David Garcia on Mon, 1 Feb 1999 12:18:40 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Something Personal

>Something Personal

The list is effective because it creates a zone hovering somewhere between
the private sphere of conversation and the public domain of publishing.
Amidst all the loose talk of hybridity the list's capacity
to blur private and public communications has proved itself to be a
uniquely productive hybrid medium. It allows new forms of content to emerge
from a new social process.  Over the The years of reading and occasionally
contributing to nettime has introduced me to new forms of intellectual
intimacy. Theorist and critic (and Nettime contributor) Lev Manovich has
suggested that the computer is currently projecting its own ontology onto
the culture at large, the ontology of the "data base" which he sees as a
rival to narrative with its pre-ordained trajectories of cause and
effect.Certainly I have noticed weird changes in my own reading patterns,
for one thing I've become addicted to textual coincidence. More likely to
spin out strange patterns. But at the same time more inclined to agonize
self consciously (to much so) about my own position as reader or writer in
this endlessly reconfiguring web of connections. An example.
>Re-dreaming Songlines
>In Bruce Chatwin's book 'Songlines'. The central thread of the book is
>Chatwin's re-telling of the Australian Aboriginal creation myth. Of how the
>legendary beings known as the Ancestors created themselves out of clay and
>began to walk across the continent. As they walked they sang out the name
>of everything that crossed their path- birds, animals, plants, rocks
>waterholes; 'singing the world into existence'. Each Aboriginal inherits
>his own Songline or Dreaming track. 'Dreaming tracks laid over the land as
>ways of communication between the most far flung tribes. A song he said was
>both a map and a direction finder.
>Providing you knew the song you could always find your way across
>country.'(...) 'The whole of Australia could be read as a musical score.
>There was hardly a rock or a creek in the country that could not or had not
>been sung. One could perhaps visualize the songlines as a spaghetti of
>illiads and Odysseys, writhing this way and that, in which every episode
>was readable in terms of geology'.
>In the middle of Bruce Chatwin's book 'Songlines' which describes his
>journey through the Australian landscape, myth and culture, there is a
>small incident in which the author meets Joshua, an aboriginal story teller
>(pintupi) in the outback. Joshua describes the rocks in the landscape as
>'fire, spider, wind, grass, porcupine, snake, old man, two men' etc. At the
>end of their encounter Joshua tells Chatwin, what to me turned out to be
>the strangest story of all.
>Aboriginals, when tracing a Songline in the sand, will draw a series of
>lines with circles in between. Each line represents a stage in the
>Ancestor's journey, usually a days march. Each circle is a 'stop',
>'waterhole', or one of the Ancestor's campsites. But Joshua's story of the
>"the Big Fly One" was beyond Chatwin's understanding. It began with a few
>straight sweeps; then it finally ending in a series of wiggles. As he
>traced each section, Joshua kept calling a refrain in English, 'Ho! Ho!
>They got the money over there.'
>As Joshua's story develops it becomes clear it was a Quantas Dreaming
>(Quantas the Australian national airline). And that Joshua had once flown
>to London. The maze was London's Heathrow Airport. The wiggles were twists
>and turns, the journey of the taxi, from the tube station to the hotel. But
>Joshua's real destination was Amsterdam.
>The ideogram which Joshua drew to represent Amsterdam totally perplexed
>Chatwin. There was a circle. And there were four smaller circles around it,
>and there were wires from each of the circles that lead to a rectangular
>box. For inhabitants of the Netherlands the four circles would be less
>mysterious than they were to Chatwin, they presumably represent the four
>large central canals that underpin the cities radial structure. But the box
>remained mysterious until later in the story. It emerged that Joshua had
>been one of four participants in an event, which Chatwin mistakenly thought
>was some kind of round table conference. Apart from Joshua, the other
>participants (drawn in a clockwise direction) had been 'a white one, a
>father one, a thin one, a red one, a black one, a fat one. The picture
>which Chatwin pieced together, and which he could not begin to say whether
>or not it was true or false, was of a 'scientific' experiment at which an
>aboriginal had sung his dreaming a catholic monk had sung a Gregorian
>chant, a Tibetan Lama his mantras and a native African his tribal
>chants. The chapter ends with Chatwin writing that "The episode struck
>Joshua as so unbelievably funny that he had to hold his stomach for
>laughing". As did Chatwin.
>As I read this I was thunder struck. Of course! The performance artists
>Marina Abramovich and Ulay, had held an event in Amsterdam's Carré Theater
>called Positive Zero, in the early 80's (Songlines was published in '87).
>In this project the artists had brought together in the Carré (now clearly
>identified as the mysterious box in the drawing) the monks, lamas, Africans
>and Australian aboriginal described in the dreaming. Incredible, an avant
>garde event held in a western metropolis had become a aboriginal dreaming.
>And had then been unknowingly transformed and reintroduced into the
>bloodstream of western popular literature through Chatwin's best seller,
>Songlines. The genealogy of this event is a fantastic illustration of the
>Alice in Wonderland culture we inhabit. The scrambling of time zones and
>borders. The apparently seamless travelling from the complexities of
>prehistoric cultures to the esoteric avant garde and then on to the pop
>culture of best seller lists and resting, now for the moment here where it
>has momentarily morphed into an article for Casco Issues or a posting on
>Nettime. If this story starts a new discussion thread on the list then on
>it will continue to spin criss crossing rich and strange networks of time
>and space.
>Of course I'm in a fools trance, I can't help kidding myself that I'm in a
>new world of cultural diversity instead of being just another post modern
>cultural tourist. Just the latest victim of what Stuart Hall described as
>the problem of 'decenterings which originate from the center itself!' "Have
>you ever thought" he wrote "that it is only in the center that you can
>really sample ethnic cuisine? In the periphery they just want people to
>eat, they don't have any choice, the choices exist here".
>But despite and because of my privileged position this remains an utopian
>reading moment. Chatwin hadn't understood the story being told, he knew he
>hadn't understood it, but still, he included it. And because of this, he
>opened up a space for me, the reader. In the "Practice of Every Day Life"
>written in the 1970's de Certeau described this specific kind of reading
>pleasure (which he calls tactical)"...the thin film of writing becomes a
>movement of strata, a
>play of spaces. A different world (the reader's) slips into the author's
>This mutation makes the text habitable, like an apartment. It transforms
>another person's property into a space borrowed for a moment by a
>transient. Renters make comparable changes in an apartment they furnish
>with their acts and memories...."
>This tendency to open up reading spaces, rather than simply consume
>texts,to briefly occupy and to make them ones own, is, as I have described,
>a possibility in all forms of reading. But the power and the point, of a
>skillfully moderated internet list like Nettime is that this quality is for
>grounded, amplified. As you read you know you can also respond, and that
>this response will be filtered through a multitude of sensibilities. A
>nettimer coined the term "collaborative text filtering" for this process.
>As a reader, even if you never respond, the knowledge that you could,
>profoundly alters the reading experience. As internet lists evolve we see
>new forms of content emerge from what is essentially a strange and often
>dysfunctional social process.
>The ontological terrorist Hakim Bey gave this notion of creating and
>occupying transient cultural spaces a new currency when he introduced the
>term "temporary autonomous zones". Four years ago in an interview he
>expanded on the idea when he spoke of a key distinction between what he
>called  "intimate media" and "mass media".  He spoke affectionately of
>pirate radio and of the zine or the small scale publication as having an
>intimate relationship with its audience, inviting discourse. He contrasted
>this with speaking or writing through the mass media which, for Bey,
>creates no resonance "no returning echo".  But if Hakim Bey was more
>familiar with the nettime he might have recognized a third possibility.
>Between the intimate media and the mass media, an internet list can be
>both, a metamedium.

(re-mix of article written for Casco Issues)
#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@desk.nl and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL: http://www.desk.nl/~nettime/  contact: nettime-owner@desk.nl