Friday, 3 April 2009

Time is waiting in the wings...

      Nicholas Bourriaud's Altermodern exhibition 

What's after postmodernism. That's the question that Nicholas Bourriaud's exhibition poses. His manifesto which attempts to answer that question puts clear water between where we've been and where we're going in the realms of art, media, communication and culture. He weaves together several macrotrends, including:

- Increased communication, travel and migration
- New universalism based on translations, subtitling and generalised dubbing
- Globalisation in every aspect of everyday life

to investigate what that could mean for the era that is now emerging and in which we will soon find ourselves. The Altermodern era as he calls it. 

One of the most interesting points he makes in the accompanying video on the Tate's site, is that 'History' is the new continent. His point (I think) is that Time itself as a concept has become a continent - has become a place - it's become spatial - rather than temporal. With the advent of Google and the ever-present nature of historical content as and when it is created, as well as forever afterwards....nothing passes away or retreats into the past. It stays in the present. And so we can mix up the past with the present and have them running in parallel in some ways, partnering up through mixed media. 

It made me realise more than ever that not only is creation a non-linear process but so is consumption. We've all done the path to purchase plotting out the decision making processes of a consumer, and acknowledged that it doesn't really happen like that ( a realisation - acquisition - confirmation sequence of events). But have we really taken it any further? Not really. Traditional advertising and even most integrated campaigns still follow the linear sequence of I see it, I investigate it, I buy it, I feel vindicated, I talk about it. 

What the Altermodern exhibition does is make us just feel it.   When we are faced with  'Line of Control' or 'The Projection Room' what our senses are experiencing can't be understood in a logical, rational way. We can't work out the elements of the experience, we can only feel all the various ways the mix of media, the time and  the content, is having on us at that moment. It should be the same for brands. A consumer online could be reading a recommendation on a comparison site, overhearing the TV ad, opening a new pack and throwing away the old one, seeing his friend become a fan in a newsfeed - all about the same brand - and all at the same time.

We're in the continuous partial attention economy now, not the linear temporal one, and our comms strategies have to reflect this. And whilst the likes of Cadbury's content is at least rich, participatory, shareable and mashable, it's still really following a pretty traditional linear path.

Just in the way the exhibits at Altermodern often each combine lots of different media or perspectives into one piece:  static and nonstatic, traditional and interactive etc, switching on all our senses to ensure we experience it rather than just 'look' at it or  just 'hear' it, we need each of our comms to do the same. Each 'communication' we create is no longer a message, it's an experience in itself, something that exists without boundaries. If anything it's a place to be discovered rather than an event to be plotted. 

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