The Broadcast as Social Act

Randall Packer performing in the underground studio bunker with composited imagery from Michael Systaime Borras

Since the dawn of video art in the 1960s, artists have challenged the primacy of television as a one-way medium of communication, forming broadcast communities and artist collectives to amplify their message and empower themselves by envisioning video as a social act. In 1984, Nam June Paik organized Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, deploying satellite television as a space for live performance art and real-time collage: demonstrating that 1984 would be the year that artists (rather than Big Brother), at least momentarily, occupy the airwaves. Paik united artists electronically between New York, Paris, and San Francisco, subverting the broadcast by instigating the social possibilities of interweaving artistic transmissions into a single “third space” composite.

Still from Nam June Paik’s Good Morning, Mr. Orwell performed by Merce Cunningham (New York) and Salvador Dail (Paris).

It’s hard to believe that today, despite the advancement of many-to-many communications in social media, we still have the same rigid obstacle. The current broadcast a la mode, Facebook Live, is essentially a one-way transmission with social interaction limited to chat texts. You simply cannot merge multiple streams without hacking the medium, the very premise of what I refer to as social broadcasting. But in fact, the tools of subversion are with us, including the open source environment Open Broadcasting Software, in which you can send and receive live transmissions between multiple broadcasters and output the composite via Facebook Live (or Periscope, YouTube Live, etc.) to the viewer.

This opens up vast artistic possibilities for new modes of Internet broadcasting, such as #NeWWWorldDisorder, my current project with co-conspirator Michael Systaime Borras and fourteen additional artist-broadcasters. Together we are exploring the potentialities of mixing and co-mingling our streams into collective, activist forms, a political statement of artistic unity (and creative disorder) to challenge the disorderliness of a world gone amok. In the age of nationalist, “every man for himself,” TRUMP & Brexit tribal ferocity, social broadcasting is an antidote for inspiring cross-cultural, global expression that blurs boundaries and challenges the geo-political disorder with artistic disorder.

Still image from Facebook Live broadcast & manipulation of MSNBC reporting on the health care law composited with falling dollars from video by Michael Systaime Borras

As the medium of television persists as a hermetically sealed space of control, there is a golden opportunity to invert its primacy, its hierarchies, its seductive hold on our intelligence, through reinvention and intervention of the medium. Of course this is nothing new, it is the many storied history of video art since its inception. It is the unfinished communications revolution. Social broadcasting is clearly the future of television, the future of the Internet, and a powerful way to take charge of the Broadcast.

To quote Systaime: W3 are the #TV, W3 4R3 th3 #Medium, W3 are the #Media, W3 are the Flux, W3 are the #Real #D3sord3r, W3 are the #Message, W3 are #Facebook, W3 are the #!nt3rn3t, W3 are the #NeWWWorlDisorder.

#NeWWWorlDisorder is hosted by Randall Packer and Michaël Systaime Borras, a project of the Third Space Network (3SN) and SPAMM.

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