Jurgen Claus writes this poetic elegy about media as an ocean we must learn to navigate, sail and re purpose- that is being published as an Editorial in Leonardo Journal
Salut au monde! Giving birth to new media molecules
Editorial by Jürgen Claus
“The technicalities matter a lot, but the unifying vision matters more.”
Forty-five – maybe fifty – years ago I was obsessed by the idea of the project Planet Ocean. Like many others of my generation I had been fascinated by a fundamental and necessary change of the arts. Art on top of an evolution of man, precursor of a new morals, a new ethics. Enthusiastically I saw the artist enfolding himself/herself as part of the planet, discovering inside a planet, the solar systems and the star web of inner experience.
It was the time where I lost my standing in the circles of galleries and museums. “We are orientated towards exhibitions like supermarkets. In front of us the topography of styles, modes, atrophies. Everything might be done already. Or? Planet Ocean will bring evidence to the contrary” .
I had worked with multimedia from the late 1960s on. To avoid one-dimensionality I performed inside empty rooms, churches, industrial buildings with a plurality of simultaneously projected media: slides, films, music, sound and myself moving with and through them. Electronic media are used here as spacious media, not centered as today into one apparatus – the computer. The same for the audience: no one-dimensional projection, new and old media occupied the space. Yes, even space could be a medium in itself.
Medium for me was double-sided, bilateral: natural medium like air, earth, water on the one side – technological medium on the other. I took for serious the ironic sentence “There should be no computer art” by one of the pioneers of computer art – Frieder Nake. Yes, even the computer was double-sided (and I don’t mean the strong “academic” criticism of Joseph Weizenbaum). No way to formulate it better than another pioneer, Ted Nelson, in his early book-pamphlet Dream Machines, first published in 1974. “We live in media, as fish live in water. (Many people are prisoners of the media, many are manipulators, and many want to use them to communicate artistic visions.) But today, at this moment, we can and must design the media, design the molecules of our new water” .
I dove into the sea as if into my own body, not just my skin, my blood, my nerves. Strategies of structures – that was what I intended to call the proceedings of the artist, the designer, the urbanist, the architect. The strategy settled between two poles, one being the scientific one, following observation or research, the other being the individual, personal vision. In between these two poles art happened. Instead of seeing art only as a materialized result I propose to break free from the historic horizon.
Here is where Walt Whitman comes in, from whom I borrowed the title of my editorial. He begins his Salut Au Monde where we find ourselves linking together in and through infinite networks. “Such join’d unended links, each hook’d to the next / Each answering all, each sharing the earth with all” .
Leonardo Honorary Editor
Jürgen Claus, Planet Meer. Kunst & Umweltforschung Unterwasser, DuMont Aktuell, Cologne 1972, p. 45.
Ted Nelson, Dream Machines, Introduction to the 1987 Edition, Tempus Books of Microsoft Press, Redmond, Washington 1987, p. 3
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, W.W.Norton & Company, New York, London1973,