techne

2008.05.09

Digital art is often defended institutionally with the idea that the role of the artist is not to design the packaging of the machine, nor to merely work within its constraints, but instead to redesign its purpose and to give it a more transcendent signification. By suggesting (cf. feedback that the modularity of the machine predestines it to a form of endless re-purposing, aren't we dangerously close to suggesting that technology itself has supplanted the creative process, and automated the generative processes of human inspiration? Indeed, both Heidegger in his lyrical conclusion to « The Question Concerning Technology » {1}, and Deleuze and Guattari in their 1991 work « What is Philosophy ? » {2}, railed against the suggestion that technology somehow had gained access to the creative force of thought (for Deleuze and Guattari) and even becoming itself (for Heidegger):

 « The most shameful moment came when computer science, marketing, design, and advertising, all the disciplines of communication, seized hold of the word concept itself and said: "This is our concern, we are the creative ones, we are the ideas men! We are the friends of the concept, we put it in our computers." » - Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, « What is Philosophy? », p.10

In fact, Deleuze, Guattari and Heidegger all placed unlimited wealth in the activity of the artist as a direct affront to the forces of technology and its industry. For Deleuze and Guattari, artists are the unique locus of the creation of « percepts », in absolute distinction with the pseudo-generative commercial purveyors of creativity, who appear more concerned with communication than art. Whereas for Heidegger artists maintain a privileged relation to technology via their historical connection to artistic process as « technē » {3}. Indeed, Heidegger saw artists as in fact the ideal response to the impasse of technology's ever-expanding reach:

« Because the essence of technology is nothing technological, essential reflection upon technology and decisive confrontation with it must happen in a realm that is, on the one hand, akin to the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally different from it. Such a realm is art. » - Martin Heidegger, « The Question Concerning Technology », p.35