ecological evolutions in technological art
each technology constitutes a specific apparatus
Each technology constitutes a specific apparatus. Each apparatus permits a different relation of the artist to the tool, a different texture of image and sound, a different production of meaning, a different perception in space and time, a different relation to the spectator. No hierarchical evaluation is conceivable among these different tools.
The idea of media ecology might first appear to be a contradiction. Ecology deals with the organisation of living matter; originally it is a "biology of nature", therefore related to the organic, whereas audio-visual technologies are inorganic, in particular electronic and information technologies.
Media ecology inevitably evokes the complex relationship between technology and nature. Through the centuries technologies have been used to dominate nature, in other terms to rationalize it, to make it profitable for the needs of the humans - a process which produces short term opulence and long term destruction. Introduced by Ernst Haeckel in 1866 the term ecology was meant to define the science which studies the relationships between organisms and their environment. Ecology as a political theory has emerged after the 2nd World War.
At present it is clear that technology has become part of our environment, and that it is used to constantly modify nature. Throughout the industrial and the nuclear era technology invades ecosystems. It is difficult to separate technology from nature today.
Marshall McLuhan was the first one to point this out. He said:
"We now live in a technologically prepared environment that blankets the earth itself. The humanly contrived environment of electric information and power has begun to take precedence over the old environment of "nature". Nature, as it were, begins to be the content of our technology".
Although human technology does not affect all of nature, but only part of it [nature remains infinitely more vast and complex than our technological systems], McLuhan's statement certainly concerns our immediate natural environment.
Extending McLuhan's thought Arthur Kroker argues that "technology has genuinely come alive as a living species... It has acquired organicity... It has its own forms of intelligence... its own principles of dynamic growth...".
If we consider technologies as species, we are confronted with an ironic fact [fate]. The ideology of domination which provokes the tension between technology and nature is transferred inside the technological art field, where up-to-date technologies' promotion induces less recent technologies' extinction.
The alternative of a media ecology which we propose attempts to value and defend the vast variety of technological phenomena which energize the field of the arts in the industrial and post industrial era. This implies a non exclusive viewpoint which embraces both analogue and digital processes, light media and high technology, respecting their complementarity.
For example light-weight technologies have the advantage of low cost and therefore high mobility through independent production. In that respect they have a certain subversive potential. They are often experienced as direct body and gaze extensions. They are apt to explore intimacy. Advanced technologies invested by artists may also have a subversive potential insofar as their consumer function may be short-circuited by the imaginary. Advanced technologies may encourage more abstractized views related to scientific models. They integrate higher degrees of mediation. Past technologies may be powerful activators of cultural memory, as well as catalysts for a critical reading of the present. They often testify to dimensions lost. For instance, precinematic apparatus have a poetic potential which is absent from information systems. On the other hand state-of-the-art technologies are mirrors of our social and cultural mapped future. It is crucial to explore their potential and explode their limits.
Therefore it’s important to adopt a complex approach to art and technology and and consider the different technologies which have emerged within the two last centuries as a constellation. As a network, a field of interactions.
Thanx to Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki ©
[Konfigurationen. Zwischen Kunst und Medien, München, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Sigrid Schade-Georg Christoph Tholen editors, 1999 / book and CD-Rom]perso.wanadoo.fr/astarti/60eco.htm
references and further reading:
artists-sites on technology and ecology:
litterature, culture and ecology:
the Green Studies Reader, edited by Laurence Coupe
Routledge, London, 2000
"While I prefer the more inclusive term, 'green studies', the more specific term 'ecocriticism', has the advantage of reminding us to register the critical' quality of these times. For we are not only concerned with the status of the referent and the need to do it justice, in the sense of taking it seriously as something more than linguistic; we are also concerned with the larger question of justice, of the rights of our fellow-creatures, of forests and rivers, and ultimately of the biosphere itself. That is to say, green studies is much more than a revival of mimesis: it is a new kind of pragmatics."
The Green Studies Reader is a comprehensive selection of critical texts which address the connection between ecology, culture, and literature. It offers a guide to the growing area of 'ecocriticism' and a wealth of material on green issues from the romantic period to the present.
Included are extracts from today's leading ecocritics and figures from the past who pioneered a green approach to literature and culture.
Texts from : o.a Henry David Thoreau, John Ruskin, Virginia Woolf, Donna Haraway, Lyotard, Adorno and Horkheimer, Claude Levi Strauss, Helene Cixous.