Saturday, November 13, 2010

Being radical without being sad

Fading Away by Henry Peach Robinson, Albumen Combination Print, 1858 
Lev Manovich set about defining the New Media Field in his introduction to the New Media Reader (MIT, 2003). Pointing to Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson and Tim Berners-Lee among others as "the important artists of our time" (15), he challenges our sacrosanct definitions of art. Berners-Lee who submitted his proposal on November 12, 1990 for a "hypertext project" that would become the World Wide Web makes us consider the cultural implications of the Web and how it has changed the way humans live and think as the biggest art project ever attempted. Berners-Lee's proposal reads like an excerpt from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's writing on the Rhizome from A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (UMMP, 1987) (e.g. "The texts are known as nodes. The process of proceeding from node to node is called navigation. Nodes do not need to be on the same machine: links may point across machine boundaries."). One thing leads to another and as Deleuze and Guattari write "the rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots." Manovich's attentions have recently turned to founding a Software Studies Program and Twitter where he has been promoting his Mapping Time exhibition and its intent to visualizing cultural change through video pieces that surveying every cover of Time magazine or changes in Manga over time. In his ruminations on New Media he mentioned briefly the "combination prints" of Henry Peach Robinson. We recall the melancholy mood of Fading Away (1858) depicting the last moment of life of a dying girl made by combing five different negatives. Through the wonders of software and the Net, we can see the contemporary equivalent in video as JibJab's This Land (2004) and its spin off E-cards and wonder what mapping the changes in this montaged imagery would indicate.