The authority of the button

The authority of the button

 

Introduction no 1

Being, or not, a person who doesn’t like to be told what to do is of no importance; we all succumbed at some point to the button. Being aware, or not, of when the delirium started is of no importance either. At present, the button is triumphing.

The authority of the button in practice: you do when you press it. Yet, this authority goes beyond the physical action on to the power exercised on thought and will of each one of us.

The following text was a brief comment, expressed rather as a question, that was published in a closed wiki last year (2016) as assignment in the course ‘Media Philosophy’.  It refers to text as this was the subject of the study; but the visual and the arts are in the same stream.

The comment: the authority of the button

[…] in text-related technologies, we can take as example the structure of the digital text with its multilevel linking; all with the use of the button and the necessary user’s action of clicking.

The button is a technological device that entails simultaneously the option (free choice) and the command (authoritarian behavior). In these two contradictory traits, the first lays the foundation for the second to establish itself. A technology with innate capacity for organizing power and authority seems the only option in a democratic society; seemingly, the authority is diffused to the people that use this technology.

The use of the imperative form, either friendly as in “join, share, like, etc.” or service oriented as  in “listen now, download now, go there now, etc.”, and of course more directly commanding as in “buy now”, would not be accepted otherwise; not in politics, nor in social life. Instead, because of being essential to the structure of the specific technology, and through its material carrier, the button, the command has been accepted as normal. In its turn, the authoritarian behavior exercised on individual level, shifts the limits of acceptable authority that can be imposed centrally.

The question arises: is the authoritarian tendency innate to humans so that the central power contains it as much as the technology that they produce?

Introduction no 2

The button has been a peculiar element of modern times. It has been the focus of awe and of mockery since the moment that its use left the industrial terrain and spread in to everyday life. Between Chaplin’s uncontrollable machines in his movie Modern Times (1936) and The Matrix (Wachowski brothers, 1999), buttons became an accessory in the hands of literally everyone.

One push further, the statement ‘Never send a human to do a machine’s job’ (The Matrix) moved from the sphere of the joke to the common belief.

P.S. 1 I had a hard time in the Univ when omitting the conclusion/closure bit, faithful to the inconclusiveness of art. Cause, apart from believing in this as the only possible free area, I considered all my writings as being part of my artistic practice (no conclusions, only open space). That is why this blog post has two introductions; one to start and one to finish, with the question in the middle.

P.S. 2 The front image is a detail from a textile work of mine titled ‘The memory of a nebula’; embroidery with some padded parts.

KAPNISSI_06
‘Do not press’ – acrylic on canvas, 1998

 

Textiles in documenta 14

Textiles in documenta 14

It is all about the story. That is the story of documenta 14. Textile is there in this frame just like all the other exhibits. The focus points immigration-democracy-disparity must be present even when talking about reindeers or indigo dye. The work is not what you see; the story is. In this sense, textile works have taken an equal place next to the other works of art: that of incidences of non-importance as such, but rather means of illustration of the general concept.

Further, the included textile works are a sample of the tolerable:
naïve with a story of meaning, high aesthetics with a story of meaning (hanged up high as well), size related with a story of meaning (size is imposing no matter what it is for the rest), memorabilia. The latter is covered in the case of textiles through the show of costumes or ordinary clothes, exhibited amongst other objects and photos. Memorabilia carry anyway a tamed sentimentalism, always attached to a story and within the agreed contextual history. Within the frame of documenta, all that is translated into conceptual folklore (because folklore as such is related to colonialism and that is not tolerable).

If you don’t understand, it is because the show is for those who recognise the structure, exhaustively repeated from one contemporary show to the next. As general rule, this is to be kept: a work can be anything as long as it is not what it is. In short, there is no work, there is only a concept containing variables (variable: a symbol that can represent different values).

P.S. 1 It goes further to the notion of art as social science or any science, and the accomplished move of institutionalisation of art (fitting in the programmes of government-fed or otherwise-fed bodies like museums and academic institutions).

P.S. 2 Putting aside how limiting that is, it is debatable whether documenta 14 is on this side or the other (because it does take sides). And, yes, there is such a thing as ‘over-institutionalisation’; this comes from a very interesting piece of writing: “‘Over-institutionalisation’ might therefore suggest that of all the countless individual activities that contribute, day by day, to this contemporary art world, the typical and predominant kind is shaped, whether we know it or not, by those policy goals based on standards, access, and the national interest. On the other hand, however, there are different kinds of activity, based on different values and interests.” By Michael Ascroft, ‘Contemporary art and over-institutionalisation’, Un Magazine 6.1, online: http://unprojects.org.au/magazine/issues/issue-6-1/contemporary-art-and-over-institutionalisation/

 

Lower photos: Right, Quipu gut by Cecilia Vicuna; Left, Fundi (meaning ‘uprising’ ) by Aboukabar Fofana.

Top photos: Historia by Britta Marakatt-Labba, see text here:

Kassel2017 083

Notes on the Symposium/ Residency ‘Dysfunctionalities in contemporary art II

Notes on the Symposium/ Residency ‘Dysfunctionalities in contemporary art II

Limassol – Cyprus
30 November to 4 December 2016
organised by the Cyprus Chamber of Fine Arts (E.KA.TE.)
with the support of Cultural Services of Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture, the Department of Fine Arts of the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) and the International Association of Arts (IAA).

The symposium was as inconclusive as art itself is, a fact that I consider a great success.

During the five days of the event, we immersed into an array of meals interrupted by lectures and workshops. We ate and talked, then listened and acted/reacted; then ate and talked again. Whatever was the plan at the beginning, or our proposal if you wish, passed through the sieve of the exchanged thoughts and the physical presence of each one of us. What came out as result is a version of the initial thought plus a momentum.

My proposal in brief was this: The blog post as prose – a workshop for performing documentary texts.
Abstract: The workshop is based on texts published on the blog ‘artB-the status of artists’ which is part of the artistic practice of the author. The aim is to exercise association and empathy to the artists’ status. Both professionals in the field (visual artists, performers) and amateurs (general audience) will be asked to read/ perform a blog post as a monologue; the participants convey the text in variable expressions, according to their position towards the artists and their practice.  The read outs/ performances will be registered on video and/or sound recording equipment. The result will be presented online through the blog.

The symposium part of the gathering served me as a loose workshop. It allowed me to study the brain waves of my interlocutors, rather than present my idea or explain what I would want from them. When the time came to execute the idea, we were sufficiently aligned so to have the work done in a few hours.

In the meantime, and in-between it all, I filmed with my handy-cam (a little Sony wonder); on came the sea front of Limassol, the square where we mostly gathered, the museum (Lanitis Centre), the workshop of Katerina Neofytidou at the Limassol Centre of Letters and Arts, and more. I also used separately the other miniscule machine, my sound recorder; on here I captured the sound of the bars at the old centre (our room was right above them), the silence in the museum, and of course the read-outs.

The initial editing was done sitting on the bed of our room, on a laptop/ notebook, using MovieMaker. I reached an acceptable result at 2 a.m., right on time when the bars turned the music off and everyone could eventually sleep. The three videos were presented the next day at the basement of Iroon Monument, in a hasty last gathering. We, K_Van, MJ, and I, had to run right after to catch the bus to the airport of Larnaca. Later, back home, I slightly re-edited the videos to their published form.

Though there has been no conclusion, let me note this (underlying?) thought:

All what passes the gates to society is functional. There is no use in looking for dysfunctionality in successful art.

Yet, why to look for anything dysfunctional, in art for that matters? Would it be because functionality presupposes an acknowledgement of rules and beliefs, even as a reaction to them? Or, other way around, because society aborts whatever can not be assimilated in its structures? Isn’t the dysfunctional the only possible free field for the intellect?

I left the symposium with new thoughts, and gratitude for this ultra temporary intellectual spread.

P.S. This post is another view of the symposium, by K_Van.