“Into the Locative: Grassroots Cultural Production and the Digitalization of Urban Borders” presented by Vanni and Cmielewski


Session Title:

  • Border Reckonings, Border Crossings 1

Presentation Title:

  • Into the Locative: Grassroots Cultural Production and the Digitalization of Urban Borders




  • Intro
    Much research and cultural production in the last ten years have focused on ideas of mobility, liquidity and movement brought about by a new geopolitical model based on the deterritorialized and all comprising networks of Empire, by the erosion of previously stable nation state borders, by migration flows and by seemingly ubiquitous (new) media technologies. A parallel rhetoric on the power of technologies in levelling inequalities and creating social change has led to the fetishization of the idea of movement and technology in the creation of new forms of power and belonging.

    At Dualkollektiv departing from ideas of networks, mobility and deterritorialization, we started asking questions about borders, their materialization and dematerialization, their reconceptualization within the city in the form of enclaves and flows. What happens, for instance if we look at the distribution of infrastructures on the territory? Does access to technologies translate in active use of these technologies? Who owns the service providers and what is their relation to mainstream and non mainstream digital media? Can we still make such a distinction? Are we really a ‘city of villages’, according to one of the City of Sydney branding tags, that suddenly, thanks to digital technologies becomes part of a global neighborhood? Which meanings are given to the city through media arts? Which stories are told with the aid of digital technologies?

    We started imagining what would happen if we layered three different imaginary maps over the city of Sydney. The first one maps the city that takes into account its affective borders: those borders determined by social and cultural practices that fragment the urban fabric in enclaves sometimes criss-crossed by flows and sometimes not. The second one is a map of infrastructures: the distribution of diverse kinds of internet networks and the institutions (such as galleries, museums, theatres, universities and arts organizations) active in the promotion, education, production, distribution and audience development of media arts. The third one maps the borders of media arts.

    Let’s start with the last imaginary map. In 2006, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Federal Government’s funding and advisory agency, commissioned a new media scoping study. The report redefined new media as simply media, stressing how artists used a combination of ‘existing, new and emergent technologies’. The report also highlighted the lack of infrastructure, both at the production and at the distribution and consumption level, which brings us to our second map.

    The spectre of the ‘digital divide’, clearly a border in itself, surfaces in the report in relation to those artists located within ‘communities’ — those artists who are either Indigenous or of a non English speaking background. Media arts, according to this discourse, have a particular ‘enabling’ potential. Functioning as a tool of distributed agency and participatory practices in the most disadvantaged sectors, media arts is seen as making better citizens. If it wasn’t for the ‘digital divide’.

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