Ryan/Thesis

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INTRODUCTION

In contemporary critical theory, the time of correlationist views [the map is not the territory] — “the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other”, has reached its limits when confronted with contemporary phenomena, and is preventing the intellectual advancement of knowledge, being unable to assess and understand recent developments in history. “In the face of the looming ecological catastrophe, and the increasing infiltration of technology into the everyday world (including our own bodies), it is not clear that the anti-realist position is equipped to face up to these developments.” Viewing speculative realism from Deleuze via Delanda gives non-human phenomena agency as phenomena can be regarded as actors within systems that are in a state of virtuality and, as they interact with external agents, becoming. When intensities become individuated, the intensive properties that conditioned the individuation process disappear or are concealed beneath the extensive properties of the finalized individual. Otherwise, they are in a state of flux, and dependent on their inherent potentiality, influence the other actors around them in a dynamic that fluctuates the world around us. From the advent of the technological age, scientists have been modelling our nerves as combinations of electric resistors and capacitors. Symbolic systems have become interlaced with biological systems, and the human nervous system is co-extensive with these information systems. Concurrently, the planet has been modulated into a computational megastructure, theorised as "The Stack", with layers as such; user, interface, address, city, cloud, earth. What this has left society with is a vast living techno-ecosystem with a limitless set of heterogeneous rhythms and patterns. While these infrastructures have been modelled for the creation of a society of control that benefits the vectorialist class ("those who control the vectors along which information circulates, ...they own the means of realising the value of information"), this thesis argues that aspects of resistance can emerge through the morphogenetic relationship between these systems and society. Specifically, through exploring the medium of installation-based video art, the very properties of light, sound and movement produce not only a wavering and questionable sense of time but also, a permeability that allows for an unfolding, malleable multiplicity that can produce an organic, radically alive environment. Additionally, as information systems form the basis for semiotic communication, non-linear causality in the form of feedback loops can be used in a narrative that links the viewer to the emotional resonance of the work, giving possibility to variations in the intensity of life within the work. This abstraction acts as an enabling force when considering the unintelligibility of the representation of memory. Works that are porous in this nature reflect the undetermined systemic interdependence of agents, homologous to relationships found outside of human agency, and as such, allow for reflection on the (in)significance of the human condition -- “To examine the multivalent aesthetics of abstraction in contemporary video art is to study artists’ interpretations of the always, already digital now: the embodiment of systems—the visual representation of ideas”. The following are ideas that will be extended in the subsequent chapters in support of this thesis.

While digital culture has permeated daily life through the imposition of the networked condition, a dialogue that questions this state, while utilising the same methods of transmission, is critical to maintaining an intensity of complexity and richness in visual culture as a counterpoint to the deluge of capital-oriented imagery. This novel relationship with technology and imagery is of key importance. The agency of these images, where the medium of consumption formulates the new condition of participatory labour, changes the conditioned response to imagery in the viewer. The action of scrolling has been equated to labour in contemporary theory and art, but in fact, this relationship requires analysis beyond the Marxist paradigm, as there is a simultaneity of interaction occurring -- the user is engaged in both the generation of wealth for the corporation but is receiving a product at the same time, and throughout this interaction is prey to the metered emotional response systems akin to addiction that are actively programmed into the system to maximise the efficiency of profit generation. There is a new relationship in the mediation of technology and the individual, as they have become part of the spatial metaphor discussed above in 'The Stack'. This has lead to a dramatic restructuring of our sense of spatial and temporal orientation, which coincides with the absence of linearity in both perspective and time. Furthermore to the re-establishment of this relationship, the notion of folded topology allows for a conceptual framework where space and time are malleable. This dramatically changes the familiar linearity that structures the traditional notions of temporality, but is actually a better method of understand the networked condition, an “endlessly extendible present time in flux without a fixed future or past states.” Relevant to this thesis will be an account of art-based notions of resistance to this hegemony of time and space.

As we walk the ground guided by satellites 36 000 km away from us, a strange familiarity of vertical surveillance has become common. Even geopolitical power itself has become theorised into vertical sovereignty, eschewing the former dominance of the planar map. This perspective from places the observer in a floating non-space. "This establishes a new visual normality—a new subjectivity safely folded into surveillance technology and screen-based distraction". While the conceptual development of this idea can be linked to both the collapse of linear perspective in artwork as well as the mathematical idea in topology that two parallel lines can indeed converge in an infinite space, this leads to the potentiality of this new perspectival also being superseded, towards "an absence of grounding that embraces a world of forces and matter, which lacks any original stability and sparks the sudden shock of the open, into a liberation that is terrifying, utterly deterritorializing, and unknown." Within the context of this paper, this novel relationship that technology has introduced regarding the mediated image will be examined through particular video works.

Finally, alongside the possibilities opened up with the views of speculative realism, there exists the framework to ideate upon where technology will lead us, a sentiment that co-exists with the intent of my work. Considering the non-human within our ecosystems reveals multiplicities towards extending the definitions of consciousness, and within these extensions, avails what artificial consciousness could entail. Previous investigations in this area focussed on 'intelligence', which leads to the assumption that a brute-force method will eventually end up with a technological answer to the question of what constitutes a conscious mind. However, counter to this argument exists speculation that the processing power of the human mind is folded into a neurological quantum state that defies current understanding of computation. Within the scope this paper, I am interested in what connections exist currently in investigations of artificial consciousness and the aforementioned theories of potentiality afford in the speculation of future histories of experience. The realm of art is currently the only area where these questions are currently being asked, even within the realm of our relationship towards technological development -- which is highly problematic given the rarified access the general public has to these inquiries. Nevertheless, these questions have permeated into popular culture (thankfully) as perhaps a result of the penetration of technology into our daily existence, and of course thanks to some remarkable fiction by certain authors.

My own work exists within these paradigms of questioning what it means to be part of an ecology, where external vectors constantly influence your state of being. The trend of philosophical thought up until quite recently has postulated that being human afforded some exclusivity towards this phenomenon by placing our existence only within the realm of what we perceive, but the current trend evidents that we are but a mere cog in all the mutable machines of existence. In what seems to be the time we have left as a species, I am interested in examining the specific aspects that quantify the different variations of being alive and how to intensify the presence of things, to look at how things change, are transformed, or metabolize.

Notes

The Spreadability of Video, Christine Ross

Deleuze and the open-ended becoming of the world, Manual DeLanda

The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman

In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective, Hito Steyerl

Post script on the societies of control, deleuze