To get lost, as opposed to hiding or being discreet and transparent, predicates some degree of empowerment. In an era of an increasingly hetero/homonormative political landscape dominated by neo-liberal processes, to be lost is to disrupt and to disorganise.
A country’s political economy expects productive individuals to run it and sustain it. To be disoriented in ”control societies”, as Gilles Deleuze has called it, implicates one’s less efficient performance within them. But being disoriented can also recipitate new forms of efficiency, ones that resonate with the “possible rendezvous” explained by Guy Debord in his Theory of Dérive.
Derived from the Latin word derivare, dérive essentially means to divert flows of water. In Debord’s work, it is considered the critical practice that reconfigures the commodified city. It is a form of experimental behaviour in an urban society; in a society of an “attention economy” (as mentioned by Jonathan Beller in The Cinematic Mode of Production), where the land is merely a backdrop against which rituals of capitalism collapse, very much like a Safari browser overlaying your default MacBook landscape background.
Like cruising, dérive is a way of moving/drifting within the proximity of a given area with no specific destination. In this case, the goal is to get lost and entangled in queer togetherness, to cause and confront spatio-temporal disturbances, turning the city into a political field, a task historically tied to racial and sexual minorities. How would Debord elaborate on the idea of virtual drifting? What analysis can we develop to acquire “other uses for space besides the functional” (Mackenzie Wark)? How can we employ modes of dérive in location-based dating apps and in doing so re-conceptualise contemporary definitions of digital community and sociality, embrace the spontaneous communication of accidental meetings and better understand the transmogrification of emotional impact and collective consciousness to ‘spiritual technologies’?
We need a successor to Alan Turing, (who is not necessarily white or British or a man, or even an individual). Someone to invent new technologies that disable old ones, that virtually mediate intimacies, that allow users to switch from browsing to drifting and back, that decentralize search engines that are responsible for creating peripheries.
We need technologies that put in practice what Mark W. Turner mentions in Backward Glances: “an amorphous constellation of connections that we tend to map using routine geographies but which can only ever be tentative and certainly not static because they are frequently shifting”.
We need more terms that have no meaning, terms that mean too much. In 1982, William Gibson coined the term “cyberspace” in his book Burning Chrome. The establishment of the term triggered an immense amount of research around the socialities of virtual spaces. Now we need new words to allow us to get stuck in new socio-political complexities. A linguistic Xanax, a post-digital dérive that would allow us to engage with liminalities that negotiate dominant culture.
This doesn’t mean opposing technology.
One can claim that digitally mediated communication triggers spatial reconfiguration and deterritorialization which in turn challenges notions of borders and peripheries, and hence confuses definitions of individuality or collectiveness. In a digital world, with no physical centres or peripheries, we are pushed to understand intimacy and togetherness on transcendent levels.
Even though digital technology has been a dominant factor in the commodification of sexuality and intimacy and privatization of desire, it does have the potential to dovetail disorganization skills and mediation of bodies in ways that generate new modes of spatial, narratological production and break the binary division of inclusion-exclusion, online-offline, logged in-logged out, basic-premium.
Text by Theodoulos Polyviou
Originally published in www.data-saturated.com
From an architectural landmark, to an industrial wasteland and now a site of innovation and experimentation, ZKM premises carry a long history of transformation. To extend that, parallel to this online exhibition, we have reconstructed ZKM digitally and developed a site specific VR exhibition imagining a future for the insitution itself.
Taking ZKM as a site of inquiry, this VR site-specific installation becomes a place where ritual, ideology and architecture are shifted to reflect the non-religious, the sexual, and the everyday in conversation with the ideological architecture of the museum itself.
Using a code we have developed in collaboration with David Kaskel (founder of Breaking Forth in London), the physical boundaries of the space are calibrated to meet the virtual ones seen through the VR headsets, making ones experience of the installation immersive and tangible. There is a vinyl print floorplan on the ground of the exhibition space, indicatating the boundaries of the space seen in the VR world.
The silmutaneous use of the pair of headsets allows users to encounter each other and engage in body-less drifting challenging notions of presence and embodiment. Others may experience the performative aspects of the work, not through the VR headsets but through the intimacy and voyeurism of watching other drifting in the exhibition space while in the virtual world.
Sound Design: Andreas Yakovlev Michaelides