Antoni Mercader is an art historian, consultant of Mediateca Caixaforum, and art curator of exhibitions such as Artenlínia.net and Experimentació i creativitat, the learning object Ull & Orella and the Nam June Paik. Global Friends monography, among others. He has coordinated the fifth editions of the Art & Multimedia symposium.
Raquel Herrera is the author of the book Tempus fugit, el relato interactivo (Tempus fugit, interactive storytelling) (Fundació Espais d’art Contemporani, Girona, Spain, 2004) and an independent scholar on art and digital narrative.
We are a group of people about to start a research symposium and meeting about a phenomenon we have determined as such of metanarrative(s). Few days before the meeting in Barcelona I’d like to focus for a minute on the ideas behind the process that led us here.
Where can we trace the origins of this 5th symposium on metanarratives? How did you come up with the idea?
The decision was taken in 2002, right after the ending of the 4th symposium, revolving around the topic of audiovisual and multimedia culture. I guess it came about from what was done, said, seen and heard during the two days in November.
The context to propose the cartography work we want to undertake is mainly in the field of artistic expression and communication. This means the attitude behind all this is a proposal of study and analysis of something which is at the crossroads of many other cultural and artistic activities, such as narratology, ludology, cinematography understood as a strict and sometimes excluding discipline, and others.
This aspect is to contribute to a certain degree of complexity expected in the confluence of methodologies and professional intentions to be gathered by the wide scope of approaches we’ll have during the symposium.
The starting point is the line of argumentation that if there’s a narrative, there can be an antinarrative, a non-narrative, a metanarrative… that there is and there has always been an antinarrative, etc; and all them are as old as narrative itself. Therefore I am for the assumption that there are continuous non narrative practices in the artistic creation area, from which we’ve inherited a great number of incursions into the audiovisual and multimedia expression and communication.
In my opinion this is a subject that sooner or later was to “impose itself”, it had to appear and it had to be treated specifically, beyond its eventual relation to the world of contemporary art in general and digital art in particular.
The narrativity spreading in the different cultural and artistic manifestations nowadays is subjected, as many other phenomenons, to its relation which the late capitalist social-economic context in the one hand, and to the extensive use of new technologies in all the western urban fields in the other.
In the artistic practice, current narratives are at a crossroads, as you put before, of difficult classification, and this precisely the most interesting challenge.
We affirm the importance of narratives to understand both cultural artistic narratives and non-narratives, and we wonder how to “build up” their specificity, if we actually have a chance to build it, or what are the cultural and artistic influences they are subjected to if we found out we can’t build it.
I particularly think that, besides the need to consider the non-narrative practices in the field of artistic creation, we have to think of the language(s) derived from them, which terminological and conceptual corpus can be constituted from this widening of sense narratives are undergoing.
And within this methodological context, we have thought the 5th Symposium around the concept of “metanarratives”.
What do I call metanarrative in the present?
First I’d like to say that the expression metanarrative(s) (coined with Raquel Herrera and Cilia Willem) we are using has not much to do with what we can find at Wikipedia and many other Internet sites when we search by key word metanarrative. Explanations usually talk about a term referred to the narrative of, or about, the narratives, a term usually quoted in the original postmodern discourse (especially by Lyotard, who in 1984 defines “postmodern” as skepticism towards metanarratives).
Neither is related to what is presented by Youngblood, in 1988, when he talks about metamedium and points out that it does not only affect an aesthetical renovation of the mode of construction of language but also implies a social purpose.
I understand it as a change of place, a form, a condition to go to a subsequent situation, to go beyond, regarding the meta- prefix. In relation to narrative, I want to refer to something that in certain moments and in certain conditions could be interpreted as a metamorphosis of the notion of narrativity, not leaving out any of the practices related to it, that is to say, not leaving out all the non-narratives manifestations. A change, a “shedding”, something referring to a process similar to losing the form it had and acquiring a new, wider and more complex one.
The use of a name as “metanarratives” is not to be considered as a restrictive and limited conception of brand new narratives. We chose this concept to accommodate as far as possible all the narrative and non-narrative conceptions, as we said before, and this necessarily means accommodating the greatest variety of people interested.
We think that when we talk of metanarratives we have to worry specially for attracting contemporary audiovisual creators (digital or non digital), young or acclaimed, scholars, curators and writers working and analyzing phenomenons in video and art in the net, but also researching on television aesthetics, cinematographic models and the results of artistic proposals in videogames… we think of a wide range of people who have realized that the structural paradigms of genres and formats are no longer operating in many ways, both at a methodological level (as way of working) and at an analysis level to understand the artistic and cultural reality surrounding them.
We thus think that this first approach to current narratives called “metanarratives” might open the ways to dialogue and debate between different interested parts that might haven’t had the chance to get together yet.
Another justification for why we want to work on “metanarratives” would be to assert –to make it short and sweet- that few places are doing it, and because throughout the years the Mediateca “counter” (both the physical, but specially the virtual one) has met favorable circumstances to present subjects of its interest as the one we are presenting now.
It is ten years since Mediateca was inaugurated, and we will soon celebrate the visitor/ physical visitor one million. This somewhat gives drive and encourages us to face questions that are very present in the current activity of this organization. I’d say it’s natural to do it, to consider and tackle what is “soaring” above the great collective we all constitute.