Michael Thomas on Fri, 14 Apr 2000 01:09:45 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> techno-sublime

I finished an MA in "Arts Criticism" last year in London and worked in my
dissertation on a term I borrowed from Hal Foster's "The Return of the
Real" he called "techno-sublime". 

For people interested in the topic I posted a PDF document at

I welcome any critics or further useful information as I intend to extend
the work in the future time. 

A summary of the thesis goes like this:

In the last chapter of The Return of the Real (1996) the American critic
Hal Foster addresses the contemporary anxieties towards new technologies
and media in the western, highly industrialised consumer societies. 
Applying Benjamin's 'surgically penetration' of the spectator's body and
McLuhan's 'electrically extension' of the human, Foster characterises the
situation of the individual s ubject as a new intensity of dis/connection.
Confused, terrified, and yet fascinated, we have - despite a spatial and
often emotional remoteness - become wired to the technoscope of media
spectacles by television and so-called new communication technologies: For
Foster, this dis/connection has reached a new level of pain-and-pleasure
and presents for the author 'a partial return of a fascistic subjecthood'. 
In the following thesis I try to detach Foster's notion of a technosublime
from its pejorative framework. My aim is not to reactivate the sublime as
a nostalgic conception of modern aesthetics, as the unrepresentable was
here applied only to be put forward as a 'missing content' (Lyotard). 
Alongside Donna Harraway's Cyborg Manifesto (1985), N. Katherine Hayles'
reception of the posthuman subject (How We Became Posthuman, 1999), and
Friedrich Kittler's idea of synergy between humans and machines, I like to
apply the notion of the technosublime as a kind of white rabbit to enter,
like Alice, the contemporary setting of a technological Wonderland.  And
yet, if the postmodern dis/connection, as Foster argues, either produces
indifference, cynicism, or reactive value judgments, we also have to
develop and acknowledge new forms and models of criticism, which might no
longer depend on a classical position of critical distance but rather
locate the research and work inside 'the belly of the monster' (Haraway). 
If this agenda, this form of practice, is still to be called art, is
irrelevant. A notion, which in the meantime might have become more
important, might be 'not-just-art' (I/O/D)  ---

Michael Thomas

:: michael thomas
:: http://www.bureau-k.de
:: phone +49 | (0)40 317 93 124

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