While social commons once depended on direct time as a medium, today they take form through indirect and hybrid relations – with subjects as well as digital-temporal objects. This research project takes this intratemporal condition for experience as a premise for art’s existence as a forum, which announces a need for seeking and critically questioning art’s transformative qualities and especially a newly cast role for art in technological innovation.
The research follows a two-year research fellowship at School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong (2018-2020) on temporal experience, memory, and technogenesis in expanded reality, realized with the Carlsberg Foundation’s Internationalization Fellowship. My research on ‘expanded reality’ examines (art and other) experience of the ‘real,’ when our sense of reality is artificially expanded (or, I argue, reduced) – for example in virtual or augmented reality. With this research, I have developed a foundation for addressing how temporality in experience affects memory structures, habits, and intuitions, not only theoretically but also technogenetically (Leroi-Gourhan 1943, Stiegler 1994, 2008, 2010, Hayles 2015) – implicating both cultural, philosophical, historical (or, originary), technical, computational, affective, biological, and neurological perspectives – through memory as a dynamic and temporally wired faculty. My work in Hong Kong qualifies subjectivity (consciousness of the subject) as a transdisciplinary configuration developed from neuroscientific theory, computer science, optical innovation, feminist science studies, and Chinese philosophy of time. Art of Our Times elevates my focus from individual-subjective to connective, intratemporal experience in technologically developed milieus, which I critically examine through the ‘forums of art’ and as a condition for cultural transformation.
As art employs the technologies of our times, it behaves and operates as much as it expresses or presents (Paul 2008); art becomes something that does, rather than something that is (Toft 2016). A growing discourse in art today embraces its temporal, active, and productive, qualities. It leans on a modernist avant-garde perspective on art’s reason of existence to stimulate cultural habit as difference rather than repetition and incorporating something new (Blanchot, Ravaisson, Proust) – casting art as potentially transformative (Tygstrup 2016). But this also announces a current critical moment for art: The temporal liberation of art involves an expansion of art from object to forum, and a transfer of art’s ‘transformative qualities’ to environments of innovation and anticipation of the future, for better or for worse.
The attention to art as potentially ‘transforming’ a commons grew with the 1990s relational art practices of socially engaged art (dialogical, community-based, participatory, or collaborative art) typically addressing pressing social issues while mobilizing, giving voice to, and establishing temporary communities around the art as experience (Bourriaud 1998, Bishop 2006, Larsen 2006, Bolt 2011). The trajectory of the social-oriented discourse in art reflects a tendency to think of art’s forums in terms of social clusters underpinned by an understanding of ‘intersubjectivity’ as a matter of relations between subjects and their context. This understanding, however, reflects a world before we became digitally networked – with each other, but also with object-milieu relations in which we are culturally inscribed and that we collectively co-produce. This project approaches the quality of transformation in art in relation to the commons differently because it understands the mechanisms of the commons today differently. The project examines art’s potential role in our intratemporal conditions of becoming and cultural evolution. A more conventional phenomenological approach (Husserl) to art would focus on themes, concepts, or idealities of what audiences are intended to experience, but such an approach neglects the very premises of existence of ‘time-based’ art today, which exists through intratemporal commons by means of (technological) temporal infrastructures – both hardwired, softwired, and imaginary.
Leaning on a Heideggerian understanding of subjectivity (and intersubjectivity) through time and as always historical and cultural, the project embraces a different understanding of how the ‘we’ is constituted. While before digital networking the ‘we’ could mostly form through geographical or context-specific groups, clubs and local communities, today infrastructures of social commons evolve through hybrid relations of time. Configurations of the ‘we’ are changing because temporal conditions of what and how we experience are changing. How we navigate and behave collectively (or, connectively) is entangled with temporal behaviors of ‘objects’ that are generated through connected systems for data processing. What we might understand as intersubjectivity is shadowed by interobjectivity – the inter-operation of censors, interfaces, algorithms, databases, and networks (Hui 2016, Hansen 2015). In our technologically developed milieus today, subject-context and object-milieu relations are thus contingent and co-evolve through intratemporal existence.
With a focus on art’s transformative qualities through intratemporal relations, the project problematizes art’s forums as simultaneously milieus of invention (Stiegler 1994). I question a fast-growing discourse in art and technology where the art is treated, funded, and appropriated as a catalyst for change. For example, when artists are invited into residencies, technology and science labs of corporate technology companies, or when art is granted support by European or other funding schemes to act as a catalyst for industrial innovation and urban development (or even human rights). In Denmark, government initiatives generously support innovation funding especially to cultivate VR as an artistic medium based on cultural-economic imperatives (Jochum 2019). These initiatives reveal how art is implicated with our adaptation to changing configurations and ideas of reality with technological innovation (Ag forthcoming 2020). Hence art’s temporal existence today is not uncomplicated. Art participates in transforming our experiences of shared realities, commons, interests, and urgencies by co-producing structures and tools through which we exist and evolve intratemporally.
In challenging art’s intratemporal qualities of transformation, with this research project I ask: What temporal mechanisms connect art with changing forms of communality? What characterizes intratemporal experiences of the ‘now’? How might art’s participation in the sense of ‘now’ affect shared, cultural connections to the past, and projections of the future? And, with what technogenetic effects, in perspective of how we co-evolve with technology?
Image: Lundahl & Seitl, Unknown Cloud On Its Way To… (2016)