UBC Digital Visions, Michael Jacoby

Jul 28th, 2009 | Category: Press -Critique
UBC Digital Visions, Michael Jacoby

Fugacity, Nothing U can DO !!, and Stratify

TJADER-KNIGHT inc.s’ three digital hybrids, “Fugacity”, “Nothing U can DO !!”, and “Stratify”, work to eliminate the contemporary viewpoints in the history of conflict by removing any sense of a one-dimensional narrative. TJADER-KNIGHT inc. breaks down the classical narrative and instead, presents an antiauthoritarian one with a stream of sounds, images and text devoid of any central point of view. General points of view do exist however within the jumbled sources of information. As this name implies, “Fugacity” is an attempt at portraying history in its transitory state by presenting the forces that show history in a volatile manner. “Nothing U can DO !!” comments on history’s deficiency in capturing 20th century sources of power through the over simplification of historical atrocities. The last work, “Stratify”, mirrors the problems in trying to identify and escape an individual’s placement in the organization of power within historical documentation. All three pieces argue that the investigation of power in 20th century conflict is less important when compared to what one already knows about power and why one knows only those power sources. By intentionally arranging the mediums of history – sounds, images, and text – on the Internet, TJADER-KNIGHT inc. emphasizes a “perpetual ellipsis” of history and the Internet.

In “Fugacity”, the artist presents the audience with multiple viewing positions through the juxtapositions of images, sound, and text. Documentary footage of the malfunctioning nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons testing on the Pacific by the Americans is presented. The first superimposed image is the structure of Tshernobyl.

Below these images, text from Hakim Bey’s The Ontological Status of Conspiracy Theory begins to scroll across a selected verse from the Bhagavad Gita. Selected text from Hakim Bey’s work describes the displacement of power through the multiple levels of history. The citation from the Bhagavad Gita relates to a quotation made by Robert Oppenheimer during his witnessing of the first atomic explosion. While both Oppenheimer and Bey’s quotations are important in what they discuss, the intentional omission of the complete text seems just as important. The deliberate omission of the piece leads the audience to recognize TJADER-KNIGHT inc.s’ intentional manipulation. This manipulation can be read in many ways. On one level, it parallels a potential conspiracy theory of historical manipulation noted in Bey’s work and the “conspiracies of the former Soviet Union regarding their neighbouring states” through the images of Tshernobyl (TJADER-KNIGHT inc.). On another level, it parallels the power to destroy information through the creation of new associations within the web page. The viewer is led to investigate how the sources relate to each other. They are also led to investigate how these sources, working as a whole, relate to the viewer. They are also poised to explore how this piece relates to the artist and how the sources take on new forms of information through the conscious selections of the artist. “Fugacity” urges the viewer into several paths at once – allowing many transitory revelations to appear to the viewer.

Because of the barrage of information displayed to the viewer, the viewer is only able to pick up specific pieces of information. The perception of the whole becomes a series of replays, in which the viewer replays the artwork repeatedly to find different points of viewing positions. In “Nothing U can DO !!”, the artist demonstrates how this positioning of the viewer parallels the inadequacies of historical documentation. While viewers have the luxury of rereading or replaying documents, viewers do not have this luxury in real time and space. There are visual references to many atrocities including the Holocaust, early 20th century Japanese invasions of Asia, South American dictators’ drug wars, and Tibet. In relation to these war crimes and atrocities, it is impossible to understand the true experiences and suffering of the people under brutal regimes unless one was actually there. This is symbolized through the sliding photos of prisoners and tortured captives. In “Nothing U can DO !!”, the sliding images represent a microcosm in onto themselves. The massive destruction in these events are shrunk down and minimized into still photographs. The viewer’s knowledge is not of the actually experience, but the experience of the photograph. This temporal displacement that the viewer experiences shows the viewer one of history’s main flaw; although documentation can capture sounds, images, and text, the emotions are left to the subjectivity of the viewer.

“Stratify” elaborates on the inadequacies of history by discussing how the meanings of words can change from person to person. TJADER-KNIGHT inc. displays sections “G” and “D” of Gilles Deleuze’s Desire and Pleasure next to an aurora of slowly morphing light. The text from section “G” is stationary while section “D” scrolls vertically up the screen. “Stratify” brings to light the discrepancies of words through a discussion of word meanings between Deleuze and Foucault. In Desire and Pleasure, Deleuze discusses how the words ‘desire’ and ‘pleasure’ move him into different positions of thought than those of Foucault.

Evidently it is again something other than a question of words. Since as for myself I can hardly bear the word “pleasure”. But why? For me, desire does not comprise any lack; neither is it a natural given; it is but one with an assemblage of heterogenous elements which function; it is process, in contrast with structure or genesis; it is affect, as opposed to feeling; it is “haecceity” (individuality of a day, a season, a life), as opposed to subjectivity; it is event, as opposed to thing or person. (Deleuze, Desire & Pleasure)

The haecceity, or quality of being present as an event in time and space, move the viewer to see history not as a representation of past events, but as a completely separate event. History and words become separated events through the individual reading of words. “Stratify” becomes not a representation of history, but a new event, holding only within itself a ‘thisness’ which is experienced when an individual views the page.

In addition to the haecceity of words, Deleuze goes on to discuss the “’body without organs’. This body without organs is defined by zones of intensity, thresholds, gradients, [and] flux” (Deleuze, Desire & Pleasure). Unlike the body with organs, which can be labelled and defined, the body without organs is “opposed to all the strata of organization” (Deleuze, Desire & Pleasure). ”Stratify” presents history as a body without organs. “In a system of ‘bio-power’ the stratas of information can well be organized into equal entities, and also hypothetically the power is given to the individuals through very old feudal beliefs. Under such veiled a dictation the knowledge and means for action of an individual become very limited” (TJADER-KNIGHT inc.). Words and images cycle through definitions within definitions under their own strata, which can only exist through referencing themselves back to words. “Stratify” works not to define power in History, but to present the viewer’s encasement within the meanings and definitions of words that are used to describe these events. In addition, because the viewer witnesses these documents as a haecceity of events, they are only capable to experiencing History in a fragmented and separated manner.

In all three works, the artist presents information through three sources – sound, video, and text. These sources form history’s primary trinity of documentation. Unlike history, which tries to conceal its disabilities, TJADER-KNIGHT inc. magnifies the fragmented and partiality of history’s inability to capture everything. Pictures become continually changing fragments. The artist removes passages from writers and philosophers and displays them not in their entirety. All of this unfolds while a sound of rhythmic vibrations endlessly loops in the background. The forces that select what to include in historical documentation is symbolized in TJADER-KNIGHT inc.s’ selection of fragmented images and text. While history may purport itself to be a body of knowledge external and unmovable to that of human change, TJADER-KNIGHT inc. elaborates how history, as well as the individual, progresses as humanity dues through time and space.

The Internet serves as a perfect domain for these pieces. While removing the classical narrative from the works, viewers are given the power to create their own paths through their subjective experience with the works. Similar to hypertext, the viewer can change directions at any given time. Although the artist chooses what to present to the viewer, the viewer is left to use his or her own devices of interpretation. While hypertext allows one to change directions, it presents one with a fragmented and partial view of information. Like many who study history, a naivety is manifested in the assumption that history represents the whole truth. Similar to history, the Internet is sometimes presented as an immense library of information and many perceive Internet sources as authorities on information. Both views are misleading and are critiqued by TJADER-KNIGHT inc.s’ highly fragmented yet formally complete artwork. While the work is fragmented to parallel fragmented information, the work is intentionally arranged as to invite the viewer to consider his or her own authoritative powers of interpretation. The use of the Internet motivates one to consider “several directions, several meanings, causes and grounds” in the discussion of authorities on historical powers.

The freedom to represent historical records on the Internet moves one to consider the possibility of a new power structure. By using the Internet, TJADER-KNIGHT inc., along with the viewer, share in the creative process of interpretation. While once reserved for the extremely privileged, the webpage gives relatively ordinary people the power to communicate through representing information. Despite Internet access still being reserved for wealthier nations, it nonetheless expands and spreads out the powers that could potentially recreate history. This expansion leads to diversification of knowledge in a non-hierarchical order and promotes a rhetoric of conflict through the various sources of information on the Internet. “Fugacity”, “Nothing U can DO !!”, and “Stratify” map out various forms of historical discourse while representing them in a multi-sequential form. The subjective view one takes within this multi-sequential view allows for a greater understanding of the framing of power in historical documentation of various mediums.

Written by: Michael Jacoby (c) 2003
Original critique: http://www.ontherundesign.com/Artists/Tjader_Knight.html

Tags: critique, press

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