Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reading Response 4: Influences of Non-places in the concept of Latin America

Eduardo Navas’ curatorial essay for Transitio_MX New Media Beinnale, discusses the idea of ‘non-place’ in relation to Marc AugĂ©’s book that examines the anthropology of supermodernity. He concurrently introduces several artists whose works investigate "the relevance of geopolitical differences that shape the use of appropriation and technology in artistic practices" and were presented in the exhibition held in Mexico City in 2009. In regard to the exhibition Navas states:

“I consider the works of art I selected for the biennale’s theme of “Autonomies of Disagreement” to be representative of how art production is affected by the growing dependency on the concept of non- place, as a means to take apart the complex motivations that displace and ask for reconsideration of concepts of nationality and identity; this shift leads to the development of cultures around the world that become more similar than ever before. In this sense the preoccupation with geopolitical differences becomes eroded; therefore, hegemony is still an issue that is relevant in the critical analysis of globalization.”

I too am interested in the section where the essay addresses tourism. Thinking about the notion of Las Vegas being a ‘one stop shop’ for experiencing several popular cities throughout the world I could not help but think of how many, especially in era of “staycationing,” are now virtually traveling to locations throughout the world. With the influx of webcams and online sites such as google earth/streetview, creating autonomous spaces and even virtually visiting other locations is becoming more than accessible to those with internet access. Though Las Vegas is the initial “template of cultural representation” as stated by Navas, engines like google earth are now becoming the new virtual template for these representations.

For individuals who come from small towns and remote locations where access to an airport or even greyhoud bus is not always immediate or possible at all, these tools are becoming imperative to experiencing different places. In accordance with Auge’s concept, because of these tools, cities all over the world are becoming “spaces that need not be visited.”


everyone can twit... so everyone can disagree anonymously... and everyone can create noise...

Basically he writes this essay and then asks... is this okay?

Playing ones part in the whole set of noise... noone to pay attention because everyone in paying attention to themselves. As artists we should abstian from opining! The noise is enough...

Reading Response | Navas | JD Pirtle

“The Influence of Non-places in the Concept of Latin America” by Eduardo Navas discusses issues of non-place, the border-less space of the internet and the plight of artists working in the wake of the information age. I found all of the works mentioned from the Transitio_MX Bienalle to be interesting, but wondered about their relevance to Navas’ curatorial interests and specific theme. At several points in the reading it seems that Navas thinly connected these projects to any notion of Latin America, if at all.

What interested me most about Navas’ paper was the issues of the great shift in the milieu of art; it becomes difficult to look at pieces as were mentioned in the text and decipher the country of origin for either the art or the artist. Projects like Translator II: Grower have a certain ambiguity and universality that would enable it to be immediately accepted by various cultures, regardless of their level of technocracy (provided that they had seen grass before). This universality present in Raaf’s piece and a great deal of art/tech work leads to a chicken-and-egg question: do contemporary artists make this type of work to appeal to an increasingly globalized community? If so, is it a conscious effort? Do they perceive a mutuality of connection via the non-place of the internet and therefore create work that is designed to reach anyone conceptually? If not, why are so many works increasingly global in scale and universal in content? Perhaps what people (including the artists themselves) have come to expect of technology art is what they expect from the technology they encounter everyday. In a world made up of cultures that are increasingly nationalistic and simultaneously becoming mutually fluent in a homogenous mode of interaction (user interfaces), are the best art pieces those that deliver universal art experiences through the modes of instant, sleek and technological?

This concept of universality is related to Navas’ mention that “Las Vegas is architectural simulacra”--a more accurate conception of Las Vegas would be as caricature. A simulation is such that it is difficult to discern it from the real thing. Las Vegas is caricature in that it highlights or exacerbates desired aspects of these places and diminishes or hides others. Likewise, if in all of the social networking sites that Navas references, a great deal of simulation or caricature is present in the way people present or represent themselves. Things are punctuated or de-accentuated. What people have come to expect of technology is either simulation or caricature. What technology used in art production implicates is producing work of a scale that is significantly global, universal or physical. Perhaps art/tech practitioners can harness these qualities to embody non-place and place simultaneously, resolving some of the issues Navas discusses.

Week 4: Reading Response - Non-Places in the Concept of Latin America

The Eduardo Navas essay "The Influence of Non-places in the Concept of Latin America" extends the idea of non-places beyond areas of transition and explores its impact on various areas of a globalizing culture. Non-places permeate today's society in many ways. When we enter any designed commercial space we enter a what I believe is a non-space. Navas cites the mall, but we can see this phenomenon in many of the places where people congregate (congregation is a great economic opportunity!). In more rural areas we can see that Wal-Mart becomes "the mall" and, in general terms, wal-mart is offers a homogeneous space regardless of location (think Mexico Wal-Marts).

I can see this type of homogenization having its basis in the evolution of economic multinational corporations. There is a strong economic motivation for the evolution of non-spaces. Tourism is a prime example but so is the arena of User Experience (UX) Design. One of the goals is to offer the user a level of familiarity in their virtual experience so that they can spend more time in that community. Navas alludes to this in the “common” interfaces provided by social networks.

I believe that these social networks are a prime example of today’s virtual white-collar Maquiladoras. If you take into consideration the cultural capital(images, video, content, etc) which people put up, it is essentially cheap labor for the sake of creating online traffic to a specific community which is in turn used as economic capital by the corporation. While I am not sure of the implications it is interesting to frame this in the context of a globalized experience.

For me the greatest area of interest are the questions raised by Navas in terms of identity. How does they feedback loop of non-spaces and globalization affect those whose labor keeps them going?


In his curatorial essay for New Media Bienalle, Transitio_MX, entitled “The Influence of Non-places in the Concept of Latin America”, Eduardo Navas discusses specific works of Paul Ramírez Jonas, Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre, Sabrina Raaf, Owen Mundy and Joelle Dietrick, and Carlos Rosas. Navas elucidates how the works relate to "the relevance of geopolitical differences that shape the use of appropriation and technology in artistic practices". The Transitio_MX symposium took place in Mexico City October 1-11, 2009.

He begins with the notion of homogeneity in global culture defining it as follows: "a global aesthetic of entertainment has been developed to provide the tourist traveler with a generic and safe experience of a place rather than an immersion in the actual local culture". Supermodernism, and glocality (vs locality) relate loosely to international style in architecture championed by Walter Gropius, among others.

Locally, Gropius' Michael Reese Hospital campus had been proposed to be reused for Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid. That campus now awaits destruction. Relating back to new media for further examples of such an aesthetic, Navas writes,

"The computer, then, becomes the generic vehicle: the global, supermodern device that is able to function according to the minimal, self-encasing aesthetic of supermodernity, which currently informs social media."

He goes on to elaborate that the multiple layers of media and new media serve to reinforce notions of place, and that there is a new kind of place-making being developed. Place-making is a theme I have developed in Stamps for Kids Mobile: a Media Archaeology Intervention.

In this work I create a mobile device which creates place out of any old spaces (typically parks). He goes on to point out the the geopolitical nature of marginality, or non-spaces is endemic in terms such as "Latin America". This also promotes the idea that text is technology.

It is useful to point out that Enrique Dussel and other promote the idea of transmodernism as a term displaces simplistic notion of postmodernism. Quoting Navas from his own blog, remixtheory.net:
"Enrique Dussel, a well respected philosopher who writes on aesthetics and politics in globalization, was the first speaker. He gave a brief, yet in-depth history of modernism and how it should be reconsidered as part of other histories. While this may appear to be a recognizable proposition by post-colonial studies, what is specific to his lecture is that he proposed the term “transmodernism” as a constructive alternative to postmodernism. For Dussel the latter implies a non-western approach to global cultural activity. With transmodernism Dussel proposed that people around the world should take from and work with modernism, but with autonomy; that is by taking from modernism what they decide to work with according to their own histories and cultures, rather than allowing western thought to be imposed."
E. Navas. October 3rd, 2009, http://remixtheory.net/?p=394.

This notion impacts my work in mailart and artistamps. I find the playfulness of mail art and artistamps to be a subversive analog to new media. Wholly interactive, global and hyperlocal as well as hyper-real, artisamps as virtual worlds expose the gap between virtual and material reality vis-a vis global networked culture.

Joe Pankowski Reading Response 5

I like the piece of the essay where Navas talks about tourism and how it is driven by peoples need to let other people know where they have visited. They do this by finding that monument that encapsulates a culture, region, or experience in their mind and the collective mind of our society, and then document themselves standing in front of it as proof that they are expert travelers. These monuments or famous scenes come to mind when you think or hear certain locations, for example when I think or hear Paris right away the Eiffel tower comes to mind. Any well known location has this universal image that may or may not be totally factual but they have it and it helps people identify with that place. Where I'm from, Omaha, Nebraska there is this deep desire by the people who are from there and live there for Omaha to be one of these recognized universally known non-places. They desperately want people to recognize the Omaha skyline just as well as the Chicago skyline, for example when ever there is a new building being built in Omaha's downtown it's the first story covered on the local news. Another example is the last mayor in Omaha had a pedestrian  suspension bridge built across the Missouri River basically to add something new to the Omaha post card picture. Also when ever a movie is filmed in Omaha, Omahans will go see the movie just to see their city being used as a hopeful universally known city. I think this is an example of a locality wanting to become global. Communities like Omaha, see how places and experiences are universally reproduced and watered down and they see that as success.
Here is a link to Omaha's website citing the movies filmed in Omaha.

Eduardo Navas Curatorial Essay for Transitio_MX, New Media Biennale, Mexico City

I've found Navas's text interesting but in some points not so clear. The first section of the essay is called: “The Influence of Non-places in the Concept of Latin America” by reading this first section is hard for me to understand how Latin America is/was influenced by Non-Places. Of course it is, but I can't grasp how Navas think it is since this first section is used mostly to talk about the works, not about Non-Places/Latin America relation.
The concept of glocality as presented in the text refers to "think global, act local" I was thinking what does it means to act locally. This arises the problem of the Museum or Galley space, both of them are also Non-Places, even more, it can be argued that art is a producer of non-places as much as any mayor multinational. Any white space which could be placed in any other part of the world with an almost identical internal structure, providing an almost identical experience, is not a non-place? Are itinerant art shows working in this platform?
Maybe acting locally from an art curatorial point of view could be to select works that are site specific, works that even if talking about global problems could only make sense within local conditions. Another project presented at Transitio_MX 2009 was Ashok Sukumaran's "Recurrencies” curated by Gunalan Nadarajan. In this public artwork Sukumaran got permission to take on a public light display usually used to promote a national symbol, and reconfigured the already existing lights to create a corn cob, which is a national food in Mexico. The sign includes an arrow that points to a mobile cart that sells corn for 12 pesos on the same spot daily.