Just be real

I haven’t used this post-mode on my site, mainly because I felt like I should use it to educate, or proselytize, or talk about only new media work. The problem is that I don’t see art as separate from my day to day life, and using the posting in this way feels very artificial. Instead of using this post-mode as some sort of branding mechanism, I’ve decided to use it more as a journal. If anything, I could use it in the future to see what was on my mind when I made certain work.

For starters, I was really inspired this week by two people who I feel try to be real. One is writer Karl Ove Knausgaard whose “My Struggle” is an attempt for authenticity in writing – an effort for direct access to the world around him:

“I had felt for many, many years that the form of the novel, as I used it, created a distance from life. When I started to write about myself, that distance disappeared. If you write about your life, as it is to yourself, every mundane detail is somehow of interest—it doesn’t have to be motivated by plot or character. That was my only reason for writing about myself. It wasn’t because I found myself interesting, it wasn’t because I had experienced something I thought was important and worth sharing, it wasn’t because I couldn’t resist my narcissistic impulses. It was because it gave my writing a more direct access to the world around me. And then, at some point, I started to look at the main character—myself—as a kind of place where emotions, thoughts, and images passed through.”

From the New Yorker

I have many friends who don’t like the work of Knausgaard, or find it problematic, or simply don’t want to hear another white man’s ramblings. I totally get that, but I really loved these works. The attention paid to the smallest details helps me breathe a little bit more deeply. That he could write six books around six hundred pages wherein nothing extra-ordinary happens is wonderful. I had this revelation years back – this idea that I’m not special because NOBODY is special. And that is the best way to be. If no one is special, than no one is not special. There is no hierarchy of valuable, special people. That’s bullshit.

Although…if I were to say anyone were special it might be Auntie Fee, who is the second person to inspire me this week. She is truly herself, and her open nature makes me laugh and wish I could hang out with her. She passed away last year, and it bums me out. One thing that made me really happy is that so many other people love her as well. If so many people love this same flawed, lovable person then maybe the world isn’t so bad after all?

To honor her, my family will be making her cornbread this Thanksgiving. And we will be cussing while we do it. Here is the “recipe”.

Critical Anthology

I have been really enjoying “Mass Effect: Art and The Internet in the Twenty-First Century” edited by Laurne Cornell and Ed Halter. Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenscied’s essay “Do You Believe in Users? / Turning Complete User” should be required reading for all computer users, which I suppose would be: almost everyone. Starting out in their first paragraph, they map out the disturbing nature of a thoughtless attitude towards computing’s ubiquitousness…”it seems that in spite of its prevalence in our culture, the computer’s ultimate purpose is to become an invisible ‘appliance’, a transparent interface and device denying any characteristics of its own”. (1) This makes me think of my early days of teaching new media, where older faculty worried about the increasingly tech savvy nature of their young students. I could allay those particular fears by pointing out the fact that the students weren’t necessarily tech savvy, but excellent users of pre-scripted/prescribed software portals – in fact, they were more product than producers.

In the essay, Lialina and Espenscied talk about the contrast in understanding/adoption of computer technology vs computer culture. They then go on to propose the term “Digital Folklore” – a term that “encompasses the customs, traditions, and elements of visual, textual, and audio culture that emerged from user’s engagement with personal computer applications during the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century”. (2) As we now see, technology is not the thing that will stand for our free speech. For every Arab spring, there are hundreds of thousands of bots undermining democratic elections. It is up to the educated media-specific advocate-user to parse the streaming data of technological implications in order to make decisions about the aesthetic language, cultural history and art historical context of computer culture.

  1. “Lialina, Olia and Espenschied, Dragan. ‘Do You Believe in Users?/Turning Complete User’ Mass Effect. Eds. Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2015. 1.”
  2. Ibid.

More: http://digital-folklore.org/