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webart _ and _ political _ discourse .html

athanasios Anagnostopoulos

aA 2013

.CONTENTS (according to the greek version)



New Media and Technological Utopias



Tactical Media


Heath Bunting ®ark (RTMark)



The Internet as heterotopia and the political as antagonism







  The   research   process   for   the   implementation   of   this   thesis   initiated   by   the   field   of   the   theory   of   new   media   and   focused   on   the   artistic   practice   which   is   combined   with   technology  and  public  space.  The  result  was  structured  in  such  a  way  as  to  address  the   question   of   whether   the   artistic   practice   which   uses  the   internet   as   a   medium,   has   the   ability   to   articulate   political   discourse   and   to   manage   this,   in   terms   of   making   the   internet  a  public  space.          Firstly,   approaching   the   theory   of   new   media   and   technology   to   get   a   look   at   the   different   approaches   of   theoriticians   on   this   field   ,   then   follows,   the   first   movement  of  web  techniques  and  continues  with  the  clearly  political  Tactical  Media.  In  a   next   chapter   are   presented   specific   examples   of   artists   from   both   fields,   for   a   more   practical   understanding   of   the   foregoing.   In   the   penultimate   chapter   the   internet   is   introduced   as   another   real   space   and   is   explored   the   concept   of   the   public   sphere,   through   political   theory   and   art   theory.   We   can   look   the   thesis   more   closely   on   the   following.   We   would   say   that   the   perception   of   reality   is   now   defined   by   the   composition   of   the   natural   with   the   digital   environment.   Numerous   structures   and   functions,   at   least   in   the   Western   world,   depends   on   the   technology   and   its   continuous   evolution.   The   place   of   art,   dealing   with   perception,   could   not   be   unaffected   by   everyday   life,   which   for   two   decades   was   significantly   affected   by   the   emergence   and   spread   of   the   Internet.      The  internet,  as  the  culmination  of  the  digital  era,  became  a  means  of  artistic  practice   since  the  1990's,  but  theorists  in  the  field  of  new  media  were  divided,  on  the  one  hand  to   those  ardent  supporters  of  a  digital  revolution  and  on  the  other  those  who  exercised  one   analytical   approach   with   sobriety   and   skepticism.   The   course   of   this   research   starts   from   this   point,   the   not   so   neutral   field   of   the   theory   of   new   media   and   technological   reality   from   Marshal   McLuhan   to   Lev   Manovich,   Richard   Barbrook,   Roy   Ascott,   George   Gilder,  and  from  Paul  Virillio  to  Jean  Beaudrillard.        Continuing,   the   research   focuses   on   the   field   of   internet   art,,   which   followed   the   appearance   of   the   world   wide   web   and   often   manifested   the   need   for   alternatives   in   terms   of   apprehending   and   trafficking   of   an   artwork,   away   from   the   established   mechanisms   of   the   dominant   art   market.   Here   we   find   one   of   the   first   attempts   also   critical  to  corporate  aesthetics  and  commodification  of  information  through  the  example   of  a  pioneer  of,  the  Serbian  Vuk  Cosic.  This  will  give  us  the  opportunity  to  look  

inside   the   special   field   of   artistic-­‐activist   practice,   that   of   the   Tactical   Media,   closely   associated  with  web  art.  The  theoretical  basis  relied  on  by  the  Tactical  Media,  is  placed   on   the   theory   of   the   French   philosopher   Michel   de   Certeau   about   the   practices   of   everyday   life   that   are   transformed   into   political   tactics.   With   Heath   Bunting,   ®      ark   (RTMark)  and  Yes  Men  we  gather  practices  that  combine  with  Tactical  Media  and   are  developing  as  a  criticism  of  neoliberal  hegemony.  In  the  last  chapter,  the  web  space   is  suggested  as  another  real  space,  through  the  concept  of  other  spaces/heterotopias  of   Michelle  Foucault.  Is  it  possible  to  support  such  a  position  and  if  so,  what  does  it  serve?        Dilemma   arises   as   to   whether   the   heterotopia   of   the   Internet   will   serve   as   a   place   illusive   which   intensifies   the   illusion   of   the   actual   space   or   would   be   able   to   make   another   real   public   space,     that   its   political   status   could   potentially   arise   from   proper   artistic  practice.  We  will  focus  on  considerations  of  theoriticians  such  as  Ernesto  Laclau   and   Chantal   Mouffe,   Julian   Stallabrass,   Rosalyn   Deutsche   and   Oliver   Marchart,   who   develop  the  theory  of  the  political  as  antagonism  and  politics  as  hegemony,  and  we  shall   understand   that   public   space   is   not   enough   to   be   determined   by   its   physical   or   institutional  existence  to  perform  its  essential  function.              

.Conclusion              We  saw  Gilder  and  Ascott  agreeing  with  McLuhan's  optimism  and  add,  the  former  the   opinion  that  possession  of  information  means  power  and  sovereignty  and  the  latter  the   view   that   techno-­‐cultural   achievements   are   able   in   expanding   significantly   the   human   perception   (cyberception).   We   agree   in   part   with   these   positions   but   we   further   find   more  critical  ones,  such  as  those  of  Barbrook  and  Baudrillard.          In   fact,   in   the   reality   of   hyperconsumption   in   capitalism,   the   glorification   of   technological  achievements  keeps  open  the  path  of  sustained  growth  of  the  multitude  of   consumer  goods  and  maintains  the  myth  of  its  system’s  success,  disorienting  attention   from   the   fundamental   daily   needs.   The   digital   utopia   is   presented   as   adequate   to   support   the   replacement   of   the   real.   The   Internet   is   the   main   tool   to   turn   in   that   direction.        But   here   we   propose   to   take   into   account   the   notion   of   Foucault's   heterotopia   and   recognize   the   internet   as   the   heterotopia   of   contemporary   society   that   allows   us   to   arrive   at   further   conclusions   in   this   regard.   The   demonization   of   the   internet   shows   naive   when,   instead   of   producing   an   even   more   illusory   public   space   which   enhances   the   illusory   aspect   of   reality,   it   can   produce   another   real   public   space,   agreeing   to   the   elements  which  characterize  heterotopias  in  Foucault  .          We  usually  use  the  notion  of  the  public  abusively,  without  reaching  the  essence  of  it.   The  public  as  such,  stops  at  the  point  where  an  hegemony  imposes  its  sovereignty  and   prevents   challenging   and   disagreement   within   the   prescribed   limits   of   its   own.   The   views   of   Deutsche   and   Marchart   enlighten   us   on   this   point,   which   shows   that   a   public   space   in   order   to   perform   its   essential   function,   is   not   enough   to   be   physically   or   institutionaly   defined,  but   needs   conflict  and  antagonism,   through  which   is  identified   as   such.        Considering  the  post-­‐marxist  theory  of  Laclau  and  Mouffe,  relied  also  on  the  Lacanian   subject   of   the   unconscious,   which   is   divided   and   castrated   after   entering   the   language,   we  understand  the  concept  of  the  political  in  the  holder  of  hegemony  and  antagonism.   This   is   what   gives   us   the   tools   to   look   once   again   at   the   role   it   can   play   in   redefining   artistic  practice  and  the  political  in  art.          Since   the   advent   of   Internet   art   in   the   1990's   the   political   dimension   of   the   Internet   has   emerged   against   attempts   by   the   private   corporate   aesthetics,   which   have   since  

been   relentlessly   trying   to   commodify   information   and   to   tame   its   free   flow.        We   looked   for   ways   in   which   the   Internet   operates   in   practice   as   a   public   space,   especially   with   the   effort   of   presenting   Tactical   Media   and   the   groups   that   operate   within  them.  These  artists  are  at  the  same  time  questioning  both  the  boundaries  of  art   and   art   itself.   We   find   here   tactics   that   challenge   the   image   of   normalcy   that   neoliberalism   promotes   and   also   manage   to   confront   the   corporate   absurdity.   These   tactics  use  existing  hierarchical  structures  of  neoliberalism  and  move  flexibly  in  the  field   predetermined  from  the''  enemy'',  just  as  it  is  described  by  Certaeu.          After   that,   we   are   able   to   recognize   the   existence   of   political   art   today,   or   rather   the   political   in   contemporary   art   practice.   Those   views   talking   about   a   near-­‐death   of   political  discourse  in  art  since  the  institutional  critique  of  the  conceptual  artists,  as  also   an  accompaning  technological  stupor  too,  prove  rather  unrealistic.  The  internet  and  new   media   in   general,   with   a   suitable   treatment   based   on   critical   thinking   and   political   thought,  proves  that  allows  the  articulation  of  political  discourse.            Furthermore   we   can   now   move   away   from   the   illusion   that   wants   every   artistic   practice   that   uses   the   internet   or   new   media   in   general   to   be   characterized   as   radical.   Can  one  say,  that  any  kind  of  artistic  practice  that  uses  the  internet  is  also  placed  in  the   field  of  the  public  sphere?  An  affirmative  answer  is  proved  to  be  unrealistic.          Nowadays,   the   concept   of   a   radical   artistic   leadership   may   have   been   disappeared,   especially  on  the  part  of  the  artists  themselves,  but  this  does  not  automatically  imply  the   same   for   their   political   discourse   and   particularly   the   ability   to   contribute   to   the   formation  of  new  political  subjectivities  in  the  area  of  sovereign  neoliberal  hegemony.