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December 31, 2004

Psychogeography and Imperial Infrastructure

Psychogeography and Imperial Infrastructure, by Brian Holmes, Springerin.

Great social movements leave the content of their critical politics behind, in the forms of a new dominion. This was the destiny of the revolt against bureaucratic rationalism in the sixties. The Situationists, with the practice of the dérive and the program of unitary urbanism, aimed to subvert the functionalist grids of modernist city planning. They tried to lose themselves in the urban labyrinth, while calling for the total fusion of artistic and scientific resources in »complete decors« –»another city for another life«, as the radical architect Constant proclaimed. With the worldwide implementation of a digital media architecture – and the early signs of a move toward cinematic buildings – we are now seeing the transformation of the urban framework into total decor (Lev Manovich: »In the longer term every object may become a screen connected to the Net, with the whole of built space becoming a set of display surfaces«. What kind of life can be lived in the media architecture? And how to explain the continuing prestige of Situationist aesthetics, in a period which has changed so dramatically since the early 1960s? Continue reading >>

Posted by jo at December 31, 2004 10:02 AM


The deeplink URL to the actual article is http://www.springerin.at/dyn/heft_text.php?textid=1523&lang=en

Holmes' article is definitely more perspicacious and new media-aware than Fusco's here: http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/1750/

And the whole discussion is well supplemented by links to actual art projects here:

But Holmes' correlations between the technological framework of the internet and its political implications seem overly convenient. Yes, by buying into the GPS network, you do ping yourself onto their grid. But the internet is different. Yes, it started as a military project, but the underlying infrastructure of all military projects isn't always de facto cartesian or grid-based.

The reason the web supports such private/subjective acts of verite and flanneur-ism is because, from the beginning, it was set up to be decentralized. It's not panoptical; it's inherently anti-panoptical. It's rhizomatic. In "Protocol," Alex Galloway does a good job of relating the literal, nitty-gritty protocol of the network to what it socially implies. The net was meant to withstand a nuclear bomb and route around it. The threat of nuclear force has served to advance Empire, but an all out nuclear war is best considered post-empire. It is such a post-imperial military scenario that the net's core protocol was designed to withstand. Which explains why contemporary US companies have such fits trying to sue P2P softwares like BitTorrent, Morpheus, Kazaa, etc. Yes, the "Minitasking" art software that maps the gnutella network doesn't currently reveal any overt, non-linear situationist subterfuge; but neither does it reveal a cartesian grid. And it certainly reveals the potential for such subterfuge.

So to equate the internet with GPS technology is simplistic. Yes, they were both designed by the military, but for very different purposes and eventualities. Which means the types of detournement and tactical strategies these two networks afford to artists (and the types of surveilance they afford to governments) is also very different. The two networks are related and promise to overlap in interesting ways (Manovich conceives of "augmented reality" buildings with networked projected displays updated in real-time, buildings whose physical locations would also necessarily appear on a GPS network). Still, "the hyper-rationalist grid of Imperial infrastructure" is a lot more prevalent on a GPS network than on the internet.

Posted by: curt cloninger at January 3, 2005 03:46 PM