Kris Paulsen, Guest Editor
Assistant Professor, Department of History of Art & Program in Film Studies, The Ohio State University
Meredith Hoy, Guest Editor
Assistant Professor, Department of Art, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Art & Infrastructures: Hardware
Fiber-optic cables gird the globe; they span pylons, burrow underground, and snake across ocean floors to connect individual users in private homes. Satellites circle the earth, instantaneously bouncing signals through outer space. ‘Clouds’ now wirelessly store and transmit data to dispersed users across a multiplicity of devices, making information accessible to users in virtually any networked location. Data may be abstract, and ‘immaterial,’ but physical hardware necessarily facilitates the flow of information. Given that the scale of these networks exceeds the scope of human vision, the question emerges of how to make visible the kinds of connectivity provided by telecommunications hardware especially when so much effort is put into making the infrastructure invisible or, at least, hiding it in plain sight?
To address networked infrastructure through art or scholarship is to make visible both the material, physical supports of everyday telecommunication, as well as its informational processes and necessary protocols for organizing knowledge, sensation, and labor. As in all infrastructures and sociotechnical systems, these two layers – the physical and the informational, the hardware and the software – are interdependent, and result from simultaneous, sometimes even conflicting, interests at work in their construction. For 2014, across two consecutive editions, Media-N will explore how artists engage, visualize, study, and critique these processes of formation. The current issue focuses on the physical structures of these channels and the networks they construct; the upcoming fall 2014 edition, Art & Infrastructures: Information, edited by Kevin Hamilton and Terri Weissman, will address the knowledge protocols and epistemes necessary for networked culture, and the archives that emerge. Both issues explore the role visualization plays in how we imagine and know our shared networks. We aim to explore how networks, as well as the data that travels through them, become visible and meaningful through artistic practices and transformations.
Art & Infrastructures: Hardware brings together a wide range of historians, theorists, and artists to analyze how particular forms of visuality and logics of connection result from different, technologically enabled approaches to global communication. The volume is divided into two parts – the first collects a series of scholarly, ‘archaeological’ essays on the physical structures of a series of networks: underwater cables, radio transmitter stations, computing clouds, communications satellites, and the underground bunkers that store the hard copies of digitally distributed images. The second section of the issue focuses on analyzing artistic projects that insert the human body into networked environments that monitor, control, impede, or facilitate physical, embodied movement. The essays included detail artists’ projects that take up the subjects of illegal border crossings, diasporic dispersals, large-scale, spatial drawings achieved through ambulatory navigation of cities, social interventions in the use of GPS technology, and others. This second section takes up the issue of how mobile bodies can interfere with the management of information flows within the architectonics of networked space. The intersections of hardware and bodily ‘wetware’ in the projects provoke critical reflections on the various ways in which network architectures direct individual and collective human behavior. Overall, the volume works against the fantasy of the immateriality of networked spaces and processes, revealing instead the extent to which information ecologies are dependent on physical structures, from information-bearing conduits to the bodies that initiate and receive the exchange of information in real time and space.
Kris Paulsen is Assistant Professor in the Department of History of Art and the Film Studies Program at The Ohio State University, and is co-director of The Center for Ongoing Research & Projects (www.the-corp.org) in Columbus, Ohio. She received her BA from Brown University, Rhode Island; and her MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work traces the history of technology in the arts and the rhetoric of ‘new media’ from photography to computational and networked art. Her current research addresses artistic engagements with television and experiments in telepresence. Her writing has appeared in Representations, Leonardo Electronic Almanac, X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, Mousse Contemporary Art Magazine, Design and Culture, Amodern, and Artforum.com. She has published catalog essays on Christian Marclay, Erwin Redl, Josiah McElheny, and early net art. Kris is currently finishing a manuscript on telematics art provisionally titled, “Here: Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface.”
Meredith Hoy is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art in the Art Department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 2010. Her dissertation, entitled “From Point to Pixel: A Genealogy of Digital Aesthetics,” traces links between contemporary digital art and modern painting. Drawing on theories of visuality, space and spatial practice, cybernetics and systems theory, phenomenology, and post-structuralism and semiotics, her research focuses on the impact of technology on art and visual culture. She has written on modern and contemporary art and architecture, generative art, information visualization, and the phenomenology of networked space. She teaches courses on modern and contemporary art, visual culture, and media studies.