UNmagazine article ‘Digital Communion’

‘Zile tests these components of identity against the realities and outcomes of the most efficient methods of mass communication available to the artist, and others, today. They converge with overbearing entertainment, unfixed place, the separation of bodies in social contact, heightened demands for personal expression and enraptured capitalism. In Zile’s practice, corporeal realities, philosophical consideration and intimate expressions of love and loss flick at the force of digital mass. The artist undermines fantasies of fulfilment through boundless media and technological output, consumption and connectivity, conceding meaning to the bent tread and vulnerable closeness of the hungry human body.’

Digital Communion Elise Routledge
UN.magazine article issue 10.2, Melbourne 2016

Full article online at:
http://unprojects.org.au/magazine/issues/issue-10-2/emile-zile-digital-communion/

Alaska Projects performance Sydney

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Everyday Machines #1
Sunday October 16 2016
Alaska Projects [William St], performances from 6:30pm
73-75 William St Darlinghurst

Alaska Projects in collaboration with Tom Smith presents Everyday Machines. This performance series brings together artists exploring the tyranny and poetics of everyday machines through performance.

EMILE ZILE
JANNAH QUILL

GET TO WORK

EMILE ZILE
Performance of identity. Mental collapse. Marketing move. Within the YouTube monologue of ex-Social Media star Essena O’Neill we hear an earnest call to arms to defend reality and remove oneself from the fracturing of the self as enabled by social media. Emile Zile uses this monologue (and subsequent call for donations) as a present day ‘everyman/everywoman’; Essena’s yearning for authenticity is our yearning for a life removed from pretence, consumption and image-management. Yet all is not what it seems and through an intertextual performative commentary on the monologue Zile descends into the Egoic hall of mirrors that we navigate online.
https://emilezile.com/

JANNAH QUILL
Jannah Quill will perform several text to speech translations simultaneously, and feed the resulting audio through pitch correction software. Jannah’s performance attempts to correct the uncorrectable, to extract the musical from randomised language, and to generate the new from the digitally banal.
http://www.jannahquill.com/


Tè will perform their recent work 100_PERCENT_HITS. 100_PERCENT_HITS continues an investigation into the form and the production of the ‘pop song.’ The idea of the ‘radio-ready’ track—increasingly defined by standardised production, duration and audio quality—is here further condensed, examining what traces remain in the re-contextualisation of musical forms. 100_PERCENT_HITS is a performance that explores the generic—both as a standard and a site for the production of novelty.
http://negativespaces.net/100-percent-hits/

GET TO WORK
In their new work ‘Racey Texts’ Get to Work explore texting and sexting as modes of communication that result in intimate/impersonal experiences. The work further explores how cultural identity is represented through ringtones, emojis and phone paraphernalia.
http://www.get-to-work.com/

Experimenta Social

Image credit: Ikea Roof Terrace detail, Joe Hamilton 2014

Experimenta Social is a series of talks, discussions and demos to provide proximity to some of Australia’s most adventurous contemporary artists, researchers and creative technologists.

This artist led series is curated and hosted by Emile Zile in collaboration with Experimenta and explores practices at the nexus of Art and technology, science, culture and design. You will hear from artists sharing their latest projects and researchers presenting projects that grapple with the concerns of our time. Beyond inconsequential debates over the role of Media Arts in a post-media world, Experimenta Social will combine activated audiences drawn from contemporary art, social research, electronic art and non-professional spheres for lively debate and discussion.

Experimenta Social will take place every second Wednesday from mid-August 2016:
17th and 31st August, 14th and 28th September, 12th and 26th October
ACMI X Studio, Level 4, 2 Kavanagh Street, Southbank, VIC 3006.

26/10/16
Session 6: Australiana, The Mongrel and Amnesia
https://www.facebook.com/events/1225051617515818/

For the last Experimenta Social in this series we invite Philip Brophy and Eugenia Lim to reflect on Australian identity, place and belonging. Using pop cultural forms as a lens to view Australian society, both Eugenia and Philip uncover latent meanings and interpretations through their video works, writing and installation. Expanding on his AFTRS Classics of Australian Cinema book that uses Priscilla Queen of the Desert as a map of Australian identity, Philip Brophy will deliver an expanded illustrated version of this book.

Philip Brophy After a series of experimental mixed-media works exhibited in art and non-art contexts over many years, Philip Brophy has consolidated his interests to produce a range of audiovisual works focussing on his key interests in pop, sex and music. Brophy continues to lecture and present on film sound and music internationally, specializing in horror, sex & exploitation, film sound & music and Japanese animation. He is widely published in all three areas, and his book 100 MODERN SOUNDTRACKS has been translated and published in Japan.
http://www.philipbrophy.com/

Eugenia Lim is an Australian artist who works across video, performance and installation. Interested in how nationalism and stereotypes are formed, Lim invents personas to explore the tensions of an individual within society: alienation and belonging in a globalised world.
http://www.eugenialim.com/


12/10/16
Session 5: WORDS
https://www.facebook.com/events/298787690504733/

Holly Childs and Christopher LG Hill deal with words, words as objects, words as recombinative forms. The internet and the street have conflicting voices, a sense of lawlessness, a place for infinite recombination and juxtaposition. Both these artists reflect the autonomous zones of the club, the artist-run initiative and the street in their writings, performances and installations. We are proud to invite Holly Childs and Christopher LG Hill to reflect on the impact of writing over networks, language as power, the power of networked speech at Experimenta Social 5.

Holly Childs is a writer and editor. Her work explores the use of digital networks in contemporary culture. Recent presentations of her work include: as art writer within Adam Linder’s choreographic service Some Proximity at MCA, Biennale of Sydney (2016); Danklands [Swamped in 3 voices] for Capitalist Surrealism curated by Liquid Architecture at NGV, Melbourne (2015) and as curator of both Quake II, Arcadia Missa, London (2014) and waterfalls.biz at Slopes, Melbourne (2014). She is the author of two books: Danklands, published by Arcadia Missa and No Limit, published by Hologram, Melbourne. She was an Associate Producer at Next Wave 2015-16, and founding editor of Next Wave’s online publication Worm Hole. In 2016-18 she is a Gertrude Contemporary studio holder.
http://www.hollychilds.com/

Christopher LG Hill __________laces on shoes then some words biodegradable people of such in places hard ruptures some other words including Christopher L G Hill an artist untitled poet unknown everythings anarchist Y3K ignorant teacher porpoise torture bunyip trax collaborator friend facilitator curator lover anti
power dexta daps falling words scrolling noise wall gardener monochrome co-label boss walking sips a homebody mirriad dancer plate and platter considerate participator dishwasher wind and sounds from the currawong graffiti bencher fine food
eater exhibitions tweeter @clghill moorhenrafft fog fatiguée dj cognitive labour/gunic slack conversation comas or spittle independent representing our self and others born melbourne 1980c.e lives World new tab and window shopper expel binary
dialog dispersed library open doors
http://www.christopherlghill.com/


28/09/16
Session 4: AUTHORSHIP, THE NON-EXPERT AND SOCIAL ART
https://www.facebook.com/events/740691636068912

In the fourth Experimenta Social session we dive into working with community in the creation of artwork. What is the potential of working with non-artists in large-scale community work? Where are the fault lines between stakeholders, funding organisations, venues and audiences? Are distinctions between expert, artist and non-artist valid? What are the ethics of participation in the realm of the non-expert? How are new approaches to social practice being defined by leading practitioners in the field? We are proud to present the work of two independent Australian artists who also have elaborate and sustained engagement with the non-artist, James Hullick and Lara Thoms.

Lara Thoms recently received a two year Creative Australia Fellowship to explore site-specific and participatory possibilities in contemporary art. Lara was commissioned to create a large scale public work Ultimate Vision: Monuments to Us as part of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s C3WEST program, a publication of the same title was released by the MCA in 2014. Other works include ‘Exposition’ for the Melbourne Art Fair with Jason Maling, ‘The Experts Project’, (2011- 2013) where she spoke with 150 ‘unofficial experts’ as part of Local Positioning Systems at the MCA, and the ‘Funeral Party’ (2016), working with a funeral director to create an art event for Dark Mofo.
http://projectswithpeople.tumblr.com/

James Hullick is a composer, community arts worker, sound artist and producer. His projects have been presented internationally for a variety of ensembles and electronic formats. Innovative sonic terrains that James continues to work through include: recursive compositional techniques, perceptual music making, real time scores, sound making machines and community arts projects. In 2011 James founded The Click Clack Project, an organisation that combines community sonic artists with professional sonic artists. James recently completed a three-year Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Melbourne. He was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship (2015) and received the Michael Kieran Harvey Piano Scholarship (2015-16).
http://www.hullickmedia.com/


14/09/16
Session 3: ACCELERATION, LEGISLATION AND KNOWLEDGE-SHARING
https://www.facebook.com/events/1808637509371358/

The acceleration of networked communication has led to a proliferation of platforms for distribution and dissemination of knowledge. How do the disruptive efficiencies of digital distribution play against hundreds of years of copyright legislation that has known authorship and publishing in a very narrow channel? Where do the cracks in appear when a digital platform leverages it’s speed and efficiency against the monoliths of cultural gate-keeping? We are very happy to host Sean Dockray in the upcoming Experiementa Social to present alternative platforms for knowledge dissemination including aaaarg.org and The Public School.

Sean Dockray is a Melbourne-based artist, a founding director of the Los Angeles non-profit Telic Arts Exchange, and initiator of autonomous knowledge-sharing platforms The Public School and aaaarg.org. With a focus on social systems, time, and impermanence, Dockray’s practice often emphasizes an active, critical engagement with technology. As a recent research fellow the Post-Media Lab at Leuphana University, he explored the physical infrastructure of the sharing economy, focusing on Facebook’s new northern European datacenter. His written essays address topics such as online education (Frieze), the militarization of universities (in Contestations: Learning from Critical Experiments in Education), property within “the cloud” (in Undoing Property), book scanning (Fillip), traffic control (Cabinet), and radio (Volume). Between a BSE in Civil Engineering and Architecture from Princeton University and an MFA from UCLA (Design|Media Arts), Dockray worked for Plumb Design in New York and consulted for a variety of cultural producers including Laura Kurgan Architecture, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Not a Cornfield public artwork, and the Milosevic trial video archive.
http://thepublicschool.org/user/2


31/08/16
Session 2: DRAMATURGY OF NEW MEDIA
https://www.facebook.com/events/113054135812652/

Uniting dramatic energy and new media technologies is not a new challenge. Artists have consistently explored the overlap of technology and drama. From Italian Futurists privileging the new sounds of 1910s new media, namely the car and the machine gun, to 1960s developments around democratised broadcast technologies and the opening of video art to the body as exemplified by Nam-June Paik and Charles Atlas. Working at the intersections of performance, installation and new technology Martyn Coutts and Matthew Sleeth will unpack their elaborate individual practices and delve into what rehearsal decisions make technology invisible, how do technical advances drive creative decision making and what is the potential for media art on stage.

Matthew Sleeth is an Australian artist living and working between Melbourne and New York City. His conceptually driven practice uses a range of media, including sculpture, photography, video and public installation. In 2015 Sleeth directed A Drone Opera which featured unmanned aerial vehicles in an experimental multimedia performance featuring
drones, their pilots and opera singers, combined with a new sound score, laser light design and moving image. A Drone Opera also featured collaborators Kate Richards, Robin Fox, Phil Samartzis, Susan Frykberg.
http://sleeth.info/

Martyn Coutts is an Australian interdisciplinary artist concerned with ideas of the live, the interactive and the mediated body. His work has been shown in theatres, online, public space and galleries throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific. His works include Operation, Computer Boy and I Think I Can with Blood Policy, the Wayfarer series of works with Kate Richards, Thrashing Without Looking with Aphids, Visible City (the keynote project of the 2010 Melbourne Fringe) and SAC35 for Salamanca Arts Centre.
http://www.martyncoutts.com/


17/08/16
Session 1: MAPPING AND TRACKING GLOBAL SYSTEMS
https://www.facebook.com/events/1381066568576199/

Citt Williams is currently a PhD candidate at Digital Ethnography Research Centre RMIT and is researching large-scale mapping of global systems such as climate change, animal migration and ecosystem modification. With a background in filmmaking, policy development and environmental science she has developed and shot independent documentaries in India, Nepal, Tajikistan, Siberia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, France, Borneo and Australia. From 2003-2005, Citt was the Executive Producer at the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association.
http://teacup.net.au/citt-williams/

Joe Hamilton is a Melbourne-based artist working at the intersections of big data, global imaging and Capitalist Realism. Hamilton is part of a new movement of post-photographic artists that have less use for a camera than a database. Sourcing raw material from stock photography, open source mapping data and a 3D scanning techniques, Hamilton’s work uncovers a sense of contemporary visuality that privileges machine processing over the lens’ humanist inheritance.
http://www.joehamilton.info


This is a free event.

This project is supported by the Besen Family Foundation and the City of Melbourne, and presented in conjunction with ACMIx

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Mining the Cloud

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Interval Projects
Mining the Cloud
A series of desktop documentaries
Thursday May 26, 7pm
Schoolhouse Studios
81 Rupert St. Collingwood
$15

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Interval presents Mining the Cloud: a series of desktop documentaries by local and international artists.

Charting the multitude of the Internet through the desktop interface, these films and performances record the virtual as real, traversing landscapes that fall outside our visual circuits. From abandoned virtual realities to electronic dumping grounds of Ghana, this is the detritus of late capitalism in a time of rapid technological change.

The desktop documentary is an emerging practice drawing from the disciplines of ethnography, archaeology and contemporary art. Using desktop browsers as both lens and edit suite, these films and performances excavate artefacts from under the “cloud”. These artists respond to the human impulse to navigate, archive, interpret and ultimately control the world around us.

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Lettres du Voyant by Louis Henderson (UK)
Lettres du Voyant is a documentary-fiction about spiritism and technology in contemporary Ghana that attempts to uncover some truths about a mysterious practice called “Sakawa” – internet scams mixed with voodoo magic. Tracing back the scammers’ stories to the times of Ghanaian independence, the film proposes Sakawa as a form of anti-neocolonial resistance.

All that is Solid by Louis Henderson (UK)
A technographic study of e-recycling and neo-colonial mining filmed in the Agbogbloshie electronic waste ground in Accra and illegal gold mines of Ghana. The video constructs a mise-en-abyme as critique in order to dispel the capitalist myth of the immateriality of new technology – thus revealing the mineral weight with which the Cloud is grounded to its earthly origins.

Utopia 1.0: Post ­Neo ­Futurist ­Capitalism in 3D! by Annie Berman (US)
A first­-person expedition to Second Life, the once thriving virtual 3D online world, in search of what remains. Given the invitation to come build anything imaginable, what is it that we chose to create?

A performance by Emile Zile (AU)
Emile Zile’s performances use new-age healing apps, YouTube monologues and algorithmic portraiture to create audio-visual meditations on augmented spirituality and networked representations of the self.

James Cameron’s Avatar at Channels Festival

James Cameron’s Avatar feature length performance September 19 2015

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In the Epoch of the Near and Far invites contemporary audiences to reframe discussions on digital media. Flipping the much talked-about suggestion that emerging technological forms distort reality on it’s head, the exhibition proposes a relationship which sees our physical and digital lives mutually support and influence each other. Comprising the work of six Australian and international digital and performance artists, In the Epoch of the Near and Far is running as part of the Channels Festival for Australian video art.

The exhibition opens September 19 with a performance from Emile Zile, the Australian born Netherlands based artist whose work is informed by his own navigation of a technologically mediated reality. Featured artist Keith Deverell will also run an Artist in Conversation session on September 24 alongside art historian Dr. Grace McQuilten and exhibition curator Amelia Winata.

In the Epoch of the Near and Far runs from the 18-27 of September at Grey Gardens Projects in Fitzroy and features work from:

Petra Cortright (USA)
Heath Franco (AUS)
Marian Tubbs (AUS)
Emile Zile (AUS/NL)
Keith Deverell (UK/AUS)
Aaron Christopher Rees (AUS)

Western Digital at MARS Gallery, Melbourne

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Emile Zile witfully uses the ‘truth’ of video in constant movements of distanciation that reaffirms our position as spectators—in the gallery and in the world—to draw us back with the question: where is the individuality of our self-expression, in a banal act of connectedness?
– Anabelle Lacroix, Curator

Opening reception and artist in Q+A: Saturday 30 May, 3pm
Dates: Friday 29 May – Saturday 13 June 2015
Venue: MARS Gallery, Black Box, 7 James Street, Windsor VIC 3181

Residency at MES56, Jogjakarta Indonesia.

As part of the ‘Put Up a Signal’ Australia-Indonesia program I will be hosted at MES56 from 11-22 November to create new work and exhibit.

http://putupasignal.info/artist

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Nayla, Wok the Rock and me practising our wrestling press-kit team pose, 2011.

Thanks to Bus Gallery Melbourne, Mes 56 and Asialink Arts.

Liquid Architecture tour 2014

Screened: new performance in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Singapore.

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Liquid Architecture is an Australian organisation for events, exhibitions, performances and situations of the world’s leading artists working with sound.

Once a “sense-specific” festival, interested in listening and the depth of individual sound perception, Liquid Architecture is broadening its focus of concern to engage the social, cultural, political, economic as well as aesthetic frameworks in which sound takes place. Now in its 15th year, Liquid Architecture’s 2014 festival program brings together work from across a range of disciplines to audiences in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Singapore. Marking the new direction driven by curators Joel Stern and Danni Zuvela is the festival’s focus on social and conceptual questions, signalling a more sustained engagement with the discourse, sound and practices of contemporary art. This is a move into the investigation of the audible as an expression of the myriad, sometimes inaudible forces enframing, encoding, describing and producing what we hear – whether that is considered music, sound, or noise.

Talks program: public speaking, private thinking, social listening
http://www.liquidarchitecture.org.au/program/stutterances/

“Stop talking about talks” – Christof Migone

Christof Migone gives an artist talk, no a TALK ARTIST
Alessandro Bosetti demonstrates MASK MIRROR
New Waver loads up THE KING OF PPT
Ur 1st Luv propose A SOUND INVESTMENT
Johannes Kreidler adresses THIS TULIP OF WHICH I AM SPEAKING AND WHICH I REPLACE IN SPEAKING
Kusum Normoyle is SILT (Screaming In Lecture Theatre)
Emile Zile performs SCREENED
Makiko Yamamoto is UTTERLY SILENT, UTTER SILENCE, UTTERLY SOMETHING, OR UTTER SOMETHING, THINKING THINKING, UTTERLY LISTENING, UTTERLY UMMM.

Capacity limited to 250 people

RSVP http://www.eventbrite.com.au/o/liquid-architecture-6942295259

In partnership with NGV and ABC Radio National’s Creative Audio Unit.

Further performances of Screened will occur during the Liquid Architecture tour in Brisbane on October 1 at IMA, Sydney October 5 at UNSW Art and Design (COFA), Singapore October 10 at LaSalle College. Full details at http://www.liquidarchitecture.org.au/program/

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FREE LUNCH

FREE LUNCH
Free lunch, final wisdom, total coverage
– Hunter S. Thompson

BLUEEARTH

The ‘Blue Marble’ image released from NASA’s Apollo 17 mission. The image was released after solicitation from Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue as well as The WELL, the first open digital community.

We live in an ecological period of history, our assumed model and image of the world is that of an ecosphere. Within this sphere everything matters, everything has the potential to be part of everything else. Each instance is imbued with the potential to affect, in a causal chain, everything else. There is no outside .

This could be described as the hell of the butterfly effect, a kind of contingency-overload. How is it possible to separate out the specific from the general within this milieu? What is a significant as opposed to an insignificant event? The question becomes epistemological; how do we know?

Emile Zile’s new video work Western Digital is set on and around the central thoroughfare of a northern Laotian city, Luan Prabang. A city on the confluence of Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luan Prabang was the royal seat of Laos until Pathet Lao communist took control in 1975.

Each morning a ritual known as Tak Bak takes place. Tak Bak is a giving of alms to the cities Theravada Buddhist monks. As is shown in Zile’s video, this event takes the form of a procession where monks receive alms in silence, without returning thanks to the giver. There is no giver and receiver in Tak Bak, only giving and receiving. Through Tak Bak the material and spiritual sustain each other without direct encounter; what is beneficial to the monks is meritorious for those giving. Tak Bak is not charitable in the Christian sense.

As Zile’s video shows, the daily procession is two simultaneous events, alms being given and the witnessing of the alms being given. Each morning TAK BAK has nearly as many witnesses, in the form of tourists, as participants.

The images we see being produced in Zile’s work, like the offerings made to the monks it features, have a double life. They’re are on the one hand a document of a specific time and place, and on the other user generated content being uploaded and distributed across a digital network. This freely produced ‘content’ is the one of the key aspects of the ‘third industrial revolution’ that is reshaping various economic, social and political relations; creating new forms of power relations and placing control in the hands of newly emerging organisations. This new economy is part of an experiential ambiance brought about by the advent of a widely deployed digital infrastructure. This is a new economy of free information, not of goods and services, a milieu of TED talks, not public libraries and of freelancing and internships, not jobs. This new milieu of free and ‘open’ information, content and entertainment is what Franco ‘bifo’ Berardi calls the ‘new techno-social framework of contemporary subjectivation”.

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To the organisations and companies leading the capitalisation of this new techno-social framework the resource it produces, in the form of digital ‘content’, is an almost alchemical, infinite, resource. A ‘virgin’ resource, like the new world once was to Europe’s colonial powers. As Alan Greenspan, then Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, explained to Bill Clinton during his first term as president, the effects of the digital economy was like ‘finding a new planet’.

This new resource is the product of the labour executed by the same ‘class’ of consumer of it as a product, in a mediated feedback loop. The product in question, personal expressions has existed in various forms for decades, (home videos, diaries) however, it is only since the advent of web 2.0 that it has become a widely produced and consumed resource. Every Tweet, every Instagram of ‘info-commodity’ is what Berardi calls ‘Semio-capital’, an expression of the interaction between language and labour. Semio-capital is the production of cultural material that puts ‘neuro-psychic energies’ to work as labour. Expressing subjectivity, like the old times of keeping a diary, is now a form of work, of productive labour; the ‘self’ having attained the currency of a resource. Twitter, Facebook et al are in a constant battle for our self-expression.

However, this labour is not paid for in the conventional sense, what you receive in return for producing content for, say Twitter, is free access to the service as a consumer. For the consumer it is an entirely money free transaction, an economy of giving and receiving; not working and paying.

The companies that trade on the production of semio-capital are driving a new economy that could ultimately rewrite the entire concept of exchange value, labour and employment. In turn this new economy (which within the digital is already well established) could therefore go on to fundamentally determine the process of subjectivation of the individual as part of a 21st century economy.

In Zile’s film we see ‘content’ and ‘experience’ in mutual production as a site of subjective personal experience; experience being the critical site of content production. Furthermore we see the two bound together as an expression of an emerging social and economic reality where the site of production and consumption become blurred to the point of indiscernible difference. This indiscernible difference between labour and leisure, between work and life is an outcome of a specific period of social and technical developments that was influenced by the Buddist practices that feature in Zile’s film.

The ‘Californian Ideology’ is a catchall term for the mixture of post war systems theory, popular interpretations of Buddhism and an Ayn Rand style radical individualism that has driven much of the development of both the infrastructure, culture and business models that dominate the digital network today. The idea of a stable, free environment is at the very core of our networked paradigm.

An example of Buddhist inspiration can be found in one of the pivotal figures in both the counter culture of the 1960’s and the World Wide Web. Stewart Brand was the founder of Whole Earth Catalogue as well as the WELL, the first online community. Brand asserted during his counter culture days that the Tao Te Ching by Chinese sage Lao Tzu was in fact the ‘first systems theory book’. The systems theory that Brand refers to gave the Hippy generation a model for a lateral society of anti-Cartesian self-determining, self-organising individuals, free from what they perceived as the corrupt and war mongering institutions of politics and the state.

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It was in Buddhism, that had already influenced the avant garde of the 50’s, that the counter culture found its mythology. The selfless, egoless, Buddhist, in the eyes of Brand and others, was equivalent to the cybernetic subject – where the Cartesian self that transcends the material world was reinscribed as a node in a total, planetary, system. As Jefferson Airplane assert in their seminal protest album of the period, Volunteers, ‘see how small your are…the human name doesn’t mean shit to a tree’, expressing the idea that ego of the modern subject is meaningless when culture (and the individuals that make it up) are seen inseparable from the material world as one, total, system.

Systems theory found a home on both sides of the establishment. Jay Forrester at MIT, among others, developed a vision of the world as a total unified ecology of natural and industrial systems. Both the researchers into systems theory at MIT, the wider military-industrial complex and the counter culture movement became strongly attached to the idea of sustainability as the ultimate end of a systems theory view of both nature and culture. This sustainable ecological vision of the world proposes to overcome politics by way of the efficiency and strength of its design as a system, a system designed to bring about harmony and stability. It was and is a project with a utopian dimension directed towards an implicit ultimate end, that of a harmonious world.

However, with the widespread failing of the self-sufficiency and back to the land movement its key proponents were looking for ways to reintegrate their ethos into the mainstream. As Stewart Brand has said of this period ‘self sufficiency didn’t work, so now it’s time to collaborate’, and so the first online community, The WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) was born out of the same self-sufficiency ethos where every voice is equal, the dawn of user-generated content had come. It was with four ex-members of the largest back to the land commune, The Farm, that Brand started The WELL.

The cyber-utopian narrative that came out of the California Ideology of an egalitarian society, ecological sustainability and a boundless life world enhanced by the digital network may have entered a new phase after the 2000 dot com crash and the 2001 attack on the twin towers. What was considered a tool of mass emancipation has become, in a surprisingly quick period of time, dominated by very few corporations and has become a tool for mass surveillance. However, the idea of giving persists as a new economic model, the idea of free information of digital ‘commons’ is a major part of the global network. Producers-consumers give their ‘neuro-psychic’ labours to companies and corporations that provide ‘free’ services. Contrary to the wishes opined in counter culture author Richard Brautigan for a cybernetic infrastructure that would make us ‘free of our labours’, the cybernetic ‘meadow’ we have instead has made old practices into new types of labour, performed for free.

Life in a new world without boundaries (paid/free, employed/unemployed) has to establish and active resistance to the network, or find its psyche colonized and commoditised. The strangest, and most pernicious, aspect of this new regime is that both colonisation and commoditisation are voluntary but irresistible. The spirit of voluntary labour, a benign act of egoless community merit is warped by the digital network into the entry box at the top of any facebook page, requesting the user to enter ‘what is on your mind?’ As one of the first critiques of peer to peer media, made during its early days of the 1990’s wrote ‘Cyberspace is a black hole; it absorbs energy and personality and represents it as an emotional spectacle.’

And this is where we find the nexus of Zile’s film. Within its constellation of ancient Buddhist ritual and networked image production we see a dialectical image, in the sense of Benjamin, emerge.

The location of Zile’s film appropriately makes up its title; the work is literally set in a spatial and temporal location of northern Laos, a much-marginalised nation and forgotten part of the world. However, as Zile’s film makes us aware, everywhere is significant to the ecological vision of the world; there is no outside of the system. Furthermore, Zile’s work shows us that within this milieu of significance substance based value becomes secondary to the psychic, labour is not just about the execution of products and services but also psychic and emotional output. Like the ceremony in documentation shown, a mediated economy of voluntarily giving is taking place whinin our new digital economy of the mind. For the Buddhists involved in the ceremony, the economic exchange is mediated by a belief system, for the tourist, the exchange is mediated by Facebook or Instagram, who, unlike the consumer, make a traditional monetary profit from the meta data of the users.

Just as Walter Benjamin elucidated the reflective energy of the iron windows and mannequins of Paris arcades to talk about the 19th Century, Zile uses the Tak Bak ceremony in Luang Prabang to make recognisable the boundaries and practices that inhabit our ecological, 21st century, milieu. Further to this, Zile’s film shows how the two conceptual schemes of the ‘self’ found in Buddhism and free market capitalism have synthesised into the digital economy, the new planet on which we now must live.

– Matthew Shannon

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