[name of project]

PROGRESS REPORT —
solid idea, definite plan, yet to find a name for our project

[name of project] is an interactive performance piece that explores the control of social media over a person’s real life decisions and our willingness to let it happen and shape our digital identity. This will play out over Instagram Story, using the poll function as our voting system. There will be two parties posting pre-determined questions at the same time. However, the choices will be decided by the other group and the audience will decide between the choices. The outcome will then apply to the other party. As such, the party will have no control over their day, which is solely determined by the choices the other party provides, and the choice chosen by the audience over Instagram Story. Our decisions and actions for the entire day is dictated by social media and ultimately the people behind.

The Profound Art of Networked Practice

Networked practice is indisputably one of the most revolutionary media in art to date. The engagement of social media has assimilated into the daily, who is to say how far it has burgeoned as a lifestyle, let alone an artistic media. What seems important to me is that we understand the blurred lines between the art, the philosophy, the science, the life in network practice. This contemporary world is highly homogenised, and our biggest development is probably the ability to work around distance and difference, creating a tolerance through our sense of proximity and similarity. That is my personal sentiment.

Dr Maria Chatzichristodoulou (Maria X) spoke about telematic practice at the Art of the Networked Practice Online Symposium on 29 March 2018. She is the Associate Professor in Performance and New Media at London South Bank University (LSBU), and has also worked as a curator, producer, performer, writer and community organiser.

She cites James Baldwin, an American Philosopher, for having put out a favourable definition of telematic practice. He refers to it as “the relation between two or more relatively independent things or systems that hinder, limit or otherwise affect one another”, which Maria X finds interesting for its light on the “interpersonal potential of telematic performances”.

Maria X believes that “telematic performances, like all performances, are about relationships between systems and people”, and “through those interactions they affect others and are affected by others”. I second that, the potential of network practice lies loosely in the interpersonal relationship, but sharply on how the being and the media effect on each other.

“and that is the difference between live performance and recorded performance.”

The prime takeaway form this symposium was, from my personal objective, the difference between live and recorded performance. Maria X mentioned that “unlike other screen practices, telematic performances transform the screen or a projection surface to the place of a live encounter.”

Perhaps, it could also be said that in this metaphysical bandwidth, networked media is a vehicle, transportation for not just distanced communication but also emotional proximity and even physical experience.

“In that sense, the projected image on screen, together with the live performance, become space-time continuum. They connect the audience and performers across geographical boundaries.”

I thought it was apt that Maria X referred to the act of networked practice as a “space-time continuum”. And as we explored the spacial aggregation of networked media, the definitive term of “time continuum” perplexed me. Had time also been aggregated through this practice? Something Maria X said had helped put my thoughts in perspective. She mentioned that live performances were a “perpetual disappearance of their own enactment. On the other hand, their equal dependance on recording technologies mean that those performances intentionally or unintentionally leak traces, which means they self-document.”

The self-documenting and self-augmenting nature of the telematic performances are what makes the performance candid and affecting in live time, a real experience. And to me it is perhaps what makes it a revolutionary media for performance art and philosophy and living.

An example of unconventional telematic performance, as cited by Maria X, was Blast Theory whose work is a fusion of interactive media, digital broadcasting and live performance. She referred to them as an artistic group that does not “develop telematic works in the old sense over a screen”. Lucky for me, Matt Adams of Blast Theory was scheduled to speak the next day.

Matt Adams is a believer of the utopian possibility to create social relationships over the internet. His works provoke and are provoked by the idea of private ownership and profit as the “dominant mean in the landscape” of networked practice. “The idea of connecting people remotely seems rather quaint to me as an idea that it is in and on itself full of possibilities of social forms.”

What really captivated me was Matt Adams ability to see through the selfish utility of networked media and realise the overwhelmingly under-explored potential of the form. His idea of open source is one that can truly be accessed by all, as he described, a “utopia” of some sort where information and research may burgeon through this shared space.

“There is a kind of utopian sense of possibility. The very act of connecting people is itself a radical question and it creates new social relationships. It’s a new form of possibility and I don’t have any answers to this, but my question is where exactly did we make the profound mistake that have brought us to the place that we are today, because those dreams as far as I’m concerned have rarely been delivered on, and when they have been delivered on the commons that have been created have entirely been privatised.”

My stand on this issue is that the idea of privatising a shared intelligence is another intrinsic result of selfish human nature, our want to possess and need to create some sort of hierarchy so that we grow individually and not as a collective species. Perhaps, networked media and its collective nature is what will liberate us from our selfish retardation from the development we would have reached if we would just ‘do it with others’. But the gist of Matt Adams philosophy is that “this is what has happened to our internet”, and his works explore that notion in more ways than one.

Kidnap (1998) by Blast Theory

Kidnap is an interactive performance art piece that is provoked by the insurgence of lottery culture and the obsession of how one’s life could be changed through a singular act. The blurb of this piece according to the Blast Theory is simply that “the winners of a lottery get kidnapped”. And the performance is exactly that — participants who pay £10 to get kidnapped, whereby ten participants were chosen, and two winners were “snatched in broad daylight to a secret location”.

According to Matt Adams, the Spanner Case was a major inspiration for this piece. In this case, a group of gay sadomasochists were apprehended by the police upon finding VHS tapes of them engaging in hardcore sexual activity.

The case escalated to an international concern as a precedent case, which is a major basis of judicial passing in Wales. What actually concerned them was the verdict that by consenting to sadomasochists acts is equivalent to no defence. And therefore, being sentenced to acts of self-mutilation, became a precedent to the legality of body modification, tattoos, piercings. How blood was drawn from your body was now something that you could not consent to, and that the state had the right to interfere.

Matt Adams also highlighted that “the interest in power and power relationships” was another thread at the heart of this piece. The work explored how “power flows between people, between an audience and a set of performers”.

My favourite part of Kidnap is probably its ability to transfer the creative courage and power from the artist to the performer to the audience. It is this salience that creates an unstageable act of artistic research, a candid experience not just for those who participate in it, but also for those who watch it.

“We were fascinated to try and foreground the ways in which we experience power and play with power. Sadomasochism being a prime example in and of itself, since it is fascinating in performative terms.

It is the pretending of something with sufficient fidelity and force to become real in some way. You are acting out some set of power relationship, one person takes a dominant role in general, and one person is taking up a submissive role. Those two people are both pretending, and yet the line between pretence and reality is very hard to untangle. that in itself poses very difficult questions about what power means.”

Angry Women and their Entanglement

Annie Abraham’s Angry Women is a piece hosted on webcam. The webcam acts as a facilitator for the women’s anger. The purpose of this artwork is to make a stand on female anger through angry discussions on the internet. Five performances were carried out with a full womans panel. Another had only men and the other two mixed with female. They also carried out private webcam meetings to reflect on and analyse the performance.

“We all have one subject, in fact. Mine is communication and the difficulty to communicate at all. Everything I do is around that.”

– Annie Abrahams

By using anger as a premise for this performance, remote communication that is through webcam becomes a method of disentanglement for the grievances of the participants.

 “In the beginning I had difficulties accepting these videoarchives because I saw how much they depended on our hazardous trying to interact, to be present in this universe of alone togetherness. Besides I didn’t like my own presence. As in other web performances I felt trapped and revealed myself not as I would have liked to be revealed.”

– Annie Abrahams

Annie believes that communicating in a grid works on the concept of “No Exit”. Having to be present in that small digital space, being isolated in togetherness gives her the sense of entrapment. I find this quite interesting because the act of talking through grievance in this artwork seems like a liberating concept.

“She clearly understands the inherent issues of bandwidth, distance, separation, and even alienation that occurs online. In fact, in many ways she embraces these issues and incorporates them into the vocabulary of her work.”

– Randall Packer on Annie Abrahams

The idea of alienation occurring as a result of bandwidth, disruption when communicating through the third space, is one that is prevalent yet easily overlooked by many – myself included. Through this concept of disruption and bandwidth, we may be able to explore the disentanglement of our real world problems within our curated utopia.

Facebook and Reality

Many of our Facebook actions are like this. They might seem to mean nothing, and yet be taken to mean something. They might seem to mean something, and in fact mean something else

A Reply to facebook Critics
D.E. Wittkower

Facebook has almost become the holy grail in which we document our lives. We are documenting our reality through posts comprising of textual commentary, photographs – sometimes augmented – and all things framed to our liking. By this theory, by the logic of such an act, our Facebook personas can show our reality. But how realistic is this framed reality? Do our posts really mean anything?

My personal belief is slanted towards the idea that our Facebook personas are curations of our lives. Though there have been many talks of the falseness in such propagated realities, I believe there is a reality in curation. Much like an exhibition, these posts are framed and created with personal intention, our ideal representation. These posts are there for a reason.

As the Existentialists argued, my life-choices mean something to me, in large part, because I have chosen them as my own. And so too, my Facebook means something to me, in large part, because I have shared certain kinds of links, taken certain quizzes, and played certain games—and because my friends (who I have chosen) themselves have chosen to do and share what they have chosen to do and share. And I don’t mean this just in the trivial sense that, of course, each of our Feeds are made up of a unique set of different user-generated content.

A Reply to facebook Critics
D.E. Wittkower

How far can we push this representation of our reality? What if we do not frame our posts, but come transparent with the fine details of our lives?

This can be explored in Hasan Elahi’s Tracking Transience 2.0 (2003). In this work of self-surveillance, Elahi publishes his every move online. This act came about he was detained by authorities during one of his travels by bias of his ethnicity, and told that he was going to be ‘watched very closely’. Thus, he began watching himself very closely.

On his website, we see detailed timestamps and unquestionably raw photographs of everyday acts such as toilet trips, uninteresting meals and grocery shopping. There is even a live feed of his exact location.

Elahi uses this extremity of a public transparency rather ironically. He believes that he could do a better job than anyone to execute surveillance on himself through means of such publication. However, by framing his life in such an extreme manner, putting out data of his every move as curated online, he creates a camouflage. It is an unquestionable data that forms a camouflage of reality. The amount of dedication, sacrifice and effort he has put into this work, even giving up a large chunk of his life, is captivating and powerful as a statement and an anti-art.

Media Burn and the Art of Destruction

Ant Farm, an avant garde video arts group founded in 1968 by Chip Lord and Doug Hall, is now a highly acknowledged collective of creatives that embrace the art of destruction (according to Patricia Mellencamp in her Journal of Film and Video).

EAI, Media Burn (https://www.eai.org/titles/media-burn)

One of the collective’s destructive artworks titled Media Burn (1975) is a performance that touches on the representative nature of the media. The artwork consists of crashing a “Phantom Dream Car” (a modified convertible) through a pyramid of televisions.

Doug Hall plays John F. Kennedy in this piece, whereby he touched on the flaws of media in society: ‘What has gone wrong with America is not a random visitation of fate. It is the result of forces that have assumed control of the American system…These forces are: militarism, monopoly, and the mass media…Mass media monopolies control people by their control of information… And who can deny that we are nation addicted to television and the constant flow of media? And not a few of us are frustrated by this addiction. Now I ask you, my fellow Americans: Haven’t you ever wanted to put your foot through your television screen?’

This is relevant to the notions of the hypodermic needle theory in the mass media, a controversial topic left helpless for decades. The ability of the media to inject ideas in to the viewer’s head, its ability to make ideas portrayed seem like the truth is one concept that is played out in this piece.

Chip Lord mentioned in an interview with Randall Packer that the televised image of John F. Kennedy as the first televised tragedy was one of impact and epiphany, since it was one of the first televised image of the bad side of reality. This inspired his work and heavy sentiments towards this side of the media. The destruction of the televisions is acts as a kind of anti-art, a protest. The destruction of a concept can be seen as a rebellious statement, and could perhaps be one of the defining characteristics in such a piece. It is a powerful way to show the anti motion against the lack of media literacy.

 

A Collaborative New Media: The World’s Longest Sentence

The World’s Longest Sentence is an interactive art piece that is enabled by the collaborative contributions of the audience through a website. The site instructs them to “continue the sentence” by submitting material of varying type – including text, image, video and sound.

The audience member is unaware of what precedes in the sentence. I contributed by submitting the phrase “to continue the sentence”. This phrase will then be published at the back of the running sentence on the website.

Generated is a long running, haphazard sentence of all languages and slang. Oddly enough, we are able to make sense of the different fragments contributed, and the stark coincidence in some pieces is compelling to watch.

Narrativity takes on new meaning and form in networked practices, through collaborative, many-tomany systems of writing, media making, and other forms of online expression. In connection with open source thinking, the collective narrative is a sharing and open exchange of conversation, ideas, information, and media that leads to a synthesis of voices: forming a common thread among peers.

Randall Packer, Open Source Studio

The piece is a social media that synthesises the communicative language and thought of a multitude of audiences, creating what seems to be a collage of a narrative. By collapsing our differences as such, and enabling our sentence to tally, the artist has put forth an incessant stream augmented reality; a third space whereby our differentiated thoughts are able to tell the same story. In one read, we are able to experience the narrative from a plethora of physical angles and make sense of them in a metaphysical space of cognition.

The possibilities of peer-to-peer authoring of the collective narrative is now native to our writing tools, such as Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and WordPress, in which multiple authors can coauthor and collaborate on writing projects, often in real time. This dramatically alters the act of writing and narrative, from the singular activity of a very personal form of individual expression, to a collective activity that is highly collaborative: all publishable instantaneously to a global audience.

Randall Packer, Open Source Studio

Much like collaborative online systems such as Google Drive and Google Docs, The World’s Longest Sentence allows for multiple users to co-author a narrative. What differentiates it from such softwares is it’s provision of instruction to allow for live collaboration on a much larger scale. The instructions narrow function as facilitators for the users to move in the same direction when participating in this extensive narrative.

Grand Theft Avatar – As a Third Space

The Third Space has an ability to collapse space and time through a “fragmented and augmented perception of reality”, according to Randall Packer.

We are connected to each other within this space, despite factors of reality that may hinder this connection. An example of such a network is Grand Theft Avatar — a live interactive performance art by Second Front.

In this piece, the participants of Second Front take up pseudo identities and deploy to rob a bank to free the virtual currency of “Linden Dollars”.

The third space represents the fusion of the physical (first space) and the remote (second space) into a third space that can be inhabited by remote users simultaneously or asynchronously.

Randall Packer

Grand Theft Avatar deploys a simultaneous use of the third space, collapsing the notions of reality through allowing such a scene to take place virtually/in a metaphysical space while the subjects are controlled live by actual beings.

It showcases how participants would interact with other participants in real life, however these behaviours are only actualised in a virtual space. This phenomenon rids the scenario of cause and consequence, creating a hole in this staged reality.

The third space is perhaps akin to the fourth dimension, a hyperspace where spatial trajectories have no boundaries, where temporal relations are amorphous, where wormholes reveal pathways that are instantaneous and geographically dispersed.

Randall Packer

The nature of Grand Theft Auto is also said to allow it’s players to experience thrill through reckless behaviours that harbour serious consequences in real life.

It could then be said that in this third space, actual beings can experience a different and impossible version of reality through this media. This quality brings a certain superior level of flexibility to the third space.

From Proprietary to Open Source: Our Expanded Studio Space

The Open Source model is one that gives everybody the right to be a content creator.

Before the advent of Open Source, the Proprietary media had limited our practice to our a selective pool of message senders, particularly those who were practiced media. Open Source gave anyone who had access to this system an opportunity to publish their messages through this media.

The concept of the open source studio finds its greatest potential in the collaborative practices among peer groups that share goals, methods, ideologies, and aspirations. When artists and other creative practitioners aggregate their work (do it with others), it Fig5 Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, Hole-In-Space: A Public Communications Sculpture, 1980. (Image courtesy of pacificstandardtime.org.) IEEE Potentials November/December 2015 n 37 constitutes a form of cultural production that is collective in nature, whether it be a work of art, creative dialogue, or social interaction with the public. The Internet and social media have catalyzed this capability by providing multiple distribution channels for discourse and shared production.

– Packer R, Open Source Studio

Open source also means that users can interact with sources, therefore making it a space for DIWO (Do It With Others), which is a movement that encourages a collaborative practice.

Another difference between the proprietary and open source model is it’s directional ability as a means of communication. Proprietary is a unilateral communication model, whereby open source’s bilateral ability can allow for  a review of the message. In a sense, the source can be influenced in real time by multiple users, providing it with a different value.

…fast, efficient, and dependable communication, guided by protocols both social and digital (a process Benkler calls “integration”, can generate brilliant and powerful tools and expressions

Vaidhyanathan S, Open Source as Culture-Culture as Open Source

This model also changed the market by providing non-commercial, non-copyrighted materials to the public, putting a question mark in people’s heads. This efficient means of communication sped up the development of many industries as the pool of accessible information had greatly increased, and the speed at which such knowledge could me acquired had also improved a fair bit.

This Urban Gymnasium is an installation that invites it’s audience to use household materials in actual gym culture. The art is not just in the physical setup but is also defined by the audience’s performance.

As artists, we are also able to leverage on this system by allowing our audiences to interact with or even influence the outcome of our works. This act of DIWO is phenomenal because it allows our audiences to share the experience of art making with us.