INTERVIEW: McKENZIE WARK
What do you think is the hardest thing about creating art right now, in a culture which cares so much more about the product and so little about the process by which it's made?
Well, the trick is to invent a process, but one that isn't merely a private fascination. One that could be a proposal for another way of life. The writer or artist's role is to propose new forms. But forms aren't products. They are relations between things. The job is to propose a relation that could model a social relation for a whole new way of life.
Was there a specific incident or moment that led you to write A Hacker Manifesto? Why did you feel compelled to write it?
A Hacker Manifesto came out of a ten-or-so year experience in a certain scene. That scene was held together by listserver conversations and manifested itself as temporary gatherings all over the world. It was a scene that lived within a certain collective hallucination. We thought we could change the world by combining theories, arts and politics which made tactical use of the new, cheap, light media tools around at the time. A Hacker Manifesto has no examples in it for the simple reason that it was addressed to people who were living them. The reader's own life is the example. It distilled what I took to be the emergent theory of our practices.
Your book Gamer Theory argues, among many things, that virtual narratives---particular video games---are neither utopic nor dystopic, but atopic. What about written narratives? Are they similarly atopic?
Gamer Theory has a kind of joke-Hegelian structure. It proposes that there is a succession of aesthetic forms in history, or that each historical epoch has the aesthetic form that best reveals its MO. It proposed a supercession of the written narrative by the cinematic montage, and then by the algorithmic game. So to be a writer is to be twice removed from the dominant form of our time. The game is in essence the digital in a form you can intuit, a haptic handle on the ineffable information age. But it might not be a bad thing to be working in outmoded forms, like writing. Outmoded forms tend to get a bit too self-referential. That's not a bad thing, as one learns something about the materiality of the form, but one has to move on from that. The trick is to rub the outmoded form up against other temporalities, against the fresh new thing but also against the age-old-ages. That's what Gamer Theory is about: that the digital is brand new but also something ancient.
McKENZIE WARK is the author of A Hacker Manifesto, Gamer Theory, Dispositions and various other books. He teaches at the New School for Social Research in New York City.