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What is a work of telecommunicative art

Date of publication: 2020-03-22 18:06:40
Дата модификации: 2020-03-22 18:06:40
Views: 1203
The article is timed to the date: 1995-02-12
Other articles related to: Date1995-02-12 Articles for: Year1995
Anatoly Prokhorov 
Vladimir Zakharov
The goals of this article are: - to correlate a number of concepts, which become conspicuous in the analysis of electronic (computer, digital) screen works with classical concepts of art; -to correlate a number of antique notions of art with their possible modern interpretation and use in the new media; -to correlate telecommunicative art with the culturological notion of "game" (in Johanne Hesinga's terms); - to mark a number of new features in the first newly works of telecommunicative art.
Since antique mythology it has become the classical tradition of European art history to divide the world of arts into the Muses, or Music arts, i.e. poetry, music, theatre and dance, and plastic, or representational arts. "The fundamental distinction between these two spheres, the sphere of aesthtic reproduction and that of perception, was quite familiar to the Hellenic spirit, when it trusted it to theMuses to govern one group of skills and knowledge, denying this honour to the other group, which we unite under the title of representational arts. The far-going distinction between the Music and the plastic in general corresponds to the apparent absence of the element of game in the latter group, in contrast to quite conspicuous game qualities of the former. In Music arts the real aesthtical actualisation is in the performance. Even if a work of art has been created, rehearsed or recorded beforehand, it becomes alive for the first time when being performed, staged, sounded, that is literally in productio, the meaning, which is still preserved in the corresponding word of the English language. A Music art is an activity (and, moreover, we shall say, a behaviour, i.e. an outward activity - A.P.), and being an activity, it is perceived in the process of production every time, when this production is repeated... The activity itself, in which the music art is instanced, should be called game. As to the effect of the representational art, it manifests itself in an entirely different way, then in the Music arts. An architect, a sculptor, a painter, a draftsman, a potter or anybody, engaged in applied arts, by diligent and continuous labour asserts his aethetic impulse in a material. His work is long-lasting, and it remains visible for a long span of time. The impact of his art doesn't depend, as in music, on the act of performance by the artist or another person. Once created, it exerts, immobile and silent, its influence, as long as there are people to admire it. The artist, no matter how captured he may be creative passion, works like a craftsman, strenuously and seriously, always checking and correcting himself.(...) The task of the maker is serious and responsible: everything playfull is alien to it." (*) * (Johan Hesinga, Homo Ludens, Moscow, Progress, "Academia", 1992, p.p.187-189) What has just been said may be exemplified by the following extremely simplified quasi-mathematic scheme:
plastic (theoretical) arts = a finished work of art + the audience
Music (practical) arts = prepared work of art, i.e. + performers, + the audience
an accomplished model (rule) participants,
for the performers' activity players
Point of view C
Point of view B
Point of view A
Drawing 1
So, observing on drawing1 only first levels of both art audiences (Point of view B), we can construct the foolowing chain of oppositions: Plastic arts/Music arts = spectator, listener, consumer/participant, player, user, communicator = passive presence, perceptive dominant/active behaviour, interaction, communication.
Our principal assertion, which in many respects is quite evident, is in the following: telecommunicative arts belongs to the right pole of the just formulated chain of oppositions and are, in this sesnse, neo-Music arts.
Let us look at the notions observer, spectator, listener and participant, performer. In addition to such natural for observer functions as observation, watching, perception, here also emerges the function of practice, of outward activity (we shall remind, that perception and thinking, according to the theory of activity, belong to interior types of human activity). It is essential to remember, that "observation", "watching" sounds in Greek as "theoreia" and is related with the quite familiar word "theory", whereas "perception","feeling" sounds as "aesthesis", related to the no less familiar word "aesthetics". Thus, correlating the notion "aesthetics" with its original meaning, we would like to suggest our own, provisional (and, no doubt, one thousand and first!) definition of aesthetics as a set of arrangements (rules) of human perception, feeling, under conditions of free from practical activity observation (i.e. under conditions of "zero-communication" of a natural or cultural fact. In this definition it is important to emphasise, that aesthetics (in the sense, in which it has just been defined) describes final levels of both plastic and Music arts audiences (see drawing one, Point of view A), that is spectators, since it is based on the perceptual dominant in the absence of explicit practical activity, inherent in the position of observer, spectator. However it is the presence of Music arts with their first level of audience of participants = players =performers, that compels us to formulate an analogous platform, once parallel to aesthetics, which will describe the position of not so much the observer, but the participant, the performer. We shall allow ourselves to formulate this platform, this concept in the following purely provisional way: The ethic of the game is a set of arrangements (rules) for human practical activity on condition of usage- (or outward practical result) free man's participation in a process or event, (i.e. under conditions of "zero-profit").
It is quite probable, that many readers will surprised at such free use of one of the most important notions of human culture, the notion of ethics. Let us remind, however, that the old Greek "ethos" means "habit", "character", "temper", "mode of thinking". This notion fixes a steady and stable state of this or that person or society, some of their permanent characteristic features, that do not depend on the kind of situation, in which they may get. In a certain sense "ethos" is a set of norms, rules, protocols, rituals in the life of an individual or a group of indiviluals. Now it becomes clear, why it is ethics, or such set of norms, rules, protocols and rituals can describe most naturally these or those stable premises of our practical actions, our behaviour. However, the ancient Greek word "ethicos" turns out to have a meaning, other than the related to habits and characters "moral", and that meaning is "characteristical", "expressive". Who could think, that the word "expressive", "expressiveness", which is always used when talking of aesthetic issues, is one of the major meanings from quite different, aesthetic dimension of our life! And exactly in the same way, as we instantly remember the notion of "beauty", whenever we use the term "aesthetic", we must get used, when we say "ethic", to imply its final meaning "expressive", i.e. capable of conveying to us these stable habits, morals, norms and rules.
Why in our definition of ethics (end of section3) we speak of the ethics of game, and not simply of ethics? Firstly, at lest because we speak of free from any benefit or profit individual practical activity of participation in a certain process or event, which we may call, following Johan Hesinga, a game. It is understood, however, that if participation in a certain process envisages certain profit or benefit for the participant, then the process is not a game and therefore is the subject of another ethics, the ethics of the "serious", if you want. Thus, the ethics of the game are rules of the game, i.e. the type of the game's permanence, qualifying an unannounced change of rules by other participants as a deceit, a dishonest act etc. At this stage the relations between players acquire a classical ethic colouring. And the words "It is not fair!" refer us to the understanding of "honesty" as a code of definte acts, as a distinctly normative behaviour of the participant of the game. But only the participant! For, as soon as an individual quits the game (becoming, for instance, an observer) he automatically quits the ethic space of the game, corrrespondingly renouncing the imposed on him rules of the game, together with honour, honesty and other ethic obligations. Let us remember, however, that J.Hesinga considers the game to be almost the basis of the civilization, meaning the enormous range of socio-cultural games, which constitute the basis of culture. Here belong war, family, sexual and all social life. All these are games, but they are different games, having different, yet quite stable, although undeclared rules. Then, we come to the conclusion, which is opposite to the one, with which we started this thesis, and more precisely, that any ethics is the ethics of this or that socio-cultural game. That in a certain sense there is no "ethics of the serious", i.e. the ethics of the activity in a life (or vital) reality (that is the reality, in which we live and die). For, as soon as there appears on the horizon our individual death, all ethical veils turn out to be rejected. It becomes possible to break any codes of honour, for the existence in the field of life and death is defined by quite a different code, by quite a different set of norms, and more precisely, by pragmatism. That is by a set of direct actions, aimed to preserve one's own life, or to correctly cross the border of one's own death.
Coming back to drawing 1, we shall see, that there are two ways to compare plastic and Music arts. The first of them, point of view A, is based on that each time we consider the final audience of the art's consumers, i.e. the audience of spectators. And then the difference between these two types of art is the difference of composition and way of presenting a work of art to the viewer. However, from point of view B the situation is principally different. This point of view connects what is created or pre-created by the author with direct users of the work. And if in the case of plastic arts such direct users are spectators, in the Music arts direct users are its performers = participants = players. That is why we would like to return for a moment to the definition of these two classes of art work. The first class is plastic, or theoreic arts, aimed directly to the viewer's perception, i.e. involved in different types of refinement-arrangement of such perception. However, they do not deal with the viewer's behaviour, as if "turning it off" (the platform of "insignificant" behaviour, or "zero-behaviour"). I have allowed myself to call these arts "theoreic", proceeding from the already mentioned meaning of the Greek work "theoreia" - "observation", "watching". Music, or praxycal arts are directed towards different arrangement of the behaviour itself, of the activity of the former spectator, who thus becomes a participant, a performer, a user. That is, if in the plastic arts the goal was to arrange the usual, habitual individual perception, in the case of Music (praxycal) arts the goal is additional arrangement of the usual, habitual behviour of the individual and his actions. The fact, that observer becomes participant, being involved in a practical activity of aesthetic production, in practice, explains the meaning of another name for works of Music arts - praxycal (derived from the Greek word "praxys" - practice, activity, action). The antique names of these arts are underlain with antique cultural reminiscences: Music arts, pertaining to the domain of the Muses, and plastic arts, pertaining to the domain of the object plastic. Today we fully realise the conventionalism of these terms. For example, one of the major Music arts, dance, is for us a plastic art, from the point of view of activisation of human plastic. On the other hand, we can't deny all representational arts the mythological patronage of the Muses, i.e. creative substance. In this sense the suggested above purely working names, theoreic and praxycal arts, are more definite in terms of considering both types of art from point of view B.
The basis of the traditional approach to the world of arts in general was the concept of aesthetical perception of a work by the viewer (I shall remind, that "aesthetis" means perception). This signified the predominance of approach A to both classes of art. That is why the general rule for any author of classical or avant-guard art was the orientation to work with the viewer's perception, with what viewers will see or listeners will hear. And consequently, all the unbelievably diverse expressive devices, which have piled up in the world culture, were related to minutely detailed and differentiated arrangements of our perception. Point of view B allows to emphasise the specificity of Music (praxycal) arts, which are all based on the concept of aesthetic production (reproduction) of works by the participant, player, performer, agent, actor. We have found out, that all interactive digital (electronic) arts, in particular telecommunicative arts, belong to this class, in which the author's underlying ideology becomes the work on not the viewer's perception, but on practical actions of the praxycal work's participant, or, in Hesinga's terms, participant of the game, "man playing", homo ludens. Perhaps, this is my major thesis: we must realise,
- how drastically is changed the subject or sphere of our authoral efforts, speculations and professionalism;
- how cardinally are changed methods of creative work and principles of expressiveness in this new area of practical actions;
- that the terrain of man's practical activity is no less, than that of perception, which classical looks on art (position A) have arranged for milennia.
For a more detailed examination of praxycal (neo-Music) arts it would be useful to split them in two groups. The first group includes behaviour-works, that is such works which are based on the behaviour of a user-performer and arrange his behaviour in relation to different objects, necessary to perform his piece: his body, a musical instrument, computer screen or keyboard etc. Examples here may be a solo dance, playing a musical instrument, singing or theatrical performance, a solo computer game. The second group of praxycal arts includes communicative works of art, which are based not on the arrangement of the performer's behaviour, but on communication of a group of users (the minimum being two persons), which may be accompunied by the use of various performer's instruments. It is important to note, that the line between these two types is not drawn according to the numerical principle, depending on whether one performer performs a piece, or there several performers. The thing is, that communication as a distinct and separate type of human activity is organised in a far more sophisticated manner, than the work of a "solitary", or isolated person in an outward environment. For, if in the latter case we are confronted only with the mind and the will, then in the case of communication between several persons we have to deal with several "psychic realities" (S.Freud), equally complex, yet having sometimes absolutely different values, targets, motivations and communicative tasks.
Let us now turn directly to a number of communicative works of culture (I don't dare speak of communicative works of art), or communicative opus (I shall remind, that the Latin word "opus" means "work, product"). What can be called a socio-cultural communicative opus? Perhaps, a certain wholesome socio-cultural situation, in which the dominant is the communication of its participants, determining both the procedure and the result of this situation. Such is, for example, a conversation, in which two or more persons are involved (regardless, if it be a person to person or a telephone communication), or a certain accomplished cycle of shared productive activity (regardless, if it be two persons, carrying together a heavy bag, or hundreds of people working, at the car factory). Such is, for instance, football, chess and a lot of similar sport games.
What can unite such communicative opus with the notion of "art", with its major, defining features? A lot of things! For example, bright emotional involvement on the part of both participants and spectators, creativity, present both in the elaboration of rules of a new game, and in the creation of its new version-variation. (Let us remember, however, that in stable games, in particular in sports, creation of new rules occurs extremely seldom, whereas re-creation of ever new variation of the game, its version, occurs unbelievably often). What brings the communicative opus close to art is the possibility to observe it from the outside, i.e. the possibility of the audience, which with greater or lesser interest observes the participants of the opus, the ways, rules and results of their communication. I shall remind, that two chess players in the park infallibly attract a dozen viewers, a dozen hockey players millions of TV spectators. Even the opposition "mass"culture/high elitist culture" may be applied to both works of art and to communicative opuses: it is easy to understand, that chess we shall class as a "high" communicative opus, whereas cards as a "mass" one, (although, as is known, there exists world cups in bridge, poker and other card games).
It is important to note, that in Music and neo-Music arts a pre-designed work of art, i.e. a model of action for the performers (the rules of the game) are worked out just once. However later the performer = participant = player renews his versions of the Music piece again and again, often for centuries. Every time drawing on the same, already worked out rules, be it the text of their part or the score, or the rules of the footbal play, the participants create ever new interpretations, versions and variations, which can stir the attention of their own and that of the audience. Here we face the distinct difference between two types of creative work: a) creation of a plastic (theoreic) work of art, and b) creation of the model of performers action (rules of the game) in Music and neo-Music arts (drawing 1, point of view B). This principal difference as regards the author's work in both types of arts constitute that distinct methodological barrier, which must be overcome by the authors in plastic works (in particular, in visual and audio-visual ones), when they try to create neo-Music, and, in particular, telecommunicative pieces. Here the authors ought to create not simply this or that text of a work of art, this or that image. They ought to create, so to speak, rules of the game, which will be enacted again and again by dozens, or maybe, hundreds of participants, and watched again and again by dozens or hundreds of spectators.
In the first modest and obviously unconscious attempts at communicative art one can single out several stages, which we will try to describe briefly, using the example of such intersting telecommunicative genre, as telecommunicative performance. Our classification is based on comprehension and generalisation of real events, which occur now on the "Internet". So, usual exchange of letters via computer networks, the E-mail, becomes more and more frequent, and becomes similar to an exchange of utterances in a rather active "off-line" regime, and, given certain technological facilities and money, in the "on-line" regime, that is in real time of a "written conversation". At first it occurs in a professional programmers environment and serves to their professonal interests. But gradually it turns out, that when they want to have a rest from their work, it is not necessary to go out for a smoke, it is just enough to start to search for interlocutors on the net, who sit, exactly as they do, in front of their computers, like in front of a short-waver, trying to catch distant signals. This first stage of the network communication may be called "the stage of the amateur radioman". Indeed, a person entering the Internet was similar to those radio-enthusiasts of 1920-30s throughout the world, who spent enormous time to send a signal from a remote place in Kazakhstan to even more distant Oklahoma or New Zeland, and having caught the response from New Zealand, to feel proud of the mere fact of establishing the connection. Here the scheme is the same: a certain message, sent on the computer network, unexpectedly evokes a response, and there emerges a talk-about-nothing: "Hi, it is me, I'm Pete from Vologda." "And I am John from California". After two or three insignificant phrases both interlocutors realise, that there is nothing to talk about, and that the most important thing was to establish contact and to marvel at the presence of the interlocutor. The next stage of the network communication could be called "the stage of the fortuitous travelling companion". After a certain experience of establishing such contacts-about-nothing, there suddenly happens between some interlocutors a more prolonged and substantial tele-dialogue. One gets the impression, that through the on-screen written dialogue one can not only establish contact, but also to speak of something. But of what? And then, there naturally emerges the phenomenon of the fortuitous travelling companion, when a person can tell the story of his life to a fellow traveller who, as he perfectly knows, will get off the train several hours later. So emerge the so-called occasional telecommunicative ties, which may be relatively stable and which are remarkable for their atmosphere of confession or, at least, sincerity, underlain by inner solitude of the majority of people and their desire to have a heart to heart talk with someone. Here the access to the network conversation is free, so a third, fourth and other interlocutors may join in, and there emerges a stable situation of polilogue. However, in some time our individual comes to realise, that his network "fellow travellers" prove not so transient, and that they are sort of going to live the rest of his life on the net with him. But it disturbs the psychological comfort of self-disclosure to someone, who will soon disappear from our horizon. As a rule, in this case our individual tends to change such kind of network community to join another one. However, in the new community he doesn't tell everything about himself, but engages in a small talk, that is he puts on a "mask". He tells what he would like to be, rather than what he is in fact, he relates not the problems, that assail him, but the victories and achievemants, that he ostensibly has registered or that he is going to register in the nearest future. Or vice versa, he enacts crucial moments of his life, dramatising what happened to him, or inventing what, fortunately, didn't. However we all know, that if something happened to our telecommunicative neighbour, in order to calm him down it is enough to tell him an even more dramatic and "extremely true" story from our own experience. So gradually there takes shape the third stage of the network communication, which may be desribed as "putting on the mask". Finally after some time (usually each of these stages lasts on the average from several months to half a year) practically every person from the group of network communication gets the impression, that not only he has put on a mask, but all the rest have long done so. This realisation is followed by the next decisive, I would even say heroic, step, when they all "confess their lies", openly declaring their telecommunication a performance, a socio-cultural play with mundaine characters. Thus we come to the fourth stage, the stage of the telecommunicative performance. There are several such performances on the Internet, all of them having quite distinct rules of the game, which one has to abide by. And in case one refuses to act as required by the rules, the small tele-theatre community will "excommunicate" him: he will be able to watch the exchange of remarks between other participants of the dialogue, but none of them will react to his remarks, if he was sentenced to public ostracism following disrespect of some rules of the performance. Thus we are faced with a telecommunicative analogue of classical theatre improvisations, its quite unusual written version: in different parts of the globe people work on one and the same play, each of them writing the final version on behalf of his own character. The situation in general oddly reminds of Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of the Author". But unlike Pirandello's, our play is not simply enacted, it is being written right on the spot. The interesting feature of this written performance is its sequel character: people voluntarily get together in the off-line or on-line regime to continue to enact it part after part. Here become especially conspicuous certain ethical and neo-ethical dimensions of telecommunicative conversation - dialogue - meeting in that extended sense, of which we spoke in points 4-5. Such ethical dimensions make telecommunicative parties especially expressive, developping further the profound aesthetic intentions to use a new material, that of human communication.
What are the cultural and historical sources of the telecommunicative performance? Of course, first of all it is rooted in mystification and the so loved in the New World "practical joke". However, no small role here is played by the modern Western experience of psychological adjustment groups, and sometimes even that of psychodrama. Then the network parties or tele-performances may be viewed from an entirely different angle, from the viewpoint of the new "ethic theatre", coming back to the tradition of para-theatre and psychological theatre experiments of Ezi Gromovsky. In this case the novelty of the new generation of para-theatricality is in that the actors of the neo-ethical performance (or, paraphrasing S. Freud, "Wild Psychodrama") have moved into big distances to insert as a mediator a multi-dimensional environment of multiple reflexion - the telecommunicaitve network. Why do the participants need such distancing? The answer is in Vygotsky's "Psychology of Art", where he stresses, that only the resistance of material and the artist's attempts to overcome it allow to make a powerful and expressive work. The presence of the net, intentionally dividing participants and resisting their union, allows them to suggest to other players new possibilities and new divices of expressiveness. For instance, exactly in this empirical way in the process of formation of network performances was found such a device as "the character mask". Thus theoreticians of neo-Music arts have to understand, what are these new devices of telecommunicative expressiveness? On the one hand, they obviously stem from ethics and neo-ethics, but, on the other, these devices are clearly connected with rhetorics and neo-rhetorics, which, already in its antique variant (for instance, in court and council speeches), was directly linked to ethic aspects of relations inside a group of people.
Since we have started to speak of antique rhetorics and related to it poetics, let us remember that phrase from Aristoteles' "Poetics", which is the source of the famous triple division of the world of arts into primal genres: "The task of the poet is to speak not of what was, but of what might be by force of probability or necessity". (1451, a 37, quotation from: Aristoteles and the Antique Literature, Moscow, Nauka, 1978, p.126, tr.into Russian by M.L.Gasparova). So:
a) "that, what was" is history, or, more precisely, documentation;
b) "that, which was not, but might be" is invention, or drama;
c) "that, which was not and couldn't be" is phantasy.
We only have to substitute in this Artistoteles' formulation the past tense for the present to see the primal triade of genres for telecommunicative art, which is as follows:
a)"that, which is" is now, is a testimony, for example, a telephone conversation or an on-line telecommunicative dialogue as a fragment of a certain now-reality;
b) "that, which is not now, but which may be", is a fictitious testimony, a practical joke, a telecommunicative performance, "verisimilar" or "imitative" genres of virtual reality ("that, which I don't see right away, but which may be");
c) "that, which is not now, and which can't be", so we come back to raving invention and phantasy, which is actualised in front of us here and now, i.e. to phantastical genres of virtula reality.
Thus, it becomes evident and clear, that, firstly, telecommunicative arts are characterised by real-time communication, by flowing time of performance, by real-time dialogues. That they are characterised by actualisation of invention: "that, of which I am being informed, happens right now". It means, that there emerges a new dimension in the space of socio-cultural deception, which is related to the actuality of the not-here-but-now occurring deception. The "not-here" turns out to be that reality behind the stage, which has a far more powerful attraction for our imagination, than the stage right in front of our eyes. And secondly, telecommunicative performances and telecommunicative arts in general are founded not only on the perception of invention, but on the participation in this shared invention. Dragging an individual into a telecommunicative play, in such performance is, frankly speaking, dragging him into a culturally sanctioned practice of lying. Are such network performances a specific reaction to habitual lies, with which we are confronted every minute? Is such network para-theatre a sublimation of our practical need to lie, to conceal and to make ourselves unrecognizable? There are no definite answers to these questions, but it is important to realise, what novel, not always pleasant, but always topical, socio-cultural dimensions open up telecommunicative arts in their first works. For telecommunicative art, both in its mass and elitist form, is a matter of near future. It is what we can see today on the screen of our computer, linked to the net. More precisely, these possibilities appeared already yesterday. Today they appeal to the artist's pioneering fervour, which is always non-ethical, forgetting and rejecting moral codes. Be it the conqueror of the brush, of the sheet of paper or of computer screen. Fortunately or unfortunately, the artist doesn care, what he is to conquer.
However, practically all, what has been said above, becomes irrelevant, if you read all over again the three final phrases of thesis 3. Will you, please, read them all over again...
February 12, 1995
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Article description: What is a work of telecommunicative art, or what are neo-ethical dimensions of neo-Music arts? (16 theses to reflect upon the new and the yore)

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