LETTER.to.NAR: Christina McPhee responds to this month's interview with Raul Ferrera-Balanquet (see left). McPhee adds insight into her own production, and discusses its relationship to Ferrera-Balanquet's process.

Dear Eduardo and Net Art Review,

I was really interested to see the interview with Raul on Interactiva05 today...since I know how agonizing the last experience was, as he describes in his interview --with the loss of equipment, space, etc at the last minute. So I decided I wanted to respond to Raul about InteractivA05 because it stimulated new questions about my own conceptual practice strategies in a media world wherein, as you and Raul have noted here in NAR, the old school conceptual techniques of dematerialization and re-assemblage on meta levels (the trump card of hyper reality) have been occluded by mainstream cultural and political forces such as, obviously, the Bush White House. How can the work of art in a meta-media context become a touchstone to the ‘real’? Or can it? It seems that Raul thinks, yes, it can, and so can curatorial projects-as-interactive art. These questions give me pause within the swirl of production and curating that attends the launch of Carrizo-Parkfield Diaries, including an online live data diaries project in the context of a multimedia, architecturally scaled installation at Transport Gallery, here in Los Angeles (through April 16, 2005). In my experience, the flow is the inverse complement of Raul’s: the interactive art project-as-curatorial project, especially with respect to the interaction and integration of physical media and presence with the online diaries at my collaboration with writer Jeremy Hight and programmer Sindee Nakatani. As Raul says in your NAR interview, so much is compelling about the 'post-digital' condition in which photography, painting, etc are part of a mélange of processes rather than keeping to a utopian/ modernist attitude towards the digital or even towards the idea of data. A very recent interview with a Wired reporter (the magazine canned the article so it didn't make print) explores this point, see towards the end of http://www.christinamcphee.net/carrizoparkfielddiaries/texts/ InterviewChristinaMcPhee.htm (under: "SW: I'm wondering also if you have any feelings toward the limitations of data. Sometimes data purports to reveal more than it actually does").

In this connection you (Eduardo Navas) are careful to cast light on the usage ‘conceptual’, not as it may be commonly misconstrued as 'non-material', rather, in historical context as a specific strategy devoted to 'dematerialization and institutional critique --this in a recent thread on Rhizome ("Miles Davis and new media") February 21, 2005:

To be clear, conceptual art, at least in the United States, was an ideological strategy that deliberately focused on the dematerialization of the work of art. Its common use of text, photo and performative aspects were specific strategies used to critique the various aspects of the art institution that artists at the time found problematic. In the past, there have been other creative media that did not use actual objects and which were not considered conceptual. For example, Luis Bunuel was considered "surreal" or Goddard "structural" because of their ideological approaches to film making. The medium was the same for both of them; it was the interest with which they used the medium and the group of people they were involved in that defined them as "surrealist," "structural." That the medium may have traces of particular tendencies may be true, but this does not automatically mean that the work that uses such material can easily be labeled as an extension. I make this example because film does not leave an actual object behind, yet it is not automatically considered conceptual. So just because Net Art may share some of the elements of conceptual practice does not automatically mean that it is an extension of conceptual art.

Is it possible that the strategies in Carrizo-Parkfield could be thought of as conceptual practice as a strategy devoted to rematerialization... and possibly, as you write elsewhere, in the 'constant reinvestment in culture’, in my case, "landscape"-- plural, non-iconic, fluid, neither subject nor object, based on the local conditions arising from the place and the sense of place itself, - the contingencies and echoes of an unstable space full of both epiphanies and oubliettes (dark holes)... just as Raul seems to imply that his conceptual practice as a curator is a social art making within the economic reality of the region where he lives, creating communities of exchange...to enrich social process, such that as with my project, its not about him, its not about me, rather its about a multi subjective cultural presencing:

…interdisciplinary laboratory that employs an alternative vision of the art. How I made it, that is the secret of the working team and the “Interactivos” (the participants). I couldn’t define anything. I don’t consider myself an authority, but a curator with a vision closer to the production of a proposal like a work of art; a vision that consider the economic reality of artistic production in the region where I live; and, one that tries to create communities of exchange to enrich our social process of apprenticeship and development. As you see, the definitions of traditional exposition say other things.

Speaking of oubliette, it's one of my most favorite complexes of meaning, idea; image. A metaphor for being trapped inside the internet, or behind the screen, maybe as you say in your essay on blogging as production, the cultural producer gets lost in the oubliette of ideologies meta = meta = meta = meta = etc. I have done a series of 20 or so paintings as oubliettes--they all preceded coming out of the oubliette, breaking out of the dark hole, and starting to take the documentary field notes that became "Carrizo-Parkfield Diaries." The problem of the oubliette paintings was, the sensation of not being able to get out from behind the door, i.e. that each oubliette painting is a door to the underground prison behind which the consciousness and the conscience of the subject spins in a desolate cycle. It was thanks to the landscape here itself, its seismic unpredictability; its live-ness that I got out. Naxsmash.net was still ‘in’, as in, lost behind the screen: it is 'vox cyborg', or, the distressed signals of a traumatic topology Out, in the landscape, I as ‘producer’ am the reflexive and self reflexive output of the 'landscape' itself, such that seismic memory is a loop between scape and inscape, between human and geologic, continually reconfiguring itself after shock. Oubliette as amnesia: the French imprisoned people in the dark hole and forgot about them, the door on the surface of the ground locked down and the key thrown away. Escape from the oubliette means escape from forgetting what is, what is really there, what are the actual conditions, for Raul, in the 'economic reality of the region’, for me, in the reality of seismic instability and big data feeds in my immediate neighborhood', into a condition in which it is possible to move around and investigate, participate, remediate.

Thanks for bringing up these themes and reading through this musing (if you've gotten this far, congratulations on your endurance).

Best wishes,


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