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Re: <eyebeam><blast> clues on translocal territories

2 responses to Bill Seaman, from Cynthia Beth Rubin and Simon Biggs.

Cynthia Beth Rubin <cbrubin@brainiac.com> writes:

The current discussion of different cultural filters (Adnan Ashraf,
Gabriela Warkentin) can be tied to the thread of manipulation, which
Bill Seaman discussed in his Sunday post.

The creative artist must engage in a manipulative dialogue with her/his
viewer, if the communication is to be anything other than "Clear" and
"Clean".   As soon as we begin to bring our audience into something that
truly reflects our way of experiencing the world, we have to include
some keys to our thought patterns.  Otherwise, we are left at the level
of mere description, which naturally relies heavily on shared cultural
knowledge as well as thinking.

At ISEA 1996 Rotterdam, I moderated a panel  "Breaking the Code: Art
that Does not Stand on It's Own" in which we discussed this issue.  With
the Web, we may have the potential to provide enough of a context for
our work that it can be accessible to more people, including those who
are not keyed into our own cultural assumptions.  The trick is to do
this in a coherent way, and I Bill Seaman's comments on manipulation
point to how interactivity may be one way to do this (but perhaps not
the only way!).

Cynthia Beth Rubin



Simon Biggs <simon@babar.demon.co.uk> writes:

Bill Seaman's post was of interest to me (as are other threads, but I am
sadly to busy to contribute to much).

>In interactive works, the qualities of inter-authorship take on
>different potential levels in relation to the "authoring" of the system
>by the initial author/programmer. There is a delicate balance to be
>addressed in computer-mediated inter-authorship, related to that which
>the initial author embues in the system, in terms of content, and that
>which the user contributes in terms of their input. Perry Hoberman
>states "In interactive art, we can find two seemingly opposite
>tendencies in the approaches to interaction: on the one hand a sharing
>(or even an abdication) of responsibility (or intentionality) on the
>part of the author; and on the other, a remarkable extension of the
>author's domain, an unprecedented attempt to control his/her audience
>and their response on every level." (Leopoldseder, 1996)
This position can be taken a lot further of course, to the point of the
authorless work. I consider such work as being that where the computer
is doing most of the authoring. Perhaps at a meta-level the intent of
the original author (the artist) is still intact, however, at the
experiential level (that which the user/viewer/reader encounters) the
work is the product of a (preferably) mindless machine, a system without
intent or even comprehension that it is acting upon something.

Intent is the essence of authorship. When intent can be perceived then
the author becomes visible. Without visible intent the author is
invisible. This is an interesting point for exploration, as when the
author is invisible (and the reader is not given the explicit role of
author that Bill mentions) then the existence of reader or viewer also
becomes highly problematic. At this point the usual ontological
questions that we encounter in art (or any authored artifact) are thrown
open, allowing for a pondering on just how these dynamics function.

Mind you, all of this is something of a mirage. It is possible for an
author to create an apparently authorless artifact, but it is all by
slight of hand. So long as there is intent then there is an
author...even when that intent is not visible. But then again, perhaps
appearances are all that count?

>In every interactive work there is a balance between content, aspects of
>interactivity and the constraints of the system. I see this emotive
>aspect (getting at a particular state of consciousness) as a positive
>feature of the work not some kind of 'behaviour engineering.' You make
>it sould like I am using electric shock to promote some kind of control
I think here it is Bill's concern with the essential "mood" of the work
that renders his approach as an artist quite traditional (which is not a
bad thing...actually I applaud his approach). This concern with mood or
ambience is his visible expression of intent. It might be that the
system in question is highly self-generative, or allows the user large
degrees of freedom in the authorship of the work, but Bill's insistence
on defining the essential "feel" of the work means that he is still the
undisputed and singular author of the work (given that singularity is
simply an instance of the collective) and thus working very much in the
traditional, almost romantic, tradition of the artist.

>Are you suggesting that any interactive work that is emotive is
>controlling in a negative way? Your post sure reads like that when you
>say "The dividing line between art and
>>manipulation seems to disapppear in the 'reframing of consciousness'
>>that Bill Seaman describes as being key to his own work."
In the end all acts of communication are manipulative. In a recent
interview David Mamet said that people only talk to someone when they
want something...that all communication acts, all performative
instances, are simply a means to getting something. I am not sure what
level he is talking on here, but if he intends to suggest that the
desire to communicate is a low-level motivated act connected directly to
an instinctual need to enhance survival, then I guess I can agree.
Putting aside the deeper philosophical and ethical questions of Mamets
statement, it seems to me that there is little point worrying over
whether an artist is manipulative or not, or as to the morals on this
question. Artists do not give what they give for purely altruistic
motives; nor does anybody else. They do what they do because they have
to. In the process they engage in a social interchange, where all the
usual (power) dynamics come into play. It is not a moral question at
all...simply an example of human interchange.


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