DEAF04 - Affective Turbulance

V2_: DEAF04 - Affective Turbulance


Just how post-digital are we? - Sandra Fauconnier

29 Nov 2004 , review

The post-digital is both a radical break and continuance to the digitalismus -the belief in digital technologies. It is a break-away because we have lost our faith in the computer and other digital "enabling" technologies being universal dream-machines. The technology has limits and must therefore be treated as specialized tools rather than magical boxes. On the other side, our society was forever changed by the digitalization that happened in the nineties, and that is why the Post-Digital is a continuation. It is a natural development, or a sobering up. No less it is built upon the ruins of our lost belief in technology.
DEAF04 visitors and guests who longed for a quiet and relaxing Saturday noon after a full week of exhibitions, workshops, seminars and conferences, had better stay far away from the fourth and last Open_Brunch, entitled "Post Digital". While the audience savored unworldly black and red snacks and pasta from plastic boxes, three speakers and performers, dressed in black, presented increasingly confronting and discomforting acts and imagery.

The general theme of the brunch was the "Post Digital", a notion introduced and explained by artist and self-acclaimed inventor of cybersex Stahl Stenslie. On one hand, the concept of the "post digital" refers to the end of the dotcom boom and technology hype: our wild expectations and naive beliefs in the wonders and endless possibilities of the internet are over, and we are now sobering up after "our first recession" (Geert Lovink).
At the same time, the concept of the "post digital" refers to political phenomena that have emerged and become important at the same time as the dotcom crash - international terrorism, suicide bombings and the rise of a general atmosphere of fear and aggression in the West. Together with lost beliefs in technologies, this "cultural crash" results in an increased and generally destructive political interest in body-related artistic expressions, the human as technology, and a growing emphasis on the emotional.

This thesis was practically illustrated by Jurij Krpan, director of the Kapelica gallery in Ljubljana, and by Kate Pendry, post-digital performance artist. Jurij Krpan showed a constant, and increasingly violent, stream of video material of body art performances held at the Kapelica gallery, by artists such as Stelarc, Antunez, Roca, Arthur Elsenaar, Orlan, Ron Athey, Kira O'Reilly, Ive Tabar, Boris Sincek; many involving self-mutilation and even the risk of death. In the meanwhile, Krpan explained his gallery's interest and position towards these types of works. This position is twofold. First, it is an illustration of the post-digital attitude as explained by Stenslie: the (technological and machinic) interface can be seen as a barrier, something to hide behind, a means of mediation - not the ideal instrument for artists who rise difficult topics in a violent society. Second, some artists, like Ive Tabar, make use of the media they know best - their bodies and, in Tabars case, medical procedures - to comment upon the political situation in ex-Yugoslavia and Slovenia in particular.

Somehow, it seemed that the increasingly unsettled audience didn't seem convinced about this, beyond the superficial effects of horror from viewing extreme acts of self-mutilation. One could wonder, despite Krpan's defense, to what extent the works illustrated here, are able to be profoundly political or even anything more than just a freak show. In our mediatized and, if you want, post-digital society, what is the relevance of such performances, when the results of real (and politically influential) violence like suicide bombings, and their enacted or fictional counterparts, are readily available via the media and the entertainment industries, decreasing their impact by making us increasingly numb?

Kate Pendry is a performer who enacts her struggle to come to terms with her difficult relationship to technology; until recently, her performances also usually included an act of self-mutilation, until Pendry had an experience of being "overruled" by precisely this phenomenon of over-mediatization of violence and blood - an audience of adolescents simply laughed her act away and couldn't believe it was real anymore. Pendry's doubts about technologies are related to their perceived lack of charisma; part of her performance dealt with the (re)creation of charisma through theater, and the return to less gadgetry.

In the end, this Open_Brunch left me with many questions. First, how true is it that we really live in a post-digital world? Has our collective belief in technology ever really receded? A festival like DEAF04 itself is filled with new and existing technological beliefs (or, if you like, hypes): wearables, affective and immersive computing, locative media... our constant (re)inventing of new technological domains can be questioned, but doesn't leave me with the impression that there is a real crisis in our beliefs. Further, as I already said, how political can a return to the body as medium be in an over-mediatized world? Can it go beyond the freaky, the incidental and the personal?

Just how post-digital are we really?


Stahl Stenslie on the post digital:
Kapelica Gallery:
Kate Pendry:

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