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On Totalitarian Interactivity


The experiences of East and West structure how new media is seen in both places. For the West, interactivity is a perfect vehicle for the ideas of democracy and equality. For the East, it is another form of manipulation, in which the artist uses advanced technology to impose his / her totalitarian will on the people. (On modern artist as a totalitarian ruler see the works of Boris Groys.)

Western media artists usually take technology absolutely seriously and despair when it does not work. Post-communist artists, on the other hand, recognize that the nature of technology is that it does not work, will always breakdown, will never work as it is supposed to... (For instance, Moscow conceptual artist and poet Dimity Prigov did an event during ISEA '94 in which he used business translation programs to translate a famous nineteenth Russian poem by Pushkin from Russian into Finnish and then from Finnish into English; he declared the mistakes in translation a new work of art.)

A Western artist sees Internet as a perfect tool to break down all hierarchies and bring the art to the people (while in reality more often than not using it as a super-media to promote his / her name ).

In contrast, as a post-communist subject, I cannot but see Internet as a communal apartment of Stalin era: no privacy, everybody spies on everybody else, always present line for common areas such as the toilet or the kitchen. Or I can think of it as a giant garbage site for the information society, with everybody dumping their used products of intellectual labor and nobody cleaning up. Or as a new, Mass Panopticum (which was already realized in communist societies) - complete transparency, everybody can track everybody else.

Article  1996