Disrupting Narratives - 13th July 2007, at Tate Modern


The first person to speak in the afternoon session was Alexander Galloway. He began with a quote from Sol Le Witt about the idea being the most important part of the work in Conceptual Art. He said this is the case when a machine executes a set of instructions and carries out the artist's idea. He thought that Sol Le Witt was probably the first software artist.

He then showed three of his works. The first was a reworking of the film "Black Hawk Down" by Ridley Scott. In re-editing this feature film he applied a rule set where whenever a white actor was identified they were removed from the film. He asked the question, re counter-protocols, "What are the rules of engagement?" with cultural artefacts.

With machine based rules he said that the artist tended to make work about bugs, glitches and crashes. He talked about Jodi, "cleansing" a game, removing interactivity and narrative, and that then what replaces these are "abstract kinetic artefacts".

Galloway's "Prepared Playstation", after John Cage's "The Prepared Piano", makes modifications to both the hardware of a Playstation and the software of a game. Some of the modifications , using rubber bands applied to the Playstation controller, play the game into a "contorted state".

In his 2007 version of the work, multiple channels of the game are composited together, as loops. He referred to Nam Jun Paik and said that an installation of the work uses simple TVs that are like normal household televisions.

Finally, he talked about his current work in progress, a translation of a game designed by Guy Debord, into a computer game. After dissolving the Situationist group Debord designed this game "Le Jeux de la Guerre". Galloway simply wants to translate the game into an open source, downloadable Java enviroment. "The Krieg spiel", as the game is also known, is a bit like chess with a network, where "lines of communication" are denoted and used competitively.

He said that Debord was "actively cognissant" that the work was algorithmic and rule based. Debord completed the rules for his game in 1978.

Galloway then asked the audience the question: "Why, in 1978, at the birth of information society, why is the Krieg spiel so reactionary?"

Next to be introduced was Paul Sermon. He said that his work was similar to the event or happening. In this sense it can't be reproduced. He is interested in the ephemeral aspects of telematics. He said that "the audience becomes the artist". His work is very participatory in the pursuit of telepresence, which he describes as a "shifting of senses", and where he is "able to touch with my eyes".

First he talked about "Telematic Dreaming", 1992, where two people in remote locations share a telematic space, in this case a bed. Talking about "Telematic Vision",1994 at ZKM, he said that there was no use of sound in his work, "forcing people to use their body to communicate".

He then talked about "There's no Simulation Like Home", 1999, which utilized two Barrat showhomes and had a "lab-like feel". Then "At Home With Jacques Lacan", 2004. He then mentioned "Hole in Space", by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinovitch from 1980. A telematic work, it connected a street in New York with a street in California.

The phenomena of telepresence is a strange one. It both encourages and discourages intimacy and Sermon has explored the possibilities for enhanced communication. In "A Body of Water", with Andrea Zapp, 1999, the participants are encouraged to wash each other, like the miners who are the subject of the work.

"Headroom", 2006, was made while he was artist in residence in Taiwan. His current work "Where Next? A Point of Departure" explores "Second Life", where he has created a gallery and residency space.

The last person in the afternoon session to speak was Kate Rich. She said she wanted to talk about "grocery shopping", and how as bar manager at the Cube in Bristol, she was experimenting with protocols. She has started importing coffee under her label "Feral Trade". The protocols involved are email and SMS, international Bank Systems, Cargo and Freight Systems and Distribution.

Instead of the farmer, the consumer is now pictured on the coffee pack. She said that each "delivery experience" was different, and that she wants to develop a parallel or parasite economy. This is being achieved by using the "ubiquitous movement of arts workers" and "using the art world as an energy source".

She said that she is buying into the social contract rather than selling the product brand. There is something very antinomian about Rich's work. She said "Attention to content is not extended into the infrastructure that supports it". That this is true for art galleries implies it is also the case elsewhere in the economy. But Rich is interested in the art world as a model, selling coffee to curators and other arts workers.

She talked about her latest idea, "The Houses of Benefit Project". This is about tempting the cultural traveller, e.g. artist, curator, to leave the safe context of hospitality when travelling. So she is exploring bio-diversity in artist's accommodation - covering aspects of survival, welfare and catering.

What is clear is that it is through the networks that Rich can maximze interest in her products. But she said that "Social networks are naturally self limiting". So she doesn't anticipate an expanding market beyond that which she can cope with.

Sarah Thompson

All quotations from "Disrupting Narratives" disrupting_narratives