I had an excellent day up at tate Modern (I seem to be living there at the moment) yesterday for their symposium, Disrupting Narratives. Put together by Kate Southworth from University College Falmouth and the tate themselves, this event brought together an interesting group of new media artists and/or theorists, presenting papers and discussing counter-narratives and counter-protocols in new media art.
Overall it was a good series of talks, from a diverse set of participants who, together, made for some interesting connections between different techniques and methods. Most significant, I think, was the inclusion of the decidedly lo-fi work of Kate Rich and Feral Trade, which served as a useful counterpoint preventing me from the ever-present risk of a too computer-centric reading of the subject-matter.
One thing that particularly interested me was the promise of Alexander Galloway’s presentation. The blurb announced it as follows:
Imagine an art exhibit of computer viruses. How would one curate such a show? Would the exhibition consist of documentation of known viruses, or of viruses roaming live? Would it be more like an archive or more like a zoo? Perhaps the exhibit would require the coordination of several museums, each with “honey pot” computers, sacrificial lambs offered up as attractor hosts for the contagion. A network would be required, the sole purpose of which would be to reiterate sequences of infection and replication. Now imagine an exhibit of a different sort: a museum exhibit dedicated to epidemics. Again, how would one curate an exhibit of disease? Would it include the actual virulent microbes themselves (in a sort of “microbial menagerie”), in addition to the documentation of epidemics in history? Would the epidemics have to be “historical” in order for them to qualify for exhibition? Or would two entirely different types of institutions be required: a museum of the present versus a museum of the past? In this talk Alexander Galloway explores a “counter-protocol” aesthetic and how it relates to the contemporary landscape of artmaking.*
In the event, his talk only touched upon this subject indirectly, in the first half he concentrated on pieces he had produced hacking games and movies, while the second half was dedicated to his work on Guy Debord’s Game of War port to a Java environment. Although the talk was interesting from an art-historical point of view, I was hoping for more about the notion of the virus and it’s “porting” to an art environment. I was particularly interested in its philosophical significance. Over lunch, just prior to this talk, I got quite excited about these ideas and started writing some notes. I’ll decide whether they’re worth posting over the next day or so.
* GALLOWAY, Alexander R. & THACKER, Eugene (2006). On Misanthropy. In Curating Immateriality: The work of the curator in the age of network systems. New York: Autonomedia, 2006, p. 153–168.