Reproduced below are the annual thematic artist calls for the Screengrab International Media Arts Award. Each year the theme is designed to reflect current issues associated with critical media theory and the wider socio-political concerns that operate at the fringes of network culture. Past themes have included Intervention (2009), Network (2010), Nostalgia (2011), Control (2012), Ambience (2013) Velocity (2014) and Resistance (2015).
Screengrab7 :: Resistance (2015)
Disrupt the information flow
We live in contradictory times. Irrespective of our geography we are wedged between the hegemony of entrenched oppositional forces. In a sense, we are the collateral damage of their friction. Of the old rallying against the new, of bold invention and nostalgic yearning, of extreme science and conservative politics, of terror and anti-terror, of social inclusion and those who seek to divide and to conquer.
Art endures in between these kinetic forces, lurking at the edges of their chaotic and often destructive interplay. As Jacques Ranciere has observed, “to resist is to adopt the posture of someone who stands opposed to the order of things”. In this space, art – and its protagonists – demonstrate “a willing deference to established forms of domination and exploitation.”
Art can resist time, the object of art can persist long after the fight has been won or lost. We put up monuments of art to speak on our behalf when all else has seemingly failed. The act of its creation resists the forces that would seek to oppose its very existence. Such is the oppositional nature of politics, capital and culture.
Screengrab7 seeks works that not only interrogate the status quo by resisting the doctrine of their inevitability but also demonstrate that these entrenched systems of control are themselves resistant to change. Resistance can be viewed as both a liberating force and an agent of destabilisation. Resistance can disrupt the flow of information, bend the circuitry, jam the signal and hack the network.
If art is a political act, then media art is a technologically enabled one. How can screen based media embody the notion of resistance? What is it that we see when we peer out of the virtual panopticon of our contemporary cities, shopping malls, office blocks and vessels of transportation with our networked devices of communication?
Indeed by making art we are conducting an act of resistance. We are subverting accepted norms, we are stepping outside of the media stream – or directly in front of it – and making a calculated statement. Through media interventions we can point toward alternative pathways, expose bias and stand apart from the common binary politics of our times. As Graham Harman notes, “As philosophers, we’re not supposed to be swept along with the Zeitgeist, we’re supposed to be resisting it.”
We resist political rhetoric by asking questions of language, of history and of context. We resist surveillance by pointing the camera back at the watchers. We resist the recurring bile of racism, sexism and bigotry by subverting stereotypes by creating new forms of beauty and a more interconnected sense of identity. We resist the predatory nature of capital and the upward linearity of growth and accumulation by challenging notions of value and currency with alternative definitions of wealth and new expressions of personal freedom.
For Screenrab7 all forms of resistance will be considered: the politics of resistance, the physics of resistance, the messiness of resistance, and the urgency of resistance. In this age of contradiction – and as Bruce Sterling has observed, of “favela chic and gothic high-tech” – it is the duality of our relationship to the forces of order and control that is under examination here.
We resist, not as some might have it – to impede or to destroy the status quo – indeed, that would be too obvious, too easy, and too predictable. Resistance through art making, through creative expression, is subtler and more nuanced than that. The act of resistance in art, as in life, is to demand a more complex, empathetic and interconnected human experience.
Screengrab6 :: Velocity (2014)
Change / at speed / everywhere
The rushing up of the Earth from below as we leap into the unknown is a strong pervasive force. The comings and goings of objects, the rhizomatic fever of life – of memories and of perception – is the stuff of both nature and the machine but also the stuff of change – of a compelling need to move forward, at pace. Since the millennium we have been moving away in linear time from the trauma of the 20th century, history accumulating behind us as we hurtle towards an undefined future. Yet there also seems to be a reductive velocity at work, the future appears to be expanding only in our mind’s eye – in the stories we tell ourselves, in the frames of the cinematic moment and the pixels of our most fantastic dreaming. If we stand still long enough the hyper-reality becomes apparent. Information is expanding at an exponential rate – images, sound and text – authoring a new present-future space of mobility, of interconnectedness and most of all of rapid accelerating change. Equal parts chaos and perfection – of truth and of fiction – a dark and light exposure.
It is the making of us, this velocity of things. It is both our return to Earth and our mastery of its physics. Our identity and our collective history is fast becoming a vast data repository of machine vision – a rapid prototyping of our future selves. Financial transactions, personal communications, intimate moments exist inside this simulation of machine speed. Artificial intelligence observes, correlates, measures and makes split second decisions on our behalf. Notions of surveillance, fears for our privacy, the dilution of our identity and the voyeuristic connotations of relational databases make up the machine’s vision of us and our world. Can we keep apace of these algorithmic patterns? Can we author new vistas, new dreamscapes, new directions?
Meanwhile, history keeps up a steady persistent pace: the image loops, the cogs turn, the velocity increases, and the hyper-real maintains its seductive play.
Screengrab5 :: Ambiance (2013)
See like a camera / listen like a microphone / track like a satellite
Big beautiful data is everywhere. Sounds are everywhere. Images are everywhere. Our lives are tracked relentlessly. The network sends and receives everything. We capture, post, follow, share and archive. Data becomes us.
March 2013 was the 100-year anniversary of the publication of Luigi Rusullo’s Art of Noises, and in the ensuing century the proliferation of mechanical noise has reached a critical density. Our accumulated audio-visual virtuality has been working towards a zeitgeist moment for some time. David Gelernter, researcher at Yale, has been foregrounding the concept of “life streaming” for several decades. Now it would seem, the stream has become a torrent.
Today we live to the beat of signals, alarms and alerts – a constant stream of audio-visual reminders that we live in increments of time amidst layers of metadata. We move and we are tracked by GPS, recognised by software, matched against databases, evaluated by life-tracking devices and mapped by our profiles and usernames. This new aesthetic of machine ambiance is at once an embodiment of our private present selves but also an ambient beautification of what lies in our wake. Photo streams, playlists, check-ins, recommendations, resolutions, bucket-lists, posts, comments and feeds all embellishing the spaces and flows of our virtual habitats. We have become the exquisite beast in the garden, with all her flair, colour and boundless expression.
Images of you and me and us are embedded into this fanfare as icons of our identity. This aural and visual accumulation of our lives has created an immense data pool that is embellished by everything we see and everything that we say on the network. This meta-ambiance is cross-fading our public, commercial and private spaces like tracks on an iPod Shuffle. We remix our environment by just being present in it. We bring our own signal noise with us wherever we go. We are fast becoming the sample bank of a dense ambient mix of images and sound.
But what does this look like? With what forms of expression is this data being exposed? How do we construct our own ambient worlds? How is Big Data constructing it for us? What do we show and what do we choose to conceal and what is beyond our control? Where does our ambiance end and where do that of others begin? How do our rituals of culture, work and family inform who we are through the ambient streams we leave in our wake?
The 5th International Screengrab New Media Arts Award seeks works that explore the theme of ambiance – personal, virtual and commercial – and all its private, political and social connotations. Creators, imagineers and explorers of big data, augmented reality, data aesthetics, generative art, audio/visual collage and interactive environments are encouraged to submit works that address the theme of the ambiance.
Screengrab5 Winner :: Vessel by Yasmijn Karhof / Jasper van den Brink, (2013, Netherlands)
Screengrab4 :: Control (2012)
Who holds all the bits?
The contemporary media milieu would suggest an evolving devolution of the traditional notion of the “society of control”. The boundaries of enclosures and spaces are no longer the rigid and defined perimeters they once were. The browser, the mobile camera/screen are new enabling simulations the user can exploit to navigate alternative pathways, to experience new modes of expression and to participate in global cultural exchange.
This is reflected online and on the street. In our political discourse and our social interactions. And it is most visible when repatriated via the mainstream media and traditional news editorials coupled with wild proclamations of “new freedoms” accompanied by “real change”.
Yet what has really changed? What do these new counter measures look like on the ground? Where do the subversions play out? What new questions are we asking of our environment and of ourselves?
In the same evolving moment new far less visible forms of control are emerging that use these very same technological platforms: surveillance networks, social media, data mining algorithms, privacy interventions, sophisticated image gathering techniques and drone technologies. These aggregators of data and network traffic are rapidly translating our private, public and social lives into valuable sets of relational data – re-writing the notion of identity, weaving new paradigms of control.
Screengrab4 Winner :: Ylem by Jo Lawrence, (2012, UK)
Screengrab3 :: Nostalgia (2011)
Nostalgia runs deep in the network.
The clean lines and coded purity of interface culture and consumer electronics belies a deeper yearning for the origins of new media. 8 Bit games, glitch art, stop motion video, audio distortions and retro stylings are cropping up throughout the networked landscape as artists unpack, smudge, melt, data-mosh and retrace their steps back to the early halcyon days of digital media. Tactile, fluid, fuzzy analogue aesthetics are emerging in surprising places as the origins of our streamlined relationship with technology and the world around us is interrogated, encoded and telegraphed into our livings rooms, browsers and pockets.
Jaron Lanier in his text, You Are Not A Gadget, calls for a more humanist approach to the way we participate in network culture and insists we must seek always to preserve our individuality in such exchanges. Retro leanings and nostalgic turns speak to this desire. It reveals the human in the electronic interface. It celebrates the mistake, the error, the uniqueness and the beauty of the digital aesthetic at a critical time in the evolution of media arts practice.
The 2011 Screengrab New Media Arts Award and associated exhibition is looking for challenging creative works by media artists who have a yearning for the past and seek to examine the future. We invite these digital practitioners working in screen based media to submit works on the theme of the Nostalgia.
Screengrab3 Winner :: Summertime Flies by Jason Robinson & Nathan Halverson, (2011, USA)
Screengrab2 :: Network (2010)
The Network will be visualised.
Increasingly we live in a world which is marked by boundaries and difference. Our actions are categorised and labelled for reference, sign posting and evaluation. The Network breathes and crackles between these spaces, it makes the virtual tangible.
The Network overcomes these boundaries by supporting difference, tolerance and equity between individuals, machines and their actions. The Network is a production tool for artisans, a calibrating tool for media communicators and an ecological template for our continued survival and reinvention. It is as much a social mechanism as it is a cultural barometer for these plugged-in data intensive times.
Following Screengrab’s inaugural success of last year’s exhibition we are announcing an international callout for the 2010 New Media Arts Prize. We invite digital practitioners working in screen based media to submit works on the theme of the Network.
Screengrab2 Winner :: Fluid Network by Juliana Gotillaand Izabel Harbach, (2010, Italy)
Screengrab1 :: Intervention (2009)
Increasingly we live in a world which is marked by boundaries and difference. Our actions are categorised and labelled for reference, sign posting and evaluation.
Intervention is the new catch-cry of these troubled times and no one is immune whether it be remote indigenous communities, Wall St bankers, tropical forests, the built environment, economies of the state, small gatherings in shopping malls, subliminal advertising, ISPs, online discussion forums or pop cultural sites like Facebook and the Sopranos.
Screengrab’s inaugural exhibition and new media arts prize invite digital practitioners working in screen based media to submit works on the theme of Intervention.
Screengrab1 Winner :: Tank Man Tango by Deborah Kelly, (2009, Australia)