David Garcia reflects on subcultures, Alt-s and the politics of transgression
Does the appropriation of transgressive cultural expressions and tactics by right-wing subcultures mean the end of the road for progressive and playful subcultures? In their conversation “Better Think Twice: Subcultures, Alt-s, and the Politics of Transgression” at transmediale 2018 face value, Florian Cramer and Angela Nagle discussed how this question is related to an excessive faith in the inherently progressive and left-wing character of subcultures as well as to a longer history of ambiguous youth, pop and experimental art practices. However, given today’s interaction between alternative and mainstream public spheres and political life, David Garcia’s response to the Cramer and Nagle discussion demonstrates that a “folk politics” of the Left can still matter.
Sarah Sharma's keynote on technologically aided escapism, entrapment, and the male fantasy of (s)exit
What does a real man do when things get tough at home? Runs out to buy cigarettes. Or so goes the male fantasy, as Sarah Sharma argued in her 2017 Marshall McLuhan Lecture, organized annually by transmediale and the Embassy of Canada in Berlin. The male fantasy of exit—the Sexit—pervades the masculine cultural imaginary at every level of society, from domestic space to the political sphere. After Grexit and Brexit, it should be abundantly clear how “pulling out” is a deceptively simple solution to real-life entanglements, and how the very privilege to imagine doing so is fundamentally a male prerogative. Sharma presents the main points of her conceptually invaluable lecture here.
Arielle Bier interviews the artist on identity, witchery, and how to heal the world
For transmediale 2017, multimedia and performance artist Johannes Paul Raether presented his latest installation investigating smartphone fetish culture titled Protekto.x.x. 184.108.40.206.pcp (2016) as part of the group show alien matter. Raether also participated in the Keynote Conversation “Strange Ecologies: From Necropolitics to Reproductive Revolutions” along with Steve Kurtz and Diana McCarty, discussing death and reproduction in the Capitalocene era. In this interview with writer and curator Arielle Bier, the shape-shifting artist discusses gender fluidity, technology as an extension of self, and the interplay of ritual, capitalism, and magic.
Finn Brunton enters the Twilight Zone of media cultures: extraterrestrial communication
The question of how humans might communicate with extraterrestrials is at once existential, semiotic, and technological. The content of the message we’d want to impart to aliens is part and parcel of its transmission. What fundamentals of human life and civilization would need to be conveyed—and what fundamentals of media technology would allow us to convey it? For transmediale ever elusive's "Prove You are Nonhuman" panel, author and media scholar Finn Brunton presented an idiosyncratic history of wild, imaginative, and arcane concepts of media in the service of alien communication.
Terminology whizzes around at conferences, sometimes congealing around a shared set of reference points and sometimes dissipating into dust. The Commons. Assemblage. Neoliberalism. We assume we're talking about the same things—but are we? Everyone knows that if you repeat a term often enough, it starts to sound absurd. Fiona Shipwright picked up on one of these conversational hallmarks during transmediale 2017: the “ever elusive” word infrastructure.
Ryan Bishop on Laurie Anderson's language of the future
transmediale 2017 closed with a performance by Laurie Anderson, The Language of the Future. To mark the occasion, in this essay Ryan Bishop reflects on language and narratives in Anderson’s decades of work as an artist shirking all categorization—“a confluence of technological reach, ambition and failure mixed with ironic humor.”