bloc // January 3, 2005

Remote – Creativity, Technology and Remoteness ⁄⁄

Remote, edited by Emma Posey, is a collection of essays by a distinguished group of academics, artists, business consultants, sociologists, philosophers, arts organisers and curators.

Outline:

The essays which span a broad range of subjects, explore the recently integrated field of creativity, technology and remoteness. The publication considers the new geographies that information proximity and material distance have produced. REMOTE will interest professionals and students engaged with culture, technical innovation and social theory.

Authors include: JAMES COUPE, ALAN DUNN, CAMILLA JACKSON, BRITT JORGENSEN JAMES GOODMAN, LUCY KIMBELL, CELIA LURY, ROB PEPPERELL MICHAEL PUNT, and PAUL TAYLOR.

Outline on the Collection of Essays in Remote
The ideas presented in the publication’s collection of essays reflect a spectrum of approaches to creativity, technology and remoteness and are given in two parts: In Theory and In Practice.

In Theory, part 1 of the publication, Lucy Kimbell explores the use of mobile networks and the inherent contradiction between mobility and connectivity – users are offered `freedom of movement` but are restricted within delineated spaces specified by the mobile networks. With the use of mobile technologies, interconnectivity is a spatial concern. In fact, technological devices reinstate our reliance on the physical world rather than the popularly asserted outcome of technology – ‘freedom from place’. Kimbell points out, essentially being `part of a global network requires us to be local, to be placed.` Here remoteness is possible only through close proximity.

By way of the transmitter/receiver, our social boundaries are broadened but only by being kept within physical, and very localised, boundaries. Paul Taylor notes that by accessing distant events our notion of ‘reality’ is extended ´ reality comes from and becomes further afield. He notes a TV voyeur’s startling inability to distinguish between a spectrum of events, whether they be banal such as reality TV and significant, such as news events. The coupling of mediated reality and the spectacle that is TV emphasises a circulation of ‘image over substance’. The image’s emotiveness enables us to be consumed within these distant realities.

Exploring what they term the ‘science of consciousness’, Robert Pepperell and Michael Punt look at the performative and theatrical spaces as metaphor for the extension of our experience beyond our immediate environment. Through the antics of a conjuror, they demonstrate how something concrete can be conjured from nothing and, in describing a ‘virtual’ event, they explore how presence can be signified by absence or loss. In their example technology extends our sense of embodiment rather than substitutes the space around us. Through the power of analogy we can function in various states at one time.

In her study on ‘brands’, Celia Lury explores a broader understanding of technology as information. In an information society, brands signify a particular organisation of relations between products and the multiplication of points of access in a system of products. In this example, objectivity of a brand is not fixed but is about change, endurance, and process. One of the key aspects of Lury’s approach is how branding, production and circulation of products are part of an extended, albeit intangible, network of an information capitalism.

In Practice, part 2 of the publication, James Coupe usefully draws together the idea of mobile technologies and actual as a means of understanding a user’s involvement in spatial terms. He explores through his own artwork, the use of cellular networks and how through a direct engagement with his work, users become components of a larger system. Coupe offers the term ‘system aesthetic’ as a representational scenario that attempts to explain this new form of artwork. This analogy help to visualise the extensions of activity that cannot all be experienced.

Camilla Jackson offers an exploration of various artists’ depiction of nature, some of who also use mobile technologies. Technology, brought on by the industrial revolution, is claimed to create a distance between people and nature. There is an apparent contradiction when nature is depicted as untouched and remote even though its very depiction indicates some form of entry. Remoteness, Jackson claims, is as much a state of mind as a physical location.

In their study of home workers, Britt Jorgensen and James Goodman explore the archetypal vision of the home-based teleworker. They reject the assumption that teleworkers are based in remote regions in remote communities – most live in an urban environment. As such, technology does not create or reduce distance as is popularly asserted. Tacit understanding is best expanded through direct and informal interaction. Although not explicitly, this often takes place through close working environments. Hence, technology does not substitute usual practice but it can extend it.

Utilising technology is only possible within an existing context of communication and participation and this is stressed by the ‘tenantspin’ project presented by Alan Dunn. The project’s focus is to engage a community of housing tenants in generating unmediated content for streaming within and beyond their immediate community. Dunn outlines, the outcome of using technology reflects existing community contexts and networks.

Notes on Contributors

James Coupe is Lecturer in Digital Art at London College of Music & Media, a Faculty of Thames Valley University. He is an artist who works with installation, electronics and digital media. His installation Digital Warfare Network (Project Phase Two) was exhibited at New Contemporaries 2001, and in 2002 he was awarded an Artsadmin bursary to develop a new project titled I, Robot. Phase Two of the I, Robot project was commissioned for Metapod 2003 in Birmingham. He has recently received major funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) for a twelve-month research project to create a conscious artwork.

Alan Dunn is manager of the tenantspin Superchannel project by FACT, the Foundation for Art & Creative Technology. He initiated and curated The Bellgrove Billboard Project (Glasgow 1990-91) and Liverpool Billboard Project (1999), presenting new works by various artists with accompanying catalogues. Recent projects include honour (flyposted works, Rio de Janeiro) and not dead white man (jumpshiprat, Liverpool and Anthology of Art, Ars Electronica, Linz).

Camilla Jackson has been Programme Organiser at The Photographers’ Gallery, London since 2000 during which time she has curated the group show Re: mote (for more information see past programme on www.photonet.org.uk). Previously, she was Exhibitions Curator at Tate Liverpool. Publications include Willie Doherty: Somewhere Else (1998) and Up in the Air (2000).

Britt Jorgensen and James Goodman both work at Forum for the Future, a sustainable development charity and think-tank. Their work concentrates on the social, economic and environmental role of new communication technologies within the sustainable development framework. Britt previously worked in one of Scandinavia`s leading think-tanks, House of Monday Morning. Published work includes the Danish National Index of Competency (1998, 1999) and a paper on telework and sustainable development (2002). Published work by James includes a paper on mobile telephony and social capital (2003) and a review of Information and Communication Technology and sustainable development (2002). Britt and James are both currently working on a new book from Forum for the Future, Making the Net Work: Sustainable Business in a Wired World.

Lucy Kimbell led design teams helping mobile operators develop multi-channel services in 1999-2001. Her art commissions include the book Audit (Book Works, 2002) and the LIX Index (Channel 4/Arts Council/Film and Video Umbrella 2002). A recent art commission for Arttones.net involved creating a series of downloadable operator logos. She has recently been awarded an AHRB Creative Fellowship at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University. www.lucykimbell.com.

Celia Lury is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She has written widely on the sociology of culture, including Cultural Rights (Routledge, 1993), Consumer Culture (Polity, 1993), Prosthetic Culture (Routledge, 1998) and Global Nature, Global Culture (with S. Franklin and J. Stacey, Routledge, 2000). She is currently writing a book on brands, also to be published with Routledge.

Robert Pepperell is a member of Polar (The Posthuman Laboratory for Arts Research) and a lecturer in Contemporary Art Theory at University of Wales College, Newport. He has published The Posthuman Condition (Intellect, 1995) and The Postdigital Membrane (Intellect, 2000) in collaboration with Michael Punt. A revised version of his first book, entitled The Posthhuman Condition: Consciousness beyond the brain, has also recently been published (Intellect, 2003). He has exhibited and lectured widely, and is currently working on a new book.

Emma Posey is an artist, writer and founding Director of Bloc, an art and new technology agency established in 1998. She has written widely on contemporary visual art and the effects of technology on place. Essay contributions to publications include Behind You in Between Us (2003) by artist Mariele Neudecker and Memory Maps in Distance Made Good (2002) by artists Jen Hamilton and Jen Southern. Her editorial work includes Further (2003), a catalogue to accompany Wales at the Venice Biennale, 2003.

Michael Punt is Reader at the University of Wales College, Newport, Deputy Director of the Centre for Advanced Inquiry into Interactive Art (CAiiA) and Editor in Chief of Leonardo Digital reviews. He has made over 15 films and published widely in the field of technology and its uses. His recent publications include a book-length study on early cinema Early Cinema and the Technological Imaginary, The Postdigital Membrane (Intellect, 2000) in collaboration with Robert Pepperell, Imagination, Technology and Pleasure: The Emergence of Cinema to be published by Intellect in 2003 and a CD Rom Radical Nostalgia.

Paul A. Taylor is Senior Lecturer in Communications Theory at the University of Leeds and formerly of the University of Salford. He is the author of Hackers: Crime in the Digital Sublime (Routledge 1999) and is currrently finishing Media Processes and Effects: Living in the New Plato`s Cave for Palgrave publishers.

Area: all wales