I don’t remember what search criteria found this on JSTOR, but it was the right combination. By far, my favorite article of the group (still waiting on that message board-to-scriptwriter article…), as it has a unique understanding of digitality, allowing that concept to be extrapolated into a rich and pertinent (for me) discussion of collaboration, performance spaces and interactivity in the production of art.
To start with, I find it highly appropriate that the article is written by Critical Art Ensemble, a collective author. No where are the groups constituents listed. They begin with a brief course through capitalist-influenced modes of production, from the analog (easily-controllable, due to its limited access, difficultly in reproduction, and top-down power structure) to the digital (Fordism, Taylorism, Mass Media). Thus, CAE isn’t out to simply laud the digital for being more easily reproduced and disseminated; rather, they see the potential for resistance within the “process of copying – a process that offers dominant culture minimal material for recuperation by recycling the same images, actions, and sounds into radical discourse” (152). To me, this is a powerful and useful definition of digital, practical for resistance through the (re)production of art. Another aspect of their definition of digital is that, in the digital, “order comes from order” (153). This is opposed to the analogic model of order-from-chaos (think Enlightenment models of science and [probably] Classical models of metaphysics). I don’t claim to fully rap my head around “order from order” – to me, once potential understanding is that “things” (art in this case) can be formed from pre-existing “things” rather than from raw materials. Granted, this works conveniently with my project of remix/collage.
One of the implications of the article (and supported by my understanding of their definition) involves concepts of authorship and the line between author and audience. That digitality does not rely on the assemblage of order from chaos means, to an extent, that digital theatre does not rely on a single creator. Having read some Barthes and Foucault on the Authorship recently, it may be that I’m simply hot on this topic. CAE’s discussion of Duchamp (the “avatar of digital aesthetics”) as appropriating objects and placing them in a new context, however, supports my interests, I think (155). He didn’t make the urinal, but he did place it into a new space to create a conversation.
Similarly, CAE moves theatre from the stage and into the streets. They avoid a simple exchange of venue by decentralizing authorship. For instance, in Sheffield, UK, CAE “performed” a work titled The International Campaign for Free Alcohol and Tobacco for the Unemployed, in which they displayed signs and gave away free beer and cigarettes in a public space outside a public transportation center. Without a script or plan of action, the theory of this performance was to re-appropriate a public space as public, encouraging folks to mill about drinking and smoking and to “reveal some of the hidden structures of domination in everyday life” (159). They did observe women tended to remain at the boundary of the assembled crowd, to observe rather than act. But, this method can fail in this respect, too. It is one thing for CAE to note the structures – but another to use the performance as pedagogy. Also, the problem of bridging the local with the global is evident in ICFATU. Failure (or lack of unity, in some instances), though, is a necessary consequence of the departure from the Author.