Welcome to the 7th edition of the e-journal
MAP - Media | Archive | Performance
MAP #7 Media / Performance: On Gestures
Looking at the interrelations between media studies and performance studies, this special issue, edited by Barbara Büscher and Jana Horáková, takes up the notion of ‘gesture’ as a key word for intertwining both fields. Gestures are the focal point as they combine the materiality of movements and the immateriality of utterances and meanings, the subjective impression and the communicative expression, the interface with the apparatus and the program. As Vilém Flusser – who repeatedly returned to this issue in different ways – said, gestures are hints to decipher the world. They allow us “’to read’ the existential changes we are currently undergoing”. Flusser also understands them as indexes (symptoms) of freedom, as the ability of humankind to overthrow the pre-programmed rules implemented into apparatuses. To break the rules, or to transcend the apparatus order, means to be able to awake from the passivity of automatization and to reflect upon it.
With the following contributions, this issue focuses on two gestures, which, albeit not being at the core of Flussers’ consideration, seem to us crucial for today’s media reality. The authors examine if and how Flusser’s ideas, concepts, and investigations can be activated and continued. The two gestures are the gesture of programming (and its effects) and the gesture of listening (and its implications).
The relationship between the gesture of programming and the performativity of code is of central importance. How can the gesture of programming be described? Is it – and if so how – related to the gesture of writing, which Flusser still saw as a central way of intelligent beings’ expression? He was already aware of its ongoing transformation into the new (electronic and programmed) media. What kind of relationship between the programmer and the world does this gesture establish? What rules do programmed and programming apparatuses of today impose on us?
Kateřina Krtilová introduces Vilém Flusser as a media philosopher. With reference to his concept of the gesture of writing as a crucial practice of philosophy (or being a philosopher), she elaborates on changes humanities are currently undergoing. Jana Horáková compares Vilém Flusser’s concept of the post-industrial (programmed) apparatus with current debates on programmed media represented by software studies and its main representative cultural theoretician Matthew Fuller. Stefan Höltgen explores whether programming a computer (especially with hardware-oriented languages like assembly languages) is a “gesture” in the sense of Vilém Flusser’s definition of the word. He analyses Flusser's gestures of “making” and “writing” to see if they are compatible with operating terms from computer science.
The gesture of listening refers to our efforts to get in touch with the processes that exist mostly in forms of signals and symptoms in the apparatus-operator complex. Thus, theorists trying to follow and describe processes and activities that take place beyond our retinal world need to become aware of them. They listen to the compositions of processing programs and search for sounds whispering the “post-optical unconsciousness” (Inke Arns) of computer culture.
Martin Flašar is interested in historical analogies to and poetics of live coding performances – a fairly new media art form based on the live production of semi-pre-programmed computer music, which is performed and composed during performance. Part of these performances is a projection, which allows the audience to see the live coded score while listening to the composition. Annie Goh fuses one of Flusser’s few essays exploring the auditive with his predominantly visually conceived crisis of linearity, discovering an implicit, but radical concept of music production in Flusser’s philosophy of media culture. Analysing the sonic dimension in Flusser’s philosophy of media is completed with an example of archaeo-acoustic research. Shintaro Miyasaki and Jan Thoben argue that the massive digitization, algorithmization, and cybernetization of almost all aspects of western society, culture, and politics have made Flusser’s concept of the gesture of listening more relevant than ever before. They propose to interpret the gesture of listening from neuro-scientific, biological, cybernetic, and ecological aspects of media and the micro-temporality of technical networks. They add examples of their own experimental works with sonification devices.
Barbara Büscher relates the gestures of producing techno-images (photography, film, video) to the context of current research on archival processes in performance-based arts. She focuses on the processes of recording behind any representation of live events. In these processes, negotiations take place between human intentions and apparatuses’ programs. Deciphering techno-images in their relation to the world, or to past events, should be based on the knowledge of their programming.
The artistic insert of this issue shows the work of designer and artist Julia Wiesner who accessed Flusser’s ideas in a specific and extraordinary media format.
This special issue of MAP is based on papers and presentations which were delivered at a conference held at the Faculty of Arts at Masaryk University in Brno (Czech Republic) in November 2014.
The editors thank all authors for their generous cooperation. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.
Barbara Büscher, Jana Horáková
Editorial staff: Barbara Büscher, Franz Anton Cramer, René Damm, Elisabeth Heymer, Jana Horáková, Lucie Ortmann
We thank the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig (Academy of Music and Theatre Leipzig) for support in the publication of this issue.
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