The Art of Excess in the Techno-mediacratic Society

Joseph Nechvatal

"Introduction" to "The Art of Excess in the Techno-mediacratic Society"

In 1992 I was asked to conceive of and organize a traveling art
exhibition for the Musee d'Arbois in France as part of my
artist-in-residency at the Louis Pasteur Atelier in Arbois, France.
When I did so, I entitled the exhibit "Excess in the Techno-mediacratic
Society". Subsequently the exhibition traveled to Galerie Krinzinger in
Vienna and to Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Santa Monica, California. The
exhibition contained works by: Kiki Smith, Tina Potter, Philip Pocock,
Peter Nagy, Matt Mulican, Robert C. Morgan, Steve Miller, Christof
Kohlhofer, Peter Kogler, Carter Hodkin, Carl Fudge, Miguel Chevalier,
Thomas Bayrle, Curtis Anderson, and Joseph Nechvatal. The catalogue
contained short essays by Robert C. Morgan, Tobey Crockett, Joseph
Nechvatal and Didier Gagneur.

As a result of the exhibition "The Art of Excess in the
Techno-mediacratic Society", I guest edited the New York City based art
magazine New Observations in 1993 around the same theme. (see: and/or write
Here, in my explanatory essay "The Art of Excess in the
Techno-mediacratic Society", I began to speculate about an art of excess
situated within a world media culture where information now more and
more controls the flow and speed of mental life. In the essay, which the
reader will find just below, I begin with the realization that we live,
ever more and more, in an increasingly global inter-contingency where
the dominance of media forms engender, homogenize, hallucinate, and
drive communicational meaning via a rigidly methodical but profitable
network. These observations had been framed and focused for me by Jean
Baudrillard's book The Ecstasy of Communication. In the formulating of
the exhibition "The Art of Excess in the Techno-mediacratic Society" I
hypothesized that an art of excess produced in such a milieu of
technological superabundance and information proliferation can teach us,
if art can teach us anything at all, of the privateness of the human
condition in lieu of the fabulously constructed social spectacle which
encompasses us. Here then, in slightly shortened form, is the essay
which introduced the exhibition and magazine issue.

"The Art of Excess in the Techno-mediacratic Society"
Joseph Nechvatal

In our information shaped domain where our attention is diverted
continuously and where our locus is ruthlessly manipulated, the
preponderance of misanthropic authority over our beleaguered perceptions
persistently confounds us. We live today in a space of instantaneous
technological non-reparability and mediacratic ubiquity. So with the
exhibition "The Art of Excess in the Techno-mediacratic Society" I
wanted to ask just what is an art of excess' role in the enlargement of
understanding in Western society, and how might it function there

What I discovered was that for me an excessive art which overloads
normal cognition can function paradoxically to foster a sense of
uniqueness and of individuality brought about through a
counter-mannerist style of reproducibility; a style which takes us from
the state of the social to the state of the appreciable "I" by
overloading ideological representation to a point where it becomes
non-representational. It is this non-representational representation
which breaks us out of the fascination and complicity with the
mass-media mode of technological one-way communication. To
re-conceptualize art in terms of excess is to restore to art a property
of unbridled field. However, the character of openness which an
inception of an art of excess assumes, demands that we seek a liberation
from fashion, custom, doctrine, and influence; and that we grasp again
the autonomy and priority of art as a type of ideological activity based
on freedom of thought.

A teeming vigor aided by technological forces, a vigor set apart from
customary practices and self-imposed limitations which the insistent
media and art network project and reinforce upon us subliminally, I
found, was indispensable. Thus I hypothesized that a techno-aided art of
excess may offer us a proposition of how to reply to this insidious
media circumstance. By becoming more and more oblique, excess might
counter the passe tale of media representation as liberator; an account
which only tightens the tourniquet of powerlessness about us. The
repartee of excess to the media crisis then, is one of elan; a manner of
aestheticized knowingness. The acknowledged probing at the furthest
limits of media representation, the exciting all-over fullness, fervor,
and rapture of this probe isn't a failing of communications with an art
of techno-mediacratic excess. Rather, as Georges Bataille implied, it is
its subject.

Given the existence of the global media corporate image-complex, how can
I even suggest that the art of excess can inwardly emancipate us? What
kind of fertile realization can one have by, for example, contemplating
an overloaded excessive techno-mediacratic artwork? Is it inasmuch as
excess in techno-mediacratic terms can represent every integrated
meaning possible as that in a techno-mediacratic art of excess a focal
point is never fully circumscription? Indeed the fusion of elements
within a non-conspicuous art of excess is not, by definition, passively
received and accepted. The information/stimulus is to some degree
withheld and repressed. Thus it needs to be interacted with

A techno-mediacratic art of excess takes us away from the habitual
picturesque because it does not put us in a position from which to
surmise it. Hence we are in a freer evaluation position; freer from the
objectification of form. Our scoptic attention is scattered within the
clotted techno-mediacratic field and it is from this dispersed position
which we can judge the claims of all the techno-mediacratic images with
which we are surrounded. From this dispersed position in the thickened
optic techno-mediacratic terrain we can judge the degree of the image's
representational demarcational infringement upon our lives and the
desirability of such infringement.

This is a dispersed/excessive view where ground dominates over
configuration. It is this consciousness of the techno-mediacratic ground
which potentially liberates us inwardly from the deluge of imposed
image. It is when dispersed/immersed within the excessive
techno-mediacratic ground where we can question our sense of knowing
through opposition. Consciousness of the excessive techno-mediacratic
ground disrupts and unbalances identification along with its unthinking
acceptance of handed-down values. It is this non-harmonious accord of
the techno-mediacratic dispersed/excessive ground that is experienced as

Banal depictions of content are flawed in the techno-mediacratic
excessive field, for they close the spectator and the creator off into
ascertainable parcels of restricted implications which preclude the
notion of freedom of thought. There must be a subliminal infinity about
the dispersed/excessive field, an overloaded incompleteness which lures
us to the inspiration of individual sovereignty; the idea of our own
unclear and denuded realm.

An art of dispersed techno-mediacratic excess never offers us
conventions. Rather, dispersed/excessive techno-mediacratic art is like
a fertile seedbed for contamination which undermines the hitherto clear
distinctions falsely made between representation (identity) and the
imagination by way of combining, negating, and affirming. No image
exists independently of others in the excess of techno-mediacraticality.
Images are always connected within a dark and obscure idea world.

An art of techno-mediacratic excess negates representations and all they
imply then; and affirms a divergent way to see, think, and live. An art
of dispersed techno-mediacratic excess frees us from the accustomed
platitudes and predetermined perceptions with which we are deluged
steadily by the pictorial (naturalistic-based) electronic and print
media. It is my experience that it is only in this condition of
privately dispersed/excessive formlessness that we can ascertain the
delimitation of definition and the resultant implications of that

In general, most visual information is accepted by us rather passively
in our techno-mediacratic world. It is the information which is in
control, controlling our perceptions through assured and apparent
preformulations; yielding a rudimentary, and conclusively apathetic
position. With reflections on dispersed techno-mediacratic excess, it
becomes evident that any assumed correlation between the images' power
over us and the bodily us is bestowed and superimposed onto us from
without. The excessive/dispersed techno-mediacratic ground in art can
therefore spawn in us a sense of affinity which communicates individual
liberty. For me the art of dispersed excess eloquently articulates the
infinite background out of which such a deliverance might ensue.

Joseph Nechvatal
Arbois, France

WWW Posted 1998
First print-published in slightly amended form in New Observations,
Issue No. 94, 1993

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