Arie Altena

Interview with José Luis de Vicente

Arie Altena


This text was published on the website of V2_:, 2012.

José Luis de Vicente is one of the participants in the book sprint at V2_(June 17-21, 2012), which will deliver a book dealing with the New Aesthetics on Thursday June 21. he is a journalist and curator specialized in digital culture, art and technology. He works at the edges of New Media Arts, Digital Creativity, and Innovation in Design and Culture. This week he is one of the participants in the book sprint at V2_, which will deliver a book dealing with the New Aesthetics on Thursday. The process can be followed at the booki-site. Actually this is Vicente’s second book sprint, as he tell us in a short interview on monday afternoon.

Could you tell us something about the process in this book sprint?

Speaking about the process is a bit complicated right now. To use a metaphor, it is now still at a stage where they’ve give you the rough ingredients, there are four people that you have hardly met, and together you have to cook a real dish. We are still standing around the kitchen table with the ingredients and saying things like “well, this could taste good with this, but this with this is not going to work”. We are not even tasting yet. Each of us is in a tiny corner of the kitchen looking at the ingredients, knowing we have to cook something before thursday, because then the guests are coming. It is hard to be specific about what we are doing now, and what will come out of it.

What do you see as the subject for the book?

We have one story going, which is about the notion of the New Aesthetic, which has attracted quite a bit of attention in the past three months. Obviously we do not want it to become a book on ‘The New Aesthetics’, rather we would like to explore the very different set of concepts, ideas and modes of operation that have been embedded under this umbrella. For instance cultures of curation online, the aesthetics of Tumblr, the selection and gathering of elements of information. Then we have to think about what it does mean. It is actually counter-intuitive to the way curation has operated traditionally. Other things we think about are the notion of ‘data first, theory later’, as we called it yesterday, which is the tendency to accumulate information to afterwards try to extrapolate dimensions and senses from, to the ontological implications around the debate between the digital and the real. Think about the New Aesthetic as a sort of eruption of the digital mechanics that are underlying the processes that give shape to reality today. And then we are thinking of things like drones, and algorithms, and data centers, all things that we find interesting to look at.

But as I say, this is day one, and there are seven people with seven different brains form different countries, with different backgrounds. We are trying to meet halfway. Michael Dieter is for instance an academic, with a strong background in philosophy, I am a curator and cultural producer, actually closer to journalism and with a background in cultural analysis. We share a lot of interests, but I know nothing about contemporary philosophy and I can not write in academy-speak. My specialty is making complex systems and phenomena understandable in terms of a narrative.

Each of us has biases, there are things we are for and things we are against. Things we are enthusiastic about and things which make us suspicious. These things do not necessarily fit. It is a bit of a poker game too, each of us has a hand of cards that we play with. This will become more evident once we put written words on the table.

The fact that Adam Hyde plays the role of referee is very helpful. He also reminds us of the fact that we need the book before thursday, which he shouldn’t remind us too often because the idea is actually quite scary. We are here for almost a week to get the book done. It creates tensions as well.

I did another book sprint before this one, and the really interesting thing is the dialogue and the process. It is almost like a mini-symposium just for the purpose of getting something out.

What is the book sprint for you?

The book sprint is actually a specific form of contemporary cultural production. It is a strict methodology producing a very specific cultural event. For cultural organizations that is very interesting, it is one of the languages or modes in which we operate today. Designing it. You have the Pecha Kucha algorithm, a set of rules that can be exported an applied in different contexts, and that is expected to produce an outcome because it has been tested, and you have the book sprint algorithm. I find it interesting because I think cultural organizations should do research not only in terms of what they are interested in but also in how they operate. They should do permanent format research. They are a labs for rethinking of how to arrange the elements in a conversation in the space of engagement that a cultural event is.

What is the card you want to put on the table? What is your plan, being invited for this book sprint?

For me pushing an agenda or pushing a central idea to develop in a book sprint is completely secondary to the process. If I wanted to push an idea I would stay at home and write it myself. That would be easier and more effective. A book sprint it is completely about the engagement, the conversation, and the sense of play.

So you are here in the first place for the other people?

Absolutely. Michelle Kasprzak invited me to play in the space of engagement that is created in this book sprint. I may have many doubts about how the result will be validated, but I have no doubt about the value of this kind of choreography of ideas that is unravelled in a process like this, in this open freeform thinking dialogue that is channeled by the book sprint. It is good training, I would recommend it to anybody.

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Arie Altena