"... Human sensibility is our only channel to the universe. If the capacity of that channel can be increased, knowledge of the universe will expand accordingly. The channel may be augmented by many useful inventions; ultimately, however, every rational structure can be reversed by adverse feeling. Emotions function as the main valve in the circuit between us and the universe. They may be artificially regulated by chemistry and psychiatry, but neither of these sciences can enlarge the instruments of the aesthetic prerogative of artistic invention."
(George Kubler, "The Shape of Time")
Our species is at a critical passage. We are crossing a threshold more massive in its implications for future life than the industrial/urban revolution of the late 18th century. Just as the industrial/urban revolution reshaped nearly every human relationship, so this new digital/communications revolution will remake our individual, social and ecological lives. More specifically, the roles and processes of art and culture will be augmented and transformed.
Culture making is essential to human survival and definition. The future is defined by our capacity to develop adequate cultural formulations (image/objects/communications) that address, on the one hand, the complex interactions within human adaptation and on the other, the open and free expression of existence itself.
Crucial to the understanding of the "global" world is the interaction of cultural expressions. The arts have long been considered to contain highly integrated and communicative formulations of those cultural expressions. Imperative to positive worldwide development is artistic interaction with other elements of culture (science, technology, language, etc.).
Much of the positive economic and political evolution hoped for is dependent upon the preeminence of environments that are critically engaged in the active exploration and generation, expression and interaction of cultural values seen in the growing interactions of art, science and technology.
Normally, art, science and technology are each driven along different paths by contradictory expectations and needs both within their professions and from the general society. Internal agenda propel them to operate within their own formal operations and agenda. Consequently, each tends to move in its own gravitational field with enormous internalized momentum. The struggle of contradictory desires surrounding conflicting societal expectations engenders confusion and stagnation. In other words, each aspect of culture has its own internal and external dynamics isolating it from the productive interactions necessary for its own and mutual vital growth. When the underlying vectors of art, science and technology align, peaks of culture are achieved. Yet to understand the causal energies which bring these historic moments into being requires a highly complex historical perspective. We barely understand the dynamics of these fields let alone their interrelationships. The field of history is hardly prepared or focused toward this problem in historical analysis. Nevertheless, the practice and study of these interactions is made all the more urgent by the current demand that the gaps between the various aspects of our culture be bridged and overcome. Yet, it is even more difficult to plan and instigate change.
"The matter of the collaboration between art and science is inextricably interwoven with questions of management and hierarchy. Though the art community has traditionally been reluctant to deal with the question of hierarchy, such social arts as movies, computer graphics and design argue that a new balance had been struck between the individual creator and society and that the old romantic models were no longer adequate even as starting points. In all of these activities, artists are already collaborating with science and with advanced technologies. Often they work in hierarchies which direct their efforts for them and much of their creative energy is concerned with the management of information rather than with individual self-
(Judson Rosebush, "Art and New Media")
To try to understand some of the dynamics of change in our mutual cultural growth it is important to at least outline some of the major forces as well as accumulations of stress that are reshaping the frameworks of culture.
There are three fundamental vectors converging to force and create both local and global change and at the same time creating new contexts for art and artists. They are Technos (the combine of science-technological-technique transformation under way -- most recently, the digital revolution); Ecos (the human relationship to planetary systems -- the view of the planet as one living intensely interrelated being); and finally and fundamentally, Mythos (the quest for meaningful existence and belonging- a structure of multi-leveled coherence ).
The consequence of these three pressures is becoming exponentially more visible and knowable. Further, they are overarched and energized by a powerful communications burst.Multiple and synchronous rearrangements imply the need for frameworks of integration so that individuals and groups may guide themselves toward life fulfilling objectives.
Equally, and even more importantly these shifts betoken redefinitions and discoveries within inner regions of individual and group consciousness. Both of these fundamental changes will engender movements within the arts while at the same time provoking expanded roles for the arts within the domains of science and technology and in turn with the larger cultural surround. These multiple and synchronous rearrangements imply the need for frameworks of integration so that individuals and groups may guide themselves toward life fulfilling objectives. The redefinition of the role of the arts will be directed by three major themes. The first is contextualization; the second, quality of communication and the third, new consciousness, both inward and outward. Each of these themes contains dialectical opposites suspended in interactive tension.
The first theme is centered on the concept of intensive contextualization: a dialectical interaction between localization and globalization -- a resonance between the specific environmental, sociological and psychological contexts and the emerging global framework. It is necessary for the arts to establish a more fundamental resonance between the address to specific situations, places and peoples. This increased specificity is then brought into a direct global framework. Reciprocally global framework is reified in local form. These arts will possess levels of particularization and universalization that we can see in the most demanding new works.
The second theme centers around the enormous needs for structures of harmonization and balance poised against the new uses of culture in economic and political competition. Both of these tendencies will evolve around the need to intensify the quality of communication. There are human demands that
require greater environmental and societal harmonization. Those societies living under difficult constraints have large and intense arts activities. The arts are a homeostatic mechanism to achieve productive balance and accommodation. Such actions as integration, healing, catharsis, unification, collaboration and expression will become extraordinarily important if such balance is to be achieved. The arts will be involved with many efforts to define authentic identity for both the individual and the society in a differently understood ecology. We are totally dependent upon these cultural adaptive structures.
Culture will dominate economy. The new economies will be systems mutual exchange which will more closely resemble dream-sharing than the supply-demand, source-end economic structures. Economies will be developed through a new relationism- an interactive dynamic mode. This new economic model is more clearly understood through psychology, anthropology and information theory. In essence, the arts will lead other socio-economic exchanges. As an example, the intense interaction of music on a global scale bares close scrutiny. Music's dream-sharing capacity is overwhelming. Economists and politicians could well study this genuinely dynamic exchange.
Simultaneously, there is a growing competition to create and control the cultural signaling systems on a global scale. There will be efforts to formulate signals at extreme levels of complexity and significance within the functions of the arts in their role as prime image/object generators. This deep meaning function is under critical attack from control structures world wide. Societal entities (religious, ethnic, political and economic) seek to control cultural communications to serve near sighted objectives. Farsighted communities will project both political and economic power through cultural frameworks contradicted by the dream-sharing, new 'relationism' of economic interactions. (In fact, the exchange of deep meanings will be transacted in the frameworks of mutual exchange within the new economics.) This competition will be accompanied by the inverse and intense commodification of artistic endeavors. The proliferation and production of controlled art will present fundamental challenges to any form of integrity in artistic production and communication. Cultural systems will be usurped for all forms of non-artistic agenda. Yet, on the other hand, artists will compete effectively for control and access to these large cultural production systems to deliver radically different content and meaning. Meanwhile, artists evolve parallel networks of the homeostatic attributes mentioned above whether in direct exchanges and alternative economies or through networked tele-exchange.
The third pair of creative tensions focus upon developing new insights from the evolving digital revolution. This digital reality will interact dialectically with inner poetic need to make meaning.
We live in a culture that is changed by the impositions of new technologies. It is presently characterized by innovation and miniaturization implemented by the most transformative set of tools and technologies yet assembled. This assembly I call for want of another name, "Digitalia", a new computer-based continent rapidly developing its own inward and outward reality. Its constant drive is toward higher and higher forms of simulation, simultaneity and synesthesia. Digitalia is waking to its capacity to dream and artists have the abilities to gestalt these first inchoate dreams.
"The computer has transformed the exchange of money into an exchange of information, this transformation of an object (coins and paper) into an electronic exchange of impulses is a preview of what is and has been happening in most fields. The physical manipulation of matter is reduced to a minimum, most spaces and objects are translated into information to facilitate their manipulation and use. Information design and managment become one of our main activities. In this global village, where everybody sees and hears everybody else instantaneously, obvious inequalities confront us and the thresholds of what is acceptable and what is not are continuously fluctuating. These rapid attitudinal changes and communal feelings undermine our slow political, social and cultural structures and reveal them to be often irresponsive and out of sync. In such an effervescent situation it is important to stay awake and reflect on the impact of technology on our psychic being. Only a profound understanding of these changing information structures offers the hope of a new equilibrium."
(George Singer, "Art and New Media" Canadian Commission for UNESCO)
This powerful transformative presence will be complementarily balanced by an intense drive for an inner and intimate poetics. The emphasis here is on the dialectical complementarity. Art will expand its role both in relationship to inward search and also to the process of the reification of new states of consciousness. It will expand traditional roles to develop objects and procedures which will be of intense immediate value balanced against the cold surface of the technological presence. New forms addressing internal necessities, i.e., redemption, propitiation, liberation, transcendence and ecstasy will be inwardly directed to make new communications and meanings: a process of internalization in which an art form exists inwardly. These internalized forms will reach outward through alternative virtual forms of communication, for example, lucid dreaming. This internalized poetic will be driven by the desire to transform the world into an intimate feelingful construct. This reclaimation of intimacy will evolve a social and aesthetic structure so well outlined by Hakim Bey in his various publications and lectures.
Desire and empathy are combining with a new sensitivity to sensorial interaction with the near-space, the intimate space. The intimate space of empathy and desire is developing objects/images, relationships and procedures in reaction to the implacable chill of the mediated and controlled surface of shared culture. This atmosphere questions the stability of the surrounding socially objectified reality and supplants it with a page sevenfield of psychic projection and transference in which the discourse of intimacy and empathic transference must be manifest against the arbitrary and repressive structure of the poli-seized, socio-environmental surface. The inability to trustingly project libidinous and empathic feelings and values into the shared social and environmental realities leaves these deep energies seeking channels into the world. Inner necessities, to propitiate or redeem guilt, to manifest pleasure, ecstasy or transcendence must have their way or otherwise find pathological outcomes. All of this effects the nature of the poetic individually formed object/image. The emotional and physical domain of these creations is in the highly charged erotic domain of immediacy, an atmosphere where the life of the object/image is given a new valence or spin and value.
This defines the privileged relationship of the individually or interactive group-made world to the fundamental re- appropriation for intimate discourse of memory and dream, fantasy and play. In this repossession is a flickering back and forth between the intimate sensorial field of mental life and physical substance. Here we can enter a more flowing relationship between the mind and sensorial physicality. As Poulet says, "Between this regained sensation and the present sensation there is the established a relationship of the same nature as that between the faith of a child and the object of his belief; and from this metamorphic relationship between two impressions there has finally surged up the self; not a present self, without content, at the disposal of time and death; and not a past self, lost and hardly retrievable; but an essential self, liberated from time and contingency, a primal and perpetual being, the creator of itself, the author of an 'eternal song immediately recognized' ".
The development of media such as virtual reality intensifies empathy with proposed virtual forms. It combines synesthetic simulation and animates an alternative reality. In the largest sense, the virtual worlds can yield repressed individual social, cultural, energies. Further, they can provide the individual with controlled access to relationships within the larger cultural field and provide the individual access to inspirational structures which are self-created and self-organized. The aesthetic and philosophical ground of these energies is to dissolve traditional culture-space-time boundaries and be able to explore the nature and possibilities of global fourth dimensional consciousness wrapped within an emerging poetic frame. It is a simultaneous fabric woven in a global studio, stage and muse-eum.
"Pure objectivity, fact and reality are scientific fictions. Their experience is multisensory. The rise of the logical/visual/sequential world view, or abstract scientific thinking, in the adoption of the "Greek) phonetic alphabet marked the passage from the oral and tactile to the visual, linear and abstract. Computers are the furtherest achievement of linear either/or logic. They do not make sense or have intentions; they only match bits. Unfortunately, we increasingly find ourselves taking computer logic as the standard and model of human thought. What we need to overcome is the dominance of logical,
visual, sequential thinking (which has come to hold sway in both the science and the humanities) in order to recognize the actually simultaneous, multisensory, ecological process patterns of today's instantly changing information environment."
(Barrington Nevitt, ":Art and New Media")
The vast potential of the virtual reality is countered by important problems. The first problem is that as we turn away from the shared physical reality we give it over to others who seek to control it. And secondly, as we sensorially disengage, we loose the critical friction with the world so necessary for creative adaptation and evolution. Imagery or imaging becomes fraut with difficult questions for just as images become a crucial part of the social discourse, both legally and politically, they become equally weakened by manipulation of the political and societal forces that both co-op and transform them. No sooner is an artistic innovation engendered than it is usurped by the opposite political and economic organization for disingenuous purposes. This continual vulnerability to usury constitutes a fundamental problem and threat to the new creativity. Further, the technical apparatus surrounding image production has become so powerful that it is impossible to maintain the genuine or the original, hence a reliable and accountable relationship between creator and audience. The basis of the document or the prime signal is eroded. We have reached a point where we cannot trust anything we see or hear beyond the borders of our own sensorial creation.
As a result, our need to empathically project into socially shared images is forestalled or denied. The need to attach ourselves to the world is blocked at the very moment when we need the greatest sets of integrating, unifying and progressive images, whether in intimate individual and inter personal life or in the largest global social discourse.
Yet, against these problems there has evolved a new vibrant mesh pulled by a tremendous psychic gravitation moving toward the goals of intense simulation, toward the concatenation of the senses in synesthesia combined with a higher coherence of consciousness in a fourth dimensionality which is a level of coherence integrating far more than simply time.Digitalia's drive is toward higher and higher forms of simulation, synesthesia, and simultaneity. The center of this second triad (Simulation, Synesthesia, and 4th dimensional Consciousness) is that which is called 'virtuality'. The development of virtual realities poses the potential for full or total empathy with proposed virtual forms.
Virtuality is again characterized by three main expansions of consciousness, Trance (deep healing and creativity), the Astral (direct psychic access to other times and spaces), and the Telepathic (direct psychic contact with other consciousness). Combined, these all are drawn toward the intuition of a unity/totality which is one of the great axiological archetypes of human aspiration - the perception of the vast hologram in which both specific incarnation and totality are bound together in specific/absolute form. All of these form the domain of the desire for direct intimacy and immediacy within a responsive cosmos.
We are at a nexus where new fundamental artistic/poetic invention will fashion and explore, together with the new technologies, a new vastly more expressive artistic, intimate and immediate, synaesthetic/multisensory meta-language It will embody, organize and express barely known forms of living consciousness. In this domain we will formulate new languages that are hieroglyphic/multimedia languages of image, sound and concept which allow much more complex gestalts of feeling, thought and intention to be formed and expressed both outwardly and inwardly.
These new heiroglyphic languages will give us the capacity to communicate thought and feelings with and integrated depth and complexity never before possible. We will be able to inhabit a thought feeling space of another. For example, I could put you into a heiroglyph in virtual space concerning and insight concerning a meditation on a wave on the ocean and the idea of Platonic forms-- you would enter the space and begin to physically spiral in space. As you did so, you would see a spiral seashell floating and turning in space. It would be intersected by a golden section proportionate to its spiral. This is the phi spiral which determines growth and is the single factor or proportion that is Plato's key to the cosmos. These spiral continues to the infinitely large and the infinitely small. As you moved near the shell you would hear the sound of the waves breaking and by slightly moving your head hear Sebelius' "Oceanides". As you hear one wave breaking you see it and you see an animation of the hydrodynamics of a wave breaking filtered through a fractal geometrical diffusion (looking like a real wave). As you see this wave, it is passed out onto the spiral and seized by the wave-like edge of the seashell. The seashell slowly metamorphoses into a drop ascending out of the breaking edge of a wave and as it ascends you are physically turned upside down where you hear all around you the sounds of all the world singing as you rotate within the drop. Gradually, you are brought back to the wave and back to the seashell to move away. At any point in this "heiroglyph" you could stop and touch things which would speak or display mathematical formulas and geometries visually and tactilely. All this is to convey a single intuition. Through this virtual hieroglyph I could bring you into the space of my mind in a moment of intuition.
For the past 25 years the frontiers of artistic experimentation have pushed the boundaries of the arts outward to embrace environments, technologies and methodologies far outside the usual domains of the arts. These arts have expressed the theme of expansion through technological and scientific arts, and through information and telecommunications arts, the arts of the expanded body and architecture, arts in urban scale, art in the sky and outer space.The shifts that are coming or now underway are the shifts from collaboration to integration, from environment to Ecos, from communication to communion, from multimedia to virtual synaesthesia, from celebration to ritual, from art to Mythos, through integration, animation, transformation, transference and transubstantiation toward a new intimacy and immediacy- toward a specific and relatively unmediated communion.
The totality of the virtual endeavor to seek, form and express the complex human-technological and ecological revelation that surrounds us. New roles for the artist will be more broadly based, socially, and spatially widely distributed, a creative fertilization characterized by an instigative and transformative energy. The impact of the advanced technologies is to fold consciousness back on itself to form an extremely expanded synaesthetic and synchronic diaspora and to fold the body inside out upon itself creating an interference pattern of barely envisioned love.
In summary, the interactive mesh of Ecos, Technos and Mythos creates a new context for the structuring of artistic actions as radically different from the arts of the urban-industrial complex as those urban-industrial arts were when they emerged from 18th century agrarian society. Far beyond the social psychological and environmental instigation of art is its need to, yet again, connect us to our deepest and highest desires and feelings for there are the new channels of feeling reaching into the cosmos.