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August 23, 2006

[iDC] Interactive City: irrelevant mobile entertainment? Part 3


Anna Munster's Response

Steve, John and others,

I'm glad that you, Steve, took the time out to interact with this discussion and to add some of your comments about the background and intent to some of the projects and themes you worked on. I think this is important information to have because, in fact, it can be then passed on, informally to others in terms of organisational and process 'notes'

Without wanting to detract from the fact that you and Joel and many,many others obviously put a great deal of work into the event (and I have been involved in conference organisation and know that it's long, hard and thankless), I still think you have to take account of the fact that many people who went to this year's ISEA and 01 Festival think it didn't work. This is evidenced from: this and other list discussion, everybody I ran into commenting upon this while there and various blogs. It's ok for something not to work. You should also be aware that there were many individual events and particularly curated aspects that did work, were enjoyed. The point is why did it not work overall and how can things change toward something more productive in the future.

It didn't work NOT because you didn't put a huge amount of work into it. It didn't work for all the reasons that people have been speaking of on this list:

- irrelevant or not completely articulated and worked through themes.

- a general sense of experiencing the relationship to the city of San Jose and its space and architecture as dislocated, nonlocated, delocalised. And while you list various projects that did try to work with place and community this did not come across as a major experience for many who participated over the 7-10 days.

-a sense that too much was trying to be achieved in too many disparate spaces. That's a case of being over-ambitious and obviously under-resourced. Less things more tightly drawn together might well remedy this. People do not need to be constantly entertained but rather thoughtfully provoked.

-a sense among many artists and thinkers and cultural producers that there are terribly more urgent issues at stake right now and that there is responsibility from a critical, artistic community holding any event in the US now to foreground these issues: imperialism / empire / nonempire, war / ethics, technology / military, poverty / human rights, precarity / labour / illegality, paranoia / regulation / deregulation, fundamentalism etc etc...

I also believe that this is the creative responsibilty of a country such as Australia right now and pointed to the Sydney Biennale as an example of another lost opportunity in this area.

I did not expect ISEA to be smooth, slick or perfect. I expected chaos and the rough and ready...However what I primarily took away from the event overall was a kind of disconnected emptiness. Unfortunately I did see a kind of biennale structure being emulated and this is quite possibly an effect of the scale of the projects ISEA is trying to achieve. In the Pacifc Rim summit the point was made a number of times that small-scale, localised participation in relation to locale can often be more successful an experience for participants. I have to say I agree.

As for John's comments about the devolution of Anglo-American societies toward fascism at the moment - yes, I couldn't agree more. I certainly don't exempt my own 'nation' from that either. I returned to a whole bunch of news reports about outbreaks of anti-semetic and anti-islamic graffiti and desecration of mosques and synagogues throughout Sydney. We are just as racist a country and it is State sanctioned racism similarly buffeted by organised fundamentalist religions.

But what I did really sense from going to the US (and this is not the first time - I spent about 3 months in NY in 2004 during the period Steve Kurtz was arraigned and have been back and forwards many times b4 that) was the very deep level of militarisation of every aspect of civilian life. To me this is fundamentally frightening and the most obvious sign that we have moved headlong into neofascism...what is to be done, socially, culturally...has never been a more pertinent question...

Best Anna
A.Munster at unsw.edu.au

Dr. Anna Munster
Senior Lecturer,
Postgraduate Co-ordinator
School of Art History and Theory
College of Fine Arts
University of New South Wales
P.O Box 259
NSW 2021
ph: 612 9385 0741
fx: 612 9385 0615

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Posted by jo at August 23, 2006 08:40 AM