Image By Hugh McCabe (2017)

In this post I consider the Introduction and first chapter of Lev Manovich’s influential 2001 book, The Language Of New Media 1. Manovich’s book is a comprehensive and wide-ranging attempt to provide what he calls a “theory of the present”: an analysis of new media as it emerges in the late 20th Century. Future posts will look at subsequent chapters of the book.

The Language Of New Media covers a lot of ground over the course of its six chapters but perhaps the most concise insight into where Manovich is coming from can be gleaned by means of an autobiographical anecdote he relates at the very start. Manovich studied computer science in Moscow in the mid-70s and he recalls how neither himself nor any of his classmates had access to computers in order to test the programs that they were learning to write. Everything was done on paper, as opposed to inputted into a machine, and the experienced professors would evaluate the work of students by mentally executing the hand-written programs that were submitted to them.

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Image by Hugh McCabe (2018)

What’s new about new media? Or in this case, what was new about new media way back in 1999 when Butler and Grusin’s Remediation 1 was first published? The book was one of the first full-length attempts to define and contextualise this emerging field, coming a year or two before Manovich’s influential Language Of New Media 2, and several years before the whole concept of new media came to be seen as not quite so new at all. Bolter and Grusin’s book anticipates this by challenging the notion that new media represents some sort of epistemic shift or radical break from established practices. They take aim at the techno-fantasists who are permanently plugged into VR headsets and feverishly declare the birth of new digital realities where the troubles of the past can be left behind. In fact, much of Remediation is concerned with how various forms of digital media (virtual reality, computer graphics, the World Wide Web etc.) are inspired by, have their roots in, or simply mimic, earlier forms. By stripping away what is not new about new media we can perhaps zero in on what is.

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Lost State


Hugh McCabe & Suzanne Walsh
Curated by Sharon Murphy
19 October – 4th November
Opening Event: 7pm Thursday October 19th 2017
Gallery 2, Draíocht, Blanchardstown


“Thrones and dominions” the Finn said obscurely “Yeah, there’s things out there. Ghosts, voices. Why not? Oceans had mermaids, all that shit, and we had a sea of silicon … ”

William Gibson, Count Zero (1986)

How will our present technological moment be perceived from the perspective of the future? In our anthropocentric era where evidence of human-driven climate change mounts and rumours of the coming singularity abound, can we be confident that our steady rate of scientific progress won’t suffer a rupture? What fictions will be created to fill the resultant gaps? What myths will emerge from the residue of the information age?

Lost State sets out to explore these questions using as its starting point a series of photographs shot from the imagined point of view of future archeologists exploring the technological detritus of our time. A fractured speculative narrative alludes to the circumstances and significance of this discovery and invokes memories of human-technological mourning and loss. A digitally generated film simulates this imaginary exploration in order to question how image production technologies shape our perceptions of the past and of the future.

The work aims to trouble the boundaries between various categories: the organic and the inorganic; the imagined future and the perceived past; the human and the technological; the analogue and the digital; the secular and the sacred.


LOST STATE is a collaborative mixed-media exhibition by Hugh McCabe and Suzanne Walsh consisting of photography, voice, audio and digitally generated video.

Still and moving images by Hugh McCabe
Words and sound by Suzanne Walsh
3D Modelling by Vincent O’Reilly

OPENING EVENT including performance by Suzanne Walsh at 7pm on Thursday October 19th 2017

Also opening in Gallery 1 on the same evening is Elaine Hoey’s award-winning VR artwork, The Weight Of Water. Both exhibitions will be opened by Fiach Mac Conghail, CEO, The Digital Hub. Launching on the night will also be the inaugural Draíocht Visual Culture Award for a Graduate of the Creative Digital Media Programme at the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown.


Hugh McCabe is a Dublin-based lecturer, musician and artist. He is graduate of the MA ‘Art In the Contemporary World’ course at NCAD and teaches critical theory and 3D graphics at the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown.

Suzanne Walsh is an artist, writer and musician whose cross-disciplinary work moves between the literary, music and art worlds. Suzanne is also a graduate of the MA ‘Art In The Contemporary World’ course. She is currently a resident artist at Fire Station Artists’ Studios.

Long time no blog. I’ll be speaking at an event in Rua Red in Tallaght this evening (6:30 Wednesday 17th May) which is organised by the good people at Mart as part of the Glitch Digital Arts festival. The short talk is entitled “Ghosts In The Machines: Digital Archaeologies and Viral Art” and will encompass many things including archaeology, systems, William Gibson, Cixin Liu, Deleuze, the occult and computer viruses. It’s loosely related to a new photographic project I am working on which I will also be previewing as part of the talk. One of these photographs is shown above and there are more to come along with associated activities. More details on the event at the following link:


Buke and Gase

bukeandgase001More clearing of the archives. This is US experimental duo Buke and Gase playing in the Engineering Library of the National Concert Hall. This is from about two years ago I think. Cool space. They should use it more often.

Martin Hayes Has No Soul


This photograph was taken during the 2014 run of gigs by The Gloaming at the NCH in Dublin. It was the second time I had photographed them using the long exposure technique (the first time was in Vicar Street a year or two previously). They always put on a mesmerising show, and each one of them makes a unique contribution, but for me the real star is fiddler Martin Hayes. Which is why I was puzzled when, as we were leaving the NCH that night, my wife said: “Martin Hayes has no soul”. I initially took this as a criticism, meaning that his playing was lacking in some sort of emotional core. But then I realised she meant that the only way he could have achieved such instrumental virtuosity, such dazzling and seemingly effortless brilliance, was by trading his soul. Like Robert Johnson and many others before him, he must have set out some damp night and headed for a God-forsaken crossroads, probably somewhere in the middle of Clare, where he met the devil and did the deed. On the outside he’s a warm witty human being, blessed with a rare musical gift. On the inside he’s a cold dead husk of a man. It’s the only plausible explanation.

Freedom to Act


This photograph is of Evan Parker and Paul G. Smyth playing upstairs in the National Concert Hall in Dublin last month. This was part of an ongoing series of improvised duo concerts that Paul has organised in conjunction with Note Productions, and features a range of leading figures from the improv world. Evan Parker is, of course, something of a legend in that scene, and over the years has also played on records by people like Scott Walker and Robert Wyatt to boot. The gig was really great – far more coherent and accessible than I expected it to be. Fully improvised music can be somewhat hit and miss for me. I sometimes find it invigorating, as if I am up there with the players on that weird tight-rope trying to collectively negotiate a path from one point to another. The in-the-moment nature of the experience can be exhilarating and exciting and when that happens it seems like all music should be like this. At other times though, it completely loses me, and I find myself longing for a tune or a song or something else I can latch on to, and wondering what I am doing actually listening to this stuff. Continue Reading »

Amid The Deepening Shades

mvestleThis is a photograph taken during the exhibition Amid The Deepening Shades which took place at the Deer Park hotel in Howth back in November 2014 and was curated by the artists Ruth Clinton and Niamh Moriarty. The Deer Park is no longer in use as a hotel and occupies a spectacular location in the grounds out the back of Howth Castle. The photograph was taken during a music performance by the drone/noise group mvestle which happened inside the drained hotel swimming pool one Sunday afternoon. I’m sure I was not the only person to feel echoes of Kubrick’s The Shining from the whole event. As if the location of the abandoned hotel was not enough, when I went for a stroll around some of the empty corridors, I came across a child’s bicycle lying on the floor outside the door of one of hotel rooms. They assure me they didn’t put it there on purpose but I don’t think I believe them.

Spacetime As Medium

Photograph by Paul Shanahan

Photograph by Paul Shanahan

Now it seems obvious. The clue was in the name all along. But none of us who were present at any of the Wormholes performances of the 1990s really grasped the full scope of their conceptual project. We assumed that their ramshackle semi-improvised live actions were of their time and of their time only. We assumed that when they disappeared in 1999 we might not see them again. We assumed that their work would probably live on only through memory, folklore, and sporadic documentation. We assumed also that the event announced for December 12 2014, to mark the end of the Joinery, was a mere reenactment, a restaging of an iconic Wormholes performance, albeit one staged by the original performers.

The usual questions stirred in our minds about the validity of such practices. Does performance only exist in the present? If so, is it possible to recreate a present that is now long past? Can experiences and meaning be transported through time? How will the new context affect the reception of the work on the part of the audience? What new light will be shed on the Wormholes’ practice by this spatial and temporal dislocation?

But when they pick up their instruments and launch into the opening chords of ‘Marshmellow’, all of these questions are suddenly made redundant. The Wormholes did not go away for fifteen years at all, and we have not been waiting for them to come back. They have always been already here, waiting for us. This wasn’t a reenactment of the past. This was the past. This is the future. How they found the tunnel through spacetime now seems irrelevant. What’s important is that from the start, they knew it was there. Now we know too. Or perhaps we always did.

This text was written at the invitation of the Paper Visual Art journal and was published as one of a number of PVA tickets that were created to mark the end of the Joinery art and performance space in December 2013. PVA tickets are short reviews and pieces of creative writing that are printed and distributed around art galleries and other venues around Dublin. This is number 10 in the series. Thanks to Niamh Dunphy for inviting me to write one and for going with my suggestion of writing about a band as opposed to an art exhibition. Thanks to Paul Shanahan for the photograph.

Lee Ranaldo

This is Lee Ranaldo playing a recent solo acoustic gig in Dublin. Sonic Youth are on hiatus at the moment and consequently there doesn’t seem to be much hope of any new records any time soon. The upside of this though is that all of the members are not only pursuing interesting solo projects but also touring them in venues that are much smaller and more intimate than the ones they would be playing in if the whole band were in tow. Lee Ranaldo’s show was in the Bello Bar, which fits maybe 100 people – a far cry from the last time I saw Sonic Youth, which was at an ATP event in the UK a few years back, with an audience of a couple of thousand. Continue Reading »