International Festival
of Computer Arts

Word-Image-Body-Movement: Janez Strehovec


Word-Image-Body-Movement: Janez Strehovec

  • 28th MFRU
Word-Image-Body-Movement: Janez Strehovec

Among the most important contributions[1] to the early and multidirectional development of the new Slovenian media art is the theoretical reflection on the field which Janez Strehovec, an internationally renowned researcher, university professor and journalist, has been developing since the late 1980s. His articulation of the concepts and his broader understanding of social effects of the new media art have become part of the language and contemporary artistic practice. The texts by Strehovec are characterised by their clarity, comprehensibility and the breadth of research approach, which encompasses cultural and media studies, art theory, philosophy and sociology. His writings – published in numerous scholarly, professional and popular articles, monographs,[2] accompanying studies and artists' catalogues – are an author-identifiable, analytically rigorous and, in key terms, imaginatively condensed account of the workings of the art-technology-society complex that is evolving in our present time. Moreover, it is distinctly interdisciplinary and, with the promise of a technological transformation, open to the future.

Strehovec describes the new media art processes, which are also found in politics, networked economy, science, technology and communication on media platforms (film, television, web, social media, computer games), thus pointing to the artification of the fields that are external to art. At the same time, it presents the integration of issues and goals of these disciplines into the services of new media art which is no longer concerned with intra-artistic categories and the production of artistic artefacts, but is technological, cognitive, post-object, processual, performative and conceptual. What is more, it incorporates the spectator-user into its structure, along with aspects of hardware, algorithms, research into extra-artistic fields, as well as the socialising and activist orientations. Both processes constitute interstitial spaces in the social fabric where paradigm shifts are taking place, both in earlier periods of and hypertext fiction development as in today's post-digital art and society. Strehovec offers more appropriate generic names for these expanded interdisciplinary hybrid fields: ‘not-only-art', 'not-only-science', 'not-only-text', etc.

Janez Strehovec is a researcher and director of the Institute for New Media. He is involved in a variety of research projects, including the European Research Project ELMCIP (2010-13), which has published a large-scale digital-humanities database for open-access and collaborative digital community electronic literature, as well as several theoretical publications. The research on electronic literature and digital textuality conducted by Strehovec stems from his formative studies of philosophy and comparative literature[3]. He wittily writes of digital literature that “it is more interesting for the theorists than for the readers,” thus in effect resolving a key dilemma of the field. His detailed analyses of the new modality of reading and experiencing particular examples of new media texts and digital literature illustrate this very point: the interesting theoretical approach which dissects “the textual arrangement” also clarifies how the whole-body, kinaesthetic and tactile perception in mixed reality is part of the reading experience of a post-digital literary work, complemented by ludic aspects and algorithmic problem-solving, the mastery of the hardware and software components of the work and, of course, by the visual and sound effects accompanying the display of the moving “word-image-body.” By doing so, Strehovec defines a departure from the mere semantic parsing of words and the filling of gaps between them with the reader's empathy as in traditional literary forms. He presents the text in its multiple occurrences with different media and in the form of remediated entities, such as “text-film,” “text-video” or “textual landscape,” which we explore on the ride through it, with the se-called “text-as-ride.” The perception of the city while riding a bicycle is a fundamental image in the writings by Strehovec. The set of dispositifs to which Strehovec compares the accelerations of perception and the instantaneousness of communication in the new media include a rollercoaster, an elevator pitch and news as missiles. However, equally compelling are his descriptions of dancing while speaking on the phone or the control of taking a selfie. His original “nomadic cockpit” has become an internationally established term. Strehovec is also a poet and his language skills shine through his theoretical approach, his phenomenological descriptions of the user experience of new technological interfaces and the “first-person reader” (as the first-person shooter in computer games) immersed in a mixed reality. The terms he has invented have their own poetic dimension and represent a purely literary description of his own conceptual artistic practice of creating and destroying the Drone Poem[4]

The long-term collaboration with the new media artist Sreč Dragan is documented in the texts accompanying exhibition catalogues,[5] where Strehovec articulates the artist's original concepts, theoretically integrates them into the broader picture of a transformed reality and shows how the new forms of art are emerging at the intersection of the art avant-garde, activism, technological sensibility and literacy. They are moving away from the galleries and into the laboratories, universities, the web and the social media, into a mobile networked reality and club culture.

Janez Strehovec was a professor of new media theory at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana and elsewhere. He was a mentor to numerous graduates, MA and PhD students, mostly new media artists, whom he helped to reflect theoretically on their artistic research. What is more, his work has had an international impact, as he is considered a renowned theorist of electronic literature and new media art. He has published two monographs in the English language, as well as scientific articles in reputable international scientific journals. He has also held presentations at conferences around the world.

[1] In addition to, for example, new media art festivals, such as the International Festival of Computer Art (IFCA), which have offered a platform for presentation, international encounters and discussion.

[2] The bibliography of Strehovec comprises nearly 500 items. To date, seven of his monographs have been published: Virtualni svetovi: k estetiki kibernetične umetnosti (1994), Demonsko estetsko: od filozofske teorije umetnosti k estetiki kot teoriji estetizacij (1995), Tehnokultura, kultura tehna: filozofska vprašanja novomedijskih tehnologij in kibernetske umetnosti (1998), Umetnost interneta: umetniško delo in besedilo v času medmrežja (2003), Besedilo in novi mediji: od tiskanih besedil k digitalni besedilnosti in digitalnim literaturam (2007), Text as Ride (2016), Contemporary Art Impacts on Scientific, Social, and Cultural Paradigms: Emerging Research and Opportunities (2020). (In translation: Virtual Worlds: Towards an Aesthetics of Cybernetic Art (1994); The Demonic Aesthetic: From a Philosophical Theory of Art to Aesthetics as a Theory of Aestheticisations (1995); Technoculture, the Culture of Techno: Philosophical Issues in New Media Technologies and Cybernetic Art (1998); The Art of the Internet: Artwork and Text in the Age of the Web (2003); Text and New Media: from Print Texts to Digital Textuality and Digital Literatures (2007))

[3] He graduated from the Faculty of Arts in 1972, received his MA in 1978 and his PhD in Aesthetics in 1987.

[4] In: Primerjalna književnost 40.1 (2017).

[5] E.g. on the occasion of the Rotas-Sator exhibition at the Equrna Gallery (1998), the Matrix-Coincidence project (2006) and others.

author of the accompanying text for the exhibition: Narvika Bovcon
/ from the UKM collection