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.

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