The Map and the Territory

One of the central issues pertinent to the exploration of meaning/becoming as subject deals with a contemporary engagement with context as brought about through electronic media. Computer-based digital multimedia is made palpable within highly mutable electronic environments. The very nature of our understanding of context has been altered because of the unfixity of these technological surroundings. The potential for instant distributed connection to other computers on an international scale also adds to this complexity.

This variability is brought about through the potential for recombination of various media; the juxtaposition of various media-elements of image, sound and text; the layering or interpenetration of various media-elements; the ability to navigate through and/or within media following different trajectories, and/or hyperlinks; and the ability to easily alter, abstract and/or edit digital media environments. Other attributes characteristic of computer-based media are also relevant to this mutability. This would include interaction with particular behavioural attributes; and related,attached, or attributed chosen media-processes. All of this activity takes place in what could be called an environment of "Simulacra and Simulation."

In his book Simulacra & Simulation, Baudrillard argues the following:

Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: A hypperreal. The territory no longer preceeds the map, nor does it survive it. It is never the less the map that proceeds the territory - pressesion of simulacra- that engenders the territory. (Baudrillard, 1994, p. 1)

Yes, it is true that a map can engender a territory in terms of the creation of virtual landscapes; a Hypperreal world. Yet, this is also true of working diagrams and architectural models, that they can also potentially project "hypperreal" environments. From the perspective of an artist using "models" to populate virtual worlds, one knows these "models" to have a very definite "origin;" they are authored using a contemporary tool, the computer, functioning in conjunction with a specific authored program or newly authored computer code. These "models" subsequently are housed in illusionistic spatial environments that are also "authored." Like the past use of language systems (again, I here intentionally conflate modular media-elements of text, image and sound as language), they can be explored as a vehicle of science, imagination, metaphysics; any topic the author seeks to become engaged with. Thus from my perspective, that of the artist/researcher, virtual environments can be employed in a vast range of ways. Among other uses, they can be employed as a tool of social critique, aesthetic inquiry, and also can be used for the exploration of pointed nonsense. Authors and researchers have a variety of intentions for their use of virtual environments. The extent to which they are employed as mapping tools relates to an individual's intention. Virtual reality can be a simulation of an external "territory," with also having the potential of being its own territory. Such a territory can be used for scientific purposes, as well as aesthetic purposes, or any other purpose that one seeks to explore. Thus such systems can be used for an exact kind of mapping (as in some new forms of surgery or telepresence) or as a poetic realm; a one to one "map" of the artefacts as derived purely from imagination; or as some level of abstraction that points metaphorically at both realms of mapping. Such systems may be highly "referential," enabling one to experience a space before entering it, or to explore a direct map of a space from a distance via telerobotics. The computer is a tool and it can be used imaginatively. It can potentially propagate the potentials of a constructed space. This should not be lamented in my mind, as suggested by Baudrillard:

This imaginary of representation, which simultaneously culminates in and is engulphed by the cartographer's mad project of the ideal coextensivity of map and territory, disappears in the simulation whose operation is nuclear and genetic, no longer at all specular or discursive. It is all of metaphysics that is lost. No more mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept. No more imaginary coextensivity: it is genetic miniaturization that is the dimension of simulation. The real is produced from minaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks, models of control- and it can be reproduced an infinite number of times from these. It no longer needs to be rational, because it no longer measures itself against either an ideal or negative instance. It is no longer anything but operational. In fact it is no longer really the real, because no imaginary envelopes it anymore. It is hyperreal, produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere. (Baudrillard, 1994, p. 2)

Baudrilliard's statement has relevance on both a literal and metaphorical level to Recombinant Poetics. We must remember that along with the metaphor of the recombinant, computers also enable the literal exploration of Recombinant DNA processes (see the Human Genome Project). When we talk about "Hyperspaces," one must keep in mind that such environments, like the one engendered by the techno-poetic mechanism of my project, are authored (or inter-authored) environments. They, like a good book, are given the atmosphere that the author (or authors) deems appropriate.

Such environments can function as a space to contemplate contemporary metaphysical processes, in fact, metaphysical processes are one foci among many enfolded within this artwork. This is not to suggest that there should not be an ethics to such potential realms. A detailed examination of the ethics surrounding the uses of such environments falls outside of the scope of this paper. When Baudrillard suggest that we can no longer ascertain the "real and its concept," I beg to differ. It is this "real" technological environment that we must carefully consider in terms of all its potentials both positive and negative. How can we best manifest this consideration in a manner that truly addresses the functional nature of such systems? Such a technological environment can only exist because of the real, through the language of computer code and human effort, functioning in relation to the physical realm of hardware and inhabited space. Yes, it must be stated that the computer can potentially posit volatile spaces that are characterised by an unfixity only surpassed by human thought processes. Yet, it is the very nature of this computer-based mutability and its relation to meanings produced within such an environment, that I seek to entertain and experientially examine. In fact, is not such an environment potentially a better example of a "mirror of the mind" then has previously existed? Such a contention also falls outside the scope of this project.

In this particular case I have developed a specific poetic mechanism exploring interrelations arising through exploration of "operative" media-elements of image, sound and text. Such a mechanism seeks to enable a platform to explore and consider a poetic / conceptual environment that can shift in any manner of topical directions, forming an emergent trajectory of poetic thought and association as brought about through interaction. As earlier stated, such thought is focused on an examination that explores nature of meaning/becoming as artistic content. Yes, to some extent is has been intentionally authored to be "hyperreal" with an aesthetic predilection informed through historical study. More specifically, it has been authored as a particular "aesthetic" environment, with a carefully considered atmosphere of potentials. It is all the more the "mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept." One must remember that a slight displacement of the "real" can serve to illuminate that real. The techno-poetic mechanism is a specific generator of "appearances." Thus I have sought to construct an "operative" techno-poetic environment, to function with all of the depth that this conflation of languages can; to manifest a shifting and malleable poetic territory. Such a territory is to be considered both in a "specular" manner and as a vehicle or extension of "discursive" practice.

In terms of this mechanism, it must be noted that meaning arises within a constructed context, in relation to chosen elements as encountered within a particular environment. I have employed chosen/authored subject matter to explore meaning/becoming. Such subject matter, in terms of its polysemic value, becomes enfolded in the associative engagement with the work. Thus a field of meanings are generated which enable reflection on the nature of meaning as just one aspect of the meanings generated through the functioning of this techno-poetic mechanism. I have spoken of a potential "mindful awareness" (see Varella above) of this exploration, yet one may also enter the work and explore its functionality on a different level, i.e. a child may potentially understand the work very differently than an adult, relating to the playful nature of the experience. One may also enter the techno-poetic mechanism and explore trance-like states of interaction.

We are existing in a new era of technologically-mediated, environmental language use. We must as a civilisation come to understand the qualities and ramifications of such virtual environments. Recombinant Poetics, as an emergent field, seeks to begin to address many of the issues inherent to this complex enfolded topic of topics from the perspective of art practice. One seeks to draw upon the knowledge of various historical approaches to technology and media, to define and enfold concepts which can functionally bridge a number of research fields. This bridging becomes central to the construction of a techno-poetic device that seeks to enable an examination of the construction of alternate media-contexts. The functionality and operative nature of such a device would also need to enfold the exploration of related aesthetic issues. Such a device seeks to provide the means to explore the simultaneous engagement of a number of sensory modes within a technological-media environment. This authored technological environment can potentially exemplify specific states of meaning in terms of art practice, weaving together divergent strands of research.