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Contemporary Art Biennial Opens in Seville Including Works by Nam June Paik and Bill Viola
Work of art on view at Seville Biennial.
SEVILLE.- The Seville Biennial is — indeed, a global Biennial. Contemporary art production is not restricted to Europe and North America, but takes place all over the globe, from Chile to Korea. The Biennial makes a new map of Global Art, World Art. The Biennial tries to initiate a shift of paradigm: from the Euramerican paradigm to the Eurasian and Eurabian paradigm. This could be achieved by addressing this shift through the specific aspect of media and technology, that technology is transreligious, transgender, transnational and transracial.

In this age of information and communications technology (ICT), how the world is perceived and enacted is increasingly dominated by the media, and the influence of the media on art is also on the increase. The Biennale shows how contemporary art worldwide has changed through the influence of media, technology, and science. ICT owes its development to the findings of science, from semiconductor physics to nano-technology. Thus the common point of origin of the media and media art is science and technology. So how are the equations between technology and art, nature and science defined in a new way? Earlier, this question was downplayed through the use of the conjunction “and,” for example, media and art, art and technology, or art and science. A more radical answer is enabled when that conjunction is replaced by another, “as:” for example, culture as technology, science as art, and so on. If this method is applied, then new consequences arise as a result, which this Festival exhibits in the form of exemplary artworks.

The Biennial is structured according to four spheres:

Section 1 offers a retrospective view of the great masterpieces of media art, from Nam June Paik to Bill Viola. Also included are little known artistic positions, which deserve to be relocated from the periphery to the center.

Section 2 showcases the very latest trends in media art: interactivity and participation of the public, Internet art, and multiplayer media, the spectator as user. Using state-of-the art technology the art at the Biacs 3 will open a gateway onto an unknown world that science, technology, art, and media place at our disposal, a world where humans are central and can influence the world in any way they wish.

In Section 3 the transformations in architecture through the use of computers and new software programs are on display that generate new forms of conviviality. Biomorphic architecture is emerging that goes far beyond the deconstructivist demolition of the White Cube and the Black Box as the basic module of architecture. In the new architecture the boundary between system (building) and environment (nature) is variable. We cannot destroy the notion of a boundary because we need it; however, we can vary it. To vary and adjust the relations between humans and environment architecture invents new technological interfaces. These interfaces provide for a variable exchange of signals between environment and system. In the future a great deal can be expected from architecture that consciously and deliberately connects internal systems, like a house, with the external environment, the city. Architecture will invent new interfaces.

Section 4 is the city of Seville itself. The exhibition not only takes place in CAAC, but also in public spaces in the city as well as in the city of Granada, in the Palace of Charles V (Alhambra). The purpose of these annexes is to delve into the archaeology and deep time of the sciences and technology in Andalusia, and demonstrate that Andalusia has a long history of science, technology, and art.

The Biennial’s goal is the participation of the public. There is a democratization of art. The audience is the star, not the artists.

Looking makes people happy, and experiencing art can be euphoric. The encounter with art at the Biennial of Seville makes people euphoric.

Technology as human-made Nature

Recent scientific discoveries in the fields of molecular electronics, molecular biology, molecular chemistry, and genetics, which may be grouped under the heading of nanotechnology and life sciences, indicate that we are at the threshold of a material revolution. Physics has invaded the subatomic molecular dimension of matter and expects to discover new properties of matter in these molecular dimensions.

ICT is a major enabler of globalization, including global dissemination of and global access to information. At the same time through applying scientific knowledge humans have learned to intervene increasingly in natural environment. The book of nature, which up to now we could only read, is now being rewritten by humankind. Up to now we could read the genetic code, in future we will learn to write the genetic code. In this context new questions arise to which art has some answers on hand. Is technology merely applied science and as such only the offspring of science? Is science, the study of nature, a child of nature or a child of humankind? If technology and science are but children of nature, that is, imitating and applying natural laws, but at the same time are indebted to human cognitive abilities, can we then say that technology is artificial, human-made nature? These questions are concerns both of contemporary science and of contemporary media art.

Therefore, it is imperative to take a contemporary look at the relations between media, art, science, and technology.

The Participatory Universe: Interactive Art

youniverse’ means that “you,” that is, everyone, stands in the center of the universe. ‘youniverse’ also means that at the same time “you” are a part of the universe and thus responsible for it. ‘youniverse’ means that the universe’s structure is participatory: you, the observer, are a part of the system that you observe.

The quantum physicist John Archibald Wheeler has described the universe as a self-excited circuit. In a famous diagram we see a “U” for universe, an “I” for I, me, and an eye as a part of the universe that it is looking at. This figure not only conveys the quantum physics notion of a participatory universe, but also the idea of the participating observer.

This worldview of quantum physics agrees with contemporary praxis of media art, which also lives on the idea of observer participation. The interactivity of artwork and viewer thus reflects the relationship of universe and observer. Art and science have common blueprints of the world, as quantum physics and media art demonstrate.

David and Shlomit Ritz Finkelstein have shown in “Computer interactivity simulates quantum complementarity” (1983) that quantum physics can be regarded as a theoretical model for interactive media.

Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle has taught us that the act of observing itself influences and restricts the measurement of the world; that in a certain way the act of observation changes reality. A public statement about the stock exchange can change the behavior of stocks and shares. This led the renowned financial expert George Soros to name his hedge fund Quantum Fund.

The aim of all desire, particularly apparent in the infantile phase of development, is that the world should comply with one’s wishes. “Subdue the Earth” was the imperative of classical economy of labor. “By the sweat of his brow” man attempted to achieve mastery over nature. ‘youniverse’ on the contrary means: the world was made for you, you are at the center of the world, which is arranged and behaves as you like it. In former times this paradisiacal state of affairs could only be achieved artificially, by means of drug-induced “artificial paradises” or through religious rituals and exercises. Today technology replaces religious rituals and profane narcotics.

Not only with the title of his play As You Like It, but also with the monologue he gave to the singular Jaques — “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players” — the genius of Shakespeare seems to anticipate like no other the contemporary virtual world of the Internet and the artificial, three-dimensional, interactive game worlds (multiplayer media, massively parallel online games), which are increasingly expanding and improving the real world. As You Like It is the real manifesto of the virtual age that is now beginning in the twenty-first century as a second life, as a parallel artificial double of natural life. Second life could become a virtual place for cultural memory, the place for the history of Al-Andalus.

Mobilization

In the nineteenth century, in the industrial age, mechanical mobilization began. Railways, airplanes, and automobiles dominated the imagination and visions of the future. This mechanical mobilization concerned the transportation of goods and human bodies.

In the postindustrial twentieth century electronic mobilization began. The signs separated from the bodies and the signs were able to travel alone. Radio, television, and telephone enabled the mobility of information. The global network, the global system of interconnected computers, the development of mobile computers and telephones not only enhance mobility, they introduce a new characteristic of technology: personalization.

Agreement can be assumed regarding the proposition that technology aids us humans to master nature, and thus technology humanizes nature. Likewise, there is probably agreement that Europe would not have maintained its position of supremacy in the world for centuries without science and without its technical know-how; technology also enabled the control of people. Without knowledge of astronomy, navigation, and shipbuilding — early technologies of mobilization — Spain would not have been able to colonize other countries. Without its prowess in engineering (mining, hydroelectric power, urban planning) Spain would not have been able to exploit nature and the resources in its colonies. Thus mastery of science and technology not only serve to dominate nature, but also to dominate people.

Personalization

In the past technology and science served the powerful few. By contrast, today technology and science tendency serve everyone. Thus science and technology not only signify the humanization of nature, but first and foremost individualization and personalization of nature and the environment. From water taps to light switches, from personal computers to cell phones we encounter technologies that allow users to arrange and design their environment according to their needs, at all times and everywhere. You stand at the center of the universe and the universe adapts itself through ongoing technicalization; that is, increasing humanization and personalization of nature according to your needs. Personalization of technology results in a world behaving as you like it.

The dissemination of knowledge to all, and this personalization of technology, serves enlightenment, emancipation, and democratization.

Art, too, is included in this democratization. Painters no longer have a monopoly on creating images ever since photography made it possible for everyone to take pictures. In the global expansion of the Internet there is almost unlimited storage space in which any user can try out his or her creativity. Artists, in the age of Youtube.com, Flickr.com, MySpace.com, and Second Life, lose their monopoly on creativity. Using contemporary media everyone can be artistically creative. As Joseph Beuys said back in 1970, “every person is an artist.”







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