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This week I am a guest writer in Barbara Peerdeman's diary, which is online at the above address. Its images are too large for me to download on the dial up connection. They are scanned diary pages of hers. I don't know her and she doesn't know me, which is typical of how Internet publishing can bring people together. Best example of such linking was my blind date on 16 December 2000 with Caterina in a train from Paris to Clamecy (we thought), when she was going to be the guest at our house for a couple of days. We did not know each other, only had met online. She was the perfect guest.
Barbara does not pay me me for my contribution, nor do I pay her for the opportunity to reach her constituency. Typical of Internet pro deo note-to-self culture. Other guest writer is the Bagdad blogger (on hiatus) Salam Pax (under cover: justzipit). Invited are Marie José Klaver, a Dutch Internet journalist and weblog author for the NRC/Handelsblad newspaper, and Jos de Mul, an Erasmus university philosophy professor. Barbara's diary is online (only?) for the occasion of her MA graduation in Editorial Design. My personal publishing is online since 22 March 1998 and I produce hardly any paper equivalent. I send a letter ever once in a while, only recently using postcards for that purpose. I decide to write Barbara a couple of letters. A bit like the Ahmedabad Letters. I send them to her as HTML email.
So BARBARA is the name of my diary of sorts, for the coming week I publish these notes both here and over there, for you to pick your own context. Slight differences might occur between the two versions.
I promised you to do some exercise on the intersection of the private/public. Let me first scan the context. Your audience is new to me and I am new to them. The asymmetrical thing is that they will get to know some of me before I will get to know some of them. This is a known publishing effect. I publish because it comes natural to me. I am an artist who needs to take his work public. I do not consider it the most important part of my artistry, but taking it public informs the production of my work, which otherwise happens in isolation, in concentration, outside the public eye, under very private, privileged and personal conditions. Conditions that are mine and mine alone. Other people do enter them and can take important part in them, but never will they take my decisions.
People easily tend to mistake the author's personas for the author himself or herself. Critics also tend to inquire after how autobiographical certain work is. The relationship between an author and his personas is private. Much more intimate than with his readership. It is alike in any art form: the artist lives in a completely different relationship with his work than his readers will. This may seem like an obvious point to make, but time and again you witness that search for The Link, that congruence of the biographical and the fictional, as if there we'd find a final legitimacy for the arts, while actually it does not need one, finality being a fiction anyway.
As diaries go, they are written in fits and starts. One reason why I leave out the date of my NQP since not too long ago (which I experience as a liberation), is that I do not live let alone think and write by the date. Dates matter only if they are part of the story. My life is not scheduled in such a way. Some publications like more journalistic ones, the daily news ones, live by the date. But hadn't 9/11 become a brand, it would matter little if it was 9, or 10 or 11, in August, or September, or even if it was 2002 or 2003. Chronology can be important in cause and effect analysis, along the path of history, not in lives that stretch between birth and death and are very short anyway.
A final note on private and public for today. The public part is always a virtuality. People might access your information, might see your work. I have published material that was noticed by a handful, who will have forgotten about it. I have left work in private hands that is exposed in intimate, privileged conditions daily. I have no idea how many people access NQP or Barbara Peerdeman's diary. Who they are and what they come for I know even less so. How much does a publication inform those who access it? You tell me.
things can be public, while going unnoticed. Such might be among my favorite publications. They are asleep, like we are asleep when we do not notice them. My daily publications are like that. I am sleepwalking. NQP has a very limited readership that is awake and watches me not breaking my neck. For myself these notes are reminders and will form memory. Rather than a diary, which I would estimate is much more confidential, I would consider a lot of today's personal publishing and certainly mine autobiography. Not a product or genre, but an act. An act by which one lives.
These autobiographies are not after the fact: they are not memoirs. They are written while being lived, so indeed the life portrayed, documented, contested, etc. would be different without them. While they are being lived, they are public. They are part of the public side of the lives that feed them. As I wrote yesterday, the measure of publicness is hard to take. For me personally this way of documenting my own life, in its time and age, in public, provides a means of expression which other parts of my life which are public and which have a bearing upon my life and times, cannot provide. I need that flow going in and out in pace with my everyday thoughts, acts and experience, while the pacing of my other presence in the arts and work is much more event structured which has its particular advantages and disadvantages.
These days thousands of autobiographies are written, day by day people start them to hopefully continue them. Media allow people to plug, play and publish. Their autobographies come as web publications, in images, text and reference: links and stuff indeed. They change every minute, they are performed and experienced in near real time. I imagine readers do not read them because they would want to get to know all and everything about that one specific author, like the background of his or her life and work. Readers daily browse along several of such publications and their cross-publications, discussion forums, photo sharing communities and what have you, that act as slightly more public intersections of these personal works, and that link in infinite directions, because they want to know what happens. I read weblogs of other people to know what happens. I need to learn how the Internet is used, what kind of influence it has on our lives, what kind of autobiographies it affords, how media change our lives, public and private. In that way, I have a political interest in how we connect, organize, communicate outside the media mainstream, outside consensus culture.
High hopes give bad edit. That's how propaganda gets made The way the Internet, web surfing, email, mobile telecommunication has been and is promoted since 10 years is disgusting as is the promotion of any commodity. The wrong qualities are emphasized, true affordances are not forwarded. Technologies and services are not geared towards the fulfilment of original, situated, cultural, democratic, open source, egalitarian ideas and content, of web-for-one, personal web serving, peer-to-peer information gathering, processing and distributing acts. See Napster et al. For the industries, our autobiographies, acts of publishing by way we live, are consumer profiles. We say the Internet routes around censorship? It certainly has a hard time to route around consumerism.
early on in every artistry you will have the insight that you are not your own best audience. And if you are not about expression only, you will have to find one or two or a couple of people to show your work to, to share your work with, as today we are all about sharing and interaction and not about dumping things on others. That's what mass media did to too many of us for too long a period of time.
Without ever having sought to be dumped upon, I have been loading up a lot of stuff in my life, which I loved to find, which had never been intended for me, nor for anybody else specifically, which was not meant to be interactive in the sense that one could change the object or add to it in any way. There just was this dumb object on that dumb shelf or hanging from a dumb wall in some or other dumb place they call a museum or a library or a little shop and here was I, stupidly running up against it, going crazy over it, having these insights and loving every grain of it. What happened?
Every true amateur loves his experiences. The best experience for an artist is to make his art to write those lines, to place those colors, to build those blocks, to run that HTML. In making ones art is the experience of expression, of skill, of shaping and making, forming something that wasn't before, that can be recognized as whatever you want it to be (part of). If you want it to be part of anything else than your own household, your own stock of loveable memorabilia, in that case making it part of that whatever something else will be part of making the particular piece. You post it. On a wall, inside or outside some place, some institution, you ask people to come and take a look at it or just leave it there, up for inspection.
A published diary, a weblog, whatever online publication is there up for inspection. Seldom you are invited to attend a web page's vernissage. If so this will not be a public event but just one click from an email away. Web publishing is hardly ever discussed over a drink, standing in front of it, surrounded by the murmur of a social gathering among amateurs. Bookstores, or err, Internet cafés will not invite you to meet the author of such-and-such website and get you a signed copy. It is simply amazing that so much creative production comes about with so little celebration. One or two conferences or award galas a year and that's it. If you are in it for the meetings of the tribe, this is not your best special interest.
As an artist, if you make things, first to make them and second to make them part of a production of things outside your own ecology, web publishing offers immediate abundant context but little to no conviviality. Most of that notorious interaction routes around you.
Context again and all that jazz... You are what you publish.
I have been cleaning out my bureau/studio since a couple of weeks now. What started with the installation of new shelves and a need for deep re-organization, after months of neglect, turns out to be a time machine operation which takes me through almost every interest in my work, every period in my life and in that of some in my family's. There comes no end to mixing things up. We need a strategy and a profile to get organized. The need for such caused my management craze in the first place.
Next to publishing, content management is a dear interest. The contemporary media artist who finds comfort in material objects and real life experiences needs maps and logs to navigate by. Then, s/he wants to provide equally powerful tools and toys to the community Allow us to drift along together at times. Material, tools, toys manuscripts, documents... we want our information assets to be accessible, searchable, portable.
The counterpart of ergonomics and customization however, is in how we adapt to limitations: to material which behaves in unexpected ways, tools that can't do what they advertize, toys that fall apart at first interaction or bore us in no time, manuscripts and documents which are either unfindable, unreadable or all of a sudden contain different content from what we remember them for. We live with those imperfections. We create from those imperfections. Imperfection makes us smart.
You eat what you are. Customizing industries need to know who you are in order to know who they are and what their service is, to know what to offer you. The private/public ratio drives the economy of interaction. In order to share experiences and information, also outside the industrial scenario, I need to know what you know and appreciate what you appreciate. We publish our preferences to the limit of our privacy reflexes. We publish our imperfections until it starts to hurt. Customization eats its children.
You see who you are. You are your own best product. Sell out. Mass media want you to star in your own life. Show off. Be perfectly public.
You vote what you are. Talk about imperfection... A system which strives for total security through total control, sold back to you by total assholes. Talk about customization and the service industry. Representational politics advance you what to expect in return for your profile and preferences.
You can't be serious. I'll remember Robert Garnett most for that quote. He can't be more right. Let's not adapt to the limitations of our preferences. You can't be perfect.
There's something desperate in going public. Perfectly public? Seems like sociomania, de gekte te moeten socialiseren, net zo iets als in het Engels te willen schrijven terwijl toch je moerstaal, I don't know whether this is an existing term and have no interest in googling it right now to me it would describe an unbalanced need to socialize, a dependency from highly intensive social contacts, and the inability to note-to-self-only and keep a distance, be silent, be discrete, be invisible, be anonymous. A genuine diary is all of the above: exclusive to the writer/reader, de ruiter. S/he who definitely has no intention to open up those pages to anyone else and has one trustee to destroy the diary after s/he passes away.
The diary is a secret.
Listening to Leftfield's Afro-Left on Leftism. A bit behind duty, it's kinda late and I'm smuggling juggling the dates here. Just got your mail. What's with 3 September? No matter at what point you are with your diary, even when things all of a sudden blow up smack in your face and you go into warp speed, this has little to do with your study's ritual pace. The funny thing with this online public stuff is that indeed it defies curricular reasoning. Like you say, or write, we might enter a time when nothing ages anymore. Or ages backwards in time, which is something else from rejuvenating. Retro patina. We go back and forth in time. Interesting thought, even when the mortal body will show defect, wear after some time. I know this is getting private here and we are losing some readership. Even if this is poetry to you, folks, read on! Can change gender here.
A couple of hours later, the sun's up (but not out) and so am I, to take up the morning routine. Routine writes journals. Last night actually was already 21 August. The days are getting shorter and it seems like autumn has already set in. It is in the light, in the atmosphere, even in the landscape's acoustic, it might be just 1 or 2% infiltration, but you sense it is here. It is my favorite season. I just inspected the works around the house where Thierry Moussot is putting in drainage. Last night (the night of the 20th) I left to visit the Nannay open air film festival with H. and D. Cinéma et Ruralité. It showed two documentaries made in the Savoye, the first one, L'Argenterie des Bauge by Pierre Béccu, on a wood craftsman the second, Les sons Devouassoud by Marc Rougerie and Gérard Segal, on a cow bell smith. It makes you think there is no end to rurality, if you are sensitive to the idea of craft, material, mechanical/manual fabrication, the everyday routine and close attention to prime needs. Going up the mountain, going down again and so forth. Taking pride in traditional craftsmanship, because 'it does not make any sense to do things poorly', as Mr. Devouassoud senior said.
A lot of our routines are left to machines. This goes already for the wooden kitchen utensils of les Bauge and certainly for a knowledge forging information-industrial society. The kind of knowledge, the savoir faire, which you find in all crafts, to use your tools well and to treat any material just right, not aiming at novelty so much as at doing it again, to not do it poorly but to make the product as good as it gets. Such skill is often brought forth by luddites those who cannot appreciate the computer as a tool, or information as knowledge, or telecommunication as a social competence as a proof against information machine optimism.
Those routines can be left to machines at which they are better than humans. Workers have been the slaves of the hazardous machines their masters confined them to for centuries. Now they are confined to the keyboard, you might protest. There's no comparing the computer to the brain however, neither in favor of technology nor against it. New tools and media will introduce new routines to us lay upon us, again you might say while freeing us of some old ones. If in any product we want to be able to trace the human eye or touch we will probably have to remain with the crafted object, or look somewhere else entirely.
Mahatma Ghandi thought to beat the British textile industry with a spinning wheel in every household. Now his and other third world countries host sweat shops, also because the spinning wheel provides no logo, no brand to march to for the West in the 21st century. Instead of the mark of human skill, a large part of the world is addicted to the mark of the industrial brand and advertizing skill. Compared to the Nike logo the signature of the Indian kid who stitches the sneaker together is lost. There's no competition. If the same kid would sell you a home made sandal on the market you would cherish it as the exotic expression of ancient tradition and probably see great artistry. If the same kid has programmed on your latest piece of software, you will not find his personal touch or wit, while there might be plenty to be found. If you want to follow the trace of a human eye or touch you will have to know where to look for it. Pay close attention.
I am advancing this to you. Today is only half spent. Tonight we are partying at F. and P.'s, to celebrate K.'s birthday. Tomorrow morning early we leave for Paris, in the evening onwards to probably Arras, to stay overnight at the 3 Luppars hotel where we landed on our way down when moving, the night of March 29-30, 1999. I still drive the same car, but the hotel might have changed ownership. Monday up to NL for a varied menu of duties and social calls and ExE uploads. Am I private enough here? Wait, I'll add some links to the foregoing, as a public service. Hm.
A change of plans will get us to another part of France, Sars-Poteries, where the hotel will be the Marquais, a family run auberge, if the Michelin guide has it right. We'll be playing tennis there most of next week. Also, there's a Musée-Atelier du Verre. I'll keep you posted. Salut!