Last Friday I was a remote facilitator for the group at Houston Community College’s New Media Faculty Seminar being coordinated by Tom Haymes. With my changes at NMC and gardner Campbell’s transition to Virginia Tech, we’ve not been very active, but Gardner is cooking up big plans to launch the networked seminar in the fall of 2011.
Tom is doing a great job of keeping two groups going at HCCS and he had invited me to be guest via Skype before my announcement of leaving the NMC building.
So I joined the group there from my home in Arizona:
The reading for this discussion was video artist Bill Viola’s Will There be Condominiums in Data Space. To set the stage, Tom played the YouTube video of Viola talking about his “Ocean Without a Shore” work
As noted by one of the participants, this video was helpful in understanding the work because it provided a lot of context to place it in, as opposed to the many other ones that people have posted that just show the video art (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTakwOpWqG4); in the one above, Viola explains a lot of his ideas and thinking.
It was a wide ranging conversation, starting with trying to come to some understanding what the title means- to some, condominiums positively represent structure (that one can personalize inside their own), while others (including me) see a more negative connotation in that it represents an imposed uniformity on what is not ordered.
Tom has blogged about his own connection via photography and Viola’s paper (though I disagree with his calling photography a “need to control”.
There was talk about the concept of “the whole”, what is a dataspace (if HCCS had its own?). Many agreed that the key ideas were found in the last paragraph before the closing story
As we continue to do our dance with technology, some of us more willingly than others, the importance of turning back towards ourselves, the prime mover of this technology, grows greater than the importance of any LSI circuit. The sacred art of the past has unified form, function, and aesthetics around this single ultimate aim. Today, development of self must precede development of the technology or we will go nowhere””there will be condominiums in data space (it has already begun with cable TV). Applications of tools are only reflections of the users””chopsticks may be a simple eating utensil or a weapon, depending on who uses them.
The best part, was for me everyone’s perspective on what is the odd but most interesting closing to the paper, the parable of the Porcupine and the Car:
Late one night while driving down a narrow mountain highway, I came across a large porcupine crossing the road up ahead. Fortunately, I spotted him in time to bring the car to a stop a short distance from where he was standing. I watched him in the bright headlights, standing motionless, petrified at this “dose encounter of the third kind.” Then, after a few silent moments, he started to do a strange thing. Staying in his place, he began to move around in a circle, emitting a raspy hissing sound, with the quills rising up off his body. He didn’t run away. I realized that this dance was actually a move of self-defence. I cut the car headlights to normal beams, but he still continued to move around even more furiously, casting weird shadows on the trees behind. Finally, to avoid giving him a heart attack, and to get home, I cut the lights completely and turned off the engine. I watched him in the dim moonlight as he stopped his dance and moved off the road. Later, while driving off, I realized that he was probably walking proudly away, gloating over how he really gave it to that big blinding noisy thing that rushed toward him out of the night fm sure he was filled with confidence, so pleased with himself that he had won, his porcupine world-view grossly inflated as he headed home in the darkness.
I did a Skype audio recording from this session- its rather long, but it is here for prosperity”