Technics Improvised

Activating Touch in Global Media Art

2022
Author:

Timothy Murray

Seeing new media art as an entry point for better understanding of technology and worldmaking futures

Timothy Murray, a leading authority on new media art, examines that curatorial and aesthetic landscape to explore how art resists and rewires the political and economic structures that govern technology. Reading a wide range of creative performances and critical texts that envelop artistic and digital materials in unstable, political relations of touch, body, archive, exhibition, and technology, Murray points the way to activating creativity, thought, and politics anew.

In this moment when quarantines, lockdowns, masking, and social distancing regulations put a premium on the haptic, Timothy Murray’s book showcases the aesthetic exuberance and technical mastery of cutting-edge media artists who touch us through our screens. Tactical as well as tactile, touch, for Murray, is both active and activist—feminist, queer, anti-racist, anti-colonial, and anti-capitalist. Drawing from decades of theorizing, critiquing, researching, curating, and archiving at the intersection of the digital and the performative, Murray argues for the essential significance of the improvisational turn from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, India, Palestine, Australia, Bolivia, and Ghana to New York and far beyond. Murray introduces us to a world of media artists to embrace… if only virtually.

Gina Marchetti, author of Citing China: Politics, Postmodernism, and World Cinema

In this challenging work, a leading authority on new media art examines that curatorial and aesthetic landscape to explore how art resists and rewires the political and economic structures that govern technology. How do inventive combinations of artistic and theoretical improvisation counter the extent to which media art remains at risk, not just from the quarantines of a global pandemic but also from the very viral and material conditions of technology? How does global media art speak back to the corporate closures of digital euphoria as clothed in strategies of digital surveillance, ecological deprivation, and planned obsolescence? In Technics Improvised, Timothy Murray asks these questions and more.

At the intersection of global media art, curatorial practice, tactical media, and philosophy, Murray reads a wide range of creative performances and critical texts that envelop artistic and digital materials in unstable, political relations of touch, body, archive, exhibition, and technology. From video to net art and interactive performance, he considers both canonical and unheralded examples of activist technics that disturb the hegemony of biopolitical/digital networks by staging the very touch of the unsettling discourse erupting from within. In the process, critical dialogues emerge between a wide range of artists and theorists, from Hito Steyerl, Ricardo Dominguez, Joan Jonas, Isaac Julien, Ryoji Ikeda, and Shadi Nazarian to Gilles Deleuze, Jean-Luc Nancy, Elizabeth Povinelli, Jean-François Lyotard, Erin Manning, Achille Mbembe, and Samuel Weber.

Brilliantly conceived and argued and eloquently written, Technics Improvised points the way to how artistic and theoretical practice can seize on the improvisational accidents of technics to activate creativity, thought, and politics anew.

Timothy Murray is director of the Cornell Council for the Arts, professor of comparative literature and English, and curator of the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art at Cornell University. His numerous books include Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds (Minnesota, 2008).

In this moment when quarantines, lockdowns, masking, and social distancing regulations put a premium on the haptic, Timothy Murray’s book showcases the aesthetic exuberance and technical mastery of cutting-edge media artists who touch us through our screens. Tactical as well as tactile, touch, for Murray, is both active and activist—feminist, queer, anti-racist, anti-colonial, and anti-capitalist. Drawing from decades of theorizing, critiquing, researching, curating, and archiving at the intersection of the digital and the performative, Murray argues for the essential significance of the improvisational turn from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, India, Palestine, Australia, Bolivia, and Ghana to New York and far beyond. Murray introduces us to a world of media artists to embrace… if only virtually.

Gina Marchetti, author of Citing China: Politics, Postmodernism, and World Cinema

In Technics Improvised, Timothy Murray brings together, revises, and remediates previously published essays, improvising an epistemological reading of five decades of what he terms new media art’s ‘incorporeal materiality.’ The first-person perspective Murray brings to his subject matter is invaluable: it reflects his participation-observation in the archive that he dis/assembles, his activating work against the enclosure of ‘new media’ as historical object.

Amy Sara Carroll, author of REMEX: Toward an Art History of the NAFTA Era

Contents

Preface

Prolegomenon: When the Future Ain’t What It Used to Be, or New Media at Risk and the Improvisations of Art

Part I. Activating Technics through Emergent Media

1. Tactical Tools: From Fantasy of the Open to Networked Activism

2. Ecotechnic Touch: Thinking Technics with Jean-Luc Nancy and Ryoji Ikeda

3. Archival Events: Situated Surfaces of New Medialized Art

Part Two. Critical Performance and the Temporality of Touch

4. Clones: Genomic Simulacra in the Age of Recombinant Bodies

5. Like a Prosthesis: Critical Performance @ Digital Deleuze

6. Futurities, Uncertain: Screening Theatrical Phantasms

Epilogue. Future Fever, the Exposition: Ten Epistemological Fictions

Acknowledgments

Notes

Publication History

Index