’Time is a three-fold present: the present as we experience it, the past as a present memory, and the future as a present expectation’
’It is a poor sort of memory that only works backwards (...) I can remember things that happened the week after next. Time flows in two directions... the trick is to remember forwards’.
ZEMOS98 celebrates its 10th anniversary with a BACK TO THE FUTURE. The future is an encounter that will change the history of the ZEMOS98 Festival – a journey where we look at the past, live the present and think the future. The encounter is also an archive and a palimpsest. The archive is return and future. The palimpsest, future and return. And between them, there is space/time for new texts and questions, new frictions, discussions and hyperlinks.
For the past ten years, ZEMOS98 has been projecting activities in the area of education and communication: providing a place that allows people to theorise, reflect and conceptualise, but also to create, remix and produce. These are the power-ideas behind the
BACK TO THE FUTURE ENCOUNTERS
This event also aims to activate and energise two of the major conceptual touchstones for the development of educational activities at ZEMOS98: the ideas of “archive” and “remix”
’10’ is the number of a scale. 1 is the real and 0 is the fictional. If time is ultimately space and vice versa, if matter is sound, if science is fiction and fiction is science, 10 will be fictional reality and/or realist fiction. And 10 to the power of 10 is the reality of the fiction of science fiction. A journey between the infinitesimal and the universal. Between the micro and the macro. 10 beats. 10 spaces. 10 ideas that are one and 10 thousand million at the same time.
’10’ is the base number of the decimal system. It is also made up of the numbers that form the binary system. ’10’ is the thrill of starting to count from 0 once more, but with the experience of 10, being one.
What do the BACK TO THE FUTURE ENCOUNTERS entail?
’But instead of the progression of tens, I have for many years used the simplest progression of all, which proceeds by twos (the binary system), having found that it is useful for the perfection of the science of numbers. Thus I use no other characters in it bar 0 and 1, and when reaching two, I start again.’
Over the years, ZEMOS98 has dealt with 10 basic themes related to Audiovisual Culture and its context. These 10 themes are the foundation that underlies the programming of the BACK TO THE FUTURE ENCOUNTERS, which are structured into five sections:
0. Space and time
The concept behind the ENCOUNTERS is much more than mere programming. The idea is to transform the city of Seville, in particular the space and time in which the activities will take place, into a hypertext or a kind of hypermedia (as an extension of “hypertext” that also includes images, sounds and other forms of information). And to configure space based on the double idea of "links", one of the essential concepts of digital culture, and "détournement”, one of its legacies from the avant-guard movements.
The aim is to achieve interaction between the different actors who will take part throughout the process, so that it can all be conceived simultaneously: a programmatic magma that gives way to an interconnected series of workshops, productions, presentations, screenings, talks / reflection, emotions, critiques, sounds, voices...
Thus we’re not talking about a series of simple workshops, or simple talks, or even a simple program of activities. The idea is to create, over a week, a blueprint for a production centre for critical culture, art, science and technology. To make it happen, there will be a group of active, creative participants who are prepared to embark on a journey that will interconnect over 100 people, producing and questioning digital culture.
The BACK TO THE FUTURE ENCOUNTERS aspire to transform ZEMOS98 into a huge alternative TV set, an enormous blank canvas, poetry that turns a corner, an impossible dance, ephemeral architecture, a live sculpture and a Martian science fiction storyteller.
1. Back to the Future Workshops.
The Return to the Future Workshops will be the focal point of the ENCOUNTERS.
There will be 10 workshops, with a maximum of 10 participants / students in each. The Workshops will revolve around 10 themes - web 2.0, soundscapes, narrative media, free culture, education - communication... - that emerge when we look back at the history of ZEMOS98 - looking back in order to keep looking forward.
The lines of action of the workshops will be determined by the critical thinking contained within the genealogy of artistic, experimental and activist practices that have used (“constantly” new) technologies of communication. In terms of theory, each workshop will aim to approach these critical issues from its central theme. In terms of production, the aim will be to launch a process that symbolically or practically remixes the works, assumptions or precedents of each theme.
In turn, these 10 themes spring from another 10 slogans – property is theft, un coup de dés (a throw of the dice), the author as producer, reinvent everyday life, don’t trust images... – that open up each of the themes in many other possible directions beyond those expected from the way they are formulated. The idea is to promote transversality in order to establish new relations, displacements, frictions, seams and fragments. To activate words as a bio-poetic machine and as the seeds of a polysemy that avoids impermeable compartments and all specialisation that can be reduced to mere technical know-how and isn’t pervaded by other forms of knowledge.
ZEMOS98 wants to play at connecting and remixing narrations, hyperlinking works and influences from the avant-garde movements (both the historic avant-garde - dada, constructivism, the anthropophagic movement... Brecht, Benjamin, Gertrude Stein, Duchamp, Esther Shub... - and also the post WWII avant-garde - situtationism, fluxus, poststructuralism... Debord, Cage, Kristeva, Val del Omar, Godard...-) and their predecessors (weather it be Laurence Stern for anticipating narrative experimentation, Proudhorn and Fourier’s utopian socialism or Mallarmé’s new poetry) with contemporary practices relating to digital audiovisual culture. We return to the future of the avant-garde movements for the way they understood art as a vehicle for knowledge and social transformation, through the discovery of live audiences and staging of performances and events, the critical use of communications and mass media such as cinema and radio, the organisation of the concept of the "Dérive" as a response to dominant urban structures, and the surge of tools like video or criticism into culture and capital, from within its own infrastructure.
Thus, the workshops, as a point of connection between memory and remix, between the past and the future, will take place simultaneously in space and time. As experts in the themes to be tackled, the Workshop leaders - Federico Guzmán, Chiu Longina, Fran ilich, Virginia Villaplana, Blanca Calvo... - will be responsible for stimulating participants to act and reflect. The workshops will produce ideas, connections, works, contexts, etc. The workshops will communicate. Diffusion of the Encounters will take place through the Internet. The workshops will find: people, relationships, links.
2. Open ZEMOS
Open ZEMOS will be the framework where guest artists and thinkers can develop multidisciplinary presentations or productions. It is conceived as a cross-section that cuts through the time in which the Workshops take place, and occupies the same space. It will be programmed especially for participants in the Encounters, but also open to the general public.
Open Zemos consists of 10 activities that complement the Workshop themes: experiences, small-scale audiovisual concerts, presentations of experimental productions, audiovisual talks, etc. showing that pure formats no longer exist – there are no talks without screenings or productions without presentations.
3. Critical Powers will involve 10 prominent theorists in the field of audiovisual culture, who will present 10 dialogues around the 10 core themes of the BACK TO THE FUTURE ENCOUNTERS.
In Solaris, a key science fiction work by an author who belonged to the genre’s more critical, social and satirical line, Stanislaw Lem writes that “we know, but cannot grasp, that above and below, beyond the limits of perception or imagination, thousands and millions of simultaneous transformations are at work, interlinked like a musical score, by mathematical counterpoint. It has been described as a symphony in geometry, but we lack the ears to hear it”.
In the 10th ZEMOS98 Festival we want to have the ears to keep hearing, for example, about the possible roles of utopian thought in the current era of late capitalism and globalisation, so we can keep exploring the relationships between utopia and science fiction through representations of otherness, as recently analysed by Fredric Jameson in his book Archaeologies of the Future. The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science-Fictions. We also want to keep discussing the possibilities and dangers of the radical changes brought about by the technological revolution, which Susan Buck-Morss reflects on as she also points to a possible "global public sphere in which images and music are the elements of a shared language - a potential language, other than English (that of multinational capitalism), which would not require translation."
These lines of thought, which bring us back to avant-garde movements and utopia-machine connections, are being configured in the framework for discussions to be tackled by the Critical Powers program, in the format of one-on-one dialogues. This program will occupy the same space, if not the same time, as the Workshops. And like Open Zemos, it will be open to the public.
Together with the two theorists mentioned above – Fredric Jameson and Susan Buck-Morss – we are also in contact with Mark Dery, for his pioneering work on cyberculture and J. M. Coetzee, for the unwavering spirit of experimentation and departure from conventional narrative forms shown is his recent works, and for his unusual exercise in appropriation and remix in Foe.
The list of speakers is still being negotiated; we are contacting other theorists and artists such as Donna Haraway, Alexander Kluge, Lev Manovich, Kaja Silverman, Harum Farocki and Basilio Martín Patino.
Rearview screens we can look at to listen and respond, dialogues that can generate new critical powers of liberation and emancipation. And where we can also reflect of the dangers that threaten the neutralisation of these same liberation forces. Once more – to look back in order to look ahead, in a process of social change.
4. Guest Parallel Screens
The Guest Parallel Screens section will show an exclusive program of 10 (film/video) screenings dealing with the core themes of the BACK TO THE FUTURE ENCOUNTERS and reflecting the ideas that are the project’s backbone: archive and memory, remix and palimpsest. Programs that help expand the debate on ready-mades and found material, appropriation and falsification, quotes and remakes; on the discursive lines generated from practices such as archival film, found footage and film de montage; in general, on collage and editing as key concepts in experimental cinema and the plastic arts (and in literature, such as in Burroughs’s classic cut-ups); on editing as an essential creative operation that in Welles’ F for Fake, for example, is seen as "an instrument which is capable of absorbing of all types of material"; and on re-editing as tool to produce meaning, as in the case of Basilio Martín Patino.
5. 10th Power of 10 Publication
Lastly, but also as the project’s first objective, a publication will creatively compile the critical analysis and the productions and ideas generated during and for the BACK TO THE FUTURE ENCOUNTERS. It won’t just be a catalogue. The idea is to create a work which is in reality the continuation of a process that is, as Val del Omar would say about his own films, “without end”. A process that the 10th ZEMOS98 Festival wants to take back to the future, to re-live what has already been lived, but in an experimental and pro(pre)active, rather than nostalgic, way.
On the theoretical foundations and other erratic notes
To go to the origin, in the sense Walter Benjamin gives to the term, where “origin” is not the concept of progressive becoming based on the emergent, but rather that which springs forth from becoming and vanishing, the origin as the ebb and flow of becoming.
To produce, as well as the backward and forward glance (to continue with Benjamin), the nonsense that Lewis Carroll expresses in Alice through the looking glass: "It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards. I can remember things that happen next week. Time flows in two directions... the trick is to remember forwards".
And along with Carroll, the idea of This is Tomorrow Today, an exhibition on the Independent Group and British Pop Art which was held at The Institute for Art and Urban Resources, NY in1987, and was a remake of the 1956 exhibition This is Tomorrow at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, designed as a hall of mirrors or cacophonous installation, by Richard Hamilton, John McHale and John Voelcker: a challenge to the dominant gaze in art that marked the start of a more democratic analysis of cultural criticism. The IG’s defence of “low culture” was based on the desire to build a new society on the utopian vision and transforming idealism of constructivist projects like Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International. As Brian Wallis claimed, “the link between constructivism and its social purposes in post-revolutionary Russia, and the transformative capacities of popular culture in post-WWII England, depended on the belief in a radically different future that would emerge from the concrete reality of the present. This ‘coming into being’, which is equivalent to Ernst Bloch’s ‘figures of hope’ (analysed by cultural critic Fredric Jameson in Marxism and Form) is what members of the IG found in the signifying systems of pop culture... this potential for social change - this idea of utopia - signalled the hope for a future in the present, as expressed in the title of the exhibition". This project, in turn, influenced a very young J.G. Ballard, who claimed that “science fiction must take an interest in the here and now, not the distant future but the present, not aliens but what is happening in the world in the mid 1950s” – a call for speculation on the effects of technology on the human psyche, rather than an invitation to fantasise about technological innovations. This approach to science fiction also impregnated the wider-ranging art theory of Robert Smithson - whose sources ranged from literature and film to linguistics, anthropology and science - and who, based on Ballard, suggested that, "contrary to Greenbergian dogma, art is a system of communication, not an object of contemplation". "New Wave" science fiction, as it came to be called, became part of the counterculture with “sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and science fiction" as its original motto, and later took up cyberpunk. Many cyberpunk works were “set in a kind of near-future dystopia” (and described by Fredric Jameson, once more, as the supreme literary expression, if not of postmodernism, of late capitalism), and were influenced by the kind of speculative or "Day After Tomorrow" science fiction practiced by writers such as George Orwell in 1984, and Philip K. Dick in books like Time out of Joint, through his use of an ambiguity between a narrative "basic reality" and "other realities" or simulations. As Bob Curwen writes, "(In Dick)... the story usually starts off in an apparent reality that gradually crumbles and begins to be perceived as a virtual, or false, reality, although the main character and the reader had experienced it as real... Apart from Dick, one of the first authors to use virtual or simulated reality to great effect was Stanislav Lem in one of his Tales of Pirx the Pilot”. All of them open up new doorways for understanding issues that concern us in the present.
In 1998, the year that the ZEMOS98 Festival was founded, Chris Marker began working on Roseware – a multimedia, collective work in progress that further develops the concepts behind his previous work, the CD-rom Inmemory, which featured a memory structured by the relationships between images and sounds. Inmemory was conceived as a blank book in which each user would have the chance to write a chapter with the help of a multimedia program, thus adding their own material or fragments of their own memory. The incorporation of new material gradually creates “a web that tends towards infinity, woven from the memories and impressions of all those who access the device." This same mechanism brings up many questions about memory, because, as illustrated by another of Marker’s works, the documentary Le tombeau d’Alexandre, it’s not about conserving memory – in this case the memory of Soviet filmmaker Alexander Madvedkine –, but creating it. “Information is not memory. Memory is a work of fiction.
It was Duchamp who asked, “Isn’t art a game between all people of all periods?” And at this point we mention what is already obvious: the Return to the Future ENCOUNTERS are based on the crisis of representation expressed by the avant-garde movements, together with the beginning of the dematerialisation of art, ready-mades as the mechanism that sparks off the confusion between an original work and a copy, and the landscape that produces DJing and VJing. From the break with the past irreverence and iconoclasm of dada, to appropriationism and electronic civil disobedience and the social criticism underlying the situationist’s society of the spectacle.
Roland Barthes saw culture as an infinite palimpsest, where each book is made of “multiple writings drawn from various cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation...” Likewise, Lévinas "philosophy of the trace" is a multiple, visual and audio palimpsest that would read subjectivity itself as a social palimpsest, as expressed in the essay Traces in the Palimpsest, Readings of Lévinas, which analyses the philosopher’s work on the basis of transtextuality, or anything that places one text into (manifest or secret) relation with other texts. As Michel Foucault also expressed in The Archaeology of Knowledge, "The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut, (...) it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network... a network of references”:
Julia Kristeva introduced the term “intertextuality” in her presentation of the idea of “dialogicity” in Bakhtin: “The text lives only by coming into contact with another text (with context). Only at the point of this contact between texts does a light flash, illuminating both the posterior and the anterior, joining a given text to a dialogue”. Rather than finding the true text under the new one, it’s about “emphasising their co-existence and relationship, the potential for change in both directions”. As Borges also wrote (and we can’t not mention the author of Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote and El Aleph) in his essay Kafka and his Precursors: "The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future".
8. Creation and Production
The pre-68 catalyst that was the Situationist International theorised on the idea of consumption in a society that was already controlled by commercial relations and where the "spectacular representation" of life began to exist more than life itself. The situations also saw a cybernetisation of society and total control of the social sphere through the production of goods, and believed that "the way to oppose this present state of things is through creation: we must re-create – reinvent – everyday life, create a way of life in which artistic creation has a central role”. And while looking back, we can also think about Benjamin’s The Author as Producer for its insistence on lines of critical thought as the base elements of an equally critical digital culture.
Bertolt Brecht, always critical of institutions but also always didactic, believed it was necessary to change radio from "an apparatus for distribution” into “an apparatus for communication”. He believed that radio had the potential to be the best means of communication in public life, but in order to become so it had to be able to receive, as well as transmit. Brecht’s ideas influenced many subsequent attempts by the art world to change the one-way relationship between transmitter and receiver, such as the culture around happenings and the video artists working with Sony Portapacks in the critical neo-avant-garde movements of the 60s and 70s. Likewise, it would be possible to find precursors for the design of a space that facilitates the interconnection and impregnation of different kinds of knowledge. They would include, in the field of literature, one of the great works that came out of Oulipo (acronym for the potential literature workshop founded in the 60s by a group of French mathematicians and writers), George Pérec’s Life, A User’s Manual – a microcosm made up of novels within the novel or a series of immediately and simultaneously visible "chambers". In the plastic arts, the doors that Marcel Duchamp had built in his studio in rue de Larrey, Paris, so that as one room opened another one simultaneously closed and vice versa, creating a series of folds that multiplied meanings. In political philosophy, the idea of a "cognitive cartography", a category which Fredric Jameson takes from the geographer Kevin Lynch’s book The Image of the City, as the intersection between the personal and the social, and also as a model for articulating the local and the global.
10. The Power of ten
Power of ten is a video made in 1971 by the architects Charles and Ray Eames in response to a request from IBM. It’s a significant piece within their own short film works and a pioneer work in many senses, just as the Eames where pioneers in the use of new materials and the design of multiple screens. As Beatriz Colomina writes, faced with the current situation in which we are surrounded by multiple, simultaneous images on the streets, in airports, shopping centres, at the gym or in front of our computer: “(...) in our ergonomically perfected chairs, staring with a fixed gaze at many simultaneously "open" windows through which different kinds of information stream towards us. We hardly even notice it. It seems natural, as if we were simply breathing in the information. (...) How would one go about writing a history of this form of perception? Should one go back to the TV studio arrangement, with its walls of monitors from which the director chooses the camera angle that will be presented to the viewer? Or should one go back to Cape Canaveral and look at its Mission Control room? Or should one even go back to WWII, when so-called Situation Rooms were envisioned with multiple projections bringing information from all over world and presenting it side by side for instant analysis of the situation by leaders and military commanders? (...) It is not simply the military, or war technology that has defined it. Designers, architects and artists were involved from the beginning, playing a crucial role in the evolution of the multiscreen and multimedia techniques of presentation and information. While the artists’ use of these techniques tends to be associated with the “Happenings and “Expanded Cinema" of the 1960s, they were involved much earlier and in very different contexts, such as military operations and governmental propaganda campaigns. Take the 1959 American exhibition in Moscow, where the government enlisted some of the country’s most sophisticated designers. Site of the famous Kitchen Debate between Richard Nixon and Nikita Jruschev, the exhibition was a Cold War operation in which the Eameses’ multiscreen technique turned out to be a powerful weapon".
From the early avant-garde movements up until the present, many people have explored binary geometry and other kinds of calculations in relation to sound and image. Calculated images, for example, where at the centre of certain image-making practices of the mid 20th Century. As Eugeni Bonet expressed in his Calculated Cinema project, this concept has been used “to refer to the set of digital image generation and processing tools, especially those that are “constructed” through arithmetic calculations and computing tools based on the zeros and ones of the binary code".
A project for the 10th ZEMOS98 Festival. March 24 - 30, 2008
co-ordinated by Mar Villaespesa and produced by Hapaxmedia.net
Translated by Nuria RodrÃguez