We-[as the]-Media; WeMedia

We-[as the]-Media; WeMedia

We-[as the]-Media; WeMedia

Presumably, this essay would be interesting if first and foremost we point out the ideas of Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska (which referred to Bernard Stiegler’s) in their article five years ago titled “Creative Media between Invention and Critique, or What’s Still at Stake in Performativity?”(1) I concur that Technology should be understood as an originary condition of our existence in the world, not only as an object outside of ourselves, which we studied and used to manipulate various things for the benefit and advantage. From that point of view, Kember and Zylinska thought “…we have always been media(ted).”

Not to warn that the world we live in is only a world that has been “intermediated” or “placed in between” media objects beyond ourselves (on physical or non-physical terms), Kember and Zylinska’s idea persuades us to be more concerned with matters related to the ability to deconstruct a complex and hybrid process that determine our existence in the technological world—be in the status of human beings as individuals and human beings as members of society. In other words, to understand the technology, we should no longer use the method or the mindset to see or put the ‘we’ and ‘media’ as two separate entities (though interconnected), but rather as two sides of a coin that is truly inseparable.

In my opinion on the idea of ​​”Technology as a productive condition,” the media literacy manifested itself in ways that are not just breaking through the limits of technological inter-material, but also through mutual expertise to mutually customize and implement, or to crossover, the (basic and derived) characteristic properties of each technological material that are different from each other, as well as implementing our properties on those materials and vice versa. The expertise becomes a style to articulate the nature of communication and performative actions. Therefore, the experiences that we get, in reality, is not merely an effect of media objects (which have been created) for our consumption, but also the result of a tendency to build mental elements into media technology that we are associated with. In this condition, we and the media actually have a mutual interest in a productive process over the outputs that appear later. Of course, this does not mean that we are seeing the media as a living being (which has a soul), but in order to define it as a form of mechanical automaticity which was born out of repetition of the human practices.

Thus, the idea of Technology(2) should aspire to equality. In addition to the element of power in the relationship between “subject” and “object”, the aspired equality also include the issue of agents system that contribute to the formation process of interaction between them (in other words, the interaction between the “user / subject” and “media / objects”). In this matter, the public, the State, and other social institutions, is part of all these factors that build up the system.

In the context of today’s contemporary era, the mechanical automaticity of media is undoubtedly happening since the development of new media into the real environment of our lives—it is no longer a fairy tale, fantasy, or dreams about the ‘future’. Language system applied in human communication patterns of today also had been completely changed, from which formerly based on fixed material to the material which form and content is always changing, even “breed” constantly. Lev Manovich—who describes the phenomenon in his discussion of database logic—found that our cultural expressions have shifted from the usual form of narrative into anti-narrative, even appear arbitrary.(3) Arbitrary in the sense that the elements that we need or that comes before us is not present as a structured collection of rigid, but rather chaotic and sometimes can change unexpectedly, whether we realize it or not. Besides pointing to the technology that operates through the logic of the database (for example, a multimedia library), Manovich argues that this phenomenon also appear, particularly, in the technologies that operate using web base (internet) logic and algorithms in computer programming languages. The example of these three combined logic is the online game.

Linking Manovich view with Kember and Zylinska, we need to take a pause for a moment to think again about the drastic changes that occur in social practices and human culture. The activity of pressing the TV remote has increasingly shifted to clicking a mouse; the activity to watch and hear the live broadcast through wave has increasingly shifted into a wave-less live streaming; the activity of turning book pages has increasingly shifted to swiping the touch screen; even the activity of intercourse has increasingly shifted to the artificial enjoyment brought by the virtual world. The reference to Lev Manovich—which emphasizes an explanation of the changes in the nature of language in communication technology system that requires the new formulation of a language—and towards Kember and Zylinska—which emphasizes an explanation of the need for a new paradigm of “media of critique-as-media” and the initiative to “invent the (new) media”—opens our mind in response to the tendency of the real world motion (or our lives) that “reduce” into artificial forms, but emerged as a world without borders which is more powerful than what we imagine; enormous data wave, a network without the tip-base, and relentless scrutiny

The development of the technological world that looks so sophisticated actively exude a symptom of fear and suspicion, but accompanied by a sensation that resembles opium. Gradually, the wave of media material (mainly visual) and various procedures for operating the appliance (e.g. the most common and has become a day-to-day, is social media) evolve into a natural habit in everyday life—even, in certain circumstances, in result of the element of active involvement of the user, ‘new media’ fever would indicate a level of symptoms that exceeds television in creating a new deviation for the cultural aspects of society. A sensation which is constantly radiating very often is eventually riding with a situation that is confusing, even discomforting.

In the world of art, the situation becomes a challenge for artists to simultaneously respond and translate the ambivalence of attraction between the real and virtual (world), by implementing codes of interpretation in the methods of communication and information as an aesthetic order, which reflects different attitude and behavior than the circumstances of the previous world

* * *

Now, let’s take a glance at the term ‘media art’ in this section. Underlining the word ‘media art’, I personally believe that it should be accompanied by awareness to criticize the intentions of OK Video Festival in expanding coverage of contemporary art discourse in Indonesia, which is not only limited to the question of how to utilize technological tools (which has grown so sophisticated, or we shall call it “media tools”) as the single device to reveal a work of art. In other words, we should no longer merely imagine a presentation of works of art that only being facilitated by communication and information technology that have been developed and still developing.

About nine years ago, Ade Darmawan has stated that the [new] media art is a situation that will continue to grow and open itself to all new ideas of ​​art and technology.(4) To amplify that statement, I quote Dario Marchiori who interpret the word ‘media’ as something that shows collusion of various means of communication and information in a new signifying whole, where the ‘media’, in this case, is a term that defines the entire system of intermediation which are artificially constructed by humans.(5) Furthermore, Marchiori asserted, not as a plural form of medium—that from an artistic standpoint is understood as a means of transmission and expression; or to identify the material and the ways of the artist—the word ‘media’ refers to the discursive symptoms of relational processes of various aspects of life that define and shape the human perception of the world. Based on this understanding, we can agree that the aesthetics of the media is “a theoritical reflection on thoughts and sensations linked to the articulations between mediums and to media as a whole”.(6)

To relate New Order topic with the discourse of media art, surely we should not be so hasty to only discuss what and how the works of art can represent the wounds of the past history that is still have an impact until now, or that only represents what and how the impact of the media and spectacle culture in society. It will be much more reckless, if we are still stuck in the behavior which sneered by Ronny Agustinus as the behavior of “satisfied to be watched by several hundred people in a Festival” or behavior that simply displays “another sheer phenomenon of spectacle culture itself, which makes people have no choice but to devour it(7).” It implies, do not let the media arts discourse simply become the new spectacle of technological sophistication. Beyond that, this topic should be understood as a trigger to dismantle the deepest niche of our comprehension about interactions and experiences that occur between humans and media; in other words, how an art practice is capable to reveal and demonstrate new attitudes and behavior towards the media itself.

The New Order regime, from a social and political point of view, demonstrated a practice of power that implement cultural strategies in order to build (and indoctrinate) ideal image of the nation-state heroism into a consensus. We can see so many products of the regime that became a model reality of harmonious, orderly, and stable society,(8) which is not only based on cultural objects that are tangible, but also in the form of a pattern of life that agrees with the ideal image.(9) However, it is contradictory to the freedom ardor of democratic society order. From the media point of view—back to the idea of this essay—the New Order regime actually represents a counterproductive state because it curbed the existence of important aspect in a media system: the public.

Therefore, deconstructing the terms of New Order in the art practices of media art requires ways that assert (and revive) the position and role of the public of media; Technology which proposing equality of the arts (in other words, knowledge), in which the public is no longer exist under the elitism of actors and art institutions. It can also be expressed as “the theoretical reflection” which was carried in the media aesthetics is not only in the form of sharing the experience of the artist who combine the ambivalence between a regime and the nature of democratic freedoms, or simply to provoke interactivity between the public and works of art (and artists) in the showroom or art event, but also in terms of how the public become productive agents; how can we imagine and articulate, then embody, an era in which we are the media itself—that means, the media arts are shifted into ‘we-media.’

* * *

Once again we need to look at the idea of ​​Lev Manovich, especially in his book The Language of New Media, that in the current era—which is generally referred to as the computerized era (computer culture, for short)—new media is actually strengthen the languages and cultural forms that already exists. According to him, the new media has embodied all kinds of culture and cultural theory into a state of ‘open source’ (Manovich use this term metaphorically).(10) In order to extend the ideals of artists proposed by Ronny Agustinus, I found Manovich’s idea conclusions has actually echoed an opportunity that not only encourage the artists (in the discourse of media art) to commit acts of criticism and sabotage (conversion) towards the sheer culture spectacle and media, but also empowering all possibilities that could condition the public to become active to change it.

Once again, let’s refer to the mind of Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska, in their manifesto titled Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process. They questioned the possibilities of what we can do to mobilize the “media” which often become the “object/target of criticism.”(11) In other words, Kember and Zylinska shouted that “the media that will be and being criticized” should be used critically as the media to think and act upon the changes (which improve the past), invention, and socio-cultural transformation (which embodies the future).(12) In this case, we must be at the farthest point in a series of discourse stages of development regarding the media: “reality” → “media” → “criticism” against “media reality” →  “critique-as-media” → “criticizes the media” with” “media” → [find] new media for “critique-as-media.”

Developing the two ideas mentioned above into a concept proposed by this essay, which is about the “We-[as]-Media”, is an attempt to ensure the presence of the public as subjects that are part of the media [art] itself—as something that inevitably inseparable. Mechanical automaticity in the technological world, however, will be a chaos state if the “productive condition” is left without any awareness of the public regarding its role as a trigger of the automatic movement. Indeed, name a phenomenon in which the visual images that can reproduce itself automatically in the technological space based on database logic, web, and generative algorithms, apparently is started to be believed as a phenomenon that is beyond the control of the users of its media. However, basically the change of language logic is not in the sense that completely eliminates an authentic power of creation–though in the discourse of new media, the authenticity of the images is no longer the primary thing. In other words, we need a treatment that can translate the artistic revolution symptoms of the media itself, which actually confronts us with the revolution of [re]production-substantial [re] distribution, or aesthetic revolution.

On matters of visual and audio, for example, the poetic and artistic undoubtedly have switched the source of the centrality from artists into the hands of citizens(13), as well as activism, in the discourse of the new media. With its potential of constantly artistic creative power nature, new media allows all people to be “the creator” and thus increasing the varied cultural expressions and spreading more evenly throughout the complex layers that make up the community. In my opinion, this is a clear example of what Manovich alluded to as “the open hole” that promises new cultural effects (of the computer culture), which is “an opportunity to look back on the world and human beings in ways that are not yet available at the time of kino-eye(14) manifest initiation.

The significance of “art” and “artist” becomes something to be questioned again, and it could be turned one hundred and eighty degrees. If the public was sitting still in a passive position before (eg. as the television audience) so that the initiative needed is how artists and art practices can intervene (control) the television, then in the era of social media—that enable public role as one of the trigger of information production—the urgent demand is how the public everyday behavior can be one of the primary ‘power of art’. In other words, the authenticity mentioned here is not oriented to the output (works) that will be or have been produced, but rather on ways to create it; how we can parse the authentic aspect of the revolution [of media] itself.

Thus, in addition to continue to try to skin the fundamental properties of a wide variety of cultural forms produced by the new media—such as, for instance, dismantle the logic of cyberspace into a process of making artworks that show a certain artistic pattern—media art, in the present context must be able to create an environment that not only allows a work or art practices to communicate more intensely with the public, but also laid (even handed) the process of the creation to the public who will enjoy it.

And, I think, only on that intention alone, the idea of “Technology as productive condition” can be embodied on the frame work of ‘we-[as]-media’, or ‘WeMedia’.

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1. Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska, “Creative Media between Invention and Critique, or What’s Still at Stake in Performativity?”, Culture Machine, Vol. 11, 2010, page. 1-6. Accessed on May 14th 2015, from http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/382/403
2. I intentionally wrote it with capital “T” as a differentiator which refers to the concept discussed by Kember and Zylinska.
3. Lev Manovich, “Database as a Genre of New Media”, AI & Society, Vol. 14(2), 2000, page.176-183. Accessed on May 14th, 2015, from http://vv.arts.ucla.edu/AI_Society/manovich.html
4. Look up in Hafiz, “Membaca Kita dengan Seni Media”, Exhibition Catalogue of Pameran Seni Media: Menggagas Kekinian Indonesia dalam Seni Media (Jakarta: Ministry of Cultural and Tourism – Directorate General of Culture, Art, and Film Values.– Directorate of Art, 2011), page. 13.
5. Look up in Dario Marchiori, “Media Aesthetics”, Preserving and Exhibitng Media Art: Challenges and Perspectives (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013), page. 86.
6. Marchiori, ibid., page. 93.
7. Ronny Agustinus, “Video: not all correct…”, Part 2, Karbon (Januari, 2008). Accessed on May 17th, 2015, from http://karbonjournal.org/focus/video-not-all-correct-bagian-2 [this article has published before in 2003 by Ruangrupa in the catalogue of OK. Video: Post event].
8. A concrete example of this is the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, which was appointed as ideal image of the Indonesian Nation.
9. Of course , this is related to the ways of the New Order for 32 years successfully shaping the way the general public thinks of Indonesia in assessing every aspect of social life in order to suit the regime ‘s political views.
10. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (London: MIT Press, 2001), page. 333.
11. Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska, Life After New Media: Mediation as A Vital Process (London: MIT Press, 2012), page. 177.
12. Ibid.
13. We need to recall the notion of vernacular video promoted by Peter Snowdon in ” The Revolution Will Be Uploaded : Vernacular Video and the Arab Spring,” Culture Unbound, 6 , 2014, pg. 401-429. This idea did the framing and the reading of the phenomenon of massive production and distribution by residents who were involved in turmoil of Arab Revolution in 2010 who uploaded the video content of the revolution on the Internet , and then continuously multiply the effects of its reproduction-redistribution.
14. Lev Manovich, op cit.
Manshur Zikri
(b. January 23rd , 1991), graduated from the Department of Criminology, University of Indonesia (2014), a researcher at the Forum Lenteng and activist of akumassa program. He is also a curator at ARKIPEL - Jakarta International Documentary & Experimental Film Festival. In 2014, he joinedd the residency program of curator exchange initiated through collaboration between Ruangrupa (Jakarta) and Impakt (Utrecht, Netherlands)