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The unleashing of the technosphere is, above all, the result of activating and operating numerous tiny switches. With the unfolding of information theory, cybernetics, and the microscopic power of the point-contact transistor, the year 1948 represents the material and theoretical starting point for a universal language of 0s and 1s. From then on, the digital makes up the foundational cultural technique of a present saturated with circuits and electronics. Contributions from theory and art oscillate between diagnostic and speculative accounts of the bit’s role as configurer of new space-time coordinates, pulse generator for the evolution of systems, and unreckoned source for a loss of control. The result is a discursive installation of contributions in strictly clocked intervals, a rhythmic apparatus of switching itself.
Program in collaboration with Gerald Nestler
Invocation 1: Friendship [in/at/of/by the Technosphere Unbound (1948)
In her opening, philosopher and artist Johnny Golding envisions the technosphere as unbounded encounter as it generates a strangely emboldened form of shared knowing, a suspended aliveness of Otherness without recourse to an old-fashioned mastery or authority or binary split between “self and other.”
Alexander R. Galloway, Julian Oliver, Orit Halpern
Run 1: From One to Two
In the year 1948 a sliver of memory was a bit and a bit was a pixel and a pixel was a dot and a dot was a keystroke. Alexander R. Galloway constructs an opening image of a 1948 awash in experiments and new technologies. He explores the importance of discretization in society, culture and technics, demonstrating the way in which “the one” becomes “the two” in concept and material. Julian Oliver will then scour the surface of microprocessor hardware with a microscope. Following the tiniest of hardware switches, he will take us through a UNIX command line monologue that touches on landscape, war and computer networks derived from live interactions with remote machines. Considering the intrusion of switches into our machines, cities, politics, and brains, Orit Halpern reflects on the urge to make everything “smart.” From objects to processes, from reason to rationality, from space to territory, from history to preemption, from environment to ecology ...is there a switch happening now?
Anna Echterhölter, Morehshin Allahyari, Sarah Sharma
Run 2: Coordinating Time and Space
During the late 19th century in German New Guinea, the colonial powers imposed a host of new metrics and currencies to coordinate a society which they thought of as uncoordinated. Anna Echterhölter unpacks the consequences of these impositions in order to demonstrate the power of standards and spatio-temporal logistics on social structures. Mythology too has its own power to coordinate social structures for the past and the future. Confronting the socio-ecological injustice of our times Morehshin Allahyari uses the story of Huma – a female Jinn from the Middle-East – to make a poetic and metaphoric case for other-futurity building. Grounding these mythologies and technical standards and apparatuses, Sarah Sharma collects these varied modes of coordination and discusses how they are scaled and negotiated by the concrete media and social spaces of our everyday life.
Sophia Roosth, Thomas Feuerstein with participation of Marian Kaiser, Marie-Luise Angerer
Run 3: Cybernetic Life
1948 was an annus mirabilis for the concept of life as it came under the sway of information theory and cybernetics. Sophia Roosth starts from the general shift the life sciences have undertaken in light of cybernetics and information theory. Tending to the informatic analogy treating molecular biology as a coding problem, she reflects on the life sciences as they have evolved until today in fields such as synthetic biology, systems biology, and bioinformatics. Contemplating current technical developments from a metaphysical standpoint, Thomas Feuerstein considers our situation in terms of a resurrection of an ancient life-form: the demon. Today’s demons are of a technical nature, they have relocated from myth and magic into the innards of apparatuses and networks, where they act as appropriators and distributors of energy and vitality. Taking Donna Haraway’s 1984 Cyborg Manifesto as an early irruption of thinking a hybrid NatureMedia Marie-Luise Angerer makes clear that today the commonalities between human and other beings outweigh their distinctions – an insight that is valid for the demonic algorithm just as it is for the body characterized as an information processor.
Invocation 2: From the Bit to the Pit
0 and 1 are not alone, because there exists a coin. If you flip a coin once, you flip it an infinity of times, and thus, starting with one bit, the coin buys you at once the cardinality of the continuum. In this second invocation Elie Ayache will speculate on the technique of speculation itself as it relates to the stock market and derivative trading theory. Does the random walk of the stock price inescapably lead to a continuum? How much information, then, is contained in the market. Or are we dealing here with something else than information?
Giuseppe Longo, Gerald Nestler, Felix Stalder
Run 4: Bound by Contingency
Since 1948, computational strategies for the modelling of evolutionary systems emerged that enable a powerful treatment of random processes. Is randomness intrinsic to nature? Is there randomness in computing? Giuseppe Longo addresses these questions by comparing biology’s functional variations and the stock market’s wild fluctuations, showing the forms and metrics of stability and instability in evolutionary and artificially tuned systems. Gerald Nestler further explores this form of creating profit from volatility, highlighting its generic potential – and our duty – to live up and calibrate to a world driven by contingency. Felix Stalder then looks at how these frictions and feedbacks play into political and social questions surrounding this technospheric menagerie.
Invocation 3: The Universe since 1948: Theoretical Art and Binary Primitivism
Ubermorgen interlinks their 1984 key work Theoretical Art, the current inexorable evolution of the art market, the recent radical shifts in the perception of transhumanism and singularity and their latest hypothesis, binary primitivism, that deals with the psychopathology of the Silicon Valley manosphere, heraldry and hypno porn, into the frenetic and multifarious texture of the technosphere.
Final discussion with all participants and the audience
Moderated by Marie-Luise Angerer and Gerald Nestler