Re: social improvisation

Scott deLahunta (
Tue, 08 Apr 1997 21:54:12 +0200

To Johannes ::::

At 11:39 PM 4/6/97 -0500, you wrote:
>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?

Good points Johannes -- and exactly what I was interested in when I proposed
the Boal question. As a paradigm, it strikes me that Boal is representative
of precisely the sort of activity we have difficulty practicing on the net
by virtue of the absence of our bodies. But, the way you put it, there is no
reason why someone could not create a Boal-like action in a space both real
and virtual where some of these questions get asked. I don't have any brain
left tonight to figure on it any more -- but thanks.

>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?

Hmmm, I had some dealings with Coco last August -- oh yes, Johannes, you and
I went back and forth a bit about it already. Anyway, I should certainly set
aside my personal feelings to say that to suggest that artists may be saying
they want to work in VR to have access to corporate money may be true. It is
consistent with the arts (in the usa and it spreads) since the 1970s to seek
sponsorship as aggressively as possible with the outcome possibly being a
political compromise here and there. Some choose to refuse to compromise,
others don't -- but for me, criticism of this sort from Coco is a bit
trickie because it is impossible to wash one's hands completely clean on
this level. Her's too. The business about cyberdiscourse being grossly
uncritical is not true. There are many who are madly theorizing the pluses
and minuses of cyberspace -- is anyone here participating in the nettime
discussion list? A very very interesting, critical, hyper skeptical,
anti-wired and very very intelligent dialogue. Coco doesn't know about it
obviously. The bit about the US Military -- come on, that's a bit of an
overwrought statement isn't it?

Well there -- that's how I would answer her, although I doubt that I would
get a word in edgewise if I were to sit down across from her in a debate.

... but to be fair, Coco has done, and Johannes can attest to this, some
very very exciting and interesting work in the area of social/ cultural
criticism overlapping with art. So, please don't discount her on the basis
of what I'm saying above. You should check out her recent book *English is
Broken Here* to see what I mean. I wonder if any of her writings are on the
net anywhere? Johannes?

Scott deLahunta and Susan Rethorst
Writing Research Associates, NL
Sarphatipark 26-3, 1072 PB Amsterdam, NL
tel: +31 (0)20 662 1736
fax: +31 (0)20 470 1558