In the Noise of the Signals
as a consequence of the total aestheticization of our entire life sphere, art seems to have become superfluous for the first time. art is only stylized anymore as a contradiction to everyday life. kept out of life, it is guaranteed "freedom" in the dead matter. the public, that is the social space for art, is the "free space of what is dead". the artist has nothing to do anymore with life itself, just as she or he has stopped being useful in the society of the living. however since genetic technicians have started replacing the doctors there has been a paradigmatic change. the creation of life out of dead matter as the ultimate rationale of technological art - a metaphor of the creating person - has called art, which had already been declared dead, back to social reality.
with the increasing industrial dynamization of the body, freedom of the mind was suggested. this freedom, in the information sense, was followed by the evacuation of bodies into dead spaces. there were attempts at once to manifest in artwork the mind which was already separating itself from the dynamized body. the manifestation of freedom demanded dead objects. but the repeatedly propagated death of art in industrial modernity has been replaced by the art of death in informational modernity. death, as a contradiction to the dynamization and aestheticization of everyday life, is the result of the exponential acceleration in the information environment. in it, the content of art is its own disappearance, the art form is background noise.
THE PUBLIC SPACE
the sphere of the "public space" - and thus of "public art" - is that of the "publication of traffic"; of communication, information, telephone, radio, television, transmitting, broadcasting, of car, train and satellite networks, of global and cosmic traffic. in the dynamized state, within the lines of communication, the bodies begin to dissolve in accordance with their designation and make any visibility of the bodies appear reactionary. the body as a data carrier disappears in the intersection of accelerated data, as the car disappears in traffic.
the free dynamic subject is therefore no longer measured and determined by its shape or form but rather by the degree of its disintegration.
but it is only with the electrification of the dynamized subject that the movement of subjects in space also initiates a disintegration. an eloquent testimony for this transition from "mobile subject" to "mobile background" is provided by the development from radio to car radio. i will even go so far as to state that it was only with car radio that radio found its real definition and designation. this history of radio accompanies the section of history covering a technological society that has been set into motion. from the stationary box to transistor and ultimately car radio, from the stationary to the mobile and ultimately to the dynamic object. dynamic because the "apparatus radio" becomes so "interconnected" with the "machine car" that the dynamics of the machine and the statics of the apparatus raise each other to a higher level of power. as the moving car sets the radio in motion, the radio heats up the body that is now motionless - tied down with belts. (television on the other hand has accompanied the technically travelling body since its emergence.) car television is replaced by collages on the car window. the tv screen is replaced by the wind screen. driving along, wether along the highways or in urban rushhour traffic, corresponds increasingly to the collage technique of the dadists. concrete dirt on the window panes, mixed up with fragments of landscape, melt together to become an inseparable unity. video clip technology with its extremly short cuts and sounds continues the trip at highest speeds in the mental space, beyond all visible speeds and laws of perception. the special significance of car radio lies in its unique fusion of the industrial and the informational communication levels. the car radio is the transitory sign of the change from the mobile object to the mobile symbol. for no one but the travelling subject are radio frequency tables erected along the communication paths (highways) as visible signs of non-visible frequencies. these signs however must be read as an expression of the transition from industrial to informational communication and of the society based on it.
it thus becomes clear that the mobile subject, once set into motion, dissolves increasingly into a noise of the signals. in the car radio, the data of the channels blur with the sound of the motor and the temporal collages of the car windshield to become a synaesthetic perception of the world. the faster the movement, the more this background emerges. the higher the speed, the harder it gets to filter "stationary data" from the data background, that is to follow the program, pick out information. the multidimensional data background becomes the actual program. in it, the speed of moving body is proportional to the noise of the signals, until at last it melts inaudibly into the background releasing only one piece of information, that of the background. the interest in news programs is heated up by the fact that the data background, which means loss of information, is artificially supplied along with the program. in the space age this noise does not suggest distance between the scene of the action and the receiver, as it did at the beginning of the radio age, but rather a compressed speed for the subject that remains in immobility (rigor mortis!).
the electric man no longer listens to the radio - he himself is radio: set at the same time on reception and transmission. as a sign of his existence he thus leaves his marks on the data background. the drawing of marks is the basis of his existence (on video, banking card, telephone, fax, personal computer and so on). as if in recognition of the electric circuits in his own body, the "radioman" charges himself up with mobile electronic calculators, watches, data and dictating machines, Walkmans, cellular telephones, electronic locators, laptops, notebooks. supported by batteries, he creates around himself the postmodern aura of an omnipresence. his exterior is radiant like the detergent "radion", his interior is embedded in the electronic community of the data background. he himself is a light spot (pixel) in the space of surfaces, the "computer planes", of foregrounds, backgrounds and image planes. into them he plunges, to disappear and then emerge in another place as someone else. as a light spot the "radioman" has permanently taken on the form of the vanishing point.
and even more: "radioman" has fused with the vanishing point. "radioman" has overcome Renaissance space, with its absolute authority of the vanishing point and the unequivocal rules connected with it regarding representation and contemplation. in that space the vanishing point itself was invisible. nevertheless it was present in every single thing. one could also say that in the space of objects and things the vanishing point dissolved itself by concretizing space above the visible and unequivocal order of objects. this vanishing point was not visible but it was present in every single thing. this invisible and infinitely remote point, that vanishes from the eye, puts the viewer into an unequivocal relation to the world and creates control over the world. at the same time, above the invisibility of the vanishing point that is within the finite world, infinity interweaves with space. it is this invisible power of the vanishing point in the finite world that, in the "technifestation" of photography, imparts to each single photo its very splendour, that speaks to us from infinity.
in the cameraless zooming of the computer-generated data images, the vanishing point itself is dynamized. every pixel is its own infinity, its own vanishing point and electronic subject - "radioman" - meet in the light spot on the surface of the screen in order to unite indissolubly in the noise of the signals. the vanishing of the objects in infinity, or the dissolution in the noise of the signals, leads to the vanishing of all differences in the finite world.
the once aural vanishing point, which as a symbol also represents social hierarchy and referred to the infinity of space, takes shape in the "radioman" as a light spot in the space of surfaces. in this space the spaces and objects, which were once subjects to the vanishing point, dissolve to become their own vanishing points, in order to shine in the infinite data background. the vectors in the data background, or according to communication theory in the network, then point into all directions and times.
if in the industrial societies it was said that "knowledge means power" then translated into the electric society it should be said that "the sole power is 'knowledge about knowledge'" thus "the human dream of omniscience, which is also part of the history of fascination with information technology, enters into a qualitatively new phase. it is probably no coincidence that omniscience means an ability and privilege that was mostly reserved for the gods"1. omniscience touches upon the background of all knowledge which has its place and time in the omnipresence, which has found its technical base in the communication network of information technology. knowledge no longer has anything to do with information in networks and systems, but with the noise of the signals and its systems. "whoever is omniscient breaks through the limitations of space and time and knows what there is to know about each time and about each place. it is exactly this grand gesture that is becoming manageable, in a very humanly secular fashion, due to the communication networks and computers with their almost inexhaustible data of knowledge"2 telecommunication networks overcome all natural obstacles like mountains, oceans, rivers, but also all historically determined social, cultural ones and all dividing lines between private and public (an art-in-public-space must find its legitimation here). in this telecommunicative space of time, "city, country, mountain, river, animal, plant, boy's name, girl's name - the object of our childhood in the old children's game - must congeal to become data in order to enter into the infinity horizon of omniscience, at which point the causal connection with outer space or the universe as the basis of knowledge or data background becomes effective.
in the context of the data background any appearing object is an arbitrary manifestation of the infinity syndrome of vanishing points and periods of time. the objects in the universal machine that are designed for infinity, with their fleeting stores and screens, are designed for the infinite place, from where they speak to us with infinite time. the machine, like its objects, is a paraphrase of the infinity of the universe. as a universal machine, it is the child of the same universe hypotheses in modern science that is mentioned by, among others, the American astronomer Frank Wilczek: "at the point of the big bang - as the theory of the beginning of the universe accepted by all scientists - the universe was not only infinitely dense, but also infinitely hot." this state of infinitely high density dates back billions of years. the vanishing point in space has dissolved in the infinity of density. the American astrophysicists David L. Meier and Rashid A. Sunyaev allow at least in theory for the possibility of being able to find temporal infinity, for "if we could look at objects which are so far away that their light takes 16.5 billion years to reach the earth, then we would see these objects in the state they were in just after the beginning of the universe."
with the one vanishing point in the Renaissance making things disappear, the objects arose in the foreground in their order. with the vanishing points in the electronic context making things appear, the objects disappear in the background. as the Renaissance was characterized by its universal order of objects in their uniqueness of space and time, so the informational design is characterized by making objects disappear. the beginning of this process is the indistinguishability of the concrete world, which at the same time is able to be anything and everything.
the resigned design in its postmodern arbitrariness and colourfulness demonstrates very clearly the long lost fight against the vanishing of objects. the actual design decision has already been made in the microelectronic circuit, where the distinguishing criterion is unimportant, not because it in itself provides nothing more to see but because nothing may be seen that makes any difference. (in the next chip generation a pea by comparison will prevent the chip from functioning in an area the size of five soccer fields. the present technology with its microdesign has reached the atomic limitations of the material. it gets below the dimensions of light waves so that in absolute terms as well, seeing anything is impossible.) thus the absolute dissolution of the vanishing point, which points into infinity, has been carried out. once the one vanishing point has disappeared into space the innumerable light spots of the surface come into being. this constitutes the intoxication of signals, beyond any acoustic or visual information values. "here space disappears in a new sense of time," according to Julian Halliday at a communication conference in Montreal in 1987. "the new space is semantically defined as a surface for games and diversion, divided into fear and promise, a surface through which existence and objects exhibit and repress their materiality..... a space that is perceived and shown in a superficial and empty fashion does not reveal anything but only exhibits, as all surfaces do.... the archetypal illustration of Walt Disney's film TRON, whose space is not real but a virtual one that is literally spread out in the computer circuit."
the vanishing of space and time in favour of a permanent mutation was mentioned as early as 1920 by Hermann Weyl, who worked closely with Einstein and stated the following to explain Einstein's theories: "we totally deny the existence of matter filling space by merely being there; if, according to the theory of relativity, it does not make sense anymore to speak of the same point in space at different times, or of the same point in time at the different places, then this also eliminates any meaningful possibility of recognizing 'the same point of substance' and following it through its history. there are no unchangeable corpuscles that the force field only graps from the outside, pushing them back and forth."
Einstein himself even mentioned "a field of ghosts...where the waves only had the purpose of guiding the way for the corpuscular light quanta... this guiding field determines the probability of a light quantum, the carrier of energy and impuls, taking a certain path."7 although this theory by Einstein is no longer valid today, there is talk of fields again in the context of the macrocosmic. they are now called "background radiation" of outer space and "their uniformity suggests that this radiation was produced at the beginning of the universe (big bang) and has since cooled down to 2.9 Kelvin (2.9 aboove the absolute zero point) due to the expansion of the universe", with "the intensity of the background radiation - except for deviations of less than one per million - creating an even distribution all over the sky."8 finally, the recently discovered Roengten background makes it necessary, according to its discoverer Bruce Margon, "that the astronomers get used to the fact that up to now they may have ignored ninety-nine percent of the matter in the universe. the known galaxies and the shining objects within them would then be no more than impurities of the intergalactic mediums."
all of this would not be so interesting if these did not coincide with a new perception of the world in the social context, which, as a background of life, appears to be carring our lives. grasping this background is difficult to us because it cannot be communicated, because mutual communication is based on it or takes place through it. what cosmic background radiation is for the universe, according to astrophysics is equivalent to "common sense" in terms of the functioning of societies. we seem to know that it exists, however, it has not been possible so far to describe it, as the state of artificial intelligence research shows very clearly. " the probelm of common sense has prevented any progress especially in the theory of artificial intelligence in the past twenty years.... because understanding natural language depends on humans and computers having a general communication context (common sense). it is necessary to solve the problem of what common sense means and what it comprises."10 without the knowledge of "common sense" as the background of knowledge there cannot be any progress in artificial intelligence research, as in the new culture nothing will happen without the "noise of the signals" as the background constitutes the signals themselves.
THE DEAD DATA BACKGROUND
while the telegraph, radio, television, telephone, for example, were still reporting us from far-away spaces, we are now preparing for the report from beyond these spaces. those are dead spaces, spaces of the dead, that we will be confronted with.
a presentiment of this is provided by the radio voice. the distance between transmitter and receiver, which was technically overcome but also technically cut out or eliminated, is, metaphorically speaking, a dead space, that as we should never forget, always resonates in the technical voice. the technical voice is the mood of the eliminated spaces and times, and it makes absolutely no difference whether the voice comes to us live or from storage. live is only a sentimental technological lie. it is only the elimination, the cancellation of space and time that makes it possible for storage technologies to make their appearance in order to realize their own characteristic competence: vitalizing what is dead. storage technologies are the harbingers of vitalization technologies, which require the killing of what is alive in space and time so that they can vitalize what is space- and timeless. if it could be imagined that Zeuxis, when he simulated grapes in an alleged mural, so perfectly outdid this world that even birds were fooled, then it is much easier to imagine that in radio - immanently present technically dead spaces - "the beyond" speaking to us is simulated. (in the "virtual reality" of computer spaces these dead spaces have already received their first name.) now we must learn to exclude the vitalization of what is dead in the information of the technically transmitted messages. in the noise of the signals. so begins the "resurrection from the dead" in a qualitatively new state. in the beginnings there were shapes, patterns, forms, rhythms that spoke to us from the three-dimensional space and found their input and shape in the apparatus. now it is entire data background. the data storage of otherworldly spaces and times, heaven and hell, speaking to us. but it does not put our bodies into motion anymore, rather it puts us into synchronous vibration with the noise of the data background. as "radioman" we are the mental resonating bodies of omniscience of the dead spaces, of the universe.
this completes the circle: the accelerated radio provides us with a presentiment from the realm of the data-dead. nothing is more alarming in a radio transmission than an interruption in broadcasting because it makes the dead space between the transmitter and receiver come alive in the broadcasting interruption, the dead space, for a few moments potentially coincides with the death of the "radioman".
"radioman" oscillates like an electric body between the "dead data background" and the "technosphere" as the foreground. in this way, in the after-era of postmodern times, he breaks the beaming of the technosphere and the beaming away of the social side, as practised up to that time. as in the "radioman", the aestheticization finds perfection in the total beaming of the technosphere, which, as many people think, has made in its political, social and aesthetic function a nice memory. in the place of this "fine", socially disconnected, art-historizing material art of the museums, there is now the futurizing pendant of an "electronic kitsch art." in contrast to the former, which still pretends to be political, the latter, in its ostensibly unpretentious spectacle, is the most political art in the history of mankind - as the ejection of the data background.
it goes without saying that with the aestheticization of technology in technological societies those very societies aestheticize themselves, and that this leads to an aestheticization in the political sense. another commonplace observation is that technologies reinforce trends, that they can force freedom as well as power, death as well as life. if one considers that information technology is a military technology, then "the generalization of technologies - especially of information technologies - creates a danger for the civil and inner concerns of the state of carring the total military machinery, including projective driving controls, into all areas of society"11 in this way the eminently political role of a "technical media art" as kitsch art receives a new importance: it is to transfigure the "technological death urge" of society as an "art of beauty", using the technical means inherent in it.
VIBRATION, OSCILLATION, NOISE
the intoxication with drugs at the beginning of the sixties is followed by the technological data intoxication of simulation. in the noise of the signals the increasingly paralyzed body receives its frequency impulses. this noise is not motion in a conventional space, it is the synchronization with the vibrating body of society. from the noise of the signals "radioman" arises. in the noise, space and time are connected as are zero and one in the chip. in the noise of the signals death and life meet. this noise is the oscillation between the grounds and the surfaces without depth between which "radioman" diffuses back and forth. noise is the vibration, the continuous massage as the only message. noise is the simulation of mental sensorics, the informational pendant to the vibrator. in the noise, the hitherto dead background will shine. in the noise of the signals, time in its infinity returns. noise is the frequency of infinity.
those who will be tied up in this data background will also be the ones who will determine the actions of all those who still make their decisions based on the traditional times and spaces, therefore, they will decide over dependence and independence, freedom and domination.
Richard Kriesche: In the Noise of the Signals. In: Radio Rethink. ed. by Daina Augaitis and Dan Lander. The Banff Centre for the Arts, 1994
radio version: January 19th, 1989