Evil Media Distribution Centre
Perception of ideas leads to new ideas. – Sol LeWitt, “Sentences on Conceptual Art” (1969)
The amalgamation of theory and practice is a prevalent aspiration in much contemporary art discourse. The ambition is to expand the perspective and relevance of the artworks beyond their formal boundaries and to connect the abstractions of the written word to the materiality and experiences of life. The amalgamation is also essential to the transmediale festival. However, with its diverse and intense program of exhibition, installations, performances, workshops, and conference, the festival does not simply integrate theory and practice as separate but connected realms of reflective activity. Theory is just theory, practice is not just practice. Rather, the festival promotes and explores the idea that an artwork expresses theoretical significance and that a theory, like artworks, unfolds speculative critiques and visions about our media society. Beyond institutional and disciplinary formalities, it approaches theory as an inherent part of practice and practice as inherent to theory to create a transversal understanding for the energies, knowledge, and perspectives that this condition presents the engagement in this society with.
In this context, Evil Media Curiosity Cabinet by YoHa (Matsuko Yokokoji and Graham Harwood) is a genuine transmediale project and to date the most explicit manifestation of the festival’s ambition to present theory and practice in an interconnected whole. The installation is an artistic response to the recently published book Evil Media (2012) by Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey in which the two authors argues for an expanded notion of media or forms of mediation and a deeper, more complex understanding of their effects on how we act, perceive, and think in our lives. They focus on the pervasive presence of so-called “gray media,” whose mediations, “facilitate and amplify the creation of troubling, ambiguous social processes, fragile networks of susceptible activity, opaque zones of knowledge – the evil of media.” The argument takes the form of a series of stratagems that, “rather than simple recipes to be followed, might better be understood as operative constructs in the sense that they have to be taken up, used, worked with …” It is this anticipation of the stratagems’ involvement in experimental practices beyond the pages of the book that YoHa meet. The artists have invited XX contributors to choose and write a short text about a gray media object and these texts and objects are then presented in the setting of a curiosity cabinet designed as a distribution centre (the media of presentation – the pallets, the forklift, the clipboards, and the projector – are also accompanied by a text). With this close proximity between text and object, ideas and materiality, the installation demonstrates a mindset and method where the amalgamation of theory and practice is not a point in itself but becomes a working condition for developing an experimental understanding of the evil of media.
Jacob Lillemose Transmediale 2013