Dr. Katja Kwastek is an art historian and coordinator of research at the school of arts at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. She served as vice-director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute Media.Art.Research. in Linz (Austria), where she directed the research projects on interactive art until 2009. Prior to this, she worked as assistant professor at the art history department of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and was a Visiting Scholar at the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI). Her research focuses on contemporary and new media art, media theory and aesthetics. She has curated exhibition projects, lectured widely and published many books and essays, including Ohne Schnur. Art and Wireless Communication, Frankfurt (2004). She recently finished a book manuscript on the aesthetics of interaction in digital art.
28 May 2011: RETOUCHING McLUHAN - THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE Conference Lecture Abstract
Topic: Mediated Massage Embodiment, Connectedness and Alienation in New Media Art
McLuhan's famous assumption that technology extends our central nervous system directly into the various social systems has a twofold relevance for media art research. New media art does not only present critical reflections of technologically altered and mediated bodies, it also paradigmatically embodies the new loss of distance between subject and world observed by McLuhan, because it turns recipients from distanced observers to involved participants.
Media as 'extensions of man' affect the potentials of expression and perception alike, directly influencing the interoceptive processing of information. In Australian artist Stelarc's spectacular presentations of telematically controlled bodies however, the recipient is still largely restricted to distanced observation. In contrast, recent performances of Italian artist Sonia Cillari locate the recipients at the heart of the 'mediated massage', though in a very ambiguous role. On the one hand, they directly affect the bodily sensations of the artist, on the other hand, they are captured inside the black box of the interaction space – they are at the same time at the controls and at the mercy of the situation. Whereas Stelarc declared the body obsolete, Cillari emphasizes the ambivalent position of the body in the media society between face-to-face intimacy and remote-controlled response, wireless affectivity and hard-wired intrusion.