Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Institute of Posdigital Narrative

 Michael Bielicky with Norman M. Klein and Mel Alexenberg
TorahTweets4M&M@52
Professor Mel Alexenberg
Abstract of presentation at the inaugural symposium of the
Institute for Postdigital Narrative
ZKM Center for Art & Media/University of Art & Design
Karlsruhe, Germany, 25 November 2010
See video of conference at http://vimeo.com/18704694

The Book of Creation (SePheR Yetzirah), the oldest of kabbalistic texts, begins: "The universe was created with three SePhaRim, with SePheR (form), with S'PhaR (quantity), and with SiPuR (narrative)." The SPR root of the Hebrew word for narrative has emerged in the word for SPiRal in many languages, ancient and modern, and in the English words SPiRitual and inSPiRation. The biblical narrative continues to be written by scribes in a spiral scroll form, a SePheR torah, following a millennia old tradition.

Midrash is two thousand years of creative narratives designed to elucidate the biblical narrative. It takes the biblical narrative and spins out tales that read between the lines of the biblical text and that reveal messages hidden in the white spaces between the Hebrew letters. These inspirational stories form a vast literature illuminating biblical texts from countless alternative viewpoints. Postmodern art provides media and contexts in which traditional story telling can be transformed from a verbal activity into visual one. Postdigital narrative art is visual midrash.

My artwork for the past four decades has been visual midrash, personal narratives that explore interrelationships between art, science, technology, and Jewish consciousness. The blog particularly lends itself to creating unfolding narratives for a networked world. My current blogart project is a collaborative artwork being created with my wife, artist Miriam Benjamin, in celebration of our 52nd year of marriage. We were married motzei Simhat Torah, the Jewish holiday when the torah scroll is rewound to begin the annual cycle of reading it. During each of the 52 weeks of our 52nd year, we will post six photographs reflecting our life together with torah tweet captions that relate the weekly torah reading to our lives, past and present. People worldwide are invited to follow our postdigitial narrative at http://torahtweets.blogspot.com/.


Manifesto: Institute for Postdigital Narrative (IPN)
Professor Michael Bielicky, Institute Director

There is no question that contemporary generations operate within the various hybrid realities of our digital age with a distinctive naturalness and implicitness as if the world had been such for centuries. Real-time experience, virtuality, interactivity, nonlinearity and telematics especially determine young people’s perception of reality. We can no longer rely on one-dimensional representational systems to understand the complexities of our contemporary world. There is a need for more accessible variable systems as they help us comprehend the interwoven realities of our times. Though above all, it is most important to develop the ability to embrace and humanize the often-alienating characteristics of digital culture.

Mankind has always operated on narrative to explain and understand its own existence. Our times, in particular, call for the exploration, expression, and especially, creation of new story-telling formats. Although the contemporary generations are finding themselves increasingly confronted by their digital reality, they still remain material, or analog, at their core. Man cannot flee his physicality and location. It is also becoming increasingly apparent in our digitally influenced quotidian-culture that the physical is of a special fascination and attractiveness. The dilemma of virtual representation and analog imprisonment will only be overcome when a close interplay between these seemingly opposing conditions is attained.

There are indeed serious indications that a postdigital consciousness is slowly being established. The concept of postdigitalism was coined by Prof. Dr. Mel Alexenberg, and appropriately summarizes the reverberatory exposure of our times to the digital vortex. New formats are becoming more important. Take Serious Games for example: these are digital games that undertake serious content such as political or social themes. In these games the serious content is directed to groups that normally do not have direct access to such themes. In this way, the computer game has become a medium that is able to critique.

Postdigital qualities can also be observed in the area of WEB 2.0, in which the Internet user makes the transformation from consumer to producer. Social networks (social media) have gained importance through the enabling of social interaction and collaboration. This seems to be only the beginning of a forward trending era as the Internet still has so much un-tapped potential. One should not overlook that this medium became a collective hard-drive and a collective processor of humanity.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness


It's out!!  Today, I received the book in the mail for the publisher.  Below is the backcover text:

In The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press, 2011) artist and educator Mel Alexenberg offers a vision of a postdigital future that reveals a paradigm shift from the Hellenistic to the Hebraic roots of western culture. The author surveys new art forms emerging from a postdigital age that address the humanization of digital technologies. He ventures beyond the digital to explore postdigital perspectives rising from creative encounters among art, science, technology, and human consciousness. The interrelationships between these perspectives demonstrate the confluence between postdigital art and the dynamic, open-ended Jewish structure of consciousness. Alexenberg’s pioneering artwork – a fusion of spiritual and technological realms – exemplifies the theoretical thesis of this investigation into interactive and collaborative forms that imaginatively envisage the vast potential of art in a postdigital future.

“This Hebraic-postmodern quest is for a dialogue midway on Jacob’s ladder where man and God, artist and society, and artwork and viewer/participant engage in ongoing commentary.”
– Prof. Randall Rhodes, Chairman, Department of Visual Art, Frostburg State University, Maryland, USA

“Mel Alexenberg, a very sophisticated artist and scholar of much experience in the complex playing field of art-science-technology, addresses the rarely asked question: How does the ‘media magic’ communicate content?”
– Prof. Otto Piene, Director Emeritus, Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA

“This is a wonderful and important book.”
– Dr. Ron Burnett, President, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, Canada

“The author succeeds in opening a unique channel to the universe of present and future art in a highly original and inspiring way.”
– Prof. Michael Bielicky, Director, Institute for Postdigital Narratives, University of Art and Design / ZKM Center of Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany

“This book is simply a must read analysis for anyone interested in where we and the visual arts are going in our future.”
– Dr. Moshe Dror, President, World Network of Religious Futurists, and Israel Coordinator, World Future Society

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Postdigital Narrative Art

Torah Tweets: A Postdigital Biblical Commentary as a Blogart Narrative
http://torahtweets.blogspot.com/ 


Artists Mel and Miriam are celebrating their 52nd year of marriage by collaborating on this blogart project. They were married motzei Simhat Torah, the Jewish holiday when the torah scroll is rewound to begin the annual cycle of reading it. During each of the 52 weeks of their 52nd year, they will post six photographs reflecting their life together with torah tweet captions that relate the weekly torah reading to their lives, past and present.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

University of Chicago Press

My book The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness(Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press) will be out in Feb. 2011. This is the copy in the University of Chicago Press catalog:

In The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age, artist and educator Mel Alexenberg offers a prophetic vision of a postdigital future that reveals a paradigm shift from the Hellenistic to the Hebraic roots of Western culture. The author surveys new art forms emerging from a postdigitial age that address the humanization of digital technologies. He ventures beyond the digital to explore postdigital perspectives rising from creative encounters between art, science, technology, and human consciousness. New chapters “Postdigital Perspectives: Rediscovering Ten Fingers” and “Wiki Perspectives: Multiform Unity and Global Tribes” have been added to chapters on semiotic, morphological, kabbalistic, and halakhic perspectives. The interrelationships between these alternative perspectives demonstrate the confluence between postdigital art and the dynamic, creative, open-ended Jewish structure of consciousness. Alexenberg’s pioneering artwork – a vibrant fusion of spiritual and technological realms – exemplifies and complements the theoretical thesis of his book. A revolutionary investigation into interactive and collaborative forms that imaginatively envisages the vast potential of art in a postdigital future.

Mel Alexenberg is head of the School of the Arts at Emuna College in Jerusalem and former professor of art and education at Columbia University and Bar Ilan University, head of the art department at Pratt Institute, and research fellow at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Jewish Museum of Prague, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He is editor of Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology, and Culture.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Postdigital Perspectives


Postdigital perspectives are addressed in my book
Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology, and Culture (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press, 2008).

Stephen Wilson proposes that although the impact of digital technology is significant, it forms part of something much more momentous that is intertwined with the aesthetic, ethical, cultural, and socio-economic. Art is being redefined by a digital revolution linked to revolutions brewing in the realms of biology, neurophysiology, materials science, and cosmology that call for new directions.

Roy Ascott coins the word moistmedia as the symbiosis between dry pixels and wet biomolecules. Postdigital art will be devoted to creating moistmedia artworks from which new metaphors, new language, and new methodologies will arise. The dynamic interplay between digital, biological, and cultural systems calls for a syncretic approach realized through connectivity, immersion, interaction, transformation, and emergence.

Stefan Sonvilla-Weiss sees the postdigital artist as an intermediary, a catalyst between diverse fields of knowledge, ways of thinking, social models, and solution strategies based upon cooperation, communication, and interaction. Network culture not only changes modes of media production and distribution, but it transforms art from object making to art as processes of creating immaterial, rhizome-like structures of remotely connected individuals in online communities. “Print and radio tell; stage and film show; cyberspace embodies.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Book on Postdigital Art

Author’s Note for Updated and Enlarged Second Edition
The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness

When Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press asked me to create an updated and enlarged edition of my 2006 book The Future of Art in a Digital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness, it was clear to me that the book called for an updated title that reflected the emergence of a postdigital age. Wikipedia, itself an exemplary postdigital collaborative creation, defines ‘postdigital’ as a term used in the discourse of digital artistic practice at a time of rapidly changing relationships between digital technologies and art forms more concerned with being human than with being digital.

Reading the Wikipedia entry for ‘postdigital’ made me realize that much the first edition of this book was already proposing postdigital perspectives through my thoughts about the transition from the Hellenistic to the Hebraic roots of Western culture. Indeed, I sensed a postdigital aura from my first encounters with the digital age nearly half a century ago when I first created computer-generated pictures that called out for a warm human embrace to my current works of participatory blogart and wikiart that mirrors the Talmud, the oldest on-going wikicreation that spans centuries and continents.

When I checked Wiktionary, the wiki-based open content dictionary, for a definition of ‘postdigital,’ I found none. So I created one based upon my research for writing this Postdigital Edition of my book. I posted it on Wiktionary and added it to Wikipedia’s entry for ‘postdigital.’ My act of collaborating in the creation of the world’s most actively used dictionary and encyclopedia beautifully exemplifies the postdigital age. Now, if you look for the Wiktionary definition of ‘postdigital’ you will find mine.

Postdigtial (adjective). of or pertaining to art forms that address the humanization of digital technologies through interplay between digital, biological, cultural, and spiritual systems, between cyberspace and real space, between embodied media and mixed reality in social and physical communication, between high tech and high touch experiences, between visual, haptic, auditory, and kinesthetic media experiences, between virtual and augmented reality, between roots and globalization, between autoethnography and community narrative, and between web-enabled peer-produced wikiart and artworks created with alternative media through participation, interaction, and collaboration in which the role of the artist is redefined.

I have added two chapters to this new edition: “Postdigital Perspectives: Rediscovering Ten Fingers” and “Wiki Perspectives: Local and Global Collaborations.” They both elaborate on my Wiktionary definition of ‘postdigital’ through theoretical discussions and descriptions of exemplary artworks.

The black and white photographs in the first edition have been dropped in favor of inviting my readers to see photographs of artworks in full color posted on my website www.melalexenberg.com, on my Postdigital Art and Wikiartists blogs, and on by ‘Postdigital Art’ Facebook group wall. This digital solution not only offers access to many more photographs than were printed in the first edition, but allows for continual updating with new images. So take breaks from reading this book and enter into cyberspace to enrich your encounters with my words through viewing the colorful images posted on my website and blogs.