delight again the world
is of aesthetic in the communication and conversely
Pierre (Paris October 1994)
Professor, University Paris
Nord, Laboratory of the Sciences of the information and communication
"The step in which I am engaged
is a work that takes for object the communication itself.
Work of reflection on the communication but also practice
of action inside and on this field". Analysis of the communication
at the same time as practice of the communication, in the
joint of these two objectives resides the essential of the
project itself "the Aesthetics of the Communication" of which
Fred Forest (1985, p.9) recommends himself as well as to his
continuation more than about ten European and Canadian artists.
Of this project, however, they
don't have the appendage. In the plastic arts, the association
of an artistic activity and of a step aiming to "construct
a phenomenology of the contemporary imaginary" (according
to the ambitions of F. Forest and Mr. Costa) goes back, probably
less systematized but so actively claimed, at the end of the
years 60. Besides, F. Forest (1977, p.33) worked there himself,
during several years, within the Sociological Art, movement
that he already presents at that time like "an ethics and
a praxis of life that founds its means on the empiric development
of a sociological practice under pretext of the art, or if
one prefers under its cover".
From the Sociological Art to
the Aesthetics of the Communication, there are transformations
and ruptures however. If these result from the circumstances
and the personal itinerary of such or such artist, intervenes
there more fundamentally a double awareness done at the same
moment and by a high number of plasticians: awareness, on
the one hand, of the major role that, conjugating their respective
efficiency, audiovisual, data processing and telecommunications
start playing in the "life", opening to the artistic intervention
as many fields and new objects, awareness, on the other hand
exorbitant pretensions of the ideology of the "all communicational"
presenting itself insistently as the unique paradigm of a
modernity of which, according to Michel Serres (1985), it
becomes then urgent "to decipher the messages".
Facing a so insistent pretension,
the critical imperative doesn't impose itself less to the
artists of the communication that to the researchers on the
communication. Deciphering specially urgent than, playing
some auto-realization effects, the successes of the communication
nourish of themselves. Out of the communication, no saveÖ
especially when these are the communicators that, simultaneously,
appreciate and make know what deserves to be saved. Such is
the context by report to which the project of an aesthetics
of the communication asks to be feared.
Media against media
The means of the artists is
not those of the researchers. When these demonstrate, leaning
on resources of the investigating and with the distance required
by the analysis, those show, trying themselves to make of
the communication systems themselves, the tools at the same
time as the matter of their deciphering.
*This text is published with
the agreeable permission of Louise Poissant, professor to
the University of Quebec in Montreal, coordinating of a collective
work where it represents to appear to the Presses of the university
Also the productions " the
more specifically strong, the most strongly specific " (Fargier
1981, p.5) becoming attached to what of media has in our modernity,
are they those that make it even inside the media." It is
almost, explain J.-P. Fargier, always of tapes and facilities
that attacks, one way or the other, to the television. That
take by turns the television for target, adversary, rival,
alter ego, referent, raw material, model, negative
example, loss, brief for Other " And to evoke Nam June Paik,
Wolf Vostell, Douglas Davis as well as Bob Wilson and even
Jean-Luc Godard. Tom Sherman (1981, p.28) would deserve also
to be for his definition of artist's video: "a television
whose particularity makes the whole difference ".
Yet, artists of the communication
and researchers on the communication leave all of the same
question: from where does come, within our modernity, the
devolved central place to the video, to the computer and to
the telecommunications? Certainly not, they answer in substance,
of the sophistication of these technologies, leading a difference
of degree but no of nature in relation to the previous tools.
It comes more from that pushing to their limit of the phenomena
that are not all new - several are already in germ in the
first industrial revolution -, the uses that are made of it
are so systematic that they reveal better than before the
dimension of mediatization that our relation to the other
and to ourselves includes as well as the access that we have
to the work, to the leisure and to the culture. And, making
that, they also reveal what, via the electronic media, this
mediatization can have as specificity.
Certainly and probably, the
book and the writing remain in general from afar the fashions
the more used. But the hypothesis is that it is not anymore
them that structure prioritary our existence and crystallize
our representations. As R. Charrier writes (1992, p.96), prolonging
Mr. McLuhan and J. Goody, " If the texts emancipate themselves
of the shape that escorted them since the first centuries
of the Christian era (...) these are, indeed, all intellectual
technologies, all operations working in the production of
the significance that will be modified. " To what corresponds
this subject of F. Forest (1985), widening the perspective
to the relations between television and painting: " The first
steps of Armstrong on the moon followed on the cathodic screen
by hundreds of millions of viewers revitalize our emotion
of contemporary man well more that can make it the smile of
Mona Lisa and the brush of Leonardo today ".
It is of this dematerialization
of the communication by dissociation of the message and of
the medium, of the cause and the effect, of the object and
its referent, that ensue the symptoms of the communicational
modernity: acceleration and transnationalization of the networks
of information, computerization of the exchanges and other
daily activities, unrealization of the social link and of
the public space and increasing duality of the collectivity
submitted to a modernization to forced walks that accentuates
(rather than it attenuates) the cleavage between those that
decide and those that execute (Virilio 1988).
Outside of all judgment of
value, to begin the less, merely favored and exemplified by
the artists, the revelation of these phenomena already has
the tendency to acquire a clearly aesthetic statute. Characteristic,
in this respect, the commentary of D. PaIni (1982, p.27) about
the videos of Bob Wilson on the " hemorragic working of the
television ": " therefore it is not from a denial of the television
working that Wilson invents these spots, but it is in aggravating
his logic ".
The same "exasperation" is
worth for all other media: "To work with the media, on the
media, to work the media, it is the same thing", written Jochen
Gerz. And to specify: "One doesn't exist without the other.
I don't make the painting, the sculpture, the drawing, but
I use the photography, the text, the sound, my body and also
the mobile picture. " (in The Nouene 1986, p.13). It is why
the artists in question are not strictly speaking nor painters
or photographers, nor sculptors, nor video-makers or infographist,
although using the supports of these arts and enough often
combining them with more traditional fashions. What justifies
the appreciation of Claude Faure (1991, p.46) for who "the
new technologies applied to the arts don't have an autonomous
Inversely, to resort to the
new technologies is not more sufficient to become artist of
the communication. It is only by a troublesome confusion that
it arrives to the film-makers and experimental video-makers
or practitioners of the technological arts to be ranged on
the side of those that become attached to what is aesthetics
in the communication. In fact, they only put new surfaces
of enrollment and other materials to the service of unaltered
preoccupation. While being wrong to hold for bygone the practices
bound to the "infographical painting", whereas all shows that
they won't disappear as quickly (that he hopes). Roy Ascott
(1990, p.73) characterizes them pertinently explaining that
" even though he was sometimes reduced to striking expressions
of simulation, it is the real world that stayed again the
main reference. Canvas was digitalized, it is all ".
Also the holdings of the electronic
arts raise of the traditional artistic practices or (by the
design) of the industrial imagery. In any case, they continue,
to the surface of the screens and using renewed devices of
visualization, to produce works where, to take the formula
of Bill Viola (1984, p.72) "the picture is considered like
a stop of the time, a suspended action, an effect of light".
More maliciously to their subject, Wolf Vostell exclaims:
"the video, it is the watercolors of tomorrow! " (Sorin 1981,
The artists of the communication,
on their side, don't aim in priority to produce some pictures.
It is rather against the pictures that they produce something
else. The whole question will be to know what.
At the intersection of the
scientific stept and the artistic practice, they achieve devices
of communication. Less facilities or environments that real
protocols to heuristic finality supposing, at the begin, a
familiarity to what Piotr Kowalski (1991, p.15) calls "the
objective knowledge" of the phenomena n game: " only the science
and the objective knowledge allow this access the real on
which each artist wants to act and wants to manipulate".
Familiarity with the "objective
knowledge" going sometimes until collaborations with researchers
in communication: research provides to the artists the means
to catch the situations of communication and these, in return,
present to him some more meaningful experimental situations
than those of the reality. The example of Roy Ascott (1991,p.19)
is characteristic of what gives or could give such a coming
and going. Evoking his readings of N. Wiener, he writes: "Then
I had the revelation that an art as mine, in the center of
which was put the question of the change, could find in the
concepts of feedback, of interactivity and relation, axioms
equivalent to those that the anatomy, the drawing after model
and the formal studies had provided to the art of the past
". Passing what he calls the " primary cybernetics", he works
then to implant the networks of which one of the most meaningful
applications is, in 1983, "The pleat of the text". It is about,
by the telematics, one of the first experiences, as much sociological
than aesthetic, of writing from afar in real time and at two
levels, every local group, in sixteen cities of the world,
elaborating in direct its contribution to a collective text.
Of other artists, notably to
the sides of Fred Forest, Natan Karczmar, Stéphane
Barron, Christian Sevette or Put Mitropoulos, have, otherwise
advanced farther, at least sought-after more systematically
these collaborations with teams of researchers. For example,
at the time of sessions where two dancers had to coordinate
their gestures to achieve an interactive ballet from afar,
Mitropoulos finalizes, at the end of the years 80, almost
experimental protocols where, better than in the real situations,
is showed the function of the procedures and non verbal strategies
of communication in video-conference .
Crisis and critique of the
These exchanges of good process
by fertilization mutual, exceptional anyway, only correspond
to an all small part of the path that scientific step and
artistic practice make in parallel before the artists of the
communication outrun with the means that are theirs what they
know (often very well) of the sociological or psychological
approaches of the communication.
For which end? To illustrate
what, from a critical view point, they say of the communicational
modernity but especially to realize on one more sensitive
mode than intelligible of the constituent crisis of this modernity.
In other words to express to their manner what takes out of
these analyses and especially to answer the questions that
they formulate without to be able always to answer.
Crisis of modernity, indeed,
whose nature has been well analyzed by M. Weber (1963, pp.69-70)
asking the question of what makes the superiority of the modern
man on the Hottentot. According to him, this superiority doesn't
come from the knowledge that the first has of his environment.
On the contrary, if one of both prevails in this respect,
it is well the Hottentot. This one, indeed, knows "perfectly
how to do to obtain his daily food and he knows what are the
institutions that help him". In comparison ourselves, that
use the tram daily, we have no idea of the mechanism allowing
the machine to start. What on the other hand we know, add
Weber, that we can count on the tram. There is the whole difference:
the savage lives surrounded of mysterious and unforeseeable
powers that he tries to implore by the magic while civilized
man believes that, if he wants it, he can master all thing
by the forecasting". This belief comes to him from the millennial
process of intellectualization resulting of the science and
the technical progress and that translates, what Mr. Weber
calls, the "disenchantment of the world ".
However, since the time of
M. Weber, this process is intensified and, while the disenchantment
didn't stop growing, the belief herself poses more and more
problems. It is not yet that the new technologies of communication
don't try to accredit the idea of a generalizable control
everywhere, of an universal transparency and a capacity of
intervention omnibus, so long as we wanted it. This idea is
even so itself widespread that when it meets some resistance
- pandemic, stock crash, pushed of barbarism - these are clearly
incomprehensible. Maybe, we tell to ourselves with less and
less conviction, we don't want enough to surmount them. Not
long ago, in France, the announcer of a meteorological bulletin
made this experience, less joking than one could think, to
invite the viewers to sign a petition to ask for the return
of the beautiful weatherÖ However the problem is exactly that
all petitions of the world cannot make come back good weather.
The hyper rationality turns around in its opposite, letting
see its underlying irrationality. Also, on these two sides,
the critique of modernity nourishes the most of the approaches
critiques. The side "disenchantment of the world" shows for
example of the "dusky perspective of modernity" own to W.Benjamin
(1982, p.113) as well as, in another context, of the denunciation
by J. Habermas (1973) of the "colonization of the lived world"
by "systemic constraints" that make utility in relation to
the economic system, the unique criteria to judge the whole
human activity. Associated to the other side - the one of
irrationality - it also meets in the analyses of J. Baudrillard
(1983, p.16) on "the hypertelia", "fatal" excess of causality
and finality, presenting itself as the modern society answer
to their increasing fragility. Answer, illusory, however,
because, at a time vector and factor of this "hypertelia",
the "delirium of the communication" (p.95) reveals the very
limits of a modernity whose universal mastery will proceeds
in fact of a fundamental paralysis: the sense gets lost under
the accumulation of the signs. Probably thinking a con
trano to the enchantment of the Hottentot or his brother
of traditional societies that the ethnologist G. Balandier
(1985, p.197) diagnoses: "In this scrambling resulting of
the increase and the acceleration of the media flux, the sense
For a dietetics of the communication?
"Is it necessary to find a
dietetics of information? , wonder then J. Baudrillard (1983,
p.18). In this sense a solution would be to trust the reason:
to let to the saturation of the networks and the overcharges
of information the care to make the demonstration of their
paralyzing effects. So that in counterpart, renewed uses of
these systems encourage what J. Habermas (1973, pp.67-68)
names "a public discussion, without hindrances and exempt
of domination (...) only middle inside which something is
possible that deserves to be called "rationalization".
Numerous are the researchers,
like J. Habermas, to hope on the regeneration of the communication
by the "communicational reason". However, the problem is the
one of the conditions of possibility and of the concrete realization
of such a revitalization of the public space. Indeed, what
is worth the "ideal situation of discussion without hindrances"
that has just been suggested when no indication from sociology
or political sciences can until now corroborate the idea that
it could encourage, telematics and interactive television
helping, the advent of a "new public space" (Ferry 1989)?
On the contrary, don't the new media add to the ambient hubbub?
Or, second solution, it is
necessary to wait that the reason operates against herself,
as well as J. Baudrillard suggests it (1983, p.217): "The
work of the reason is not at all to invent the sequences,
the relations, the sense; of all of this, there are in excess
to the departure - it is, on the contrary, (...) to demagnetize
the constellations, the inseparable configurations to make
some erratic elements vowed then to find their cause or to
wander at random " (p.217). Again however, one badly discerns
in which conditions the reason, pushing her critical role
as far as becoming subversive, could commit herself in a regression
process called to open on disorder and luck.
Symmetrically on all sides,
one sees it, the critical theoreticians of the modernity meet
similar aporias. Beyond the initial pessimism, their hesitations
are those of which already testified the thinkers who precede
them. Such Mr. McLuhan, oscillating between the denunciation
of the cultural massification and the praise of the global
village, or the theoreticians of the cybernetics, there seeing
by turns and contradictorily the perfect "machine to govern
" (notably, the Father Dubarle in France) and the origin of
the supreme alienation (N. Wiener).
Disorder of the order
At the origin of these aporias
and oscillations that ensues of them the ambivalence own to
the inspection by the communicational ascendancy. The artistic
practice is well placed to give back. Indeed, on one hand,
the regime of a communication affected by the industrialization
and working by the industrialization of the society to the
standardization and to the normalization of the behaviors
as well as to the generalization of the regime of the merchandise
that Horkheimer and Adorno (1983, p.129) denounce as the "law
of bronze" of the production of the cultural goods. On the
other hand, in the very moment where it conditions and normalizes,
this regime let nevertheless always place to the critical
distance. Especially critical than its conditioning is more
violent, would remain to the consumer to tilt before the triumph
of the advertisement but "knowing very well to what to hold"
(Horkheimer and Adorno 1983, p.176).
Dialectically, therefore the
maximal alienation creates the optimal conditions for the
return of the Hottentot: the summit of the insurance supposed
to have foreseen everything only makes, by default, accentuate
the unforeseen of the accident and the breakdown more, that
they are either wanted or accidental. The disorder doesn't
emerge against the order; it is in the order. And it is to
make feel it that the artists of the communication work, on
the mode of the radical contest (as Vostell) or on the one
of the game (as Paik and Forest). Programmed to be unforeseeable,
the landscapes of E. Samakhs and the interactive robots of
Norman White are in this respect par excellence the illustrations
of this association that, in the same movement, bind the order
and the disorder, denying the order by the disorder. Symbols
of the calculating reason, they aim to reenchant the communication
for reenchanting the world .
Reenchant the world.
In this enterprise the experience
of the communication and the one of aesthetics conjugates
themselves closely: reenchant the communication, it is not
only see and make see its sensitive part all of opacity and
of unforeseeable. It is not also only to try "to conceive
the culture (ethical) of a "technologized" nature (Musso 1991,
p.108). It is also, the other way, to see and to make see
the dimension of communication in the heart of all aesthetic
experience. Meaningful of this coming and going where the
two shapes of reenchantment reinforces themselves mutually,
the use of the telematics by Roy Ascott (1991, p.21): "Finally
the telematics makes explicit what is implicit in all aesthetic
experience, during which the creative element is also distributed
between the perception of the viewer and the artist's production.
The notion of collective author (dispersed authorship),
determining in the works that I propose, underline to what
point the interactivity characterizes all contemporary artistic
step. The interface is a threshold opened on the undecidable,
on a space with the infinite material and semantic potentialities.
However, the opening of this "space" supposes the conjunction
of the two experiences. The gesture that makes it possible
is indeed simultaneously, on the one hand, the one that permits
to make escape the real practices of communication of the
determinism of what is prescribed to it by the instructions
for use and, on the other hand, the one that, in the artistic
experience, institutes or restores the principle of an invention
shared between those that conceive and those that receive
The same conjunction meets,
in a different context, expressed by the "theory of the rabbit"
of T. Sherman (1982, p.28) exposing his "theory of the rabbit".
Resumption, to the departure, of the critique of the television
" We have all learned to collect
to the television an information of low caliber through the
redundant formulas, the implacable strength of the dramatic
narration and the visual sensationalism of special effect.
"What to do?" It is necessary for us to free us of this conditioning.
It is necessary for us to go out, to walk, to breathe the
pure air, to recover us ourselves. When we will come back
before our television, it will be once more obvious the programming
is always a little the same". Nevertheless, if, along the
way, we made the unexpected meeting of a rabbit (and, we will
add, even if it is not the one of Alice), "the unforeseeable
rabbit can however make us see the things in a different way".
From where will the rabbit
arrive? There are few chances that it is still pictures themselves.
T. Sherman suggests it, counseling us to go out to take air.
F. Forest (1985,p.9) confirms it: "the inflation of the pictures
conducts inevitably to their devaluation. The Aesthetics looks
elsewhere that in the incarnation of the plastic sign his
lands of election". Unless, as B. Viola suggests it (1984,
p.72), the picture is not where one believes but "in the spectator's
head (...) and it is the interaction between the spectator
and the picture that counts".
"Elsewhere that in the incarnation
of the plastic sign", the artistic intervention produced devices
of which it will have there nothing to wait only the unexpected.
Unexpected correspondences for example between two spaces
- two cities, two museums, two actors and two languages -
at D. Davis, one of the first artists (Jochimsen 1985, p.234)
to solicit the communications by satellite in real time. More
unexpected correspondences again between two times, with Dan
Graham making cohabit by mechanisms of slightly deferred retransmission,
the present picture and the one recorded some seconds before.
Or, more striking again, correspondences between two times
or two places so different, as writes it Derrick of Kerckhove
(1988, p.122) notably about Tom Klinkowstein and Jean-Marc
Philippe, that "the problem is not anymore to know how being
at two places at a time, but rather to know what to say and
what to do of the between two space".
One could multiply the examples,
the important being however to avoid to forget what makes
the specificity of the arts of the communication. Not more
that they don't confound themselves with the electronic arts,
not more they wouldnít be the annex or the reserve of creativeness
of the sciences of the communication.
Whatever in this respect say
the researchers and sometimes the artists of the communication
themselves, it would be notably vain to lend to this last,
under pretext of their expertise in unforeseen, talents of
the type of those that economist A. The Diberder (1993, p.69)
believes find for example at the Nam June Paik of 1963: "The
73 distorted Tv sets constituted the first translation
of what was there, at that time, a genius's intuition: the
destiny of the television goes beyond the television (...)
While clearing the limit of a television of pure receipt,
and with more than thirty years of advance, Paik ridiculed
the protocols and the classic interfaces, to propose two revolutions,:
the interactive television and a new interface with the user."
Paik, in other words, would have had, before the sociologists
and the specialists of the marketing, the foreknowledge of
the new shapes of television.
Reducing and distorted vision,
according to us, because if indeed Paik probably ridiculed
the classic interfaces, he ridiculed all as much to invent
the interactive television. What interested it - and continues
to interest it - it is what there is of interactive in the
television. It say, more generally, that in the parallel and
the circumstantial crosschecks that, in some cases, can be
established between Aesthetics and sciences of the communication,
it would be illusory to discern the prodroms of a synthesis
by confusion of the genres. Would it be placed under the prestigious
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