Tag Archives: revolution

That which was created in his own image.

The Power Station

By the mid-1970s, Kraftwerk had achieved international recognition for its revolutionary experimentation with sound and imagery. Its compositions, which feature distant melodies, multilingual vocals, robotic Beats, custom-made vocoders, and computer speech, anticipated the impact technology would have on art and everyday life, capturing the human condition in an age of mobility and telecommunication. Kraftwerk’s innovative looping techniques and mechanized rhythms, which had a major influence on the early development of hip-hop and electronic dance music, remain among the most commonly sampled sounds across a wide range of musical genres.

Kraftwerk uses robotics and other technical innovations in its live performances, illustrating the belief that humans and machines make equal contributions in the creation of art.

Die Roboter

The Robots, Kraftwerk -2005

In this particular song, it references the then revolutionary techniques of robotics. The Russian lines “Я твой слуга” (Ya tvoi sluga, I’m your servant) and “Я твой работник” (Ya tvoi rabotnik, I’m your worker) come across particularly clearly.  Where the robot is seen as a tool to the human race. This has to be taken literally, as kraftwerk is fundamentally a german group.

In live performances, the recurrent theme of the substitution of robots resembling group members, has become symbolic of the group itself. This is a portrayal of  ongoing commentary of the division between man and machine since its conception. It’s kinda hard to analyze this into something concrete but I shall do my best. 

On one hand, i liken this the acceptance of robotic entities as surrogates to the human race, from a standpoint where the group is purposely replaced by idealized robotic replicas of themselves and also to a point where is viewers of the performance accepts this replacement as a live performance piece.

An interesting observation is that over time the robots become more abstract and less human-like, possibly in line with the changing acceptance and idea of robotics.

The Pre-Robot Condition

I would like to say that this is one of the pioneer pieces in popular culture that redefines the human form-  the post human condition, another one of them phrases with the post-suffix that hold overgeneralises everything. An evolution that changes the traits of of what defines us as man, be it through cybernetic replacement or proxy. Where the human mind supercedes the the body as a conceptualization what it means to become human.

In this case specifically, the music becomes an extension of the human psyche. Be it how the viewer experiences the piece or through the composition/composing of the music, whether or not expressed through an actual human entity. Even the aforementioned acceptance itself is a step towards this post-human condition thing.

Also the use of custom made devices and tech in their music has some ode towards the acceptance of  “robots” and its relationship with man. The metaphor that a musical instrument becomes an extension of our body is to how these “new tech” becomes an augmentation of the band. This is to say that the band essentially is a form of cybernetic organism is not that much of a stretch. I hope.

Through the performance of the piece this becomes more  evident though the lyrics where the performers proclaim themselves to be robotic entities. Going even further, in a concert setting, the viewers take part in the song itself through the echoing of the lyrics which further cements the acceptance of this evolution through the denial of difference (chanting- we are the robots)and the acknowledgement  of the corporate and industrialised age.

In some ways perhaps, this is a nod towards Baudrillard’s hyper-reality where the boundaries between the real and the symbolism is dulled, be it through the performance aspect of the piece or because of the timeframe in which the piece was released- Where people created their own impressions of robotics through snippets of pop culture and documentation of its conception. Find out more after the jump.

Viva La Skynet.

Find out more about Kraftwerk at Future/Now & Nasir’s

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Hole in space

Hole In Space was an early display of Telepresence featured as a Public Communication sculpture created by artists Kit Golloway and Sherrie Rabinovits.

It was installed, without an announcement to the public, at New York’s Lincoln Center and at the Broadway department store in Century City, Los Angeles. Hole in Space employed the use of two large screens in the two cities linked via a two-way satellite to show the video feeds from New York in L.A. and vice versa. Staying up for three consecutive days, it was intended to connect people via a life-sized video feed with either random people or ones they knew from the other city.

Viva la Revolution

To us, the idea of doing a “Hole in Space” link between two museums where people are standing there, holding cake and wine and looking at each other, and you know, they’ve got their invitation cards, and everyone shows up with the expectation.This is not what we’re talking about as practitioners.

What I felt happened here is one of the many sparks in redefining the boundaries of art. As a very reluctant student of art history, I akin it to a repeat of the ideology behind the realism movement only this time in interactive and technology driven art. From what i understand, realism began after the french revolution , naturally it was a protest against romanticism, rejecting its exotic subject matter and the idealised classicism of academic art in favour of down to earth concepts and the depiction of the common man. 

In essence the same holds true to some extent, where Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz removes the boundaries of high art. Taking it out of the display of a museum onto a public street exposed to the masses, and rightly so; as the piece was never meant to be analyzed by the academia nor be ogled by the rich or the educated. It was meant to experienced by the world, the very people that in time were to be the ones that had to accept and adapt to the changes of technology and with it connectivity, it was the rehearsal for web whether they knew it or not and also the staging point for the Gesamtwerk- the collective artwork.

Rehearsal for Web

And so, “Hole in Space” had a day of discovery, and then a couple of other days. So it grew and grew, people phoned each other and started meeting intentionally, but it was organized by itself. So we created the context, as artists, or authors, then walked away, and then the people sort of finished the work.

The significance of this piece, is that it wasn’t just a window between two locations, LA and New York. It was a window into the future, a step towards hyper-connectivity, It was from this work that we started to understand how the relationship between space and community was being rewritten by technology. This was the first publicly shown evidence of the 3rd space. The space no longer governed by distance, or even actual physical space for that matter.

The Hole-in-space was thought to the crowning achievement in closing the boundaries of space and even time.  At that point even the creators did not forsee the rise of the internet, or even the possibilities of public telecommunications. Who knew that in a few short years our world had advanced to a point where the distance we close through connectivity goes well into the unfathomable. Coupled with the mobility of the technology and the evolution of the many-to-many paradigm we have eroded any semblance and boundaries of distance and time. We have created whole communities within virtual spaces. The 3rd space, is not longer an impossible goal or lavish dream, is has become part of our culture. To most of us, It’s just another hole in the wall.

If you’re hungry for more! Check out Scribbles of a Mind in Stasis.

Join us next week where we discuss the shifting role of the artist. And with it the redefinition of the role of the viewer. 

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