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The Berlin transmediale is, to my knowledge, one of the very best annual conferences (a “convergence” is more the appropriate word) which exist on Planet Earth. I was very fortunate to have been able to attend the 2011 sessions, where, among other things, I was able to learn about “book sprints” (whereby a book, having been researched, is collectively authored and printed by 5 or 6 people in three or four days in a single city), “Facebook hacking” (imagine meeting someone whose life obsession is creating a “dislike” button for Facebook users), digital democracy, and electronic music triggered by facial impulses (see Daito Manabe, below right, with the author).
Now that, in the intervening year, revolution has swept the planet and North Korea and China are both still standing tall, East Asia watchers can catch the live stream, on February 4, 16:30 Berlin time, 2012 of Katrien Jacobs’ evocative and timely presentation entitled (in truly bracing transmediale style, and surely to the approval of all the “hacktivists” there who have not yet seethed within the Great Firewalls of the Middle Kingdom), “Patriotism, and Paranoia on the Chinese Internet.”
Not to be perceived as lightweight or merely sensationalist, Dr. Jacobs, who is on the faculty of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (香港中文大学), has produced a book on related themes and blogs about her work approximately bi-weekly.
One of the beauties of living in an existence torn between the 19th century (hemmed by Prussian systems, Schumannian aufschwungen, the epistolary desire) and the 21st century (all the while examining the positive wreckage of the 20th century) is that occasionally you can show up in the 21st century — in the present! — and just be there. And, perchance, to dream about the future…to update yourself, to find genres interfolding, mash-ups going under, quixotic platforms heightening the rapture levels that one feels when realities so sharply collide. And to figure out just what someone who writes a book entitled: Interface Fantasy: A Lacanian Cyborg Ontology really means when he writes.
Which is all just to say that I learned a great deal at the Berlin transmediale.11 festival and maybe, just maybe, will consequently have something more profound to say — or perhaps unearth a new genre to birth? — as a consequence of this experience.
It seemed to work for Daito Manabe, the Tokyo “BodyHack” performance artist.
And it worked for Adam Hyde, founder of the notion of a “booksprint” where books are produced within five days by a team of authors; as Adam described to me yesterday, this notion could be pure intellectual dynamite if incorporated into university classrooms.
To speak of certain outcomes in such circumstances of rapid connectivity and wicked fast corkscrews of individual ambition such as one encounters at transmediale is pure lunacy, but I can say quite clearly that seeing Japanese performance artists putting electrodes on their faces and turning it into techno has given me a rich parallax to my axe, a cello, and the need for metronomes. Electrodes give commands, and the brain is a sovereign sphere, mostly. This week my electrodes are centering on beauty from 1905, a German cello whose throaty sounds are almost certainly changing my own chemical makeup. Further stirring things, Samuel Barber, P.I. Tchaikovsky, and R. Schumann now call, a semester in Seattle opens like a hungry universe, while the “forthcoming” queue lengthens…