Friday 23 January 2009

Requiem for the Network: First Stage

Back in July of 2008 I was introduced by Cecilia Wee to Olaf Ardnt and Janneke Schönenbach of BBM, who invited me to take part in their forthcoming show at Akademie der Künste in Berlin – see the Embedded Art post on January 18 for more details on the exhibition. Olaf and Janneke had heard my Radio 3 feature on the RAND Corporation and thought that I might have something to say on the subject of art that exists ‘in the name of security’ After some lengthy discussion they asked me to devise some kind of chart that would map out the historical relationships between artists, intellectuals and the military-industrial complex.

Having previously created a series of seven conspiracy maps for Bizarre magazine under the collective title ‘Only Connect’, in which groups of 30 individual names were intricately linked into specific political conspiracies, I had grown increasingly interested in the process of mapping out complex or highly abstract concepts. History can only ever exist as text. It is only ever rewritten. The great thing about conspiracy theories is that they elevate the incidental to the level of text: one moment is tied another through a complex interweaving of historical footnotes, references and statements. The Warren Commission Report on the Kennedy Assassination is Ulysses rewritten by a committee of political appointees: the events of a single day in a single city, examined from every possible perspective.

The initial research for what was to become ‘Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation’ began with Herbert Marcuse’s observation, made in One-Dimensional Man, that ‘The Enemy’ is part of the normal state of affairs - not just the state of emergency. Marcuse’s own involvement with the OSS during World War II added an extra dimension to this remark. At the same time I started meeting with designer Rathna Ramanathan – a colleague from CSM who shared my interest in mapping out complex configurations of information – to see if there was any way we could collaborate on the project. It soon became clear from our conversations that McLuhan’s observation that ‘information overload produces pattern recognition’ – supposedly derived from a 1960s IBM advertising campaign – was going to play a defining role in the development of the ‘Requiem’.

Today the Embedded Art show will be opened up to the general public in Berlin for the first time. Over the coming weeks I shall be putting together a series of posts on the development of 'Requiem for the Network: Six Degrees of Devastation' from a collection of sketches, codes and drafts to a sequence of four interconnected A0 posters on display in the secure confines of the Akademie basement.

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