Archive for September, 2018


DI-SECTING A RACE: Art, tech-no-logy and post-da-ride-da.

All sentences of the type “technology is X” or “technology is not X” a priori miss the point, which is to say that they are false. The options confronting us seem to be “just how technology is”. How to translate “technology”? a “technology”?…

The link between technology and art is something often disregarded in history. When technology is identified in art, it is usually, rashly, seen as a type of negative theology, a theology that tends to look for the negative components in a system or approach. This dismantling of the structure of aesthetics into a techno-aesthetic is a regression towards a ‘simple element’ and results in a preconceived notion that predetermines understanding.

Through a complex and subtle process, certain ideas, certain ways of looking at the world, are promoted and come to find their way into our heads. This is a sort of “negative thought control”. Chomsky points out that we are controlled as much by what is not there, as by what is. When technology influxes art, it is a process that does not await the consideration or organisation of a subject, rather it offers a system of thought that determines the outcome and the way reality is understood.

The evidence suggests that artists’ dependency on technology and mechanical devices has been not only extensive, but also long-lived, going back centuries, and questions the unity of the ‘image’ as ‘made’. Charles Paul Freund, in his article Traces of Genius, points out that Leonardo Da Vinci was familiar with the camera obscura, the architect Filipo Brunelleschi pioneered vanishing-point perspective, and Jan van Eyck appeared to use mirrors and lenses to aid in the acuity of the world.

In his controversial book, Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, David Hockney argues that optics began to influence painterly representation as early as 1350. He argues that painters were secretive about such aids because they were trade secrets. What this suggests is that the artists were using modern devices to re-invent an understanding of the world, a world that was progressing from a mystic to a more mechanical and operative reality – a democratic reality. It also suggests that artists were embarrassed by their reliance on mechanical processes that removed the human ‘organic’ quality from their work, reducing the elitism of the art/craft and opening it even further to mass-production and mass-consumerism.

Technology has been and was seen, as a mind-manipulating strategy used by ‘corporate enterprises’ to manipulate the way reality is understood. This implies that the use of technology in art results in a kind of ‘democratic mind’ manipulation that re-inserts an ‘articulated’ way of seeing. Chomsky points out, that thought control in democratic societies does not happen through totalitarian, Big Brother-style mechanisms rather it is the result of “a filtering process empowered by economic and political power operating in a free market system” – he points out that there is no design or conspiracy. Artists are not prevented from choosing ‘unfriendly’ approaches and concepts, they just never ‘encounter’ them and so assume they do not exist. The artist appears to use technology as a ‘device’ without understanding the full impact of the system that they are using.

Chomsky entered this debate on techno-aesthetics when he pointed out that one of the traditional and obvious ways of controlling people is to frighten them. “If people are frightened, they will willingly cede authority to their superiors who will protect them”.