[NetBehaviour] First review of Frankenstein Reanimated :-)

M F mnfinkel at gmail.com
Sat Sep 3 16:14:12 CEST 2022


What a thoughtful and thorough  review -
I look forward to reading the book
Warmly
Meredith

On Sat, Sep 3, 2022 at 7:08 AM marc.garrett via NetBehaviour <
netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org> wrote:

> Hi all,
>
> Just saw a review of Frankenstein Reanimated and because some of you on
> the list are in the book I thought you'd be interested in reading it.
>
> Mytho recommends (Phil Smith):
>
> Frankenstein Reanimated: Creation & Technology in the 21st Century (Eds.
> Marc Garrett & Yiannis Colakides) Torque Editions, 2022
> https://www.facebook.com/mythogeography/posts/5907704932592518
>
> This has been a very strange read for me. I have no attraction to or
> understanding of the technical side of programming. I read Erik Davis’s
> ‘TechGnosis’ back in 1998 when it first came out and, already anti-gnostic
> and anti-transcendentalist, my suspicions about an information-based
> society were heightened. I have pretty much remained that way ever since;
> extending my wariness to information technology-based arts. Perhaps, I just
> haven’t seen that wonderful piece to change my mind, though even one of the
> artists interviewed in ‘Frankenstein Reanimated’ worries at the “VR
> Headsets that provide clothes for hackneyed metaphors”.
>
> What brought me to read the book is my engagement with Mary Shelley’s
> novel ‘Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus’, co-writing a stage
> adaptation (which also drew on the Universal movies) back in 2005, which
> has continued to tour intermittently ever since and was last year turned
> into a musical at the Deutsches Theater in Munich. The early parts of
> ‘Frankenstein Re-Animated’ address the abiding significance of the novel in
> some detail, and then the interviews with various ‘media artists’ take over
> – a monster taking control of its own life – and the book moves further
> away from Mary Shelley and her engagement with stitching flesh and sparking
> philosophy in dead brain matter.
> In his preface, Yiannis Colakides describes “a widening knowledge-gap in
> the use and understanding of technologies” between hackers who operate as a
> “vectoralist class.... [who] control.... information flows; and the
> majority who are all too often taken for a ride by their technologies”. It
> is this problematic relationship that seems to haunt – as Mary Shelley’s
> monster plagues its creator, asking difficult questions and exacting
> revenge – the artworks that ‘Frankenstein Reanimated’ describes and
> discusses. In the vast majority of the examples – drawn from exhibitions in
> Gíjon, London and Limassol – the technologies are deployed to critique and
> even undo themselves; many draw on what Marc Garrett describes as the
> effects of the new technologies to “have profoundly displaced and decentred
> how we understand humans and humanity’s agency and corporality” in order to
> explore those displacements and decentrings in what Gregory Sholette and
> Olga Kopenkina call the “capitalist-realist... un-present”.
>
> Artworks explore the “potential harm of recognition technology”, how
> technology carries racial assumptions as ‘universals’; gallery visitors are
> drawn into making and choosing assumptions for image filtration. But when
> an artist says “What is amazing to me....  is that people really get into
> labelling each other” you want to shout back – ‘but that is what your
> artwork asks them to do!’ Rather like the options in Luke Rhinehart’s
> (George Cockcroft’s) ‘The Dice Man’ (1971) or Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0
> (1974) – why are the options of sexual assault, a bullet and a gun, even in
> there? There is an inbuilt manipulation that looks like choice or agency;
> an implication and incorporation that is within the very structures and
> techniques of the works that both address their themes in critique and
> enact them simultaneously. It is jaw-dropping to read an artist who first
> explains their work as “inspired.... by reading... about the autonomous
> weapons systems... which... ‘conflate the act of seeing and killing’” and
> then, on being asked to explain why the “visual universe” of their piece is
> “so cold and clean”, replies that it is “just a pragmatic choice....
> everything that I am not trying to point to is at default value”.
>
> But wasn’t Mary Shelley starting with a default value, with a dismembered
> body/bodies, bringing the default of the graveyard to life and not only
> asking questions of it, but having it ask questions of everything. Pushing
> the new technologies beyond their functional limits often has intriguing
> and attention-grabbing effects, distorting figures and landscapes in ways
> reminiscent of historical and contemporary human artists, but then the
> suspicion is all the time that these effects are the remnants of the art
> history education of the programmers rather than any novel interruption of
> productions of the obvious. It is disheartening to read an artist bemoan
> “the pre-existing bias of my initial dataset... The results may have been
> further distorted by technical bias due to technical constraints of the
> algorithm”.  As artist Mary Flanagan says, almost in despair: “I keep
> wondering why we are on this quest to make artificial systems emotive....
> why we invent things just to invent them, thinking that somehow anything
> new improves our lives”. And yet the artworks keep on coming as each new
> wave of artists ‘discovers’ the possibilities of (and funding for) arts and
> new technologies.
>
> If I came away with a slightly refined animosity, I would not want to
> discourage anyone from reading this book; it is endlessly fascinating. It
> never flinches from the difficulty of this work and the mind-bending
> tangles that contort the artists working with it, often in interfaces with
> terrifying state and fiscal systems. Paul Vanousse’s article (he was
> investigated by the FBI who attempted to enter his studio and home, two of
> his previous collaborators were prosecuted) is a welcome reminder of just
> how dangerous some of these themes/threats can be.
>
> ‘Frankenstein Reanimated’ is perhaps most powerful and engaging when it
> addresses the technology not as a “tool” or an expansion of the artists’
> themes, but as an agency in itself: “a growing chorus of techno-objects
> that insistently asks us to drill the Arctic, build pipelines, burn coal”
> (Eugenio Tisselli). The “monster” does not feed us, it wants us to feed it,
> otherwise, it threatens, it will takes its revenge; those who serve and
> obey it can participate in its feeding frenzy “where the secret sauce of
> memetic media meets the magic sauce of right-wing billionaires,
> underwriting political campaigns to facilitate a wholesale move to the hard
> right” (Ami Clarke). But as Mary Flanagan says: “why are we on this quest?”
>
> Anyone interested in a copy go here -
> https://torquetorque.net/publications/frankenstein-reanimated/
>
>
>
> Wishing you well
>
> Marc
>
> =============>
>
> DR Marc Garrett - https://marcgarrett.org/
> Furtherfield - http://www.furtherfield.org
> DECAL - http://decal.is/
> Bio - https://marcgarrett.org/bio/
> CV - https://marcgarrett.org/cv/ <http://decal.is/>
> <http://decal.is/>
>
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