and logocentric early life deprives people of rich experiences of Firstness. Children still play with their excreta and fall into instructive mishaps in even the most antibacterial home. The world is rich with primary stuff that exceeds our grasp of it and our need to grasp it. To the extent that we still have bodies, we will still be capable of unique experience, even in our interactions with densely encoded media objects. To summarize on an optimistic note: It does seem that we are still capable of having our own experience in the information age. Increasingly encoded though it is, the world is still rich with Firstness, including the return to a First state of information itself. But, to keep you reading, let me introduce a gloomy note. Recall that in the model I’ve introduced, information capital selectively adopts those aspects of experience that it deems useful. It bypasses ‘useless’ Firstness, those aspects of experience, such as wiggling your toes in the soil, that do not seem generative of information or money. Thus much of what comes to us as Firstness in information media is filtered according to information-capitalist notions of what is meaningful. Meaning is not determined individually, nor by communitarian, democratic notions of value. This problem forces us along, like leaves in a gutter, to that second semiotic bottleneck, what comes Third in experience. Thirdness Both Bergson and Peirce modelled a process of embodied thinking on a fluid relation between the individual and the world. But for Bergson this was a graciously privileged individual in a somewhat depopulated world. Bergson’s model of embodied perception is an ever-widening, quasi-hermeneutic circuit in which perception calls up memory and memory enriches and refines perception. It is a beautiful process, which I experience occasionally and you probably do too. It requires a subject with the leisure to discern and to remember, in order gradually to develop knowledge about the world. But in the hypermediated age,

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who’s got the time? Bergson’s Marxist critics, Georg Lukács and the more sympathetic Walter Benjamin, argued that the time so precious to Bergson, the time of perception and memory, is a time devoid of community and hence of history. ‘Bergson in his conception of the durée has become ... estranged from history,’ Benjamin wrote. ‘The durée from which death has been eliminated has the miserable endlessness of a scroll. Tradition has been excluded from it.’22 Similarly, Lukács criticized Bergson for ignoring how capitalism distorts the experience of time into a degrading, depersonalized passage.23 Memory without history, which for the Frankfurt School critics meant social history, is depopulated. It provides a beautiful sanctuary in which to reflect and recreate, but when power intervenes in the very experience of time, memory can only helplessly hold up its hands (and halt, like a clock whose hands are seized). Peirce too had in mind an ideal subject of perception, a philosopherscientist who tests all his or her ideas in a rigorous and ongoing interaction with the world. But unlike Bergson, he was adamant that meaning is produced in an ongoing process of social human interaction with the world. Sociality is the source of meaning and the basis of the value of thought. We observe the world, through abstraction produce statements about it, and test these statements. This practice, he argues, occurs not in the individual alone. It is the community that guarantees that the signs that circulate within it – words, conventions, laws – are grounded in a democratic and scientific agreement as to their meaning (this is Thirdness) in relation to real objects. As Peirce writes, ‘a symbol, once in being, spreads and moves among the peoples. In use and in experience, its meaning grows.’24 The value of a sign, then, is its ability to be taken up, to germinate, to communicate. Corporate signs are certainly taken up with great enthusiasm. The fact that they are taken up differently each time gives these signs a certain vitality, about which Peirce’s semiotics are optimistic. To the extent that the corporate meanings are taken up and circulated, collective action by individuals on corporate signs constitutes a community. This is the argument of studies of fan culture, which emphasize the point in the semiotic flow whereby corporate Thirds return as collective Firsts. Are Pokémon, Bach, and Fox transformed in their collective use? In the first place, no. Insofar as our societies have erected practical barriers to the transformation of their signs, including copyright law and the application of anti-defamation laws, their signs cannot be freely taken up. These barriers certainly impede the flow of living meaning. But it is

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not the main cause of the bottleneck, as lively bootleg cultures attest. If we return to my example of the child drawing the Pokémon character, this is a sort of taking up of a corporate sign that generates new meaning, on an individual level. A mobile phone’s tinny electronic riff on The Goldberg Variations, infuriating though it may be to Bach aficionados, makes that piece of music a new object: every return, by every listener, slightly transforms it.25 If many people take up The Goldberg Variations in similar ways, allowing it to summon them to duty or distraction on mobile phones around the world, its meaning as a symbol grows and changes. But such transformations of corporate signs are not enough to guarantee that experience is meaningful. Peirce did not have much luck with fan clubs. He placed his dearest hope in the cooperative action of a ‘community of students’ to ensure the gradual emergence of reliable knowledge.26 What knowledge do these scholars produce? Not abstractions alone; not art; certainly not money. Their modest, disinterested labour would generate ideas testable in the real world and describing real outcomes. In the gradual, fallible, and collective process he describes with loving minuteness, science would uncover objective truths.27 The purpose of thought, Peirce argued, is to lead to ‘habits of action’: ‘what a thing means is simply what habits it involves.’28 So the more important questions are, what meaning do we produce in the ongoing transformation of corporate signs? What habits of action result from this process? And (this is a difficult one for all but the most hard-core Peircean) can they lead to objective truths? Let us look for the meaning in the experience with which I began. Is it a fox or a Fox? (Or, as Navajo elder Sam Yazzie asked, ‘Will making movies harm the sheep?’)29 Live people seeing real foxes are transforming that sign according to their memory, as Bergson would say, and building a new communal understanding of the sign ‘fox,’ as Peirce would say. What knowledges, what habits can the community of students develop from seeing a fox in light of the Fox Channel? Should we shoot it? Feed it lettuce? Sit it in front of the TV with a nice cold arak? Smug with our superior knowledge (we’ve seen a real fox), should we go back to watching TV, but ‘resistantly’? (The latter is a term Peirce would surely have disliked, for the purpose of communication is not to block meaning but to make useful meaning.) What if the cable conglomerate aired a documentary on foxes (more likely on the Discovery Channel)? Certainly here would be a wealth of signs for the community of students to go and test. We the students

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could put its signs into action and thereby learn for ourselves whether foxes should be shot, like lettuce, and so forth. But most first-worlders see more TV than foxes. So the Fox Channel (and actually, more ominously, the Discovery Channel and other forms of virtual tourism that can act as replacements for interaction with the less-mediated world) is free to make claims about foxes, or other things in the world, that are untestable for most people. We have no way to determine whether its information is true, that is, produces belief that leads to habits of action. (Similar arguments could be made for Pikachu, the Bach jingle, and the other corporate objects I have been toying with.) Locked in a circuit of untestable claims, we are assailed by the undemocratic nature of media knowledge. The sociality and communicability fundamental to Peirce’s philosophy are at the same time its weak points, for it is here that corporate interests have managed to hijack meaning. Peirce did acknowledge that power corrupts the making of meaning. He condemned social organizations, such as religious hierarchies, that replace scientific inquiry with forced agreement to the dominant ideas of the time.30 Similarly, his disdain for the muddy thinking of contemporary philosophers seems bound up with a critique of their kowtowing to a system of academic privilege.31 He also criticized, with a teacherly disapproval one can hear in his words, the sheer laziness that prevented humans from coming up with clear, substantial, useful ideas. But nagging alone will not produce good students. Peirce’s anxiety reflects the pressure of powerful institutions on the modest, collective efforts of the ‘community of students.’ In terms of meaning production, then, corporate signs introduce a deadening, a closed circuit in the semiotic flow. Yes, we can have our own experience in the information age. Information media allow us to live a rich mesh of experience, both actual and virtual, at both personal and impersonal levels. But not social. Information media in capitalism are not interested in identifying collectives; they are interested in ‘targeting’ ‘markets.’ They produce a closed circuit that would rather not be tested in collective experience. We may have rich individual experience of mass phenomena, but the social dimension atrophies. If meaning is a collective, time-based process, our experience is not very meaningful. The Semiotic Agent Bergson and Peirce, at the dawn of the information media age, recognized that institutions of power occupy people’s mental space for

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perceiving, thinking, and creating. They worried that corporate symbolization replaces agreement with rhetoric. Each imagined a subject of knowledge – Bergson’s ‘centre of indetermination,’ Peirce’s community of students – who could continue the project of meaningful experience. But, retrospective as such formulations usually are, the kind of person Bergson and Peirce were describing had already ceased to exist. At best, it persisted only in the leisured classes. The emerging subject of attention described by nineteeth-century psychology was indeed a ‘centre of indetermination’ but, like a magnet, capitalist culture had come along to overdetermine it from the outside. We in postindustrial, first-world societies are especially subject to the strangulation of the process of meaning. Individually we are just not strong enough to rebuild it ourselves: we can have experience, but it is hard to have meaningful experience. Yet collectively we cannot agree on truths as quickly as truths are foisted upon us. It is hard to find a way out of corporate media’s short circuit; and frankly, often there’s little incentive. Is there any collective who is capable of taking back the semiotic flow? This was the urgent question of Deleuze, who drew fruitfully upon Bergson and Peirce to describe cinematic thought. However, when the question became not, ‘how do we perceive?’ but, ‘how can we survive?’ he turned away from these two and toward the radical thought of Nietzsche and Artaud. He understood that both twentyfirst-century media and the people to whom it addressed itself were objects without a centre. The automatic movement of the cinema produces in us a ‘spiritual automaton’ that can either be subjugated by the new images or mutually transformed with them.32 Between us, the people and the media, there is the possibility of annihilation or of profound creativity but no simple muddling along. The new acephalic, plural subject, the ‘collective automaton,’ has succeeded the individual. The era of luxurious, individual contemplation is over, at least in the postindustrial, hypermediated world. But the collective automaton might be capable of new forms of creativity and new forms of life. It must be, if we are to survive as more than slaves. Deleuze was more interested in the way powerlessness forces us to believe in life, at least to believe in the body – the First that makes possible a new Third – than in searching for an agent of change. Where there might have been an agent, Deleuze discovered a double absence, ‘the people who are missing and the I who is absent, between which memory is a membrane.’33 Yet in this double absence there is also an agent precisely because it cannot work alone yet does not form part of

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an identifiable collective. It is the very ‘people who are missing,’ citizens of nowhere, for whom independent perception and thought is not a luxury but a necessity. In another writing I have described in detail how the cinema of colonized people derives fabulous new forms of life from the very untenability of their present situation.34 Now I ask: ‘Who is in a position to bypass the corporate hijacking of the semiotic process?’ The answer is: people it is not made for. Unemployed people with time to observe the world for themselves. People in third world countries where corporate semiosis is slower, whether through their lack of access to corporate information or through the bricolage of information from different sources that demands a testing and winnowing process. A particularly acute semiotic agency is called for from immigrants, colonized people who arrive in the land of the colonizer. Immigrants arrive in unfamiliar circumstances, often literally unable to read the signs. Much of the knowledge they possessed becomes suddenly useless. At the same time, they are to some degree immune to the corporate semiotic process that seizes others. Unable to buy and benefit from the closed-circuit ‘services’ corporations provide (with the exception, say, of telephone cards and wire transfer companies like Western Union, which in any given city advertise in the languages most widely spoken by immigrants there), they are relatively free from the enchaining of meaning so compelling for people who are corporations’ target markets. Interestingly, Peirce recognized the agency of intercultural exchange in knowledge. Departing from a critique of religious regimes from Europe to Siam, he notes that even in the most oppressive society people exist who ‘possess a wider sort of social feeling’ and are able to compare their beliefs with those of other cultures.35 Immigrants cannot rely on prefabricated ‘truths.’ Their hypotheses are testable in life-or-death (or expulsion) circumstances. Their perceptual awareness and ability to make fine distinctions, the First and Second of the semiotic process, engage acutely in smelling an edible meal or ‘smelling’ a bad deal, differentiating taxis and cop cars, samaritans and con artists. The process is nothing if not social, for every gleaning of information spreads by word of mouth. If the truth of information must be evaluated according to the habits of action it produces, and these ‘habits’ are such grave things as legal residence, gainful employment, freedom from persecution, and outwitting those who prey on the powerless – and all this is urgently tested against the experiences of others – then immigrants are the most accomplished ‘community of

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students’ of our time. They are taking back the semiotic flow, making meaning that matters. Similar arguments could be made on behalf of other socially marginal groups, such as poor people, or people with disabilities, in a given culture. I hesitate to name women, or children, as the agents of this process. Though both need to engage sensory, embodied awareness in order to read between the signs of unfamiliar or oppressive situations, both are well-established targets of corporate semiotics. I note that mobile phone–wielding youths are not only growing bigger thumbs; they are also developing new forms of sociality and new languages adapted to the economical format of text messaging. But Nokia encourages them to do just that. So I maintain that immigrants, marginal to the power structures of both corporation and state and possessing subterranean communication networks, seem best to embody Peirce’s criteria of autonomy and democracy. What are the media of these democratic fora, of true Thirdness? Twoway media: cellular telephones, e-mail, electronic word of mouth. Immigrants also bend unilateral communications media so they become almost interactive: low-watt radio establishes a local community, for example, for migrant workers, and can be quickly dismantled; pirated cable television from back home functions as a quasi-interactive medium, as immigrants avidly cultivate knowledge about the country they left. But the new two-way, computer-based communications, decentred, accessible from (almost) anywhere, and untraceable ‘off the grid,’ provide ideal communications for illegal immigrants. The beauty of a numeric, placeless address is that the users are accessible as long as they are in a satellite footprint or near an Internet café – if they want to be. And by the same token, they can disappear from the reaches of all those who seek contact – creditors, employers, even family – merely by cancelling the account. But indeed any medium, including Fox TV, is transformed by immigrant semiosis. That slowing-down that first-worlders must work at, in order to taste the freshness of Firstness, is a basic principle for immigrants. Anybody can cultivate their own immigrant semiosis in order to see the world anew. From the velvety olive to the sleek Fox, the estrangement of fresh perception can urge us backward to the social, to seek a community of interlocutors with whom we can debate their meaning. But, only if we agree that there is more meaning than information media hand down to us. The questions – what actions will result from these new perceptions? what meaning might arise

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from these actions? – introduces social life back into the very First of experience. A last note of modesty and caution. Meaning is destined for the future. In his later writings Peirce increasingly emphasized that thought is more powerful and more vital than the material world, including individual, passing human beings. The surprising sentence ‘Matter is effete mind, inveterate habits becoming physical laws’36 is another way of saying that the value of thought is in its connection to other thoughts, whether in communication between people or in the succession of an individual’s thought. So it is not the community but the thought that outlasts the community, that is ultimately valuable. Put otherwise, future community is the guarantee of present meaning. ‘Individual man,’ Peirce writes, ‘is only a negation’ to the process of meaning-making, insofar as he or she is separate from the community and the future.37 This cold faith in future knowledge might seem at odds with the warm hope I place in immigrant knowledge. Peirce’s grail was objectivity, even at the expense of the communities that produced it. Immigrant semiosis, like that of others with little power, produces solid quasiobjective truth because it is interested, not disinterested. The habits of action immigrants come up with, based on their rigorous testing, may not be true for all time, pace Peirce. But immigrant semiosis breaks the circuit of faux corporate meaning with a vigour that a disinterested community of scientists lacks. For such future when the community of students might come (back?) into being, immigrant semiosis guards a triadic toolbox: remember your body; remember how to think; keep learning how to communicate.

NOTES I am deeply indebted to Ali Ferdi Ahmani, a master of immigrant semiosis, for showing me how humans can build meaning with senses alert and communications, even from jingling mobile phones, richly democratic. I am also grateful to Martin Lefebvre, a much more exacting Peircean than am I, for his generously thoughtful comments. The germ of this writing was my catalogue essay ‘Slow Down! Affect in the Information Age,’ for the program ‘Out of Time’ at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival (2001). 1 Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (formerly Bill C-11),

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2 3 4 5


7 8


10 11 12


passed December 2001, emphasizes marketable skills while ‘closing the back door to criminals.’ Citizenship and Immigration Canada, http:// www.cic.gc.ca/english/irpa/c11-overview.html (no longer online). In 2000 Germany ‘welcomed’ the ten thousand desperately needed foreign information-technology workers, but only for a five-year stint before it booted them back to their homes in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. See Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Boston: MIT Press, 2000). Vincent M. Colapietro, Peirce’s Approach to the Self: A Semiotic Perspective on Human Subjectivity (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989), 70. Floyd Merrell, Peirce’s Semiotics Now: A Primer (Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 1995). Tor Nørretranders, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, trans. Jonathan Sydenham (New York: Penguin, 1998), 143. Nørretranders, a popular science writer, gives these examples: eyes receive ten million bits per second, while the conscious bandwidth of vision is forty bits per second; the skin receives one million bits of information per second, while the conscious bandwidth of touch is one bit per second. The method of quantification sounds a bit fishy to me, but the results are compelling nonetheless. The categories preconscious and conscious do not overlap precisely with First and Second. Like other pragmatic philosophers, Peirce privileged the element of choice in perception, a view negated by recent findings in cognitive science. Thus much of the decision making that Peirce designated as Second still takes place below the threshold of consciousness. C.S. Peirce, ‘Some Consequences of Four Incapacities,’ in Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler (New York: Dover, 1955), 238. For a manifesto for the free movement of electrons, see my essay ‘How Electrons Remember,’ in Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2002), 161–75. Within cognitive science, work on embodied cognition offers a much more nuanced model of human consciousness. See for example Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991); Rafael Nunez and Walter J. Freeman, eds, Reclaiming Cognition: The Primacy of Action, Intention, and Emotion (Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2000); Antonio Damasio, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (Orlando: Harcourt, 2003). Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 29. Ibid., 32–3. When Deleuze first criticized the unfreedom of movement-image cinema,

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15 16 17


19 20 21 22 23 24 25

he described the pull into action that is the underlying principle of continuity editing. Now something different is going on in popular media. In commercial movies, advertising, computer games, and music television, continuity is a thing of the past. Jump cuts, reflexivity, shock, and spectacle call attention to the film as a constructed object. But there is nothing subversive about these films’ anti-illusionism. Cameron said this in a discussion with students following his receipt of an honorary doctorate at Carleton University in May 1997. He argued that his films, such as The Terminator and Titanic, arouse more complex responses than the mere production of adrenaline. Is the collective awe people feel on viewing a glorious sunset different from the collective awe produced by a Steven Spielberg movie or a Céline Dion recording? I think so. Neither is natural – there is some social consensus that a sunset is glorious – but the sunset is not trying to compel us to its ends, as the powers behind Spielberg and Dion are. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 189. With the exception that these prior analyses are not mine alone, as memory is for Bergson, but social. Such films are the subject of Martine Beugnet’s book Cinema and Sensation: Contemporary French Film and the Art of Transgression (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007). See Laura U. Marks, ‘Invisible Media,’ in New Media: Theories and Practices of Digitextuality, ed. Anna Everett and John T. Caldwell (New York: Routledge, 2003); and ‘Enfolding and Unfolding: An Aesthetics for the Information Age,’ Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular 4 (spring 2007), http://www.vectorsjournal.org/issues/04_issue/ unfoldingenfolding. This process is illustrated in the example ‘a child’s drawing’ in Marks, ‘Enfolding and Unfolding.’ Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 326. Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (New York: Zone, 1988), 105. Walter Benjamin, ‘On Some Motifs in Baudelaire,’ in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken, 1968), 185. Crary, Suspensions of Perception, 327n107. Peirce, ‘Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs,’ in Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler (New York: Dover, 1955), 115. I believe this is especially true of music, which, like smell, has a strong affective relationship to precise, individual, spatiotemporal memories.

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26 Peirce, ‘Logic as Semiotic,’ 99. 27 It is difficult to share Peirce’s faith in science, given how science is embedded in, its very questions and methodologies determined by, institutions of power. See Sandra Harding, Is Science Multicultural? Postcolonialisms, Feminisms, and Epistemologies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), for a summary of various sciences’ colonial, capitalist, racial, androcentric, and other investments of power. Yet the fluid exchange between materialism and idealism in his semiotic process gives me hope that at least some truths in our world are Peircean truths. 28 Peirce, ‘How to Make Our Ideas Clear,’ Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler (New York: Dover, 1955), 30. 29 Ethnographic filmmakers Sol Worth and John Adair wanted to train Navajo people to film so that they could capture their own perceptions of the world and, it was hoped, their own perceptual processes. When the elder had confirmed that filming would neither harm nor help the sheep, he asked, ‘Then why make movies?’ Sol Worth and John Adair, Through Navajo Eyes: An Exploration in Film Communication and Anthropology (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972). But the Peircean mode suggests that making movies does have an effect on the sheep. 30 Peirce, ‘The Fixation of Belief,’ in Philosophical Writings of Peirce, ed. Justus Buchler (New York: Dover, 1955), 13–14. 31 To this system Peirce, a philosopher whose massive oeuvre remained largely unpublished and who was never offered a tenured post by the university, owed nothing. 32 Deleuze, Cinema 2, 157. 33 Ibid., 221. 34 In The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), especially chap. 1. 35 Peirce, ‘The Fixation of Belief,’ 14. 36 C.S. Peirce, ‘Tychism,’ in Collected Papers, vol. 6: Scientific Metaphysics, ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935), chap. 24, 20. 37 Peirce, ‘Some Consequences of Four Incapacities,’ 250.

16 Precepts for Digital Artwork sean cubi tt

In his essay ‘The Task of the Translator,’ Walter Benjamin offers a metaphor that seems as apposite to the transitions between analogue and digital as it is to both the problem of translation and the ethics of interpretation: Fragments of a vessel that are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like one another. In the same way a translation, instead of imitating the sense of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original’s way of meaning, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a larger vessel.1

The dream of a universal language of symbols dates back to Ramon Lull and, in a trajectory through Leibnizian calculus and Condorcet, stretches into the mathematicization of science and to George Boole’s construction of a universal logic calculus, the heart of digital computing. Yet Benjamin’s universal language is not, as the impossibility of translation makes clear, an actual or a lost treasure: it is a virtual language, a tongue which does not or not yet, and, perhaps, can never exist. Nonetheless, as virtual, it is an immanent and pervasive creative force whose task is the (re)making of a communicative universe. Science is an activity of translating from the physical to the symbolic; but beyond its actuality there lies the potential for a universe in which human and natural might converse. Such conversation has as its third term the media through which it is conducted, the technologies and techniques that mediate, neither invisibly nor inaudibly, nor yet as noise and interference, but as active participants in the dialogue. There-

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fore, when we come to speak of the tasks of translation between people, or between people and their environments, we must also turn to the translators themselves, the transparent or opaque screens that not so much transfer or block communication as vibrate in sympathy with it and with their own internal dynamics. Whether consciousness is uniquely human or not, whether it is contingent on the material world or a function of technique, to abrogate a special status to human consciousness in the construction of a universal language is arrogant and, much worse, unlikely to produce what it seeks as its fulfillment. The translation between analogue and digital is then not just a matter of digitizing. It is at one and the same time a translation from one mode of being to another, with enormous implications for the phenomenon and the meaning of the translated, and a translation of one mode of consciousness into another. Not surprisingly, the result is fragmentation, a fragmentation in which the key interest is not the fragments themselves – songs, sounds, pictures, words – but the gaps between them. These gaps, these aporias, are not void, however: they are the virtual space in which the potentiality of universal language bubbles through, a perpetually self-constructing latticework of connections, relations, attempted taxonomies, montage. Modernist montage, however, has failed to free itself from the ideologies of industrial dominance and the sovereign human consciousness. Here is how Adorno expresses it: Montage disposes over the elements that make up the reality of an unchallenged common sense, either to transform their intention or, at best, to awaken their latent language. It is powerless, however, in so far as it is unable to explode the individual elements. It is precisely montage that is to be criticized for possessing the remains of a complaisant irrationalism, for adaptation to material that is delivered ready-made from outside the work ... the principle of montage therefore became that of construction. There is no denying that even in the principle of construction, in the dissolution of materials and their subordination to an imposed unity, once again something smooth, harmonistic, a quality of pure logicality is conjured up that seeks to establish itself as ideology. It is the fatality of all contemporary art that it is contaminated by the untruth of the ruling totality.2

In Adorno’s complex dialectical account, montage abstracts elements – shots – from their place in order to subordinate them to an artistic plan.

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In doing so it at once deprives them of their rational place in the world and simultaneously supplants that with its own rationalism, an obverse of the instrumental rationalism of which it is attempting to be the negation. Montage’s failure to analyse and expose the elements allows them to bring with them their existing ideological associations, now freed of the complexities of their existence outside the constructed artwork. Worse still, in emulating, albeit as a counter-aesthetic, the drive to totality which characterizes dominance, montage resituates human consciousness at the summit of creation and condemns its unanalysed objects, reordered and restructured but unquestioned, to silence and obedience, the prerequisites of their enslavement to the commodity form. The primary task of contemporary media is then not to represent an object world to a subject supposed to have a monopoly on consciousness. That task belonged to a historical epoch when the emergent and then triumphant industrial bourgeoisie required an artistic and scientific culture to promote the philosophy of willed domination over an alienated nature and an objectified and, to that extent, also alienated industrial class structure. Industrial capital created a culture of materials, including technology and the labour force, that required the formgiving principles of an industrial aesthetic, focused on the intensely local hub of manufacture: the factory. Industrial networks were a function of their nodes. In the information economy, the nodes are functions of their networks. The global today is necessarily prior to the local, especially those localities that, like the border-free trade zones of Tijuana studied by Coco Fusco, are sites of oppression.3 The reality of a woman forced into prostitution by the strategic requirements of the global economy cannot be photographed. No indexical account, anchored in the preeminence of the local in industrial culture, would be sufficient to understand the forces acting on her.4 A photograph would only stir the sentimentality defined a hundred years ago by the novelist Meredith: pleasure without responsibility. Responsibility today derives not from empathy, and certainly not from metropolitan prurience, but from understanding the networks that force her into this double economic and sexual oppression. The task of an iconic art is no longer to depict but to articulate the symbolic regimes that describe, define, and give meaning both to her experience and to that of her oppressors, who include every user of the computers she builds when not supplementing her non-union subsistence wages with sex labour in the tourist

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economy. The digital artwork must be networked, and the formation of alternative networks is a critical function of them. An artwork is material, and an artwork that fails to take account of its materiality fails to that extent. Digital materials are no exception. What is vital in the indexical quality of media arts is not that they point away from themselves towards a recorded past to which is ascribed a reality they deny themselves. Rather, digital indexicality presents its own materiality as what it is – a concrete node constituted in the networks of social relationships, including the NAFTA sweatshops. As Margaret Morse argues of digital installation art, the contemporary artwork must construct its own locale, not presume it.5 The embodiment that concerns it is not the depicted body abstracted into a type that can be identified as the body, but a specific body constructed as local in the locality of the installation itself, a unique body which there confronts the imbrication of embodiment in the global networks that are brought to bear in the devices that surround it. In this way the digital index points not towards the recorded past of representation but to the materiality of the present as a concrete node of a networked society. The digital artwork must be material, and its materiality incorporates the bodies that come into contact with it and the local space and present time of their coexistence. After the scientific revolutions of the twentieth century, we need to pause over the word ‘material.’ No longer merely a matter of matter, since Einstein we have known that matter and energy are modes of the same physical reality, and that time and space are of one substance. Since Shannon and Weaver, we have also known that information and entropy are integral to the physical universe. We can no longer refer to materiality as the mark of permanence; on the contrary. To describe the digital artwork as material then has as its corollary a second quality: the digital artwork is processual. When the index depicts its object, it both objectifies that object and presents itself as another object standing over against the depicted. But in the information economy, objectality is a secondary effect of primary flows, an argument made as forcefully by urbanists like Saskia Sassen6 and Manuel Castells7 as it is by Deleuze and Guattari.8 In the process of imaging flow, the principle of indexicality itself demands abandoning the index as primary resource, since there is no object toward which it can stand in any relation. Instead, the intrinsically relational symbol takes priority. Information flows are relational first: content, expression, even form are secondary to this materiality. If the digital artwork is to be adequate to this relational world, it

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must itself prioritize relations. Communication is that relationship which precedes its terms – from the same standpoint, a line is no longer the shortest distance between two points; instead the terminal points are defined by the activity of the line. The active principle of communication defines senders and receivers, not vice versa. The material process of establishing relationships, which I tend to call mediation, is the core task of digital art today. It should also be emphasized here that the processes of mediation are not necessarily exclusively human. In the digital art field, they also can – and, perhaps, must – engage the technological relation actualizing the physicality of mediation, the technologies employed in it, as partners in the dialogue. We can no longer deploy machines as fixed capital without submitting ourselves to the anonymous and, to that extent, autonomous dead labour of the machine in pursuit of that anonymity and autonomy that post-subjectivity seeks in mirroring the dissolution of the object in information flows. The digital artwork must mediate and, in submitting to the mediation of technology, offer itself to the task of vindicating the generations whose lost lives are congealed into the shape of our devices. Digital art is not just continuous with the past; it is a dialogue with the dead. The acceleration of modernity in contemporary societies has reached a point at which the pseudo-instantaneous management of data flows has resulted in what at first glance appears as a total administration of the present. When cultural critics as alert as Paul Virilio describe communication as instantaneous,9 not only do they deny the materiality of mediation, they fall into an ideological trap laid precisely by the administration. Discourse that surrenders to the ideology of light-speed communication presents as normative the proposition that the present is always already documented – represented, distributed, consumed, and past. The technological fact is that transmission is delayed not only by the institutional processing which administration demands, but by the physical limits to the speed of electromagnetic wave forms. Very, very fast is still not instantaneous, and the present should never be mistaken for its occupation by images of even the most recent past – the one twenty-fifth of a second required, for example, to build up an electron scan on a video monitor. As process, not object, the digital artwork must inhabit the present as a moment of becoming, a moment whose reception is therefore always deferred into a future which has not yet become. The immediate result of this habitation of the present is that the digital artwork is by nature ephemeral. The remarkable archiving of Web

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and Net art undertaken by Steve Dietz at the Walker Art Gallery is a case in point. Dietz was clear as curator, and the design of the frame that surrounded the documented sites ensured that any visitor should be too, that what was archived there is not art but documentation. (The Walker’s Net art archive was discontinued in 2001; some of the content can be accessed via the Way Back Machine, but the significant framing is no longer available – further evidence of the ephemerality of media arts in general and Net art in particular.) The important task of archiving does not deny ephemerality: on the contrary, it affirms the gap between archive and art and asserts if anything the necessity of the distinction. Like the special effects blockbuster, the digital artwork is condemned to be cutting-edge; but, unlike the blockbuster, it does not suffer from the patina of the out-of-date that so rapidly scratches the emulsion of films that have passed their sell-by. Instead, that passage into the archive ensures both that the code enabling the work becomes a resource for other artists (‘an author who teaches writers nothing teaches no one’)10 at the same time that it ceases to function as an occupant of the present. If the Web, as auto-surveillant traffic in documents, is a self-mapping device, its cartography is itself effervescent – a simulation that is no sooner recorded than it becomes defunct. In the same way, the instruction set that generates a digital artwork is over as soon as it has completed its run. This is why the effects movie is never an artwork, and why Photoshop images are so aesthetically moribund: what has been aesthetic in them is the process of making – once that process is terminated, the art is over, and what is presented to the public is only its discarded archival image. To this extent, whatever is mimetic in the digital is a mimesis of a task already accomplished, a body that is already past, and as such is excluded from the aesthetics of digital artworks, in which the process is as yet unfinished. The mimetic persists, but as a raw material for further processes. In this sense, the digital artwork is obliged to be incomplete, its ephemerality dependent on the deferral of all goals to a time which cannot be achieved in the artwork but toward which it aspires, and in whose direction it gestures. Moreover, the ephemerality of the digital is an integral element of its formal properties. As Virilio would say, the invention of the computer is also of necessity the invention of the computer crash. Many of the most significant works – Jodi’s are the most obvious – are dependent on the disruption of the normative efficiency which has been inscribed into computer design as an ideology if not a reality. In the Net artwork

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‘Lapses and Erasures,’ Sawad Brooks undertakes a related task, writing in a text note to the piece: In analog media, when something is erased, it is often possible to sense the mark left by erasure. Thus Rauschenberg was able to present his ‘Erased de Kooning’ drawing as his own (ironically). Erasure leaves its own traces, it is writing or drawing. It is a wiping clean which puts forth an order with the possibility of decipherment ... I make drawing interfaces to draw upon the erasure of erasure in the realm of the digital.11

If drawing is a practice in which artists subordinate themselves to the activity of the line as to a machine designed to generate a non-volitional autonomy from selfhood, as it is in the work of David Connearn, subordination to the technologies of computer memory offers a further tool: the double negation of the erasure that the computer also enables, its amnemotechnics, becomes a resource for the construction of the future as the erased erasure of the past. The proof is that it is almost impossible to erase a file accidentally. Traces remain from which skilled operators can retrieve even the most shredded data as, once again, the Microsoft trial researchers proved in their fossicking among the deadletter offices of internal e-mails. Erasure is a making of traces in the form of what has been erased, but where in analogue media what is revealed is the surface which the erased drawing itself erased, in the digital there is no pre-existing surface, only the space created by the act of recording, so that what erasure produces is the evidence of a surface that never existed prior to the erasure. At the same time, however, the erasure is never complete, but approaches asymptotically to the mystical point of zero existence. Here, as in the attempt to make a total artwork, zero resembles infinity more than it does unity and can only be approached by infinitesimal subdivisions of the existing. Where analogue media had the power to work in the binary opposition of presence and absence, the digital are endowed or cursed with an inability to deal in absolutes. To this extent then, the digital artwork must be imperfect, since it can never achieve either absolute existence or absolute absence. The greatest benefit of this discovery is that the imperative towards harmony need not be heeded, and the digital is thus freed of the necessity of harmonizing formally a world that is, in all its relations, so profoundly inharmonious. The digital is profoundly incapable of that perfected harmony in which the ideological tasks of societies are achieved under the guise of the autonomous artwork.

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The processual nature of digital art makes it incomplete and imperfect, in the sense that it cannot achieve the absolute completion and perfection of pure presence. In fact that metaphysics of presence, abandoned first by mathematics in the mid-nineteenth century, now haunts, as absence, only the transitory sublime of annihilation as special effect. Nonetheless, though practice has all but abandoned it, the sublime still haunts contemporary aesthetics from Adorno to Danto as both the Kantian marvelling at domination and its negation, the abjection of the subject. This unappetizing metaphysical binary suits the times, as visible in the new cult of Bataille as it is in the neo-Kantianism of Lyotard’s late writings. The result is a performance, typical of idealist metaphysics, which simulates the aesthetic dialectic in the static play of a rational/ irrational binary that merely enacts modernity’s logic of efficiency and degradation. In aesthetic terms, here rigor mortis masquerades as danse macabre. It fails not so much because of this stasis, however, nor because of its misreading of the present as ‘what is the case,’ but because it takes reason and unreason as essential terms in an epoch in which essences no longer pertain. What distinguishes the digital artwork is its elegance, in the sense intended by David Gelernter: its clarity, economy of means, operational grace.12 This is not to say that digital artworks are passionless and formalist. On the contrary: the hall of binary mirrors that traps essentialist art produces that affectless manipulation of tear ducts, erections, and fight-orflight adrenal secretions in sedentary and stultified consumers. It is rather the case that the characteristic emotions of digital artworks – the movement through disorientation to new orientation, for example, in a dislocated place, the gasp at beauty realized on the wing, the complex humour of, for example, the First International Competition of Form Art – are more subtly and actively conformed to the changed character of accelerated modernity. They are, in a word, necessary. The digital artwork must be necessary: its elegance is a function of the need for the work. That need can no longer be formed as expression, although it remains true that contemporary capital is ever more dependent on the hyperindividuated narcissism of the competitive corporate playpen, and an art that pretends to bypass that lens of subjectivity thereby fails to respond to the necessity of individuation as a passage through which a work moves. Expression remains, but now as the anonymous product of autonomous networks. Aesthetic necessity arises at once from the fact of flow, its mediations and the temporalities they engender. The tendency of capital is toward

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monopoly; that of its flows toward domination. Control over financial flows in particular is the goal of transnational capital. But this goal is realizable only in the eradication of difference, that difference which produces flow from one place to another. That difference, since it cannot be eradicated systemically without destroying the flows themselves, is now displaced into the managed future of corporate planning, most directly in the simulation of future markets. But, when the future is evoked as the basis of global stability, capital faces a crisis of unpredictability. As ideology, future modelling depends on ever more refined data sets and ever more rigorous algorithms for their projection. But it is precisely in computer modelling that the problem of turbulence is posed most categorically: not only definitionally, but technically, the future resists modelling. By dint of its pseudo-theological position in the regime of global data flows and their perpetually deferred promise of perpetually deferred payment, the future is held to vindicate the claims of the present to wholeness and completion. But the deferral on which that wholeness rests denies that wholeness to it. As the active relationality of networks, mediation, by definition in process and incomplete, is thus forced to pretend to a completion that it cannot attain. Its materiality is deferred into the not-yet as the price of its present functioning (a state of affairs that generates the illusion of static binary oppositions). This contradiction in turn generates the digital aesthetic as its necessary outcome: the materiality is restored to the present, while the function is shifted into the unforeseeable future. Hegel’s concept of art as the consciousness of need is the inspiration for this insight; but, as the digital aesthetic arises from the relationality of global networks inclusive of human and machine components, that consciousness is now not individual or even merely social, but cyborg. The digital artwork is cyborg: it responds to the institutional, economic, and discursive formation of corporations as actually existing cyborgs by building an alternative consciousness in which the mechanical is no longer the object of domination but integral partner in the production of culture. Neither the consciousness under construction nor the need to which art responds is then entirely or purely human. In order for the future to be held up as the settling of accounts on the promissory notes of the economic, political, and ecological present, it is essential for the administration of global data flows that the future be isolated from the present so that the promised completion on the deals which are the dominant mode of communication today need never arise. Here a specifically temporal contradiction arises: the difference

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between future and present is both affirmed and eradicated. The future must be both continuous with the present (all debts depend on the concept that they can eventually be paid) and entirely divorced from it (since debt is the motor of financial flows, they must never be allowed to be paid). It is this fault line of difference between present and future that requires the digital as its necessary outcome: its elegance derives in part from its determination as the inhabitance of the present as difference. The digital artwork has no choice but to affirm the immanence of the future at the point of its emergence. The necessity of the digital artwork is then not organic in the sense propounded by Romantic aesthetic philosophy, since it necessarily abjures wholeness. Instead, the digital works at the level of mediation as the unhappy conscience of dominant communication, a cyborg will to grace. The digital is then communicative rather than representational. This places it in opposition to the evolution of e-cash as the supposedly immaterial universal signifier of all exchange values, promoting the substitutability of everything for anything. Asserting aesthetic difference restores neither the individuality of objects nor the objectality of individuals, the reciprocal functioning of index and identity resulting from industrial modes of communication. Instead, it asserts the primacy of mediation, of the material of relations. In this perspective, the digital artwork can be assessed according to the breadth, depth, and complexity of the networks it engages or engenders. Unlike Deleuzean difference, however, aesthetic difference is not an absolute horizon external to all humanity and all communication; but it is a difference intrinsic to communication which, viewed outside the confining determinations of the actually existing historical conditions, is defined by its tendency towards inclusiveness and its capacity for translation, misunderstanding, and so for interpretation and systemic innovation. Communication’s own need, bred in the interface of combined human and technological networks, is that of a newly cyborg communicative species for inclusion and autonomy. The digital is the necessary next phase in this historical process, a process which I believe is synonymous with history: hastening the globalization of the mediating infrastructure while driving forward those internal contradictions that make the global and deferred information economy unthinkably neither present nor future. Like Ed Dorn’s railway wagon, everything is behind and nothing in front. Mediation is the activity through which the hybrid communicative species become, and specifically how they become other than they now are. When, as D.N. Rodowick explains, Deleuze argues that ‘what philos-

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ophy resists ... [is] the globalization and banalization of information as a power that affirms the dominance of late capitalism,’13 we perceive both the binarism that hog-ties Deleuze’s philosophy for lack of a dialectic, and the weakness of a politics that relies on the unequal struggle of philosophy against world capitalism. You can be guaranteed that philosophy will only ever resist, and that it will never triumph. Against this brave, pious, but ineffectual quietism, and against what Eco refers to as the ‘negative theology’ of philosophical nihilism from Heidegger to Baudrillard,14 the digital artwork must be communicative, for only communication is vast enough and necessary enough to endure and overcome the vicissitudes through which it is being tortured in the age in which communication is information, information is power, and money and data are electronically indistinguishable. The implication of the theses of ephemerality and communication is that the digital has an altered relation with consumption. Much electronic art owed and owes its genesis to the conceptual art of the 1970s and to the critique of the commodity that gave rise to media as varied as LeWitt’s instruction sets, the Situationiste Internationale’s derive, and the community workshop and newsreel movements. But now that the commodity itself is in a state of implosion, a vacuity both raged against and celebrated in mainstream culture from Tarantino to hip-hop, the focus of the digital is shifting from providing objects whose contemplation exposes the emptiness of the commodity towards building encounters for participation. This has little to do with what is usually referred to by the term interaction. It concerns rather factors such as the level of skill required of both producers and participants in digital artworks. The digital artwork demands that audiences acquire a determinate set of skills and understandings to participate fully in the work. In Toshio Iwai’s Resonance of Four, for example, there is a default state that is pretty but dull, while random gestures with the track ball will produce interactive ‘rewards,’ coloured lights and sounds. But the experience of the work as artwork demands both understanding the principle of the device as a composing machine and working in consort with three other users to create music. Artisanship is integral to the digital: so the best artists are also either engineers or groups including technologists and programmers, and so our students demand of us programming skills more than bundled packages. This goes against the current of the televisualization of the Web, where the end-user-defined HTML language is being submerged in a wave of server-defined Javascript. Bolter and Gromala argue that such enriched design moves beyond the com-

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puter-specific forms of the early Web, moving instead towards a contextual design, alert to the bodies that use it.15 At the same time, the success of Wiki and the blogosphere suggest a hunger for what Tim Berners-Lee described as the full interactive power of alternatives to the commercialized Web like the Linux-based Amaya browser.16 The old balance cannot be restored: instead, it must be remade, as it is in interventions like The Webstalker that not only offer control but demand active participation. Something similar is true of RTMark’s Web works, which imitate the control structures of corporate Web design but demand action if they are to be experienced not as parody but as art. Digital media are grounded in work in a second sense: to return to an earlier theme, electronic media are grounded not in leisure, as the televisualization of the Web insists, but in the workplace. In place of the elite contemplation of the refined consumer, the digital artwork demands the intellectual and emotional graft needed to change the work into something else, very clearly in the collective montage projects now such an integral part of Web art, but also in projects like Sera Furneaux’s ‘Kissing Booth,’ where users not only orchestrate virtual kisses but record their own into the booth’s database. In this instance, the work does not exist until the user provides the input. This culture of the database is akin to activist post-artworks like the SOS Racisme mail-bombing of Le Pen’s National Front, or the Zapatista Interneta’s of the Frankfurt stock exchange. Conceptualism left a legacy of anti-commodity art: its dialectical outcome is a pro-work work. The digital artwork is work, a labour shared in the human–computer interface and, like any work, founded in a social process that demands cooperation among workers and between workers and those anonymous forebears whose skills are enshrined and concretized in the dead labour of our machines. As work, the digital requires the shared labour, specifically, of artist and audience, to the extent that the distinction begins to blur. To what extent are Audio-ROM the authors of a sound piece I might make with their programs and interfaces but using my own samples and, since the coding is open, my own coding too? This scares, on the one hand, those brought up in the expressive ideology of the art schools and, on the other, those humanist scholars who, thirty years ago, leapt at the novel focus of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies to abandon attempts to understand labour. Yet work is today a curiously liberating principle. To the extent that artists relinquish control over the artwork and, to that extent, over the audience, the audience must

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assume the same degree of responsibility for the work that the artist has abandoned in offering it to them. Without that assumption of responsibility, the artwork resorts to the default state of older art: passivity and what we must now understand as the anaesthetic. The digital artwork demands responsibility: there is no art where the audience does not take up this gauntlet and where instead it reserves for itself the sentimental position, enjoyment without responsibility. This is the burden of Eduardo Kac’s ‘Teleporting an Unknown State,’ in which the survival of a small plant depended on CUSeeMe clients providing it with remote sunlight, or Ken Goldberg’s Telegarden, which depended on telerobotic users to tend the garden.17 Likewise, since even in death the labour of past centuries is still exploited, the digital artwork’s destiny is to redeem and liberate the concretized labour embodied in our communicative machines. That is how the past becomes future, beyond the old lie of posterity. After all, we are the future that our ancestors looked to to judge and justify them, and we are not worthy – unless we seize the present as the becoming of their future. This is the responsibility that we take up, the only people among all the humans who have ever lived who are alive now. Under the existing circumstances difference is not a given, a foundation (however complex), or a horizon but a job of work: making a difference. Communication, under the historical conditions of contemporary capital, can no longer be presumed as an a-historical given. In a time in which it is almost entirely identifiable with the circulations of global finance, such that our consumption of commodities even is merely a necessary moment in the circuits of capital, communication must be fabricated, since it is no longer natural. On this fabrication depends the making of a culture that is no longer crowned by the negation of its own negativity, as remains the case with accelerated modernity. Instead, the digital must turn towards the positive construction of the present as difference, a creation that only becomes possible in the era of a planetary communications infrastructure. As construction, the digital must forswear the sublime, for the sublime confronts us not as the incomprehensible but as the incommunicable, an absolute horizon beyond history. To construct is to act historically, to embrace the interests, human and technological, that have been left so egregiously unsatisfied by the culture of the commodity itself increasingly embraced in the anaesthetic of its own sublime absence from itself. Change is the quality of history and of beauty – what is transient, what comes into being in the moment as the emergence of futurity. The digital artwork must be beautiful.

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These explorations can be summarized in terms of a series of principles I have tried to voice here: The digital artwork must be networked. The digital artwork must be material. The digital artwork is processual. The digital artwork must mediate. The digital artwork must inhabit the present as a moment of becoming. The digital artwork is obliged to be incomplete. The digital artwork is by nature ephemeral. The digital artwork must be imperfect. What distinguishes the digital artwork is its elegance. The digital artwork must be necessary. The digital artwork is cyborg. The digital artwork must be communicative. Artisanship is integral to the digital. The digital artwork is work. The digital artwork demands responsibility. The digital artwork must be beautiful.

The digital is a malleable aesthetics, based on the principle that anything that can be made can be remade.18 Where the artworks of the industrial era hover between existence and non-existence, presence and absence, the digital seizes on the not-yet for its own domain at the moment of its emergence. Its time is the time of becoming. The cost is great: the loss of permanence, of authority, of wholeness. As work, the artwork that ceases to transform the emergence of the future ceases to be art and becomes archive. To emphasize work is not merely to insist on the physical actuality of instruction sets and displays. It indicates something of the conditions under which the digital is undertaken as a task. Timothy Druckrey notes that ‘programming determines a set of conditions in which the represented is formed as an instruction, while language destabilizes the conditions through the introduction of formations in which the represented is destabilized.’19 The imbalance of instruction and extra-textual formations results in a new crisis in the theory of representation, itself already reeling under the twin blows of consumer capitalism and postmodern pessimism. The act of interpretation does not become impossible, faced with the interminable question of the truth of the representation, but more necessary. At the same time, the automation of tasks as programs creates a two-tier society: those who enter data and those who interpret

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it. For those who create new means for both tasks is reserved what increasingly appears to be the core of twenty-first-century wealth: intellectual property.20 To the extent that IP treaties are increasingly aimed at removing the Berne Convention’s droits d’auteur,21 they are postmodern. To the extent that they are reinscribing them as tradable commodities owned by corporations, they are entirely capitalist.22 For all that Marx has fallen off the core curriculum of media and art theory, class, commodity, and expropriation remain the largest challenges to any future, and to that extent ethical imperatives driving digital art. Only when that art is genuinely work can it communicate at the level of work, which once again is becoming the centre of political life. The innocence of play is denied us in a time when play has become a key strategy of the corporate management of creativity in hock to the production of new consumer goods. We may no longer inhabit the present for its own sake, as the impressionists and the Lumière brothers could, but only for the sake of a future for which we are enjoined to take responsibility. The great negation that guided the avant-gardes of the twentieth century no longer holds in the twenty-first; and, without that guide, we risk the sentimental positivity of Ewoks and Tamagotchis. Most of all, we suffer the immense burden of beauty, the terrible onus of bringing into existence. But, on the positive side, we have the whole of history, its staggering defeats and millennia of immiseration, to propel us into the new.

NOTES 1 Walter Benjamin, ‘The Task of the Translator,’ in Selected Writings, vol. 1, 1913–1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Bellknap Press/Harvard University Press, 1996), 253–63. 2 Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (London: Athlone Press, 1997), 56–7. 3 Coco Fusco, The Bodies That Were Not Ours and Other Writings (London: Iniva/Routledge, 2001). 4 Hayden White, ‘The Modernist Event,’ in The Persistence of Memory: Cinema, Television and the Modern Event, ed. Vivian Sobchack (London: Routledge, 1996). 5 Margaret Morse, Virtualities: Television, Media Art, and Cyberculture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998).

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6 Saskia Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991). 7 Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, vol. 1, The Rise of the Network Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996). 8 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, L’Anti-Oedipe, vol. 1, and Mille Plateaux, vol. 2, Capitalisme et Schizophrénie (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1972, 1980). 9 Paul Virilio, Open Sky, trans. Julie Rose (London: Verso, 1997). 10 Benjamin, Walter, ‘The Author as Producer,’ in Selected Writings, vol. 2, part 2, 1931–1934, ed. Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith (Cambridge, MA: Bellknap Press/Harvard University Press, 1999), 768–82. 11 Sawad Brooks, http://www.thing.net/~sawad/erase/trait/text.html, 2000. 12 David Gelernter, The Aesthetics of Computing (London: Phoenix, 1998). 13 D.N. Rodowick, Gilles Deleuze’s Time Machine (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 192. 14 Umberto Eco, Faith in Fakes: Travels in Hyperreality, trans. William Weaver (London: Minerva, 1986), 93. 15 Jay David Bolter and Diane Gromala, Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art and the Myth of Transparency (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003). 16 Tim Berners-Lee, with Mark Fischetti, Weaving the Web (London: Orion, 1999). 17 Ken Goldberg, ed., The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000). 18 Andy Deck, ‘Curatorial Algorithms and Malleable Aesthetics,’ Millennium Film Journal 34 (1999): 82–91. 19 Timothy Druckrey, ‘Netopos ... Notopos: The Fate of Reason in the Global Network: Teleology, Telegraphy, Telephony, Television, Telesthetics,’ in Ars Electronica: Facing the Future, ed. Timothy Druckrey and Ars Electronica (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999), 311. 20 Terry Flew, New Media: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 154-9. 21 Armand Mattelart, The Information Society, trans. Susan G. Taponier and James A. Cohen (London: Sage, 2003), 125–6. 22 Christopher May, The Information Society: A Sceptical View (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2002).

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Afterword: What We Must Do gene youngblo od

On 15 February 2003 more than ten million people poured into streets, plazas, and boulevards around the world to demonstrate against neoliberal globalization and U.S. imperialism. Unprecedented in human history, it was a manifestation of enormous unconquerable power, an image of boundless solidarity and hope, provided that one was fortunate enough to see it. This was a utopian image, so it did not appear on the screens, or in the pages, of the imperial Broadcast. For the majority of world citizens who restrict their knowledge of human affairs to corporate or state media, the demonstrations were invisible. But behind that cancelled image of power in the streets was another kind of power, a virtual power that was also invisible – the conversation on the Internet that made the demonstrations possible. We all know that it is this power, not the one displayed in the streets, that the masters of the world fear the most. The World Wide Web has been available to a minority of the world’s population for about eleven years, and digital tools of audiovisual production, best understood as integral components of the Internet, have come to maturity only within the last few years. Thus, even though the Internet was greeted immediately with the expected (and appropriate) utopian discourse, we are only now beginning to feel its true power. I say ‘feel’ because there is a crucial difference between conceptual recognition and muscle recognition, between understanding and doing. By utopian I mean that which is not permitted. The theatre of action is the ‘place’ at the root of this word that means no place. And of all actions that are not permitted, uncontrolled conversation among the peoples of the world is the most powerful, and the most threatening to hegemonic authority. Conversation is the most powerful of human

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actions because through it we construct the realities in which we live. We can talk about things because we create the things we talk about by talking about them. (By ‘talk’ I mean all forms of conversation including audiovisual.) It is through conversation that we define the four basic constituents of human reality – existence (what’s real and what’s not), priorities (what’s important and what’s not), values (what’s right and wrong, good and bad), and relations (what’s related to what, and how). Conversation is generative: it brings forth worlds. The power to do this is the ultimate power; thus, a machine that can potentially connect all of humanity in creative conversation is the ultimate utopian machine, the machine that must not be permitted to exist. Few today believe the hacker’s delusion that the Internet is invincible, that we can ‘route around’ anti-democratic interventions in its dynamic architecture; we understand that, like all utopian machines, it is exquisitely vulnerable. The real machine is not the Internet’s technological apparatus but the conversations it makes possible. They are technologies of the self, tools with which we construct ourselves as desiring subjects (the ultimate and universal creative act), with the consequence, for example, that we take to the streets in moral outrage or we do not. These conversations can be swiftly closed through privatization of the apparatus and the resulting options, for example, to impose sanctions on websites and peremptory tariffs on e-mail. A minority, driven underground, will route around such obstacles, but conversations of politically significant magnitude will be silenced and the utopian machine will no longer exist. Yet it must exist, for it is the only machine through which we can begin to create on the same scale as we destroy. We have always faced this challenge, but the scale of actual and potential destruction today is beyond historical precedent. We are called, possibly for our very survival, to a scale of creativity for which we have very little past experience. Before 2003 I could have said ‘no past experience,’ but we have since witnessed the organizing power of the Internet on a coordinated global scale. We are learning how to use the utopian machine. Some say the most strategic use of the Internet will be one that is invisible – that secession from the imperial Broadcast, escape from its powers of appropriation and neutralization, is the necessary first step toward effective counterculture. I believe this will indeed be an important, perhaps essential, aspect of what we must do; but the first step must be exactly the opposite: we must confront neoliberal globalization with an audacious display of the utopian machine’s potential power.

Afterword: What We Must Do


What is at stake must be made vivid in the world’s imagination. To do this would be to force Empire into the light, to reveal it in its nakedness. If the Internet is potentially as powerful as we say it is – if there is no power greater than global humanity interconnected in creative conversation – then I say we have not even come close to acknowledging, demonstrating, and celebrating that power in a manner commensurate to its importance. The possible realization of humankind’s ultimate utopian dream – a global democratic public sphere – is in our hands, yet we are collectively ignoring the elephant that is in the room. We need to welcome the Internet as we would welcome the arrival on this planet of a benign alien species – with a unifying global ritual that marks a transformation of human reality. That we have not done this is understandable. We fear what might happen if we let the genie out of the bottle. But we have no choice. Taking a slogan from AIDS activists, at this historical moment silence = death. So there must be a confrontation. A global coalition of artists and activists must organize an event designed to demonstrate the organizing power of the Internet in the most dramatic way imaginable; an event designed to galvanize worldwide desire for countercultural deployment of the utopian machine and to foreclose any attempt to contain its power. The coalition must raise millions in world currencies to fund the project, no matter how long it takes. Five years or longer seems likely. At the same time we must remember that nothing sells; everything is sold. The event and the movement behind it must be advertised in the physical world, not just in the virtual space of the Internet. There is a sense in which something or someone does not exist without a presence on the Internet; the coalition’s promotional campaign must begin there and must emanate outward from there into the streets, both of necessity and as a demonstration of the Internet’s organizing power. But this will be inadequate without a massive and simultaneous public relations initiative in the physical world. Millions must be spent on advertising the event in every medium and venue around the world, starting years in advance, using the same strategies of crosspromotion and cross-marketing that the imperial Broadcast uses to create and sustain global consumer culture. The political demonstrations of 2003 were united in solidarity but were separated in time. Historically they constituted a single event, a turning point. They manifested the political will of a global community, but they were not coordinated in time, and time is now the definitive feature of unification. Space has been dissolved; only time and timing

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circumscribe our democratic right to peaceful assembly. The primary purpose of the event I propose must be to make visible the invisible power that was behind the political demonstrations. We need to match those spectacular images of assembly in space with equally powerful images of assembly in time – images of worldwide synchronization and coordination. Asynchronous coordination, in which people around the world interact with and through a common database, is important too. It is, after all, the most common form of Internet art at this time, and it will be a significant part of the event I propose. But global synchronization is inspiring, dramatic, and unifying in a way that asynchronous conversation is not, and it must be emphasized to the greatest possible extent. The event I speak of in the singular will actually be a series of daily events in a continuous, unbroken sequence over weeks or months. They will be of two kinds: telecollaborative multimedia performances and multimedia teleconferences. The performances must be outdoors, wireless and mobile, and they must emphasize telepresence as much as possible. There must be large local audiences that see and hear each other, and conversation between them must be enabled and encouraged. The gathered publics must not be mere spectators; they must experience their power to constitute a worldwide public sphere in public space, outside of any institutional or domestic context. At least five large screens must be in or around performance spaces – one for seeing and hearing the other end of a collaboration, another for audience-to-audience conversation and spontaneous collaboration, a third to display the local performance (as in stadium music concerts or large conferences or trade shows) so the local audience can see what is happening in their space. A fourth giant screen will continuously display webcam-style video transmissions from all participating locations, cycling around the globe sequentially, one after another, from time zone to time zone twenty-four hours a day, to establish and sustain a sense of real-time world community. A fifth screen (or more if needed) must be mobile. The performances must include every kind of mobility, from walking, running, and dancing to bicycles and motorcycles, cars, buses and vans, trains and aircraft. The image of the van or mini-bus equipped with audiovisual tools, transmitters, and screens is archetypal in the history of media counterculture. In the United States such vehicles were associated with early video collectives like Ant Farm and TVTV. European examples include Jack Moore’s travelling players in VW bus caravans

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across France and Italy in the early seventies, and the Casino Container built by the German design group called Pentagon for Documenta 7 in 1987. Recent Internet-connected examples of wireless mobility were unveiled by demonstrators in the streets around the U.S. Republican National Convention in New York City in September 2004. These included wireless Internet (WiFi) connections, backpack transmitters, various forms of disruptive guerrilla radio, micro-radio, low-power FM, walkie-talkie, CB radio, and video cell phones. For a protest-performance called ‘Bikes Against Bush,’ a wireless Internet-enabled bicycle was outfitted with a custom-designed printing device that printed spray-chalk messages sent from Web users around the world directly onto the streets of Manhattan. Wireless and radio transmissions must be interfaced as much as possible with MIDI technology for dynamic telepresence. Mobile wireless telepresence – ambient and transient, neither here nor there, appearing and disappearing at (public) will – is an elusive and mysterious form of power that is always already everywhere and nowhere. Even though institutions may sponsor particular telecollaborations, the events must be staged outdoors, in streets, parks, and other public spaces. Telepresence that is outdoors, mobile, and wireless is a potent form of agency, even if it is only metaphorical. Individuals and groups moving through the world untethered, unfettered, and unbounded, projecting their will and causing things to happen locally and globally – this is an image of collective force that transcends space and implodes time. If utopia is not a place, mobile wireless telepresence is atopia – a place without a name. The teleconferences in this event must take place between experts and ordinary people, between featured speakers and audiences. They must be organized around themes that are relevant to the overall event – discussions of the sociopolitical, economic, cultural, and environmental implications of what is transpiring on the network as they speak. The overarching theme of the conferences must be the challenge to create on the same scale as we destroy. Essential topics in this context are democratic globalization, democratic world media, and world-collaborative solutions to environmental problems. The full spectrum of audiovisual and computational technologies, from high-end to low-end, must be integrated throughout the network so that locations with lesser resources can participate in the global multimedia conversation. Finally, the telecollaborations and conferences must be broadcast on TV and radio wherever possible and streamed on the Internet.

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I have described a supremely utopian project that is unlikely to happen. I propose it in the spirit of Antonio Gramsci’s dictum ‘Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.’ I am trying to start a conversation about this idea. Is it reasonable? Is it as necessary as I think it is? Even if it is not, it would certainly be beautiful, and it would change the world. It would be a gesamptkunstwerk beyond anything yet realized. The mystery is why it has not been attempted.


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Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993. Stoppiello, Dawn. Web forum posting, 10 August 1999. ‘Gender and Identity in New Media: Open Forum.’ http://www.judymalloy.net/identity/ open.html. Straw, Will. ‘Proliferating Screens.’ Screen 41, no. 1 (2000): 115–19. Thompson, Jim. ‘Open Letter to the Members of the Entertainment Software Association.’ 14 July 2005. http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/top/ thompson-calls-for-esa-pres-resignation-112565.php. Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. Thomson, Douglass H. ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Electronic (Re)Production.’ Romanticism on the Net 10 (May 1998). http://users.ox.ac.uk/ ~scat0385/work.html. Troupe, Quincy. Avalanche. Minneapolis: Coffee House Books, 1996. Trudel Pascal. ‘Synchronicité.’ Maid in Cyberspace – Encore! Studio XX, 1998. http://www.studioxx.org/maid-encore/intros/trudel.html. Tufte, Edward. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 1990. Ukadike, Nwachukwu Frank. Black African Cinema. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Varela, Francisco J., Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991. Venturi, Robert. Museum of Modern Art Papers on Architecture. New York: MOMA, 1968. Virilio, Paul. Open Sky. Trans. Julie Rose. London: Verso, 1997. – Strategy of Deception. London: Verso, 2000. Wagmister, Fabian, and Jeff Burke. ‘Networked Multi-Sensory Experiences: Beyond Browsers on the Web and in the Museum.’ Museums and the Web 2002. http://www.archimuse.com/mw2002/papers/wagmister/ wagmister.html. Waldrop, M. Mitchell. The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal. New York: Viking, 2001. Williams, Raymond. Television: Technology and Cultural Form. 2nd ed. Ed. Ederyn Williams. London: Routledge, 1990. Winters, Jeffrey. Power in Motion: Capital Mobility and the Indonesian State. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996. Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. London: Grafton Books, 1927. Worth, Sol, and John Adair. Through Navajo Eyes: An Exploration in Film Communication and Anthropology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972.

340 Bibliography Yúdice, George. The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003. Zimmerman, Patricia. Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.


Ronald Burnett was appointed president of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1996. He is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art, recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for service to Canada and Canadians, Educator of the Year in 2005 in Canada, and author of over 150 published articles and three books, including How Images Think (MIT Press, 2004, 2005) and Cultures of Vision: Images, Media and the Imaginary (Indiana University Press, 1995). Dr Burnett is chair of the Board of Knowledge Network, member of the board of the Learning Development Institute, BCNet, and Vice-Chair of the Great Northern Way Campus. He is an adjunct professor at York University, Williams Evans Fellow at University of Otego in New Zealand, and a Burda Scholar at Ben Gurion University in Israel. Dr Burnett received his PhD from McGill University in communications and was the director of the Graduate Program in Communications at McGill for many years. He also founded the Creative Arts Department at Vanier College in Montreal and helped to develop the Film and Media Department at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Dr Burnett’s website can be found at http://www.eciad.ca/~rburnett. Abigail Child is a film and video maker whose work in montage and sound/image relations pushes the envelope of film/video with humour and ephemeral beauty. Her recent work utilizes mixed genres and strategies for rewriting narrative, as well as exploring public space through memory and history. She is the author of several books of poetry including A Motive for Mayhem, Mob, Scatter Matrix, and From Solids, and of the book This Is Called Moving: A Critical Poetics of Film (University of Alabama Press, 2005). She has taught film/video pro-

342 Contributors

duction and history at various schools including New York University, Massachusetts College of Art, The Art Institute of San Francisco, Sarah Lawrence, and Hampshire College. Since 2000, she is chair of Film/ Animation at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Stephen Crocker writes about media, social theory, and philosophy. He is an associate professor of sociology and assistant director of the Humanities Program at Memorial University of Newfoundland. His work has appeared in, among other places, Philosophy Today, Topia, Cultural Values, Continental Philosophy Review, Ctheory, and various anthologies. Sean Cubitt is professor and director of the Program in Media and Communications at the University of Melbourne and honorary professor of Duncan of Jordanstone College of the University of Dundee. Previously professor of Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and professor of Media Arts at Liverpool John Moores University, he is the author of Timeshift: On Video Culture (Routledge, 1991), Videography: Video Media as Art and Culture (St Martin’s Press, 1993), Digital Aesthetics (Sage, 1998), Simulation and Social Theory (Sage, 2001), The Cinema Effect (MIT Press, 2004), and EcoMedia (Rodopi, 2005). He is co-editor of Aliens R Us: Postcolonial Science Fiction with Ziauddin Sardar (Pluto Press 2002), The Third Text Reader with Rasheed Araeen and Ziauddin Sardar (Continuum, 2002), and How to Study the Event Film: The Lord of the Rings with Thierry Jutel, Barry King, and Harriet Margolis (Manchester University Press, 2007). He is the author of many articles, chapters, papers, and catalogue essays on contemporary arts, culture, and media. He has curated video and new media exhibitions and authored videos, courseware, and Web poetry. He is currently researching a book on the history of techniques and technologies of light, and acts as editor in chief of the Leonardo Book Series for MIT Press and Leonardo/ISAST. Greig de Peuter is a PhD candidate in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He is co-author, with Steven Kline and Nick Dyer-Witherford, of Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003), and co-editor, with Mark Coté and Richard Day, of Utopian Pedagogy: Radical Experiments against Neoliberal Globalization (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming).



Nick Dyer-Witheford is associate professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. He is the author of Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism (University of Illinois Press, 1999), and, with Steven Kline and Greig de Peuter, of Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003). His research interests include analysing emergent forms of counter-power against high technology and globalized capital, and the political economy of the computer and video game industry. Caitlin Fisher is a theorist, creative writer, and Web artist with broad interdisciplinary interests. She is assistant professor at York University’s Department of Film and Canada Research Chair in Digital Culture. Her research and teaching focus on the social and cultural aspects of communication technologies, hypermedia, feminist theory, augmented reality, and digital multimedia work (she completed York’s first hypertextual dissertation in 2000). She is a founding editor of j_spot: Journal of Social and Political Thought, an electronic journal covering a wide range of intersections between theory, politics and political action, aesthetics, cultural criticism, and social and economic justice. Her most recent publication is These Waves of Girls, a hypermedia novella exploring memory, girlhoods, cruelty, childhood play, and sexuality, which won the Electronic Literature Organization’s 2001 prize for fiction. Susan Lord is associate professor in the Department of Film and Media and holds cross-appointments with the Departments of Art and Women’s Studies at Queen’s University. She has published several articles reflecting her general research interests in media and temporality, feminist media theory and culture, Cuban visual culture, and Canadian cinema. With Janine Marchessault, she is involved in a research project about artists’ collectives and citizenship practices. Recently she coedited, with Annette Burfoot, the anthology Killing Women: The Visual Culture of Gender and Violence (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006), and, with Glenn Gear, Dorit Naaman, Matt Soar, and Miriam Verburg, a special issue of Public entitled ‘Digital Poetics and Politics: The Work of the Local in the Age of Globalization.’ She is completing a book on the late Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez, as well as a manuscript called ‘Sublime Machines/Time Zones.’ Janine Marchessault is associate professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts

344 Contributors

and Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media and Globalization at York University. She is the editor of Mirror Machine: Video and Identity (YY2 Press, 1996), and co-editor of Gendering the Nation: Canadian Women’s Cinema (University of Toronto Press, 1999), and Wild Science: Reading Feminism, Medicine and the Media (Routledge, 2001). She has published widely on film and media studies, focusing on the historical emergence of mechanical image technologies, notions of intermediality, and the idea of veracity. Her most recent book is Marshall McLuhan: Cosmic Media (Sage, 2005), and she is currently developing a book project called Liquid World. She is the director of the Visible City Project + Archive (www.visiblecity.ca), as well as co-founder of the Future Cinema Lab. Laura U. Marks is a scholar, theorist, and curator of independent and experimental media arts. Her current research interests are relationships between classical Islamic art and new media art, and independent media in the Arab world. She is the author of The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (Duke University Press, 2000), Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minnesota University Press, 2002), and many essays. She is at work on a book prospectively titled Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art. She has curated programs of experimental media for festivals and art spaces worldwide. Dr Marks is the Dena Wosk University Professor of Art and Culture Studies at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. Her website is www.sfu.ca/~lmarks. John McCullough is an assistant professor of Film Studies at York University. His current research includes the global film and television industries (in particular labour patterns) and the politics of media representation. His critical writing has appeared in Lux: A Decade of Artists’ Film and Video (YYZ Books/Pleasure Dome, 2000), CineAction, Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Fuse Magazine, The Independent Eye, and The Canadian Review of Books. He has served on the programming board of Pleasure Dome and the editorial board of Fuse and is a founding member of the experimental sound art collective Urban Refuse Group. He also is a film, video, and sound artist and collector of low-tech equipment and toys. Joshua Oppenheimer is a filmmaker and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Westminster. He is the editor of Acting on Aids: Sex,



Drugs and Politics (Serpent’s Tail/ICA, 1997), and his films include The Decline of Industry in the Industrialized World (2007), The Globalization Tapes (with Vision Machine, 2003), The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase (1998), and These Places We’ve Learned to Call Home (1996), as well as the in-progress film works of Vision Machine, of which he is a member. Sheila Petty is dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Professor of Media Studies at the University of Regina. She edited the book A Call to Action: The Films of Ousmane Sembene (Flicks Books, 1996) and co-edited Canadian Cultural Poesis (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006). She is especially interested in bridging art/cultural theory and practice, and this has led to several curated film and video exhibitions such as Identity and Consciousness: (Re)presenting the Self at Regina’s Dunlop Art Gallery and Inventions of Nation at the MacKenzie Art Gallery and the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff. She has written extensively on issues of cultural representation, identity, and nation in African and African diasporic cinema and new media, and has a forthcoming book on African diasporic film and a forthcoming monograph on the TV series Law and Order. Kirsty Robertson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Art at Queen’s University and a lecturer at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include contemporary art and activism in Canada, surveillance culture, cyborg theory and practice, reconciling feminist craft theory with contemporary art practices, and post-colonial theory and new media practice. She is presently working on a dissertation that examines the intersections between visual culture and protest (in particular the global justice movement) in Canada. Michael Uwemedimo is a writer, curator, and member of the filmmaking collaboration Vision Machine. Michael’s latest writings appear in Jean-Luc Godard: Documents (Pompidou Centre, 2006), Building Bridges: The Cinema of Jean Rouch (Wallflower, 2007), and his forthcoming book, The Interview (Manchester University Press, 2008). His recent curatorial projects include Possessing Vision: The Cinema of Jean Rouch (ICA, 2000), Jean-Luc Godard: A Retrospective (NFT/Tate Modern, 2001), Truth or Dare (Whitechapel Gallery, 2006), and After the Fact (BFI Southbank, 2007). Michael is currently research fellow at Roehampton University. Vision Machine’s filmmaking focuses on re-enactments and dramati-

346 Contributors

zations by perpetrators and survivors of political violence, and investigates relationships between genocide and genre, spectrality and ghosts, and the possibilities for filmmaking to intervene in economies of terror. Vision Machine has worked with covert operators, paramilitary death squads and their victims, documenting processes of dramatization and fictional adaptation to explore not only the performance of political violence, but also the stories and images used to justify the routines of that violence. Exploring the imbrications of memory and performance, and working from Southeast Asia to the American desert, Vision Machine has staged musical numbers and gangster scenes, westerns and weepies as catalysts for the actors in these terrible histories to reveal the many ways in which history can imagine violence as heroic, and killers as heroes. Rinaldo Walcott is associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where he also holds the Canada Research Chair in Social Justice and Cultural Studies. His teaching and research have been largely in the area of cultural and post-colonial studies with an emphasis on black diaspora studies. He has published on music, film, queer theory, literature, and theatre. His most recent scholarship branches out from black studies to engage with other forms of marginalized difference in the Canadian nation-making project. This new project, ‘Other Canadians and the Remaking of the Nation,’ will result in the ‘Other Canadians Database: Culture Re-making the Nation,’ which will consist of film and video made by ‘Other Canadians.’ He is the author of Black Like Who? Writing Black Canada (Insomniac Press, 1997), and the editor of Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism (Insomniac Press, 2000). Haidee Wasson is assistant professor of Cinema, Concordia University, Montreal. She has previously taught at the University of Minnesota, as well as in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University. As a Fulbright Scholar, she has been a visiting fellow at the Museum of Modern Art and New York University. Her books include Museum Movies: The Museum of Modern Art and the Birth of Art Cinema (University of California Press, 2005) and a co-edited collection (with Dr Lee Grieveson) on the history of film studies (Duke University Press, 2008). She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on topics such as emergent technology and visual history, the museum gift shop, museums and cinema, early home theatres, and the



emergence of film archives. She has lectured internationally, addressing topics pertaining to her research interests, which include film and media historiography, intermediality, and cultural, visual, and media theory. Exploring the intersection of technology, culture, and aesthetics, she is currently working on a history of small-gauge film projectors and portable film screens. Glenn Willmott is professor of English at Queen’s University. He is the author of articles on film theory, modernism, and Canadian literature and of the books McLuhan, or Modernism in Reverse (University of Toronto Press, 1996), Unreal Country: Modernity and the Canadian Novel in English (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002, winner of the Gabrielle Roy Prize), Modernist Goods: Primitivism, the Market, and the Gift (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming), and of the scholarly edition of Bertram Brooker’s 1936 Governor General’s Award–winning novel, Think of the Earth (Brown Bear, 2000). His research interests include Canadian, British, and American modernisms; comics and other modern mass culture genres; and literary and critical theory. Gene Youngblood is an internationally known author, critic, and theorist of electronic media arts. He is the author of Expanded Cinema (Dutton, 1970), the first book about video as an art medium, which was influential in establishing the field of media arts. He is also widely known as a pioneering voice in the Media Democracy movement and has been teaching Media and Democracy for thirty years. He has lectured at more than four hundred colleges and universities throughout North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia, and his writing is published extensively around the world. He is currently professor of Critical Studies in the Department of Moving Image Arts at the College of Santa Fe.

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9/11, 115, 232, 247, 253 Acland, Charles, 85, 93, 95 acoustic space, 14, 38 activism, 22, 270–82 activist media, 15, 194–5 Adair, Bill, 249 Adorno, Theodor W., 6, 253, 305, 311 African diaspora, 160–93 Agar, Jon, 21, 272–3, 282 AIDS, 323 Akomfrah, John, 18–19, 161–2, 165–6, 168, 193 Akward, Michael, 175 Alberti (Leone Battista), 62 Alice in Wonderland, 4 Alien, 233, 263 Allen, Dede, 251–2, 258, 267 Allen, John, 269 Alpha and Bravo, 237–43 Al Qaeda, 232 Al-Solaylee, Kamal, 269 Amaya, 315 America’s Army, 232 Amika, 16, 96–110 Anderson, Benedict, 190 Anderson, Steve, 202–3, 209

Ant Farm, 324 Antin, Eleanor, 200 Antliff, Allan, 195, 208 Appadurai, Arjun, 70, 73 Apple Computers, 80 Aquinas, Thomas, 12 archeological performances, 19 Arendt, Hannah, 62, 72, 247 Aristotle, 12 Arriflex, 38 Ars Electronica Festival, 53, 270 Artaud, Antonin, 297 Arzner, Dorothy, 258 Association of British Columbia Animation Producers, 262 As We May Think, 146, 157 Augustine, Saint, 12 Avid editing system, 120, 257–9 Bach, Johann Sebastian, 284, 294–6 Balides, Constance, 91 Banham, Reyner, 46 Barber, Karin, 110 Barlet, Olivier, 110 Barthes, Roland, 197, 208, 211 Baseball Hall of Fame, 112 Bataille, Georges, 311

350 Index Baudelaire, Charles, 13 Baudrillard, Jean, 67, 73, 213, 257, 268, 314 Bauman, Zygmunt, 4, 5, 23 Bazin, André, 29, 48, 85, 95 B.C. Film Commission, 261 Beatles, The, 58, 61 Beckett, Samuel, 215 Belton, John, 92 Benjamin, Walter, 6, 9–11, 14, 22, 115, 188, 197, 208, 264, 275, 282, 294, 302, 304, 318–19 Benning, James, 199 Bergson, Henri, 22, 54, 56, 63–5, 68–9, 71, 73, 286–7, 291–7, 302 Berland, Jody, 268 Berne Convention, 318 Berners-Lee, Tim, 315, 319 Bernstein, Michael André, 199 BET (Black Entertainment Television), 160 Bhabha, Homi, 143, 194, 201, 208–9 Bikes Against Bush, 325 bin Laden, Osama, 237, 240 Birnbaum, Dara, 113, 125 black: body, 170, 173; music, 160–93 Black Audio Film Collective, 193 Black Skin White Mask, 175 Blair, Kristine, 18, 148, 158 Bland, John, 32 Blue Window Pane, 138–9, 141 Böhlen, Marc, 141 Bolter, Jay David, 140, 314, 319 Boole, George, 304 Bordwell, David, 92 Bradley, Steve, 278 Braidotti, Rosi, 155, 159 brain drain, 261 Breashears, David, 83 Brooks, Sawad, 310, 319

Brownlow, Kevin, 268 Bubbe’s Back Porch, 150 Buck-Morss, Susan, 11, 25 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 5 Bug’s Life, A, 258–9 Bukatman, Scott, 257, 268 Burke, Edmund, 85, 87, 95 Burke, Jeff, 137 Burroughs, William S., 58 Burston, Jonathan, 248 Bush, George Walker, 245, 325 Bush, Vannevar, 146, 157 Cage, John, 15, 58–62, 64–5 Calloway, Cab, 174 Calyx Retrospective, 145 Camara, Serigne Mbaye, 109 Cameron, James, 290, 302 Camus, Albert, 215 Canada 67, 34 Canadian Film Centre (CFC), 280 Canadian film/media industries, 21, 50, 251–69 Canadianization, 252–3 Canadian televison, 267, 329 Canclini, Nestor Garcia, 201 Candid Eye, The, 38 Carlyle, Cathy, 269 Carroll, Lewis, 4 Carter, Jimmy, 205 Cartier-Bresson, Henri, 38, 50 Casino Container, 325 Cassidy, Eric J., 108 Castells, Manuel, 271, 274, 282, 307, 319 Catch-22, 216 Cauris, 99, 109 CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment), 138 CBC-TV, 38, 265–6

Index cell/mobile phone, 15, 21–2, 52–3, 62, 270–82, 284–6, 288, 295, 299–300 Cell-Outs and Phonies, 279, 283 Cézanne, Paul, 13 Chakar, Tony, 206–7 Chakrabarty, Dipesh, 201, 209 Challenge for Change, 47 Changeux, Jean-Pierre, 140 Chaplin, Charles, 33 Chicago, Judy, 145, 148 Chion, Michel, 56, 64–5, 72–3 Chiron, Julie Ann, 158 Chroma-Key, 8 CHUM-CITY, 256 CIA, 178, 185, 190–1, 204–5 Cincera, Raduz, 34 ciné-écriture, 9 Cinesphere (Ontario Place), 83 Circle Vision, 31 City of Gold, 40 Clark, Danae, 268 Clear Channel, 5 CNN, 54, 120, 187, 232, 236, 256 coeval temporality, 202–3 Colby, William, 185–6, 204 Collingwood, R.G., 35, 50 Collins, Richard, 252, 267 Columbine massacre, 246 computer-generated image (CGI), 252 Connearn, David, 310 Cooperation of Parts, 200 Corrinne, Tee, 145 Coyne, Richard, 140 Crandall, Jordan, 231, 240, 242, 248–9 Crary, Jonathan, 72, 289, 301–2 Cribb, Robert, 190–1 Cronenberg, David, 227 Cubitt, Sean, 97, 108, 198, 208, 210, 217, 219, 225, 227


Cunt Coloring Book, 145 CUSeeMe, 316 Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the TwentyFirst Century, 147 Cyberspace, 96, 215, 276 Cyborg, 156, 161, 312–13, 317 Dabo, Mamadou Fall, 109 Dakar Web, 16, 98–101, 108 Daly, Tom, 41, 45 Daney, Serge, 197–8, 209 Danto, Arthur, 311 Daouda, Moudjibath, 99, 109 Dash, Julie, 193 Data Thief, 19, 168–9, 173 Davies, Char, 129 Davis, Jim, 212–13, 216, 226, 330 Davis, Mike, 235, 249 Davis, Miles, 164 Davis, Sammy Jr, 174 Dead Weight of Quarrel Hangs, The, 206 Dean, Howard, 116 de Antonio, Emile, 20, 193, 195 Debord, Guy, 253 Deck, Andy, 319 deep media, 20, 211–12, 225–6 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), 232 Delany, Samuel R., 170 Deleuze, Gilles, 14, 54, 56, 65–6, 68– 71, 73, 197–9, 209, 248, 250, 286, 290, 297, 302, 307, 313–14, 319 Dement, Linda, 156 Department of Defense Game Development Community, 232 Der Derian, James, 231–2, 248, 330 Descartes, René, 63 de Souza e Silva, Adriana, 275–6, 282 Diallo, Séa, 109

352 Index Dialtones, 270, 277, 282 Diamond, Sara, 20, 193, 195–6, 208 Diankha, Rackie, 109 Diapolyecran, 31 Diba, Viye, 109 Dibbell, Julian, 215, 217–18, 227 Dickens, Charles, 33 Dietz, Steve, 309 digital aesthetics, 14, 17, 23, 126, 145– 57, 210–26, 229 digital artwork 15, 22–3, 304–18 digital video 17, 86, 131, 156, 189 Dinner Party, The, 145, 148 Diouf, Pape Teigne, 109 Discovery Channel, 284, 295–6 Disney, 3–4, 23, 34, 154 DJ Spooky, 170 DNA, 8 Dogme 95 manifesto, 53 Dolinsky, Margaret, 138–9, 141 dome screen, 31 Don, Abbe, 150, 158 Dorland, Michael, 253, 268 Dorn, Ed, 313 DOS, 147 Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 215 Drabo, Yaya Karim, 109 Dream Is Alive, The, 83 Druckrey, Timothy, 317, 319 DuBois, W.E.B., 163–4, 170, 175–6 Duchamp, Marcel, 8 Dulac, Germaine, 9, 24 Eco, Umberto, 32, 314 Edelman, Gerald, 140 Edhie, Sarwo, 190 Edison, Thomas, 81, 93, 289 Edwards, Gordon, 32 Einstein, Albert, 33, 307 Eisenberg, Daniel, 200

Eisenstein, Sergei, 3–4, 23, 33 Eke, Maureen, 110 Ekistics, 32 Eliot, T.S., 33, 219 Elsaesser, Thomas, 24 Engels, Friedrich, 267, 269 Enthusiasm, 121 Epstein, Jean, 9 Erased de Kooning, 310 Ericsson (telecommunications company), 282 Eshun, Kodwo, 161–2, 170 Estrada, President Joseph, 277 ethnic absolutism, 170 Evans, Gary, 50 Everest, 83, 86, 95 eXistenZ, 227 Expanded Cinema, 5–9, 11, 14, 24, 33–4, 49–51, 346 Expo 67, 14–15, 29–51 Fabian, Johannes, 202, 209 Fanon, Frantz, 175 Fast and the Furious, The, 233 Faye, Vieux Mac, 109 Ferguson, Graham, 34, 83 Final Cut Pro, 132 Fincher, David, 265 Finkleman, Ken, 264–5 Fiset, Edouard, 31 Fisher-Price, 245 Fisk Jubilee Singers, 164 flâneur, 59, 275–6 FlatWorld, 233 Flew, Terry, 319 Fordism, 231 Forsythe, Diana, 127, 140 Foucault, Michel, 219–20 Fox Channel, 232, 284, 295–6, 299 Frankenstein, 154, 157

Index Frankfurt School, 294 Freed, Donald, 191 Freedman, Mark, 262 Freedom of Information Act, 205 freeSTYLE, 279, 283 Fretwork: ReForming Me, 154 Freud, Sigmund, 68, 155, 188, 191 Friedberg, Anne, 10, 24, 75, 92 Frye, Northrop, 32, 40–1, 43, 50, 217, 331 Fulford, Robert, 34, 49 Fuller, R. Buckminster, 8, 33–4, 49 Full Spectrum Commander, 233, 235 Full Spectrum Leader, 233, 235 Full Spectrum Warrior (FSW), 21, 231– 48 Fung, Richard, 193 Furneaux, Sera, 315 Fusco, Coco, 198, 306, 318 future cinema, 29–48 future/futurology/futurism/futurity, 8, 12, 18, 20, 22, 29–48, 57, 112, 123, 147–8, 155, 161, 168, 171, 174, 188, 193–7, 219, 221–2, 224, 233, 235, 263, 300, 308, 310, 312–13, 316– 18 Gabriel, Teshome, 97, 100, 105, 108, 110 Gance, Abel, 35 Gardner, Paul F., 179, 190 Gasher, Mike, 253, 268 Gaye, Anta Germaine, 109 Gehr, Ernie, 199 Gelernter, David, 311, 319 George Clinton and Parliament and their Mothership Connection, 171 Gerbner, George, 267 Get Smart, 54 Gibbons, Scott, 53


Gibson, Ross, 200 Giddens, Anthony, 52, 71 Gideon, Siegfried, 32 Gilroy, Paul, 160, 168, 170, 175 Girard, François, 266 Gitlin, Todd, 61, 72 Glass, Philip, 53 Glassman, Marc, 50–1 Glimpses of the USA, 31 global Hollywood, 254, 259, 263–4, 266, 269 Globalisation Tapes, The, 181, 191, 203 global positioning system (GPS), 241 global village, 4, 15, 20, 38 Gning, Assane, 109 Godel, Kurt, 114 Goldberg, Ken, 316 Goldberg Variations, The, 57, 295 Goldie, 170 Goldman, Mia, 267, 269 Gondry, Michel, 265 Goodwin, Andrew, 175 Gould, Glenn, 15, 57–63, 65, 67, 71 Graham, Gerald, 38, 50 Gramsci, Antonio, 325 Grant, George, 11 Grau, Oliver, 141 Green Arts Barn event, 280 Greenfield, Gary, 141 Grin without a Cat, 195 Gromala, Diane, 314, 319 Gross, Larry, 268 Grossman, Lt. Col. David, 246, 250 Grusin, Richard, 140 Guattari, Félix, 71, 73, 248, 250, 307, 319 Guissé, Frères, 109 Gulf War, 236, 242, 251 Gunning, Tom, 48–9, 92

354 Index Guyer, Carolyn, 146–7, 149, 154, 157– 9 Guzmán, Patricio, 196, 208 Habermas, Jurgen, 24 Habitat, 32, 47 Halbfinger, David M., 249 Hall, Stuart, 166–9, 175, 269 Halliburton, 246 Hammid, Alexander, 34 Hansen, Miriam, 24 Haraway, Donna, 156 Hardt, Michael, 9, 24, 231, 247–8, 250 Hardwick, Gordon, 260 Harris, Bernard, 172 Harry Potter, 5 Harvey, David, 257–8, 268 Harwood, Graham, 20, 219–21 Havelock, Eric, 12 Hawthorne, Susan, 149–50, 158 Hayles, Katherine, 60, 72, 141 Hebdige, Dick, 168, 176 Hegel, Georg W.F., 13, 58, 312 Heidegger, Martin, 62, 68, 314 Heim, Michael, 96, 108 Heisenberg, Werner, 8 Highmore, Ben, 49 Hillis, Ken, 140 Hiroshima Mon Amour, 198 historical excavation, 181 historiography, 92, 204–6, 208 History Channel, The, 195 histrionic reconstruction, 181 Holmes, Steven A., 249 holographic cinema, 30 Holzman, Steven, 141 Horkheimer, Max, 253 Hornstein, Shelley, 268 Hours, The, 53 HTML, 150, 314

Humewood Communications, 261 Hussein, Saddam, 232, 237 Husserl, Edmund, 65 Hutcheon, Linda, 149, 158, 159 Huyssen, Andreas, 192, 194–5, 197, 208 IBM, 8, 31, 49 Idea of North, The, 61 Idris, Kemal, 177, 190 IFILM, 93 Ihde, Don, 72 Iliad Project, The, 137–8 ImaHima, 276 IMAX, 14, 16, 38, 47, 77, 83–91, 94–5 immigrant, 22, 284–300 imograph, 17, 126–41 Indonesian massacres, 19–20, 178–90, 193, 202–3 Indymedia.org, 194–5, 197 Innis, Harold, 11, 13, 25 Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), 232–3, 235, 245–6, 249 Inter Society for Electronic Art (ISEA), 99 iPod, 6 Irigaray, Luce, 156 Its Name Was Penelope, 152 It’s Not My Memory of It, 205 Iwai, Toshio, 220–1, 227, 314 Izme Pass, 147, 157 Jackson, Michael, 165, 174 Jackson, Shelley, 147, 154, 157, 159 Jackson Five, 174 Jacob, Ken, 200 Jameson, Fredric, 61, 67–8, 72–3, 253, 268 Javascript, 314 Jenkins, Henry, 5–6, 24

Index Jennings, Pamela, 101, 108, 110 Johnson, Dan, 261 Johnson, Steven, 108 Johnson-Eilola, Johndan, 155, 159 Joint Vision 2020, 233–4, 249 Jonze, Spike, 265 Joyce, James, 33, 147 Joyce, Michael, 147, 157 Julien, Isaac, 193 Kac, Eduardo, 316 Kahn, Douglas, 72 Kaleidoscope, 31 Kant, Immanuel, 311 Kaplan, Nelly, 50 Karwas, Dana, 279, 283 Katz, John Stuart, 268 Khbeiz, Bilal, 206 Kinder, Marsha, 208 Kinetoscope, 81, 289 Kino-Automat, 31, 34 Kissing Booth, 315 Kittler, Friedrich, 54 Kleenex, 112 Kline, Stephen, 248 Klinger, Barbara, 92–3 Klubock, Thomas Miller, 197, 208 Knight, Arthur, 162, 175 Kodak, 93 Kolko, Beth, 161 Korris, James, 249–50 Kracauer, Siegfried, 9–11, 24, 38, 50 Kraftwerk, 167 Kroitor, Roman, 30, 40–1, 46–7, 50 Kroker, Arthur, 25 Kubelka, Peter, 121 Kuma Reality Games, 232 Kyotopolis, 20, 222–3, 227 Labatt’s, 253


Labyrinthe, 15, 30–2, 40–1, 43, 46–8, 83 Labyrinth Project: Expo 67, 14–15, 29–48, 83; USC, 200 Lait Miraculeux, 99, 109 LambdaMOO, 20, 215, 217–18, 221 Landis, Fred Simon, 191 Landow, George, 157, 159 Lang, Fritz, 33 Lapses and Erasures, 310 Larsen, Deena, 153–4, 158 Lasseter, John, 258 Last Angel of History, The, 160–93 Lebanese wars, 193, 205–6 Lee, Spike, 265 Lee Scratch Perry and his Black Ark, 171 Lefebvre, Henri, 12 Lefebvre, Michel, 99, 108–9 Lehmann, Jael, 152, 158 Leibniz, Gottfried, 65–70 Lemoyne, Roy E., 32 Lenoir, Tim, 248, 334 Level Five, 20, 221–2 Levin, Golan, 270 Levin, Thomas, 11, 24 Lévy, Pierre, 96, 108 LeWitt, Sol, 314 Lialina, Olia, 153, 158 Lieberman, Rolf, 15, 58, 64 Life after Wartime, 200 Linklater, Richard, 131 Linux, 315 Lipsitz, George, 176, 335 liquid modernity, 4–5, 20 Living Tomorrow, 200–1 Lô, Ndary, 16, 98, 109 Longfellow, Brenda, 266–7, 269 Lord, Susan, 218 Low, Colin, 30, 32, 40–1, 43, 45, 47, 50–1

356 Index Lucasfilm, 252 Ludruk (theatre), 184, 186, 204 Lukács, Georg, 294 Lull, Ramon, 304 Lumière brothers, 318 Lunenfeld, Peter, 219–20, 227 Lynn, Victoria, 201, 209 Lyotard, Jean-François, 67, 73, 177, 190, 311 Macedonia, Michael, 233, 238, 245, 248 Magder, Ted, 253, 268 Malloy, Judy, 146, 152, 157–8 Maltby, Richard, 74–5, 91, 93 Man with a Movie Camera, 121 Man without a World, The, 200 Man Machine, The, 167 Manovich, Lev, 91, 93–4, 125–7, 140 Marble Springs, 153 Marchessault, Janine, 218 Marker, Chris, 20, 195–6, 221–2 Marley, Bob, 174 Martin, Juliet, 154, 159 Marx, Karl, 57, 68, 211, 226, 267, 269, 318 Marx Brothers, 33 Marxist/Marxism, 197, 213, 226, 272, 294 M.A.S.H., 216 Massumi, Brian, 236–7, 249–50 Matrix, The, 94, 132, 216, 233 Mattelart, Armand, 319 Mauss, Marcel, 211 May, Christopher, 319 May, Derrick, 162, 170, 172–3, 175 Mayer, Andre, 269 Maynard, Patrick, 141 Mbaye, Massamba, 16, 98, 109 M Butterfly, 227

McCarthy, Anna, 76 McGovern, Catherine, 99, 109 McLuhan, Marshall, 4, 8, 11–15, 20, 23, 25, 29, 31–2, 34–5, 38, 46, 48–51, 56–63, 65, 68, 72, 210–11, 223–4, 226 McRobbie, Angela, 176 memory, 15, 18–19, 46–7, 81, 123, 138, 143, 147, 149, 151, 174, 177–90, 192– 207, 219–20, 222, 291–7, 302, 310 Menand, Louis, 62, 72 Mercer, Kobena, 165, 175 Meredith, George, 198, 306 Merians, Laura, 283 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 10 Merrell, Floyd, 287 Metissacana (Senegal), 99 Metropolis, 33 Michener, Wendy, 43, 50 Microsoft: corporation, 24, 246, 310; Windows, 147; Word, 133, 135; Xbox, 235 Microworlds, Sirens and Argonauts, 137 MIDI, 325 Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), 235, 238 Miller, Toby, 269 Millhouse, 195 Milosevic, Slobodan, 237 MIMENET, 231–3 Minh-Ha, Trinh T., 152, 193 Mitchell, William J., 141 modernity, 4, 6, 9–10, 18, 20, 22, 31, 143, 162, 164, 170–2, 193, 197, 201– 2, 208, 227, 308, 311, 316 Molson’s, 253 montage, 13, 187–8, 195–6, 198, 201, 305–6, 315 Montreal Film Festival, 29



Monument for the Old World (Denkmal fur die alte Welt), 121 Moore, Jack, 324 Moport.com, 277 Morris, Peter, 21, 267 Morris, William, 216 Morse, Margaret, 307, 318 Moses, Daniel David, 20, 222–3, 227 Mother Millennia, 151, 158 Motorola, 282 Moulthrop, Stuart, 154, 159 Moviola, 112, 132 Mowlana, Hamid, 267 Mr Bungle, 20, 215, 217–19, 221 Mr X, 265 MSN Messenger, 52 MTV, 160 MuchMusic, 160 MUD, 215–18 Muir, Adam, 248 Muller, Carol, 110 Mullican, Matt, 116 multiscreen (projections), 31, 43 Multitude, The, 9 Murch, Walter, 60, 64, 72 murmur project, 278 Murray, Janet, 140 My Body: A Wunderkammer, 147 My Boyfriend Came Back from the War, 153 Mydans, Seth, 190 Myers, Toni, 83 My Neck Is Thinner than a Hair, 206

National Film Board of Canada (NFB), 30, 38–9, 43, 45, 47, 50–1, 266; Unit B, 15, 30–1 Ndiaye Diadji, Iba, 100, 109–10 Ndiaye, Fatou Sow, 109 Negri, Antonio, 9, 24, 231, 247, 248, 250 Nelson, Joyce, 268 Newland, Marv, 251–2 Newman, James, 249 New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), 98–9, 109 New Rulers of the World, The, 190 Newsroom, The, 265 New York Police Department (NYPD), 237 Ng, 113 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 68, 210, 220–1, 224–5, 227, 297 Nintendo, 242, 292 Nokia, 282, 299 Nørretranders, Tor, 127, 140, 288, 301 Nowhere to Hide, 233

NAFTA, 307 Nakamura, Lisa, 161 Napoleon, 35 narrative geography, 189 NASA, 281 NASDAQ, 86

Pandemic Studios, 235, 245–6 Paquette, Andrew, 245 Patchwork Girl or A Modern Monster by Mary/Shelley and Herself, 154, 157 Pause, 121

Odin, Jaishree, 158 O’Keeffe, Georgia, 145 Okpewho, Isidore, 110 O’Neill, Pat, 200 Ophüls, Marcel, 187–88 Oppenheimer, Joshua, 202–4 Ortiz, Fernando, 201 Orwell, George, 256

358 Index Peirce, Charles Sanders, 22, 286–8, 291–7, 299–300, 302–3 Pendakur, Manjunath, 253, 268, 337 Pentagon, 205, 232–3, 235, 246 performance, 47 Persaud, Nalini, 195, 208 Petit Pagne, 99, 109 Petry, Martha, 147, 157 Petterd, Robin, 141 phantasmagoria, 9–10, 54 Photoshop, 133, 135, 309 Piaget, Jean, 114, 125 Pilger, John, 190 Pink Floyd, 61 Pixar, 252, 264, 268 Plant, Sadie, 147, 157, 159, 276 Plato, 55 Poch-Goldin, Alex, 267 Pokémon, 5, 221, 291–2, 293–5 Polar Express, 94 Polar Life, 34 Polyvision, 31 postmodern, 68, 163, 170, 171, 212, 226, 317–18 Power in Motion: Capital Mobility and the Indonesian State, 190 Prince (the artist now known again as), 174 projection, 8, 31, 38, 46, 78, 83, 90, 93, 111, 123, 136, 225, 312 QuickTime, 14, 16, 77, 80–8, 94; screens, 15 Quintas, Eva, 99, 109 Raad, Walid, 20, 193, 194, 199, 204, 205, 206, 207 Rabinovitz, Lauren, 92 race memory, 19, 170, 174 Rama, Angel, 201

Rathburn, Eldon, 45 Rauschenberg, Robert, 310 Recombinant History Project, 200 Red Violin, The, 266–7 Reed, Ishmael, 170 Regan, Ronald, 177–8 Rehearsal of Memory, A, 20, 219–20, 222 Reinsel, Joe, 278, 283 Renault, Mary, 41 Resnais, Alain, 198 Resonance of Four, 314 Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), 234 Richards, Kate, 200 Rigsby, Jeremy, 125 Rist, Pipilotti, 86 Robinson, Stanley Kim, 214, 226 Rochijat, P., 191 Rodowick, D.N., 313, 319 Rogoff, Irit, 279, 281 Rouvelle, James, 278 RTMark, 315 Ruby, Jay, 268, 332 Russolo, Luigi, 59, 72 Ryan, Marie-Laure, 141 Safdie, Moshe, 32, 47 Sale Away, 277, 282 Samphan, Khieu, 177–8 Samplers: Nine Vicious Little Hypertexts, 154 Sankofa Collective, 193 Sassen, Saskia, 307, 319 Schaffer, Pierre, 56, 65 Schapiro, Miriam, 154 Schiller, Herbert I., 267 Schmidt, Sarah, 267–9 Schneeman, Carolee, 8 science fiction, 35, 161, 170

Index Scott, Peter Dale, 190–1 Scott, Ridley, 263 screens, 5, 7, 16, 30–1, 33–5, 39, 43–8, 51, 74–80, 82–4, 86, 90–1, 93–5, 117, 131–2, 136, 138, 173, 201, 218, 305, 321, 324, 339 Seck, Madické, 16, 98, 109 SEED Collective, 280–1, 283 Sembène, Ousmane, 108, 110 Sensory Environments Evaluation program (SEE), 233 Serres, Michel, 54–6, 61, 69–73 Shakar, Gregory, 53 Shannon and Weaver, 307 Shatnoff, Judith, 31, 49 Shaw, George Bernard, 33 Shepperson, Arnold, 110 Shine, Anthony, 32 Shive, Adam, 137 Shock and Awe, 232 Signal – Germany in the Air, 199 Simó, Agueda, 137 Simpson Fletcher, Yael, 195, 208 Simpsons, The, 260 Singer, Ben, 93 Siskind, Jacob, 49 situationists, 253, 314 SKG, 75 Skoller, Jeffrey, 199–200, 209 Slane, Andrea, 152, 158 slaves/slavery, 170, 297 Smith, Daniel W., 73 Smith, Michael Peter, 24 Snake River, 180–3, 203–4 Snow, Michael, 58 Sobchack, Vivian, 77, 91–2, 94 Soja, Edward, 12 Sontag, Susan, 65, 73 Sony, 132, 232, 235, 245–6 Sorrow Songs, 163–4, 170


Sow, Alpha, 109 Space-Frame Fair, 31 SpaceStation 3D, 83 Spacewar, 232 Spark, Nick T., 268 Speculative Archive for Historical Clarification, 193, 199, 204–5 Spielberg, Steven, 154 Sputnik, 35, 62 Stack, Michael, 212–13, 216, 226 Stanton, Andrew, 258 Star Trek, 30, 116 Star Wars, 94 Steenbeck, 17, 112, 132 Stein, Jared, 137 Stevens, Wallace, 15, 40–1, 50 Stewart, Susan, 87–9, 95 Stockwell, Stephen, 248 Stoppiello, Dawn, 151, 158 Storyspace, 147 Straw, Will, 91 subaltern, the, 19, 170, 192 Sun Ra and his Arkestra, 171 Super Smart, 279 Sy, Djibril, 109 Synchronicité, 152 Tajiri, Rea, 193 Takayoshi, Pamela, 18, 148, 158 Talbott, Charlie, 205 Talibés, 99, 109 Tarantino, Quentin, 314 Tate, Greg, 19, 170 Taxpayers for Common Sense, 245 Telegarden, 316 Teleporting an Unknown State, 316 Terminal Time, 199, 200, 202–3 Third Generation: A Website Project on Family Photographs and the Rhetoric

360 Index of Memories of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, 152 Thompson, Clive, 227 Thompson, Francis, 34 Thompson, Kristen, 260–1 Thompson, Robert Farris, 176 Thomson, Douglass H., 158 THQ Inc., 235, 245–6 Tiananmen Square, 115 Time Warner, 5 Tine, Moussa, 16, 98, 108 To Be Alive, 34 Tomaselli, Keyan, 110 Toop, David, 162 Toronto Explorations Group, 32 Total Recall, 233 Toy Story, 264 Tracing the Decay of Fiction, 200 Training Day, 233 transculturation, 201 trauma, 168, 174, 183, 191, 194, 203–4, 208, 243 Travis, Molly Abel, 158 Troupe, Quincy, 175 Trudeau, Pierre, 47 Trudel, Pascal, 152, 158 Tsing, Anna, 24 Tufte, Edward, 141 TVTV, 324 Tyrwhitt, Jacqueline, 32 Ugo Ugo Lhuga, 220 Ukadike, Nwachukwu Frank, 109 UNESCO, 109 Universe, 40 Unkrich, Lee, 258–9, 268 Urban Peasants, 200 URBANtells, 278, 283 Utopia, 199 Uwemedimo, Michael, 202–4

Valery, Paul, 61 Vandelman, Harry, 32 Vanlint, Derek, 263–4 Vasulka, Woody, 7 Venturi, Robert, 112, 123, 125 Vertov, Dziga, 120–1 Viacom, 75 video games, 138, 232, 252 Village Voice, The, 215 Viola, Bill, 137 Virilio, Paul, 246, 250, 308–9, 319 virtual reality (VR), 20, 60, 128, 138, 214–23, 227, 233 Vision Machine, 193, 202–4 Vivendi-Universal, 75 VNS Matrix, 147 Von Trier, Lars, 53 Vukov, Tamara, 248, 250 Wagmister, Fabrian, 97, 100, 105, 108, 110, 141 Wagner, W. Richard, 59, 64, 72 Waking Life, 131–2 Waldrop, M. Mitchell, 140 Walker, Dean, 48 Walker Art Gallery, 309 Wallace, Linda, 200–1, 209 Warhol, Andy, 211 Washington Post, 205 water screen, 31 Way Back Machine, 309 We Are Young, 34 Webstalker, The, 315 Weibel, Peter, 7, 49 White, Hayden, 197–98, 318 WiFi, 325 Wiki, 315 Wilding, Faith, 148, 153–4, 158 Williams, Raymond, 29, 48 Wilson, Brian, 61

Index Wilson-Goldie, Kaelen, 208 Winters, Jeffrey, 190 Wise, Wyndham, 50–1 Witch’s Work Is Never Done, A, 154 WNBC, 119 WOE, or a Memory of What Will Be, 147 Women’s Labour History Project, 193, 195, 208 Woolf, Virginia, 53, 63, 65–70, 72–3 World Lesbian Biography, 151, 158 Wundt, Wilhelm, 289


Wynter, Sylvia, 169 Xbox, 235. See also Microsoft Xerox, 118, 134 Yale, Joel, 49 Young, Stacey, 283 Youngblood, Gene, 7–8, 11, 33, 35, 46–7, 49–51 Zimmerman, Patricia, 93