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ECAM 2008 conference in Mexico CityECAM 2008 conference in Mexico City
Cybism @ ECAM 2008 Mexico City

These brief words are an attempt to outline for ECAM 2008 what I am calling Cybism by stating what I take to be its underlying attributes.

Cybism is a new sensibility emerging in art respecting the integration of certain aspects of science, technology and consciousness – a consciousness struggling to attend to the prevailing current spirit of our age. This cybistic zeitgeist I identify as being precisely a quality-of-life desire in which everything, everywhere, all at once is connected in a rhizomatic web of communication. Therefore, cybism is no longer content with the regurgitation of standardized repertoires. Rather I detect in art a fertile attraction towards the abstractions of advanced scientific discovery - discovery now stripped of its fundamentally reductive logical methodology.

Moreover, cybism can be used to characterize a certain group of researchers and their understanding of where cultural space is developing today. Cybists reflect on system dynamics with a hybrid blending (cybridization) of the computational supplied virtual with the analog. Digitization is a key metaphor for the cybists only in the sense that it is the fundamental translating system today.

This blending of the computational virtual with the analog indicates the subsequent emergence of a new cybrid topological cognitive-vision that I have called the ‘viractual’: the space of connection betwixt the computed virtual and the uncomputed corporeal (actual) world which merge in cybism. This cybrid space of cybism can be further inscribed as a span of liminality, which according to the anthropologist Arnold van Gennep (based on his anthropological studies of social rites of passage) is the condition of being on a threshold between spaces.

Concerning this cybrid topological cognitive-vision, I am reminded here of two very different, yet complimentary, concepts: entrainment and égréore. Entrainment, in electro-physics, is the coupling of two or more oscillators as they lock into a commonly sensed interacting frequency. In alchemical terms an égréore (an old form of the word agréger) is a third concept or phenomenon that is established from conjoining two different elements together. I suggest that the term (concept) cybrid (and cybism) may be a concordant entrainment/égréore conception helpful in defining this third fused inter-spatiality that is forged from the meeting of the virtual and the actual.

Co-extensive notions found in cybism have piquant ramifications for art as product in that the cybists are actively exploring the frontiers of science/technology research so as to become culturally aware of the biases of consciousness in order to amend those biases through the monumentality and permanency which can be found in powerful art. They begin with the realization that every [new] technology disrupts the previous rhythms of consciousness. Then, generally speaking, they pursue their work in an effort to contradict the dominant clichés of our time, as they tend to move in their regimented grooves of sensibility. In this sense their art research begins where the hard science/technology ends.

Most certainly cybists understand that in every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. Hence the role of the cybist is that of the explorer/researcher. The function of such an explorationaly inclined artist however is not to only find, but to participate in and foster a constant instability of consciousness, to mitigate against self-stabilizing formations so as to encourage internal ‘cybomatic’ connections to sprout and expand. This integration goes far towards exemplifying an aesthetic that has a problematic relationship to material science-based reality.

Today, with the emergence and continual growth of cyberspace, it seems that no sense of closure will ever be able to contain the deterritorialization articulated and monumentalized by cybism.

Consequently, cybism has begun articulating a new techno-digital sense of life. By looking at the complex social and technological changes already occurring within the 21st century, cybists seem to perceive the world now as a kaleidoscopic environment in which every tradition has some valid residual form as information and sensation. A world of perpetual transformation has emerged and established a seemingly unrestricted area of abundant options.

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I just came back to this, I find it spot on the current crisis:


Previous cultural forms have been exhausted as self-consciousness has turned into self-enclosure. Self-expression has been eclipsed by a field-network of interaction. So, the next phase in consciousness will only come when all our attachments to the old forms and methods have been obliterated. Everything has become transparent. Information bits flow in a vague whirl while this proliferation, which seems to have no purpose, forms slowly, imperceptibly, bit by bit, into a mass somewhere deep in the gray recesses of the neural context; remnant whispers of a once dominant cultural form. Congealed formation is in a state of information and dismemberment. Fleeting solidity rips out and dissolves form from its old content, providing visions of resolve and improvement over dilemmas left behind. Substance less collectively reverberates internally, beyond intellect and will, in an inner-external detoxification which breaks pop open and drains mythic consciousness of authenticity. In our media-permeated atmosphere the search is to not repeat what has been learned. The learned form must be cracked open through chaos to make room for other views. Fast paced dumbness and reactionary codes are made difficult and resistant to bourgeoisification. The logic of the image, of the whole media society, of postmodernism in general, is satiated in an overabundance and counter-fusion. One goes all the way through and comes out the other side, ecstatic and covered in excrement. This hyper overproduction is the space of refusal today. The only space from which to develop awareness, a theoretical awareness, of the reification of consciousness. Are we at the beginning of a new metaphor for the system? A Big Bang theory pushing us beyond the vanishing point? A theoretical black hole? The aftermath of the dissolution of form is not a reductive simplification. Rather, an analogy can be drawn to the primordial plenitude, subject-object unity, or Benjamin's dialectical image. The money mushroom cloud is seeking repose, as astonished eyes behold the self-cannibalization of nostalgic fetishism. Distorted ideologies bubble and burp their way to the top of the cesspool. Media adulation, commodity consciousness, technocratic mind set, all collide and cancel each other out in an orgy of fazed media mirages, a mindless bombardment of consumption-consumption, resolving itself in an all-round social awareness. Complete self-consciousness is meta-consciousness. Depth consciousness is formed from the debris of superficiality and fragmentation. New neurological circuits are connected, mutating consciousness. The characteristics of this new neurological mutation are high velocity, multiple choice, relativity, and the fission-fusion of all perceptions into alternate possibilities. From Overload to Overmind.

Nechvatal, J. 1988. "Reorganized Meditations on Mnemonic Threshold" In M/E/A/N/I/N/G Contemporary Art Issues, No. 4, November, 1988, Republished in M/E/A/N/I/N/G: an anthology of artists' writings, theory, and criticism, Susan Bee & Mira Schor eds., Duke University Press, 2000, pp. 354-355

M/E/A/N/I/N/G brings together essays and commentary by over a hundred artists, critics, and poets, culled from the art magazine of the same name. The editors-artists Susan Bee and Mira Schor-have selected the liveliest and most provocative pieces from the maverick magazine that bucked commercial gallery interests and media hype during its ten-year tenure (1986-96) to explore visual pleasure with a culturally activist edge. With its emphasis on artists' perspectives of aesthetic and social issues, this anthology provides a unique opportunity to enter into the fray of the most hotly contested art issues of the past few decades: the visibility of women artists, sexuality and the arts, censorship, art world racism, the legacies of modernism, artists as mothers, visual art in the digital age, and the rewards and toils of a lifelong career in art. The stellar cast of contributing artists and art writers includes Nancy Spero, Richard Tuttle, David Humphrey, Thomas McEvilley, Joseph Nechvatal, Laura Cottingham, Johanna Drucker, David Reed, Carolee Schneemann, Whitney Chadwick, Robert Storr, Leon Golub, Charles Bernstein, and Alison Knowles.This compelling and theoretically savvy collection will be of interest to artists, art historians, critics, and a general audience interested in the views of practising artists.

The Allure of Machinic Life

Here is Jussi Parikka's review of The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI by John Johnston

I did the cover for the book and read it furiously, learning so much.