Digital precognition 1

So, it turns out that choices are not being made on the base of careful thought. It’s more like consciousness provides alibi’s for choices that are made way beneath the liminal treshold. The brains is it’s own black box. Cognitive neuroscience is experimenting away free will. This notion seems to be on its way to become  part of an operational technology.
At the last UnlikeUs conference,  Bernard Stiegler elaborated on the notion of market driven neuropower – the conceptual descendant and re-booted version of Foucaults biopower. Combine the developments in cognitive neuroscience with the advancements in the algorithmical modelling of consuming behaviour that Amazon, Facebook and Google live of. Extrapolate their current rate of achievement, and in the proximate future looms a fascinating set of probabilities.

I took it like this: those in the know will not only just philosophically explain away the idea of a free-willing individual as an outdated romantic folly. They would  actually be able to develop the technology to program consuming behaviour. If you’d  still be a host to the tired meme of the individual, your purchases would feel as the result of your own agency.  But this is actually only the effect of your semantic capabilites legitimizing your behaviour. Those that have ridden themselves of this meme will have the sensation that the web knows what they need,  even if they didn’t yet know this themselves.



United We Organize @ STROOM

I will be part of what looks like a very interesting conference: United We Organize.   It will explore, among other things, what managerial practice might learn from artistic practice. Cool.

From the blurb: “Art and management appear to have little in common. Art is about questioning and disrupting normality, art embraces complexity, celebrates inconsistencies and welcomes the open-ended. Management works in the exact opposite direction it seems, by favoring all that is rational, structured, simplified, tamed, and so on.”

I will present the workshop ‘A dialogue with the material of organisation’ that I have done with groups of students of the MaHKU and the Rietveld Academy.  The process of this workshop inverts the default logic that steers the development of organisations. It takes a look at the elements of organisation(s) from the perspective of (procedural) aesthetics.

Participants take the various parts and processes of organisation(s) somewhat like game-atoms, or cogs from abstract machines. They are combined and re-ordered in a bricolage kind of process. It crucial to abstain from formulating the goal of the organisation in development until the last steps of the process. Otherwise instrumentality reduces the potential for play.

When the participants are happy with the abstract organisational machine they have made, they may begin to articulate the effects this organisation would have on its surrounding if it would really exist.

Hello again,

Because I can’t help but feeling irritatingly self-conscious at Facebook I thought it would be good idea to revivify (if it ever really lived) this blog. I have only fragmented scraps of explanation for this, but somehow in the wordpress environment  I’m much less bothered by the inescapable having-to-act-like-yourself.

Maybe because I have no idea of who would be reading this ? If anyone ? 31K comments on previous posts combined. All spam.

Anyways. I might even post a link on Facebook.

To my next post, that would be.





Relational tactics & con-art

Scenario’s of manipulation, responsibility and trust between initiating authors and participating audiences

This is a growing commented selection of works and projects that are understood primarily as artistic interventions. The works have in common that in all cases the initiating author manipulates the trust of (certain groups within) the audience in his or her artistic vision and practice. The term initiating author is used to indicate the person that starts the process of the interactive work – the person who is usually responsible for for the design of most of the technical and social rules under which it operates. The term was coined by Architecture of Interaction group. (See this blog)

Conceptual tools that help coming to terms with the notion of con-art:
- the artistic contract: the mostly implicit deal between audience and artist that organizes the mutual expectations between them.
The nature of the contract is is informed by genre, by knowledge of the audience of previous works of the artist, by the context in which contact between artist /and or artwork and the audience is made. Often the nature and the terms of the art-contract only becomes visible when it is broken.

- the art script: the art script is the behavioral and perceptual scenario that the audiences follow when participating in a process of making contact with works of art. The artistic contract is a part of the art script. Some of the works listed below only function because they are not part of a recognizable art script in the perception of the audience during the process of participation. Usually the works only become con-art when the con part is identified and revealed.

- con-art (working definition) For the moment we think of it as: art in which the artist bends, twists or breaks the rules of the art contract. Con-art is (obviously) a pun on the term con-artist, but does not refer to the ordinary scams of con-artists. Rather, it refers to projects intended as artistic interventions, that apply certain mechanisms that may also be recognized in the swindles of con-artists.

The projects listed below differ highly in terms of the amount and nature of the responsibility that initiators are willing to take. In a series of discussions in class we concluded that only those interventions in which the initiating author takes full responsibility for all experiences of the audience within the work, merit the label con-art.

Choosing to take responsibility
When artworks involve participation or interaction (as in non-trivial actions on the part of members of the audience that alter the shape of the work) the matter of the artists’ responsibility for the perception of his/her work, becomes more layered and complex.
The initiating author has to consider to what extent s/he wants to take responsibility for the actions of the participants, and for the effects of those actions. Different strategies are applied. And it is clear that not all artists oversee the different implications of their interventions.

Bart Schoenmakers approached con-art methodologically We are snot sure yet if all his statements apply, but these seem to hold:

• Con Art can only exist by the grace of the system, framework, or context it operates in.
• To present itself, the work mimics as part of its hosting system, but by definition it is separate from it, and operates under a different constitutive logic.
• The system or rather an actor within the system should mark the work as fraudulent in some way:
a. only in this way the work may lay bare the mechanics behind its hosting system
b. so that the audience are given the possibility to reflect on the work and the mechanics of its hosting system
c. (in other words) in order for the work to become art and for the artist to take responsibility

May we apply (and derive inspiration from, even ?) the notion ofprocedural rhetoric (Ian Bogost) on these kinds of works to understand their perceptional mechanics ? I hope to get back to that.

Not all these works are clearly con-art. But they all function around tension in the understanding of the artistic contract. We (DT-IDUM3&4&5) have been discussing the following works and interventions:

Christoph Schlingensief: Ausländer Raus A clear example of con-art. When discussing Ausländer Raus at the Schlingensief exhibition in Utrecht we arrived at the folling hypothesis: Artist that make con-artistic interventions, have messianistic tendencies in their personalities.

Martijn Engelbrecht: REGONED At first we though this was clearly con-art. However, since Martijn Engelbrecht denies the intention of actually making the audience believe the forms he sent were ‘real’, but rather that he only intended to stir up discussion on the topic of illegality, this work is not con-art. It was percieved as such however. Discussing this work led us to the conclusion that only if the artist holds that the belief of the audience in the con is essential for the artistic effect, a work may be labelled con-art.

BNN: De Donor Show Maybe not intended as art, but otherwise a classic example of the con-art mechanisms in full throttle. As an Idols-type reality TV show, it is formally close to Schlingensiefs Auslander Raus. But BNN never claimed it to be art. It was an elaborate hoax to stir people into more awareness about the issues around organ donation.

Agnes Meyer-Brandis Public Meteor Watching in Herzele (BE). This is a border case, because Agnes Meyer-Brandis does not rely on the moment of revelation for the artistic effect of the work. Rather, it relies on the maintenance of the illusion – the permanent suspension of disbelief. This work has more mythological intentions. I think by now we don’t consider this con-art, allthough Agnes Meyer-Brandis does take full responsibility for what you might consider as complex hoaxes.

Pilvi Takala – The Trainee A pure example of con-art. Pilvi Takala claims she is an intern at Deloite & Touche, doing brain work for the communications department.

Zuzana Janin - I’ve seen my Death Another clear example. Zuzane Janin staged her own funeral, and attended it in disguise.

The Yes Men More activist than artistic in intentions.

Marina Abramovic Rhythm 0 and other works.
Some of the works engineer tension around the responsibility of the participating audience. Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 for instance. Here it is maybe more the audience that breaks the term of the art contract, allthough it is clear that Abramovic is investigating into the outer boundaries of possible relations between artist, audience and artworks. One question is to what extent it can be said that the audience acted on authority of the artist in Rhythm 0? To what extent was it absolved of responsibility by the invitation of Abramovic to do whatever it felt like doing ? We didn’t think Rhythm 0 was not con-art, since all the terms of the art contract are transparant, clear and met by Abramovic.

Weg van Nederland:

The Chech Dream

The Contemporary Art Bubble

Yu Zhu eating people


Oorbeek Surround Ombromanie at the IFFR

More exciting Oorbeek news: at february 3, 2011 Oorbeek will deliver another Ombromanie experience. Technically it is the reversed version of the Ombromanie session in the Vondelpark Gazebo – see pictures at my Facebookpage - since in Rotterdam the audience will be in the middle of the space, and Oorbeek will be projected all around them, in full 4D (yes, the skin is the inside of the universe). Furthermore Laurel Elam Howard will be joining in the vocal range of sonics!
It will all happen at the HILTON hotel/yourspace, Kruiskade 9, Rotterdam. Pips:Lab has graciously lent us their 3D oculair to be able to document this event as true as possible to its original form…

Relational Design…

An important and exciting frame (to me) by which to look at and/or undertake artistic practice, is the design of relations: the artist as a person that stages, frames, creates and developes relations of a more or less anticipated nature and form between humans; between humans and non-humans; between humans through non-humans. Relational design is a frame that can be used to create fertile common ground between the practices of interaction design, participatory art forms, service design, community art, performance art, installations, and what have you. It bridges the chasm between the political and the aesthetic discourses around art in a most elegant and stimulating way.

(addition of nov 3: a section of maybe even a new post will be added seperating and contextualising other notions of relational design that live in the context of programming of (relational) databases and in the context of design thinking applied to 21st century developments in the focus of design practice)

My notion of relational design is always under construction, but is preceded by Nicolas Bourriaud’s somewhat limping development of the concept of relational aesthetics, in his book of the same title – for a concise criticism, see this text). But it was more directly influenced and inspired by Claire Bishop’s sharp review Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics. Early development of the notion that underpin Relational Design was done through the Architecture of Interaction project, although that work overlooks the agency of non-humans. My version of relational design may include micro-utopian escapist projects, as well as works that want to frame and stage antagonisms, as well as other types and sets of relations that come into begin as an effect of an conscious construction of a (set of) maker(s).
Please note: using the frame of relational design does not necessarily mean you are making a piece of relational art. It can also be a set of concepts and focus points to apply within an artistic practice that is oriented towards other themes. Using the relational frame will bring aspects and layers of meaning or experience into the work that are otherwise (generally) not so consciously put in place. So it is a kind of design thinking that can be part of artistic practice.

C,C,C => Relational Design

To understand and feel a work as a form with meanings, emerging out of consecutive contact-moments (Content, Context, Contact) is pretty close to understanding it as a developing and changing whole of relationships.
If you put this notion of designing relations at the center of artistic practice and experience than you move away from a focus on art objects and their attributes, of which the status can be validated (or denied) within a rather fixed set of contexts that are historically constructed (allthough they are developing as well, of course)
Instead, the notion becomes operational that the qualities of an artistic work or experience are being performed by a network of agents: members of the audience, the context of publication, the shape, the media used, and related aesthetics of the physical aspects of the work, the way it is announced, etcetera. All these aspects together are the work. Through this approach one can ask a work what kind of interesting relations it produces between various member of the audience (onlookers, participants, people that read about the work in a magazine and more ) tools, spaces, media, technologies, critics etcetera. One can ask a work what kind of important differences it produces (or ‘performs’) between the humans and non-humans it contacts.

Also relational design becomes essential if you want to work in a way that is validated as artistic, but outside an easily recognisable artistic context. If a white cube/blackbox kind of art space, or a mailinglist about cultural-political topics, , or an established museum, or some public art initiative acts as the vessel for your work, most of the relational design is done for you – but at the same time it is quite beyond your control.
In other circumstances you’ll have to create some kind of deal with your onlookers, potential participants and the witnesses of your traces. and the process of getting to that deal is the practice of relational design…

klaas kuitenbrouwer – 28 october 2010


Black Ball, Yes Men, Geert Mul, Santiago Sierra, SubtleMob, Kidnap. (to be worked out)

The Situated Music Manifesto

For too long music was either a sphere on its own – an autonomous system of producing meaning that effectively bypassed abstract symbolic levels and language by entering the perceptual system through a unique sensual shortcut, òr it was a representation: a symbolic narrative of consecutive emotional states. Music was either a autonomous perceptive sphere, or it re-mediated a specific emotional continuum with sonic means.
Situated music is a third way – it is not a narrative, nor a self-referential system – it is a music that touches the world, a music that the world touches.
Situated music is a music that brings play to its environment. It doesn’t absorb environments into the sphere of music-making, it is the other way around: it makes music-making an act that follows from its immediate material and memetic surroundings – a situated act.
Situated music is a porous practice.
‘Things’ don’t become instruments – instruments are things among other things, each with their own sonic agency. Some things can be directional – in them is discovered an agency that is more on a par with that of a conductor than that of a player or an instrument. Some things sound right. Other things may have a capacity for listening, or resonating.
Situated music is indeed a way of listening, that allows for holes to be present and to be filled with other givens. But it is also a way of playing – as much a way of acting as of allowing. Situated music allows a place to appropriate the sonic sphere and its related means of perception.
The time and place have come for situated music.

Organised religions as transmedial storyworlds

Jeff Gomez is the CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, that develops transmedial story worlds for ‘the best known franchises in the world’ like Pirates of the Caribbean, Fairies, Prince of Persia and Tron for The Walt Disney Company, James Cameron’s Avatar for 20th Century Fox, Halo for Microsoft, Happiness Factory for The Coca-Cola Company, and most recently Transformers for Hasbro. So you can safely say he is at the hi-end of this practice. He spoke at the exciting  Transmedia Conference at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (where I spoke as well on the concept of Situated Storytelling.
When Jeff Gomez explained what in his view were the prime success parameters of transmedial story worlds, it suddenly struck me: this is not an newly emerging expressive genre at all, it is actually one of the oldest successful forms of creating experiences that we know… The development of the Roman Catholic story-world (and probalby others, but I’d have to look into those more carefully) closely follows Gomez’s rules.
This is Gomez’s list of success factors:
1 Content is originated by one or a few visionaries
2 Cross media roll-out is planned early in the life of the franchise.

3 Content is distributed over at least 3 platforms
4 Content is unique, adheres to platforms specific strengths and is not re-purposed
5 Content is based on a single vision of the story world
6 Concerted effort is made to avoid fractures and schisms
7 Effort is vertical across company third parties and licensees
8 Roll-out features audience participatory elements including web portal, social networking and story guided user generated content.

The rules neatly describe the experience, the participatory nature and narrative coherence of organised religion. Minor incongruencies occur, but certainly for Catholicism, there is a tight fit.
1 Content is originated by one or a few visionaries:
 Jesus, later Peter.

2 Cross media roll-out is planned early in the life of the franchise. 
Texts, participatory rituals, songs, buildings, specific dress codes and hairstyles, prayers.

3  Content is distributed over at least 3 platforms.
 See previous point – by all means!  But also: there is always a clear ‘driving platform’: the Bible (or Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Book of Mormon etcetera.)

4 Content is unique, adheres to platforms specific strengths and is not re-purposed
. To some extent yes: pictures, and statues are made to reach illiterate vup’s (viewer/user/player), canonical books for the general audience,  mystical texts come from – and are meant for the hardcore fan-base. (But basically a lot of the IP is actually re-purposed. )

5 Content is based on a single vision of the story world
. This was the plan that was adopted at the Council of Nicea. There the biblical canon was established. But a lot of the stories had been living a life of their own the past hundreds of years, so were hard to bring totally in line. Complete coherence proved a hard job in practice. For instance, there are two conflicting accounts of creation in the first pages of the Bible. God is both a highly vengeful god (in the older parts of the old testament) as well as a forgiving god, etcetera.

6 Concerted effort is made to avoid fractures and schisms
. For Catholicism (the example I know best) yes, a lot of coordinated effort has been put into that, throughout history. The 12th Century Inquisition was a coordinated effort to root out the Cathar and  Albigensian heresy.  The Reformation turned out into a schism, but was actually an attempt to restore purity in the core intellectual property. The Counter-Reformation tried to counter the Reformation (!) and to restore unity.

7 Effort is vertical across company third parties and licensees
. Indeed – there is a clear hierarchy in place. The Pope, cardinals and bishops run the show – down to the local parish priest or missionary. Third parties have been developing the buildings and the films for instance, but according to clear guidelines from the central authority.

8 Roll-out features audience participatory elements including web-portal, social networking and story guided user generated content.Here we have to go slightly metaphorical, since most of the describe socio-technical infrastructures are of very recent origin, where the Catholic church is 2000 years old. But focussing on the participatory character of the storyworld: of course  – the whole thing is entirely participatory and experiential. Fans are encouraged to perform the role of believer, to imitate, yet personalise the behaviour of the main characters. Fans are encouraged to have personal, yet canonical transgressive experiences, they in turn convey new fans. Evangelists, hardcore fans, followers, casual passers-by.

It actually seems quite obvious once the comparison is made. I just wonder if the big transmedial developers actually studied the way religions are organised, or even know them first hand. Otherwise I would suggest they look into some of these tested and proven successful practices. I’m not saying faith equals suspension of disbelief but I do suspect some of the perceptive mechanisms are indeed the same.

The Situated Story

The Situated Story is a kind of street-level take on transmedial stories, typically delivered in a hybrid world.

The idea of a Situated Story has ancestors in the Locative Story, the Transmedial Story, the Installation, and probably in site specific performance.
A main reference point is the research of Henry Jenkins, as published in Convergence Culture – where old and new media collide, with a couple of important differences and additions. A Situated Story is a transmedial work, woven into a site, or number of sites. Read on in >>>Situated Storytelling