Finally, I released a work in the Transmediale Reader across & beyond, which is an honor to be part of. When Kristoffer Gansing first invited me to reflect on The Collapse of PAL, I had some doubts to enter that subject again; it seemed a bit too old (the last time I performed TCoP was five years ago). By the end of 2014–15 any kind of compatibility with an analog video signal was completely erased, and today it seems kind of nostalgic and irrelevant to revisit the material of PAL.
What finally pushed me in favor of writing something new on TCoP was actually Syphon as well. With Syphon, analog and digital signals can again coexist during a performance. So in the Transmediale reader, PAL finally wrote back to the Angel via Syphon. Imagine, here we have PAL, a zombie medium that can suddenly communicate and function besides other media, due to the implementation of a new protocol.
BW: Does data live forever?
RM: Not forever – although digital media are often believed to answer to the myths of lossless transmission and migration, in fact, degradation and data loss are a not to be ignored part of the digital material. Undead data and dead data are as much part of our digital reality.
BW: Your methods speak to a post-studio way of working; there is no beginning or end in the work. It’s in a constant state of flux, which also mirrors the state of algorithms and tech in general. What does your studio look like; what is your set-up?
RM: I am in the final leg of a five-month residency at Schloss Solitude (in Stuttgart). Which means that right now, I am living in a castle. But I actually gave up rent quite some time ago and have since been traveling with a little suitcase and a computer. Recently I bought a desktop computer. How crazy is that? This is a real computer that is heavier than a laptop and that has the dimensions of a piece of carry-on luggage; it is actually too heavy to carry with just one arm. I am not sure but I think this might be the start of something new.
BW: I love the way you describe that too, because it sounds like pretty much up to this point you’ve been working on laptops. Are you using iOS?
RM: Yeah, for now I am. But I am also noticing a massive migration: a lot of my friends are changing to Windows, as will I when I finally install the tower in the castle.
BW: Actually the company where I work, LinkedIn, was recently acquired by Microsoft. Why do you think this shift is happening so rapidly?
RM: Of course one reason is that iOS systems are closed, not just in terms of software but maybe more importantly – when it comes to people migrating – in terms of hardware. A few weeks ago, I had such a bad accident. I fell all the way down a staircase … and while I was falling all these meters down, the only thing I could think about was this laptop in my arms. I was trying to save it. Unfortunately both the laptop and I got hurt: a broken screen. And you know how much this accident cost? 500 Euros. I have no words … just evil media.
Right then and there, at the bottom of the staircase, I had enough and found the reason to switch. But this kind of accidental damage is of course beside the point. This is not why this massive migration is taking place. Two simple reasons I personally see for the shift are that computers need a lot of power to render movies shot in 3D or run VR, and Apple just simply does not let the user upgrade to this kind of power. Besides that, iOS is just not compatible with some of the basic VR peripherals, such as the Oculus headset.
BW: It’s interesting to think about how tech titans will operate in the future when it comes to openness as a strategy vs. the walled garden.
RM: The new book by Wendy Chun, Updating to Remain the Same could be relevant to this discussion.
In the book, Chun writes: »New media – we are told – exist at the bleeding edge of obsolescence. We thus forever try to catch up, updating to remain the same.«
»We’re at a stage that the speed of the upgrade is incommensurable … new upgrades are ready too fast. And because of this speed, remaining the same, or using technology in a continuous manner, has become next to impossible. I think these titans consciously impose this tactic: to exploit the speed of the upgrade as a way to to obscure the new options, interfaces and (im)possibilities of the ever rigid walls of our techno-gardens.«
We’re at a stage that the speed of the upgrade is incommensurable … new upgrades are ready too fast. And because of this speed, remaining the same, or using technology in a continuous manner, has become next to impossible. I think these titans consciously impose this tactic: to exploit the speed of the upgrade as a way to to obscure the new options, interfaces and (im)possibilities of the ever rigid walls of our techno-gardens.
BW: What is your perspective on reclamation of space within techno-capitalism? I’m thinking of how Constant Dullaart uses that word, reclaim. Is reclamation something that you’re interested in?
RM: I am not sure how Constant uses the word, but I think critical and tactical actions that result in reclamation will always remain important. On the other hand, I wonder if reclamation is the right word, or if it should be a main focus: can reclamation still be an end goal?
One of the main problems I see is the incremental declination of the value of knowledge. Actions are no longer backed up by facts; the wish comes first, and then the necessary data to justify an act is simply created by shifting around scales and contexts. In the wrong context, every fact can be waved away as »fake.« And what starts as a factoid becomes a fact by putting it in the »right« context. Scaling and contextualization have become two of the most violent, yet often overlooked actions when it comes to handling a dataset. I think this is partially the reason why we got stuck with constructs such as fake news and alternative facts and it is also why I think that reclaiming, the process of claiming something back, or of reasserting a right, is hard as an end goal.
But understanding that we live in a time in which knowledge is fluid; where everything we prove is dependent on the scales we chose and measure by and the context in which we perceive, is maybe also one of the most empowering pieces of knowledge. So yes, we can and should still think tactically. But we have to rethink our former tactics; where are tactical reclamations still useful, against whom or from what? The time of turf wars has ended – carving out space by smart usage of scale and context is the future.