Public Interfaces

Conference and PhD workshops, Aarhus University, Denmark, including presentations from K/AST members: Geoff Cox, Phil Ellis, Robert Jackson, Joasia Krysa, Andrew Prior, Magda Tyzlik-Carver.
A peer-reviewed newspaper has been published subsequently, a PDF of which can be downloaded HERE.

12 January 2011 → 14 January 2011
Arhus, Denmark

Researchers from KURATOR/AST will participate in the conference and Ph.D. workshop together with researchers from Aarhus University, and guests to address the broad theme of Public Interfaces. It is organized by Center for Digital Urban Living (DUL), Digital Aesthetics Research Centre (DARC), and Dept. of Aesthetic Studies, Aarhus University. Emerging from DUL & DARC’s ongoing research around interface criticism, the aim is to broaden issues to encompass the development of urban interfaces, and the changing concept of the ‘public’.

K/AST Abstracts:

Public Interfa(e)ces, Geoff Cox

In the work of Hannah Arendt, the political realm arises out of acting together, in the sharing of speech and action. There has been much recent interest in revisiting Arendt’s ideas, in relation to a reconceptualisation of publicness. In Virno’s work, for instance, this is emphasized because of the relative ineffectiveness of political action today. Proprietary technology arguably plays a significant role here in distancing speech from affect in a situation where action and words have lost their power (to echo Arendt). But what of software more specifically, in as much as it both expression as in speech or writing but also something that performs actions? For Kelty, again referring to Arendt, the free software movement is an example of what he calls a “recursive pubic”, to draw attention to emergent and self-organizing public actions. Moreover, publicness is constituted not simply by speaking, writing, and protesting, but also through modification of the domain or platform through which these practices are enacted. And ordure? The quirky intervention of Dominique Laporte, in History of Shit (first published in French in 1978) verifies that modern power is founded on the aesthetics of the public sphere and in the agency of its subjects but that these are conditions of the management of human waste. The issue is that in parallel to the cleansing of the streets of Paris from shit (as it became privatized), the French language was similarly cleansed of foreign words. Can we say the same of software: that the kinds of software that are found on the streets (installed in mobile devices and such-like) are similarly cleansed? This issue is crucial for a fuller understanding of political expression in the public realm and the ways in which general intellect is more and more privatised through the use of pervasive technologies.

Self-Service Broadcasting, Phil Ellis

This paper will address the public interface in terms of the potential for active participatory audiences to evolve at the interface of the site(s) of new television. Further, it will examine how this evolution is closely aligned to technological developments and tools that might engender ‘free cooperation’ and then collaboration, emancipating the spectator (Ranciere) and creating agency and empowerment. Inherent in a convergent culture, the possibilities multiply for active participants to act as both ‘semionauts’ and tactical media practitioners to exploit the tensions between empowered viewer/users and the needs of the broadcast industry to ‘monetise’ the viral feedback (Joselet 2007) exemplified in such tactics as the mash-ups of remediated broadcast. Mash-ups and similar acts of resistance can be seen as key acts of agency and affect (Gray 2008) and a new type of ‘flow’ sited at the intersection between the DIY tools such as Wirecast, Ustream, Stickam etc and prosumer culture. My current project harnesses the collaborative nature of webcam chatsites to reenact early television experiments and seeks to interrogate the public interface of new television and opportunities for self- service broadcasting. The dialogic process between participants and contemporary and historical television systems, in terms of technologies and uses (the political and social implications of the user-producer), aligned with their modes of distribution and reception, allow for a critique of the contemporary position of broadcasting through the process of reenactment artwork. The interface is presently in design and a prototype will form a part of the paper presentation.

Why we should be ‘Discrete’ in Public: Encapsulation and the private lives of objects, Robert Jackson

To the Actor-Network-Theorist or Object-Oriented-Philosopher, the typical use of the terms ‘public’, ‘culture’ or even ‘social’ are disingenuous at best. If one is to theorise public interface appropriately, the paper will suggest that non-human entities play a vital role, not just for the mediation of humans and machines, but for any mediation concerning the digital realm. It is not enough to single out the private and public lives of humans but also the occluded interfaces that make praxis possible. Digital Interfaces do not just encompass a system of ideas and relations that facilitate human exchange, but instead pose a myriad of interfaces between units; human eyeball and minimise button, optical DVD-ROM laser and silicon, Net-Gear routers and JavaScript Keywords. As a factor of circumstance rather than intention, Object-Oriented-Philosophy shares two-thirds of its name with Object Oriented Programming. Despite subtle differences, both methodologies share the challenge of working with discrete objects rather than logic. One of the fundamental features of Object Oriented Programming is Encapsulation; the ability to restrict access of the objects internal features outside its class, in order to protect the program from dysfunction. The paper will consider how encapsulation has affected public interfaces and its concurrent artistic contextualisation.

Some Questions on Curating as Public Interface, Joasia Krysa

The paper explores the expanded concept of public interface by establishing a link to the field of curating. Can the public interface be used as a useful concept for understanding developments in the field of curating and its relation to the art market? The suggestion is that the curatorial and technological apparatuses combine to reveal detail on the art market and its inextricable link to capitalist logic that is adapting to the demands of the immaterial economy. As other commentators have noted, contemporary art and neo-liberalism weave together rather neatly in such scenarios. The figure of the curator becomes central to this – arranging goods for new markets and adapting the logic of exhibition display to the logic of marketing and hype. This becomes a significant issue in particular in relation to new models of curating for online contexts and the specific economic models that it generates. In this way, curating can be seen to provide an essential interface to the interests of the art market and the divergent economies that underpin it, and once understood, can be imagined in different terms.

Noise at the Interface, Andrew Prior

The role of noise has long been associated with subversion and cultural dissent, and from early on in the twentieth century, the Futurists call to sonic arms in The Art of Noises (1913) argued for its use in composition. By the 1930s transcription and transmission media such as radio (Cage et al) and vinyl (see Katz, M: 2004) were being repurposed as noise generating source materials, but as Caleb Kelly argues in Cracked Media, through the final third of the twentieth century, there was a move to invoke noise not through media content, but through subversion of mediated interfaces themselves: broken and injured machines (2009). This practice has continued and evolved to account for digital technologies, in the form of glitch electronica and the ‘aesthetics of failure’ (Cascone), but sound’s increasing role as ‘digital media’, existing as digital files within dispersed social, technical and locative networks calls for a renewed examination of noise at the interface, and the ways in which increasingly fluid notions of interface are impacting on this praxis.

Interfacing the Common: curatorial event as a system of production on the edge, Magda Tyżlik-Carver

What Lazzarato says about immaterial labour can be applied to the field of curating and curatorial systems. He describes the immaterial labour as ‘the interface’ which links it to ‘immaterial commodity’ enlarged and transformed by the process of consumption. It is exactly that place of intersection and transformation where many curatorial systems using social technologies in the production of events, situations and forms of knowledge, operate. By applying the concept of immaterial labour to curatorial systems, the paper investigates the type of connections generated by understanding of curatorial system as an interface.