The Dialectics of Opsis and Optics in the Data Practice of Thorbjørn Lausten
When we want to express something important, we say that we have something ‘on our mind’. We tend to attribute the same qualities to art and the artist – that what they are doing should mean something and bring new insights about our known world and reality to the minds of the beholders. But this may, in fact, not really be the case. At least, the art projects that I want to present in the following contradict and subvert the very idea of bringing any reality ‘to mind’. Instead, they persevere that 99,99 % of ‘the world’ is deeply complex and out of reach of our sensory systems and minds, however intuitive they may be. Art and everything we do in everyday life – and in science, for that matter - is only dealing with a point zero one world. It is as if a silent big bang occurred, alongside the catastrophe that created our universe, and scattered the elements and building stones of any future constructed reality in all directions and dimensions. According to resent research in cognitive psychology, this may even be a key component of our mind – that our consciousness about things and issues, what we have on our mind, is constructed by unconscious structures that we are only partially aware of. We are not aware of our awareness, in a sense, and we ‘confabulate’ that which we have on our minds, on the fly – even on political and romantic issues. So, in order to bring any reality to mind, it would involve creeping in behind our awareness, and make us aware of the very fact that our consciousness is under construction… Thorbjørn Lausten is one of the few Danish media artists who most consistently has examined and experimented in the field that lies between art, science and technology. Since the debut in 1971, his particular interest is the relation between the scientific observations of astronomical and meteorological forces of nature. Indeed, these forces are perfect examples of realities beyond the point one zero world. Thorbjørn Laustens works from the premise, that technological means and artistic resources are the only limited resources of information that are available. In fact, Lausten claims, it is imperative that we investigate the modalities and epistemologies of our technological and artistic resources and limitations. And the only way to do this is by practicing them. Thorbjørn Lausten’s purpose is to investigate the data that is ‘available’. This constitute the basic point of, what I have chosen to term, his ”data practice”. To understand further what the term data practice encompasses, one could turn to Roy Ascott whose influence on Lausten is evident and also important to acknowledge. Ascott, according to Shanken (2003), ”recognized the paradoxical nature of knowledge and the contradictions inherent in formal epsitemologies”. Instead, a number of negotiations take place. I have chosen to focus on one specific negotiation here – that, between opsis and optics. In his data practice, Thorbjørn Lausten addresses the problematic of knowledge and formal epistemologies by enhancing the aesthetic field into, what I would claim to be, a dialectical play of opsis and optics. Roy Ascott, in his practice, is playing with the field of textual and diagrammatical data as paradoxical “information spaces” that questions the construction of optics by a conventional visual system – which should also be understood, I would claim, as a visual epistemological framing: An opsis. In this paper, I will investigate the relation and opposition of opsis and optics in Thorbjørn Lausten’s data practice and ask the fundamental question: What is the epistemological status of the negotiaion between scientific datapractice in art, today?
Re:ilve: Media Arts Histories 09, 2009
Digital Representation; Optics; Data visualization; Perceptual processes; Art, science and technology; Representation; Data practice; Media Art History; Media Art Consciousness; Opsis