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Waiting for NIN in New Orleans #33
Waiting for NIN in New Orleans:
“…this is where the power of cultural practice can truly be radicalizing—when it works toward the production of self-empowerment in an infrastructure in the midst of transformation.”
“…he would rifle the avant-garde and look for ideas that were so on the outside, on the periphery of what was the mainstream and then make them, apply them in a functional manner to something that was considered populist, and make it work! … make it work for the masses…. that was like making art work for the people…”
Last year we considered the hybrid media ontology of historical emergent media arts networks and developed a predictive media archaeology from the analog to the digital to address the deterritorializing crises of late-capitalist globalization to counter-institutional structures of cultural production and their transnational networking, localism and internationalism. We considered the reterritorializing archival, autoethnographic, and micropolitical work of experimental and emergent intermedia making across the intersectional, working class and counter-institutional genealogies of conceptual art, structural film, and video art. We applied this genealogy, in turn, to the deleterious deterritorializations of late capitalism on counter-institutional possibility and discovered media archaeological affinities in the responsive reterritorializing interventions of Anti-Globalization net artists. In concert with several theories (net artist Roberto Dominguez on his pre-internet performative matrix of data bodies and real bodies, Boris Groys on the post-war realignment of the avant-garde with mass culture, Saskia Sassen on making anti-capitalist friction through politically divergent mixing across neoliberalism’s homogenous spatial divisions, and Bifo Berardi’s theory on a poetics to break the behavioral automatisms of the social body created by financialized capitalism) last year’s talk placed an urgency on the relationship of the data-body with the social body to disrupt the physical city as a relatively static scene for predatory multinational boilerplates and growing inequalities of neoliberal globalization on working class cultural production. It necessarily called for a turn away from the overinvestment in data-body digital activism and an increase in the micropolitical friction of the media encounter that is emergently hybrid and media archaeological, “that understands what analog and digital media does and looks forward to where those genealogies might mutate and grow”, this in the interest of creating virtual and locational social inclusion at micropolitical sites of cultural production and reception.
As curator of social practice art Nato Thompson points out in his book Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century, the nature of public cultural activism at the nexus of art and social movements has been moving away from the transgression of hegemonic spaces that Michel de Certeau defined as tactical action, and more towards a collective control of spaces he called strategic. This talk will analyze an alternative history of counter-institutional platforms as deterritorializing and reterritorializing spaces of the artist-led alternative space movement, considering a media archaeological genealogy from the analog to the post-digital. It will create this contingent historical cartography of alternative artist’s spaces along genealogies of media archaeological affinity in order to outline hybrid solutions to the much-needed strategic reterritorialization of post-digital, physical spaces for experimental cultural production, as well as the emergent types of media, ideas, and counterpublics to cultural hegemony that they create.
Rather than tactical media spatial interventions, we will look at how data body platform activities of publishing, pre-internet telecommunications networking, interactive web archiving, and independent curation accomplished social body reterritorialization as artist-run laboratories for process-based counterpublics related to Joseph Beuys’ concept of social sculpture. We will consider the counter-institutional bodies responsible for these platforms--such as artists collectives, non-profits, artist residency programs, galleries, artists’ magazines and websites, and university departments and media arts centers--as categories that are often porous and inter-networked; as entities these heterotopic infrastructures formed counter-institutional pockets that maximized performative matrix protections and networking with major institutions, sharing resources and cultural capital towards genealogical affinities of both the poetic and political. This alternative history establishes such a genealogy of the counter-institution as both media, process and space, data-body and social body.
Finally, we will look at commercial Avantpop cultural manifestations of spatial platform reterritorialization as resistive sites to neoliberal structures. These may offer the potential to create templates for strategic counterpublics through more petty bourgeoisie, private sector interests in the wake of the devastation of public funding for politically and culturally experimental counter-institutions, as well as the challenges of gentrification and welfare state deconstruction to self-organization (and in line with public funding skepticisms of peer control the likes of which we find in the counter-institutional infrastructures for emergent media of Jonas Mekas). This resonates with the concern of last year’s talk to “reverse this flow of deterritorialized mass culture into avant-garde alternative economies that regardless struggle to territorialize local experimental artist networks as residential laboratories” that are culturally “suffused…with social justice…” Perspectives of the heterotopic and global potential of micropolitical Avantpop influences across post-digital, hybrid space through artist brands such as David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails or Beyoncé will necessarily look at trends of capitalist appropriation of the reterritorialization of so-called resistive Avantpop cultural production and its capital. Doing so, this session will alternatively suggest the peer-curated, or artist-led platform media archaeologically as a predictive model of conscious allyship for pluralizing these participatory, transmedia reterritorializations of commercial culture, and hybridizing with new, decentralizing infrastructures for directing cultural capital towards alternative resource creation and counter-institutional, social body change.
 While my term counter-institutional pocket derives loosely from the title of John Berger’s last book, The Shape of a Pocket, it is different in concept from Hito Steyerl’s description of the working-class avant-garde film appropriated from the factory into the museum and stripped of agency (“black boxes…within white cubes”) (Steyerl, “Is the Museum a Factory?”, 61).
Material and Technical Requirements
[List materials you as presenter require AND any participant materials (indicate if support is required for a purchase/cost). Include equipment, technical, and installation requirements if applicable. We will aim to accommodate where possible]
Name: Jennifer Seaman Cook
As organizers we strive for low-cost pathways of participation, are you interested in a community billet program either hosting out-of-towners or staying with locals? billet
Jennifer Seaman Cook is a transnational American Studies scholar, media theorist, essayist, and creative writer. Working at the intersections of politics and poetics, she specializes in visual and public cultures, cultural and social movements, and media and technology studies. Jennifer’s writing can be found in 3:AM magazine, Cedilla Literary Journal (Ç viii, 2014) alongside Amiri Baraka (archived at University of Montana), LA Review of Books, PopMatters, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Salon and more. She also blogs about pre-digital to digital culture and the Experimental Television Center at HASTAC. She can be found in several anthologies and is forthcoming with Clemson University Press. Her arts writing in anthology has premiered at the Frankfurt Book Fair and MoMa PS1.