|1995 ventsislav zankov|
BECAUSE . . .
'. . . the sky is blue it makes me cry. . . '
‘The Fool on the Hill’, The BEATLES
We've picked it up, we really did. We've got the access to the world, at last, the access to 'here & now’. We were slow to get it: it's the peculiar 'sterility of our recent past. Our past: to the East of the West. Our past: lost into the dead ends of Hi-story. The story of a different world: the story of our own happened to be too painful to be told.
Funny how easy it was to press the DELETE button on the keyboard. Amnesia pushed us into the present . . .
‘PORTAPAK . . .PORTAPAK was in the beginning’1. Not for us, though: we could not find our beginning. Trying really hard to put up the puzzle of our world, we belonged to chaos. Our groping hands, the hands of a kid over his first drawing. Our past: still holding us back. Our future: still hoping to come true. Our being: still clinging to the present. And the present has always been the faithful companion to oblivion. Oblivion that invitingly teases us away . . . and away from the distortions of 'keeping you informed', from the instant access to the world, the Access anytime anywhere, anyhow. . .
We've been sinking into the 'uni-sex' everyday life, deprived of the time zones, missing the sunset and missing the sunrise. A virtual everyday life, a barren reality, caught into the web of optic cables, magnetic waves, licked into the tight hold of 1 to 0. It's the everyday life without scent or colour, that painfully pierces through my delicate present.
We seem to be fully obsessed by the power of the feminine: after all that's the power of obsession. We seem to have broken with the piercing power of the masculine. We seem to be sheepishly waiting for the pregnant time to give birth to . . . something. How funny that a human population of negative birth rates for a long time now, consistently ignores sterility as most unlikely.
We've plopped into the chaos of uncontrollable PROGRESS. The rules of the quantum theory baldly rushed into the macro world. Our virtual spaces: do we really have them? They rather belong to the world of COMPUTING: CD ROMs, evoking memories of casting spells for happier dreams. Reads Only Memory. Whose is this memory anyway?
D'you want to review your last dreams? D'you want to open them and play for a while? We-e-e-e-ell, Random Access Memory (RAM)2 is all you need. RAM, that is Raging Animals, Man: it is the way you process your emotions; the active stage of sleep. WAKE UP is the EXIT. THE GAME IS OVER.
The cutting edge of chaos, smoothly threading our minds: everything's under control. You have the access. The access to the Network. No Guarantee, though. Trust it the way kids do. Wide-eyed, curious . . . and cunning. Like teenagers pick-pocketing the Worlds virtual supermarkets. It's a super INTERNET, isn't it?
It feels like holiday- making: we are occidental tourists, most of us. It's a dazzling breath-taking journey away from our bodies. They are still desperate to hold us, yet we keep our eyes on the endless virtual reams, endlessly attractive . . . As soon as you want to know who made INTERNET, you've got the answer: YOU do. INTERNET lives on reality, kills reality, turns into its ridiculous substitute. The NETWORK feeds on YOUR LIFE, squeezing your blood and flesh into digital units, taking your freedom and giving you the absolute freedom instead. Seducing you with the absolute gift of unlimited communication. And in the meanwhile the absolute freedom slowly and irreversibly takes the shape of pure chance.
Our meetings in the network, all by chance, the things we come upon, again by chance, there, the small escapes we make, BY CHANCE . . . Like the walks downtown on Saturdays: we know the streets, the avenues, we meet the people we know and the people we don't, we meet new people, and sometimes we have accidents. Staying home feels safer.
The network is full of friendly 'creatures', of risk-free presence-s. No way to get into a personal (nor physical) contact with anybody. Risk being reduced to zero. Like emptiness, like the very absence of action. Viruses can get your computer, but they can't get YOU. It's the computer that you share, after all, not your body. It's a screened love, safe sex. Life-saving sex. Computers like condoms.
And we . . . we remain legal aliens in the network. Map-less3, locked into our horizontal roots, missing the bliss of the vertical. No horizons, you need your horizon, I need mine, we badly need our horizon.
The road map of the city, the cross-roads, the tourist sites, the churches, the hotels, the airport and the station, the stadiums, the gardens, the city buildings, all these signs, these inviting pictograms, these sweet guiding lines, we miss them. The rest is the NETWORK.
Staying home feels safe. It feels home. My home is my fortress. Next comes my neighborhood, my town, my country, the region, the continent, the E. . . . All these parallel cycles going round me. Parallel cycles of information, levels of being informed, levels of feeling home. Following the outer circle turns out in the end to be like moving along a straight line. This is the weird geometry of information.
The bits of everyday life, tiny drops in the sea of information, get imbued with the resonant power of phenomena, and phenomena, in their turn, dying out like gentle waves without a virtual trace.
The order of logic chains has been violated. We've been attacked by the code of values of global mass media. Self-generating, self-interpreting, interfering with one another vampires. Reality brought to destruction, reduced to few bare traces over the screen. Light flooding out of it: without source or reason.
Shooting pictures, hunting for sweet memories, video memories: Japanese tourists in front of the LOUVRE. The camera brings experiences back home, the camera recording your experiences, keeping the proofs that you are alive. The camera watching instead of you. Watching and recording. You once and fo ever relieved by the burden of remembering, of telling stories and proving: the camera will tell it for you, will give you a lift to the TV screen and you will BE there, GOLGHOTA LIVE. It’s your life, Your adventure, that is but part of the Global Adventure4. The adventure of TV. TV improvises events LIVE. Watch CNN. The Global EYE. The World being substituted, NOW, with its present image. NOW, at this very moment. The TV technology of watching, the almighty ruler of our time. Your watching ability grow wildly: and you can see the past NOW5, you can see the ends of the earth . . . NOW . . .You won’t miss the ends of the world: you will have it LIVE6 on your TV. Feeling dizzy, standing indifferently in front of our TV screens, we seem to meditate. Like Buddha, watching its meditating virtual image, now and forever. Spectator of his own self in present continuous tense7. A closed circuit for distant observation, the last stage being to give back to reality . . . its distorted image. The TV screen is the real place of events. Once you reach for the screen you violate the event8. This ritual is older than SONY, older than PORTAPAK. From now on and forever after the TV set shall be part of the VIDEO ART9, but TV programs shall not. Because the art of watching is an intimate ritual, the most intimate act of man. You don’t share your eyes, do you? The TV programs give you a rent offer, they watch for you . . . until you get lost into millions of watchers . . . sharing the TV eye. Yet we can see things in different ways10.
The TV sabotages reality through its substitution. We live in the age of global communications, substitutes and simulations all around us, we enjoy instant access to everywhere and anytime . . . which leads us back to the deadlock of virtual reality. The ghastly shadow of substitution. We, on our turn, are being teased to substitute reality with its image, to simulate reality. We have the video for that. We can have the water run like water through our screens, we can have the swimmer swim from one TV screen to another11. . .
The Age of Substitute. Object-ivity has been substituted with its reflection object-ivity, with a relevant information about it. The compression of information is skyrocketing, eating our beings, jamming our computers. Mona Lisa is reduced to USD and bytes12. The same goes for Claudia Schiffer. We keep upgrading the memories of our PCs to enter the Louvre, with our bums closely embraced by the armchairs we sit in, our eyes fixed on the PC screens, our hands clicking now and then over the mouse. . . as long as the enchantment goes. . .And one summer day, when we happen to get there, our stupid holiday smiles on our faces, what will our helpless tourist eyes see. . . maybe that the millions of reproductions are true with the original?
. . . Ready or not, here we go, . . . the next step in the sprint of progress is the chance to be subject to the common denominator of ‘interactivity’ . The next step into the abyss of the virtual this journey away from the bodies we live in, away from the places, that our bodies know so well, away from the simple lessons that gravity taught us. And the pains, the sweet pains, that our bodies give us, our precious bodies that we need to keep fit for the sake of others . . . Our heavenly bodies need maintenance, . . . like our expensive cars. These are our signs of luxury. Our expensive bodies have been launched into the orbit of an universalized aesthetics, ‘ORBIT sugar fee’: go to fitness, the plastic surgery is unbelievable, escape the jaws of time, erase the traces it leaves on your body, . . . the bodybuilding will lend you the figure of an Old Greek hero. . . or god. How very much delightful is the epic effort to be the sculptor, shaping our own body. Michelangelo’s David has been magnificently shaped . . . and for long dead now. How very much delightful is the effort to join the museum collection of the 20th century: the realm of movie stars, pop singers, fashion models, of beauty and grace, of pin-up proportions, of dazzling teeth . . . Yet Michelangelo did not care a fig if David had a tooth cavity or not . . .
Museum pieces have become useless: they can easily be preserved as artificial memory. On the other hand the strife to describe and restore, to embalm and preserve has grown far beyond any human potential for grasping the accumulated and carefully preserved traces of human activities. The mummies never belonged to our world. They never tried to conquer our time, they never lived our lives until they got them exhumed. Exhumation is a deficiency in giving evidence for real life, striving to find its own grounds for existence beyond itself. Its’ the life deprived of its memory, groping helplessly for support in history14.
Museums will be closed down when we succeed to dismiss our bodies . . . or maybe when we get rid of our necessity to have material evidences for our existence.
We’ve tried really hard to cling to the material part of our world . . .
Sharing the effort to find, to keep and preserve, we embalm our memory, we get rid of our tiny sweet remembrances. We have desperately tried to get over time, to fight oblivion, and yet . . we forgot that they hide this precise selection, that they lend this subtle decoration, that they keep the doors to eternity.
We gracefully led our feelings to memory, memories on their turn ignite emotions, that belong to the past, yet still keep feeding the present.
Collective memory gives birth to myths and legends: history can only kill them with its cool objectivity.
As long as the Past has not been caught into the claws of History, it is still breathing.
The facts we invent, the documents we produce, the symbols we grasp: we’ve tried really hard to keep the Past, to have it fixed, polished and properly esteemed. To have it always in front of us, neatly arranged on the shelves of the years and centuries. To have it always at hand at moments when relief is needed. When paragon is needed. When punishment is sought. When reason is to be found or a lesson to be learnt. Our childhood memories tell us about the lessons hidden in the fairly tales, yet they also tell us that lessons come last.
Let us assume that today we are finally facing the end of History, the end of our history at least, then maybe the Past will be brought to life again, life then may never be the same. And let us finally recognize the Apocalypse, we’ve waited for so long, and see behind the anxiety to become different.
The fear to get rid of all imperatives of History, to discard ethics, aesthetics, morality and law. The grounds for our own existence, falling apart around us. The fear to lose our barren values, lost for good in the labyrinths of politics, the modes of rationality, the laws of economics, the everyday life of everyday concerns. We simply do not need them, yet nobody dares to admit it, to articulate it into words. We still fear the unimaginable consequences to setting free 'the evil'. We are still part of the effort to keep ‘what is good’.
It would e senseless to lend our memory to the artificial memory. Chased away by our fear for oblivion we get over time and space: we enter the network with brace hearts, pretending we don’t feel the amnesia, befalling on us. Communications, media, and artificial memory push us towards total amnesia, yet this is our chance to survive the memory of objects, the memory of History, our collective memory. . .
It may be painful and fearsome to lend14 our bodies to the virtual worlds that invite us, to surrender to the alien dreams, waiting for us. How about if they remind us of HELL? How about if we proudly subject our bodies to the perfect artificiality, to the superb subtlety and immortality that modern medicine can helpfully provide? We will be the living mummies of the next century.
WE-E-E-E-LL, we’ve tried hard to keep to our material world, didn’t we?
Here we go again . . . let’s get over time, let’s fight space. You don’t have remember things any more, surrender to your new memories, to your virtual memories. Be brave: surrender to the memory of things that have never been and hope for the myths about the people from the Christian Eon to come out . . . somehow.
It is maybe that the computers, that have taken our memory, will bring us back to our memories, the living memories about the human kind.
We are facing the end of our century, with the appropriate foretelling about our future. . . Waiting for the Anti- Christ to appear. At last. It seems we badly need him. . .
Yet cathedrals will survive . . .we still have the chance to let time pass by, ruin and destroy, and give a chance to memories to come back alive. I guess we may call it “entropy”, or we may call it anything we like: it will be still the chaos flooding on us . . . we still have our ultimate responsibility in our hands: to be ourselves.
The sea of Oblivion may drown us, but this is our chance to become different. The Past can survive Oblivion and come back to life in the Present. Past will never be the same anyway, yet it can breath again in its legend.
1 Portapak is the first portable, ? inch film video camera, produced by the SONY Corporation in the mid-60ies, that appeared on the American market in 1968.
2 The Random Access Memory is also essential. Unlike the video tape where the access is linear, the access to memory in computer technologies is random similar to the functioning of the brain. The ways information is processed in computer technologies resembles the way in which the brain processes memories and emotions during the active phase of dreaming. Virtual realities in general and computer animation in particular become our new electronic dreams. If we assume that video art abides the technology of seeing then it comes out that computer-generated images belong to the technology of dreaming. Computer art is rooted in the technique of dreaming.
3 A parallel with the road maps is implied here, which present a scheme of the road network with its highways. (allusions about information highways, terminals and hosts).
4 Rassim Krastev, a young Bulgarian video artist recorded with a video camera a TV screen on which invisible spectator randomly switches from one satellite channel to another. Among the well known satellite programs the author inserted short cuts from his everyday life, shot live, with no montage or any logical sequence: like phone conversations, bodybuilding sessions, love making. The impression is that the author’s personal life is on TV, together with the popular satellite TV programs. Maybe it is the author’s sincere intention to set his everyday life bits in the context of TV shows, movie stars, etc.
5 Wulf Herzogenrath or his idea about the mirror room, similar to the work of Dan Graham ‘Present Continuous Past, 1974. Live camera and TV screen play like a mirror in this case. The camera reflects the spectator in the present moment and the TV screen give a reflection three seconds later. The spectator can see his paste, that just passed, or his present, that is already passing by. By the words of the artist this work is a philosophical essay on Perception, Being, Past and Present.
6 A kind of a dress rehearsal ‘The WAR in the Gulf LIVE’.
7 One of the simplest and most telling examples of a Closed Circuit Installation in Video Art is the work of Nam June Paik ‘TV BUDHA’/1974. A wooden sculpture of Budha is placed in front of a TV set, with its image LIVE, transmitted by a video camera. The TV picture is live, static and motionless.
8 Nam June Paik, Richard Nixon Videotape study N3, 1967-69. Together with Jud Yalkut they distort and manipulate the picture of the on-going TV show. This is their way to comment the policy and the message of the TV show.
9 One man exhibition at the New School for Social Research: ‘Nam June Paik: Electronic TV, Colour TV Experiments, 3 Robots, 2 Zen Boxes & 1 Zen Can’. TV sets are used in this exhibition to give the spectator the chance to join the production of TV images. One of the works, presented at the exhibition (Life Ring, 1965) comprises of an electric magnet, ring-shaped, placed in front of a TV set, The magnet interferes with the light waves and as a result they visualize the magnet waves themselves. These experiments introduced the pattern of spectator controlled TV. This concept is basic to all Paik’s work.
10 It is probably a sheer coincidence that the social and political collisions in the States during 60ies run parallel to the extensive introduction of video technologies on the market. We see in different ways, documentary videos are a good example, alternative TV may be another one. Feminists found their video, their electronic image and response.
11 Studio Azzurro il nuotatore 1984
12 In the meantime Bill Gates bought all copyrights over the Louvre digital collection.
13 Portable cameras provides the evidence we need in our personal lives, it creates our personal history. Every significant step we make should be recorded: we need to remember that we got married, that we were here and there, felt this way or that way, some really boring hours filled with videotape.
14 Motion capture: for the purposes of animation it is already a practice. During certain computer simulations actors may lend their bodies as a source of movement, his task being to act the motion. Via the sensors on the body of the actor the computer interprets it as a material for movement, further the computer may lend any body to the movement lened by the actor. This holds not only for the movements of the body: the movements of face, caused by emotions may also be interpreted this way. The computer memorizes the movement of expression and lend it to any other face.