Reflexiones sobre Performance, Cultura y Tecnología



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Johannes Birringer. Bia, you spoke of the Deleuzian "folds," and seemed to address a kind of Brazilian "baroque" -- then you mentioned "pronoia" -- could you tell us how you see these philosophical concepts in a cultural-political relation to localization? Does your work (on the internet) include gestures that locate you physically and socially, cutting against the rhetoric of the "virtual" or disembodied virtuality/global networks, etc?[4]

Bia Medeiros. Freedom loves the interstices, the dispersions, but also the infinite, features that are impregnated by the idea of "webmension" (the n-dimensional of virtual space, which was the starting point for the conception of the website of our group Corpos Informáticos). Western culture always attributed to women the ability of thinking by crooked lines, dispersions, "flanerie," the capacity of losing themselves into daydreams, to men it attributed security, resolution, objectivity and straightforwardness. Thus the worldwide communications network should be a feminine space, par excellence, penetrable, infinitely penetrable. Our work is based on the idea of "wormholes", bends in space, the folding era. Not unfoldings and, over all, not the post-biological era, as proposed by Roy Ascott. In all these foldings are the ideas of the development of the current artistic/scientific sensation/thought where ecology folds upon chemistry, mathematics folds upon physics, philosophy upon psychoanalysis, and arts upon technology. All of them become unstable, permeable, penetrable layers, capable of new interactions: layers of thoughts, sensations over individuals.

Our group makes collective exhibitions, urban interventions, performances, video-performances, performances in tele-presence throughout the country and via internet. The group exists "overweb", since we inhabit the spaces geographically denominated "Brasilia", "Philadelphia", "Campinas" and "Paris" the latter one situated in the European Community in a province formerly known as France. Even as I say we exist "overweb," we are not without bodies and desires. But since 1996 the members of the group, formed in Brasília, lived or have been living in different cities, in different countries. So, since then, the group has worked via the communication net, on this possibility of being together without being physically real, though being present. We work "together" through electronic means. And saudade (longing for each other) is no longer good: it is a necessary, an irreducible contradiction.

CORPOS INFORMÁTICOS (numeric bodies, virtual bodies) has conducted research in contemporary art, and the orientation of its reflections has been that of human beings "redimensioned" by omnipresent technologies: performance (human body in real time) – electronic images (color-light emitted in movement making mankind a support feature). The process reveals sparks of the symbolic convulsive ecology of contemporary individuals. Performances and exhibitions are presented not merely for the visual passive contemplation of the spectator, but rather to involve her and to make her part of a continuously evolving work of art. Interaction: processes of interactive production and co-authorship matter to us. Secretions and contaminations.

The body mediated, transposed by technologies is not (yet) ritualized, is not folklore, but brand new, or at least the cards are not (yet) marked. In a certain way, there is an expansion, through the artistic practice, of the initial given content of expression mediated by technologies. Performance art remains in the center of the artistic practice: the questioning of the concept of art, the negation of the market, the provocation of the spectators, turned into co-authors. Communication, not information, and in this sense, performance art, taking to itself the technological means, questions and cor-rupts (sic) (romper (port.), rompre (fr.): to break) the dilated society of information.

As a group, we believe in something we call "pronoia" (nós – the Portuguese word for "us", nous, the french word for "us" - comes from the Greek noia.). Let us highlight that noia means intelligence in Plato, for in his view thinking happens within the dialog. The prefix para indicates "disordered functioning." So, the paranoid is one who has a disordered function towards the "us". For us, the "pronoia" is the opposite of "paranoia," which is a permanent feeling of mistrust toward others, a feeling of persecution. Thus "pronoia" is a feeling, existent in the Group, that at every moment someone is conspiring for, and not against, us. We are "pronoids".

Utopia? Is this the place of pronoia, a non-place? Even though it may be utopic, in practice it has worked. It seems to me there is a saying in English which goes like this: "There is a difference between working in a team, and working as a team. In a real team one plus one equals four." Among the French we found Jean-Marie Doguet and his concept of "nous originaire." His seminar in the Collège International de Philosophie in 1999 was called "I, you, us: a contribution to a philosophy for interlocution." The concept of "us" is seldom approached by western philosophers. Doguet, in an incomparable view of Kant (in Critique of Judgement), revealed the concept of nous originaire that goes far beyond the understanding of a group work, or a specificity of the Performance Art language: a concept of "us" that could, if we were conscious, lead us to respect the other, and maybe, without hypocrisy, to the resolution of many ecological problems and even to world peace. And all this, through beauty, through Kant’s statement: "beauty is everything that gives pleasure, universally, without concepts." To think the concept of "us", the possible existence of a nous originaire, to think and to make others thinks about "pronoia", about how to work as a team, is a current necessity of philosophy, and it is a current necessity of the world made unique by the new communication means that shorten time, expanding space. [5]


[4] For a discussion of virtual reality and telepresence within a history of technology that has tended to reject the body in favor of a spiritual or mentalistic conception of the human self, see Oliver Grau, Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003). But see also Eduardo Kac, "Dialogical Telepresence and Net Ecology," in Ken Goldberg, ed., The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), pp. 180-96

[5] See also, Bia Medeiros, "Performative Sites : Intersecting Art, Technology, and the Body," lecture given at Pennsylvania State University, October 2000. (



Johannes Birringer. Let us pursue this issue of communication and "interlocution," with regard to current experimentations in interactivity or interactive design. Are interactive designs pronoic events?

I will refer briefly to the workshop "New Performance Tools: Technologies / Interactive Systems" which I coordinated at my lab in January 2002.[6] Presentations of the invited artists, discussions, and lab demonstrations focused on the particular use of tools and interactive designs in performance as well as on interface design for performance spaces and intermedia art installations that can function as a shared, collective, social, and playful space. A great deal of time was spent on debating the use and function of "tools." For example, we drew distinctions between "tools" as extensions of the body incorporating the intention of the operator, versus interactive "systems" and its protocols which incorporate the user but not the user-intentions. We also looked at design practices which make the interface as invisible as possible or seek to make the navigation easy and intuitive; we looked at the performer (dancer, choreographer, composer) as extended instrument of interactive systems and the design of performer-"characters" as well as the re-framing and re-mapping of characters (in animation, motion capture).

Finally, we examined the creation, implementation and saturation of media protocol; gesture/speech recognition, and data mapping and inframedia (the scratching/manipulation of data at the microscopic level of numeric properties). The workshop was particularly illuminating when we proceeded to physically demonstrate and explore some of the wearable interfaces in the lab. When African-American dancer/choreographer Bebe Miller and Venezuelan dancer Marlon Barrios-Solano strapped on the wireless accelerometers and started moving (with the MidiDancer/Isadora interface), we noticed these were different bodies in the (same) system. Bebe first watched Marlon improvise, then wore the Midi-dancer and triggered a simple sound/spoken text loop and a video clip (prerecorded outdoor footage of a dancer in a wheat field). A camera feed also input her movement to the Isadora system, a real time video image of her, slightly delayed because of the fire wire speed.

Bebe Miller, Interactive Systems Workshop

Bebe's comments and questions after working for about 10 minutes were thought-provoking: (1) how quickly a "narrative" appeared, (2)] how quickly it became compositional, (3) how to keep the presence in her own dancing, (4) how to learn what the improvisational "headset" should be with this system, and (5) she felt like she was "listening," and how does listening change in relation to different sounds or self-generated spoken texts? Her last comment was eye-opening: the dancer listens to the environment she creates interactively, and can thus compose dance movement almost as if she were playing an instrument and sensing the acoustic and visual (video) co-resonances in the space. These are important findings, especially her "compositional" comment. During her earlier presentation Bebe had offered an observation on the hard edges/harsher processes of the digital in relation to soft ideas/softer processes of the bodily dance exploration. The Midi- dancer is constantly "generative" -- you move and it delivers data. This "databody" is perhaps related to the telematic visual bodies of our telepresence experiments with remote partners elsewhere, which Bia has referred to as an "incompossible body."


[6] "New Performance Tools: Technologies / Interactive Systems" was a weekend research laboratory (January 25-27, 2002) in Columbus, Ohio, organized as part of the new "Interactive Performance Series" I created for OSU’s Dance and Technology program. The report was written by Scott deLahunta/J.Birringer (;


Bia Medeiros. In telepresence, with visualization and listening to the other, the others, we can confront ourselves with more aspects of unarticulated language. Although it is an impossibility, or an "incompossibility", the digital body, the numerical body is capable of quasi-performance, capable of communication, of affection. Precisely through revealing more of those unarticulated aspects in articulated language, teleperformance is capable of
encounter, capable of aesthetic pleasure.

Johannes Birringer. I agree. You have to be very "present" to interact in this polysensual interface, and the critical issue is the performer's dynamic behavior with the real-time processing of all the data that are generated in the interaction. The "interactor" will not simply "experience" the interface; she will learn what happens in the body, and how she and the designers can re-think the body. As we concluded our workshop in Ohio, we were less successful in reaching agreement on the behavioral, social and cultural function of interactive designs or the cognitive processes involved in the interaction with something, whether tool, instrument, or system, whether self or remote "other." The question that interests me is whether we have found an interpretive approach to this mediated real-time presence-with-others, through the interactive interface, to this "pronoia" which Bia has spoken of. How do we recognize the other as equal in the interface, as wanting us?

Mariano, when you speak of your new installation (in two cities), you say:

>>Persons are embedded in relationships with processes allowed by digital technology, in such a form that events, person-positions, etc, can be transferred from real to virtual spaces, for example: the web or words in a database. The processes can be achieved in real time and across the world by means of numbers>>

How is such transfer possible (seamlessly) without disregarding actual, physical social and cultural context, and how do you understand 'context" (location) in your work? Do the differences between the two cities matter to your work, and how?

Mariano Sardon. The transformation from a "real" to a "virtual" world by means of a digitizing process is a form of conceiving the world; one can make it many different ways, but to deal with machines we have to accept that form. For example, when people walk on the street I decide to take a part of their behavior, for example their positions or velocities. They are only a piece of such "phenomena": people walking on a street. I analyze that situation by retrieving those characteristics only. Then, when I measure those variables I transform them into numbers, and they are placed in an abstract space. Once I have numbers in memory, I have digital technology to handle them, all kind of mathematical transformations and computations made by computers.

In a process like this you lose other physical variables of people on the streets, but not only that, you lose context, meanings, in this translation into numbers. This is a specific property of the digital computers, all you can put into them are meaningless numbers. You have to re-define those numbers with other significations, in both places. Numbers connect the cities in my work, but those numbers must be redefined in their respective places as something meaningful.

Physical aspects of the flow of people can be transferred well from one city to the other, and you can certainly superimpose them very well, you can store those numbers in a memory, but you lose other aspects. The way in which I give meaning to the places is by means of the text in relation to spaces.

For instance, I'm working with Borges' texts for the installation in the National Library in Buenos Aires. Borges was its director. Physical, social and cultural aspects build a special context in the Library. People walking into the library find Borges' words, history, and cultural identity.


Mariano Sardon, X (t) - Y (t) = 0

In regard to the web text displayed, it's interesting to note the following: the program that retrieves the text content of HTML codes from the web uses a Google-like search engine. Google searching has a relation with the geographical place in which this searching is done. It gives a "geographical virtual frame" to words retrieved from the web. Another aspect of the culture is the language: the texts displayed by people's movement are in Spanish in Buenos Aires, and in English in Los Angeles.
According to this, the places chosen for connection are extremely relevant. The rhythm and pattern that people perform in such places provide the dynamics for the development of texts. The flow of the people, the historical aspects in each public place, the everyday activities, etc., are taken into account, because this is relevant to give sense and context to the work.

Johannes Birringer. Margarita: video, digital editing, and interactive software have entered your dance work and given your highly kinetic dances a new, or different, kinaesthesia. You also seem to like working with and against material/matter or difficult material conditions/circumstances/environments, as you showed in your work in the water and the sand. How have digital technologies affected your sense of material bodies, the dancing body/self, the subject? Does dance-technology address such notions as gender and cultural constructs of bodies, and how does virtuality have a concrete impact on your physicality and emotionality and, by extension, on the whole being?

Margarita Bali. For many years I have been experimenting with the process of digital video, but I am fairly new in the application of interactive technological tools. I am now finally beginning to apply some of these on my new stage project Zoom In, Look Out. I would be more capable to comment after this process is finished. Nevertheless I am already experimenting with a table that can respond sensitively to touch, triggering an array of controllable sound files. After a few tryouts I can already see a significant change in the way the dancer comes in contact with the table, the heightened awareness in her actions and how every move encompasses so many elements that are to be taken into consideration: the dynamics of the movement phrases, the design of her moving body in space and in relationship to the table, the quality of the gesture and the sound that the gesture elicits, the feedback of the sound on her and the fast movement reaction to produce the next musical phrase. It is a very delicate balance, but exciting because there is a feeling of total togetherness and also the freshness of the spontaneous reaction. What the dancer experiences also surprisingly comes through to the observer in a very kinesthetic way. It is almost as if the whole body were the musical instrument, not just the hands, as it would be with a conventional music player.

With respect to my work with digital video I think that the actual specificity of the digital comes into play mostly in the editing stage, because the actual filming is still intricately related with the world of film and photography, with properties that have to do with optics, lenses, lighting, angles, perspectives, moving cameras, distance and close proximity, the rectangular frame -- elements that do also contribute to the possibility of showing the dancer’s body and actions in a totally different perspective from the way you can see them on a live stage.

But, what is specific to digital editing, is that it makes it so tempting to play with the timeline, to change the speeds, the velocity of the cuts, the intricate ways layers can mesh, the awareness of the intrinsic texture of video and its artifacts, how the sound script ideas can get manipulated and require to be re-constructed as a parallel process to the editing. It is a realm of image manipulation that obviously also has its impact on how the body, the dancer, the human image is presented. What I am looking for is the expressiveness of the piece as a work of video, hopefully with a personal imprint of its own.

The inspiring challenge of getting out of the usual black-box theatre stage and working on natural and architectural settings has been a welcome change of air in every sense. These different and unusual surfaces are an interesting problem to be solved choreographically and thematically, and the texture and physicality of natural elements have a direct impact on the dancer’s bodies. It modifies their actions.

Johannes Birringer. Yes, when we speak of the digital, and think of the virtual, we tend to forget the material aspect of all these elements of production, and of the manipulation of "real space" -- I was impressed with your use of outdoor locations and very specific sites in your video. So I think digital editing is not only a manipulation of time, but also a processing of place, since video is site-specific, in one sense (the frame, the video screen, sculpture, projection as a space), but its "image-instrument" [7] also reconstructs "places" and affects the interactor in direct ways, and this was also the point I was trying to make in regard to Mariano's translation of images from place to place. It seems that Mariano was arguing that physical location and specific behavior in a cultural or material context can affect (digitally processed) the kinds of "output" media that surface on the other side and become a part of the texture of that other site.

I now want to come back to the notion of wearable interfaces in Tania's work. A Japanese artist (Yukiko Shikata) recently wrote on the internet that the network and mobile, wearable computers/digital tools are understood in her culture as "sensory tools" or feelers. Technology is wearable, not outside of the human, but part of it, it includes the whole range of the interface of self and other/society, one wears shared images (mobile phone, walkman, pirikura, virtual pets, tamagotchi, Pokémon... all function as wearable communication tools), and the whole body-machine-image complex is about transport,0orientation, and being connected to the (youth) culture in a vast communication network. [8]

Would you see your work in a similar mode, exploring such "wearable selves-images" -- and how is this work read/received in your own cultural location in Mexico? Would you see your work as dealing with "moving images" (against regulation or regulatory forces), and is your work resisting or parodying "regulatory systems" (Foucault?)



[7] On "filmic image-movement" in interactive digital video and telepresence, see Lev Manovich's theory of the "image instrument" in The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 161-75. Manovich speaks of new media as "image-instruments" which can affect and enable actions in real time.

[8] Eyebeam Atelier (New York City) created an online forum in 1998 as an annual virtual event aimed at furthering critical discourse between art and technology; <eybeam><blast> generated postings of participants from many parts of world which were subsequently collected and published. See Amy Scholder and Jordan Crandall, eds., Interaction: Artistic Practice in the Network (New York: D.A.P., 2001). For Shikata's posting, see pp. 37-39.


Tania Aedo. Speaking of cultural specificities, I believe that the form in which Shikata describes this complex of body/machine/image, is how I also understand it. It is the experience of some people in "my" culture and it can appear to look like some form in which I live, but I believe that in Mexico, for example, a range of such technologies -- cellular phones, walkman, PDA, laptop, virtual mascots, the network, etc. -- always has more to do with status symbols. Of course there are fully equipped young people but this is a small sector of the society, not even myself, I don't perceive my ibook as a feeler (I dont have cell phone or PDA); I still notice the inter-face very clearly especially because of language but also because of a lot of issues like design, marketing, etc.

What I believe is happening, or what will happen, is something similar to the success of MacDonald's. When the first branches of these restaurants opened in Mexico, we had long waiting lines around the block, and in the line you would meet people from the entertainment world, and generally people of the upper classes, and strategically these restaurants were located in one of the most expensive districts of the city. Now they are everywhere in the world, a fast food restaurant for the middle-class.

I have worked for seven years (with some interruptions) in a center dedicated to experimentation and investigation in new art and technologies. My first contacts with technologies, such as Virtual Reality or three-dimensional MUDs in the internet were long before they became "popular." This of course changed the ways in which I related to the world, and to myself also, it exploded my reflections and remodeled my methods of working with technologies.

I began to reflect on the question of identity in cyberspace, and the possibility of editing my own persona, but later I preferred to explore the subject of technology as a wider problem of what happens within the network. Although I consider my work on a very intimate, almost auto-referential level, I wanted to examine the larger relationships between technologies and the experience/construction of subjectivity.
One example of my work (Tutu, Pink Interface ) is the reflection on a series of technological devices which were designed specifically to work as "adapters" of the body of woman, such as milk pumps, feminine towels, contraceptive pills, intra-uterine devices; these are all technologies "with effects," and they have a very specific function within our society.

Another example is the role of media and the mechanisms of regulation in the preconstruction of the "feminine" and the "masculine" and the standardization of their relations, the regulation of domestic space across a preconceived idea of "love" that also has a very specific function (Only You, Interface for a Heterosexual Couple). One of the pieces that is a part of this project (Kcal, Interface for an Excessive Body) constructs a relationship between nutritional disorders and disorders of reading, reflecting on my obsession with being thin and with "eating" theories (almost all foreign), it is an issue that has preoccupied me a lot but that I consider somehow as a form of swallowing the West, and it has a lot to do with colonization, although on a very personal level.

Johannes Birringer. You are responding, in a way, to my earlier question about antropofagia. [9] Oswald de Andrade's notion of antropofagia [1928] refers to a cannibalistic impulse of self-determination through appropriation, and in the context of the early 20th century Brazilian avant-garde was understood as a defense against cultural colonialism. Mari Carmen Ramírez, in her investigation of radical conceptual art of the 60s, points out that conceptualism in Latin America (participatory performance propositions by artists such as Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Lea Lublin, Cildo Meireles, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Marta Minujín, Albert Greco, and others; the critical use of mass media in arte de los medios, such as Eduardo Costa's Fashion Fiction and León Ferrari's Palabras Ajenas, or collective actions such as Tucumán Arde), including Oiticica's Nova Objetividade Brasileira and Tropicália manifestos, continuously redefined earlier projects of emancipation (such as antropofagia) and the analysis of collective artistic operations in relationship to specific socio-politucal contexts and locales. In 1967 (Nova Objetitividade), Oiticia specifically referred to "collective propositions" and the participation of the spectator (bodily, tactile, visual, semantic, etc), which I see echoed in Bia's explanation of the "nous." Ramírez emphasizes the complexity and heterogeneity of the different regions and local contexts, but claims that one of the determining features of Latin American conceptual art in general lies in a broad re-articulation of practices which appropriate urban spaces and involve popular audiences in idea-based and sensorial proposals. I also want to mention Marta Minujín's multi-media closed-circuit installation Simultaneidad en Simultaneidad (Buenos Aires, 1966), which not only involved the audience but also had live links between the Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires and partners in New York and Cologne (telephone, television), a project that clearly anticipated today's telepresence performances.

What struck me when looking through the exhibition catalogue of Vivências was the repeated reference to participatory actions of the 1960s and 1970s as "interactive" events, with an emphasis on lived experience and sensuous processes in the body provoked by "mediation," for example through Lygia Clark's relational objects or Hélio Oiticica's wearable Parangolés, his Penetráveis (Penetrables), or his later suprasensorial "Quasi-cinema" environments. This inter-activity of the 1960s and 1970s is then contrasted with "the minimal and largely pointless form of interactivity that now serves as the basic principle of the new communications technologies." Although Guy Brett's critique is clearly biased in favor of the artists presented in the exhibition, his historical perspective on the 1960s model of interactivity might challenge us to rethink and analyze the "roles" (and lived experience) we assign the performative participant or user of our contemporary interactive interfaces. Brett emphasizes the role of reciprocity and mutual sensitization in the interactive exchange, pointing out that the young Brazilian artist Ricardo Basbaum has complained about the poverty of computer-based interactivity in comparison to the richness of the body-oriented participatory model of Clark/Oiticica. Basbaum criticizes the "poor sensorial interaction" offered by the computer compared with Clark's and Oiticica's relational objects: "There is a lack in the computer's information bytes, while Clark's and Oiticica's sensorial quanta proliferate through the body." Computer-driven art, Basbaum suggests, needs to move beyond "formal cognitive process in order to gain an expanded comprehension of sensorial-conceptual realities." [10]

Basbaum's critique is very relevant to our discussion, since we have not yet addressed the shortcomings, or perhaps even the myth of "interactivity." [11] He posits qualitative differences and, perhaps, inherent differences between Live Culture and Digital Culture in performance/art, which is questionable in the first place, and it also does not help us to determine more precisely how contemporary transmedia practices and their operations (real-time synthesis, telepresence, simultaneity, non-linearity, hybridity, simulation, motion tracking, virtual reality imaging, 3d animation, etc) might have indeed altered individual and collective relations, and generated new modes of perception through new processes of presentation or informatic ensembles which require a distinct participatory model for the sites of interface where materializations occur.

Unlike the 1960s, we now have to "think" technology differently, in regard to corporeality and temporality. Technology is within us. Our bodies, in this sense, are inseparable from technologies, and Renato, Bia, and Tania have already addressed this. Heitor spoke of the Carnival in Brazil as a great technology….Whether related to science and engineering, or to social "techniques of the body," as Tania suggested, we might need to define our "sensorial body" (and its interactions) as already "composed" of socio-technical negotiations. I understand Tania's work, therefore, as operations (in "drag") which undermine the false opposition between culture and technology, live and digital, and question other differences which are in play, between genders and identities, self and other, inside and outside, nation and location, political and cultural lines of identification (where is global?). If I understand you correctly, you see the living body as an artefact, or as a site of complications, and you explore possibilities to be critical about the "self" you are wearing?


[9] Cf. Oswald de Andrade, Do Pau-Brasil e Antropofagia as Utopias (Rio de Janeiro: Civilizacao Brasileira, 1972). See Mari Carmern Ramírez, "Tactics for Thriving on Adversity: Conceptualism in Latin America, 1960-1980," in Vivências, exhibition catalogue, ed. by Sabine Breitwieser (Vienna: Generali Foundation, 2000), pp. 61-104. For a discussion of interactivity arising from performance, happenings, environments, and interventions into public space, see Guy Brett, "Situations to be lived," in Vivências, pp. 35-60. For a brilliant essay on Oiticica's "Quasi-cinema," see Claudio da Costa, " Hélio Oiticica and cinema's de-realized image," Trans>, 8 (2000), 66-74.

[10] Ricardo Basbaum, "Clark and Oiticica," Blast 4: Bioinformatica (New York, 1994), quoted by Brett, Vivências, pp. 46-47.

[11] See, for example, the sharp criticism of interactivity in Hans Ulrich Reck,, Mythos Medienkunst (Köln: Walther König, 2002), pp. 80-86.


Tania Aedo. Well, indeed another example of my work are the costumes (X, functional/ fictional), which are translucent dresses with wires, sensors, speakers. This is a piece which reflects on medical technology, the drugs, the chemical substances which alter/regulate consciousness. The work addresses the body as functional (it has to be healthy and functional in society) and as fictional (negotiating genetic technology, drug technology), fantasizing its selves. I believe that something that lacks intentionally in the project now are my relations with my iBook, the network, virtual reality, VRML environments, cyberspace; those definitively triggered my earlier works. Now I am in transition from the virtual to the corporeal. I hope that my work is done in a spirit of resistance (at a personal level) rather than merely as parodies of the "regulatory systems."

Johannes Birringer. I was interested in Heitor's and Vibeke's strongly expressed concern for the survival of the planet, the environment, equal rights. I wanted to ask each of you to address the issue of collaboration, from your differing positions (in Brazil., in Southern California, and traveling back and forth). Are positions of power and privilege reversible or exchangeable, and how?

Vibeke Sorensen. First, the short answer is yes, I do think positions of power and privilege are reversible and exchangeable in many ways in our collaboration. Our collaboration has been taking place primarily in Brazil. Initially, Heitor offered to serve as a guide on my travel to the Amazon and northeast region of Brazil, in April of 2001, when I was collecting material for my interactive installation project, Sanctuary. (I had been invited to give a lecture about my work connecting art and science at his university, and traveled afterwards. I had not met him before, and we had only exchanged email prior to my visit.) His participation, at that early stage, turned out to be very valuable, as I would not have gained access to the places and people I encountered without him. He not only spoke Portuguese in regions where people speak no English, but he understood and communicated the intricacies, sensitivities, and complexities about the people and cultures to me, including history and religion. Since then, he has been my guide to other regions of Brazil, as well as to Bolivia (as he speaks Spanish in addition to Portuguese). I have come to appreciate the concept of guide!

I have also been working at UFMG in the midia@rte Laboratory directed by Heitor Capuzzo, over the past 6 months. He has provided me with access to computers and student assistance (artists and designers). I have recorded a great number of digital images and videotapes on my travels (that include, by the way some camerawork by Heitor). I wanted people to participate directly with the material from their own cultures and environment, in this case Brazilians and South Americans. I wanted people who are sensitive to the materials, who can add information that helps it to communicate more deeply and honestly. (I also have students in the US from countries
such as India and Japan gathering and working on materials from their cultures.) The Brazilian students who have been working with me on it, would not otherwise be able to participate, as it requires in-person communication, and the cost of Brazilian students traveling to the USA is quite prohibitive. This is a direct result of the socio-economic conditions that unfortunately separates the 3rd and 1st worlds. But my solution is to go to Brazil, instead, which of course also helps extend my understanding and experience.

By being in Brazil for a long period of time, the entire working environment of the project has changed, and perhaps it could be said that the project itself has become more of a Brazilian than US one. At least it is much more balanced. And although there is a larger context in which the forces of power and privilege are at play, especially in regard to technology, I feel that we are using the very same technology that symbolizes and furthers those forces, to work against them.

We enjoy a productive working relationship, which is based on shared, humanistic values and mutual trust. We share a deep and profound respect for life, and for the people and cultures we meet , and with whom we work. We see not only our differences, but our common humanity, concerns, and needs. And this is precisely what this project is about. Perhaps one could say that the project is not just "the project" but an evolving collaboration and communication between cultures. It is a multicultural approach to technology, and an alternative way to connect with nature. I haven't said much about this part of the project. I consider the health of Amazon region, its cultures and nature, vital to the health of the world. Of course the whole world is at risk, like the Amazon. But this region is so fragile that it can be seen as an indicator of what is happening to the larger world. I hope that this project can help in some way to sensitize people around the world to its beauty - and problems - and help preserve and protect the nature and the people there.

Heitor Capuzzo. If you allow me, I would like to answer your deepest questions with other questions that have been concerning me over the last years:

All those technologies: for what? What do they mean? Can we be happier? Are we looking at other people with beautiful feelings? Are we having more fun? Can I really show my soul and begin a sensitive dialogue with another soul?

I don't like the way that things are going. And I will use my right to be naïve. I need to say what I am feeling. I'm from the 1960s. I grew up learning that the planet and the universe are asking for my contribution to help others, and to be open to be helped too. For me "digital" is a way to see, to be touched and to express the world.

While clearly I have a great interest in technology, my problem with it is the lack of humanism that informs both its use and development. I understand by using it, that it's possible to be connected to sensitive people. Perhaps it's the idea of a global community of the counter culture. But computers are being used to reinforce the status quo instead. I think that we need to change the way we see the world, and computers can be a kind of new glasses for this. But glasses need eyes, and eyes need to be able to see what they haven’t seen before, to see beyond our conditioning. We need to have a more open mind and de-condition our eyes. We need to develop a
kind of world language, and computers can be a good instrument for this.

We need to return to our fundamental feelings. Dogs love to sit beside us. Just that. We need to learn that one of the most important things in life is "to love to sit beside others." Perhaps technology can help us with that. But that powerful technology is destroying the world, too. The problem is the human use of technology. "We" are the problem. We urgently need a new humanistic point of view. When one is from the third world, one is born hearing about injustice, absence of equality, and the importance of resistance. As a result, the space for tenderness has almost disappeared.

I think that some countries in the first world are destroying the planet quickly. We need a global strategy in order to stop it. And we need to mix the points of view of all cultures and try to find similarities while respecting diversity and human rights. It's not only a question of resistance. We need to support life and not war. We need another point of view towards the oldest problems that are still here. We don’t need the old solutions using our new technology, we need new solutions with it. When we are talking about high level technology, the difference between countries is reinforced. You can give a computer to a native South American Indian. In this case you are asking him or her to learn Microsoft programs that we all need to learn. But why do this if we are not interested in their culture in a deep way? It is not clear that the whole planet wants to be like some countries in the first world.

One of the primary reasons why we in Brazil are interested in collaborating with the Sanctuary Project is the possibility to contribute to a multicultural project that is exploring new ways to communicate using world language. Sanctuary is a project with a soul, with a digital finger print, and the space for poetry. The tenderness and the absence of cynicism allows for the soul to be touched.

Curiously, it is a collaboration between the 1st and the 3rd worlds, an institutional collaboration. But the main point is that we are exchanging impressions and the feelings of our souls. Life is viable when this happens. Of course I know that this is a fleeting thing. When you are from 3rd world you know what resistance means and you have to be aware always. I know this from my personal experiences. During the 1960’s, I had professors and colleagues who died because of their ideas.
Ideas can be helpful or dangerous. They can be radical in a positive or negative way. I want to understand and feel the reasons for some radical actions, as September 11, 2001, and all the other "Septembers" that happened in the last century.

I am trying to rescue tenderness, as Che Guevara once said: ¿Hay que endurecer, pero sin perder la ternura jamás? (we must become firm, without ever losing our tenderness). The old humanism has failed. If computers could be used to reinforce life, in this case we have powerful glasses. If not, we will have limited vision. Life has to be the main subject. And life is fragile. And we are destroying life. Global life.

The midia@rte lab at UFMG is trying to re-direct the technology. Our hope is to help change it based on global respect for world life. We need to feel that happiness is possible when we give this a chance. We hope to help make the world a better place for everyone.

Johannes Birringer. I appreciate your tender optimism, and although I may not share this kind of optimism, it would be foolish to think that we can sincerely create collaborative work, across cultures and differences and language barriers, without passion and without the utopian sense of the "us" which you, Vibeke, and Bia referred to. But what is this "us", what is this "us" within current globalization politics and imperial/neo-colonial policies? Undoubtedly, feminist critiques would begin by pointing out, Bia, that the vast proliferation of systems for remote communication dissolve the difference between private and public spheres, blurring the boundaries between home life and work life, repositioning the long history of the sexual division of labor. In the labor relations of contemporary information societies, women continue to be more heavily disadvantaged, de-skilled, supervised and harassed by the technology-driven management of employee performance, not to speak of other areas such as technological intervention into biological reproduction or the techno-industrial reinforcement and policing of hierarchical social relations, class and race relations, gender conformity, and cultural identity.

It is necessary, however, to address such questions of collectivity or multilateral, networked communities, friendships, and collaborations through our work. We need to look at strategies (and responsibilities) for artistic practices which emphasize, not the delocalizing and homogenizing force of technological systems and perhaps increasingly invisible infrastructures (such as databases, "global networks") which might indicate a potentially colonizing universality, but the material and the local, the "suprasensorial" and situatedness of everyday life where humans and technical objects " exchange properties" or "body becomes story and vice versa. Such mediation points are crucial because they delineate the border between what counts as human and what counts as non-human, between what functions technically and what presents itself as social; they decide finally between what lives and what does not live." [12]

I want to ask Vibeke: Is the Sanctuary installation an evocation or idealization of collective cultural memory that can function/be effective and stimulating transversally? To what extent is the work co-authored, or collaborative (on site or sites? in-context) or how are images extracted from archives and databanks of "transculture" (through your travels) to create a utopian drift? A continental drift?

Vibeke Sorensen. Almost all of the images at this point I have recorded myself, on-site during travels around the world, thinking of the whole world not as a collection of competing regional entities but simply as home to all people and living things, including those without homes. Perhaps to some degree it reflects my own situation. As you know, I am from Denmark originally and am still a Danish citizen. I have lived in the USA for many years, but I often find myself in strong disagreement with US attitudes and values (competition, individualism, egotism, commercialism, aggressive foreign policy, including towards the third world, especially). (Please don't misunderstand me. I will never support any kind of terrorism or killing of innocent people for any reason. Nor do I support any kind of foreign policy that props up governments that violate human rights.)

I was always considered a foreigner, an alien, an outsider, a misfit, a stranger everywhere I went, including Denmark and the USA. I feel as much if not more at home in Brazil! As a colleague from UC San Diego said to me several years ago, "you have become a Jew, because you have no real home and keep moving. You are an immigrant but you can't go home. You have lost your home." I had never thought about this before (although I do have many Jewish friends), but I think it's true. This is similar to the condition of nomads and wanderers. Perhaps it is closer to that of diaspora. In any case, I am sensitive to people who may be misfits, who must leave or move for one reason or another, in some cases refugees (and there are so many) who must find refuge, or sanctuary, elsewhere. In any case, because of this my friends and colleagues are usually immigrants, foreigners, misfits, too.

I have come to the conclusion that everyone is a misfit in some way. As cultural influences and contexts change, cultural identities (especially those fragile and traditional) are questioned and become fluid. They are in danger of being destroyed or lost. Perhaps this is the condition I am worried most about. So I am interested in our differences as well as our commonalities, and finding ways to work together with others, not to dominate or dictate. But to observe, respect, and if asked, help.
My project seeks to immerse people in a complex multicultural experience that sensitizes them to others, including nature. So, perhaps my project is about evoking these humanistic, multicultural values, more than idealizing them. But I am an idealist! We should aspire to the best that we can be.

Of course I know that cultural differences can be difficult! This is especially evident when one thinks about women's and children's rights, animal rights, and the exploitation of the poor in the 3rd world. I talk with my students about these things. It is often difficult as some come from cultures such as China and India, where things like female infanticide still take place (although it is outlawed). I always start by talking about human rights, and then move from there to women's rights, etc. I am not a romantic, I know terrible things happen every day. That is precisely why I feel it is so urgent to use our abilities, and our art to foster alternative ways of thinking and interacting. My project in some ways seeks to change behavior as well as thinking by immersing the audience completely (body and mind - using all the senses) in a hybrid digital-physical environment. My piece requires cooperation, not competition, to experience it as multiple input devices are available to the same system. It requires that people touch plants -gently- to interact. It is meditative, so the mind and body are working together and the transcendent emotional and intellectual experience simultaneously enhances the experience of the senses and other people in the space, hopefully encouraging sensitivity and openness, including to change for the better. I believe that we need to encourage and reinforce the positive treatment of others through our work, through actual, functioning examples. We need more than works that inform us of the horrors in the world around us. We need solutions to problems, not only problems.

Regarding image banks and archives, no, I haven't yet used them. In my past work Morocco Memory II, yes, I did use excerpts from movies and found images on the web, etc, as part of shared cultural memory that informs our cultural perspective. I may do so in this work, Sanctuary. I am interested in the personal reflections on cultural memory from a wide range of points of view, and therefore I am including materials, including images by international artists I know from Brazil, Bolivia, China, Japan and India. I have also asked people from around the world to contribute their memories and narratives as lexia, or short stories and poems to it. This includes Heitor Capuzzo and Marsha Kinder (who contributed to Morocco Memory II), among others. And the composers with whom I am working are Rand Steiger, of U. C. San Diego (who worked on Morocco Memory II) and Shahrokh Yadegari of Iran and currently also at U. C. S. D. Shahrokh is an expert in world music as well as being a computer music composer. I am very excited about their contributions.

And yes, I do think about transcultural identity. Whether or not it is a "utopian drift," I am not sure. I prefer the term "idealistic" to "utopian" which to me is so closely connected with failed projects that actually are more "dystopian." However, if we don't work towards a more ideal way of interacting with the world, and try to make the world a better place, then we are giving up on our potential as human beings, and actually are part of a problem. So yes, I want to be part of a movement that is working to make the world better, where the depth and richness of diverse cultures are respected and remembered, where human rights are respected, where nature is protected. Is this utopian?

Is it a continental drift? I think it is a drift across many continents, many lands, beyond nations, to a global point of view. Not where there is a reduction to a single dominant point of view, an extension of colonialism, but the opposite, where the global point of view is richly diverse, international and multicultural, like a multifaceted lens, or labyrinth of mirrors reflecting the diversity of our human and natural world. We need, for example, the knowledge and understanding of people in fragile cultures such as Mongolia in China. This is important to our understanding of how to live there. We need their knowledge of nature - and culture - in order to survive and live in harmony with each other.

Johannes Birringer. Vibeke, could this work be read as a form of visual world music, and would you be comfortable with such an interpretation?

Vibeko Sorensen. In some ways, yes, I like the idea of world visual music. To me World music is the authentic music from many cultures around the world. It is beautiful and inspiring. It has evolved historically through shifting cultural movements, and the same is happening today. But one of the main problems with global (as opposed to "world") music is the decontextualisation of the materials and frequent superficial and disrespectful approach to using them, especially as western commercial
forces assert themselves. But when people from more and more cultures communicate with their own voices and images directly, in their own languages, then it is a dialog with the possibility for more depth. And each of our languages, and our collective languages grows larger as we learn from others. I always ask people from the cultures I am including how they feel about the images and materials, and if they have suggestions or possibly something they would like to contribute. People are
usually enthusiastic and want to help. I have never received the response of hostility, on the contrary. I ask for permission and people are almost universally excited about the project. For some reason they trust me to respect their culture. Perhaps because I acknowledge and respect them personally.


Johannes Birringer. Heitor,. you spoke of your interest in creating new animated narratives for young children in your country, and you spoke of resistance towards the logic of corporate and military and entertainment industries of the North. I think this is an important stance that also helps me to understand how you might position yourself politically, which might also refer back to our opening questions about "cultural location." In this context, I am reminded of Ricardo Basbaum's posting on <eyebeam><blast>, when he writes online from Rio de Janeiro and speaks of the music of Mangueira and the favelas, asking "where is global?-- It is located in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, in the economic centers. The rest of the world is local."

Is it perhaps romantic to re-invoke the "local"? How does North American hegemony challenge your narrative imagination? One more quotation: Luiz Camillo Osorio writes that Brazilians have their own modern tradition, and that he considers Brazilians culturally and spiritually different from the rest of South America. The challenge, he argues, is to think about nationality and local culture in "a world that disqualifies identity in essentialist terms. Can we think about nationality out of traditional categories? Can we think about nationality in a globalized world?" Argentinian curator Carlos Basualdo responded to some of the Brazilian <eyebeam> postings by arguing that Luiz Camillo Osorio and Ricardo Basbaum seem to find it difficult to think of Brazil in relation to any other culture that is not the US or Europe. He concludes that "the US appears recurrently as that which is always already counterposed to Brazil, defining its identity, even if you define Brazilian identity as, fundamentally, an open process of nonidentification. Why is it that the open process of non-identification that you call cannibalism, tropicalism, and so on, is re-inscribed in your discourses as a national(istic) trend? It is quite puzzling to see this reassertion of national (romantic) values happening in the Net." [13]

I suppose what interests me here is the question whether the Net is an agent of globalization that produces homogeneity and replaces local collaboration/groups with distributed "virtual communities," or whether we can expect culturally-specific net art, localized network styles or languages, different cultures of communication? I recently saw an exhibit of "The School of the South: Taller Torres-García," a workshop founded by Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García after his return to Montevideo in 1935. [14] Do you think there will be "Talleres" or Escuelas of the South -- different schools of internet art, culturally specific net practices, interface designs? different dialects? Or does the world wide web mean that artists in Latin America enter into a single socio-linguistic space, defined by English vocabulary, ASCII conventions, browser protocols, software design? Interestingly, Heitor explained that his media lab pursues two strategies, yes?

Heitor Capuzzo. Yes, one group is exploring high technology, using for example supercomputer processing applied to moving images. One of our researchers, Prof. Francisco Marinho, is working with intelligent characters applied to educational games. We are also working on a pilot for TV animation, using a famous character from one of our popular comic strips, to give life to it in 3D animation. The other group is exploring the creation of educational materials using simple technologies and languages, for CD-ROMs and other interfaces.

We are also dialoguing with powerful media industries that connect all of Brazil, such as our first channel (TV Globo), with its soap operas and telenovelas. You can see 100 million people connected. Our students are using high technology, and we are attempting to prepare professionals with a critical point of view, who will work with industry, in old and new areas, but with new ideas.

Mariano Sardon
. I think there can be different forms to conceive technology depending on specific local cultures if technology is considered in all of its aspects
and from different points of view. It would be a good opportunity to think of us in relation to other cultures. I learn much about myself understanding the way others work.


[12] Cf. Adrian Mackenzie, Transductions: bodies and machines at speed (London: Continuum, 2002), p. 214. The reference to technology turning body into story and vice versa follows Donna J. Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan”Meets_OncoMouse‘ Feminism and Technoscience New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 179.

[13] Cf. section 3, "Identity: Where is Global?", in Interaction: Artistic Practice in the Network, pp. 49-62.

[14] See also Andrea Giunta, "Strategies of Modernity in Latin America," in Beyond the Fantastic: Contemporary Art Criticism from Latin America, ed. Gerardo Mosquera (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), pp. 52-67.






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