The Advice Bunny interviews Laiwan
Laiwan is a multimedia artist and writer living in Vancouver. Her Web site Machinate was recently featured and at the third Maid in Cyberspace Web Festival organized by Studio XX and can been seen at: http://www.studioxx.org .The Advice Bunny (Valerie Lamontagne) is a Montreal artist and writer and can be consulted for advice at: http://www.cstrecords.com/advicebunny
? : Could you please talk about the transition from the Machinate exhibition to the Machinate web site? What were some of the changes in the meaning and body of the work that occurred?
Laiwan - Some of “Machinate” was inspired by a Paul Virilio essay called ‘The Third Interval: A Critical Transition” . Here, he examines the transition our culture is in, where we are moving from a industrialized, analog, tactile culture to one that is digital, non-tactile and based in information. This transition we’re in feels messy to me and I wanted to flush out how we couldn’t let go of certain ways of being in the world. Where we’re hanging onto values inherited from capitalism and colonialism, struggling to carry-over assumptions or habits of accumulation and possession into a virtual, non-tactile, informational existence.
I was inspired to investigate what ‘analog’ and ‘digital’ each are. How the movement from one to the other changes the way we understand, perceive and move in the world and to try to comprehend how it is a critical epistemological shift.
I chose film to be the analog medium and video to be the digital for my research. With film we can see each image frame by frame on the celluloid and we can identify different scenes etc. by just looking at it directly. With digital media this is not so…all videotapes look alike with its black magnetic tape, just as all CDs look alike. It’s not easy to know their content by looking at it physically and we need the technological hardware to play/view/hear it. So immediate cognition and a variety of tactile sensations are removed. Most importantly, the consistent homogeneous design has become familiar: the black box for videotape or glistening circular disks for containing information on CDs.
Looking at homogeneity is important for me because much of the digital is based on homogeneous physical forms. Our crowning achievement in homogenous design is the computer. The CPU, monitor, mouse and keyboard are the fundamental form we all interact with. There is not much choice as to how to interact with it differently. We are all seated at our computers similarly while becoming more sedentary. It isolates the work for our brains, eyes and fingertips while other parts of us are unused or useless. We’re now well trained to sit in front of this ubiquitous form and will be trained to have no expectations for any other varieties of forms or experiences or any other types of interface or interactions.
This is what changed “Machinate” when translated for the Web. The Web site is another work, the physical retranslated into the virtual. No longer can we see the playful dance of the film loop above our heads in “real” space and time, nor can we walk around the projecting machines, hearing their whirring motors, feeling their anthropomorphic existence. It became something no longer of a total bodily experience, but of a controlled, predetermined, uniform approach where the only variation is where one clicks the cursor. This is the epistemological shift.
I wanted this virtual version to be there to complement the physical gallery installation, to highlight the differences in characteristics of each different medium, to emphasize what is lost or gained moving from the analog to the digital and vice versa. My focus on the content of the work being informed by the medium is a structuralist approach that I tend to work with.
 Paul Virilio, “The Third Interval: A Critical Transition” in the anthology ReThinking Technologies, edited by Vereena Andermatt-Conley, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1993. pg 9
 Martin Heidegger, Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, Trans. William Lovitt, US, Harper Colophon Books. 1977
 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Trans. Richard Howard, New York, Hill & Wang. 1981
 Celia Lury, Prosthetic Culture: Photography, Memory and Identity, UK Routledge. 1998
Valérie Lamontagne - 03/2000 The Advice Bunny interroge Laiwan
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