Copyright©Eric Van Hove - all rights reserved
Eric Van Hove - "Ectype"(tentative name)
"Bigotry, hatred, prejudice - these are the ugly symptoms of a sickness humanity has
always and everywhere suffered. Racism can, will and must be defeated."
Kofi Annan - United Nations Secretary General
"The world is the natural setting of and field for all my thoughts and all
my explicit perceptions. Truth does not "inhabit" only "the inner man" or more accurately,
there is no inner man, man is in the world and only in the world does he know himself."
Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1945
1. Description of the proposed project and activities planned :
Eric Van Hove - Artist - Born in Guelma(Algeria), based in Tokyo - www.transcri.be
Matthew Rosin - American - Software designer on this project. Lives in Tokyo.
2. How the project relates to cultural pluralism :
We are under going a crisis of civilization. If that is true, then in today's global context identity is also subject to question: we would be undergoing an identity crisis. Kobena Mercer states that "identity only becomes a subject when it is in crisis, when something that is thought to be fixed, coherent and stable, is suddenly moved by the experience of doubt and of uncertainty." * And, "moved by the experience of doubt and of uncertainty", is what I am. In times of cloning, in which man claims, through genetic engineering, to create other beings, this is a question that makes sense.
What is the impact of globalization over cultural identity? Giddens states that "while different areas of the globe are connected to each other, waves of social transformation virtually reach the whole surface of the Earth." *
Surprisingly, however, this trend of homogenization produces a pulse for the return to the roots that, sometimes, produces an exacerbated ethnic nationalism, followed by religious orthodoxy. This phenomenon makes it all a more complex subject. It is not so much substitution of the local by the global, as a matter of rearticulating the global as the local, in other clothing.
In the end, the concept of identity becomes rather problematic, raising the question: whose identity do we have in modern/postmodern times? *
"Ectype" is a Media art project fostering cultural understanding between the Islamic World and the United States, through a reflection on human identity and parentage in today's self-aware, and unfortunately divided, society.
This project uses Internet and Open Source technologies, which seem to be the best tools to address cross-cultural boundaries and the development of new democracies. The hallmark characteristic of this artistic medium is that it has the advantages of both the interpersonal as well as mass media, but without either of their disadvantages. It is now possible to simultaneously deliver customized messages to a great number of individuals while providing equal access to an artwork, and in the case of "flash mobs" the Net gives individuals opportunities to lead.
These tools for openness (specifically telecommunications and graphics software developed by large gathering of kindred spirits) can be used to successfully elude the conditioning of mass culture, which in its attempts to homogenize creates new divisions. By appealing to the sensitivities of the individual, we believe this work will successfully promote human empathy and a spirit of togetherness.
This project will occupy public spaces and force individuals to ponder their status and the use of ID pictures by the mass media and bureaucracy of modern societies. We will visually show how ethnocentric stereotypes have no currency in a world that needs rebuilding:
A special Photo ID booth connected to internet, will be installed in the town halls of one or two representative cities in each cultural sphere (Islamic World & US).
Identification photographs were selected for one reason because they are needed for passport and other official administrative procedures, and are in use at these government bureaus.
Customers will be able to take ID pictures through the "Ectype" booth for half of the normal money, and every picture will be recorded on a database server.
The purchaser will then receive their photo prints, plus several random portraits coming from the database of the other cultural sphere. While mass data surveillance provides an efficient means of monitoring large numbers of people in order to generate suspicion about specific individuals and select them for closer attention, Ectype project gives an unforeseen anonymous vision of otherness in order to generate a sense of possible fraternity.
From multiple selves to a plural one: in addition, an equal number of pictures coming from each database will be morphed in realtime on the internet, and displayed on a screen at the top of the booth, creating an allegorical anatomy that transcends each participant and creates a concrete collective oneness.
Hopefully, ID snapshots which are normally used to ensure that only those with the required credentials can participate in economic, social and political dimensions of society, will through this work help strengthen and widen the scope of our debate.
Human identity as a result of cultural heritage derives from a profoundly conscious self-image, which orients much of Man's behavior as both individuals and nations.
According to Octavio Paz, a society without poetry or poetry without society does not exist. Poetry, in its broader sense, is understood as the settling of the world through Art. For Paz, both terms seek a mutual conversion: to bring poetry to social life and, at the same time, to socialize the poetic word. Ectype project aims to transform society into a creative community, into a live poem; and to transform the poem into social life, in an embodied image. Confluence between symbolic and spiritual goods, the project tends to inspire relationships among people and groups, renewing experiences and ties of solidarity, creating imaginary and poetic dimensions, indispensable for understanding others and oneself. *
Tentative graphical sketch of an "Ectype" ID photo booth
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The decline of the two main systems of thought which have dominated contemporary history - liberal universalism and Marxist universalism - (in fact the end of the great empires) has coincided with an increase in nationalism, religious fundamentalism and a whole range of xenophobic and racist attitudes. These phenomena seem to us to be exerting a decisive pressure on social development and have in the past given rise to events with tragic consequences for humanity.
3. Anticipated outcomes for the project :
It is distressing to find this return to identity "values" taking place within a context of acute economic crisis world-wide today as in the 1930s. "Identities" which set themselves up as standards and have no place for otherness and difference belong to the logic of totalitarianism. This process of differentiation is bound up with the assertion of independence by the most diverse social groups, within developed Nation-States, which is a particularly wide-spread social phenomenon and clear sign of the increasing segmentation of modern societies.
Hence, the rediscovery of paths towards autonomy which would show regard for the wishes of the greatest number of people could quite rightly be considered very encouraging. *
Ectype project aspires to inspire human fellowship at the level of very ordinary people by cross-linking them in a very simple and immediate way, showing how their identity is both preserved and consecutive to mankind, nourishing affinity of responsibilities and interests.
After all, our era is also "the age of rights" and among fundamental rights, it now seems legitimate to include the recognition of diversity which safeguards the identity of each individual as well as the existence of various "collective identities", said Henri Giordan in Multicultural and Multi-ethnic Societies, a discussion paper for the UNESCO. The reinvention or rediscovery of this cosmopolitan, multicultural and global world must pass through the individual and collective imagination.
Ectype project also addresses the centralization of power into identity tokens, and the subtle loss of individual rights that results from it. Modern times are witnessing a constant increase in the collection of personal information: legitimacy becomes something that is given by the state, by someone proving their ID, and no longer something that is inherent in an individual. This ensures that the people with the required credentials can participate in the economic, social and political dimensions of society.
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Human identification is the lynchpin of the burgeoning technologies that enable data surveillance. Race and racism, conceived as embodied experiences, knowledge regimes, everyday practices, and modes of domination, are central to the production of individual and collective identities. They are subject to slippage in meaning (consider the uneasy relationship between "multiculturalism" and "visible minority") and to continual social re-mapping (consider the racially discriminative implications of the post-9/11 Homeland Security Act). *
Using the languages of installation and multimedia to throw light on the layered complexities of human heritage and shared values, Ectype project aftereffects can hardly be measured. Meanwhile, it is thought to contribute to interconnect citizens of both American and Islamic Nations in a tenuous but hopefully effective way. Being suddenly confronted by banal and ordinary people from the other community, the viewer will most likely be touched by this humanistic vision, and surely will some of them keep in their pocket the snapshot of this unknown cousin, just as one keeps a photo of a relative in his wallet. We insinuate that it will be difficult to junk this anonymous testimony.
ID pictures in modern ages and since the Second World War are strongly connoted and emotional, similar in this to Christian Boltanskifs cloth installations. So far, the use of identity systems has been a hallmark of authoritarian regimes, and is employed by State Power or government for administration procedures that rather enhance nationalistic values and fear of the foreign; Ectype project aims to detour said pictures from their original status in order to serve an opposite cause, just as it can be argued that "certainty of identity" is an extraordinarily dangerous notion, which represents a far greater threat to society than the evils that security technologies are supposed to combat.
The project is simple, but is believed to provide access to substantial rumination.
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4. Artist's short biography :|
Born in Guelma, Algeria (1975). Eric Van Hove was educated in Cameroon, Belgium and Japan, studying Contemporary art (BA, Brussels), Traditional Japanese Calligraphy (MA, Tokyo) and is currently a PhD candidates in Contemporary Art in the Tokyo Geidai University of Fine Arts and Music. He has been based in Tokyo, Japan since 2001.
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Eric Van Hove - Tokyo - 2006.