|As visual artists in an expanding technoculture
we are constantly confronted with shifting technologies. In our collaborative
practice since 1976, Maria Klonaris and myself have been using various
kinds of technologies ranging from light media (Super 8 film, polaroid
photography) to high tech (computer image and sound processing). We have
been actively involved in the Super 8 experimental film movement in France
where we have initiated the "cinéma corporel" (Cinema of the Body)
in the late 70s and early 80s . Our
expanded cinema performances have evolved into environmental multimedia
installations. Working with still and moving images, projected images (film,
slides, video) and photography, we intermingle and alternate manual, mechanical,
chemical, electronic and digital processes. For us this is a vital mobility.
Each technology constitutes a specific
apparatus. Each apparatus permits a different relation of the artist to
the tool, a different texture of image and sound, a different production
of meaning, a different perception in space and time, a different relation
to the spectator. In our opinion no hierarchical evaluation is conceivable
among these different tools.
We like to play with frontiers between
technologies - using special light devices to stage photographs in a way
that the opaque image approaches projection, using chemical or digital
processing in a trompe l'œil fashion so that one can not guess by which
process the image has been created.
Attracted by different technologies' potential
for transforming, layering and dematerialising images, we consider that
in art the equilibrium between mechanical, chemical, electronic and digital
technologies should be protected as an ecological equilibrium .
Our inter-technological practice and our
belief in the necessity of maintaining a diversified spectrum of technologies
available to artists have originated our concept of a media ecology,
which is a resistance to the present tendency of technological homogenisation.
Parallely we have been developing this
concept as a curatorial strategy within the large scale international triennial
"Rencontres Internationales art cinéma / vidéo / ordinateur"
which we curate in Paris since 1990. Through screenings and symposia this
event focuses on the moving image, on screen based art, and more widely,
technological art . The third Rencontres
took place in Paris in April 1998, precisely under the title Towards
a Media Ecology .
The idea of media ecology might first appear
to be a contradiction. Ecology deals with the organisation of living matter;
originally it is a "biology of nature", therefore related to the organic,
whereas audio-visual technologies are inorganic, in particular electronic
and information technologies.
Media ecology inevitably evokes the complex
relationship between technology and nature. Through the centuries technologies
have been used to dominate nature, in other terms to rationalize it, to
make it profitable for the needs of the humans - a process which produces
short term opulence and long term destruction.
Introduced by Ernst
Haeckel in 1866 the term ecology was meant to define the science which
studies the relationships between organisms and their environment. Ecology
as a political theory has emerged after the 2nd World War.
At present it is clear that technology
has become part of our environment, and that it is used to constantly modify
nature. Throughout the industrial and the nuclear era technology invades
ecosystems. It is difficult to separate technology from nature today.
Marshall McLuhan was the first one to point
this out. He said:
"We now live in a technologically prepared
environment that blankets the earth itself. The humanly contrived environment
of electric information and power has begun to take precedence over the
old environment of "nature". Nature, as it were, begins to be the content
of our technology" .
Although human technology does not affect
all of nature, but only part of it (nature remains infinitely more vast
and complex than our technological systems), McLuhan's statement certainly
concerns our immediate natural environment.
Extending McLuhan's thought Arthur Kroker
argues that "technology has genuinely come alive as a living species...
It has acquired organicity... It has its own forms of intelligence... its
own principles of dynamic growth..."
If we consider technologies as species,
we are confronted with an ironic fact (fate). The ideology of domination
which provokes the tension between technology and nature is transferred
inside the technological art field, where up-to-date technologies' promotion
induces less recent technologies' extinction.
The alternative of a media ecology which
we propose attempts to value and defend the vast variety of technological
phenomena which energize the field of the arts in the industrial and post
industrial era. This implies a non exclusive viewpoint which embraces both
analogue and digital processes, light media and high technology, respecting
For example light-weight technologies have
the advantage of low cost and therefore high mobility through independent
production. In that respect they have a certain subversive potential. They
are often experienced as direct body and gaze extensions. They are apt
to explore intimacy. Advanced technologies invested by artists may also
have a subversive potential insofar as their consumer function may be short-circuited
by the imaginary. Advanced technologies may encourage more abstractized
views related to scientific models. They integrate higher degrees of mediation.
Past technologies may be powerful activators of cultural memory, as well
as catalysts for a critical reading of the present. They often testify
to dimensions lost. For instance, precinematic apparatus have a poetic
potential which is absent from information systems. On the other hand state-of-the-art
technologies are mirrors of our social and cultural mapped future. It is
crucial to explore their potential and explode their limits.
If we take into account that the invention
of photographic, chronophotographic and cinematic devices dates from the
nineteenth century, we face the fact that technologies have a complex aesthetic
history and that they are therefore components of a cultural memory. There
are many ways of reading history (just as there are many ways of treating
memory). The dominant way is to view History as a single, universal and
linear narrative. The power implications of this view of history are well
known. As artists and curators we adopt a non linear complex approach and
consider the different technologies which have emerged within the two last
centuries as a constellation. Or, as a network, a field of interactions.