This issue of Transformations, titled “Rethinking Regionality”, arises from a min-conference titled Concepts for Change: Representation, Community and the Transformative Power of Technology. This conference was held at Bundaberg in November 2004 as a joint production of the Transformations journal and the Bundaberg Media Research Group.
Globalisation and all that can be implied by that term has been exerting considerable pressure on the traditional idea of regions and on everyday life in the regions. This issue of Transformations is interested in exploring beyond the centre-periphery model of regionality, and particularly with both critical and artistic engagements with regionality.
The articles and artworks in this issue explore, in various ways, new and transformed approaches for engaging a critical regionality. Darren Tofts’ article f2f 2 url & b ond: space/time and the dissemination of community gives its critical scrutiny to various aspects of mediated experience. It challenges the pervasive assumption of community building emerging from the growth of real time online communication and media through a number of instances. Terrence Maybury’s ‘[Captain Cook):(Re-Births):(Byron Bay]’ is a re-reading and re-imagining of the Endeavour’s famous voyage of discovery up the east coast of Australia in 1770. It asks how the semantic order Cook brought to the region is related to the kind of order discernible in Byron Bay and the surrounding area today and considers how this “voyage of discovery” might be recast.
In The Edges of the Earth: Critical Regionalism as an Aesthetics of the Singular, Warwick Mules explicitly sets out to rethink regionality. He argues for critical regionalism based more strongly on considerations of localised practice, and linked strongly with experience as experimentation with the materials at hand. This work offers an interesting and different contribution to the debate and possible redefinitions of regionality. Grayson Cooke and Dea Morgain introduce us to some of the issues surrounding new media art in the regional context in Regionality and New Media Art. Dealing with both the question of regionality and cultural production, the three new media art projects discussed offer workings of issues of regional identity, address or interpellation of the “local” audience (questions of “voice”), and questions of authorial positioning, all of which suggest a new (regional) economy of cultural production. In Ghostwriting: The Alkimos and its Ghosts, Phillip Roe works at the intersection between critical and creative work, biography and cultural analysis, in producing two Ghostwriting texts (the article and the new media artwork).
f2f 2 url & b ond: space/time and the dissemination of community
This paper addresses a simple question: what is space/time in an age of converged media? The rapid development of mobile networks of mediation has expanded the notion of ambiguous presence associated with the internet and other telematic networks. This paper seeks to review this expansion of telepresence in the context of residual debates to do with centre and periphery, town and country, urban and regional. It also seeks to critically examine questions to do with identity that arise from distributed networks and the modes of largely text based, abbreviated discourse they engender. Do such networks promote collective ideals of community, consistent with the rhetoric associated with the age of “new media”? Or do they distribute or disseminate the very notion of community to such a degree that the opposite is true? Are we witnessing the rise of a new individualism?
‘[Captain Cook):(Re-Births):(Byron Bay]’
‘[Captain Cook):(Re-Births):(Byron Bay]’ is a re-imagining of the Endeavour’s famous voyage of discovery up the east coast of Australia in 1770, particularly in relation to its sighting of the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Its key question asks how the highly contextualised semantic order Cook brought to the region is related to the kind of order discernible in Byron Bay and the surrounding area today. In essence, does Cook’s naming of Cape Byron (and subsequently, the locality that clings to it – Byron Bay), and the Northern River’s most significant landscape feature – Mount Warning (remembering that both these acts of naming were carried out from the context of the Endeavour’s oceanic perspective), still have some resonance today? How might this prominent voyage of discovery be recast, or is its legendary status set in stone? Might it be possible for those resident in the region (and possibly elsewhere) to become electronic avatars of the ship’s celebrated captain, perhaps Joseph Banks, maybe one of the ship’s crew, or even one of the on-shore Aborigines of the period, to see if we could (both personally and collectively) re-imagine a different semantic order for the landscape and culture of the Northern Rivers, now as much a global region as a national one? Indeed, is this semantic re-imagining possible for the whole continent of Australia itself?
The edges of the earth: critical regionalism as an aesthetics of the singular
This paper engages in a critical reflection on regionality as a discursive space interfused with and exceeded by singular aesthetic experience. Rejecting models of power based on centre/periphery models, the paper develops a concept of “earth” as the grounding and ungrounding of experience within global informational fields, as the openness of experience to the outside. To be earthed is to be subject to trauma, or the effects of the delayed return of a primary contact. As “original” material (as home, as ground) the earth retains itself, but only through a traumatic exposure to its own dematerialisation. Developing key ideas of singularity, exposure and contact by Jean-Luc Nancy, the paper proposes a practice of “contact aesthetics” the aim of which is to respond to the problem that the body has in its capacity to unify itself in the affective-perceptual world in which it is immersed. The problem posed for experience within the global milieu is not one of unity, but one of contact: how does a body remain in contact with itself, and with others to which it feels an affinity? An aesthetics of experience would be concerned with the problem of contact, by making bodies affective to one another within emerging globalised fields. The paper discusses the issue of a contact aesthetics in terms of regional spaces and experiences accessed genealogically and archivally-a “regionalism” not only at the periphery, but also at the very heart of “centred” experience.
Grayson Cooke and Dea Morgain
Regionality and New Media Art
This paper is a discussion of our work in new media art and photography since moving to the Wide Bay / Burnett region of South East Queensland – a ‘regional’ area, and one significantly different from the urban environments both of us had inhabited up until our move. As well as outlining some of the issues facing new media art in regional areas, this paper describes our attempt to produce work that reflects our impressions of this region, that responds to and challenges notions of regionality, and that seeks to find a role for new media art in the regional context.
Ghostwriting: The Alkimos and its Ghosts
Ghostwriting is comprised of two texts — a conventional article and a new media artwork. Both texts attempt to work the notion of ghostwriting as the trace of a residual figurality through the use of the “ghostship” Alkimos and its relation to the Australian landscape. The ghost, figured through both Derrida’s notion of the ghost as that which haunts all concepts and the specificity of the “ghost” of Alkimos, haunts the margins of the Australian coastline. The two texts should to be read together.