Re: social improvisation

Johannes H. Birringer (
Sun, 06 Apr 1997 23:39:09 -0500

Dear readers/writers,

I noticed Scott is back and commented on our current discussion, and I want
to take one of his remarks -

> What is intriguing is
>the possibility that eventually new models for social interaction and
>responsibility will arise from the new technology. If these are not sited in
>the body, is it possible they will be based less in fear and more in some
>other, to be defined, relationship? What role do artists have in this
>development? What would some of Augusto Boal's workshops look like in
>telematic space?

Good question. Actually two questions. My comments on "working with the
other" had a specific social/cultural and political notion of participatory
experimention/action in mind (as I experienced it with the Latin artists in
Houston), where issues of fear didn't come up (at least not if one considers
the timidity and shyness of some anglo students/professors vis a vis the
"visitors" primarily on the level of confused self-consciousness, a
self-conscious 'anti-theatrical' prejudice).

However, how can new relationships be defined together (say, in artistic
experimentation across cultural divides and along an axis of shared interest
in social anthropology, activism, cultural production)? How can they be
defined together and extended into non-physical/non-synchronous spaces?

The question about Boal (Theatre of the Oppressed) is awkward since Boal's
participant workers/workshoppers were rehearsing social change/political
change or awarenesses of the possibility of such change, and that means
examining and contesting the conditions that make people unequal (or, as
Amanda put it, digitally unconnected, the "digitally homeless") or exploited.

I would like to see such rehearsals, and experimentation with sharewares.
How often does techno art work address social inequities, digital
underprivilege, exploitation? How do the creators of telematic environments
invite the digitally homeless into their spaces, and for what purposes? How
do such works address the conditions (social/economic) under which they can
be put there for consumption?

I ask these equally awkward questions because of chat I had with a
performnace artist I much admire (Coco Fusco), and she stated to me (I quote):

I personally, and professionally, have many questions about whether
cyberspace is a truly viable venue for performance work, or if most
artists aren't just saying they want to work in virtual reality
to have access to corporate money.
Cyberdiscourse as far as I can tell is so grossly uncritical of its own
romantic embrace of technology, and so resistant to sociological and
ideological analysis that I find it almost frightening - has there
ever been
another time when artists and intellectuals were so enamoured with an
invention of the US military? Where are Frankfurt School disciples
when you
need them?

do you all mind (I hope not) that I bring Coco's remark into the forum? How
would you answer her?

(I told her I am not enamoured, but feel that we do have a choice how to
implement technologies for our work and that we can help to change designs,
applications, and aesthetic/cultural perceptions of the extended
body/art/communication). We can examine the technological interfaces and
make them tell stories about our societies and their increasing belief in
their own virtuality, which may not always be a funny story).


Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.

on a Sunday after 6 hours of total blackout in my Chicago neighborhood.
Nothing worked anymore, and my computer and my alarmclock looked like funny
pieces of ugly furniture.