Arthur Clay on Mon, 10 Mar 2008 09:20:28 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Weizenbaum at the Digital Art Weeks 07

Weizenbaum's Cabled Madness

An Introduction Statement

Art Clay

Digital Art Weeks 2007

  The Digital Art Weeks 07 invited performing Artists to submit  
proposals in connection with wearable technology and the arts. This  
resulted in a series of performances during three evenings organized  
in partnership with the Cabaret Voltaire under the theme of “Cabled  
Madness”. Works were chosen particularly from performance artists,  
who use technology (old or new) to empower themselves in an explosion  
of the boundaries of the body and in order to link the audience into  
the virtual of technologically-animated space. The immersive  
character of the works -or the DIY attitude of “here it is and in  
your face” known from non-nerd hacker-artists - hopes to trigger a  
critical observation in the mind of the audience-participant.

In this regard, we at the Digital Art Weeks are not only programming  
and making works of art with a technological long lever, but we are  
hopefully making impact with these works on an aesthetic and social  
level too.” The term “Cabled Madness” itself not only refers to the  
program in the Cabaret Voltaire but it makes an appropriate reference  
to Joseph Weizenbaum”s criticism in regard to computing. This states  
that society basically went mad when it started to put consideration  
and trust into machines in matters which demand human compassion.

The fad use of Weizenbaum”s Eliza program and such concepts as Ronald  
Reagan”s Star Wars System of defense come to mind here. So, like  
Weizenbaum”s plea for sanity in computer application, many of the  
works to be experienced in the Cabaret Voltaire during the Digital  
Art Weeks do trigger critical observation and do so in the hope to  
counteract the most logical form of evolution in the 21st century  
enabled by technology: Intelligence without morals.

In Weizenbaum”s latest book “Wo Sind Sie, die Inseln der Vernunft in  
Cyberstrom””, which roughly translated as “The Island of Reason in  
Cyberspace, Where are They”” one not only reads about computer  
technology itself, but one reads about it framed in a social and  
cultural context.” Weizenbaum often talks about the how film is  
important to him and gives and several examples from which films he  
has learned something.
For example, the   film “Key Largo” is mentioned. This film revolves  
around a hotel that is occupied by gangsters. The counterparts are  
played by Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.” Reference is made  
to the scene in which Bogart asks the gangster boss, what he actually  
wanted or wants. Robinson contemplates the question briefly and  
answers with a single word: “More.”

Weizenbaum then states that this word “more” characterizes our  
society in that not only gangsters just want “more” but so do most  
people. He also states that between the making of the film and today,  
things have changed a bit: Today, people don”t want more, they are  
busy trying to keep what they have. There is a big difference here.  
The “more” of yesterday was an expression of optimism. The “more” of  
today refers not to wanting to have “more”, but to the want for  
security. Politically, we are losing. The American propaganda that  
states “We are a rich country: We can afford to drive around in 400  
PS Luxury wagons” is becoming “more” and “more” a provocation and one  
that leads to only having “less” and not “more”.

If this is true, we should find such discontent in more recent media.  
Sung out by the rebellious punk group Agitpop in a section of the  
song “Loaded with Blanks” we hear:

“Every day is more like a fight:
I”m a twisit”n and a turn”n till I think I right.
I am so sick and tired of more, more, more.”

And a few chords further we hear a few bars of sanity and we have our  

“I”m not happy with what I got but it is all I”ve got.
So I”ll just have to learn to live with that”.

This sounds reasonable, at least more reasonable than driving around   
the narrow streets of Zurich in a Humby at the environment”s cost.

Back to the book,” Weizenbaum speaks of “Islands of Reason”, but  
Island are island and they remain so, separated and isolated from one  
another. Perhaps just a metaphor for the situation of having a small  
amount of reason within a society gone mad, or a needed provocation  
to take action to build “bridges”, or create meaningful bonds between  
people whose goal is, to do something “good” through an act of human  

Further, he expresses in the book a hope that “more” and “more”  
islands of reason join so that at one point in time a “continent of  
reason” forms in a sea of madness. So, in metaphor and in celebration  
of art and science and what may form when such a bridge as the  
Digital Art Weeks is spanned to unite their shores, we can look  
forward to a unique program consisting of Symposium and Festival  
having common themes taken from art and science.

To conclude, we can clearly see that computer technology not only has  
become an important part of our general culture, but stands as living  
proof that art can be coded and that this code is a compassionate  
undertaking that spans bridges not only between artists to form a  
group, but also spans science and art to form a cultural movement in  
which differences between the two are ever diminishing.

Art Clay

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