Art and Things: A Re-Evaluation of Critical Discourse

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In line with modernist radical discourse, critical theory has traditionally been suspicious of things. The theory of “reification” (Lukacs) critiques modern capitalism because relations between people appear as relations between things. This condition is understood as a disempowerment or alienation of human nature. The critique of the spectacle put forth by the Situationist International also condemns advanced industrial societies because relations between people appear as relations between (thing-like) images. The basic assumption behind this type of critique is the need to restore the primacy of people over things. In contrast, this presentation argues for a fundamental reevaluation of the modernist suspicion of thinghood. In particular, it draws on the experience of avant-garde film and digital media artists whose work explores the possibilities afforded by their tools. Electronic pioneers like Nam June Paik or Woody and Steina Vasulka, for instance, often experiment with media technologies to discover new possibilities of action, perception, and thought. Instead of building critical discourse on the fear of things, critical theory should follow suit and treat things as interactive partners. The question of the formation of the collective of human and non-human agents becomes the core aspect. Questions of freedom and empowerment must be rethought in light of this paradigm shift. This new way of thinking also builds on theoretical work in action-network theory and ecological optics.

Keywords: Things as Co-Creators, New Technologies, Action-Network Theory, Ecological Optics
Stream: Arts Agendas
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Hector Rodriguez

Associate Professor, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Hector Rodriguez is a digital artist and media theorist. His digital animation Res Extensa received the award for best digital work in the Hong Kong Art Biennial. His game system P3: CoPerspective was a finalist in the Games Meets Graphics competition at Eurographics 2006. His essays about film theory and digital art have been published in Screen, Cinema Journal, and Game Studies. He is Artistic Director of the Microwave International Media Art Festival, where he has also taught workshops on Java programming. He currently teaches Visual Studies, Contemporary Art, Play and Game Studies, Film Theory, Computation, and Critical Theory.

Ref: A07P0072