In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Charles Maggs: Distorted Echo

The politics of imitation, real world mash-ups, and other accidents of ultra-mediation in contemporary society. 

In our ultra-mediated societies today, constructed behaviours and actions from popular culture are increasingly reflected in day to day reality, like a powerful feedback loop between the synthetic, processed or constructed world and that of the analogue, human or ‘real’ world. The medium may be the message, but the question is what happens when you hold up a giant mirror to this signal.

This paper is concerned with the politics of imitation, real-world mash-ups and other accidents of ultra mediation in contemporary society. It is less about Elvis impersonators or people who act out scenes from Star Wars in their back gardens, and more about how these imitations and coded behaviours have began to invade the mechanisms of state.

These invasions are where the primary accident of ultra-mediation is located. An identifying symptom of this accident is the proliferation of imitation and repetition. More and more events and situations in the real world, and in the mechanisms of state, are similar to each other and to those from popular culture. This paper will identify examples of these reflections and point to their origins in the world of popular-culture.

Following this it will explore the politics of imitation and try to contextualise it both at the level of the individual, and South African society today. It will conclude by looking at how identifying these feedback systems is a productive creative strategy in the context of relational artworks by exploring contemporary South African artistic practice that reflects these concerns.

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