Archive for May, 2011

Art in the world of technology

The accidental star of the Banksy documentary, Exit through the Gift Shop, Thierry Guetta A.K.A. Mr Brainwash … now a man who has sold a million dollars worth of art with two exhibitions, ‘Life is Beautiful’ and ‘ICONS’ under his belt. Is also a man who can’t paint, draw or even create the graphic designs he sells. But has been labelled an artist. In fact throughout the documentary it is uncertain whether he even understands the meaning of his ‘art’.

The creation of Mr Brainwash forces a reconsideration of art in particular in the brave new world of new media technology. What makes an artist? And what is art?

Traditionally art was framed in neat boxes drawing, painting, sculpture ….

The infamous works of Michel Angelo … The Statue of David, The Sistine Chapel …. Leonardo da Vinci and the Mona Lisa .. come to mind.

Statue of David (Courtesy of Reuters)

Today art is slightly more difficult to classify. No longer confined by the boundaries of traditional mediums, art has expanded. Allowing artists to meld the worlds of traditional art with new technology. Social media and the blogosphere have broken down the barriers constructed by the elite art galleries and curation.

A reflection of the changes in today’s society, where news and social interaction are no longer offered on a single platform. Rather individuals are able to communicate via multiple devices and consume and create the world around them in constantly varying and expanding methods. The art world has expanded, embracing these methods of expression and incorporating them into its understanding.

Contemporary methods of communication and the effects it has on our interaction with each other has inspired the new media instillation, Intimate Transactions. Developed by Keith Armstrong, the art work is essentially an experience. Wiring up two individuals in completely separate locations, in fact they may be on opposite ends of the globe, the work allows the participants to create a joint experience.

‘The two participants … will enter a space at each location that is equipped with a touch sensitive physical interface called a Bodyshelf, embedded with sensors that detect body movement and shifting of body weight. Before getting on to the Bodyshelf, each participant puts on a wearable device that passes gentle vibrations into their stomachs, enabling them to sense vibrations of different frequencies and intensities. Each body movement influences an evolving world created from digital imagery and multi-channel sound, allowing the participants’ bodies to become aware of the other’s movements, despite the fact that they are geographically separated and cannot actually see or hear each other (ACMI 2005).’ (Armstrong 2005)

Intimate Transactions (Courtesy of MAAP: Multimedia Art Asia Pacific)

How does this technological development position itself in the world of art?

Reynold Reynolds in the Transmediale production, The Future of Art, mentions virtual reality progressing to the forefront of the art world as it expands, ‘how we understand reality and how we process information’ (2011).

This idea of art, as process, as the method which allows us to deal with and understand our environment provides a perfect link with the modern art movement towards new media. In a world where technology is integrated into our everyday existence how we are able to appreciate, and visualise it is has progressed. Rather than embracing a single medium, artists now utilise several different platforms as modes of expression.


Armstrong, K 2005, Intimate Transactions: The Evolution of an Ecosophical Networked Practice, the Fibreculture Journal 7, <>

Shalom, G 2011, The Future of Art, Transmediale <>

Categories: Uncategorized

Your say can make a difference?

Under a traditional government you might seriously question this. Once voted in can you really control the choices of those who rule … probably not. You can write a letter, a blog post .. but, what about if you and several thousand people had the same thought … well .. the government is still there majestically at the top of the mountain.

But, doesn’t your opinion count? And what about the hoard of people behind you?

This is the basis of swarm politics. With the power of the group you can evoke social change.

Developed as a grassroots organisation with no real hierarchy an ideal swarm will work in coalition towards the best interests of the entire group. Nobel Prize winning Elinor Ostrom (2010) notes that although many people presume that others are focused on immediate gratification when examining small communities it is evident that they do consider the community at large.

It is these grassroots organisations, which Thomas Jellis credits as, often behind the major changes, which materialise in politics. ‘The micro-political is the force of the political event that potentially unmoors it’ (2009).

Unfortunately it is very difficult for a perfect swarm to exist; one which reaches its goals without the introduction or intrusion of a hierarchy.

An example of both the benefits and the often unconsidered sinister side of the politics of a swarm manifest in Egypt’s recent revolution. Entering the world stage on the 25th of January 2011, protestors rally in Egypt’s Tahrir Square against the oppression of the Mubarak regime. The protest however, was not the first step in Egypt’s road to revolution. Prior to the initial public gathering the people of Egypt were slowly forming a community online through social networking sites and several prominent blogs. The voiceless Egyptian public were given a mouthpiece.

The creation of Facebook page, ‘We are all Khaled Said’, by then anonymous, Wael Ghonim, provided a platform for many effected by the regime to congregate and discuss. Ultimately leading to the protests in Tahrir Square and subsequent revolution.

The use of social media in the lead up to the revolution although effective, was not always easy. Many sites being blocked by the government. The public was unable to read or publish information online. The ability of the government to control access and output of the regions internet reveal the difficulties in the operation of a swarm under a hierarchical government. As noted by Douglas Rushkoff, ‘the internet as built will always be subject to top-down government control and domination by the biggest corporations. They administrate the indexes and own the conduit. It has choke points – technological, legal and commercial. They can turn it off and shut us out.’

Although an idyllic and often effective political strategy when positioned in context with today’s political environment it is difficult to imagine a swarm untouched by our hierarchical underpinnings. That said, the swarm provides hope, an attainable goal, for like-minded people willing to forgo the difficulties in the name of a social change.



Bauwens, M 2011, Book of the Week: Umair Haque’s New Capitalist Manifesto, P2P Foundation: Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices, accessed May 1st 2011, <>

Conway, L 2010, ‘Podcast: Elinor Ostrom Checks In’, Planet Money NPR, accessed May 1st 2011, <>

Elinor Ostrom 2010, p2p foundation, accessed May 1st 2011, <>

Jellis, T 2009, Disorientation and micropolitics: a response, spacesof[aesthetic]experimentation, accessed May 1st 2011, <>

Kanalley, C 2011, ‘Egypt Revolution 2011: A complete guide to the unrest’, The Huffington Post, 30 January, accessed May 1st 2011, <;

Massumi, B and McKim, B 2009, Of Microperception and Micropolitics, An Interview with Brian Massumi, 15 August 2008’, Inflexions 3, accessed May 1st 2011,<>

Ostrom, E  2010, ‘A Multi-Scale Approach to Coping with Climate Change and Other Collective Action Problems’, Solutions: for a sustainable and desirable future 1(2), accessed May 1st 2011, <>

Rheingold, H 1994, Virtual Community, accessed May 1st 2011, <>

Rushkoff, D 2011, ‘The Evolution Will Be Socialized’, Shareable: Science and Tech <>

Thacker, E  2004, Networks, Swarms, Multitudes: Part One, Ctheory, accessed May 1st 2011,  <>

Coalition of the Willing 2010, Knife Party and Rayner, T and Robson, S, online video, accessed May 1st 2011, <>


Categories: Uncategorized