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nettime: Art, Power, and Communication - Alexei Shulgin


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Alexei Shulgin

Art, Power, and Communication

(Some simple thoughts without any wish to make them more profound)

I intentionally wrote this paper directly in English which I am not good
in and I know that what I am going to say may sound rather declarative,
generalised and clumsy. But the only alternative to this I see is to say
nothing. In all other cases multitude of possible interpretations and
associations will wash out those grains of sense I am almost hopelessly
trying to find and bring out.

How one can dare to use words trying to explain something?
Isn't it obvious now as never before that words fail to describe anything?
Let's be honest - words now are nothing but just another medium for an

1. The mechanics of repressive social institutes requires certain level
of stability. People, that those institutes are basing their power on,
brainwashed by them want to have certain past, present and future. They
have some possessions to lose. They need stability to keep those values,
that in fact are imposed to them.

But -

Past does not exist, because it can be easily re-written. Describing the
past, writing history writers are trying to possess it, to obtain power
on it, and through it - power on the present - using people's desire to
have some certain (or uncertain) past to identify themselves. Not
everybody is satisfied with the past, that's why each new past
maintained by historians-seducers attracts people's attention: will I
(my family, my country, my gender, my race) look better in the light of
the brand-new past?

Same with future - it does not exist either, every new future proposed
is just another attempt to take the power.

But present does not exist for majority of people either. They are
living through it basing their movements on false and imposed pictures
of the past and future they have. They don't communicate.

2. What theory? Yes, you can make a brilliant logical conclusions, but
what about their starting points, what about axioms? Aren't they
completely uncertain and uncompulsory?

3. Talking about art we always imply art forms in which this art exists.
Art forms that are approved and regulated by rotten art institutions.
Even underground art always refers itself to established one.
Art, artistic activity as we know it now, is a result of a will for
communication, suppressed by power social structures. Only art based on
the idea of representation has become possible under those

Computer brought out some alternative - "media art" that has immediately
become a synonym for "experimental art" from the point of view of high
art society.  Looking at very popular media art form such as
"interactive installation" I always wonder how people (viewers) are
exited about this new way of manipulation on them. It seems that
manipulation is the only form of communication they know and can
appreciate. They are happily following very few options given to them by
artists: press left or right button, jump or sit. Their manipulators
artists feel that and are using seduces of newest technologies (future
now!) to involve people in their pseudo-interactive games obviously
based on banal will for power. But what nice words you can hear around
it: interaction, interface for self-expression, artificial intelligence,
communication even.
So, emergence of media art is characterised by transition from
representation to manipulation.

But manipulation is more communicative when representation.
With the coming of Net something new, shyly calling itself is
emerging, now trying to define itself and experiencing its difference
from other forms of creative activity. The problems of current period of as I see them are deeply rooted in a social determination of the
notions "art" and "artist".
Will we be able to overcome our egos and give up obsolete ideas of
representation and manipulation?
Will we jump headlong into realm of pure communication?
Will we call ourselves "artists" anymore? means communication means present.

4. Artists!  Try to forget the very word and notion "art". Forget those
silly fetishes - artefacts that are imposed to you by suppressive system
you were obliged to refer your creative activity to.

Theorists! Stop pretending that you are not artists. Your will to obtain
power on people seducing them with intellectual speculations is very
obvious (though understandable). But realm of pure and genuine
communication is much more appealing and is becoming very possible

Media artists! Stop manipulate people with your fake "interactive media
installations" and "intelligent interfaces"! You are very close to the
idea of communication, closer than artists and theorists! Just get rid
of your ambitions and don't regard people as idiots, unable for creative
communication. Today you can find those that can affiliate you on equal
level. If you want of course.

5. Question:
How to turn very natural will for power into artistic tool instead of
banal use of it for obtaining the power itself?

a. Forget about past and future, because they don't exist, concentrate
on present that can't be described and therefore possessed by anybody.
b. Change your occupation just before you became well-known in your
sphere, and before the movement you are in starts to create its own
history. Then, when you start something else as a beginner, your will
for power and for recognition will give you strong creative impulse.
c. Don't be dependent on medium you are working with - this will help
you to easily give it up. Don't become a Master.

............................... wwwart centre......

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*  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
*  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
*  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
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