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<eyebeam><blast> CLOSING SUMMARY 6

<eyebeam><blast> artistic practice in the network 


This stream begins with the flickering light of the heavens and ends
with the flickering of light on Japanese television -- the first
introducing a temporal dimension to light, and the second, a "second
sunlight" inducing a kind of blindness.

Martin Jay spoke of the discovery of Danish astronomer Ole Roemer, who
for the first time gave hard empirical evidence to settle a debate that
had engaged scientists and philosophers for centuries.  It profoundly
transformed the study of the heavens and the self-understanding of the
humans that gazed at them. What he added was a temporal dimension to the
previous instantaneity of light.  Light was shown to have a velocity of
its own, and concurrently, speed could be confirmed as finite. What
Martin wants to speculate on is the implications of Roemer's discovery
for the relation between time and the image.

Martin explains the phenomenon he calls "astronomical hindsight" as
follows.  "By l800, it was recognized that looking at the light from
distant stars was gazing at something that had left its source before
the very existence of the human race, indeed likely before the existence
of the earth and perhaps even the solar system. By the late 20th
century, some astronomers were talking about seeing almost as far back
as the birth of the universe itself." Astronomical hindsight thus
presented the viewer of the heavens with a remarkable conundrum. "Sight
is, after all, often understood to be the most synchronous and atemporal
of the senses, capable of giving us a snapshot image of a world frozen
in time." Vision instantaneously comprehends many things juxtaposed, as
co-existent parts of one field. One glance discloses a world of
co-present qualities spread out in space, ranged in depth, apprehended
en bloc in an instantaneous perceptive synthesis. A visual image arrests
the flow of time like a syncope. 

Alternatively, vision is sometimes understood as the sense that gives us
the best possible glimpse into the immediate future, thus providing
"foresight." But in the case of stargazing, Martin writes, what we see
instead of the present or proximate future is the past, "often an
immeasurably deep past whose ontological status is unlike anything else
that we experience in mundane existence." We literally see what is not,
or what is no longer. "And yet we are not seeing a mere later
reproduction or simulacrum of what once was, but rather the real thing
delayed" in time. The gap between appearance and essence, subjective
experience and objective stimulus is as wide as it can be. "Instead of
the infamous 'metaphysics of presence' that deconstruction tells us is
based on the logocentric, phonocentric and ocularcentric prejudices of
Western thought, we get an explicitly visual instantiation of the
ghostly trace of the past in the present, but one that is neither an
hallucination nor a technologically induced illusion." Furthermore,
there is no possible way to apply the other senses, especially the touch
that so often functions to verify or confirm the existence of the past
objects we see.  In stargazing, Martin writes, the sense of sight is
isolated from and privileged above the general human sensorium as
perhaps in no other realm of experience. 

Not only space but time would have to be conquered for humans to make a

These implications were complicated still further, Martin continues, by
a later stage in the development of astronomy, the use of photography to
record the faint light from distant stars that the human eye could not
itself easily register. "Here the opposite of the snapshot potential in
the new technology, its medusan capacity to freeze flowing time in an
instant, was realized as long exposures made it possible to preserve on
the photographic plate the dim evidence of past light that could not be
seen instantaneously, indeed could not be seen by the naked eye at all."
With the advances in astronomical photography, the privileging of sight
was subtly called into question. "For no sense, not even unaided human
sight, could verify or falsify what the technological preservation of
the light from past events had recorded." Appearance through
technological mediation is the only reality we can know, even if we
theorize that something lies behind it. 

Moreover, what has been recognized as the indexical nature of all
photographic signification "is doubled by the fact that the index left
behind on the photographic plate is itself a trace of an event that has
happened in the far distant past." Whereas a normal index is once
removed from its cause, which may have left non-visual residues as well,
"a photographic image of stellar events is twice removed from them and
without any other corroborative trace." 

Martin cites Jonathan Crary's argument about the transformation of the
protocols and techniques of observation in the l9th century. "Crary's
claim is that only with advances in the physiological understanding of
the eye, which involved such phenomena as afterimages (the fusion of
discrete images into a simulacrum of duration) and stereoscopic vision
(the transformation of two nearly identical flat images into the
experience of seeing three dimensions), was the time-honored model of
disembodied, atemporal sight based on the camera obscura effectively
challenged." The eye became firmly situated in a living, moving body
rather than hovering above it in an ideal realm of pure opticality.

But Martin points out that "what appreciating the importance of Roemer's
discovery of the speed of light helps us to understand is that a similar
temporalization had already occurred on the level of the object of
vision, at least when it concerned astronomical hindsight." The camera
obscura model of synchronic presence could not be easily applied when
the light coming through its little hole was from a distant star. Here
we could say that "afterimages" are not produced "by lingering
sensations on the retina creating a simulacrum of movement, but rather
by the delays in the light from the object itself."

Martin then speculates on how these ruminations on the temporally
delayed implications of the discovery of the speed of light help us to
understand the meaning of the new technologies of virtual reality, and
the purely simulacral world of which they are often taken to be
emblematic. He cites Baudrillard's metaphoric invocation of the effects
of Roemer's discovery, suggesting that it "unexpectedly undermines the
equation of virtual reality entirely with a non-referential system of
signs totally indifferent to any prior reality that might have caused or
motivated them, an equation that admittedly is operative at other
moments in his work." That is, "by comparing the world of virtual
reality with the delayed light from distant stars, Baudrillard alerts us
to the attenuated indexical trace of an objective real that haunts the
apparently self-referential world of pure simulacra. Like the memory
traces in Freud's optical apparatus version of the unconscious, such
images are not made entirely out of whole cloth existing only in an
atemporal cyberspace, but are parasitic on the prior experiences that
make them meaningful to us today. The temporality of virtuality is thus
not pure simultaneity or contemporaneity, but the disjointed time that
disrupts any illusion of self-presence." 

Martin cites Katherine Hayles's work on "flickering signification,"
where the signifiers produced by new information technologies do not
float but rather flicker, disrupting the absolute alternative between
presence and absence. They are ultimately dependent on the material
embodiment that they seem to have left behind. "They are, we might say,
reminiscent of those other flickerings of information that come to us
from the twinkling of the stars, even if Hayles herself does not make
the connection."

The alternative way in which the alleged self-sufficiency of virtual
reality is called into question "is through the memory traces of the
reality that haunts virtual reality from the start, inadvertently
betrayed by Baudrillard's metaphor of sidereal light that reaches us
after a long delay. Here, as in the case of Crary's argument about the
importance of ocular physiology in dismantling the camera obscura
paradigm, the story of subjective construction must be balanced by an
acknowledgment of the disturbing effects that come from the object. Or
more precisely, when the lessons of astronomical hindsight are applied
broadly, we are in an uncanny world of what Derrida has dubbed
'hauntological' rather than 'ontological' reality, a world in which
temporal delay and the indexical trace of the past prevents the
present--virtual or not--from assuming the mantle of synchronic

Several participants wrote on Baudrillard, including Organon, Jon
Ippolito, and Athena Tacha. Felipe Ehrenberg wrote on the relativity of
PI for astronomic measurements. Michael Goldhaber, a reformed
theoretical physicist, wrote on Baudrillard's grasp of physics, and
remarked that he is not sure he gets the point of Martin's remarks,
especially in relation to the Internet or cyberspace. "While it may be
true that far away objects may only be experienced as they were in the
past," Michael writes, "when you restrict yourself to an Internet
confined to earth, whose signals travel at close to light speeds, all
points on the planet are effectively indistinguishable, and viewable at
the same instant, now." Michael suggests that "art in the web era must
be an art of the Now."

Greg Ulmer responded that one point of relevance of these theories to
the Internet might be the question of far and near, related to
reconsiderations of "distance."  

Jon Ippolito posted a text in response to Martin's, which he called
"Foresighted is No Longer Forearmed." He suggests that in cyberspace,
light does not radiate but travels in loops. "This fact renders obsolete
the assumptions of continuity, contiguity, and horizon that characterize
perspectival space." 

I then wrote a post on technology, light, and movement. I suggested that
the history of the processing of Technology/Light would be one bound up
in the sensitizing of a viewer to motion, entailing a mobilizing or
immobilizing of this viewer, a viewer launched along or stimulated to
accept motion via sensory inputs; a viewer aligned along the horizontal
axis (from chair to TV or monitor) or tipped backwards, astronaut-like,
in vertical alignment, as when someone kicks back your chair and you are
suddenly looking up at the stars. (Or you are "seeing stars.") 

Yukiko Shikata wrote on the new "state of images" from the perspective
of Japanese media culture. The new "images by ecriture" enabled by DV
(digital video) and other mobile image technologies change our
perception and operate as memory devices, where "memories can be always
revised or newly generated depending on the environments" and are
exchangeable.  While the moving images of this century were positioned
within a linear syntax of images, Yukiko writes, we are now facing
moving images that are para- or multi-layered. Yukiko continues that by
exchanging data and memories, by creating new ecriture of images, we are
now facing enormous changes in the notions of  time and space.  

Marina Grzinic wrote on how TV Tokyo suspended the weekly regularly
broadcasting of the popular Pocket Monster cartoon (Pokemon) because
nearly 700 people -- mostly children -- nationwide were taken to
hospitals after watching the December 16, 1997 show. The viewers were
afflicted by an outbreak of convulsions and faintness, ending with
catalepsy. The scene from Pokemon can be described as a four-second of
flashing red, blue, white and black lights. Marina describes it as a
kind of strobe flash, like second sunlight, an extra brightness,
something so bright to the point that resulted in a "blindness." 


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