I’m on the editorial panel for an upcoming conference, The Second International Conference on Transdisciplinary Imaging at the Intersections between Art, Science and Culture (22-23 June 2012, Victorian College of the Arts (, which aims to explore “the theme of ‘interference’ within practices of contemporary image making”. Describing a general cultural context of image proliferation (“pollution”) via “machinic interpretations of the visual and sensorial experience of the world”, it sets out to explore the potential for art to “interfere with the chaotic storms of data visualization and information processing”, “disrupting and critiquing the continual flood of constructed imagery”. The alternative to the “tactic of interference”, the conference call suggests, is that art ends up “merely euologizing contemporary media.”

Here are some very preliminary thoughts.

Firstly, the description of the alternative interests me. Why “eulogizing” and what precisely is being eulogized? Is the eulogy for prior forms of more restricted, humanly based forms of media, which are somehow swamped by the deluge of contemporary image-making, or is the eulogy for the sense of utopian, critical hope once associated with mechanical and electronic image modes of image production and dissemination, or could the eulogy perhaps be for the image itself, as something that can take constitutive form as piece of media, that has not simply been absorbed into intrinsically mediated everyday life? In relation to the latter interpretation, Siegfried Zielinski argues that the concern with media belongs to the last century:

The twenty-first century will not have the same craving for media. As a matter of course, they will be a part of everyday life, like the railways in the nineteenth century or the introduction of electricity into private households in the twentieth. 1

This idea of relating media to everyday life – of the problem of the everyday, following the tradition of work, for instance, of Baudelaire, Breton, Shklovsky, Lefebvre, Blanchot, Debord, Certeau, Perec, etc., etc. – seems very interesting, particularly because it acknowledges the opacity of media, the awkwardness of critical apprehension:

[W]e swim in it like the fish in the ocean, it is essential for us, and for this reason it is ultimately inaccessible to us. All we can do is make certain cuts across it to gain operational access. 2

This sense of the aporiatic character of media – its intimate necessity and the correlative blindness that this entails – has implications for conceiving interference as some kind of critical-aesthetic tactic of resistance. In what sense can art lay claim to interference? In what sense can it be positioned as a critical-aesthetic tactic? I am thinking, for instance, of how Serres describes interference – in the sense of noise and parasite – as generally constitutive of communication. Interference, for Serres, is not something applied from without to media but is instead fundamental to media itself.3 So then, at the very least, we would need to find means to distinguish between deliberate interference and the interference that is already shaping contemporary image-making. I am not sure that is possible without falling into the trap of envisaging art’s potential to facilitate a neatly privileged critical perspective, to somehow remove itself from the problem of media opacity. The kinds of local level tactics that Certeau envisages in his conception of everyday life – arise within the texture of street-level interaction.4 They are a function of the passage of any general productive strategy through the realm of the lived – via idiosyncratic implementation, slight deviation, entropic repetition, etc. Above all, they are distinguished from simply oppositional strategies, which share the same globalising tendencies as the productive forces that they set out to resist. The notion of interference – critical-aesthetic interference – seems to waver between these two poles, between appearing as a strategic perspective and risking its dissolution, its critical opaqueness, as a form of tactical interaction.

  1. Zielinski, S. 2006 Deep Time of the Media, MIT Press, Massachusetts, p.33
  2. ibid.
  3. Serres, 2007 M. The Parasite (translated by Lawrence Schehr), University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis
  4. Certeau, M. 1984 The Practice of Everyday Life (translated by Stephen Rendell), University of California Press, Berkeley
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