The Death of Cyberflânerie

I just read an interesting article by the writer Evgeny Morozov for The New York Times called The Death of Cyberflânerie.

In it Morozov describes how he stumbled across an old article from 1998 describing a bright future for the Internet, celebrating the rise of cyberflânerie.

Basically the internet back then was free and playful, and flânerie was easily possible. But with Facebook’s dominance, people’s experience of the Internet is pretty much limited to Facebook, with occassional consumerist trips and Google-based Q&As. He notes Facebook’s plans to make everything a social and sharable experience: listening to music, watching films, reading books and internet browsing.

But my reaction is that Morozov is forgetting something.

Flânerie isn’t at all impossible online and the flâneur was always an outsider – part of the (Internet’s) crowd but a detached by it. Not everyone was a flâneur, hence the concept of ‘The Crowd’.

He sauntered through arcades, which were built for shopping, yet he buys nothing, savouring the sensory experience of the arcade, defiantly strolling slowly to subvert industrialisation and capitalism’s fast pace. Even in his last days, he hung around bazaars but never bought anything from them.

If you buy that cyberflânerie is dead, then certainly cyberdérive is its sucessor. Dérive was all about reshaping the city to create a Situationist utopia, where play is central and seperate from capitalism, consumerism and work. Dériveurs must have an awareness of currents, fixed points and denials of entry to subvert them and to reshape the city.

In the context of the Facebook-dominated internet then, cyberdériveurs have awareness of Facebook’s dominance, of consumerist temptations, etc. and subvert them by going on their cyberdérives, restoring the playfulness and saunter that the cyberflâneur once enjoyed.
It may well be that my research was a form of cyberflânerie after all – just because most people don’t engage in cyberflânerie, it doesn’t make it impossible to do. I’m not on Facebook anyway, so am unaffected by this so-called dominance and generally static web experience., proving cyberflânerie’s existence. In addition, people do use other parts of the Internet. The amount of art students who do contextual research outside of Facebook is surely significant. This may be cyberflânerie, as you have to keep an open mind to find anything.Could my research even be a form of cyberdérive? Did I subvert the Facebook-dominated internet by going on my own journey? One thing that is problematic is that dérive is militant and revolutionary with idealism for the refashioning of the city. I’m not militant, I don’t see anything wrong with Facebook or its dominance, and I don’t aim to refashion the internet, free it of the shackles of Facebook to create a playful alternative, free of consumerism, etc.I conclude that cyberflânerie is not dead – not if you venture out from the comfort of Facebook, online shopping and Google Q&As.

 

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Hindley’s Fluorescent Acrylic

While using the UV printer, Lynda, one of the textiles staff, showed us pictures of this special perspex which reacts to light which can be printed on using the UV printer.

http://www.hindleys.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/small_image/223x223/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/f/l/fluoescent_group_web.jpg

I’m exploring ways of depicting cyberspace and was gravitating towards buying a fibre optic lamp and using the strands to depict a network along the lines of the Opte Project, a visualisation of the Internet. But this fluorescent perspex from Hindley’s looks like an interesting alternative. I could always try both. It’s £5.45 for a piece 600 x 300 x 3mm and £15.45 for 1000 x 600 x 3mm which isn’t out of the way at all and it looks cool.

 

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The Penny Dropped: Categorising My Practice

I’ve broken down my practice into three bodies of work.

First body: Research

  • The starting point/stimulus for research (projection idea)
  • The way the research was undertaken (so-called digital dérive)
  • What was uncovered from research (QR codes)
  • My reaction to research (alternative ‘maps’)

Second body: Significance of Research

  • Encaustic pieces – symbolically scratching beneath the surface to reveal the hidden truth, challenging established assumptions there is no industry

Third body: Site Responses (Colour Specimens)

  • Abstract/Psychogeographic responses to sites, as I went to see them with my own eyes

 

There’s an overarching Altermodernist influence. Altermodernist principles are applied to psychogeography to make it work for me, in the same way a hammer is used to make lead malleable to work it into the shape desired.

As a result, psychogeography, freed up and made malleable by Altermodernism, is used to help inform and support the artwork produced.

Altermodernism also provides inspiration for the first body and second body of practice: the concepts of Energy, Heterochronia, Archives and the Semionaut.

 

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The First Piece of the Continuum

I’d like to reflect the continuum of my practice, so the digital pieces on linen canvas are at the end of the continuum as responses to the textile sites I uncovered. Before these are the symbolic excavation encaustic pieces, before that, pieces relating to my research.

At the beginning of the continuum is this: a refined version of my MLSE animation will projected onto a black and white photograph of an accidentally uncovered hoard in situ. Basically, all my research stems from Rowan showing us the Huddersfield episode of the BBC’s Our Town in a lecture, in which was shown MLSE laser technology. This was the first inkling I had that there was anything textile-related going on in Huddersfield, and was the starting point for my research.

My reasoning for using a photograph of an uncovered hoard is very symbolic. Imagine a farmer going about his business, ploughing a field. He accidentally uncovers the hoard with his plough and this hoard goes onto significantly change established views of a culture and society.

Contextually, this links my work to Bourriaud’s commentary on the importance of archaeology in contemporary art (and consequently linking my work to other contemporary artists using archaeology) in his lecture The problematic of time in contemporary art (http://www.maarav.org.il/english/2013/10/the-problematic-of-time-in-contemporary-art-nicolas-bourriaud/).

It also links me to the Altermodern concept of Heterochronia. Here, I’m anarchronistically mixing three periods (present-day Huddersfield, the photograph of the hoard, and the period the hoard was buried) to gain and communicate an understanding of the gravity of what I uncovered via that BBC programme.

The second Altermodern concept it relates to is Archives: “Artists mine both their own archives and those of institutions or organisations, connecting chains of ideas. They remix, re-present and re-enact, using the past as part of an understanding of the present.” (http://www2.tate.org.uk/altermodern/explore.shtm)

It also relates to the Altermodern concept of Energy, making art out of other parts of the continuum of my practice.

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Colour Specimens: The Plan

What I’m thinking is, to print 4 or 5 of my digital pieces onto linen canvas, then have a couple printed on a different type of fabric/canvas which will be covered in layers of encaustic and material, then symbolically excavated to reveal the true reality of these sites – scratching beneath the surface to reveal the truth.

I’ve bought several canvases made of linen from Paperchase to print some of my Colour Specimens onto using the UV printer at uni on Thursday.

Instead of using your bog-standard white canvas I thought linen would be more interesting. You expect canvas to be white and, to be honest, I thought if I’m going to use canvas it’d be a bit dull and predictable for me to use the white stuff. I’ve never seen linen canvas before and I doubt many viewers have.

linen canvas

I feel as though I might be acting more as a professional contemporary artist choosing this linen and also looks more professional aesthetically. The fact is it does actually have aesthetic quality to it and would look great in an exhibition.

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Colour Specimens: Bower Roebuck Update

There are two versions. The black outline is to show to shape of the piece. The colour yellow is a recurring theme, serving as a symbol of optimism and energy, as part of my response to my research ito the town’s industry.

NM block I

NM Block II

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Interactive Animation Potential

I’ve been thinking about creating an interactive animation piece, inspired by Langlands and Bell’s pieces such as The House of Osama Bin Laden, The Artist’s Studio and Superactive i2i.

http://www.langlandsandbell.com/the-house-of-osama-bin-laden-video.html

http://www.langlandsandbell.com/superactive-i2i-video.html

http://www.langlandsandbell.com/superactive-i2i-video.html

I was also inspired by Ryoji Ikeda’s data.path with its Tron: Legacy aesthetic and visualisation of data paths. It has a fantastic dynamism to it which seems to evoke the workings of the Internet.

For these pieces a joystick is provided for the viewer to navigate a virtual world. My idea was to create a virtual world based on my ‘Digital Dérive’ work (for want of a better term), where the viewer could aimlessly stroll/navigate cyberspace as I did during my research, without expectations or destinations. The viewer would navigate an unassuming space and, at certain points, QR codes of websites I stumbled across when researching would pop up and surprise the viewer.

I downloaded a program called Sauerbraten: Cube 2 which allows me to create this cyberspace environment. It looked like a pretty decent program seeing as it’s over 500MB.

But I’ve started to question going ahead with this idea. I wonder if it would be too literal in visualising a ‘Digital Dérive‘ – too obviously about travel, specifically aimless travel. I wonder if simply mapping my research would be more suggestively about travel through cyberspace, rather than actually getting the viewer to do it.

I may revisit this idea but for the time being I’m going to pursue other ways of visualising my research.

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