Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Many voices

PLAN: On Locative Media's European Reception by Marc Tuters

This commentary on the recent PLAN event in London - and on locative media in general - focusses on its characterisation by the broader European electronic arts community as a (somehow unified and homogenous) practice that avoids positioning itself as politically avant-garde. In other words, seeming "relatively content to directly collaborate with industry and government" is apparently not compatible with a critical position.

As an academic, I lurk at the very edge of the new media arts world. In other words, I keep up on my reading but I am not an artist. In fact, it was only at last year's Mobile Connections conference at Futuresonic that I got my first direct exposure to the arts community.

At the time, I was quite confused and disappointed by the overt hostility towards any sort of politics or practice that diverged from the norm. In the social sciences, politics and political practice are just as highly contested as anything else, and to think that there can be absolutely 'acceptable' or 'unacceptable' politics makes no sense to me. Personally, and not a little ironically, I found it rather oppressive to be discouraged from engaging different or more nuanced understandings of politics, ethics and production. After all, I had always been taught that critical theory began - not ended - with the Frankfurt School.

Plenty of artists and researchers (both academic and corporate) have dismissed my work as being dull, irrelevant, or insufficiently revolutionary, and in the end I can only assume we have divergent interests, desires and agendas - despite my, I think, genuine appreciation of their work. Nonetheless, PLAN is an EPSRC-funded initiative to investigate what sorts of collaboration are possible between the sciences, arts and industry. And while I heard scientists express overt interest in more critical approaches, and I listened to industry researchers hoping the audience wouldn't throw things at them, I wondered how the arts community would extend the proverbial olive branch.

But in the end, I don't think that it's productive to talk about artists any more than it makes sense to treat all academics, corporate or government researchers as if they were the same. Clearly, we all share an equal ability and responsibility in keeping potential collaborations open and just, and this is no time to crush the diversity of cultures at hand.

(Marc's article via Turbulence's always interesting networked_performance blog)

Update

For critiques of locative media, see:

Drifting Through the Grid: Psychogeography and Imperial Infrastructure by Brian Holmes

Questioning the Frame: Thoughts about maps and spatial logic in the global present by Coco Fusco

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