Meets almost every week on Sunday at 7:00 PM at NYU. E-mail me to be added to the mailing list for further details. bradtroemel at gmail dot com
26. Readings from Video Vortex Reader #2. Geert Lovink - Engage in Destiny Design: Online Video Beyond Hypergrowth + Stefan Heidenreich - Vision Possible: A Methodological Quest for Online Video + Natalie Bookchin and Blake Stimson interview - Out in Public: Natalie Bookchin in Conversation with Blake Stimson + Cecilia Guida - YouTube as a Subject: Interview with Constant Dullaart
25. Discussion at Bard’s CCS Hessel Museum as part of the Constant Dullaart and Laurel Ptak-organized event Public Interfacial Gesture Salon.
24. JstChillin week. Ceci Moss Interview with Parker Ito and Caitlin Denny + Gene McHugh catalogue essay + Brian Droitcour - In New Media Res
23. Readings and discussion with Ed Halter. The Centaur and the Hummingbird + After the Amateur: Notes + The Matter of Electronics + Television for the People
22. Julian Dibbell - A Rape in Cyberspace; or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database into a Society + Howard Rheingold - Daily Life in Cyberspace: How the Computerized Counterculture Built a New Kind of Place + Humdog - Pandora’s Vox
21. Various essays on internet fame from the Video Vortex Youtube Reader
20. Liam Gillick - Prevision, Contemporary Art Does Not Account for That Which Is Taking Place
19. Carson Chan - The Territory of Versions + Karen Archey - Internet Art in The Present Tense
18. Readings from the Digital Folklore reader. Dennis Knopf - Defriending The Web + Helene Dams - I Think You Got Cats On Your Internet + Olia Lialina - A Vernacular Web + Preface essays by Cory Arcangel, Olia Lialina, Dragan Espenschied
17. R Gerald Nelson - DDDDoomed
16. Jaron Lanier - You Are Not a Gadget
15. Rosalind Krauss - Two Moments From The Post Medium Condition
14. Friedrich Kittler - There Is No Software
13. Lauren Cornell - Walking Free, Brian Droitcour - All Together Now
12. Discussion about selected works: Oliver Laric - Versions + Harm Van Den Dorpel - Ethereal Self / Ethereal Others + Jon Rafman - Koolaide Man in Second Life + Eva and Franco Mattes - Darko Maver + Ryan Trecartin - Riverthe.net
11. Unpublished readings and discussion with Geert Lovink
10. Hito Steryl - On The Poor Image + Hubert Dreyfus - Kierkegaard On The Internet
9. Jack Burnham - Systems Aesthetics, + Geert Lovink - 10 Theses On Wikileaks
8. Martin Heidegger - The Question Concerning Technology
7. Lewis Hyde - The Gift, Trickster Makes The World
6. Donna Harraway - The Cyborg Manifesto
5. Alex Galloway - Language Wants To Be Overlooked: On Software and Ideology
4. Boris Groys - The Weak Universalism + On The New + Self Design and Aesthetic Responsibility
3. David Joselit - Feedback + Chris Anderson and Michael Wolf - The Web Is Dead. Long Live The Internet
2. Critical Art Ensemble - Electronic Civil Disobedience + Keller Easterling - Zone
1. Hakim Bey - Temporary Autonomous Zone
Surveillance has been given a bad name– and rightfully so. The most common associations we have with surveillance are with projects designed to regulate the behavior of a group of people (prisons, road traffic cameras, church confessionals) or to spy on their private actions so to become more familiar with their desires for the purchase of selling those desires back to them profitably (Google ad sense, Facebook, market demographic research). In both cases, the reason for our unease toward surveillance results from the uneven power dynamic created when one party is able to opaquely determine or monitor the actions of another party without their consent. One of the most publicized stories in recent history has dealt very specifically with surveillance, but not in the top-down sense we have come to associate it with. Wikileaks is a surveillance program that has the intention to monitor the secretive dealings of the world’s political and financial elites. It is an irony of epic proportion that the same governing and military bodies who have relentlessly pursued an agenda of increased human surveillance domestically and abroad now find the surveillance of their own actions a terrorizing threat. It is in situations like Wikileaks that surveillance becomes a more tolerable and ethically balanced practice– when it seeks to level the inequalities of political power by increasing the transparency of private debates that have extremely public consequences. It is a ‘surveillance for the people’ instead of a surveillance of them.
In his essay Why Things Matter, Julian Bleeker describes a blogosphere growingly in dialogue with inanimate or non-human things producing loads of informative content. Bleeker offers the example of a project called The Pigeon that Blogs by Beatriz da Costa where a flock of pigeons, equipped with GPS devices and chemical monitoring sensors designed to record the levels of toxins and pollutants in the air, are released to fly all over and report back the “current toxic state of the local atmosphere” in real time online. Once again, here a largely invisible process –pollution– is given a real face and the documentation to prove it. Bleeker goes on to describe other potentially liberating models of surveillance that could aid the public, saying
What if our RSS aggregators could tune into feeds from Amazonian forest and the daily clear-cut blog? Or critter cam video blogs that show us how really nasty seal bulls can be to their pups when they’re not playing their circus act at Sea World. And video blogs from schools of dolphins and whales that will make it increasingly difficult to ignore the plumes of toxins in the oceans and the slaughter of their kin by whalers and felonious fishing fleets.
To apply these environmental ideas of surveillance to the context of art, the only thing more cynical and perverse than the web of dealers, institutional officials and artists implicated in the recent New Museum insider trading fiasco (as heavily publicized and revealed through the blogosphere) was the all too common response of jaded commentators who claimed that the subject was unworthy of attention because of how rampant this kind of inside trading is in the art world. It was as though Tyler Green was telling a group of WWE fanatics professional wrestling wasn’t real, despite everyone’s awareness that it is not. Artists with ambitions of operating in the market –much like WWE fans– must proceed with some level of suspension of disbelief that the whole of art’s bureaucracy of institutional validation functions as a meritocracy and not a profit-driven cesspool of aristocratic reach arounds cleverly disguised as high culture. To think otherwise would be a denigration of one’s own work if it were to ever become market successful. Besides, to make art purely for the sake of money is a fools errand when considering the rarity of art ever becoming a viable career for most participants– the amount of precarious labor that goes into a life of art making is rivaled only by careers in unpopular professional athletics (ever see how much a world class javelin thrower is paid?).
The point I’m trying to make is that when information obtained through surveillance is distributed in an egalitarian way it forces us to confront facts about our lives and the people we know– facts that are often buried by others to hide their wrongdoing or buried by ourselves to make life more convenient at the cost of our own moral integrity. Surveillance can be a positive strategy if it is not just used to re-enforce existing societal dynamics, but instead used to shake up and expose the inequities of those relations. One thing for certain is that surveillance –both the good and bad kind– will continue to grow to be an ever-present force in our public and private lives. Like the rapid spread of computers and mobile devices to the developing world, processes and products that are advantageous to the health of global capitalism will continue to reproduce and reinforce themselves. Additionally, so long as there remains a will for openness in our political processes there too will there remain a desire for the surveillance of politicians in a way more meaningful than the endless number of C-Spans available. Both the profit-hungry corporation and the accountability-demanding citizen want greater transparency, and the internet is a place they both can agree they will find the hidden information they are looking for about one another.
In the social world of the internet this means we must cherish and protect our ability to consensually choose what information we are associated with in the eyes of others. Online brand making is the new art of the masses– it is the only construction of image America’s population almost universally shares. The capacity to manipulate and construct an identity online separate from our everyday existence is an expression of freedom from totalizing surveillance that would automatically provide information on our behalf. It is an ideological slippage in the architecture of Facebook that users are still able to post their own pictures– or furthermore, to use images that have nothing to do with themselves as their profile pictures. If the same ideas of textual, written objectivity inherent in the necessity to use your real name were applied visually, Facebook would have long ago instituted valid photo IDs in the same way they are necessitated by national passports. A true conception of freedom of expression must include the possibility of lying or abstaining from expression altogether. The process of image management on Facebook is already less an outpouring of expression than it is an exercise in omission of information about one’s self. Which picture will I untag myself from today? I encourage everyone to be more erraticly dishonest – or better, willfully creative– when going about constructing a representation of themselves on Facebook. The further you have digitally deviated from your every day existence the better. Your continued honesty in behaving as you truly would without anyone watching is the only way Adsense works. If the parties exposed by Wikileaks are hard at work making sure they become even more opaque in their communication, we too must become equally misleading if we want to keep pace.
Thanks to Reading Group No 1 for listening to me stumble through these ideas and conversing with me about them last night.