Christoph Meier, Ute Müller, Robert Schwarz, Lukas Stopczynski
Curatorial practices co-exist within an abstract system dictated by an algorithm. By recognising that curating is both part of managing content online as well as data-driven material, and institutionalised production of knowledge and aesthetic affects, #thescreenisnotthelimit explores the dialectic relationship between the digital/virtual and physical/material realms and positions itself as part of a multiple curatorial apparatus.
Curating implies to go beyond the body as a physical organism: It represents diverse modes of narrative; i.e. of power, that allow the creation of mechanisms of subjective perception (Wahrnehmung) in the act of self-governance, performed by an already bio-mediated body. The online exhibition, thus, goes further and suggests the idea that a new scenario of biopolitics has been established in the production, presentation and consumption of knowledge, framed in the relationship between the digital/virtual and the physical/material realms.
The idea of a curatorial self plays a significant role in our contemporary society. Curating has become a technology of the self that transcends the artistic and aesthetic world. It has been established as a way for the constitution of the self. The exercise of gnothi seauton (knowledge of the self) is based on the exploration, selection, construction and reproduction of given—and therefore predominant—narratives and practices of discipline/power within the physical and symbolic order. However, these practices and discourses have reached new territorialities—and so possibilities of action—in the digital/virtual realm. This realm is mediated, regulated and filtered by the dictate of the algorithm, which is nurtured by the exposure of individuals’ affects aiming for self-knowledge and self-recognition. The process by which individuals take care of themselves is enhanced via consume, but this consume is hidden behind the veil of curation as production (of content). Curation, in this case, creates the subjective perception of productivity and creativity, however, it is an equation mediated and filtered by the algorithm and the power behind it. Managing content also means to be caught in a spiral of consumption and reproduction of (pre-selected) content, conciliated by the illusion of self-governance.
Curating in post-human times shows that the expansion of traditional roles of the physical exhibiting room has another meaning. It has reached new actors and fostered other kinds of ways for the experience of art. Therefore, new power relations have come to play in the creation and distribution of knowledge, including artistic production. The institutionality behind the art world has no longer a visible façade or a recognisable face, and it is not exclusively a physical place. Traditional exhibition spaces have seen how their function of protecting, preserving, trading, cataloguing and creating narratives and canons, has served to promote, and to refine new methods of knowledge-control—also based on privileging content to direct conducts.
Curatorial practices—of any kind—transcend any traditional discourse about control and domination. Under the actual regime of new technologies, social media and algorithms, knowledge and power mutated into siren’s call of self-care, self-design and self-constitution, i.e. self-curating. Nowadays, interacting or consuming does not only base the constitution of the self: It is also a free decision of data sharing, however, it is not only information; it is affects.
Proper self-governing was the aim of care-of-the-self practices in early Platonic dialogues. A young ruler must care for oneself, govern oneself, and do so ethically in order to properly care for and govern others as a ruler. Thus, the self- care in this instance is the self-as-governor, self- as-ruler, aiming to be able to rule correctly. Therefore, the possibility of self-fashioned subjectivities was a widespread—at times, even all-encompassing—mode of existence in antiquity.
Then the institutionalisation of the Judeo-Christian morals, the subsequent formation of pastoral power, and the increasing prevalence of scientific and academic discourses, collectively functioned to phase out antiquity’s practices of self-finalising subjectivity. These mechanisms introduced an understanding into Western culture and thought that the self is already constructed and always determined, and that its fashioning and formation is beyond the ability of the subject.
Contemporary Western subjectivity thus appears to be limited and inescapable. However, turning towards ethics, the driving force of ancient philosophy’s self-care practices, the contemporary Western subject can escape the limits of subjectivation that have existed since the institutionalisation of Christianity, and may instead form his own subjectivity through the possibility of an ethical mode of life. Nonetheless, in an environment where most of us present and create ourselves to others online, via social media and personal webs, and to an audience that we know and do not know, we enter a complex process of curating by an algorithm. This involves of course not just us and computational models, but our feelings and morals, and a stream of content that has been curated to us. By reposting it, it also indicates a personality and an ethical behaviour, as we feed the algorithms of diverse platforms with affects.
As we develop super-intelligent technologies capable of operating more precisely and faster any human task, what is revealed is how little we understand of the complexity that makes up the human condition. By promoting an approach in which objects and interfaces mediate human beings and vice versa, we ought to consider an alternative to confronting the tensions between the physical and digital realms. The challenge thus, is to fashion a future responsive for creating awareness about the relationship between the body and technology, and the consequences of this relation in the constitution of the self, represented in ethical and political actions. For user interfaces to become genuinely intelligent, reliable, trustful and not an instrument of manipulation, interactive systems should be able to recognise and react to unpredictable human state changes, such as emotion, intention, desire, and empathy. Algorithms are creative and offer seemingly unlimited opportunities for interaction and innovation, yet there is also a pressing need for materiality and physical experience. #thescreeisnotthelimit, thus, invites the audience to pause for reflection, to consider also the risks of leaving the experience of art to an algorithm.
The challenge is to acknowledge critically the dialectic relation between the physical and virtual realms, as a vital form of dynamic thinking that could help developing digital artefacts that reflect our human capacity, and to embrace new modes of knowledge to shape our future.
The online exhibition #thescreenisnotthelimit featured works by Alina Frieske, Antonia Luxem, Egor Kraft, Herwig Scherabon & Pille-Riin Jaik, Jesse Johanning & Monogrowl, Jaana-Kristiina Alakoski, Monika Gabriela
Dorniak, Remy Ugarte Vallejos, Simon Freund, Theo Triantafyllidis and Vera Sebert can be accessed on thescreenisnotthelimit.com