Monday, 5 April 2010

CTheory Interview Archaeologies of Media Art

Its out, the discussion on media archaeology and a bit on media art as well that we conducted with Garnet Hertz. Still waiting to hear more feedback on it, but for me, the key bits are;

- articulation of media archaeology not only as a textual method; a theme that for example Garnet is a specialist on. In other words, the need to develop methodological ideas (and articulate them) of media archaeology in artistic spheres.
- flag the existence of competing and contradictory paradigms within media archaeology. This is only the first step, and something that I will do more thoroughly in the book I am writing for Polity Press next academic year (hopefully out in 2012).
- articulate briefly and tentatively the idea of media archaeology as a travelling discipline - to borrow Mieke Bal's notions concerning travelling concepts.

The beginning of the interview with Garnet...just a teaser, full text on Ctheory-website...

Also: at the end of this post, the referential bibliographic list that was taken out from the final published version of the Ctheory text. Might be useful (but do not its not an exhaustive list!). We compiled it originally with Erkki Huhtamo (a longer list actually) so a big thanks to him.

CTheory Interview Archaeologies of Media Art

Jussi Parikka in conversation with Garnet Hertz


Media archaeology is an approach to media studies that has emerged over the last two decades. It borrows from Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, and Friedrich Kittler, but also diverges from all of these theorists to form a unique set of tools and practices. Media archaeology is not a school of thought or a specific technique, but is as an emerging attitude and cluster of tactics in contemporary media theory that is characterized by a desire to uncover and circulate repressed or neglected media approaches and technologies. Its handful of proponents -- including Siegfried Zielinski, Wolfgang Ernst, Thomas Elsaesser, and Erkki Huhtamo -- are primarily interested in mobilizing histories and devices that have been sidelined during the construction of totalizing histories of popular forms of communication, including the histories of film, television, and new media. The lost traces of media technologies are deemed important topics to be excavated and studied; "dead" media technologies and idiosyncratic developments reveal important themes, structures, and links in the history of communication that would normally be occluded by more obvious narratives. This includes tracing irregular developments and unconventional genealogies of present-day communication technologies, believing that the most interesting developments often happen in the neglected margins of histories or artifacts.

In 2007, Jussi Parikka published Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses (Peter Lang Publishing, New York). In Digital Contagions, Parikka provides an insightful articulation of media archaeology as a research methodology, which he implements to construct a clear cultural history of computer viruses. Parikka inverts the assumption that computer viruses -- which are semi-autonomous and self-replicating pieces of computer code -- are contrary to contemporary digital culture, instead arguing that computer viruses define the social and material landscape of computer mediated communication. [1] Although computer viruses are often considered as a disease and breakdown within the ecology of media, Parikka argues that these marginal computer programs provide key clues to the material and incorporeal conditions of the network age. They are not accidents of media culture, but increasingly the natural mode of digital media. In other words, the ontology of network culture is viral-like. [2]

In this conversation with Garnet Hertz -- who graduated with a PhD in Visual Studies on the topic of media archaeology and media arts from University of California, Irvine -- Parikka discusses media archaeology as a methodology of academic research in media studies and the media arts. In the process of constructing a theoretical foundation for media archaeology, they discuss and explore the topics of interdisciplinarity, historiography, art, new media, and academia.

Garnet Hertz: I see Digital Contagions as bringing clarity to the ambiguous concept of media archaeology, and would like to continue to clarify the term here. To begin, how do you define media archaeology, and how do you envision it as a project, movement or an approach?

Jussi Parikka: Media archaeology... ambiguous? Indeed. I was just reminded by an archaeologist at Cambridge that there is a sub-discipline in archaeology called "media archaeology." Such contexts do not always spring to mind when we consider media archaeology from a more theoretical perspective. For us in media studies and media arts it is quite often the footnotes of Foucault, Kittler, and the dead media of Bruce Sterling that provides the context for the media archaeological way of doing analysis. Media archaeology exists somewhere between materialist media theories and the insistence on the value of the obsolete and forgotten through new cultural histories that have emerged since the 1980s. I see media archaeology as a theoretically refined analysis of the historical layers of media in their singularity -- a conceptual and practical exercise in carving out the aesthetic, cultural, and political singularities of media. And it's much more than paying theoretical attention to the intensive relations between new and old media mediated through concrete and conceptual archives; increasingly, media archaeology is a method for doing media design and art. After the initial period of tackling the concept of media archaeology in the early 1990s, it is now crucial to take the idea forward and make it more theoretically rigorous. I am not saying it was not rigorous, but there was never a thorough discussion among the "practitioners" of media archaeology.

A Bibliographic Selection

-Book of Imaginary Media: Excavating the Dream of the Ultimate Communication Medium, ed. Eric Kluitenberg (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2006)
-Bolter, Jay David & Grusin, Richard, Remediation. Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999).
-Crary, Jonathan, Suspensions of Perception. Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001).
-Crary, Jonathan, Techniques of the Observer. On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1989).
-Cinema Futures: Cain, Abel or Cabel, eds. Thomas Elsaesser & Kay Hoffman (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1998).
-The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, ed. Wanda Strauven (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006.)
-Derrida, Jacques, Archive Fever: a Freudian impression (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996).

-Ernst, Wolfgang, M.edium F.oucault, (Weimar: Verlag & Datenbank Für
 Geisteswissenschaften, 2000)
-Ernst, Wolfgang, Das Rumoren der Archive, (Berlin: Merve Verlag, 2002).
-Ernst, Wolfgang, Das Gesetz des Gedächtnisses. Medien und Archive am Ende (des 20. Jahrhunderts) (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2007).
-Foucault, Michel, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. (London and New York: Routledge, 2002).
-Friedberg, Anne, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006).
-Friedberg, Anne, Window Shopping. Cinema and the Postmodern (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
-Gitelman, Lisa, Always Already New. Media, History, and the Data of Culture. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006).
-Gunning, Tom, "An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Cinema and the (in)Credulous Spectator," Art and Text 34 (1989).
- Hagen, Wolfgang, Das Radio: Zur Geschichte und Theorie des Hörfunks (Fink, 2005).
-Huhtamo, Erkki, "Elements of Screenology: Toward an Archaeology of the Screen," ICONICS: International Studies of the Modern Image, Vol. 7 (2004), pp. 31-82 (Tokyo: The Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences).
-Huhtamo, Erkki, "From Kaleidoscomaniac to Cybernerd. Towards an Archeology of the Media", in Electronic Culture, ed. Timothy Druckrey (New York: Aperture 1996), pp. 296-303, 425-427.
-Huhtamo, Erkki, "Time Machines in the Gallery. An Archeological Approach in Media Art," in Immersed in Technology. Art and Virtual Environments, ed. Mary Anne Moser with Douglas McLeod (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1996), pp. 232-268.
-Huhtamo, Erkki and Parikka, Jussi (eds), Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications and Implications. Forthcoming from University of California Press 2010.
-Kahn, Douglas, Noise, Water, Meat. A History of Sound in the Arts. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999)
Kittler, Friedrich, Discourse Networks 1800/1900. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. orig. German 1985).
-Kittler, Friedrich, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999).
-Kittler, Friedrich, Optical Media. Trans Anthony Enns (Cambridge: Polity, 2009).
-Kockelkoren, Petran, Technology: Art, Fairground and Theatre, (
Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2003;
-Mannoni, Laurent, Le Grand art de la lumière et de l’ombre. Archéologie du cinéma (Paris: Nathan, 1994).
-Manovich, Lev, The Language of New Media (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2001).
-Marvin, Carolyn, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).
-McLuhan, Marshall, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962).
-MediaArtHistories, ed. Oliver Grau (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007).
-Memory Bytes. History, Technology, and Digital Culture, eds Lauren Rabinovitz & Abraham Geil (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004).
-Multimedia Histories. From the Magic Lantern to the Internet, ed. James Lyons and John Plunkett. (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2007).
- New German Media Theory, ed. Eva Horn, Grey Room-special issue Winter 2008.
- New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader, eds. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun & Thomas Keenan, Thomas (New York: Routledge, 2005).
-New Media, 1740-1914, ed. Lisa Gitelman & Geoffrey Pingree (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004).
-Parikka, Jussi, Digital Contagions. A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses (New York: Peter Lang, 2007).
- Parikka, Jussi, Insect Media: An Archaelogy of Animals and Technology (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming 2010).
- Sconce, Jeffrey Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.).
- Siegert, Bernhardt, Relays. Literature as an Epoch of the Postal System (Stanford: Stanford UP 1999).
-Spieker, Sven, The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008).
-The Variantology-book series edited by Siegfried Zielinski et al.
-Vissman, Cornelia, Files: Law and Media Technology, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young (Stanford, Ca: Stanford University Press, 2008).
-Volmar, Axel (ed) Zeitkritische Medien (Berlin: Kadmos, 2009).
-Zielinski, Siegfried, Audiovisions. Cinema and Television as Entr’ actes in History (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1999, orig. German 1989).
Zielinski, Siegfried, Deep Time of the Media. Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006, orig. German 2002).

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