An endless medial replay with the concept of truth

The other important term in Nevejan’s dissertation is “trust,” as is evident in her title, Presence and the Design of Trust. This is related to the sociological nature of Nevejan’s presence research. She investigates the specific social environments that are produced by new technologies, and the kinds of social interactions occurring within them.

“Presence” is an important term because however much these technological environments mediate social interaction, ultimately they are grounded in the physical presence of human beings. The term “trust” plays into her analysis because some of these environments are evidently more reliable than others, which can be determined through the YUTPA of the social situation in question. While the author admits that “trust” is a blurry word, it came up naturally in the particular environments that served as her cases studies, the Galactic Hacker Party and the Seropositive Ball. These events were pioneering in using extensive internationally operating social networks mediated by technology — producing a hybrid of natural and mediated presences. Given the nature of the second event in particular, in which the lives of many sick people were at stake, it was often of vital importance that the communicated information via those networks was trustworthy. The reason to bring up this aspect of Nevejan’s theory is because in The Third Memory the aspect of trust is also at stake in the form of the quest for truth — trust and truth are related, although the first term is commonly used for relations between people, while the second is used for situations and concepts. Both concepts ideally set a standard for accountability and credibility.

While the Derridean-minded Huyghe does not uncritically accept the concept of truth (thus he is ultimately not interested in whether or not his crown witness is ‘trustworthy,’ whether he speaks the ‘truth’), nevertheless he admits that truth has a vital role to play in our ever-increasing mediated world where real presence and witnessed presence are hard to tell apart. Far from being paralyzed by this aporia of fact and fiction, however, in Huyghe mobilizes his remake as an artistic strategy to disentangle the whole media complex as such: an endless medial replay with the concept of truth constantly folding upon itself between the different levels of natural, mediated, and witnessed presence.

The Third Memory and other works by Huyghe thereby transcend what Benjamin Buchloh has called the spectacle value: “that condition in which media’s control of everyday life is mimetically internalized and aggressively extended to those visual practices that had previously been defined as either exempt from or oppositional to mass cultural regimes” (Buchloh 2001, p. 163). “Spectacle,” of course, is a term originally conceived by the situationist Guy Debord to describe the way in which society — including the social relations between people — is conditioned by the media, and everything and everyone has become part and parcel of its consequent spectacle: “The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that was once directly lived has become mere representation” (Debord 1995, p. 12). Recognizing that it is not possible to counteract, or even reverse, media’s influence on art and culture at large — like Debord or Buchloh aspire — Huyghe puts his remake at work to interrogate media’s complex modes of operation and its processes of signification, to the point where the work of art becomes a self-reflexive instrument which operates as media’s critical consciousness.

Sjoukje van der Meulen