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Category: Contributor: Joseph Nechvatal

BOOK: Towards an Immersive Intelligence, by Joseph Nechvatal

Towards an Immersive Intelligence: Essays on the Work of Art in the Age of Computer Technology and Virtual Reality

by Joseph Nechvatal

EDGEWISE PRESS, founded in 1995, is dedicated to publishing quality books with an emphasis on art, art criticism, aesthetics, philosophy, fiction and verse. It maintains editorial seats in New York and Paris. All of its books are first edition paperbacks, sewn, bound and printed in Turin, Italy, with a two-color front and backcover, with a black and white photograph of the author on the frontispiece.

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Immersive Ideals / Critical Distances (Paperback)

This book researches into the ideals behind Virtual Reality technology (and its central property of total-immersion) by looking at VR through the prism of a philosophy of visual art. Its conclusive understanding is achieved through a broad formulation of an aesthetic theory of immersive consciousness (indicative of an emerging immersive culture) by joining choice immersive examples of simulacra technology into mental connections with relevant examples culled from the histories of art, architecture, information-technology, sex, myth, space, consciousness and philosophy.

* Paperback: 592 pages
* Publisher: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing (July 7, 2009)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 3838304454
* ISBN-13: 978-3838304458

Joseph Nechvatal’s Notes from the ECAM 2008 Conference in Mexico City

The following are notes from a lecture by Joseph Nechvatal, which took place at ECAM in Mexico City, during October, 2008. They are republished on NMF with his permission.

These brief words are an attempt to outline for ECAM 2008 what I am calling Cybism by stating what I take to be its underlying attributes.

Cybism is a new sensibility emerging in art respecting the integration of certain aspects of science, technology and consciousness – a consciousness struggling to attend to the prevailing current spirit of our age. This cybistic zeitgeist I identify as being precisely a quality-of-life desire in which everything, everywhere, all at once is connected in a rhizomatic web of communication. Therefore, cybism is no longer content with the regurgitation of standardized repertoires. Rather I detect in art a fertile attraction towards the abstractions of advanced scientific discovery – discovery now stripped of its fundamentally reductive logical methodology.

Moreover, cybism can be used to characterize a certain group of researchers and their understanding of where cultural space is developing today. Cybists reflect on system dynamics with a hybrid blending (cybridization) of the computational supplied virtual with the analog. Digitization is a key metaphor for the cybists only in the sense that it is the fundamental translating system today.

This blending of the computational virtual with the analog indicates the subsequent emergence of a new cybrid topological cognitive-vision that I have called the ‘viractual’: the space of connection betwixt the computed virtual and the uncomputed corporeal (actual) world which merge in cybism. This cybrid space of cybism can be further inscribed as a span of liminality, which according to the anthropologist Arnold van Gennep (based on his anthropological studies of social rites of passage) is the condition of being on a threshold between spaces.

Concerning this cybrid topological cognitive-vision, I am reminded here of two very different, yet complimentary, concepts: entrainment and égréore. Entrainment, in electro-physics, is the coupling of two or more oscillators as they lock into a commonly sensed interacting frequency. In alchemical terms an égréore (an old form of the word agréger) is a third concept or phenomenon that is established from conjoining two different elements together. I suggest that the term (concept) cybrid (and cybism) may be a concordant entrainment/égréore conception helpful in defining this third fused inter-spatiality that is forged from the meeting of the virtual and the actual.

Co-extensive notions found in cybism have piquant ramifications for art as product in that the cybists are actively exploring the frontiers of science/technology research so as to become culturally aware of the biases of consciousness in order to amend those biases through the monumentality and permanency which can be found in powerful art. They begin with the realization that every [new] technology disrupts the previous rhythms of consciousness. Then, generally speaking, they pursue their work in an effort to contradict the dominant clichés of our time, as they tend to move in their regimented grooves of sensibility. In this sense their art research begins where the hard science/technology ends.

Most certainly cybists understand that in every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. Hence the role of the cybist is that of the explorer/researcher. The function of such an explorationaly inclined artist however is not to only find, but to participate in and foster a constant instability of consciousness, to mitigate against self-stabilizing formations so as to encourage internal ‘cybomatic’ connections to sprout and expand. This integration goes far towards exemplifying an aesthetic that has a problematic relationship to material science-based reality.

Today, with the emergence and continual growth of cyberspace, it seems that no sense of closure will ever be able to contain the deterritorialization articulated and monumentalized by cybism.

Consequently, cybism has begun articulating a new techno-digital sense of life. By looking at the complex social and technological changes already occurring within the 21st century, cybists seem to perceive the world now as a kaleidoscopic environment in which every tradition has some valid residual form as information and sensation. A world of perpetual transformation has emerged and established a seemingly unrestricted area of abundant options.

TEXT: IF/THEN: Jussi Parikka’ s Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses by Joseph Nechvatal

New York: Peter Lang Books, 2007,
327 pages

{loop:file = get-random-executable-file;
if first-line-of-file = 1234567 then goto loop;
prepend virus to file;}
-Fred Cohen, Computer Viruses: Theory and Experiments

We cannot be done with viruses as long as the ontology of network
culture is viral-like.
-Jussi Parikka, The Universal Viral Machine

One could be forgiven for assuming that a book with the title “Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses” would be of sole interest to those sniggering hornrimmed programmers who harbor an erudite loathing of Bill Gates and an affection for the Viennese witch-doctor. Actually, it is a rather game and enthralling look, via a media-ecological approach, into the acutely frightening, yet hysterically glittering, networked world in which we now reside. A world where the distinct individual is pitted against – and thoroughly processed by – post-human semi-autonomous software programs which often ferment anomalous feelings of being eaten alive by some great indifferent artificiality that apparently functions semi-independently as a natural being.

Though no J. G. Ballard or William S. Burroughs, Jussi Parikka nevertheless sucks us into a fantastic black tour-de-force narrative of virulence and the cultural history of computer viruses (*), followed by innumerable inquisitive innuendoes concerning the ramifications for a creative and aesthetic, if post-human, future. Digital Contagions is impregnated with fear and suspicion, but we almost immediately sense that it also contains an undeniable affirmative nobility of purpose; which is to save the media cultural condition – and the brimful push of technological modernization in general – from catastrophically killing itself off.

This admirable embryonic redemption is achieved by a vaccination-like turning of tables, as Parikka convincingly demonstrates that computer viruses (semi-autonomous machinic/vampiric pieces of code) are not antithetical to contemporary digital culture, but rather essential traits of the techno-cultural logic itself. According to Parikka, digital viruses in effect define the media ecology logic that characterizes our networked computerized culture in recent decades.

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