Posted on | januari 5, 2014 | 6 Comments
Within circles of bird watchers there has been debates on field uses of smartphones and similar devices to create attractant noise. With eg. an iPhone you can easily playback the sounds of different bird species in order to lure birds out of their hiding places. Several bird watchers do not appreciate this use. Yesterday Sarah Portlock wrote in Wall Street Journal about recent debates.
As Christopher Vogel approached a hot spot for Louisiana waterthrushes in a New Jersey state forest one spring day, the professional ornithologist could hear the bird’s complex crescendo of ”CHEE-CHEE-CHEE-titi-WEE.”
But something didn’t seem quite right.
Then he spotted the trouble. The warble wasn’t coming from a bird. Rather, he said, a large man in full birding regalia—khaki field vest, floppy sun hat and expensive binoculars—was standing there on a bridge, his iPhone chirping away. It was loudly playing the bird’s song, seemingly on a loop, in an effort to lure the bird into view.
”He thought he was alone. He was being on the sly,” recalled Mr. Vogel, 41 years old. ”And then somebody caught him.”
”I told him, ‘You know that’s exactly what you’re not supposed to be doing.’ ” Mr. Vogel then snapped a photo of the man and threatened to post it online for public shaming. The birder blanched, said nothing, went back to his car and left.
I’m not a bird watcher, and don’t have any specific idea on where to draw the line between appropriate and non-appropriate technology use in this context. But I feel tempted to relate the debates and controversies about smartphones and bird watching to a concept I introduced in the text “Enhancement or Distortion? From The Claude Glass to Instagram” last year. In the text I discussed how recent debates on Instagram aesthetics could be related to earlier controversies around imaging technologies like the Claude Glass. The concept I used to try to understand the debates and often strong feelings around technology use was “borrowed features”. The concept has to do with normative aesthetics and the negotiations on uses of new technologies.
Here’s a part from the text, in which I described how disdain and strong feelings around technology use could be interpreted as…
…a historically recurring theme of what could be called normative aesthetics. It is part of a defense of craftsmanship and ideas about professionalism. It is part and parcel of the social dynamics that occur when new technologies are introduced in various practices. When electric, then electronic and digital music instruments were introduced there were reactions against the loss of musical craftsmanship. Some writers still prefer mechanical typewriters, arguing that computer-based writing is numbing and dumbing. The same goes for imaging technologies. (…) But there is more to the story.
New tools encourage and strengthen some practices. New technologies are to some extent often prosthetic (McLuhan 1995). They offer new possibilities, they might enhance the abilities of the user, while they are also numbing or blocking some capacities. (…) This shift of knowledge (and skill) can be challenging.
There is a moral undercurrent that seems to run along much of the critique against uses of various technologies. The undercurrent is best illustrated by the fable about ”the bird in borrowed feathers”, in which a bird (sometimes a crow or a jay) borrows finery from another species in order to impress. The beautiful bird is however revealed to be ”fake” and the borrowed (and sometimes its own) feathers are torn off. This moral stance seems to spur critics when they disdain uses of new technologies as ”cheap gains” or as reliance on tools without having any real skill. I feel tempted to slightly tweak the fable to being about borrowed features.
It feels appropriate to use the notion of borrowed features/feathers when it comes to electronic imitation of bird song. And when Jeffrey Gordon (president of the American Birding Association) speak about thoughtless playback of sound out in the field , borrowed features/feathers comes to mind .
”I find it so boorish when people are just out here, indiscriminately blasting stuff,” said Mr. Gordon, who uses an app, but says he does so judiciously. ”When we’re getting out, we’re trying to become more attentive to what’s around us, and playback—or any kind of overreliance on gadgetry—can quickly start to erode the experience.”
Technology use in settings associated with wildlife and nature is a truly thought provoking topic.
Posted on | december 18, 2013 | No Comments
Ethnographic Terminalia is a curatorial collective that exhibits new forms of anthropology engaged with contemporary art practice. Playfully exploring reflexivity and positionality, we ask what lies within and what lies beyond disciplinary territories.
This year Ethnographic Terminalia is pleased to present “Exhibition as Residency—Art, Anthropology, Collaboration”. It brings together international artists and anthropologists for a five-day residency in which to perform, exhibit, and experiment with collaborative research practices in a public space. Projects explore visual ethnography, material culture, indigeneity, colonialism, diasporas, realist painting, fine art, fashion, and video art. The gallery space represents an opportunity for resident artists and visitors to participate in the process of collaboration and the diverse intersections of art and anthropology.
My contribution was the production of a five-minute video work called Almost There [Washington Park]. This experimental film presents a surreal account of imagined venues associated with Washington Park area in Chicago. Produced over the course of the Residency, the film was based on imagery and material associated with the City of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games, in which Washington Park was proposed as the main site for the Olympic arena, as well as sounds and images related to the Washington Park area in general. While Chicago lost the bid to Rio de Janeiro, the ‘dream’ to host the games is now part of the city’s history. I partly built on another project, Fieldnotes (which was also screened during the residency), to understand the extent to which dreamscapes associated with place can enchant a city. Another aspect of the work is the role of detachment and estrangement as part of both artistic and ethnographic practice.
The other participants of the residency were:
Charlotte Bik Bandlien (anthropologist), fashion design label HAiK with us! and Ruben Steinum (artist)
Zoe Bray (artist/anthropologist) [USA]
The EBANO Collective [Portugal]
The Ethnographic Terminalia Collective
Jesse Colin Jackson (artist), Tori Foster (artist), Lindsay A Bell (anthropologist) [USA/Canada]
Ian Kirkpatrick (artist) [UK]
Andrea Walsh (anthropologist), Trudi Lynn Smith (artist/anthropologist), Sylvia Olsen(artist/historian) in collaboration with Coast Salish Knitters Adam Olsen and Joni Olsen[Canada].
”Exhibition as Residency” was also connected to the 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association as one of its ”Installations”.
The Arts Incubator in Washington Park is part of Chicago University’s Arts + Public Life initiative.
Posted on | oktober 12, 2013 | No Comments
Yesterday I had a seminar at The Department of Culture and Media Studies at Umeå University. The theme was Art Probes and I presented my work in the borderlands between art and cultural analysis. The discussion was thought provoking and fruitful, so thanks to everyone who took the time to participate!
In the evening before the Seminar I walked around the city, taking some photos. Especially the large number of yellow birch trees standing along the streets caught my eye. When I should convert one of the photos to JPEG-format a glitch occurred, resulting in the color effect in the image to the left. There is something about birch trees, visualization and digital effects.
During the evening we visited the local jazz club, listening to an energizing concert by Tarabband, CLEO, Le Système and Julia Spada with a guest freestyle rapper from Texas. Back at the hotel was a grand opening party , with guest appearences by Lisa Miskovsky and the punkrock band Sator. An unexpected large dose of music this time in Umeå.
Posted on | oktober 3, 2013 | No Comments
The book Anthropology and Art Practice, edited by Arnd Schneider and Chris Wright has just ben published. I have contributed with a chapter called ”Out of Hand – Reflections on Elsewhereness”. Among the other authors are Kate Hennessy and Craig Campbell, both part of the Ethnographic Terminalia collective. This is how the book is described:
”Anthropology and Art Practice takes an innovative look at new experimental work informed by the newly-reconfigured relationship between the arts and anthropology. This practice-based and visual work can be characterised as ‘art-ethnography’. In engaging with the concerns of both fields, this cutting-edge study tackles current issues such as the role of the artist in collaborative work, and the political uses of documentary. The book focuses on key works from artists and anthropologists that engage with ‘art-ethnography’ and investigates the processes and strategies behind their creation and exhibition.
The book highlights the work of a new generation of practitioners in this hybrid field, such as Anthony Luvera, Kathryn Ramey, Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, Kate Hennessy and Jennifer Deger, who work in a diverse range of media – including film, photography, sound and performance. Anthropology and Art Practice suggests a series of radical challenges to assumptions made on both sides of the art/anthropology divide and is intended to inspire further dialogue and provide essential reading for a wide range of students and practitioners.”
A couple of short reviews:
“Those familiar with the two previous outstanding collections edited by Schneider and Wright, examining the relationships between art and anthropology, will find this addition, making a trilogy, equally indispensable. The distinctive value of this collection is indeed its close examination of ‘practice’ amid the growing importance of thinking and experiment that blurs the boundaries between anthropological research and artistic intervention. No other work better shows, rather than tells, what ‘keywords’ like performance, collaboration, participation, installation, and curatorial/ ethnographic method mean in this lively realm of the senses, imagination, and contemporary curating.” – George E. Marcus, Director, Center for Ethnography, University of California, Irvine
“One of the most promising directions for new research into contemporary art practice can be found in the rapprochement between art history and anthropology, as artists increasingly find themselves working in complex social contexts beyond the confines of galleries and museums. Schneider and Wright’s collection provides an invaluable compendium of current research at this important disciplinary intersection.” – Grant Kester is Professor of Art History at UCSD, USA and author of ‘The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context’
Posted on | juni 12, 2013 | No Comments
At the end of May and the beginning of June I was in Melbourne together with Swedish colleagues Martin Berg, Åsa Bäckström, Vaike Fors and Tom O’Dell to initiate collaborations with digital ethnography researchers at RMIT. It felt like the start of something good, with a lot of thought provoking discussions as well as fruitful strategical roadmapping. We also had a workshop aimed at producing a book. As part of the workshop I screened two parts of my new video series Fieldnotes. Some of the RMIT-people participating were Heather Horst, Tania Lewis, Cecily Maller, Sarah Pink, John Postill, Yolande Strengers and Jo Tacchi.
Posted on | maj 21, 2013 | No Comments
From September I will participate in the research project/theme DigiTrust at the Pufendorf institute, Lund university. The group of researchers include experts in cryptography, intellectual property rights, media history, innovation management, information science, media and communication, sociology of law, software engineering as well as hands on experience from the industry. Yesterday we had a meeting to plan the coming research. Here’s a short description of the theme:
The purpose of DigiTrust is to better understand the importance of trust in a digital society, how issues of privacy and identity are handled, and how legitimacy is reached or breached. This is a multi- and cross-disciplinary research theme centered on the complexities of trust in a digital context that will study privacy, identity and legitimacy in relation to 1) Security and privacy awareness in a digital context; 2) What knowledge (institutions) are trusted and how is this constructed; and 3) Surveillance and data retention as a legal trend.
Posted on | maj 14, 2013 | No Comments
My experimental essay ”The Imaginary Scream” has been published in HZ, the journal run by Fylkingen. Based in Stockholm, ”Fylkingen is a venue and artists’ society for new and experimental work in music, performance, video, film, dance, sound-text composition and intermedia. Since its establishment in the 1930s, Fylkingen has been committed to experimental work in the contemporary performing arts. The organisation is made up of over 250 member artists from many disciplines who use the venue to develop and present new work.”.
Posted on | april 17, 2013 | No Comments
I have just finished a sound composition for the videowork /installation Edifice by French artist Véronique Mouysset. Edifice is a work in several iterations, where composers are invited to contribute electroacoustic music and sound compositions in order to evoke acoustic dimensions of architectonic structures. Previous contributors are: Michèle Bokanowski, Jean-Philippe Renoult, Laurence Bouckaert, Pierre Couprie and Francis Larvor. According to Véronique Christine Groult has also just finished a piece.
Posted on | april 12, 2013 | No Comments
On Saturday April 19 the book ”Sarai Reader 09: Projections” was launched at Devi Art Foundation in New Delhi. I participate in the book with a chapter called Enhancement or Distortion? From The Claude Glass to Instagram. The chapter deals with the ways that imaging technologies and various kinds of creative tools can be related to landscape representation. I juxtapose recent discussions on Instagram aesthetics to similar issues that appeared in relation to uses of earlier visual tools like The Claude Glass and The Lorrain Mirror. In the text I introduce the concept ”borrowed features” to tweak the understandings of creativity, digital tools and ”cheap gains” . The book is available as PDF via the link above.
Posted on | mars 6, 2013 | No Comments
When I wrote my PhD about the Swedish internet consultancy Framfab (during the dot com boom), the business rhetoric of these young companies were characterized by a disassociation from earlier heavy manufacturing industries. The new economy based on buzzwords like networks and knowledge were to be very different from the businesses and structures of old paper and steel industries.
This was past of an aestheticization of the (past) industrial society). Heavy industry were supposed to be history. During the last decades we have seen a widespread movement, through which earlier dirty heavy industry has been approached as aesthetic objects. Refurbished old factories were turned into lofts, new offices, art museums, restaurants etc. This is a process that is still ongoing. Rusty steel, dirty bricks and concrete structures has become backdrop for a number of new ”softer” endeavors.
But of course we still live in a very industrial society. The difference is that today heavy industrial production has become more or less invisible in large parts of the Western world (and also in parts of countries like China, where the dirty industry has left the centers of cities like Shanghai to reappear in other places). This process is what I call the rise of Industrial Cool. Heavy industry is aestheticized and associated with the past. I have dealt with this in a book, some articles and an art project.
During the last years the notion of Industrial Cool has transformed in a fascinating way. I’m tempted to call this a move to Industrial Cool 2.0. When large corporations like Google started to buy paper mills in Finland, when they (together with a number of other new Internet giants) started to build huge data centers, a new kind of very obvious industrial structures appeared. And here is the really nice twist to it all… In year 2000, when companies like Framfab spoke about their businesses, the ephemerality and almost non-physical character of new electronic networks and speedy slows were stressed. The new economy was supposed to happen on the other side of the glass of monitors and screens. But of course, there were always a very physical structure of Internet, that made it all happen.However, that structure was seldom made visible. Today, a new kind of visualization of heavy large scale hardware is happening. The industrial structures of the Internet are today aestheticized, and we can start talking about Industrial Cool 2.0. Google has started to present evocative images from their huge data centers. They want to show ”where the internet lives”. Using suggestive lighting and bright colors the industrial structures of Internet are made visible.
Jussi Parikka has written a great post about this phenomenon, and about the visualization of data centers. He stresses how much of the imagery that is based on pipes and systems of cooling. It is all about the cooling of systems, about keeping circuitry at a cool temperature in which data can flow. The now made visible structures of Internet are based on huge industrial structures of cooling, now presented in a very aestheticized way… Industrial Cool 2.0.
These processes are happening at the same time that ideas and concepts of Steampunk, with its ”back to the future aesthetics” which once appeared during the 199ies is now spreading in a viral way. The physicality, the combinations of old patinized structures with new glowing hi-tech is appearing in everything from museum exhibitions to children programs on TV.
keep looking »