In my original article for the Islands issue (No man is an island, Runway Issue 24), I listed a number of qualities identified as characterising islands by the field of study devoted to them called nissology. Many of these qualities fixated around the psychic and material borders of the land: ideological boundaries clearly stipulating an ‘in-group’ and ‘out-group’; a psychic image informed by narratives of limitation (material, socio-cultural, etc.); an emphatic concern with migration. If nissological thought is preoccupied with these border spaces – the division of inside and outside – what might post-nissological thinking look like?
Recently I attended Electrolapse, a Bring Your Own Beamer event staged by Electrofringe under the nebulous Vivid banner. A Bring Your Own Beamer (BYOB) event is exactly what it sounds like; members of the public were invited to register online and turn up on the night with a projector to beam work onto the cavernous walls of the venue, Pier 2/3. The work was diverse; much of it sat on the fringes of multiple practices – game art, VJing, websites – electronic work that still sits on the outskirts of the visual arts. The artists were coders, hackers and makers. In the daylight, many of the DIY setups were not much to look at. After dark, however, the Pier came alive.
Projections were mapped onto objects of all kinds. Bert Bongers wandered around with a tiny mobile projection unit, throwing projections in a movable feast. Pia Van Gelder beamed self-generative patterns in the far corner. Josh Harle offered gamers the chance to explore a virtual replica of the MCA, finding and destroying particular artworks. VJs projected live onto DJs, some of whom were also beaming artists. It was chaotic, messy and a lot of fun. It was also antithetical to nissological qualities. It was open to anyone to exhibit in and visit, and drew on infinite virtual worlds unrestricted by borders or material finitude. Lines between audience and artist, visual art and performance, and actual and virtual worlds were blurred.
The dense networks evoked by Electrolapse – social, artistic, aesthetic and virtual – were in many ways post-nissological. In place of scarcity there was abundance; in place of borders limitless virtual worlds. There are no islands online; everything is connected. The physical manifestation of these boundless worlds in the strange emptiness of Pier 2/3 was an event of energy and potential. In an island nation there is much to gain from thinking beyond nissology. It implies the dissolution of boundaries, openness and acceptance, the generosity that comes from a sense of plenty. This attitude seems alive and well in these digital artistic communities, and it was a joy to see it manifested in such an anarchic and energetic event.