NOTES FROM DYSTOPIA (1994)

AZIZ + CUCHER, Text published in Kunstforum, Winter 1996
"The Medium is not the only Message"
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The Human Genome project is being touted as the greatest scientific achievement of mankind, surpassing in its significance the discoveries of Newton, Darwin, and Einstein. If biology is made to be but an exclusive function of the genetic code, then it becomes just another field in the study of communications.

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The current excitement about the development of the technologies of communication seems to be coated in a  blind faith in progress that is just as naive as that which our predecessors put in nuclear power and the space age.

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Flooded with  enthusiasm, some people believe that these technologies offer unlimited possibilities for the reconfiguration of the self, predicting even the possibility of an ontological shift in the reality of being.
They seem to forget that cyberspace deals only with representations, and as such they are bound --in an even greater extent than "real life"-- by the limitations of language  and by the inadequacies of a technology that so far can only create either "word-pictures" or schematic cartoons.

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With advances in digital technology and robotics, bioengineering is forging the link between the natural and the artificial.  Likewise,
 contemporary photographic practice has entered the realm of the imagination, celebrating the virtual and fictititious.

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 Furthermore,with the end of truth in photography has come a corresponding loss of trust; every image, every representation, is now a potential fraud.
And as the eternal debate rages on about the appearance of truth and truth itself ,  simulation is the only truth we can trust.
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The transpersonal universe of Cyberspace is nothing more than an expanded creative act, allowing every common person the kind of imaginative play that until recently was reserved only for artists and writers of fiction. This democratization of the artistic impulse has the potential of becoming a healing force in  society, but at the same time, by being so undiscriminating in its purpose and so self-centered, it can never become the kind of collective experience we seem to be most in need of.

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The buzz and excitement generated by media technologies are but a logical reaction in a culture steeped in materialism: it creates the illusion that we can reduce every mental act into matter, with no regard to how poor or incomplete that alchemy might be. As the technology progresses and the possibility of manipulating and communicating exclusively with images grows, mental space will be eradicated, fixed into flattened expanses of unambiguous surfaces.

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The disappearance of mental space is but a further step in the progressive disappearance of private space brought about by the media explosion and its morbid exploitation of confession, gossip, and every lurid detail of human baseness. Add to that also the progressive disappearance of public space as manifest in the sorry decay of cities and the trend towards sub-urbanization, and we are left with a strangely imploded void where our lives can barely take hold
 

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This void is gradually filled with images and metaphors that try to make it a more agreeable habitat. Drawing romantically from the jargon of biogenetics, computer science, and a touch of popular psychology , they present a smooth universe of interfaces, amazing speed,  multilocality, and superconductivity, populated by friendly cyborgs, artificially intelligent machines and the shallow creations of our transpersonal selves. Nobody seems to care that this idealized world functions on the basis of extreme human isolation, mediated experience, and global consumerism.

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The hyper-human psyche of our age is molded by extreme idolatry.
Indeed, the idealization of the body  that has been at the heart of artmaking since classical Greece has crossed an aesthetic and technical threshold fueled by the needs of the Marketplace, resulting in the representation of human perfection: 
too perfect  even for the gods.

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In an electronic, globlal culture dominated by the need for an efficient distribution of information, there is a gradual obsolesence of the body as the Natural  becomes subservient to the Technological .

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Against such developments, we will face the crucial debate of what are the boundaries that determine the dichotomy human/not human. It would seem that the contribution of art to this discourse is to offer a repository for compassion. Sometimes the only way of being truly compassionate is to be ruthless about the precise description of our fears.
Compassion is not for the squeamish.

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 Through developments in digital technology, photography has been freed once and for all from the rigid conventions of Realism. Like life itself, it is now capable of representing not just what is real,  but what is possible.