Steve Dietz on Mon, 31 Mar 2003 20:08:46 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Translocations - 2 of 3

Translocations: A Conversation – part 2 of 3


A Conversation
March 11–22, 2002, Steve Dietz (Minneapolis), Guna Nadarajan
(Singapore), Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta of
Raqs Media Collective (Delhi), and Yukiko Shikata (Tokyo) engaged in an
online conversation that started from the idea of translocations and
ranged widely across the terrain of global net art practice and
philosophy. Following is an edited version of our conversation.

An online exhibition of network-based art from Brazil, China, Croatia,
India, Japan, Mexico, Phillipines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, and
the United States by Danger Museum, entropy8zuper! with Julie Mehretu
(launches April 6), Fran Ilich, Takuji KOGO, Andreja Kuluncic (launches
May 1, Fatima Lasay, Raqs Media Collective, Re:combo, Warren Sack +
Sawad Brooks, Sarai Media Lab, The Thing, Trinity Session, and (launches March 31).


From: mediachef_translocations <> 
Date: Wed Mar 13, 2002 3:57am
Subject: Re: from Guna

Guna and Yukiko,
A lot to chew on here! And thanks, Yukiko, for introducing the notion of
imagination. Shuddha has written a quite wonderful piece about his
imagination as sparked by community telephones called "Long Distance

In my recent "global travels" I had a similar sense of wonder and
imagination provoked by the destination board in the Kuala Lumpur
airport. I think I could have sat there indefinitely. It also brings to
mind one of my standard anecdotes, which is that one of the ways that
Claude Shannon, and others, understood his very precise and profoundly
transforming mathematical theory of information was as surprise.
Information has more value the more surprising it is.[16]

Guna, I think you are right to question whether
latitudes—geography—introduce another instance of a kind of
essentialism. Nevertheless, I remain interested in whether there is a
kind of nonessentialist localism that can be recuperated by the notion
of translocal in opposition to transglobal. Perhaps it is the notion of
hospitality, which Raqs mentioned in relation to Irina Aristarkhova and
which is embedded in her new work Virtual Chora.[17] 

From: Gunalan Nadarajan <> 
Date: Tue Mar 12, 2002 9:09pm
Subject: RE: translocations

Dear Yukiko and the rest, 

I am thankful for your reference to the notion of
latitude-differentiated time zones as it again points to the ways in
which cartographies are organizing the spatial-temporal realities of our
lived experiences as different. I would like, though, to suggest that
sometimes geographies, with reference to the imagined topographies of
the net and global networks of commerce, have been promoted as the new
signifiers of real spaces or, in cyberculture circles, place. The fact
that geographies are as much constructions of spatio-temporal
experiences as they are representations of real spaces is carefully
circumvented, sometimes by the critique of net space as being not real
vis-à-vis that of geographical space. In some sense, then, I am
wondering if the reference to latitude being a geographical construct
standing in this exhibition as a trope of locatedness is not rather

I would like to raise another issue that has been bothering me for a
while now, the phenomenon of the global curator; and Steve, as I
indicated to you during your visit here, you seem to be one example of a
global curator both by intent, and since I know you will beg to differ,
by default. By intent, insofar as you (as does your institution, the
Walker Art Center) desire to “curate the world” in a sense. The desire
to go beyond one's shores, the aspiration to incorporate other
perspectives and products into one's ambit (and thus reflecting global
ambitions) is peculiar to the global curator, most concretely embodied
in the biennial curators/artistic directors. One may quibble about
whether it is really the globe that the global curator desires or
whether it is far more humble insofar as they aspire to merely represent
a variety of perspectives, not comprehensively but conscientiously.
Whatever one decides about these issues, the global curator, reflecting
a “will to globality” in curating and organizing art exhibitions, is an
important mediator of the global in the art world. What is the role of
the global curator in an age of translocations? Does the global curator
sometimes embark on the translocations by his/her own travels, stringing
together geographically and culturally diverse artists in ways that
circumvent the need for others, such as the artists and the audiences,
to “translocate”? Or is the global curator a key agent in initiating and
sustaining critically nuanced translocational strategies in the art

From: yukiko shikata <> 
Date: Wed Mar 13, 2002 7:12am
Subject: RE: translocations

dear Guna and the rest,
"Latitude" includes attitude, and the attitude comes from each person,
so latitudes could be defined as the connected attitudes (perspectives
and actions) of an unlimited number of people, each facing local
realities and connected globally. "Forms" are generated by space and
time, but nobody knows how they become, as each of us sees them from our
own perspective.

I think the forms coming out of latitudes constitute an info-geography,
consisting of dynamic, changing numerical codes, to which we cannot
apply the existing notion of physical space. Via the Internet, we face
totally different kinds of geography, which are beyond global and local,
private and public.
Of course there is a tendency toward territorialization (or
globalization) of the information sphere, applying the existing
material-based regulations to an info-, digital-, network-based entity,
and putting this info-geography under the control of governments and
corporations. Artists could be "agents for change" (Konrad Becker) to
resist such tendencies.
At the moment I am co-curating, with Shu Lea Cheang and Armin Medosch,
an online exhibition titled Kingdom of Piracy (KOP).[18] Raqs Media
Collective is participating with their Global Village Health Manual.[19]
Shuddha or Jeebesh or Monica, could one of you talk about the project in
relation to translocation or other related topics? 

With KOP, we are dealing with the piracy issue, trying to promote
artistic interventions, as the whole digital-based information “space”
is in possible danger of future control by the global economy. Piracy
also references issues of deterritorialization and omnipresence. 

Regarding info-geography, I am also interested in the aspects of memory
that can be collected and stored as resources for future use. Raqs is
also dealing with this issue in its OPUS project.[20] This is a totally
new way of production, and locates works as nodes in an infinitely
open-ended progression of possible future productions. 

Henri Lefebvre wrote in "Production of Spaces" (1973) as follows (sorry
for my bad translation from the Japanese):

“In the near future, it will become important to seek the new
possibility as much as possible and to produce the human space following
the model of the collective . . . Here, works are not "created" by a
single author, but "produced" by collaborations regarded as the
production of the space . . . and the space could be said to be a
“public space” . . . This space can be realized by taking the way of the
"public domain" or the "commons." Where do those "commons" exist?”[21]

We might think of this as a new kind of translocal entity, which is an
agent or agency to connect with us and others, and also to connect us
with each other (this is also done, for example, by Knowbotic Research’s

From: Steve Dietz <> 
Date: Wed Mar 13, 2002 9:31am
Subject: RE: translocations

Thanks. I think the movement you make from translocal to information
commons is important. There is a certain parallelism between
global/local, nomadic/fixed, public/private, which is very interesting.

From: Raqs Media Collective <> 
Date: Wed Mar 13, 2002 8:28am
Subject: nomadism and routes

Dear Steve, Yukiko, and Guna,

It is great to see the list really warming up, and all of our postings
substantiating one another.

Guna has raised a very important point about the "limits of nomadic
strategies" because, as he says, "there is a tendency for such
strategies not to have a life after their initial interventions and

While this is a very necessary caveat to keep in mind, it also presumes
that nomadism is seen as being inherently contingent on impermanence.

We think, however, that nomadism is not a one-off singular movement from
one location to another. It requires regularities, and returns. This is
the difference between the nomad and the migrant. The nomad walks the
same paths between places, the migrant leaves one place for another.

The betweenness of the first movement and the finality of the second
departure enclose between them a world of a difference. In fact, this
difference may be what we are struggling to define as the distinction
between translocality and the hegemonic form of globalization. This is
not to say that translocality is antithetical to all forms of the global
imaginary, but of that, more later.

The paths on which nomads walk need to be maintained over time and
across generations. While settlements have witnessed ebbs and flows,
cities have been depopulated and repopulated, and so have trade routes.
The entire history of Central Asia, and the languages that many of us
speak, from Turkey to Bangladesh, bear witness to the obstinate
persistence of nomadism across generations. This permanence requires
that there be stable institutions of hospitality for practices of
nomadism. Hence, sarais. Hence, the settlements that grew with sarais as
their nuclei. Nomadism and location have in this instance at least a
symbiotic relationship. And the decline of many cities and seemingly
permanent settlements in our geographies has to do with the inability of
nomads to traverse well-worn paths, because of borders that inhibit
movement. The tragic destiny of a city like Kabul, from the early
twentieth century right through to the Taliban years and the war in
Afghanistan, is, for instance, signatory of what happens to a location
when borders close in and nomads, carrying ideas and images and songs
and objects from other spaces, are no longer welcome. This is why we
stress the importance of hospitality, of permanent refuges for
transients, as an essential factor in a new/old cultural ethic.

To delve into roots in such spaces is necessarily to discover an
intricate matrix of intersecting, chaotic “wills to globality.” This is
true, we think, of all our genealogies. Our selfhood, the apex of the
myriad identities that constitute our coming into history today, is
composed of many silences and acts of forgetting as much as of
remembering and assertion. These omissions are the ones that are located
exactly at the point where the tendrils of our roots touch the tendrils
of the roots of others from whom we may wish to deny inheritances. The
deeper we go into our genealogies, our cultures, our practices, and our
languages, the more horizontally spread out they become. In this sense,
the discovery of one's roots is also a discovery of each of our nomadic

Each of these nomadic inheritances is an instance of a will to

The will to globality need not be seen only in terms of the desire of
the local to reach a predetermined global space—to be “in” on what is
provisionally constructed as the global space. We argue that it also
resides in all our specific, located abilities to imagine ourselves as
global subjects, creating global spaces. This means that it is not only
the curator who is a global entity. He or she is no more (or less) of a
global entity than practitioners and artists.

Let us elaborate what we mean. On Sarai’s listserv Reader List, there
was a lot of discussion about what happened in New York, in Afghanistan,
and in the world in general post-9/11. There was no hesitation on the
part of those who live in, say, New Delhi to claim for themselves the
global space of New York.

There is, at the moment, a serious and violent sectarian crisis
engulfing parts of India. And the listserv is just as active. But
curiously, although the constituency of the list is global, no one from
outside the subcontinent is writing about what is happening in India at
the moment. We could surmise that this is because of a phenomenon that
we have always maintained is an “asymmetry of ignorance.” We, on the
fringes of the global space, know more about the global space than those
who are at its core know about us. This is the consequence of the
relationship over at least the last two hundred years between centers
and peripheries in the cultural universe. But this also paradoxically
means that we, at the “local” periphery, can claim the “global” center
with far less hesitation. We can be global in a discursive sense, more
than someone at the center can be. This is our will to globality. This
is what ensures that our locatedness in New Delhi is also the crucial
determinant of the nomadism of our concerns and practices.

As Florian Schneider of the No Borders Campaign says, succinctly, "What
use are borders if we do not cross them?”

This has been a long posting, but we would like to leave you with a few
fragments from a hypertext work in progress that we are developing
called “The Concise Lexicon of/for the Digital Commons.”[22]

These fragments are entries that define certain terms, as in a
dictionary; we offer you the following three words.

Any structure that is composed of concentrated masses of materials which
act as junction points for the branching out of extensible parts of the
overall system may be described as nodal. The concentrations or
junctions being the nodes. A nodal structure is a rhizomatic structure,
it sets down roots (that branch out laterally) as it travels. Here,
nodes may also be likened to the intersection points of fractal systems,
the precise locations where new fractal iterations arise out of an
existing pattern. A work that is internally composed of memes is
inherently nodal. Each meme is a junction point or a node for the
lateral branching out of the vector of an idea. In a work that is made
up of interconnected nodes, the final structure that emerges is that of
a web, in which every vector eventually passes through each node at
least once on its orbit through the structure of the work. In such a
structure it becomes impossible to suppress or kill an idea, once it is
set in motion, because its vectors will make it travel quickly through
the nodes to other locations within the system, setting off chains of
echoes and resonances at each node that trace a path back to the kernel
of the idea.
These echoes and resonances are rescensions, and each node is ultimately
a direct rescension of at least one other node in the system and an
indirect rescension of each junction within a whole cluster of other
nodes. Nodes, when written, perhaps erroneously, as “no-des” give rise
to an intriguing hybrid English/Eastern-Hindi neologism, a companion to
the old words des, and par-des. Des (in some eastern dialects of Hindi,
spoken by many migrants to Delhi) is simply homeland or native place;
par-des suggests exile, and an alien land. “No-des” is that site or way
of being, in des or in par-des, where territory and anxieties about
belonging don’t go hand in hand. Nodes in a digital domain are No-des. 

Everywhere-ness. The capacity to be in more than one site. The simple
fact of heterogeneous situation, a feature of the way in which clusters
of memes, packets of data, orbit and remain extant in several nodal
points within a system. The propensity of a meme toward ubiquity
increases with every iteration, for once spoken, it always already
exists again and elsewhere. It begins to exist and be active (even if
dormantly) in the person spoken to as well as in the speaker. Stories,
and the kernels of ideas, travel in this way. A rescension, when in
orbit, crosses the paths of its variants. The zone where two orbits
intersect is usually the site of an active transaction and transfer of
meanings. Each rescension carries into its own trajectory memes from its
companion. In this way, through the encounters between rescensions,
ideas spread, travel, and tend toward ubiquity. That which is everywhere
is difficult to censor, that which is everywhere has no lack of allies.
To be ubiquitous is to be present and dispersed in “no-des.” Sometimes,
ubiquity is the only effective answer to censorship and isolation.
The direction in which an object moves, factored by the velocity of its
movement. An idea spins and speeds at the same time. The intensity of
its movement is an attribute of the propensity it has to connect and
touch other ideas. This gives rise to its vector functions. The vector
of a meme is always toward other memes, in other words, the tendency of
vectors of data is to be as ubiquitous as possible. This means that an
image, code, or idea must attract others to enter into relationships
that ensure its portability and rapid transfer through different sites
and zones. The vectors of different memes, when taken together, form a
spinning web of code.

From: Gunalan Nadarajan <> 
Date: Wed Mar 13, 2002 9:31pm
Subject: RE: nomadism and routes

Dear Raqs and the rest, 

Thank you very much for such a thought-provoking response to my point
about the transience of nomadic strategies. 

I do agree with you that my point about nomadic strategies does not
adequately take into account the continuities and rhythmic nature of
nomadic movements in contradistinction, as you suggest, to those of the
migrant. I agree that such “routinizations” do constitute some sort of
temporal continuities that can serve well in keeping the effects of
nomadic strategies in currency over long periods of time. I am doubtful,
however, if such nomadic strategies can continue operating for very long
when they are so dependent on "the stable institutions of hospitality"
you speak of, especially since such institutions are fast becoming
difficult to sustain. Even Web space, often touted as the most
hospitable of spaces, is riddled with proprietary claims and regulations
that make it almost hostile. How to develop more sarais to provide more
"permanent refuges for transients" seems to be of tantamount importance
now more than ever. 

I am not so convinced, however, of your argument that the "discovery of
our roots is also a discovery of our nomadic inheritances." While it may
well be the case that the tendrils of our roots may spread to touch the
roots of others, these discoveries are seldom invited with recognition
of commonalities but rather with anxieties about differences. This
anxiety to articulate one's difference from some other, as soon as you
discover the common roots, seems to result often not from an
unwillingness to affirm our nomadic inheritances but from an anxiety to
maintain legitimate claims over the inheritances that constitute our
present state. Thus a recognition of one's nomadic inheritances does not
necessarily lead one toward or reflect one's will to globality, though I
am willing to accept that it sometimes does so. 

I agree with and have very often noted the "asymmetry of ignorance" you
mention with reference to the knowledges of the global reflected by the
peripheries vis-à-vis centers. I am unsure, however, how one is to go
about thinking of the core and the periphery with reference to global
space. If the global is a sense of one's being “in” on what has been
"provisionally constructed as global space,” then how does one
articulate within this imagined space cores and peripheries? What does
it mean to be at the core, to be more into and inflected by the global?
What is periphery when one participates in the global, as you suggest,
by "our abilities to imagine ourselves as global subjects"? 

I especially enjoyed the way you recolonized the semantics of nodes by
etymologically renovating the possibilities for articulating nomadic
(dis)positions as nodes. I do think that the notion of nodes, especially
in its resonances with ubiquity, is extremely useful in thinking about
the translocal as well as in understanding the operations of the global.

From: Raqs Media Collective <> 
Date: Thu Mar 14, 2002 1:08am
Subject: RE: nomadism and routes

Dear translocators,

Expanding on Yukiko's point about info-geography, we must consider, as
she has urged us to, whether it is at all necessary to collapse
"territoriality" of physical cartography onto the making of the map of
new cultural practices. This also ties in with Guna's very salient
criticism of our deployment of the metaphors of center and periphery
when conceptualizing a global space.

We have been struck, ever since Guna's last posting, by the inadequacy
of the terms center and periphery as tools to think through

In fact, the notion of a center assumes that there is one globality,
while we ourselves have been arguing for alternate global imaginaries.
The moment one desires, or admits to, disparate, intersecting, chaotic
wills to globality, the notion of a center, and with it of peripheries,
loses any meaning. So, we stand humbly corrected on that score.

We would take this further to say that it is also time to resurrect,
critically examine, and where necessary, celebrate every form of global
or translocal cultural practice from all our histories.

A model of globality need not be in any one direction. Japan or Korea is
as far as England or France from Northern India, and there are high
mountains, deserts, and seas in between—yet ideas and codes did persist
in traveling. The world of global culture seems at the moment to be
skewed in one direction only, and this bias needs to be corrected for us
to understand what it might mean to embrace local wills to globality.

And further, we need to consider an archaeology of translocality, to
construct and complicate stories of rootedness that make it difficult to
narrativize the other in terms of hostility alone, that make it possible
to integrate in any image of the self and its practices all its
inheritances, sedentary as well as nomadic. We agree that this is by no
means easy, but we think that it is necessary if we are to map an
info-geography that does not recapitulate the borders of the physical
world today. Such an info-geography might interact with the boundedness
of the physical world in unforeseen ways.

Here we would like to come back to what Guna said about the institutions
of hospitality that can permit forms of nomadism to flourish. Of course
the Web is a highly contested space, and the fragile commons of the
digital domain are now in a constant state of siege, because of the way
in which regimes of intellectual property (patents, copyright,
trademark, etc.) construct enclosures on the field of code, signs, and

This goes so far as to impose on the maps of our fluid info-geographies
the barbed wires of physical borders—of reterritorializing (as Yukiko
might say) that which has been at its foundation deterritorialized. This
is what happens when, for instance, the regional encryption systems
construct territorial limitations on the usage of DVDs.

This is a situation that we can either accept or work around and
against. The attempt to ensure that a digital commons remains a digital
commons is precisely the effort of ensuring that spaces remain
hospitable to the flows of cultural nomadism, among many other things.
The commons remains such because people continue to travel through it.
This is what ensures that it does not become proprietary.

This means that there can be no naive belief in the inherent freedom or
openness of digital culture, or an innocence as regards what must be
done (repeatedly and constantly) in order to keep the commons, common.


A Conversation
Online Exhibition
Part of How Latitudes Become Forms


15. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, “Long Distance Conversations,” at
16. Steve Dietz, “Signal or Noise? The Network Museum,” February 16,
2000, <>.
17. Irina Aristarkhova, “Virtual Chora,” at
<>. 18. Kingdom of Piracy, curated by Shu
Lea Cheang, Armin Medosch, and Yukiko Shikata, launched online December
9, 2001, at <>. The on-site exhibition was held at
ArtFuture 2002, March 2002, at Acer Digital Art Center, Taiwan. 19. Raqs
Media Collective, with Mrityunjoy Chatterjee, Global Village Health
Manual, CD-ROM. See
20. See <>.
21. Henri Lefebvre, La Production de l’espace (Paris: Éditions
Anthropos, 1974); author’s translation from the Japanese ed. (Tokyo:
Aoki-Shoten Publishers, 2000). 22. The work can be viewed in its
current, simply text form at

Steve Dietz
Curator of New Media
Walker Art Center

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