Reply to ᶀƦ⟲Ⱪ3ᥒ ⟒Ɍ3𐆖𐆖𐆖⟳ⱤĐƵ
Your writing on Glitch, Noise, and Dirty New Media touches on a lot of fine points, blending media theory and cultural theory with subjective accounts and key work examples. It's a fine commentary on the convergence of many trends and events that you've personally taken part of and I agree with the critical stances taken toward technological development---as informed by Kittler, Baudrillard, et al---that you've aligned with. The concerns expressed about the illusion of technological neutrality are ones that I resonate with. Your provocative approach to the topic of historicization of recent developments in electronic/media art, specifically noise, glitch, and circuit bending is challenging and a valuable contribution to the growing collection of texts surrounding developing trends in the field. However well intentioned your writing, I feel the need to address a few remarks that pertain to my involvement with the recent 2011 Bent Festival.
Specifically, I have to take issue with your interpretation of my statement for Bent Festival 2011. I came to know of you through other artists and friends as a respected practitioner and academic in regards to media art, and frankly, I'm rather shocked that you would write-in your own opinions and interpretations (however well conceived) under the heading of someone else's 'implicit claim', and then go on to state that they were direct claims in a manner that furthers your own prejudices. This form of putting words in the other person's mouth is incredibly unfit of an academic with your standing. Unless a direct claim is made by the person you're paraphrasing, you're going to have to take full ownership of your own interpretations. However, I can see cause for your misinterpretation of my statement and I hope to clarify those points that you bring up regarding my 'implicit claims'.
My reasons for including glitch in the scope of Bent Festival this past year was to include practices that I saw were related to the initial conception of Bent Festival when it started in 2004. Mike Rosenthal started the festival out of a desire to make electronic music more accessible. Circuit Bending was a cultural practice that was already fairly well developed as a niche sub-culture and offered a way for anyone to get involved in experimental electronic music through a hands-on process. I'm not claiming that Circuit Bending didn't exist before the festival, what I am saying in my statement is that the festival catalyzed the development of the existing community around circuit bending, elevating the visibility of the practice by concentrating artists---who had previously limited contact---at a public, multi-day event where exchanges could take place face to face at the speed of ideas themselves. The spectacle of the event itself brought increased media attention to the phenomenon and inspired others to get involved, not only in the practice itself but in expanding the community by sharing their work---in forums, blogs, through youtube and other social media platforms. I'm not saying that Bent Festival alone did this, but it played a big role in the process from 2004 onwards.
I'm not implicitly laying claim to developing any novel or new curatorial strategies nor am I making any attempt at re-casting historical events. That's certainly not what I meant by comparing the explosion of enthusiasm for Circuit Bending during the early years of the festival to the big bang. My purpose was to point out that Circuit Bending has had time to mature; it is more of a process and at the core of its process (the intentional production of glitches), one can find similarities between other "movements" or trends in electronic or media technology based art. It is after looking back at the metamorphosis of circuit bending into a methodology and watching the artists venture into other lines of inquiry that it made sense to expand the scope of Bent Festival to include these developments. Where I may have taken liberties, was in stating "...Circuit Bending becomes Code Bending." Taken out of context, without clarification this may imply a causal link where none might exist, but it doesn't state one out-right. The meaning was to show the parallels between the artist's hand guiding wire across a circuit and the artist's hand rewriting code; they both get under the hood. However, in the chronological sequence of events, Circuit Bending, to my knowledge pre-dates Data-bending or Code-bending. This is where I may have unintentionally played fast a loose with the language. But if this is the statement you wish to take issue with, then I would expect to see presented the counter evidence to refute what may be implied. All that is offered, however is an unsupported generalization about my hypothetical intent.
Perhaps, in the very brief history of Circuit Bending, no one used the term glitch to describe what was going on with the devices, but I find this unlikely. We can look back with today's understanding of the term glitch and define Circuit Bending as the application of the short-circuit to induce glitches in electronics hardware. If anything was being re-cast by my curatorial statement, it was the older definition of Circuit Bending, which needed revision because the practice had expanded into media beyond the battery operated sound toy. With the revision of the definition to reflect the developing trends within the movement, inclusion of related practices in the Bent Festival program for 2011 made sense. The goal was to get the communities of people working in one "discipline" or the other together so that they could share their ideas, methods and work. I was operating under the assumption that inclusion was more appropriate than exclusion. It was less a move to stake claim of certain processes under an expanded programmatic umbrella than to point out commonalities between them.
As far as the "NYCentrism" you point out, I frankly don't see how this is relevant. Circuit bending can be traced back to the Mid-West, and you can see the festival expanding to the Mid-West and West Coast in 2007 in an attempt to address the fact that local collectives of artists practicing circuit bending existed across the US (and world). If the coincidence of initiative, interest and funding had been any different, the Bent Festival could have easily had a completely different history, perhaps originating in Cincinnati, or Berlin, or Amsterdam, or Buenos Aires. Today Bent remains a NY based Festival because the organization that started and produces it wishes to retain it as their project, their property; The Tank, a NY based organization, owns the festival.
I must also take personal issue with the claim that my involvement in developing the statement furthers any program of "NYCentrism". I haven't even lived in NY for three years. Before NY, I lived in LA for 3 and years and performed in the experimental/noise music scene there as well as in the Bay Area. Before that I was involved with the Denver harsh noise scene. My personal practice through this time spans a wide array of interests and influences. What I have been involved with in NYC has been a collection of different projects aimed at sharing the work that myself and my colleagues are producing. Each project has its own program and goals, none of which are novelty or appropriation of this or that art form. I certainly don't see anyone making a claim that NY was where everything started or that NY had anything to do with the most recent developments in media art. The issue is either with NY, or me. I can't claim any responsibility for your feelings toward the NY art world, but if you have a problem with me, then I'd be more than happy to work with you to change that.
I hope that you can help me understand what I am now perceiving as a distinct animosity between practitioners of electronic art in NY and Chicago. If it is something that truly exists, then I'm deeply puzzled by it because we are doing essentially the same thing for similar reasons and with similar outcomes. We have similar interpretations of the same set of cultural theorists and integrate their ideas into our work and process to similar effect. We may differ on some of the details, but that's to be expected, because we each have our unique experiences to draw from. I understand that theorizing and attempting to re-focus our perception of past events is part of our respective practices. Ultimately the historians must puzzle out what is happening today and it's our job to continue working to confound them rather than take up their tools and join them. What I hope to achieve by writing this response to your critique of my curatorial statement for Bent Festival 2011 is a continued dialog, starting with us, between cultural producers working within the electronic art community. Just as the "glitch" has transformed from a phenomenon and term to a symbol and metaphor to be reabsorbed as an integral part of our cultural fabric, I hope that we can reconcile our differences in opinions in such a way that others can understand and integrate any incongruities that might remain between our views.
Phillip David Stearns
sry for the delays in my reply. as i wrote before it is a busy time @ The School as the semester ends + also as i wrote before, im glad you felt the need to take issue with sum of the points i made + raised in my txt
i need to make a few general statements up front before digging into/moving thru the points you raised:
1. i do not have a problem w/you personally or professionally as you suggested in yr email. we dont even know each other so i certainly do not have any personal issues w/you. professionally i respected what you did this year w/Bent. i went to NYC just to goto Bent, just to see mutual friends perform. the issues i took in my txt are w/the Curatorial Statement you made for the event (not the event itself) + how that relates to the hystories im detailing in my txt
2. i do not feel a "a distinct animosity between practitioners of electronic art in NY and Chicago". i do not feel any animosity towards you. i understand from what you wrote that you have lived in various places (LA, Denver, etc) + dont feel necessarily as if you are part of furthering any program of NYCentrism (+ i will address that in more detail below)
3. you are correct that my interpretation of yr Curatorial Statement for Bent Festival 2011 is a subjective interpretation. i in fact make that vry clear @ the outset of my txt + constantly remind readers thru-out the txt of this situation. these are lived experiences for me + i detail them as such. subjectivity does not compromise my project, they comprise my project
ok, in more detail, you wrote:
"I'm rather shocked that you would write-in your own opinions and interpretations (however well conceived) under the heading of someone else's 'implicit claim', and then go on to state that they were direct claims in a manner that furthers your own prejudices. This form of putting words in the other person's mouth is incredibly unfit of an academic with your standing. Unless a direct claim is made by the person you're paraphrasing, you're going to have to take full ownership of your own interpretations."
those are also strong claims + accusations Phillip. i understand why you would take this tone in rltn to my txt. ive bin thinking/feeling through yr accusation that i have put words in yr mouth && that i havent taken responsibility for my actions. i think/feel its rly vry clear that i _do_ take responsibility for my claims in the txt, even self-reflexively writing that: i am aware that this text stakes claims, makes subjective hystories known, and renders a particular view on a few hystories but this text is as much intended as a set of open questions as it is a record for remix. im not sure how much more clear + open i could be about my project. im even suggesting that my project is intended to be questioned, opened + is made available publicly as a subjective hystorical record for remix
so, im glad yr questioning my approach directly + wanting to converse w/me about it
a few words about NYCentricism: NYC remains mythically central in the .US despite the rest of the worlds' recognition of the rapid decline of the now falling if not fallen American Empire. NYC local press is .US national press && distributed worldwide as if it is in fact national press. claims made in NYC for.US national precedents are heard (if even not neccessarily believed worldwide. i could quote .EU critiques of Rhizome.org here as an ex but i imagine you know what i mean). i understand these to be objectively verifiable facts but you may understand them to be my subjective opinions. in anycase, the claims of an NYC-based Festival or curator such as yrself, capture attn && are quickly accepted on the basis the kind of myths of NYCentrality that im suggesting. i suspect you know this is true by which i suspect that you know that NYC-based projects receive the level of attn im describing despite any claims for the changes brought about now by decentralized networks or the popularity of social software. i know NYC is not an easy place to be or succeed in. i consider yr curatorial work + Bent Festival both to be highly successful && recognized for yr && the Festival's successes. but doesnt that situation (yr successes) && the attn im describing make it even more important to reach towards various, multiple, intersecting, contentious, overlapping + even redundant hystories?
in rltn to hystorical models in Media Art, i understand what you describe as yr reasoning for including glitch as related practices in the scope of Bent . what i wrote was that you are making an implicit claim that Bent is and always has been about glitch in order to align it more closely w/Glitch Art. as you describe in yr email to me, i still think/feel that this alignment was part of yr intention b/c as you explain in yr email, you want to propose that glitch is part of "practices that I saw were related to the initial conception of Bent Festival when it started in 2004."
i dont think/feel that yr making claims for, as you said, 'novel or new curatorial strategies'. neither am i for myself or anyOne else in the txt. the strategies we use have existed for a solid few decades @ least. in our .US context we borrow heavily from the last 30+ yrs of New Media Art Festival curation&&organization, esp from those in the .EU context i.e. the Ars Electronica Festival. these strategies are also, of course, not novel or new in + of themselves && are connected to previous Media Art Hystories (specifically) + (more generally) Art Histories, incl'n but def'ly not limited to (in the .US context) Expanded Cinema events, Merry Prankster parties, events at the Factory (&& in .EU context) Situationist actions, FLUXFEST, DADA events @ Cabaret Voltaire, etc...
its the content of the events that i think/feel that we are both making claims for +/or about. + just to be clear, i dont mean we both are making claims for the same territories that need to defended or even that we are both making the same claims (conceptually or even rhetorically). rather, we both have interests/engagements in stating claims for the meaningfulness && importance of certain approaches w/in our respective + overlapping fields/areas of artistic activity. + mayhap even more importantly, what i think/feel that this discussion is about is not only the relevance of certain approaches but the ways in which these are contextualized historically or the historical models used to frame/understand these contexts
my claims in my txt are for a Media Art Hystories && Genealogies local to the Chicago context but interconnected internationally. this is the context that i have developed as an artist, organizer && teacher. these are the communities i have built, projects i have initiated +/or collaborations i have been or am a participant in. mayhaps more importantly these are the efforts i have + am caring for
im yr statement, when you wrote that Bent was 'unleashed' 8 years ago in 2003, "upon the unsuspecting world..." i dont dont know what world you mean b/c the world i am from was totally prepared for the kinds of connections, content + curatorial projects that Bent represents + is an influential part of. yr opening statement does in fact make the claim that this new content or connection was unprecedented (i.e. that the world was unprepared for it). as i said + as i detail in my txt, i live in a world of Noise & Dirty New Media Art in Chicago that had alrdy embraced + was/is engaged in exploring these/those possibilities + connections (i.e. between Circuit Bending, Hardware Hacking, Artware, Databending, experimental Musics, the art-now-known-as Glitch Art, etc) actively + publicly. my main ex in the txt is the Version Festivals that i co-organized @ the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago from 2002 - 2004, a time which precedes + crosses over w/the founding of Bent in 2004 (as you wrote)
Jon Satrom (my former student + collaborator, GLI.TC/H organizer && internationally recognized Glitch Artist) created the VITCH in 2002:
which Nicolas Collins incl's in his book Handmade electronic music: the art of hardware hacking from 2006. Satrom writes that: "The Vitch is a realtime audio/video instrument created in 2002. It interrupts an existing circuit, resulting in colorful audio/video glitches." Satrom was a student @ SAIC, taking classes extensively w/me in the FVNMA dept + also in the Sound dept that Collins teaches in. he then began performing w/the VITCH in I LOVE PRESETS (Jason Soliday, Rob Ray + Jon Satrom) from 2003 to the present:
as they say of themselves: "Since 2003, I LOVE PRESETS has developed a lexicon of found sounds, animated gifs, and home-built equipment. Performing improvisational audio/video noise, the group’s output is documented primarily in live recordings." Satrom also performed on the VITCH to make a video for YUPPSTER, released in 2003 on ZOD RECORDS in tandem with an interactive CD:
in this example we have Gameboy, chiptunes, Glitch Art, Circuit Bending, Hardware Hacking, experimental Musics, Noise & Dirty New Media all intersecting in the Chicago context in 2002/2003 + this is rly just 1 example that i thought could help clarify what i mean about multiple hystories + about the preparedness of the world im from for not only the suggestion but also the actualities of the intersections of various forms of Dirty New Media Art, Noise + experimental Musics
now, when you say that Bent was a 'spectacle' that "brought increased media attention to the phenomenon and inspired others to get involved" im sure thats true. + that in fact underscores what i am saying about how the local media/press of NYC is also the national .US + international press
when you write that Bent was not alone in this effort, i also, obviously agree b/c of eveythin im writing/say'n in my txt for GLI.TC/H + here. the fact that Bent was both not alone + also so influential/inspirational is precisely my point as well + exactly why the telling of multiplexed hystories has such critical importance as well, so that these hyperthreaded hystories do not get collapsed into singular stories told from singular perspectives
showing parallels, i.e. between as you write "the artist's hand guiding wire across a circuit and the artist's hand rewriting code" is great + im totally into this as a form of entingletanglements of hyperthreaded hystories. furhtermore, when you continue: "However, in the chronological sequence of events, Circuit Bending, to my knowledge pre-dates Data-bending or Code-bending" this may also be true. im not a scholar of the hystories of Circuit Bending but i understand those hystories to be most often associated w/the work of Reed Ghazala in the mid to late 1960's. Artware or Software Art, thru Conceptualism, can be traced solidly to the same time period. Saul Albert has done sum of this unpacking, i.e. in his:
Artware - Saul Albert (1999)
ive taught those theorypractices since the early 2000's in classes (i.e. those that Satrom took && developed his work/aesthetic in) which existed alongside Collins' classes on Hardware Hacking, instrument building etc. Satrom in particular was sumone who crossed over between those classes/concerns in the interdisciplinary spirit of The School where he now teaches in my dept
my own Media Art Hystories research looks into the decade of the 1970's in Chicago, where Phil Morton, Dan Sandin, Jane Veeder, Tom DeFanti, Bob Snyder + others were working collaboratively + crossing over between realtime audio/video synthesis, processing + performance. their work was less glitch + more cyberpsychedelic b/c their bending was building rather than breaking
im not vry interested or invested in making claims for 1rsts, i.e. _this form_ preceded _that form_ or whathaveyou. im interested/invested in recognizing + promoting thru my writing a recognition of events that i know b/c i experienced them or developed platforms for them or set moment(um)s in motion thru my local + networked context(s)
this snds good to me also: "We can look back with today's understanding of the term glitch and define Circuit Bending as the application of the short-circuit to induce glitches in electronics hardware." i agree that it 'makes sense' for you to incl Glitch in Circuit Bending as a definition or even to revise the hystories to incl Glitch in Circuit Bending in retrospect as you suggest above in the 'looking back' @ + redefining of the term/genre of Circuit Bending to incl Glitch. again, i agree w/you that this project makes sense to you + this is precisely what i said in my txt, that yr curatorial statement is making these vry same points
when you write that "the revision of the definition to reflect the developing trends within the movement, inclusion of related practices in the Bent Festival program for 2011 made sense." i agree, it makes sense. but it makes multiple senses w/multiple goals. 01 of yr goals in writing yr Curatorial Statement was, i assume, to also have the statement function as a Press Release. it reads as such + is therefore necessarily celebratory + promotional of the event in order to promote the continuation of the event (thru advance press coverage, attendance, participation, excitement, purchase of tickets, documentation by attendees such as myself, etc...). all of this promotion is necessary. i have also written statements that are meant to function as Curatorial Statements + simultaneously as Press Releases, i.e. for the r4WB1t5 micro.Festivals:
so i am familiar w/all these realities. but when you say that if "the coincidence of initiative, interest and funding had been any different, the Bent Festival could have easily had a completely different history, perhaps originating in Cincinnati, or Berlin, or Amsterdam, or Buenos Aires." that assumes coincidence when the sentence following disspells coincidence b/c as you say: "Today Bent remains a NY based Festival because the organization that started and produces it wishes to retain it as their project, their property; The Tank, a NY based organization, owns the festival." so, it is not a coincidence that Bent is in NYC + the NYC context is therefore relevant. the NYC context entails necessarily complex but not coincidental configurations of interest, ownership, property, economics, funding, attention, etc...
i have chosen to live + work in Chicago for various reasons. my reasons incl the economic viability of living/working in Chicago, the opportunities i have had + have created, my work as a teacher, my research into Media Art Hystories relevant to Chicago, etc. my point in saying that is to say the following: could my curatorial/organizational work in developing r4WB1t5 micro.Festivals happened anywarez else besides Chicago? idk. but i know that Chicago provided a specific context which allowed us to develop r4WB1t5. r4WB1t5 foregrounded Noise & Dirty New Media Art explicitly (i deployed the term 'Dirty New Media' in the context of organizing r4WB1t5 in order to frame, define, undermine, explain, extend + problematize the kinds of work we were making + showing). r4WB1t5 became the way i met ARAM Bartholl, by curating his Random Screen project. could ARAM's SPEED SHOW concept have been developed anywarez besides/outside of Berlin? idk but i dont thin so, even tho it has now been extended + versioned out all over the globe... could Rosa Menkman have developed her theorypractice anywarez other than Amsterdam? alot is made (i.e. by Mark Tribe && Reena Jana) of JODI's time in California @ CADRE, the electronic arts laboratory at San Jose State University. would JODI have made their work if they hadnt traveled to the .US + lived in California? Tribe + Jana suggests not. Menkman suggests herself that her own interest in Glitch Art begins w/JODI's Untitled Game. Bartholl suggests that my inclusion of his work in r4WB1t5 inspired him in part to develop the SPEED SHOW concept. ARAM's SPEED SHOW concept in turn inspires ppl, etc, etc, etc... so these interconnected genealogies + their geospatial + temporal localities do matter
also, i what to connect what you meant when you wrote that Bent "could have easily had a completely different history" elsewarez to what you also wrote that Bent was/is 'not alone'. this discussion is not about Bent having another history but rather about acknowledging multiple hystories amidst historical claims such as for the unprecedentedness of Bent that you suggest in yr Curatorial Statement (when you wrote that "The Tank unleashed Bent Festival upon the unsuspecting world"). my project is to cast a wider net around connections, all the whiles expressing that any of these efforts is necessarily incomplete, partial, contingent + that these nets are subjectively woven around each other
i realize, im repeating myself again now, so i will leave it @ that for now... above are just sum examples from my own personal/professional experience, but i hope you can see by these examples that this is about the contexts we work in/on, how they are or will be framed/understood + taking responsibility for our intentions in doing so