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technology in the '90s  

the interactive gambit (do not run! we are your friends!)

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This negativity, this rebellion, was a primary ingredient of the experimental cinema as practiced by artists such as Paul Sharits, Ken Jacobs, George Landow, Hollis Frampton, Michael Snow, and others. NOT entertainment, NOT storytelling, NOT psychological identification, NOT commercial, NOT meant to please the audience, NOT concerned about being understood, NOT intended for good reviews by mainstream critics, etceteras.

Early video art had an essential negativity at its core, too - NOT television, NOT theater, NOT decoration, NOT entertainment. And Conceptual Art - NOT beautiful, NOT materialistic, NOT about technique...

Regina Cornwell wrote, in her Discourse magazine article of Spring 1992, "Touching the Body in the Mind, "Efficiency, simplicity, logic, clarity aimed at the end user rule the making of interactive systems in the corporate, military, consumer, and pedagogical sectors. Interactivity has been heralded as the bearer of 'choice'. Such 'choice' is made possible through tailored menus listing sales options for the buyer or a selection of maps for the visitor, or a chart of "how to" for a trainee, where butt on-pushing is the norm, aiming toward the swiftest way to accomplish a required goal. But artists need not answer to these concerns in their work. And it is the hardware and software conceived with these requirements in mind which can create stumbling b locks and limiting factors, which artists seek to bypass."

The majority consensus would show that most media, if not all media, except for some artists uses, are conceived of as within the affirmative culture: as Cornwell says: "corporate, military, consumer, and pedagogical sectors". And the mainstream audience, trained on cash-dispensing computers and information kiosks, wishes to affirm the qualities Cornwell says are valued in mass culture forms of interactive media: Efficiency, simplicity, logic, clarity. That essential negativity, this rebellion or break Kristeva discussed, is no longer at work in a world where we talk or care about "users", where we measure "hits" on our websites, where we want our so-called "interfaces" to be "friendly" or "intuitive", efficient, simple, logical, clear. When works strive to be completely understandable, they cannot produce any sort of break, and cannot create any new meanings. And the effect - that it is easy to forget that even those media forms which appear efficient, simple, logical, and clear are expressions, constr uctions, ideologies which reinforce known structures of economics, power, and agency.

This is a territory I have explored in my work for a long time - the area where cultural fragments are redirected into collision courses in order to precipitate new meanings, and a foregrounding of the process in which we become aware that we are actively giving meaning to what we see and hear.. Like subatomic particles thrown together in an accelerator, their collisions bring new, multivalent meanings to light, only partially under the control of the author. This excerpt from my 1984 work titled "The Do uble" shows this infra-interactive process in action.

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