Steve Dietz on Mon, 31 Mar 2003 20:10:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Translocations - 3 of 3

Translocations: A Conversation – part 3 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: Steve Dietz <> 
Date: Thu Mar 14, 2002 5:52am
Subject: RE: nomadism and routes


I am interested in the "asymmetry of ignorance" and how it maps "a model
of globality [that] need not be in any one direction." When Raqs first
raised this asymmetry, it was, of course, very recognizable. 

The model I would like to make more explicit, however, is that of the
network. As has been pointed out, the nodes of a network are
nondirectional, providing, potentially, a different way of mapping
relationships that does not rely on notions of center and periphery. The
network is also an amplifier that can invert the asymmetry of power (and
ignorance?) and allow for the conventionally unempowered to act with
great effect, for the localized (wherever they are geographically) to
have global impact.

This network can be used to try to close down borders or to hack them,
to encrypt or to decrypt, to be an "old boys network" or to become else.
It, like technology, is not good or bad, but I do think it models a way
to affect practice.

Finally, Yukiko made a very important point about the 10_dencies project
when she said that no one person had or could have the overall view of
the various flows. There could be no master narrative. This is a
commonplace observation by now, but nevertheless there remains this
“drive to understand," and it is always difficult to retain a sense of
this understanding as contingent and incomplete yet adequate and

From: yukiko shikata <> 
Date: Tue Mar 19, 2002 3:40am
Subject: RE: nomadism and routes

dear translocators,

Actually, the difference of center and periphery, the "asymmetry of
ignorance," is everywhere.

>From a distance, it seems possible that we see the world based on
geography (including latitude and longitude), and see centers and
peripheries depending on that; but actually, when we get closer to them,
we realize that it is not so simple. In each city (so-called global
cities especially), small centers and peripheries are intermingled, and
"asymmetry of ignorance" abounds.

The locations that seem peripheral are not necessarily vulnerable.
Rather, those locations could be connected translocally and might reveal
alternative directions, not dependent on the existing scale of center
and periphery; and for this strategy, the network (in a rather broader
meaning, not only the Internet) becomes the key point. It means that
each area or node can strengthen the others, can show new possibilities.

One short comment on info-geography. Information has intentionality, so
when we call it "information,” it automatically implies a receiver,
which reveals how this information is intended for the survival of the
one (or the group) in the world. I refer here to the notion of Umwelt by
biologist Jakob Johann von Uexküll.

I am also impressed by what Raqs wrote in their last posting, raising
the important issue of the "archaeology of translocality.” It is
necessary to insert the time-aspect to see how information, people, and
cultures influence one another—as dynamic exchanges of information and
changing tendencies. Through the exchange of codes, or through the
process of translation (and sometimes misunderstanding, misuse), those
kinds of differences of understanding can bring about a new phase of
emergence for a new expression of culture. 

Translation of translocation, or translocation of translation. Maybe I
am playing with words. It makes nonsense but sometimes might make some
sense, and at least nonsense has some sense.

And translatitude.

"Sense" means meaning; also feeling (in a way connected to
phenomenology). How to feel the world; how to feel the other, and

I agree with Raqs’ notion of nomadism requiring regularities and
returns, repeating but always with slight differences.

Translocality is always in motion, and inserting some "otherness" every
time and being renewed/reterritorialized, it is like an autopoietic
process, defining the border by moving itself. There is no substantial
or fixed border, but an ever-changing process that generates borders at
every second of movement. Whereby the location.

Translocality derives from chaos and order, or in other words,
info-nodes and dispersion, appearance and disappearance, and globality
and locality.

To Guna:
On the issue of the global curator, I also work as a so-called curator,
but I believe that people working with/in new media think and act rather
borderlessly. Artists, engineers, curators, etc. collaborate to make a
discursive public space for the participants, not for one-way
expressions. That's why I always call myself a mediator (rather than a
curator), which is a kind of interface for the new connective nodes.
In my understanding, latitude is based on the earth’s surface, but it is
also used in the air, for airplanes (and there are national borders and
time zones applied to the sky). How about applying latitudes deep into
the earth? Is there a point at which the latitudes disappear, become

Do we have any scale for the region deep inside the earth?

Reflexive + flexible = reflexible. I coin the term reflexible for all
translocators, also for the digital commons.

all the best, yukiko

From: Steve Dietz <> 
Date: Tue Mar 19, 2002 8:29pm
Subject: RE: race and the translocal

Dear reflexors,

I like this term reflexible. It also reminds me of the term rescension.
Raqs, perhaps you could share that definition from your cyber glossary?

The urge for new terminologies—translocal, reflexible, rescension—and
the reinvestment of old terminologies—sarai, commons—must reflect a
certain inadequacy of current terminology (current understanding?) in
regard to what we know to be the contemporary context. I would argue
that to some extent the terminologies are not important. Of what import
is "new media" versus "cyber art" or "information works"? On the one
hand, they are just labels. On the other hand, I think they can open up
new territories for our thinking, to help create new old spaces like the
digital commons.

From: Raqs Media Collective <> 
Date: Tue Mar 19, 2002 6:36am
Subject: Re: race and the translocal

Dear Translocators,

We think that Yukiko's evocation of the network (and a network can
always be a network of networks) as a conscious remapping strategy is an
interesting way of destabilizing the notion of both center and margin.

A form of cultural practice that is located at the intersection of many
networks finds itself placed simultaneously in different maps of the
world. We think that this should be considered the general condition of
the information arts and new media practices. By being made of data, and
by being immaterial, and by being transportable, and by not being the
kind of works that need to stand alone, information artworks and new
media works can take to networks and to networked exhibition contexts in
the same way that archaeological artifacts gravitate toward museums of
antiquity. This (the network)—the decentered profusion of maps—is the
natural habitus of the new media work. Perhaps we are witnessing for the
first time a culture that is global, not only in its dispersal, but also
in its production, as practitioners form networks to make work happen.

For instance, the possibility of our work (the Global Village Health
Manual) being included in the Kingdom of Piracy show, and being accessed
through its decidedly Sino-Japanese interface, places our work within a
“(syn)aesthetic” map quite different from it being seen in a curatorial
context that frames new media work in terms that are, lets say, “deep”
Central European, or “far” North American, or even “thick” South Asian.

This leads to shows of shows, networked iterations of works in which
flexible and fluid curatorial contexts are themselves up for
consideration along with the works that they present. Thus, the figure
of the global curator, which Guna evoked earlier, becomes the norm
rather than the exception.

What this means is that no matter where you place your work, it will be
read differently, depending on the context and on the works that are its
neighbors. That’s obvious, and not very profound, but let’s complicate
this picture a bit. Let’s speak of neighbors both in spatial and
temporal terms. What is the neighborhood of a work?

This questions a canonical understanding of what one’s territory is,
where one’s neighborhood lies, and which cultural materials one can be
intimately self-reflective and playful with. We think that it is high
time that those of us in the so called non-West (which latitude is
that?) lay claim to all that is called Western, just as naturally as we
lay claim to more proximate forms of cultural material. Because, what
may be close in spatial terms may be far away temporally, and there may
be many permutations of this tension between space and time in between.
This means that aspects of what is called Indian Art by art historians
may be quite far away from us in time, even if it is close to us in
space. And of course the larger corpus of what is called Western art is
far away both in time and space. This means that one can begin to think
of one’s location and neighborhood in quite unexpected ways.

Of course, another consequence of the “asymmetry of ignorance” is that
even if a non-Western practitioner were to be reflective of his/her own
antecedents, a Western viewer, who takes his/her own vantage point as
universal, without recognizing that Euro-American culture or
Euro-American modernity is no more and no less provincial than any other
spatial configuration of culture and of modernity, may not even
recognize that which the practitioner is being reflective about.

What then is the strategy that (for the purpose of argument) a
non-Western practitioner can adopt?

To enter and to create networks that do not ask (like in immigration
controls or bouncers in certain discotheques) about one's cultural

To refuse to answer any question in terms of yes or no when it comes to
whether one does or does not belong to the west or the east. One can say
that one belongs to above or below (?) rather than to east or west.

To make work that belongs to networks and that is uncomfortable with
standing alone.

A re-telling, a word taken to signify the simultaneous existence of
different versions of a narrative within oral, and from now onwards,
digital cultures. Thus one can speak of a “southern” or a “northern”
rescension of a myth, or of a “female” or “male” rescension of a story,
or the possibility (to begin with) of Delhi/Berlin/Tehran rescensions of
a digital work. The concept of rescension is contraindicative of the
notion of hierarchy. A rescension cannot be an improvement, nor can it
connote a diminishing of value. A rescension is that version which does
not act as a replacement for any other configuration of its constitutive
materials. The existence of multiple rescensions is a guarantor of an
idea or a work's ubiquity. This ensures that the constellation of
narrative, signs, and images that a work embodies is present, and
waiting for iteration, at more than one site at any given time.
Rescensions are portable and are carried within orbiting kernels within
a space. Rescensions, taken together, constitute ensembles that may form
an interconnected web of ideas, images, and signs.

From: Steve Dietz <> 
Date: Tue Mar 19, 2002 8:05pm
Subject: RE: race and the translocal

"To make work that belongs to networks and that is uncomfortable with
standing alone."

This is a fine phrase, and it seems to lead, as Raqs suggest in regard
to the global curator, to the notion of "shows of shows, networked
iterations of works in which flexible and fluid curatorial contexts are
themselves up for consideration along with the works that they present."

How, practically, does one create curatorial contexts, which are
themselves up for consideration? For instance, I'm a little confused by
the statement "information artworks and new media works can take to
networks and to networked exhibition contexts in the same way that
archaeological artifacts gravitate toward museums of antiquity."

One of the critiques of the museum is precisely the case of the Elgin
Marbles, which "gravitated" from their incorporation in a temple of
worship to a museum of antiquity for a different kind of veneration, a
moment, as Paul Valéry described it, when art and sculpture lost their
mother, architecture.

The idea that information artworks can "take to networks" seems to me
absolutely correct, but my question is whether there is a fruitful
relation between the network and the museum that is not, merely, the
expression of an asymmetry of power or the museum as mausoleum,
sav(or)ing things by killing them. How to exhibit translocally, where
the context is both the global network and the physical setting?

From: Raqs Media Collective <> 
Date: Wed Mar 20, 2002 4:09am
Subject: on networks and museums

There was a certain deliberation with which we put the network and the
museum close to each other in the same sentence, and we are glad that
Steve immediately zeroed in on it.

It was wicked :) on our part to slide these two spaces that seem so far
apart from each other into a space in thought where they seem close, but
the intention was to provoke a reflection on conceptuality, and on what
belongs where.

Of course, we are not arguing that new media networks, as exhibition
contexts, are analogous to archaeological galleries in museums. The
museum, as Steve pointed out, could be a dead space, and the network is,
by definition, alive.

But there is a point about the loss of context that we want to stress:
whereas the artifact in a museum loses context when it "gravitates"
toward or is pulled in to a museum, the data object has little or no
context to lose. The immateriality of the data object does suggest the
possibility of a certain aloofness from immediate cultural geographies
and contexts, "above or below—rather than to the east or west of given

If anything, a data object has much to gain by being positioned in an
interlocked way, and by being embedded or at least coincident with other
data objects. Contextlessness is the context of the data object.

There can be two ways of thinking about belonging: one is to say "I
belong to this culture," and the other is to say "these cultures belong
to me." In the second sense, one is privileging a notion of taking
things, using them, abandoning them, fashioning other things with them,
as one is on the move; our belongings then can be said to travel with us
as we course through culture. This need not be understood in a foraging
or acquisitive sense alone; it can be seen in terms of circulation and
the sharing of belongings that never stick to their momentary custodians
but rather travel among their custodians in the same way that their
custodians travel through the network. We are talking of agile
practices, mobile curators, and floating works, which construct complex
matrices of belonging and claims on each other, none of which are based
on the principles of mutual exclusivity. This presupposes an art circuit
that has something in common with the pattern of conversation and
give-and-take that might otherwise be the defining feature of an
affinity group. This is a form of practice that presupposes the
existence of a network, and thus means that the building of the network
is as much a part of the practice as the fashioning of the objects that
inhabit it. Because the way the objects are positioned and oriented has
everything to do with the architecture of the network—of the living as
opposed to the dead collection. 

From: Gunalan Nadarajan <> 
Date: Thu Mar 21, 2002 9:22pm
Subject: RE: on networks and museums

Dear Raqs and others, 

I find the idea of the data object's immateriality and contextlessness a
little problematic. The fact that something circulates within a network
does not mean that it is free from context. It may simply mean that the
contexts are shifting, as are the meanings associated with them. I see
interesting parallels between the shifting contexts of the data object
and Derrida's notion of difference. 

As for Raqs’ desire for "agile practices, mobile curators, and floating
works, which construct complex matrices of belonging and claims on each
other, none of which are based on the principles of mutual exclusivity”
. . . I remain hopeful. 


A Conversation
Online Exhibition
Part of How Latitudes Become Forms


Steve Dietz
Curator of New Media
Walker Art Center

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