Telematic Cafe: The Song of Memories (#TiNaDCollective) on the final day 11 July 2018 (dis)playing the visualization of images and their sound version. The Project Space – Deakin University, Geelong.

Hello! Telematic Café has news – a project has been developed by joining This is Not a Drill Collective (25 June – 11 July 2018) at The Project Space – Deakin University in Geelong, AU. This is Not a Drill Collective was a generative model of creative production on site, exploring what collaboration might be, what art-making in a space, specifically in The Project Space, could be and what this process might bring for the gallery and artists-producers. This framework was a direct inspiration for Telematic Café: The Song of Memories (#TiNaDCollective) was bound to evolve as one of the voices within This is Not a Drill Collective.

The Song of Memories (#TiNaDCollective)

Marita Batna (concept, data collection…

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A link to source: transmediale 2018 exhibition “Territories of Complicity” documentation website (Sprawling Swamps); via a still image of Sprawling Swamps (2016-ongoing) by Femke Herregraven – installation, interactive 3d environment, video, audio.

Let’s continue the discussion from the previous post, where I observed recent transmediale, in particular, its last panel ‘Confronting Social Cybernetics’ that revisited Marshall McLuhan’s legacy and catalysed transmediale’s self-criticality. As mentioned in the post, one participant from the audience suggested to look for alternatives for the discussion, and drew attention to the activity of ‘doing.’ In this respect, there are two truths. As moderator Baruch Gottlieb noted – the festival is a ‘structure’ and a ‘product’ as such, and at the same time, if we look at the website information, it is clear that the work of the whole transmediale collective is enormous research and through that – translation.  So, if ‘doing’ is interpreted as aesthetics, discussion – as translation,  how to compare aesthetics and translation?

The meaning of aesthetics is diverse. Aesthetics can characterise any thing, it can be immediately related to art, but let’s ignore this and apply a more theoretical parameter for a start – aesthetics as opposite in nature to activity of translation. The difference is that ‘translation’ is considered transparent – it draws attention to something else such as knowledge; but we call something ‘aesthetics’ when it has intrinsic value of reality within itself. Even though translation can be thought to be minor, it is obviously very demanded. Often it is important that aesthetics is translated or discussed. But if something that is expected to be ‘translation’ and subject matter is aestheticized then its reception can be mixed. For example, professor Dave Harris has devised youtube series – Deleuze for the Desperate to give resources and tips to those students who need to come to grips with the popular Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari which is considered difficult by any standard. But the language of Thousand Plateaus, as Harris confirms, is ‘deliberately rambling.’ [1] So on the one hand, aesthetics presents challenge, on the other hand, Deleuze & Guattari insist on experiencing aesthetics rather than clarity/translation. Where is the balance?

tansmediale is translation only to an extent; its quality as translation is absorbed within aesthetics of the whole event, and particular artworks. Art that occupies itself with research and translation prioritise aesthetic rights. During the panel ‘Extracting Hi(stories) of Complicity’ at transmediale 2018, Femke Herregraven was questioned in relation to her work of visual mapping and imagery that pointed to exploitation of natural resources through infrastructures of capital. The question was about where she situated herself between aesthetics and activism, and I think ‘aesthetics’ was used in the sense of beautification. The artist noted that one way of communication is through an article, but artist operates differently, and if images can attract attention then it is considered effective.

The audience comment above also evokes that activism is more closely related to what is considered translation, not aesthetics. If I remember correctly from transmediale 2018 discussions, a comment was made at some stage that aesthetics was not necessarily good, meaning that perhaps it was not necessarily effective. Even though the spirt of transmediale is that of activism I think it is wrong to disconnect aesthetics from activism. A discussion is activism, not because it is a discussion but because it presents itself as an aesthetic form of resistance. It is already the activity of ‘doing.’ In fact, translation and aesthetics are entangled.

Perhaps the distinction between what is considered activism and aesthetics is so strict because the current tendency of activism is focused on the strategies of subversion, confronting and negation as demonstrated by transmediale. The radical spirit for social change needs to be negating (violent, as McLuhan would say) but the classic avant-garde had the capacity to be affirmative in its nature. It has been interesting to follow e-flux collaboration with Boris Groys as they recover materials and previously overlooked histories of avant-garde – just this month  e-flux journal (#88) ‘Russian Cosmism’ has been published. The world-building idea of this classic avant-garde seems to be different from, for example, transmediale. I think excavation of avant-garde is very timely to glean from, and I am convinced that it is effective to apply active aesthetics as world-building.

But it can be also sensed, that there is a need for ‘building.’ As I mentioned in the previous post, during the Confronting Social Cybernetics panel Jonathan Beller deliberately appropriated the ‘negative’ voice which could be seen very much in consistency with transmediales overall tone. But he weakened negativism and perhaps in a much more McLuhanist way highlighted the idea of ‘re-organizing imaginaries’ with the awareness our distributed personhood. And it feels that re-organizing imaginaries is reliant on concept of building (innovating?) rather than destruction. A form of violence as world-building is possibly the only real form of violence. 


[1] Dave Harris, Deleuze for the Desperate #1 Introduction, published January 31, 2016, YouTube.

Marshall McLuhan Speaks, image by cea+. Sourced from Flickr, Creative Commons licensed.

Sunday night, on the 4th of February 2018, I could stay awake: at 5am in the morning (Melbourne time) I was still happily watching the streaming transmediale in Berlin. I was drawn to the last panel ‘Confronting Social Cybernetics’ due to its cultural angle and determination to revisit Marshall McLuhan. After a video fragment from McLuhan’s famous debate with public in the 70s Katerina Krtilova in the panel suggested: the same Luhan’s statement ‘the medium is the message’ is to be reformulated for today with the focus on ‘message’ rather than the medium. The shift is clearly expressed by words in the title of the panel (Confronting Social Cybernetics). But armed with this very claim for confrontation under the overarching trope/ McLuhan’s legacy – ‘technology is not neutral,’ the session turned into a self-critical transmediale.

Ewa Majewska put forward ‘counterpublics’ and passionately talked about the criteria – counterpublics is embedded and contextualised in the production. Jonathan Beller deliberately took a ‘negative’ world-view that resonated with the title of his newest book The Message is Murder: Substrates of Computational Capital (Pluto Press, 2017). Yet the provocation that was leading to forum and self-criticality came from the moderator: Baruch Gottlieb in his flexible and rather light style (with inspiration from McLuhan?) picked a mirror image by pointing to talks of ‘cocktail parties’ and scholarly circles who were ‘well-fed’ by the conference, and at the same time, he enquired into failures to ‘accomplish social change.’

Soon a voice from transmediale’s audience reflected upon alienation by the language and gathering of the agents of language who seemed to congratulate each other.  One participant wanted to do ‘stuff’ with people in the room and proposed to look for alternatives to the ‘aboutness’ of the discussion format. Another suggested being ‘present’ because the criticisms at transmediale, such as ‘one cannot see art’ stressed that we were too hung up on the form of something. Yet another participant insisted to forget about McLuhan and cited a couple of German news reports about transmediale that were predominantly interested in form:  not about medium-as-message, but the form in the festival – good-looking audience and hipsters. Then, another member of the audience appreciated that transmediale had put the chilling issues like current rise of fascism on the table so they can be addressed.

The commentary resembled the genius question to McLuhan included in the historic video that was played at the start of the session. In 1977, McLuhan debated live on Australian TV before a large audience; the lady featured in the video phrased her question this way: ‘If the medium is the message and it doesn’t matter what we say on TV, why are we all here tonight and why am I asking this question?’ (see Marshal McLuhan ‘The Medium is the Message’ Part I, Monday Conference on ABC TV, 27 June 1977  07:06).

This self-reflective point from public enquires into the value and meaning of social activity and agency when the social environment is shaped by media complexes. Even more so, the question started echoing the very theme of transmediale 2018 ‘face value.’ The notion ‘face value’ indicates the problem of misleading value perceptions, according to what is printed or what appears to be, and points to the invisible side of media systems from Wall street finance to extreme right-wing ‘counter-cultures.’ Is it also a question about what transmediale itself appears to be and is? And how it accomplishes the ‘message’ of confronting?

But there is more to say about the video, if you continue watching the compelling documentations of The McLuhan Project on abc site. McLuhan talked about the concept of violence. Violence as encounters and self-expressing quest for identity, and media as a massive way of identity making: ‘Today when you trigger these vast media that we use you are manipulating entire population’ (see Marshal McLuhan ‘The Medium is the Message’ Part I, Monday Conference on ABC TV, 27 June 1977  08:30).

Thus, violence is the principle of media activism and ‘counter’ movements for social change. Dealing with violence amounts to enforcements of (new) identity and shaping of ‘the message.’ Violence also characterises criticism. All instances of journalistic – including art – criticism and reviewing tend towards violence, and that is – expression of their identity through their particular perspective. I do not believe that Art Review (artworld’s flagship magazine) would be more empathetic in its approach to transmediale than German mainstream newspapers. When asked, McLuhan replied that the alternative to ‘violence’ is ‘dialogue’ [1]. If the logic of dialogue is replaced by media activism (confronting) and is rather hard for criticism, it should be the defining logic of social activity, and what the transmediale participant identified as the need for ‘being present.’

Image: Marshall McLuhan Speaks, image by cea+. Sourced from Flickr, Creative Commons licensed.

[1] Marshal McLuhan ‘The Medium is the Message’ Part I, Monday Conference on ABC TV, 27 June 1977

Alberta, Canada, 1966. Vintage photo from National Geographic Archive. Source: Author: JAMES L. STANFIELD. © National Geographic Creative

I would like to pick up discussion from my last post about McLuhan’s “medium.” I realize that by pointing out the twofold perspective on “media” I do not address their importance to try to verify the applicability of the famous imperative “the Medium is the Message.”  Objectivity of the physical medium and cultural media does not simultaneously stress their importance. Important for whom, when?

The 21st century, and notably, the second decade of it has really started to take the Western world out of its comfort zone. And one of the questions is about the kind of cultural practice we need. We live in time of ongoing wars and anticipation of catastrophe – whether ecological or economic, when we can visually correlate all these phenomena – wars, capitalism, environmental destruction. This time is filled with a lot of confusion but also thinking, and reconsideration of values. I will not discuss here the new wave revolving around the theme of climate change that we hear in cultural institutions on daily basis; more interesting is the question about what should now be the philosophical formula for art if it is considered as cultural work.

This formula, in my opinion is a balancing act. This means a cross-over of philosophical perspectives. If we go back to McLuhans medium as total interconnected world – even if it may not be necessarily interesting or even immediately relevant from the position of subjective experience we need the view of objective world to start understanding the relationship between the human and environment: to seriously address the stakes for sustainability. Environment which is physical and cultural as McLuhan’s media. On the other hand, contemporary art has been traditionally, in the postmodern era, getting its inspiration from phenomenology, linguistics, structuralism. I believe that the idea of “the extensions of man” in McLuhan’s sense has something in common with phenomenology / studies of perception but they seem to have different purposes or perhaps practical implications.

The balancing act seems to be needed between the subjective and objective in order to be able to extract meaning, the particular meaning which works in current conditions. I cannot resist mentioning the politics of media art and fine art that have built two different camps for art histories. One of these camps is new media art, which through the means of technology or social practice, considers and confronts environment – physical and digital. Until recently this has been perhaps too “unhuman” for the governing mindset in fine art. Of course, in fine art also the artists have played with the “absence of subject” as something that has been produced by the Anthropocene condition (see my earlier post about art in the Anthropocene). My point is that the aspect of objectivity-as-environment (although imperceptible at its extreme) is required for the subject to mirror oneself or mark a distance – impossible as it seems – necessary for reassessing the values.

If we consider the interrelation – human-environment then “subjectivity” which was the focus of Félix Guattari, indicates this dynamics and possibilities for practice. Guattari purposefully excluded the term “subject” from his theory – and dedicated his whole attention to the matter of subjectivity production. It was about mutation, shifts and imagination, which pushed human existence out of scientific reference system towards other ecological horizons [1]. And finally McKenzie Wark has been expressing a similar thought to what I mean by balancing between philosophical perspectives and inclusion of the aspect of objectivity-as-environment. In Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene he suggests that the early 21st century critical thought has desire for life in two main ways: one is a kind of “revolutionary subjectivity” – the other is a kind of “speculative absolute, a theory purified of any merely human phenomenal dimension” – in other words, radicalized subject and absolutized object; yet he further seeks the middle cut, the media which mediates between and delineates object from subject [2].


Image: Alberta, Canada, 1966. Vintage photo from National Geographic Archive. Source: Author: JAMES L. STANFIELD. © National Geographic Creative.

[1] See – Guattari, Félix. Chaosmosis: an Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, 1992 [translated by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis]. Sydney: Power Publications, 2006.

[2] McKenzie Wark. Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene, 2015. London, New York: Verso, 2016, 122.

Queenscliff Lighthouse (Queenscliff, Australia) by Lachlan Manley Photography. Sourced: Pinterest

During the year that has just reached its conclusion (2017) I had come to think that I would not need Marshall McLuhan in my priority reading. He seems to have become, in the world of media studies, old-fashioned. It feels that the sound of “technological determinism” is rather sickening for many critical thinkers in humanities because the image of technology is full of neoliberal spectacle and its ghosts of exploitation.

But in the last days I have picked up again his well-known Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man (the 1964 version). McLuhan’s texts are first of all texts of great confidence as he speaks from the positions of arts and cultural studies, but this confidence is not in vogue today. We rather think in terms of resistance, interventions, “hacking” and so on. As McLuhan admitted, his book was written in the faith – “a faith that concerns the ultimate harmony of all being” [1].

We should not dismiss McLuhan’s work because it continues to be a revealing, stimulating, and yes, creative and liberating worldview – useful for cultural practice. What I can gather from McLuhan’s politico-cultural analysis is two translations that expand the very approach to “media” while, of course, he is associated with “media” and while it has – also – become a widespread everyday notion. Knowing his formula: the Medium is the Message, how to understand the implied importance of medium/ media?

Firstly, “media” as totality of everything. This is the ecological and unitary medium of all forms of existence. Indeed, that vision of “harmony” must be linked to the aspiration for embracing the medium, the aspiration for comprehension. It comes to mind how exhilarating was the perception of technological audio-visual communication media by artists in the 1960s and 70s. That was an experience of “the life” itself – technological abilities were about tapping into the energy. A couple of years of ago I looked into Bush Video (1973-1975) artists’ memories which showed  – for them this energy was somewhat mystic, but therefore also enormously attractive and potent.

Alas, the human experience gets trapped in the focus on technology, its specifics, parameters, updates, and (new) limitations. But everything IS connected. McLuhan has famously pictured the electronic epoch of culture: “as electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village” [2] – but what if we think about the connectedness that ultimately reveals how “small” our world is, and the supremacy of what is Nature? As Paul Davies explains in Other Worlds, the electromagnetic force is the one that determines all forms of chemical life for us (there are also gravity, and two nuclear forces: weak and strong yet these are not sufficient for life); this is just our definition of “life” [3]. Besides, as he noted – “living systems are examples of organised matter and energy at extreme levels of complexity, but no boundary exists between the living and non-living” [4].

So it is reasonable to avoid drawing separation within understanding of life. One example is chaos theory which goes beyond studying the “living systems.” It appears that “the extensions of man” – for McLuhan – are intentional processes for locating this wider physical space on individual and group level of consciousness, primarily, as this connectedness is echoed with modern “electric technology.” That was an aspiration for the state of empathy.

Secondly, “media” as multiplicity. This is the question of a medium, especially in relation to the social sphere, here – everything is media. The whole book Understanding Media was basically looking at various examples of cultural media (also to be understood as technologies) – clothing, housing, ads, weapons, television, radio, games, movies, comics and others. For McLuhan, media is not about content. These appear as concepts. And it feels that it is important for the understanding of media to clear it from the contents of “good” or “bad” criticisms. “For electric light and power are separate from their uses,” he wrote [5]. This understanding should rather place the focus on the effects of a medium and then – scrutiny and/or instrumentalization.

McLuhan’s analysis – his somewhat quirky narratives of these various media in human history – liberates one from the tension, the materiality of negativity and it becomes interesting to explore: what is a particular form of media (McLuhan’s own list is only a small selection for potential analysis), and then, what can be done with a particular concept?

Interesting parallels can emerge. Art and sport – both as social / group practices. Linked through the concept of games, sport is popular games, art is like games. McLuhan wrote: “Art and games need rules, conventions, and spectators. They must stand forth from the over-all situation as models of it in order for the quality of play to persist;” and continued: artistic play modeled situations that were not yet matured, and thus it was “ahead of its time.” [8]. McLuhan  sought to emphasize the study of media patterns – the opposite to their contents, the importance of / differences in the senses and means employed. In the context of this approach we have to address art as a social technique rather than “artworlds;” it is necessary to look at it through the possibilities as a medium.

Image: Queenscliff Lighthouse (Queenscliff, Australia) by Lachlan Manley Photography. Sourced: Pinterest

[1] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man (1964), critical edition, edited by W. Terrence Gordon (2003), Berkeley, CA: Ginko Press, 2015, 7.

[2] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man (1964), critical edition, edited by W. Terrence Gordon, Berkeley (2003), CA: Ginko Press, 2015, 6.

[3] Paul Davies, Other Worlds: Space, Superspace and the Quantum Universe (1980), London: Penguin Books, 1988, 148.

[4] Paul Davies, Other Worlds: Space, Superspace and the Quantum Universe (1980), London: Penguin Books, 1988, 147

[5] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man (1964), critical edition, edited by W. Terrence Gordon, Berkeley (2003), CA: Ginko Press, 2015, 21.

[6] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man (1964), critical edition, edited by W. Terrence Gordon, Berkeley (2003), CA: Ginko Press, 2015, 324.

[7] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man (1964), critical edition, edited by W. Terrence Gordon, Berkeley (2003), CA: Ginko Press, 2015, 324.

[8] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man (1964), critical edition, edited by W. Terrence Gordon, Berkeley (2003), CA: Ginko Press, 2015, 322, 325.

Telematic Cafe discussions during VACANTGeelong Open Studio day, 24 May 2017, North Geelong industrial precinct.

My current project as part of a larger Telematic Cafe mobile & online curatorial concept is focused on generating discourse around “labour.” Part I of this edition has taken place and I am offering in this blogspace highlights from these conversations along with ambient recordings. These discussions were held at an old industrial space in North Geelong, Australia during an Open Studio event looking at memories emplaced in vacant industrial sites.


Enjoy highlights and listen to ambient recordings from Part I of Telematic Cafe labour-themed discussions! As announced before – this Telematic Cafe event was inspired by VACANTGeelong Project.

Telematic Cafe is thankful to the VACANTGeelong Project organisers, especially, Mirjana Lozanovska and Cameron Bishop of Deakin University for collaboration with Telematic Cafe during Open Studio Day, 24 May 2017. Telematic Cafe would like to extend special thanks to Ian Priddle from Codeacious for responsiveness and time!

The “Labour of Making” discussion focused on the significance of manual, constructive and creative production. Discussion partners: VACANTGeelong project artist Robert Mihajlovski (RM) and architect & Senior Lecturer of the School of Architecture and Built Environment at Deakin University Dr David Beynon (DB). Moderator: Telematic Cafe curator Marita Batna.

DB: There are similarities between drawing by hand and drawing with a mouse or trackpad. But there is also a difference. There is some kind of…

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Fragment from Pierre Huyghe’s exhibition at Centre Pompidou, December, 2013. Photo sourced from Contemporary Art Daily.

The post-human thinking at the time of Anthropocene is not only an accelerating direction in art but also an influence on art museums. Comprehending the connection between humans, objects, animals, technologies and nature is an issue that moves into the center stage of art. The key requirement for this critical thinking and practice is the position outside of predetermined conceptions of existing  knowledge and social value mechanisms. As Keith Armstrong distinguished, when it comes to the realm of “ecological art practices” – it is not about “management” , but a completely new image of the human or rather a form of self-realization as part of broader processes that will then guide our engagement with the world. [1] Ecological disasters and the concrete effects of global warming make it urgent to feel and to operate within “the real,” – and the last years have seen art production that is occupied with the material environment.

New media art cultures and public art practices take up active and problem-based positions in order to re-orient human knowledge – to make sense of the human interrelations with non-human agents on the basis of praxis and empathy. It is useful now to apply imagination derived from science-fiction and tales such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince to be able to sometimes expand and sometimes – shrink the perspectives of the human. With their project “On Becoming Earthlings: Shrinking and Expanding the Human” the Council followed this wisdom while bringing together experts and non-experts for one-to-one dialogues with the goal to create multi-dimensional and “hallucinatory knowledge space.” [2]

When we look at the classic exhibition format within art institutions, it is interesting that representational aesthetics grounded on inquiries for new knowledge enter these social institutions that have their conventional role to embody and transfer humanity’s knowledge. Nicolas Bourriaud claimed that human consciousness literally left forms of representation in the event of Mark Leckey’s The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things (2013) and Pierre Huyghe’s exhibition at Centre Pompidou (2013). [3] Bourriaud discussed these two major exhibitions with respect to the theme of art in Anthropocene. According to him, Leckey related to the objects without human mediation in order to connect with them sensually, whereas Huyghe proposed a “world without humans.” [4]

On the one hand, these practices are reminiscent of Marcel Broodthaers’ fictional project Museum of Modern Art, Eagles Department  (1968-1972) that, through its perfect system of object gathering and classification, achieved elaborate and sophisticated deconstruction of institutional knowledge systems (in the frames of the museum itself). On the other hand, Leckey’s systems of objects that may produce “weird complexities” [5] and Huyghe’s interest in constructing situations that “take place within reality” [6] resonate with contemporary cabinets of curiosities, a widely celebrated trend of self-reflection and re-interpretation following the model of MONA in Hobart (as predicted in my blog post back in 2013).

Strictly speaking, the perspective of Anthropocene eliminates the existence of museums as we know them, yet of course they will exist, and the state of Anthropocene comes with opportunities for museum interplay with antithesis.

Image: Fragment from Pierre Huyghe’s exhibition at Centre Pompidou, December, 2013. Photo sourced from Contemporary Art Daily.

[1] Keith M. Armstrong. “Grounded Media – Expanding the Scope of Ecological Art Practices Within New Media Arts Culture.” QUT Media-Space-Journal (2008).

[2] Council. “On Becoming Earthlings: Shrinking and Expanding the Human, 25/4/2015.” Council,

[3]  Nicolas Bourriaud – Art in the Anthropocene: Humans, Objects and Translations, YouTube:

[4]  Nicolas Bourriaud – Art in the Anthropocene: Humans, Objects and Translations, YouTube:

[5] Kathy Noble. “The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, curated by Mark Leckey: in Conversation with Mark Leckey, 2013.” Goldsmiths – Research Online,

[6] Contemporary Art Daily. “Pierre Huyghe at Centre Pompidou, December 30th, 2013.” Contemporary Art Daily: a Daily Journal of International Exhibitions,