Geert Mul: Technology, Art and Reflections

For: A Wedge between private and public
Symposium in interactivity and public space
22 April 2010
SESSION 1 – Affect

Report by Juliana Brunello

Art, as part of public interaction strategy, is capable to break open the technological paradigm, which is colonialized by technology. When you analyze the role of technology in society or the role of technology in art, there is a tendency to alienate technology from our culture, like it was dropped upon us from engineers or corporations. Geert Mul thinks it is not the case.

The steam engine was already invented by the Greek, however, that did not result in the industrial revolution. Why not? Was there no need for it back then? When this invention was re-invented many centuries later and lead to the Industrial Revolution, it is because we, as consumers, embraced the idea of the Industrial Revolution. With this example we can see how technology becomes an integral part of our culture and language. We are seeing the world through technology and by using this technology to observe the world, our view from the world is being formed.

This way of putting things suggest that there would be a neutral way of seeing things if technology did not exist. However, even if you leave out the technology and go back to just eyes as an instrument, there has already been proved that different cultures tend to see the world in different ways.

Mul keeps a hierarchy in which interactivity takes place. We are living in the world of dynamics that has been stretched in Modernism, becoming more mobile and more dynamic. With the application of IT/Databases and their use, we are now living in a world in which information is very dynamic by nature. We are always relating to the information and its speeded up dynamics. In this universe of information there is a part in which we, as persons, interact. Inside this part there is another one, a micro- way of interactivity, “where you push a button and a door opens”. This is also addressed as interactivity. However, when you stick to this definition, you are throwing away the valuable and inspirational part.

In his work, ‘The library of Babel‘ (2004) Geert places the visitors in a world of visual information, in which they are in interaction to what is happening. They feel they are a part of it, but there is no goal. Nevertheless they can discover this new environment and find out the invisible rules of it. The second part of the work is a meta image taken by a camera. The visitors look at the interactors in the work trying to make sense of the work. This meta image is much stronger than what he envisioned.

Another work, Horizons (2008), also works with this ideal of meta images. In this work the horizon stays the same as the landscapes open and close in a flowing movement. Here he deliberately used a meta image of people wondering around the work and people watching those people, so that the people are projected into the landscape, in which they are wondering.

Both meta images are related to the concepts of interpassivity that van Oenen presented earlier. Mul believes that this view from a second position is interesting, because it has a reflective quality, of seeing people trying to make sense of an environment, of which they get only clues.

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