Blogalogueing with Lee Montgomery

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LeE:
this is me.. LeE… the one I told you about.
You:
Hi Lee! You know I just realized I could have probably been doing the interview this whole time, just set a deadline and you coulda responded at your leisure.
You:
Here are the four questions I’ve been using as a jumping off point for all the conversations, esp the first one:

1. How do you define systems, networks, and systems vs. networks?
2. What, if any, system and/or network do you feel you are a part of? As individuals? As artists? As NPR?
3. What, if any, systems and/or networks do you feel you are unwillingly a part of? As individuals? As artists? As NPR?
4. How do you feel that your work interfaces with your definition of systems and network?
5. How does the system and/or network act upon your work? What effect, that is entirely out of your control, do systems and/or networks alone have on your work?

You:
Are you there? Just checking in…
LeE:
now I am here
LeE:
in my office.. headed home in about a half hour…
LeE:
I will start answering these quex as soon as I get home….. and you can follow up at your liesure… this google wave thing is awesome that way.
You:
that sounds great. safe travels!
LeE:
alright.. here begin my answers….

1. How do you define systems, networks, and systems vs. networks?
I think I consider the terms largely synonymous, though due to the vagaries of the English language, and perhaps even the nature of technology/corporate ownership, they can take on vastly different meanings. I was thinking of a sewer system versus a network of sewers, or the Columbia Broadcast System (CBS) versus the Cable News Network (CNN). System seems a more generalized word, and in my mind a more centralized almost fascist sense of the concept, whereas a network implies more of a sense of possibility and connection. It is a framework to be used and moved about within rather than a set of rules to be imposed. That said, I see no significant difference between a sewer system and a network of sewers.

2. What, if any, system and/or network do you feel you are a part of? As an individual? As an artist? As NPR?
With NPR, there has certainly been a commentary on the system of corporate owned media networks in the United States. In my recent personal work there has been an engagement with the system of copyright law in the U.S. and abroad. (i.e. http://www.lee-web.net/symphony/). But these are operations within those sewers I was mentioning before.

On the sunny side of the street from that sewer I have had the pleasure, through these endeavours, of collaborating with a number of artists and artist spaces like Kristin Lucas, Artist’s Television Accces, Southern Exposure, Red76, kuda.org and a host of badass and not so badass expressive individuals who have passed through the doors or in front of the microphones of any of the numerous radio stations that NPR has had the pleasure of establishing for short periods of time of the past 6 years.

Recently I found myself attached to the network of University of New Mexico faculty (not yet a Facebook network), which resulted in working with my colleague Catherine Harris to build a system of propellers activated by a hand operated water pump (I just did the pump)… so now I operate within the network of tinkerers who work with water pumps??? (and believe me, there is a network there) … which I guess also puts me in the Ecological/Land Art network.. which is kinda hard to avoid here in New Mexico.

I guess what I am getting at…. is that I like to consider myself part of a network or a system (in the most positive sense) at all times(a really big one), and the more the merrier, for me. I don’t think I work well in a vacuum or in isolation. I love Facebook… and want to make art with it… I love Lee Walton’s work where he interpret’s his friends status messages, though I’m deeply saddened that he hasn’t made a video about any of mine. (We’re in the Lee network after all.) I’m inclined towards an almost new age interpretation of quantum physics, wherein we all realize ourselves as part of a larger whole system, network, whatevs.

But that new age-y side of me gets slightly more rigorous when Felix Guattari is channeled through Tetsuo Kogawa in the form of chaotic and polymorphous radio, described as therapeutic for the user as opposed to the listener when broadcast networks are not networks at all but a single transmitter operated by a talkative individual to cover a radius more scaled to the human body.

“Polymedia are not intended simply to link smaller units into a larger whole:instead they involve the recovery of electronic technology so that individuals can communicate” -Tetsuo Kogawa, from Toward Polymorphous Radio

….and so I wonder about the value of the system or the network aside from as a means of categorization and organization (and thus control), when ultimately, the good stuff, the art, the fun …. happens when you get down to the individuals, and the chaos… when we recognize and truly engage with the difference within the system/network.

4. How do you feel that your work interfaces with your definition of systems and networks?
I think that I have always tried to work to redefine systems, to look for new ways that old systems can be used or changed. Systems: whether of theory or of control should not exist without a system of feedback; and Networks should exist to be expanded or destroyed based on their necessity. So I believe in pushing at the boundaries of networks and trying the patience of systems. Set up a system with no rules… then when the president of the board of directors of National Public Radio barges into your dinky little storefront on the Upper East Side of Manhattan demanding to know who’s in charge, you can accurately and innocently answer, “No-one”.

I think 3 and 5 are also answered somewhere in here.. though if you are insistent, I will happily answer them in the followup section.


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