Report from Phatt-B


The Phatt-B Symposium ended up focusing on the ideas Claire Bishop raised in her ARTFORUM article, Digital Divide, which you all should have read by now. In fact, moderators Lara Kohl and Tina River opened with a reference to the article in the very first panel Diagnosing the Divide: Electronic Art, Between Mainstream and Marginal.

It occurs to me now, having participated in an extensive analysis and debate of the issue with some of the top curators, critics and artists working in the field, that the questions raised in the article are not the right questions in 2013. Perhaps they were in 2003, or more likely 1993, but the world has moved on. The questions should not be about digital media, but digital being.

The most interesting work shown was by artists who were responding most authentically to the transition from literate selves to post-litterate or electrate avataric identity formation. Here are some highlights.

Kevin of Jennifer and Kevin McCoy was there.

This video, The Future of Television, by Jeremy Bailey was in the exhibition.

My co-panelist Sarah Drury talked about her work with Hana Iverson, Mechanics of Place. Teri Rueb talked about Drift and other projects. And Mark Skwarek was there.

On the Tennyson on the Tweetdeck: The Future of Authorship in the Metaverse panel, Mad Men, Don Loves Roger from Pop Culture Pirate by video Artist Elisa Kreisinger is worth a look. Jonathan Minard talked about his use of a hacked XBox Kinect in documentary filmmaking. Stephanie Rothenberg talked about Laborers of Love, A crowdsourcing project that let’s you make your own porn via outsourced anonymous online workers on Mechanical Turk; and The Garden of Virtual Kinship, A telematic garden, both real and virtual, whose lifeline is linked to monetary exchanges between the developed and developing world.

The highlight of the day was Keynote Speakers Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a.

No Fun, 2010. Franco committed suicide in front of a public webcam chatroom. He was hanging from the ceiling, swinging slowly, for hours, in their apartment in Brooklyn, and random people could see the scene. Eva was shooting a video with all the reactions. Some laugh, some are completely unmoved, some insult the supposed corpse, some took pictures with their phones. Only one calls the police.

Emily’s Video compiles the reactions of random volunteers who replied their online call to watch “the worst video ever”. The original video has been destroyed, only these second hand experiences are proof of its existence.

Worth noting, the migratory nature on emergent practices, I knew many of these artist when they were doing some of the most interesting work in Second Life. Stephanie Rothenberg’s sweatshop in Second Life Invisible Threads, with Jeff Crouse from 2008.


Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a. 0100101110101101.ORG) was doing recreations on seminal performance art pieces, such as Marina Abramovic and Ulay’s Imponderabilia in Reenactments from 2007.

Will Pappenheimer and I were doing Virta-Flaneurazine around this time.



One Response to “Report from Phatt-B”

  1. loudonstearns Says:

    So much of this revolves around “simulated embodiment” possibly? It seems we, humans, are gaining better and better skills at becoming digitally embodied. We are more and more able as audience to feel the things that we experience digitally. This skill is being taught to us daily by media, and its depths, as demonstrated here, are being probed by new media. So, if we now have this new skill to be digitally embodied what is new about digital embodiment, how is it different from analog embodiment? That difference itself should be explored in new media. Comparing reactions between Abrovimich’s original doorway piece and the digital version seems to get at this point.

    A major difference I see with digital embodiment(digital being perhaps?) is the struggle between multiplicity and continuity. In analog embodiment there is a single, linear, and continuous line of experience which results in knowledge, understanding, and personality(selfhood). As we gain the skill to become our avatars we must reconcile multiple lines of experience. No longer can a continuous experience define who we are. Can we simultaneously “be” multiple beings? Or, do we oscillate, however rapidly, between those various beings? Will the ability to hold multiple senses of self simultaneously attune ourselves better to other people, will that allow us to become better empathizers? Once we have broken past a linear form of personal experience, the hard work is done, we might be better able to accept and understand other people’s perspectives.

    There are many fundamental truths, even in physics, which call for accepting multiple simultaneous perspectives. For example, there are two understandings of light: particles and waves: “We need these two conceptions of the nature of electromagnetic radiation because nothing in our experience is analogous to the actual nature of it and we must make do with the two imperfect analogies at the same time.” – Vicki Bruce, Patrick Green, Mark Georgeson Visual Perception4th edition page 4.

    As we are able to become digitally embodied, and as we accept multiple simultaneous versions of experience, will we become better at reconciling the multiplicitious nature of nature(both human and physical)? Can a change in our being from analog to digital lead to advances in even our fundamental understanding of reality?

    If it does change our understanding of reality, is that just proof that reality is in fact subjective?

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