Texts/Make Sure That You Are Seen (Supercritique)
Nicolas Bourriaud, 2002
Published by Fact, the foundation for art & creative technology, Factor 2000, ISBN 0-9541604-0-4
Make Sure That You Are Seen (Supercritique)
The biotope of humankind is a complex affair, since it cannot be described solely in terms of living space: we live very much within time and, beyond the real present, we live collective stories, which have their roots in the past. Humankind is inseparable from these stories, which shape us, help us to tell our own stories, to understand ourselves, and to progress. But where are we going? If the story has ended, that's going to be a difficult question to answer.

What has been referred to as 'Post-modernity' signals a moment of entropy, in which the story's progress freezes before the credits have even rolled before our eyes. Pause on image.

The end of the 'great stories', according to which Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard defined the post-modern era, opens onto a space in which historical objects are grounded - henceforth inanimate. These objects might be called: 'emancipation' of groups and of individuals; social progress; sharing the means of production and the goods; communism; Utopia. We can dip in here for material for any kind of video clip, trailer, or promotional slot, but the film is over.

Back to the popcorn
The consumer society, and the type of stories that the capitalist economy suggests, do not adapt well to the linear form of narration: consumer products require a cyclical sequence, with a hint of liturgy. The market wants Christmas Day on 25th December every year, and Halloween, Mother's Day and Thanksgiving on the same days too. It doesn't want changeable stories that are inevitably full of unexpected incidents. Art desires the opposite.

Only clandestine stories remain: Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) or terrorist conspiracies. From now on, what remains of history will unfold in the shadows.

Nowadays, fragments of the collective story appear in visual form, because of its greater effectiveness compared to the written prescriptions common in earlier societies, which appeared, more often than not, in symbolic or monumental form. It is easier to sell something that is 'fully visual'. Fully visual is more stimulating, too, and cannot be as easily refuted.

Several scenarios remain available to the public: professional success (in media coverage); heterosexual marriage with children (parents placed in the Pavlovian situation of having to give priority to their professional life, see scenario one); and international tourism and recreation. These three are amongst the most popular. These social scenarios are available.

The social scenario is dominated by the law of profit. Why invent others, we are asked, when a revolution would be impossible and when the free market economy is self-regulating anyway? Everyone is free to produce their own film using a camcorder and to show it in their home cinemas. All public showings must be discouraged.

Operating within these scenarios, SUPERFLEX acts as an alternative editing suite for social film. Karlskrona is a Swedish town that has been remodelled and Karlskrona2.org can be viewed on the Internet: it is possible to make a group function differently and it is enough to live life differently. Virtually, you say? No, very pragmatically: local politics are no less 'virtual' in their supposed reality than their electronic counterpart. Only those who believe in metaphysics, that is to say a radical separation between essence and existence, can maintain that the virtual world is a world of illusions. All concrete politics are of the same 'virtual' nature. And Karlskrona 2 is a political tool.

The work of SUPERFLEX could moreover be defined as the production of tools. Its formal strategy is to provide (initially) these tools within the context of the art world. The editing suite must be shared by the greatest number of people in order to prove its necessity and its definite effectiveness. All the important works of the 20th Century can also function as tools, to different degrees of operational urgency.

The artists of today ultimately don't care very much about producing fair images. They no longer have the time. They seek to assure themselves that someone will see those that have been produced to date. This task is an urgent one and leaves little time for creating beautiful images.

Supplying power to areas close to the equator, as SUPERFLEX has, represents real provocation: nobody asked SUPERFLEX for anything. There is nothing more disruptive in the economic system than the act of doing something that nobody has asked you to do and for which you are not paid. Scenario number one, dealing with profit and performed by the professionals, is utterly and completely thrown into disarray by this.

One of Pierre Huyghe's works, Posters, poses practically the same question: it consists of three prints showing a character repairing a hole in the road or tending to the flowers in a public garden. The question is: why is this public area, which supposedly belongs to everyone, being maintained by expert professionals and not by the community of individuals? It stands to reason that this public space is getting smaller day by day to the advantage of private individuals: public property, and first and foremost space, is like gold dust and is already privatised. SUPERFLEX, in its role as a power supplier, is smashing the 'professional' logic to smithereens.

Reality, wrote Karl Marx, is merely the transitory result of what we do together. The 90s saw the emergence of collective intelligence and the 'network' trend in the art world. The artists are searching for representatives: since the public remains an unreal entity, they are obliged to include this symbolic representative in the production process itself. The meaning of a work of art is thus going to be born out of a movement which links the signs expressed by the artist, but also out of the collaboration of individuals in the exhibition area. This is what I have called relational aesthetics. The SUPERFLEX group, evidently, perceives the interhuman sphere as the production area and the area where its activities appear.

"Make sure that you are seen and heard in the 21st Century".

This is the primary mission of Superchannel, the mobile and light internet channel invented by SUPERFLEX. It's no longer enough to just frame an object or person with a camera to create an image. In the entertainment industry, it is just as important to produce a recyclable story and to correspond to some standard or other. Thus the images only exist if they can illustrate an event, a 'subject' which existed before the images. Conversely, Superchannel is generating micro-stories, in other words, encounters. In the field of science, this would be called a 'particle accelerator'.

"Make sure that you are seen and heard"?

SUPERFLEX is bringing into play a cut in attention: the principle of channel-hopping is most powerful - any individual is obliged to produce a picture story accompanied by its 'pitch'.

The mass of images nowadays forms a real democracy: while representing the world was, until the second half of the 19th Century, the privilege of skilled workers (painters, sculptors, etc.), nowadays images are produced for us by machines. The primary consequence of this development is that it is no longer about making images, but about controlling how we appear in images. To appear as an image (to be seen and heard) immediately poses the problem of democracy as form.

Surveillance cameras film us in car parks and lifts, etc. The webcam constitutes a response to this vast social film, the theme of which is paranoia. The webcam is the private equivalent of the surveillance camera: the image of a world under surveillance will thus return to its sender, and the technical demand for surveillance will be overtaken by inflationary and hysterical offers to put private lives on show. The image of the slave inventing games with his chains suddenly threatens the very order of slavery. You want to see me? OK then, and you'll get more than you bargained for.

SUPERFLEX ask the question of the Internet in terms of democracy, but in the context of an extremely important problem - distribution. Thus Superchannel presents itself as a democratic tool, because it distributes words and the format in which to broadcast them at the same time. From installing telephones, through to distributing power, and on to providing the artwork for a local authority, SUPERFLEX work in terms of distribution and equipment. SUPERFLEX recognised that distribution represented the dominant plastic form of commercial companies.

Coca Cola and Nike's images work, not because of their intrinsic qualities, but because their logos speak for themselves without needing much support from the communication system: SUPERFLEX operates within this formal system, which makes its activities difficult to interpret in the limited context of the art world. So much the better.
Tagged: internet, text

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