Practitioners who engage with post digital aesthetics are concerned with processes in art-making and conceptual frameworks that assume digitality rather than treat it as an exception. Its tools are ubiquitous, situated, embedded with neoslime, embracing material speculation, curious imperfection, mawkish plasticity, rather than a transhuman sterilised alien ideal of perfection. The post digital has been discussed by artists and thinkers for almost a decade, these conversations have been abundant in the northern hemisphere. How can Australia continue to contribute to the conversation? What nuances can we add? How do artists counter or propagate existing structures of power and materiality -in the age of digital obsolescence and environmental catastrophe ? Which ethical questions are raised when we consider indigenous lore in post digital space?
To begin to seek out answers to these questions about our contemporary post-digital condition artists, musicians, scholars, and activists gathered at Siteworks Brunswick. In yarning circles, performances, talks, and installations, they will explore instants of occult computing from the arcane to the present day.
Activating the textures of Post-Digital Aesthetics (PDA): A conversation with Nancy Mauro-Flude, Tom Penney and Alana Hunt. Published in UnProjects.
Co-curated by Nancy Mauro-Flude & Tom Penney, VVitchVVavve was a Post-Digital Aesthetics Exhibition and Symposium hosted by Digital Media School of Design, RMIT University at Siteworks, Brunswick, on 8 December 2018.
Artists: Kate Geck, Patrick Hase, Mohamed Chamas, Kim D’Amazing, Tom Penney, J. Rosenbaum, Tim Dwyer, Ben Byrne and Denby Smith
Guests: Theo Trian (LA), Florian Cramer (DE/NL), Angie Abdilla (Syd/Tas), Claire Field (Syd), Annet Dekker (NL), Markéta Dolejšová (CZ) and Richie Cyngler (Tas)
Sound: Adrian Lucas-Healey, and Tim Dwyer
Alana Hunt: VVitchVVavve opened with an introduction to the day’s events as spaces to critically think about whether the ‘Post-Digital’ is an analytical term that we need in twenty-first century Australia. Can you expand a bit upon your motivations for shaping the event in this way? What is the Post-Digital? And why are we talking about it in Australia now?
Nancy Mauro-Flude: First and foremost the term, Post-Digital, comes initially from Negroponte’s 1998 (final) Wired article. Shortly after Kim Cascone coined the term in The Aesthetics of Failure: “Post-Digital” Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music (2000), inspiring Ian Andrews — an Australian media artist and theorist to write about it. He was in conversation with Cascone on the ‘Microsoun’” mail list in regard to glitch aesthetics in sound. But generally, when I hear artists in Australia discuss their work today there is almost no mention of it, although in practice I witness ubiquitous elements of Post-Digital everywhere. Although I do hear younger artists discuss their work in regard to ‘Vaporwave’ and glitch.
Some of the terms that are used instead of a wider genre Post-Digital very often focus around identity, almost to the point of a fashion. To me, it seems limiting for the community, even perhaps self-defeating. If the idea is to have more fluidity and awareness, then what I find dominant presently in artistic discussion are very unyielding categories (ironically). Also sharing perspectives and mythologies or at least art practices that afford a collective approach without the need to say, ‘socially engaged’, ‘diverse’ or ‘participatory’ and so on. In my experience these are more often tokenistic than not. Over the past year this has become very lucid. One intention for initiating VVitchVVavve was to stimulate the network with the hope that it has a ripple effect and plants a seed for longer-term discussions as we are all affected by the digital realm.
That is why are we still talking about Post Digital – it is a still a widely embraced analytical category by artists in the Northern hemisphere. Which is why we were privileged that Florian Cramer spoke so vigilantly in a meditative manner on the ambiences of the term, on the political, social and cultural contradictions we face. There is no doubt we all need tools – mythological, philosophical – to frame and discuss our work. When that is absent, local nascent art practices are left under the radar, and often only appreciated beyond our shore.
That is why I think Post-Digital is a useful term for Australian artists in 2019. Even though one may feel disinterested or feel they have no connection I would argue that everyone is affected by digital culture in 2019. VVitchVVavve encouraged a critical approach and dialogue around this. Within this, it is important to foreground twenty-first century art forms and artists that are practicing them in our locale. Personally, I am interested in stretching given interfaces and new technologies into the realm of dream and the imagination, ripping them from their function of a commonplace commodity or military inspired tool into the realm of vvitch – we all need a new millennium dilly bag and to vvitch out for each other.
Tom Penney: I have engaged more with the notion of ‘Post-Internet’ than ‘Post-Digital’, as this was the movement most relevant to me when I was developing my practice and theory post-art school in Perth and Melbourne 2010-15, and had been used by others a number of times to contextualise my own work. Theory-wise though it has always been a term I have been critical of and not one I have been comfortable associating with and I want the young artists that we work with here at VVitchVVavve to look far beyond it – so I suppose by extension this also applies to Post-Digitality and similar questions Florian Cramer has about needing it as a term, or how useful that term is or, as he puts it, as a ‘term that sucks but is useful’. Our critiques are similar. For the purposes of this discussion I see post-internet-ism as a mostly visual, arts driven, contemporary art subset of Post-Digitality.
Mine are not just concerns about post-internet-ism and Post-Digitality as technical terms. Usually this is an issue with the idea that we are ‘post’ something when we are only at the very beginning in terms of their lasting effect on humanity, but also as movements which have various assumptions and are enablers regarding artists’ relations to capital in the digital (especially, to my interests, social capital) that has encouraged what I believe are non-critical and self-serving trends in artistic production (and culture at large) most likely brought about by the assertion that ubiquitous digital tools and platforms are banal and universal, just like the air we breathe.
Digital systems are not ‘banal’ in terms of the effect they have on our lives and their social and political implications. They are owned and designed. The ability to understand and produce them requires a huge number of personal resources and access to specific education and specialist knowledge. So, this is actually a problem for artists who often don’t have those means, don’t think in those terms, and arts education which also tends not to have the ability to provide that instruction – particularly in Australia (this is something we are very concerned about in Digital Media at RMIT). So many corporations and their digital systems provide us with seductive digital tools that it makes it easy for anyone to do something aesthetic, but completely obfuscates or distracts from the chaotic depths and intricacies of their systems. As an access point for artists who don’t have the ability to work with data or code, the vernacular tools of apps like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc are useful, but they tend to leave you operating within the boundaries of what they allow you to do. And their format, which is very interesting in its own right as a challenge and produces interesting work through that tension, but you can easily use the assertion that these things are ‘banal’ as a justification for stopping there. I don’t really think the next frontier for art is what we do visually with this stuff — that’s just a digital remixing of modernist movements, self-expression, multiple perspectives, cubism, etc. — it’s what we do with data and algorithms and how we get under the hood with that as a ‘material’ that is going to be important. And I think our VVitchVVavve artists are starting to do that.
Alana Hunt: Earlier discussions were followed by an embodied acknowledgement of country and a collective string making workshop by Trawlwoolway woman Angie Abdilla, founder and CEO of Old Ways, New. The string was vastly different to the augmented realities I witnessed later in the day, but it resonated profoundly with the meme of the person using a typewriter in a park, which formed the core, with an unsuspecting twist, of Florian Cramer’s article What is ‘Post-Digital’. Could you speak to the importance of augmented and virtual reality works in this context?
Nancy Mauro-Flude: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are other ways of sharing multiple view points and stories. One could say computational media began with the relationship of the counting machine to the weaving loom – the latter an apparatus for storytelling and capturing ephemeral oral or folk histories through the application of string. The collective yarning session with string is connected to these in this way. Also, some of the VR and AR artist’s work on display spoke about the affordances of these toolsets. Mo Chamas’ work for instance was looking at the revelation of the Islamic jinn, a figure that is significant to Islam’s culture, mythology and history. These new technologies are deployed as they allow the audience to easily enter into vast capacious or abyss-like spaces that these spectres or jinns tend to haunt. It also gives an insight into what is currently a seldom encountered belief system in Australian mainstream Art or Post-Digital which seems to be, in Australia at least, almost an artistic computer subculture. So the hope is that these distinct artists we showcased contribute to the profusion of this ground.
Tom Penney: This temporal shift from assuming the work has been done ‘post’, to assuming there is plenty of work still to do, is important. This extends to socio-political work we have to do. This also involves acknowledging that such systems aren’t a constant or given like the atomic makeup of water or air—they are designed, and artists have the capacity to design (in my opinion, better than most designers), re-design and do better design work than has come previously. Angie Abdilla for example gets us to consider that these digital systems we think are someone else’s problem, ‘already done’ or ‘too large’, can be changed, in her case by working with them from within.
A lot of these artists are working with mixed reality — augmented and virtual reality. I see this far less as escapism to a techno-refuge that it could be easily written off as, and more as a desire to assert a new control over and to act and understand the means; the carving out of a constructed space that is subjectively ‘separate’ to (critically distant rather than ‘disappearing into’ others’ designed platforms), or remixes a relation to existing reality through a mixed format, on the artists’ own terms. The format allows for artists to imagine things differently while getting them to engage with programming languages and data. I have done a lot of research into the relation between play (in the digital and games sense) and art. I see these artists as ‘critically playing’, a term of Mary Flanagan’s, through their attempt to simulate the process of realities but change the rules in an attempt to get people to know them differently, and more than just see them differently, learn and calibrate themselves (especially in Patrick McMahon’s case) to them differently. This is something people do when they play games — they have access to a series of rules in a constructed world that they can alter and learn from. The difference here is that artists are in control of how these operate, rather than social media or game systems. This is related to the work throughout the day because it is about the desire to do something — to act on the material — to, as Claire Bishop was concerned, really consider how affect is filtered through the digital rather than let it always act on you, escape from it, or disappear into it.
I don’t see the younger artists such as Tim Dwyer, Theo Trian, J. Rosenbaum, Kate Geck, Mo Chamas or Patrick McMahon, at VVitchVVavve to be ‘post-internet’ artists — we are past that now. They are productively, and in some cases, optimistically cynical (and often make fun of and aim to disrupt) the performative, narcissistic surface-level engagement with available and vernacular online tools, and the rhetoric of identity entrepreneurship or ‘disappearing into’ ubiquitous online systems through self-empowerment narratives exhibited by the tired style of post-internet-ism. What distances artists at our event from ‘post-ness’ is their present-ness — their keenness to really understand, collaborate with and shape, as best as they can, the data structures, programing languages, and technical ‘material’ requirements behind what they are making. J. Rosenbaum, for example does this as a collaboration when she works back into images produced by a computer AI.
Alana Hunt: It really surprised me how much the term Post-Digital, or maybe it is more the sense of this discourse, began to resonate with me throughout the course of the day. The idea that the Post-Digital was about using technology most suited to the task at hand is emblematic of the way many ‘conceptual’ or ‘interdisciplinary’ artists frame their work. Though, as you mention, I can’t recall reading an artist bio that describes the practitioner as Post-Digital, there are so many bios describing ‘interdisciplinary’ artists. Language shifts like fashion. In 2004 I began art school in a department called ‘Electronic and Temporal Arts’ and by the time I graduated the department had been renamed ‘Film and Digital Media’. To me it felt like a small connection to an art history was lost with that name change, a certain historical contextualisation that spoke of things like super 8mm film, linear video editing, CD-ROMs, dreamweaver, and VHS, suddenly evaporated. As students we sensed this was driven by the need to meet the educational market’s demand. Yet with that name change it felt like the department’s artistic horizons narrowed a little. But then what’s really in a name? What are the tensions you have both felt as a academics and educators working internationally and within Australia, around the commercialisation of educational spheres and it’s impact on artistic experimentation with media forms.
Nancy Mauro-Flude: Tensions lie in the fact that it is mostly the case that students and artists are not taught generic computer principles and skills, hardware and software basics; they are taught how to operate makes and models of a specific brand. It is common that people use a computer as nothing more than a media player or text editor. Or at best, pre-packaged website templates where art is merely presented as a platform for the presentation of an existing work in another format or simple channel for self-promotion, not a cultural apparatus from where the action of the artwork is generated. If we are constantly being asked to solidify and reify something that in essence is always developing and changing it can be paralysing artistically. Often digital products are constructed in such a way that consumers (art practitioners) are trapped in an endless cycle of upgrades with the promise or illusion of enhanced productivity or social appeal. No to mention e-waste or toxic environmental issues from mindless consumption, which is an urgent tension and perhaps the most vital. But to keep on track — if these predefined ‘lock in’ strategies by tools are not questioned and critiqued in a playful artistic way, over time it may limit our human condition and the possibility of becoming something other… Theo Trian’s Painting performance was great example of this speculation that Post-Digital artists are advocating.
Tom Penney: To pick up on Theo Trian’s contribution, as you suggest Nancy, especially his Orc Avatar Painting performance, you can definitely see humour and satire in the work. Theo’s work plays with ideas of an avatar and anonymity or becoming-other, which is more reminiscent of 1990s attitudes in net or internet art because the identity of the artist is very obscured. In fact, the whole idea of identity and authorship is played down because the performance is about producing a large abstract painting in VR, and it makes fun of a lot of clichés about the conception and macho modernist hero-authorship of these kind of works. The characters seem dull-witted and full of themselves, which is an obvious critique of ego-driven art. It also makes fun of the material element because there are lots of questions around whether the digital painting in the 3D environment has any equivalency or status against a physical abstract painting, in addition to being ‘effortlessly’ produced. The piece plays with something normatively perceived as ‘ugly’ through the reference to fantasy, multiplayer online gaming and orcs, as well as gender through the avatar having both hyper-feminine and hyper-masculine traits. I think that using VR allows Theo to do all this through the othering of the virtual space and divorce the content much more easily from his own body than he would be able to through selfie-art or YouTube art, for example. It’s very refreshing for me, personally, to see the artist ‘hide’ and use theatrical humour and obfuscation which is hard to pull off and even quite socially dangerous in many artistic scenes.
This way of working, of using any technology at hand for a given scenario, has always been my philosophy and is a core part what both Nancy and I carry into our teaching and research in Digital Media. On the topic of the institution and education, Mark Amerika wrote about this in 2008 as a contribution to a book called Educating Artists for the Future in his chapter ‘Making Space for the Artist’. Amerika outlined a technomadic approach that requires one to apply themselves to any given medium at any given time through a constant becoming rather than becoming a master of one thing — which just isn’t possible in a digitally saturated environment where you have to skip between so many apps, platforms and identities. He called it the ‘one person art-making machine’. I think that what you have interpreted as ‘Post-Digital’ here goes by a whole lot of names and different artists have their own words for it. The ‘non-art’ form of this we could actually refer to as ‘agile’ design, but of course this has a very different texture. We could also call this ‘software-agnosticism’ when we aren’t allied as specialists of different software packages but will use whatever software is best for the problem we need to solve. Another researcher here at RMIT, Gina Moore, has written a lot about how software packages, alongside the forum tech cultures and aura surrounding different workflows, phenomenologically shoe-horn practitioners into ‘proper’ framed workflows that limit creativity and diversity of outcomes if a more fluid philosophy is not adopted. The word ‘pixel monkey’ springs to mind!
We have a similar dilemma in Digital Media at RMIT to the one you mention with the name change in your old program, where many of the staff are contemporary art trained and want to instil this historical and experimental practice in our students, but at the same time we must face the industry demand for User Experience Design, digital effects and more applied projects. When I was in art school my studio was actually called ‘Electronic Art’. We just try our best to do both and remain agile – dare I say, ‘Post-Digital’ – ourselves and give an approximate 50/50 offering of studios and projects along this split. I am certainly learning new languages, techniques and softwares every semester to be able to keep up and train my students. One of the best areas for us to broaden and expand has actually been what we call ‘Digital Environments’. As the area is so emergent with mixed reality, VR and AR there is a definite space for experimental approaches because the language or canon hasn’t been written for these platforms yet. Our more experimentally and conceptually inclined students will tend to explore here or with sound design.
Alana Hunt: It was interesting how Florian Cramer said that to call yourself a Post-Digital or post-internet artist was the 101 of what not to do if you want a career as a contemporary artist, going on to describe how today’s art world would perceive you as a kind of folk-artist practicing on Tumblr — somewhat akin to the marginalisation of the ‘artistic computer subculture’ Nancy described earlier. But Cramer’s talk was followed immediately by curator and researcher Annet Dekker who spoke passionately of her fascination with the conservation and collection of net art, and although having worked with major institutions like the Tate she seemed especially committed to supporting artists working without institutional support, while pushing at the boundaries of what was possible to conserve and collect. Cramer and Dekker’s were two, almost conflicting, attitudes clearly curated to be in dialogue within the larger program. Through your own experiences as an artist what has the analytical term ‘Post-Digital’ gifted you? And how have you navigated professionally the two terrains described by Cramer and Dekker — a form of ostracisation on one hand and bold, innovative new approaches to practice, collection and curation on the other?
Tom Penney: I think that Florian and Annet are shedding light on two different things here. Florian is saying that it is not a good idea as an individual artist to identify yourself as ‘Post-Internet’ if you are beginning your career. This is because, like we have suggested, there is new work to be done post-post-internet-ism and identifying yourself in this way could seem derivative rather than emergent, but it was fine five to ten years ago. Annett is coming from the perspective of preservation and curation, after-the-fact. What can be collected and put together using the terms of net-art, post-internet-ism, etc., by observing trends and helping the broader public to understand and appreciate them? I would interpret Florian’s critique as one of intention or the genesis of creative work rather than the method of grouping, displaying and transmitting the value of digital art. I have known people who have chased the post-internet trend overtly trying to ‘be’ that and associate with that, which ends up dominating their work with the style rather than a unique position.
There is of course though the contrast between vernacular usage and the ‘art world’ usage you allude to here, which is being more and more blurred and I don’t really have a judgement on whether this is good or bad; I think it is just inevitable along the progression of the democratisation of aesthetic forms (Walter Benjamin etc). I think it all needs to be preserved, I guess. I think Annet isn’t so interested in this contrast and is wanting to look at Post-Digitality as a whole. She sees it all as Post-Digital in the broader cultural context of how these media are embedded in everyone’s lives and the impact on the creative potential of a wider variety of people.
I think the theme of ostracisation versus innovation is a constant for contemporary digital artists, media artists, electronic artists, whatever you want to call them, and has been during all their iterations over the years. I think all of them, to varying degrees, don’t just wish to illustrate a position on their being among contemporary technology, but also want to be part of its development and understand its tools. At least I am always most excited when ‘content’ and ‘form’ explore a tension in this way. They are both inside and outside of something and this poses very interesting paradoxes for engaged audiences. In the art world this often meets with resentment because such tools are viewed politically as selling-out, automated or cheap. ‘Can’t you just edit it?’ ‘Can’t the computer just do it?’ ‘Oh, they just got the computer to make it.’ I also think that in many cases even this position is a justification hiding an underlying resentment of not being able to, from the art world’s point of view, commit the energy to figuring the stuff out themselves, and therefore carries an element of fear of the unknown; they don’t want to have to think about it or learn to appreciate it. This is of course also true for society in general, and digital interfaces are designed to take this into account and things looking easier than they really are can perpetuate this attitude. Often this kind of work is actually much more difficult, time-demanding and mentally draining to produce. I know from experience. This is why such artists often are quite hermetic or find better reception in academic or research circles because they go through such intense periods of learning and research in order to be able to get anything out of the technology.
The value of the term ‘Post-Digital’ I think has been used here mostly to tie us in Melbourne in the Southern hemisphere to the larger discussion in the North and say ‘hey, we are here doing something interesting around this, or in response to it.’ The concept of the banal ubiquity of digitality matches our artists’ dirtier, layered realising of digital work. It’s a lame parallel but George Lucas when making Star Wars didn’t want to make a clean utopian sci-fi world where every wall was white and everyone wore the same jumpsuit. He wanted to make dirty cities on other planets that seemed lived in and had layers. I think this is what Post-Digitality tries to encapsulate in regards to a digital that is lived-in and complex on a massive scale and not something other to us or idealised. I think the term is useful to contextualise the local artists within this global discussion or use as a meta-term, but it isn’t necessarily what we want to call what our artists are doing at VVitchVVavve. I think VVitchVVavve was much more emergent and is more emergent in the sense that we aren’t sure what to call it yet but we know what parts of it feel like and what their textures might be. VVitchVVavve is a deliberately obscure name that harks back to net-art and this idea of messy, imperfect tech. Because anyone who really uses it knows that it is never clean or simple. At one point we considered calling it SLIMEWITCH or something like that.
Nancy Mauro-Flude: Cramer, through a dialectic German scholarly tradition, has made a distinction between Post-Digital and Post-Internet. Of course, his is just one opinion but he is considered an expert in the former. The Post-Internet artist was humorously described as an artist that surfs the web, goes and does a painting, and then self-promotes their work on Tumblr as opposed to the more nuanced description of Post-Digital and its relationship to materiality per se. But we know these terms overlap and as convener I mediated these binaries — you may recall the conversation with artist Adrian Lucas-Healy where he concluded that perhaps it is up to artists to be more vigilant …inside the cannon rather than as a subculture…
As I experience it, Post-Digital aesthetic practitioners embrace an understanding of the choice of objects, tools, techniques, or hardware and software that are made (and their history, design and materiality). They recognise these mediums have meanings and agendas embedded in their core; cultural, political and economic interests shape them. This was eluded to in my response to your first question. When I mentioned ‘artistic computer subculture’ this was especially referring to artists that hand craft then code their tools at hand, or hold a found object up for reappraisal, rather than slavishly using off-the-shelf packaged materials as a given without question or provocation. A concrete example of a worse case scenario of an unreflexive approach to art-making with digital tools is when a sculptor decides they’ll frame their work as ‘art science’ by using a typical set of digital filters that overlay their work. These filters stand-in for by means of symbolising or aestheticising ‘science’ or ‘medical-ness’. Aesthetics are assumed but not interrogated — typically, when ‘off-the-shelf’ tools are used and pre-packaged software already inscribes the work and there is no feeling for the ‘hand of the artist’. Instead what we experience is a cookie cutter type art product shoved into a concept that may not really be related at all.
Or, to put it simply, Tom and I’s curatorial brief was about questioning the utopian promise that digital culture seems to carry in its wake, and point to these aesthetic considerations so they don’t end in such cringeworthy art, as described above.
Alana Hunt: At the same time as these discussions were taking place at VVitchVVavve artist Cigdem Aydemir was at Argyle Square in Melbourne with Arts House, completing an endurance performance. In The New National Sport Aydemir, a Muslim woman, returned serves sent from a tennis-ball throwing machine, which ejected a ball whenever the word ‘terror’ was tweeted. These tweets were projected on a screen above the court, which Aydemir (and the public) could follow as she struck each ball. Furthermore the audience could actually intervene, with their own “terror” hashtag. The New National Sport seems perfectly suited to the idea of Post-Digital Aesthetics, but I doubt it will be discussed in relation to this discourse beyond our conversation. Does this even matter?
Nancy Mauro-Flude: In regard to your comments – about the work The New National Sport speaking to the idea of Post-Digital Aesthetics (PDA) – you are right.
In 2005 New York artist and researcher Jonah Brucker-Cohen made a sculpture work with a similar formula of material and immaterial synthesis. For instance, in Alerting Infrastructure! (2003) with each new virtual hit to a website of the exhibition/festival a jackhammer slowly destroys the walls of the physical building. Specially related to terrorism, also that year he exhibited PoliceState, ‘a fleet of twenty radio controlled police vehicles that are all simultaneously controlled by data coming into the main client. The client looks for packet information relating to domestic US terrorism. Once found, the text is then assigned to an active police radio code, translated to its binary equivalent, and sent to the array of police cars as a movement sequence.’ Carnivore is surveillance software created by the FBI to snoop data (email, urls, Instant Messages, etc…) sent through Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
The New National Sport is received in the genre of Live Art, which comes with its own parlances. Not meaning to be a pedant but good historical knowledge can affect how art is conceived of by artists. This is why I believe PDAs matter — because often artists are in factions, echo chambers, reinventing the wheel only to their own peers. We must not forget here that the ongoing debate around networked art forms is that it does actually need to be networked — would the audience know if the event (whether a drill or a tennis ball shoot) was in reality actually triggered or just a random delay? As an audience member how did that add to the meaning of the networked body for you?
Which then leads back to discussions around technical proclivity and aesthetics. What we are seeing now is that the dominant discussions in the ‘artworld’ understand that the internet isn’t going away. But many of us working with the internet since the mid 1990s — which was within autonomous subcultures at the time — are visioning that digital culture and the internet will be a very different beast in five years. Hopefully not a gated community … although that seems to be manifesting.
Our central motivation is to create, present and survey emergent contemporary art practices, especially those that endeavour to expand technical disciplines from the confinement of the received sub-genres of art. The VVitchVVavve event was held in order to inevitably escape the confinement of disciplines within received genres and taxonomies. There will always be a need for events that open up inaccessible fields (and the desired acknowledgment of such). The choice of tool and interface used in an artwork provokes new situations that must be tackled; and therefore the materiality of the artwork (specifically hardware and software choices in the broadest sense) becomes inherent to the subject in question. From this perspective, an artwork is approached as an occasion to develop a prototype to solve a life puzzle or gain insight into the potentials and limitations of an emergent technology and PDAs embrace these concerns. This is the start of a manifesto outlining the principles of PDA –
Activating the Textures of PDA:
• Non-utopian/clean: messy, grimy, textured, glitched, warped – materially does not need to be beautiful, vain or perfect.
• Doesn’t centre on the self or identity of the artist or, if it does, it is satirical or downplays the role of ego in the work, and by extension is not about self-empowerment, entrepreneurship or income.
• Can use humour, playfulness and satire rather than total sincerity – perhaps this is born of an irony, or inability to reconcile a number of tensions between being inside and outside of the tech and its implications at the same time.
• Constructs other, separate spaces to ubiquitous digital systems – influence from games, 3D and digital spatial environments – in which the artist has subjective control in shaping a representation of the world, or another world, and its rules of operation and participation – differently or critically, rather than total participation in the online space as it is. This can separate it from corporations owning and dictating the outcomes.
• Interest in magic, witchiness, paganism, spirituality and creating work from this tension with technology and ideas of progress – or ideas that electricity is like life, or code is like magic.
• Many queer and gender-diverse themes and participants wishing to see things on their own terms rather than through preconceived binaries, labels and normative arrangements.
• Genuine interest in present-ness and being part of something or imagining change for others rather than what other people have done – emphasis on gaining the skills and knowledge to do this oneself and build and influence their own systems, rather than working on the surface of other peoples’ tools.
• Desire for decolonised representations of technology and influence from non-Christian faiths and non imperialist backgrounds.