Thursday, September 1, 2011

Assignment 1: Response

Natalie Jeremijenko and Benjamin Bratton explore the dilemma of aesthetic presentation in pervasive data collection-- in the the discourse of eco-activism and individual empowerment in the context of the trend in data-centric production of new media art. The concept of "ubiquitous" aggregation of data through sensing techniques invites their analysis of the politics of both authority as it pertains to the element of the "missing expert" and of non-human objects as receptacles for meaning in the wider social construct. The theme of their discussion focuses largely on the dilemma of fact, what is taken as fact and by whom. They question the conclusions that such data presents, and who is responsible for the conditions and methods that lead to such conclusions. Although institutionalized control of data collection techniques may prompt us to question the integrity of the facts presented, Jeremijenko and Bratton convey an opportunity for the artist to present data as malleable, open source and non-expert. Jeremijenko's reference to "structures of participation" conveys an acknowledgement that there is a need to augment the relevance of these streams in the lives of the individual, while also providing the individual with a legitimacy as both an investigator and a change agent.

In her discussion of the interface, I agree with Jeremijenko's assertions that refining the aesthetic production as a means to present a compelling finding that resonates with the "everyman" has a better chance to further spurn advocacy both locally and more widely if such an approach is repeated through locales. Her engagement of the audience in the most visceral sense is what I appreciate most about Jeremijenko's works. She places the physical object in the center, as a force that must be acknowledged and questioned. In her piece No-Park she places the object in a public space of high foot and automobile traffic-- where the piece commands acknowledgment and invites the question "why". The invitation for questioning is thrust even more directly toward the spectator in her "tad pole walker" project (Video: start 3:23), in which tad poles are immersed in various water supplies and paraded through public areas as part of a study of water quality on tad pole development.

Although I applaud Jeremijenko's efforts to empower the public at large through education on how to transform the robotic dog into an instrument of data collection, I see the role of her as single source supplier as a problem. She is controlling the means by which data is collected for others in advising them, thus participating directly in the issue of data integrity. What if all of the sensors she promoted were not manufactured properly and thus collecting data that is inaccurate? Does the individual activist / artist / non-scientist have the means to question this? As her group is a singular entity with a mission, supported by a narrative, it participates as a political body-- a politicization that both Jeremijenko and Bratton imply would be best avoided with the effort to more effectively reach the average person.

In referencing work that I feel alludes to issues of environment and consequence more effectively is Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project: (The Telegraph: "A Terrifying Beauty") With the scale of its presentation, a cataclysmic sun hanging in their midst, the audience is forced to contemplate its meaning relative to our own existence-- a starkness that loudly calls for social mobility.

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