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Al Larsen on Sklovsky's Art as Device

Media The "always on" mentality makes sense for the commercial web presences- the store is always open, the press releases and promotional materials are always available. But as artists, writers, independent cultural producers, do we need to internalize this mindset? Loren Sonnenberg suggests a site only open for brief periods or certain days of the month. I throw out a home page that now and then closes the browser window, or is subject to random fits of redirection.

When I go to the 5th Floor of the library only to find that Theory of Prose is missing from the stacks, I'm not exactly pleased, but it's only fitting, as Shklovsky writes about slowing down the reception of meaning "complicating, enstranging " in order to make space for fresh perception.

With the web there is still excitement around three-clicks-away access to materials.  But just as in the modern market where the abstraction of money exchange replaces personal exchange, where even the limited shred of interaction "thank you"- is just shorthand for "transaction over " next, we may think about complicating our exchanges (Loren Sonnenberg again), both in our online work and in our interactions in nowtime breathspace.  But complication need not be annoying, time-wasting and disrespectful. Sensitively applied it brings us out of a rote, automatized relationship to the world. The aim can be to move us from shorthand consumption of each other as signs and into actual engagement.

Yes, there are situations where economy of transmission is essential. Enstrangement has no place when the architectural structure built for the projection and social viewing of sequential moving images has combusted. Nor, say, in the tactical political organizing use of cooperative technologies.

But free access to online materials need not mean free from confusion, chaos, or personal investment. The streamlined consumption process is for the commercial presence. But my art, for instance, requires an investment of time, thought, energy. The functional logic of commercial websites - easy to update, with interchangeable stylesheets and programmatic page layout - is not the logic of my personal creative work. There is plenty of "handcoding", and there are plenty of "dead links" in the texts, objects and performances that make up my work, as well as in the site which documents and extends it. I am not available to sing a song to every person at every hour.  I am thinking now that my site, need not be available every day at every hour to every curious, unengaged whim.

Part of *being here now* is the recognition that there are no guarantees. No promise of satisfaction, no money back, no free shipping. Our friends disappear into circles of substance abuse. Our co-conspirators become embroiled in consuming personal issues or suddenly switch jobs and move away. One day you realize that the person who had been selling you bagels all year has moved on. 

Every website should be unpredictable or intermittently available? No -but we can employ strategies (both interpersonal and technological) for making us aware of the nature of our interactions ˆ strategies that encourage real engagement.  In our online work we can decide to what degree we replicate the logic of the commercial website and to what degree we insist that our communications are not business as usual.

References/ Recommended Reading

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