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before|after|poetika [an introduction only]

guy van belle (for mxhz.org)     print
before|after|poetika [an introduction only] guy van belle (for mxhz.org)

realizing the other day that sitting here and talking to someone about a subject, and also thinking about sound and patching it up in a little sound machine (most of the time ending up with something different than the initial idea) is far easier both than switching this computer on and tapping in a consistent and understandable text. in a way we are used to reading the long strips of letters in newspapers, or the 1 á 2 lines moving text on the television screen, or the pockets with uniform chunks rolling on and on till the story is read. in a way we don't want to end up with that at all.

throughout the years, mxHz tried to reflect on the changes due to our own involvement in what could be called 'computer implemented art', or 'technological art'. we are a collective that reflects on what we are doing, and are willing to change radically if needed (by internal or external pressure either). one remark: we call ourselves a collective since our primordinary endeavor is to create collaborative works. and even if sometimes we made solo works, we are aware that those are always based on a shared content, shared skills, a strong will to communicate them, and finally related to the small social group's focus and development.

earlier we were thinking a lot about defining a sort of aesthetics that could not only explain our way of working and performing, but could as well drive a program for an experimental set of actions within the arts. gradually we became aware of the discrepancy between on one side the theoretical discussions including media works, and on the other hand the organisational problems, including the development of technological skills related to the aesthetical activities we were all involved in. maybe we need to create an in between explanation that can be labelled better like a 'poetica' than an 'aesthetica'. what is following are random thoughts in the direction of creating a possible poetica for the early 21st century.

these discussions will be further developed within the framework of okno.be, which includes the suborganisations mxhz.org, code31 and so-on. that is why we consider this text preliminary. in pointing out the different directions we hope not to limit ourselves to the artistic context only. we tend to see our work within a wider sociocultural and political environment, and relevant for many different forms of collectives. our networked and mobile settings are a deliberate and substantial choice, and so is our localization in whatever we bring into the public arena. in an earlier version of this text we started with comparing complex political and social situations to our lack of insight at the moment itself. by now all of us are convinced to have largely an overview of what happened historically in the 20th century. but many questions remain. to give an example: though we were living during the 90s and were actively interested in the backgrounds of the breaking up of yugoslavia, in a sense we did not see what was really happening there or could not perceive what these backgrounds were. it is like being too close to the mirror to see the reflection properly. same about our personal activities and how we reflect on them and take explanations for granted, repeating and slightly modifying them where needed. blind as we are and will always be for immediate processes.

several strategies to gain enough distance - apart from this writing - can be applied: [1] a shock, the induction of a fracture that stops the continuity as things develop over time, changing its course, halting it or stopping it, [2] the geographical retreat into unknown territory, abandoning familiar objects, friends and relatives, known procedures for organizing the daily existence [3] the setup of a system to be described maybe by mid-2006 as 'contra-performance inexpliquée' or: from the deconstructive attitude into a rebuilding upside down of a new temporarily present artifact that self-destructs when the medium it is communicated with will become unreadable [4] application of an explicit intolerance for the normal, the predictable and the obvious in aesthetics, the things with a purpose and a safe existence in a defined locus

we were sitting facing one another while eating, drinking, and writing notes - outside it was raining - talking, thinking aloud and using the food as an excuse for making enough silence for reflection to happen. [mentioning the weather here is not important]. but till today first of all why does it puzzle us and why do we really want to know the possible issues like: initially, are cultural and socio-political critique still possible today, leading to the secondary question of finding out what the new formats (that this rhetoric should take on) are today, ending with the possible description of what hypothetically a poetica überhaupt is these days? we could as well just make a song or do a dance and laugh, which we indeed do once in a while but let's turn to describe what we normally not explain at all but just do: a song, a dance, a laugh. [later will do the opposite and reflect on how to make a song and a dance or a laugh with the description of the process inside the structure and content handling of the creative piece we have in mind]

Coming from literature studies, we know of a 'poetica' as an old form of critical text writing, though that is not a limiting explanation. in a sense we believe that the attitude towards understanding writing is similar to understanding any other artifact made in any medium. the many poeticas we know are in fact very diverse, think of the historical poeticas like (1) aristoteles's www.gutenberg.org/etext/1974 or horace's www.english.emory.edu/DRAMA/ArsPoetica.html or the more contemporary "poétique d'oulipo" www.fatrazie.com/Laprand.htm

Approaching the current time of writing this, we find that different poeticas were constructed for a variety of purposes, but in general they have a tendency to pinpoint the more technical aspect of the creative aspects of writing and relate that to the social environments in which that activity is taking place. and though it is most of the time overlapping, poeticas are different from aesthetics in that they tend to give us almost a manual for writing. of course (and related to the specific intensions of the writers of poeticas) there are different flavours of poeticas like they can be prescriptive (what styles can you use and how do you write within that style), descriptive (what styles are there around and how did writers create that style), analytical (what techniques were used in the history of literature and by whom), synthetic (what combinations yield what result), or intended for evaluating literature (the good, the bad and the ugly). interestingly poeticas focussed on different aspects of the interpretation of literature. they analysed the works according to the world they exist in (context), or took as a basis the attitude of the audience and readers of the works (reception). many were taking as a starting point the life of the author as a timeline for explanation. within what is called close reading the opposite stand was taken: the work itself was seen as the nucleus from which everything could be learned, concentrating on the use of the language mainly. over the last years there were many extensions and combinations especially with contextualisations and mediatisations, but basically that was already present in the older poeticas. for instance think about the famous dictum by horace: "ut pictora poesis"

now, the (probably unanswerable) question remains: what are we doing now {is the why here appropriate still}? and first of all how can we describe it properly? this leaves us with the question why there are so many manuals for different software (btw all prescriptive!) that are used to create artifacts and none that generally describe the techniques for making technological works. Our answer is not simple and as such will have to be reconstructed by the reader from the fragments and snippets that are left here, filling out the hiats and gaps. only in doubt, with hints into different directions, by taking multiplicity and paradoxes seriously we can create a fertile ground from where new techniques for synthesis can emerge. only this way we can avoid that our activities get paralyzed and lose their dynamics, essential for further development. maybe that is also the reason why pierre schaeffer stopped his sound research with the remarkable poetica "Traité des objets musicaux". and we can ask ourselves: do we create better works after we read it or are we becoming more predictable and closed in by the overwhelming descriptions? same would go for perry cook's "Music, Cognition and Computerized Sound: An Introduction to Psychoacoustics", and curtis roads' "computer music tutorial". actually we think that we become technically better but not contentwise, and certainly we become more disciplinary. if we don't fight back. critically, still the question hammers on: how are you going to talk and what are you going to work on?

maybe we will never really write the intended 12 chapters of our poetica:

1 the presence of a generally accepted network for electronic communication implies that new creative artifacts are mainly developed for this medium, and gradually take a bigger distance from physical or really existing works. locking those into a former disciplinary format. it implies also, due to the technical construction of the communication algorithms running on it that - like the futurists stated already - time and space died yesterday. or the exact 'happening' situated in time and space became gradually irrelevant. additionally when we internalize that property into the work, that maybe the development of activity through time is important but the exact synchronization is not anymore. and that the new works are somehow infinite in all directions.

2 the way we are describing creative activities can come very close to former 'actor network theory', and is nothing but an re-implementation of object oriented and parallel distributed computing into critical thinking: take an object and describe all possible internal and external parameters, then follow the links and describe all the related objects identical. this creates through recombining, parallellization, contradicting and extending a new object. accentuating in this the interactions that occur between objects, we can invent non-existing objects that oppose existing ones and vice versa. reality and imagination are just essential zero or border crossings within the creative artifact

3 what if we treat everything that exists within the network of networked and non-networked creative artifacts, physical and non-physical people, actions and activities, as the material that makes up the creative artifact?

4-6 there are many political and ideological issues at play. with political we mean two things: (1) present political themes criticizing society and culture in an explicit way and (2) the hidden layers of experimental changes to existing artifacts, from the sound to visual elements to a different and new structure or composition, but essentially undermining the continuity of style. one breaking point and therefor very political in culture is the recent proliferation of open source that spread from only software development to creative content development. this leads to different topologies in the distribution of works and is undermining the traditional financial infrastructure where disciplinary art forms are still largely relying on. also other things change through that: when a collaborative open publication exists, it has to be read and evaluated differently than an editor-dominated hierarchically created book, since the development is based on other parameters for creating it. that tunes into the current dédains our society, its economists and politicians have for the organization of learning and the organization of innovation in learning. this is currently a week point in open source development but once overcome, it can revolutionize and reinstall the democratic emancipation of general free education as an alternative track to state and company installed ersatz learning.

7-8 as described above, creative content development today has to deal with the repositioning of the different involvements of both composer and engineer into a new commonly shared status. we have urgently to abandon copyright as it is today. creative commons is the least of all evils but will not hold when the complexity of the creative content development raises with an increase of collaborative and both non-physical and non-human works. there are many paths that lead to that, and that are already in existence.

9-10 parallel to the development of shared creative content, we have to develop organizational experiments with virtual cultural communities as well. like the educational and knowledge implementations are essential parts of open source development, also a crucial point in the creating common artifacts is the organization of the development in a different way than we know. what are the new formats collectives (can) use to establish distributed collaborations, that finally lead to the formation of new sustainable groups with specific (timely and non-locative) activities. in this the parameters are formed by what is essential to make distributed actions successful, while parallel developments are not seen as competitive but enriching.

11 the many cross disciplinary actions that are now positioned at the fringe of cultural activity take up the central place for new developments, while the former disciplinary artifacts in reality remain at the surface with minor impact on its audience. it is not the counting of visitors that enter a door that make up the presence of a work within a cultural environment, rather the positioning in the virtual network. increasing cross disciplinary works that transgress the real and imaginary from documentaries to abstract movies, together with real time interactions that change the creative objects to an unrecognizable (from the original since it is only an instance) level demand for a new semiotics: representations can create new interfaces that create new cross synthezis artifacts in an unpredictable myriad of ways. the reinvention of semiotics within this context can lead to a new impulse to radically abandon the current kitch in pop, music and theatre, dance and painting, writing and performing literature, etc... since new synthesis will always be more exciting than copying and mixing the existing forms.

12 the final chapter could bring the previous technical descriptions of innovating activities together in the context of internationalization, mobility and new visions on non-included, developing areas. in that light the making of an ecological alternative to our technological culture and arts could be included. the use of alternative energy for artbot development, the culturization of non-polluting materials, and the construction of ecological environments for display and performance are an essential part of this.

(to be changed)

bratislava : monday 28 february 2006




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