Thursday, July 25, 2013

Towards an Art of Cybism, by Joseph Nechvatal


Joseph Nechvatal, becOming mOre cybist, 2012

At the suggestion of the courageous editor of Concatenations I am revisiting my essay from the winter of 2000 “Towards an Art of Cybism” with an eye for looking at the cracks in its formational ground from which possible sprouts can emerge. 

Cybism is an art theory term I developed as a sub-division of viractuality following discussion with artist Kenneth Wahl at the turn of the century. Wahl preferred the term Scybism. I proposed the concept for an exhibition in 2003 called The Attractions of Cybism for Fairfield University that never was realized, but the idea of Cybism was developed into a paper that I delivered at ECAM (Encuentro de Ciencia y Arte) in 2008 at the invitation of Juan Díaz Infante in Mexico City. Much of what you will read here stems from that. But I thought to begin with some early discussion of the concept that took place on the in early 2001:

From: "Joseph Nechvatal" <> 
Subject: Re: <thingist> Public Spheres
Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2001 16:57:32

As always, I am delighted to see this strand re-emerge periodically in our weave. It indicates something yet inchoate, quasi modo, on the plane of immanence, and thus there remain yet-unrealized creative possibilities ... ... ... ...  perhaps directing us towards conceptions of the transformative possibilities of Cybism.
By this post I just want to point out that anti-oedipal self-seductions may cancel out potentials for differences of intensity across various strata. Self-molarity has to become unrefined and made elastic – the “atmospheric I”. There seems to me room for nuancing the lassitude here by enhancing our mutual dilettante follies.
The possibilities of a complex entangled self-erotic configuration – one made up of mercurial self-concepts (this one can get from reading Jean Genet) in opposition to recycled self-representations - provide more interest to me than us greasing a dialectical prong. When belief detaches itself from the accessories of convention, desire stands revealed as the ecstasies of the self, ungoverned by its simulated forms.
Of course, one could ignore the self too and begin elsewhere – but who can say where that might lead? I explicitly eschew categorizations of the self though in my imagination, and instead seek to problematize the authority of that category. Too, I choose to view society as fluid fabula rather than as a thing contained - and I am interested in looking for what escapes and eludes containment.
Such a hope may be less than I deserve, but it also may be more than we usually allow ourselves to envision. We must become aware of the fact that underlying everything is a web of connections upon which we can exert more manipulative pressure than we are normally led to believe by the computer-mediated society of the spectacle.
But not ghettoizing ourselves - or letting anyone ghettoize us - is very important. I think that digitization is only a key metaphor for Cybists in the sense that it is the fundamental translating system today. This is where Cybism moves out of the margins and actually takes the forefront in creating pertinent culture now. We address the fundamental translating systems of our time.

Towards an Art of Cybism
Cybism is a new sensibility emerging in art respecting the integration of certain aspects of science, technology and consciousness – a consciousness struggling to attend to the prevailing current spirit of our age. This Cybistic zeitgeist I identify as being precisely a quality-of-life desire in which everything, everywhere, all at once is connected in a rhizomatic web of communication. Therefore, Cybism is no longer content with the regurgitation of standardized repertoires. 

Rather, I detect in art a fertile attraction towards the abstractions of advanced scientific discovery – discovery now stripped of its fundamentally reductive logical methodology. I see this in the work of Carter Hodgkin, Bill Seaman, James Siena, Tina LaPorta, Frank Gillette, Mathew Ritchie, Terry Winters, Michael Rees, Steve Miller, Suzanne Anker, Fabian Marcaccio, Al Held and many others worldwide.

Moreover, Cybism can be used to characterize a certain group of researchers and their understanding of where cultural space is developing today. Cybists reflect on system dynamics with a hybrid blending (cybridization) of the computational supplied virtual with the analog. Digitization is a key metaphor for the Cybists only in the sense that it is the fundamental translating system today. 

This blending of the computational virtual with the analog indicates the subsequent emergence of a new cybrid topological cognitive-vision that I have called the ‘viractual’: the space of connection betwixt the computed virtual and the uncomputed corporeal (actual) world that merge in Cybism. This cybrid space of Cybism can be further inscribed as a span of liminality, which according to the anthropologist Arnold van Gennep (based on his anthropological studies of social rites of passage) is the condition of being on a threshold between spaces.

Concerning this Cybrid topological cognitive-vision, we are reminded here of two very different, yet complementary, concepts: entrainment and égréore. Entrainment, in electro-physics, is the coupling of two or more oscillators as they lock into a commonly sensed interacting frequency. In alchemical terms an égréore (an old form of the word agréger) is a third concept or phenomenon that is established from conjoining two different elements together. I suggest that the term (concept) cybrid (and Cybism) may be a concordant entrainment/égréore conception helpful in defining this third fused inter-spatiality that is forged from the meeting of the virtual and the actual.

I believe that Cybism is a more full account of certain key artworks found within our current zeitgeist today than has been previously articulated. It is a significant concept that indicates and initiates communions of the protoplasmic body to virtual spatial conditions. As Roy Ascott, in his essay "The Architecture of Cyberception", has said, "... to inhabit both the real and virtual worlds at one and the same time, and to be both here and potentially everywhere else at the same time is giving us a new sense of self, new ways of thinking and perceiving which extend what we have believed to be our natural, genetic capabilities." 

Similar coextensive notions found in Cybism have piquant ramifications for art as product in that the Cybists are actively exploring the frontiers of science/technology research so as to become culturally aware of the biases of consciousness in order to amend those biases through the monumentality and permanency which can be found in powerful art. They begin with the realization that every [new] technology disrupts the previous rhythms of consciousness. Then, generally speaking, they pursue their work in an effort to contradict the dominant clichés of our time, as they tend to move in their regimented grooves of sensibility. In this sense their art research begins where the hard science/technology ends. 

This moderately negative sensitivity towards hard science and technology can be understood best, however, as a trestle on which vine-like connections grow between technology and psychology. 

Most certainly the Cybists understand that in every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. Hence the role of the Cybist artist is that of the explorer/researcher. The function of such an explorationally inclined artist however is not to only find, but to participate in and foster a constant instability of consciousness, to mitigate self-stabilizing formations so as to encourage internal ‘cybomatic’ connections to sprout and expand. This integration goes far towards exemplifying an aesthetic that has a problematic relationship to material science-based reality.
Today, with the emergence and continual growth of cyberspace, it seems that no sense of closure will ever be able to contain the deterritorialization articulated and monumentalized by Cybism. Consequently, Cybism has begun articulating a new techno-digital sense of life. By looking at the complex social and technological changes already occurring within the 21st century, the Cybists seem to perceive the world now as a kaleidoscopic environment in which every tradition has some valid residual form as information and sensation. A world of perpetual transformation has emerged and established a seemingly unrestricted area of abundant options. 

Cybists help define our current explosive and complex situation. They signal one of the most crucial changes of paradigm in our times. While employing a wide range of processes available today, all Cybists are pursuing an inner-directed urgency for an epistemological break with the conventions of traditional art even while remaining in dialogue with that tradition. Thus they introduce a complex re-reading of art's basic definition from the point of view of Cybism. 

The technological developments found within Cybism give these artists the opportunity to create their artwork in a more multi-transformative manner (sometimes with alchemical overtones) and to reach out into the deeper and more complex substructures of consciousness.

For me, Cybism is understood as emerging from the vast incognizant digital totality within which we now currently live; an immense digital assemblage-aggregate which in Cybist manner is experienced as exceeding our usual sense of lucidity.

Joseph Nechvatal

Ascott, R. 1994. "The Architecture of Cyberception" In Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Vol. 2, No. 8, MIT Press Journals, August 1994

Since 1986 Joseph Nechvatal has worked with ubiquitous electronic visual information, computers and computer-robotics. His computer-robotic assisted paintings and computer software animations are shown regularly in galleries and museums throughout the world. From 1991-1993 he worked as artist-in-residence at the Louis Pasteur Atelier and the Saline Royale / Ledoux Foundation's computer lab in Arbois, France on The Computer Virus Project: an experiment with computer viruses as a creative stratagem. In 2002 he extended that artistic research into the field of viral artificial life through his collaboration with the programmer Stéphane Sikora. Dr. Nechvatal earned his Ph.D. in the philosophy of art and new technology at The Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts (CAiiA) University of Wales College, Newport, UK where he served as conference coordinator for the 1st International CAiiA Research Conference entitled Consciousness Reframed: Art and Consciousness in the Post-Biological Era (July 1997); an international conference which looked at new developments in art, science, technology and consciousness. Dr. Nechvatal presently teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City (SVA). His book of essays Towards an Immersive Intelligence: Essays on the Work of Art in the Age of Computer Technology and Virtual Reality (1993-2006) was published by Edgewise Press in 2009. In 2011 his book Immersion Into Noise was published by the University of Michigan Library's Scholarly Publishing Office in conjunction with Open Humanities Press. (Website:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

History and Heritage - Fast Forward to the Future, by David Marshall




Castle Cornusson, near Toulouse, France

Castle Cornusson: A Proposal for a Unique International Cultural Center 

by David Marshall

"Tous les hommes de progrès ont comme point de départ un respect profond du passé."
"All men of progress have as their departure point a profound respect for the past."
(Ernest Renan - 1823-1896 - French philosopher, historian and writer)

We are a group of seventeen people who have come together to create an Association for the Advancement of Art, Science, and New Technologies. The Association will be known by its acronym, AASNouTec. (In French, when technologies are new they are nouvelles.) A complete list of AASNouTec members can be found here: Members List.

A French association, AASNouTec, as defined by the “loi 1901”, was registered in Albi, the Tarn Prefecture, the 3rd November 2010. Our members are actively engaged in contemporary art, academia, scientific research, and technical innovation. All of them have proven track records in their respective fields and are dynamic individuals who know how to realise projects that go from the theoretical dream to innovative reality.

AASNouTec has as its aims the promotion and dissemination of new forms of contemporary creation in complementary association with art, science, technology, multi-media, land art, and the performance arts, such as concerts, theatre, and film. We are seeking the acquisition of a suitable building to restore and adapt as the setting for this innovative project where our policy, and the actions resulting from it, can be realised and perpetuated.


Too many institutions - places of “learning” or “exhibition” - do not make enough effort to facilitate access to exciting new forms of contemporary creation. Too often they steep themselves in a hermetic culture that excludes the “uninitiated”. Our mission is to open up access to creation using science and technology as liberating forces, capable of regenerating society for the benefit of everyone.

The key words that characterise AASNouTec’s mission are: experience, dynamism, success, education, technical innovation, interdisciplinary diversity, originality, accessibility, partnerships, and dissemination.

Centres Culturels de Rencontre

The inspiration for the AASNouTec project has come from the “Centres Culturels de Rencontre", which is a network of a dozen centres that has been the flagship of artistic policy at the Ministry of Culture in France since the early 1980s. Centres Culturels de Rencontre are the synthesis between a historic monument that has lost the purpose for which it was built and an artistic and intellectual project that will assure its safeguard. As experimental laboratories for a new life for heritage, they take on board the spirit of the enterprise economy, the safeguard of heritage and the implantation of cultural development.

The Centres Culturels de Rencontre are linked together by a charter. Here are some aspects of their charter that have inspired the AASNouTec proposal:

A major historic monument, its rehabilitation and its renaissance
A monument is a place where the life and work of a community has long since gone, but whose former presence is still engraved in its stones and the organisation of its work and living space. It is at the same time an autonomous reality and a mediator.

An ability to welcome and to be of service
Far from being a hermetically sealed place, the monument constitutes singular spaces that are conducive to individual and collective work. This activity is centred on the encounter, the “rencontre”, and supposes the availability of spaces equipped for such activity. The Center will be able to welcome a group or groups of persons for a period of several days.

An activity centred on artistic and intellectual production
The Center will be devoted to favoring interpersonal encounters in small groups in a setting conducive to the transmission of knowledge, to its exchange, and to collective creation. A main tool of its action will be the welcome of researchers and artists in residence.

More detailed information about the Centres Culturels de Rencontre and the way they work can be seen here: Centres Culturels de Rencontre.

The Proposal

AASNouTec’s proposal is to create a “Centre de Rencontre”, a meeting place built around the concept of a multi-disciplinary interface between the arts, science and new technology. For the sake of clarity, our business plan has taken as its model the Château de Cornusson in the Tarn-et-Garonne (82) department in south west France. This is because it corresponds closely to the criteria we have drawn up for our “Ideal Building”, in that this Château has a very prestigious history, while at the same time offering the possibility of being adaptable for our project so that it respects the latest health and safety regulations.

The project will be realised through the exhibitions and demonstrations of the artists, scientists and technical innovators in residence.

Income will come from the following sources: land art and garden design with CAD technology; educational partnerships and student exchanges; specialist workshops and targeted courses for up to 20 people; concerts and theatre performances linked to the exhibitions; business seminars (leading to potential sponsorships); and publications and research papers.

Additional Revenue

The “ideal” property for our project should offer the possibility of an additional, guaranteed source of regular income. This income would come from the sale of electricity to EDF, France’s state electricity supplier. It would serve as a means of financing the residences undertaken by the specialists described above. Photovoltaic solar panels would be fitted to a south-facing slope of the roof on one of the farm buildings. Environmentally friendly and self-servicing, this could be done without in any way compromising the artistic and research activities. The technical feasibility and the planning aspects of this revenue source have been verified with the relevant authorities. A reputable firm has been consulted as to the cost of this and its earning potential.

Why the Center We Propose is Sorely Needed

Our twelve years’ experience running the Château de Linardié proved that there is a need for a center dedicated to an independent policy of programming cultural activities at a very high level. (More information about the Château de Linardié can be found here: Chateau de Linardie.)

International perspectives will provide opportunities for encounters and exchanges between artists, scientists and researchers. It will be a place where the white heat of technological evolution can be placed at the service of artists and scientists. It will be an environment that provides a relaxed creative atmosphere in an historic setting, marked by evidence of the struggles of man of a different kind down through the ages. Above all else, it will foster an environment of openness in which the fruits of research and reflection will be exposed to an enlightened, curious public by means of exhibitions, colloquia, seminars, and courses from which it is all too often excluded.

There are many other centers employing artists in residence, that provide traditional art courses in painting and sculpture, that propose drama, theatre and creative writing workshops. There are other centers that bring together artists and scientists. But even if other centers have some of the qualities we propose, our Center will be unique in providing them all.

What the ASSNouTec Center Will Offer that Other Centers Don't

AASNouTec and competitor sites in other parts of the world (Europe, USA, Canada) share characteristics such as convenience to large population centres, proximity to road, rail & air networks, economic and social contributions to the areas in which they are established and diverse press & media coverage. Like theirs, the financial viability of our project will be based on sound business practices and marketing plans. However, it is our intention to offer specialities that are not available elsewhere but entirely unique to AASNouTec. These are summarized by the following:

Our Center will be free from the vagaries and “clientélisme" of public funding that tends to serve local political interests more than those of the centers that it is supposed to finance. 

It will provide an intimate environment for research, exchange, and the testing of new ideas in a unique form of collaboration. Our Center will be equipped with innovative technological tools that will go far beyond the usual level of CAD technology found in most of the “classic” centers. In this way it will be at the forefront of multidisciplinary initiatives that encourage creative interaction between scientific, technological, and artistic inputs. 

Thanks to the advanced equipment that will be available, our Center will offer unique opportunities for using hi-tech workshops on holiday courses, making them available to a wider intellectually curious public seeking participation in quality activities from which it would otherwise be excluded. This will be one of many ways to discover and nurture new talent in an informal research and learning environment.

Because of the way our Center will be equipped and outfitted, access to these activities will be available to people with limited mobility.


Our Center will be located in south west France, an area rich in cultural heritage, wine, gastronomy, and sites of unique tourism interest. France is the most visited country in the world. 84 million tourists came to France in 2012. Based in a prestigious historical site, our Center will be the finest justification for the restoration and preservation of that site, which will be an important marketing tool for attracting tourists and visitors. Only the Center proposed by AASNouTec will offer such diversity, and that will be its Unique Selling Point. 

To bring our proposal to fruition, finance will be needed for the acquisition, adaptation and updating of Fixed Assets - an historic Chateau with annexe buildings and grounds.

The Purchase of Depreciating Assets
Fixtures, fittings and equipment necessary for the project.

The Provision of Working Capital
For hiring personnel and running the building and grounds during the time it would take to bring the activities envisaged on stream.

Timeline for Costs over First Three Years

Year One
  • Capital Investment for the acquisition of the building.
  • Adapting it for the project (i.e., electricity, sanitation, equipment, etc.). Working Capital provision will be needed to cover an anticipated negative trading balance on turnover coming from:
    • Activities Income and state subsidies for the salaried team.
    • Expenditure on running costs for the building, some activities and salaries.
Year Two
  • Capital Investment in equipment, and the solar panels installation.
  • Apart from Capital Investment, a positive trading balance is anticipated on turnover that will come from:
    • An increase in Activities Income, state subsidies for the salaried team, income from the solar panels installation.
    • Expenditure on running costs for the building, activities and salaries.
Year Three
  • Capital Investment in equipment for the office and administration.
  • Other than Capital Investment, a positive trading balance is anticipated on increased turnover that will come from:
    • A further increase in Activities Income, state subsidies for the salaried team, and the solar panels installation.
    • Expenditure on running costs for the building, activities and salaries.


Capital investment spread over the first three years will be: €5.0 million – US $7.0 million (approx).

More detailed financials can be obtained by contacting David Marshall at Substantial Executive Summary & Business Plan and Financial Plan documents have been prepared and will be made available to putative investors.

Putative Investors

We are looking for UHNW Investors having much in common with two of the brief profiles below as well as hi-tech companies looking for original ways to invest in the evolution and development of creative thinking within their Management and Executive teams.

The experienced collector, who is passionate about contemporary art, regularly invests substantially in it, and who may be looking for original ways to consolidate and develop an art collection.

The “Geek” start-up entrepreneur who is passionate about IT and computer technology that goes way beyond mere computers.

Hi-tech companies who work at the cutting edge of technology, using new kinds of composites, materials and tools for the creation of their products, who would welcome a place that could be used as a think-tank where interdisciplinary brain-storming would take place with inputs from artists, scientists, and university researchers.

Return on the Investment

For the Art Collector

  • The collector-investor’s collection would be put on permanent exhibition in secure spaces set aside for that, with alarms and video surveillance.
  • Exciting relationships would be established between the work in the investor’s collection and the work undertaken by the artists and scientists in residence thus creating interesting prospects for artistic and scientific symbiosis, cohabitation, confrontation and the opportunity to acquire new works for the investor’s collection.

For the Geek Entrepreneur

  • The opportunity to own a prestigious historic site, as a creative “think-tank” trans-disciplinary kind of place, where contemporary art and those who create it in collaboration with scientists and technical innovators will inspire new thinking – 22nd century thinking.

For the Hi-tech Company

  • The opportunity to own a prestigious historic site, suitable for business seminars, where inspired “brain storming” sessions could take place in an atmosphere conducive to inputs from the specialists in residence, who would contribute to original ways of problem solving outside of the company’s usual thought processes and practice.

For all Three

  • High profile partnerships will be set up between the proposed Center and cutting-edge hi-tech companies in Toulouse, notably the aerospace and satellite companies.
  • High profile partnerships created between the proposed Center and prestigious universities in France, Europe and the USA, as well as in China, India and other BRICS countries.
  • The opportunity to set up a Foundation that would perpetuate the memory and ideals of the Investor, or someone near and dear to the Investor.
  • Tax advantages obtained through the creation of a Foundation, along with positive and diverse press and media coverage, attracted by the activities of the Foundation.

For the Owner of the Historic Building

  • Once it's been restored and made a going concern, the site would increase substantially in value over the years.


Castle Cornusson is about an hour's drive to the north east of Toulouse, the regional capital and center of France's and Europe's aerospace industries. With its many large international companies working at the frontiers of science and technology, the area offers abundant potential for partnerships leading to sponsorship and other business relations. Toulouse is also France's second university city after Paris with over 130,000 students who are enrolled there each year.

About the Author

David Marshall was born in Nottingham, UK, but it is Liverpool that he considers to be the city that nurtured and shaped him intellectually and artistically, notably in the theatre, where he helped establish the Unity Theatre in the premises that it now occupies. As a director, David was always keen to experiment with the up-and-coming technology of the day and many of the shows he directed were especially ambitious in the special effects domain. Unity has now become one of the UK’s leading venues for touring companies. (More info on the Unity website here:

In 1994 David relocated to France, one of the main crossroads for the transmission of art, culture, and new ideas that fertilise exchanges between the Northern countries of Europe and those of the Mediterranean basin. With over thirty years’ experience in the cultural industries as project leader and negotiator, David’s role within the project’s management structure will be chief coordinator, the catalyst for bringing together experts and specialists from seemingly disparate disciplines. His twelve years as founder and builder of the independent contemporary art centre, established at Château de Linardié, gave him many contacts with artists, scientists, technologists, university researchers, and gallery directors, who will be drawn upon for setting up and running this project. (Website: