This Friday, April 22nd is the UN\DEAD MEDIA conference at Gaité Lyrique, part of the Art, Media & Technology annual media archaeology festival, ReFrag. This year’s main event will be moderated by Alessandro Ludovico, Editor-in-Chief of Neural Magazine. Alessandro also teaches Media Theory and Media Archaeology at Parsons Paris. Alongside Art, Media & Technology program director Benjamin Gaulon, he created the Media Archaeology Lab in Paris (MALP). AMT student Dasha Ilina sat down with Alessandro to learn more about his background and the importance of media archaeology.
Tell us about your background and your education.
In college, I studied computer science and then received a PhD in English and Media at the Anglia Ruskin University of Cambridge. In addition to that, I wrote a thesis about post-digital publishing from 10 years of research that I’ve done based on traditional and modern publishing and because of my interest in publishing and curation. I then became the chief editor of the Neural Magazine.
Neural Magazine has been very popular in the art community, has it been hard starting a magazine with just your friend?
Neural is a cultural magazine about art and technology, from hacking to sound art to installations to net art. It’s meant for the quite large community of media artist and anyone involved in it, and I’ve been in the net art movement from before the magazine so I got to experience it first hand.
It’s a niche magazine, so it’s meant for the connoisseurs; it’s not meant to be educational. That was the choice from the beginning. When we started it in 1993, we were lucky because there weren’t many magazines about practices and ideas, so we were different from everyone else.
How did you end up at Parsons Paris? What has your experience been like?
I’ve been friends with Benjamin Gaulon for ages and I knew Ben’s work before knowing him personally, because I started to write about it. We had opportunities to meet in person, and we found that we had similar interests like networking and organizing projects together, so when there was an opportunity for me to teach at Parsons Paris I had to take it.
It would be obvious to say in an interview that teaching at Parsons Paris is great, but it is true – it’s actually great. When you teach and you start a new course, if you care about your work, you may get nervous whether the students will want to be involved in the course that you’ve built. Parsons Paris is quite a specific school and because of that I was a bit concerned initially, but now I’m just happy to come here every time I teach. Getting the students excited was much easier than I thought, they are all very active and motivated with their studies.
To me teaching is accumulating experience in the fields that interest you, and practice it. Your role is to transfer your experiences in an abstract way in order to allow the students grow and to share the cultural opportunities that you’ve had. I really think that’s true for studying and teaching, as well. It is about taking as many opportunities as possible, because, no matter how it appears to be, we have so few opportunities during those years of study, students have to take in as much as they can, or in the case of teaching, give as much as we can. For me it’s similar to editing a magazine – you’re giving the readers information to go deeper into the subject with and fresh material that they hopefully haven’t heard before, or that they haven’t seen it in that perspective.
Tell us more about your class.
I teach Media Theory, Media Archaeology. In it I try to connect traditional media (history and theory) to the new, more recent, media. With the students we reconsider the concept of the past, present and future, and we try to find the ancestors of the modern media and the concepts behind it. We also talk a lot about dead media: media that we’ve stopped using. They reveal to be a vision of current media, and they really help us discover things about new media. In the course, we are trying to connect traditional media theory with media archaeology.
The course goes through the history of media, though it is still unwritten and can be rewritten overtime, we still make many discoveries. For instance, we visited Musée des Arts et Métiers to be inspired by all of the dead media that they have in their collection.
When you look at popular media, like portable radios or home computers, lots of them just lie in closets covered by dust, but they still work and in the course we look for ways to repurpose them, and especially with our daily abuse of screens, using a different mechanisms could really inspire us. We want to resurrect this media somehow, not just as an exercise, but to make it a part of our daily life.
Join Alessandro (and Parsons Paris) Friday, April 22nd at 7pm for ReFrag Media Archaeology festival’s UN\DEAD MEDIA conference at Gaité Lyrique. The conference is free, in English and open to the public. RSVP on Facebook or Eventbrite.