“leaving traces”

“…as an inevitable result of one’s actions, has always been the proof of one’s presence—even if a reductive one—for thousands of years. The very first footprint, the very first line drawn, the very first brush stroke, the very first building stone have all been agents of vestige. That is why it is not a coincidence that Blanchot talks about the fascination we experience at the sight of the paintings at Lascaux to be accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of “presence.” Although this feeling is considered to be based on the fact that Lascaux is deemed to be the very place at which art was born, there is no need to underestimate the evidential power of these paintings. It is simply because our obsession with that-which-is-first takes over that-which-is-most-fascinating: the “time” of Lascaux is one that is the most distant we are able to imagine for all its worth; but, besides that, the fascination is there all the time—the fascination that someone was present at that place at that particular time, leaving his/her marks behind.

What the improvements in telecommunication technologies do is to cancel out the delay involved in a process as such. Today, a cyber-maniac impulse to “log on” has become an everyday practice, relying on the extensive use of the Internet, and we are all, in the most profound sense of the term, “connected.” It is this connection that provides one with the means of leaving his/her traces in another space, even in real time.

But the instruments required for “being present at a place where one is not” have been available to us since the very first forms of telecommunication technology. “Real” time technologies of telephone, facsimile, television, and many others are all products of the very same vision that promise more “reality,” more “livelihood,” more “immediacy” and consequently more “presence.” Similarly, there is a long list of artists who have been involved with telecommunications-based art forms that pre-date the World Wide Web: Kit Galloway, Sherrie Rabinowitz, Bob Adrian, Roy Ascott, Carl Loeffler, and Heidi Grundmann are only a few among many others who made use of “the aesthetics and politics of a global connectivity over the ensuing years, using the available means, from fax to Slowscan TV to early computing networks.” Indeed, “tele-presence” (presence-at-a-distance) and “telematics” (referring to “computer-mediated communications [,] networking between geographically dispersed individuals and institutions…and between the human mind and artificial systems of intelligence and perception”) were not the only things these artists had already dealt with prior to the availability of the net. Galloway and Rabinowitz’s “Satellite Arts Project” did also introduce the notion of a virtual space (a video-space in between physical spaces) for the first time in 1977, well before the idea of virtuality became commonplace in cyber-space discussions.”