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Guattari: post-[mass]media era[edit]

In his late writings in the 1980s, Félix Guattari conceptualised the juxtaposition of computer networking and the miniaturization and personalization of technology as a development that, if analysed and used by "minoritary groups" in other than "a dogmatic and programmatic manner", will bring us to a "post-media era" where the mass media are stripped of their hegemonic power.

Félix Guattari delivered a lecture at a conference in Tokyo in November 1985, and again in Paris the following January. Besides criticising the Euro-Asian proponents of postmodern architecture [1], he also introduced his thesis on "the coming post-mediatic revolution": "The emergence of [the] new practices of subjectivation of a post-media era will be greatly facilitated by a concerted reappropriation of communicational and information technology, assuming that they increasingly allow for: [..] innovative forms of dialogue and collective interactivity; [..] the connection of banks of data through networking; [..] the multiplication to infinity of 'existential operators', permitting access to mutant creative universes."[1] Excerpts from the paper were published in the magazine La Quinzaine littéraire in 1986[2]. The Soft Subversion collection of essays (1996) includes its English translation along with his previously unpublished manuscript "Entering the Post-Media Era"[3]. In 1990 followed a short text "Towards a Post-Media Era" about "the junction of television, telematics and informatics", calling for "a post-media era of collective-individual reappropriation and an interactive use of machines of information, communication, intelligence, art and culture".[4].

Michael Goddard (1996)[5] observes that Guattari’s references to the post-media era are "hermetic"; and while they were greeted by many as an anticipation of the advent of the internet (Guattari was a keen supporter of the French Minitel system), the term seems to be a front for a more complex theory, that starts with a reflection on the independent media and free radios of the 1970s to posit, at the end of the consensual era of mass-media, a post-media era in which the media would be a tool of dissent, revising the relationship between producer and consumer.[6]

Matthew Fuller commented on the text "Entering the Post-Media Era" in his book Media Ecologies (2005): "The stakes [Guattari] assigns to media are rightly perceived as being profoundly political or ethico-aesthetic at all scales. Aligning such political processes with creative powers of invention that demand 'laboratories of thought and experimentation for future forms of subjectivation' also poses a demand for the inventive rigor with which life among media must be taken up."[7]

The Post-Media Lab at the Lüneburg University draws upon Guattari's "concept of social and medial assemblages which unleash new forms of collective expression and experience."[2] In December 2013, the Lab co-published Provocative Alloys: A Post-Media Anthology.

Slater: post-media operators[edit]

coming (see Broeckmann "'Postmedia' Discourses. A Working Paper" (2013f)

Krauss: differential specificity[edit]

In her book-length essay, A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition (1999), the American art critic Rosalind Krauss discusses the work of Marcel Broodthaers along the threads of Conceptual art, television, and poststructuralist theory. She bases her criticism of the Greenbergian concept of medium-specificity on two claims: "First, the specificity of mediums, even modernist ones, must be understood as differential, self-differing, and thus as a layering of conventions never simply collapsed into the physicality of their support. [..] Second, that it is [..] the onset of higher orders of technology -- robot, computer -- which allows us, by rendering older techniques outmoded, to grasp the inner complexity of the mediums those techniques support." And continues, ".. there are a few contemporary artists who have decided not to engage in the international fashion of installation and intermedia work, in which art essentially finds itself complicit with a globalization of the image in the service of capital [perceiving art in the regime of postmodernity, characterized by Fredric Jameson as 'the total saturation of cultural space by the image, whether at the hands of advertising, communications media, or cyberspace']. These same artists have also resisted, as impossible, to retreat into etiolated forms of the traditional mediums -- such as painting and sculpture. Instead, artists such as [Marcel Broodthaers,] James Coleman or William Kentridge have embraced the idea of differential specificity, which is to say the medium as such, which they understand they will now have to reinvent or rearticulate."[8]

Manovich: post-media aesthetics[edit]

The new media theorist Lev Manovich (2000) indentifies the source of the crisis of the concept of medium in modern art (as in its media-based typology: painting, sculpture, drawing) in several points: (1) in the proliferation of new art forms heterogenous in their materiality (assemblage, happening, installation, performance, etc); (2) in the emphasis of artists on "sociological" rather than material difference in case of video as artistic medium as opposed to television as mass medium (distribution mechanisms, size of an audience, space of reception); and (3) in artists' adoption of the same digital tools of production, storage and distribution used by mass media.

In what Manovich headlines "a program for post-media aesthetics", he calls for "a new conceptual system which would replace the old discourse of mediums and which would be able to describe post-digital, post-net culture more adequately". In a fashion similar to the idea of cultural transcoding, ie. applying computing terminology to treating the digitised cultural artefacts, introduced in his book Language of New Media (2001), he proposes to substitute the concept of medium by "new concepts, metaphors and operations of a computer and network era, such as information, data, interface, bandwidth, stream, storage, rip, compress, etc," and apply it to discussion about "the culture of the past" as well. More generally, he proposes "to talk about past media as software", a practise which requires updating the information theory model "author – text – reader (or, sender – message – receiver) by adding two more components to it: [..] software used by the author and by the reader".[9]

Weibel: post-media condition[edit]

The art and media theorist Peter Weibel in his catalogue essay "The Post-Media Condition" (2006) attempts to develop a political and historically rooted argument for art in the "post-media condition" in which "no single medium is dominant any longer; instead, all of the different media influence and determine each other." This condition is portrayed as the conciliatory climax of a struggle spanning the history of arts and sciences ever since the ancient Greece. Greeks and Romans differentiated between the noble "activity of the mind" reserved for the community of free citizens and the "activity of the body" which was "a matter for the unliberated, for wage labourers and craftsmen". The "lower orders" were partially emancipated during the Enlightenment era when "the natural sciences allied themselves with the mechanical arts (techné)" and "[finally promoted] painting, architecture and sculpture [..] to the ranks of the liberal arts." Weibel argues that today applied art and media art are devalued "by [being] regarding as mere exponents of technical reproducibility limited to the horizons of a machine", and their subordinate position towards painting, architecture and sculpture is parallel to that of the mechanical arts in relation to liberal arts earlier. Thus, Weibel offers a support narrative for the to-be final reconciliation of the arts and elevation of the media arts into the arts in a condition in which "all art is post-media art." He says that "no-one can escape from the media" because "the art of the technical media, i.e. art which has been produced with the aid of a device, constitutes the core of our media experience; this media experience has become the norm for all aesthetic experience; hence in art there is no longer anything beyond the media." As the ultimate example, Weibel identifies "the post-media computer, the universal machine, [thanks to which] we can realise the abundance of possibilities which resides in the specificity of the media." The earlier "phase" in which "all of the media, including painting and photography, made a special effort to explore the media-specific idiosyncratic worlds of the respective medium", according to Weibel, within the post-media condition simply turns into the phase of "the mixing of the media." This second phase sees various media intermingling, losing their separate identities and living off one another.[10]

Krauss' criticism of the post-medium condition[edit]

In her recent piece, "The Guarantee of the Medium" (2009), Krauss is relentless in her criticism of the Greenbergian appraisal of the medium-specifity. She drops her notion of "differential specificity," and takes position against the "post-medium condition". She discusses "those few artists who have resisted seductive pretense [of the post-medium condition] to displace the avantgarde's relation to modernism" and who "replaced the traditional supports of the now outmoded aesthetic mediums, such as oil on canvas, plaster on metal armature, or carved image on stone block" by "what needs to be called 'technical supports' for which commercial genres or objects might serve as the backbone (or undergirding) of their practice" (such as "synchronous sound" in the work of Christian Marclay, "investigative journalism" in the work of Sophie Calle, or even "automobile" in case of Ed Ruscha).[11] In her book Under Blue Cup (2011) she expands on this, while identifying the work of the post-medium condition as conceptual art, installation, and relational aesthetics.[12]



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