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Reality/Mediality Hybrid Processes Between Art and Life (Excerpt)

by Rudolf Frieling

Augmented reality

A discussion of projects tackling the virtualization of the body and its functions and desires would offer material for a separate essay. Around the world any number of contemporary performative approaches are aspiring to link, often with the means of dance choreography, real bodily presence at a given location with strategies of dislocation and mediatization (see, for example, Christian Ziegler's cooperation with dancers in «scanned V»), or experimenting with aspects of telematics and real-time Internet connectivity. Company in Space is one of many multimedia theater or dance groups working at the intersection of the Internet with live events in order to translate our understanding of the notion of «distributed authorship» and «augmented reality» into physical embodiments in real locations. Events focus less and less on the relationship between real and mediated, whereas artistic interest is increasingly concentrating on narration and a wholly new treatment of expanded data space. The deployment of new modular software for real-time telematic operations enables the vestiges of Modernist avant-garde concepts to be dispersed in the diversity of heterogeneous data spaces. The data helmet that once covered a performer's head is increasingly being replaced by an entire data suit, a ‹second skin› that in the near future may not even be recognizable as such. The symbiosis of human being and data implant has long since started to leave the realms of science fiction and become reality.

My opening question about the reality of the body cannot be distinguished from the body's own mediatedness, be this in the biological sense—as a being that has possibly already been genetically manipulated and was therefore prefabricated on the basis of an imaginary model—or with respect to the external manipulation already possible and demonstrated all too clearly by artificial figures like Michael Jackson, or in regard to the body's performative aspect as an agent coupled to binary codes. The data glove is superfluous; the entire body is becoming a mouse, an interface—yet to deplore this as a loss of subjectivity and morality would not amount to an artistic stance. The new body opens up options and different identities. In all time-based media and projects, time alone remains a linear process– even if artists are countering the bio-genetical manipulation of the human being by going back to the kind of subjective confrontation with body processes that was extensively conducted in the 1960s. Performances such as that of the Cuban video artist Felipe Dulzaides in «On the Ball» (2000), are symptomatic of the continuing relevance of these low-tech positions. However the body is seen, interpreted, mediatized or deconstructed, it remains at the center of identificatory processes. It is, in other words, in all cases the «given.»


The physical confrontation with one’s own image in video, from the very beginning a central motive of video art, finds a renewed following among the younger generation of video artist of the 1990s. Unedited and staged without digital processing, «On the Ball» presents the visibility of the face as a function of breathing. At the same time, breathing heavily on the camera’s lens plays on the function of the video tape, its reference to time. In this instance, allowing something to become visible also proves itself to be a dialectic process of obscuring and making clear. Simultaneously, the confrontation with the bodily processes does without drama and ideology of any kind. The body is simply the given.


Media Art Net


Rudolf Frieling is curator of media arts at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; from 1994–2006 he was curator and researcher at ZKM, Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany; previous curatorial projects include the net art section of the 2002 Sao Paolo Biennale and "Sound-Image" (2003) in Mexico City; he was coeditor of Media Art Action (1997), Media Art Interaction (2000), Media Art Net (2004–5), and (2006); he most recently edited and curated for SFMOMA The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now.