Sean Cubitt on Sun, 10 Nov 2002 17:50:07 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes

Title: Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitude
Geert and Florian's post is impressive, an the follow-ups, among them the Bordowitz. The following is excerpted from a draft for a catalogue essya, follows a section rehearsing ideas familiar enough here on <nettime>, about the urgency of planetary solidarity, necessity of politcal art. On its own, this section looks too modernist, but I hope adds a little thought - that the move towards virtual worlds is a recognition of what we now possess - a polity and an economy entirely communicative. The storage media referred to thus include banks and arsenals, for example.

========= [from] The War on Terra  ========

The alternative is all too thinkable. It is to abandon art.

Because some of those dippy Christians are after all right to warn that all the arts of the sentimental and the sublime, the arts of wilful gazing into the abyss, of toying with despair, are bad for the soul, a sin against the Holy Spirit, the one sin even God cannot forgive - turning away from hope.

There are many good reasons to dump the concept and the institution. There is one over-riding reason why not. Where victory is neither possible nor desirable, the enemy must be tempted into desiring defeat. Only defeat, and voluntary submission, will be enough. We need art still, perhaps even more now that it is, like God, a posthumous haunting. There can be no abandoning of any space or time that rests to be struggled for, not because it can be won but because what follows is not its loss but its annihilation at the event horizon of the commodity.


Against the singularity, the multitude, as the step from zero to one implies all the other steps to 2 and 3 and on and on. Against the theorists of loss, lack and fading, the plenitude of the void, its wormhole frenzy of matter, energy and information fizzing and popping in and out of existence like quantum popcorn, foam on the ocean in which dimensions bubble, burst and breathe their impure branching conditionalities into the universe. And it is a very disciplined universe - the only one we have, and ours to build. Kant tore the halves apart and Eisenstein brought them back together into an integral spacetime which, however, has become the black hole of the storage media that will not let the light escape. The gaze into evil is never a look into a man's or a woman's soul, but always the crushing of the heart you feel when you permit yourself to stare into the dark backward and abysm of shopping.

The three great media of modern rule - filing, book-keeping and mapping - are agents for freezing and diminishing space and time into the managable, documents that can be folded in on themselves, tucked up, a secret, a possession, guilty things that have no place in a world of energy, matter and entropy. The hoarding is chaos. The art that steals back from their digital forms - database, spreadsheet, geographic information systems - a different usage is not yet quite enough, only, like cryptoanarchism, a lure and a deceit to bring the administration to abase itself.

Better yet is the unfolding of the map, decryption of the spreadsheet, de-linking the map. There is some beauty yet in the world, and some good, and though the time and space where they can be discussed and altered is narrow and brief, there is an art, like a baby crying to be born, that opens up the inward-folded seven dimensions, that swears the Euclidean surface of the sheet that's spread is only a veil whose two puny dimensions will never catch a song or a shred .

Now the political, the social and the economic have become integral mediation, work at the level of communication, of its possibility, of mediation and its dimensionality are the most significant work there is. If they do not succeed, there will never be significance again.

Sean Cubitt * Screen and Media Studies * University of Waikato * Private Bag 3105 * Hamilton * New Zealand * * T: +64 (0)7 838 4543 * F: +64 (0)7 838 4767