I am a Dutch student at the University of Amsterdam. My interest in new media is triggered because of its novelty, the steady growth in popularity and the all-round integration of it in our daily lives. Having a better understanding of this phenomenon is really important for the present and the future way we all behave on every level of our existence as humans. On my website I post the public publishings that are on the web and my bachelor thesis. That is the main question Laura U. The title of her book is just as alluring and bold as her topic.
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I am a Dutch student at the University of Amsterdam. My interest in new media is triggered because of its novelty, the steady growth in popularity and the all-round integration of it in our daily lives. Having a better understanding of this phenomenon is really important for the present and the future way we all behave on every level of our existence as humans.
On my website I post the public publishings that are on the web and my bachelor thesis. That is the main question Laura U. The title of her book is just as alluring and bold as her topic. During the first two chapters her motivation of the title becomes clear. Enfoldment is a term she borrows from quantum physics and Deleuze and infinity is one of the main topics of her book.
I will come back to this later. Second, there is the interwoven theoretical, philosophical and even spiritual framework existing behind Islamic and Western art. As Marks poses, both Arabic artists and Islamic body of thought highly influenced European and Western culture. This book is important because it reveals how much Islamic culture actually influenced the world and it has the power to make us recognize traces of Islamic culture in Figure 1. One of the main if not the main theoretical arguments of this book is that objects have a hidden meaning in the sense that they emerged from the infinite, the endless pool of virtual objects which all have the potential to become actual.
This intrinsic meaning was generated from its context in time and space and is re interpreted by the human subject experiencing it within his or her own timeframe and perceptual abilities.
However, we as humans can only get in contact with the infinite through information and image. Here, information acts as a mediator between the imperceptible infinite and the actual image. The three-ply model of infinite — information — image Marks proposes is in fact a Deleuzian model with the mediator of information added. Information unfolds from the infinite, image unfolds from information. The infinite is the intrinsic meaning enfolded in both.
After explaining this, Marks notes that in theories of digital media, models of mediating levels between user and network or user and hardware can reach up to seven layers. The layers between the Web and the searching user using Google for instance, according to Bernhard Rieder, has four layers, the web and the user themselves not included.
Figure 2. On the far left side there is the vast universe of the web. The web is crawled by Google robots and from the results an index is built. The index is where Google stores all of the information about the web. However, users can never access the index directly.
Access is only granted to Google itself and obtaining information from the index happens through a process of searching and ranking by Google algorithms reacting to keywords, location, user information, etcetera. This information is presented on the right side: the graphical user interface, which on the far right side the user can perceive.
As can be seen in Figure 2, there is a correlation between the algorithms and the user interface. The user can only interact with those two layers. The index and the web itself are invisible. Comparing the models of Marks and Rieder, one might argue that they are conflicting. Firstly because they pose different numbers of layers and secondly because with Rieder at least two layers are invisible and with Marks only one.
In that way, the Web and the Google Index are infinity, the Google crawlers and algorithms are information and the user interface is the image. Whatever the opinion on the similarities between these models, one has to credit Marks for noting that New Media models vary from hers in layers and for seemingly fitting into that category nevertheless.
She discusses the similarities of unity God and code , infinity spiritual and virtual , the vector Mecca and telepresence , aniconism figurative images and virals , abstract line and haptic space abstract decorating figures and computer art and embodied perception subjective experiences in time and space. Also, her discussion of the relation between Islamic atomism, the abstract line as connecting points and the pixel is very intriguing and pursued throughout the book.
Eastern Influence in Western Art Enfoldment and Infinity gives a very detailed insight into mutual exchange of cultural values between the East and the West. Not only does Marks describe how and why contact was established between the two worlds, she also elaborates on how Islamic influence can be recognized, even if adapted and combined with native art and culture. For example, in chapter three Marks discusses seventeenth century Holland being a Dutchy, I am familiar with this topic.
In those times, Holland was one of the European countries exploring the world by ship, bringing home many exotic items such as Chinese porcelain, Indonesian spices, Oriental metalworks and — of course — Islamic art. Dutch artists mastered the Islamic pattern skills, developing a special interest in Arabic carpets. With this painting it becomes only too clear how deep the influence of Islamic culture reached into Dutch art and Western art.
Figure 3. I would argue that there is a combination of native and outlandish practice involved here and I think Laura Marks would agree with me. Nevertheless, the importance of this book lies in revealing and highlighting the importance of Islamic culture in our own, serving the noble purpose of reaching out to our Eastern neighbors and enlightening Western people with what was there all along.
I would say the Islamic part of the book overrules the new media part. I acknowledge that the Islamic genealogy is the main argumentation of the book, but I think Marks could have postulated more on modern culture instead of mostly discussing historical Eastern and Western culture.
All things taken into account, I think this is a fine book which can teach us much about our origins and our ignorance. As said before, it is important to recognize the Eastern culture within our own as a means of better understanding the Islamic world. This counts especially for Holland in my opinion, seating one of the most anti-Islamic political organizations, PVV Party for Freedom in the minority government. Here readers can view interactive artworks companioning several chapters with information, explanation and motivation.
Marks, Laura U. Cambridge: MIT Press,
Enfoldment and Infinity
In both classical Islamic art and contemporary new media art, one point can unfold to reveal an entire universe. A fourteenth-century dome decorated with geometric complexity and a new media work that shapes a dome from programmed beams of light: both can inspire feelings of immersion and transcendence. In Enfoldment and Infinity, Laura Marks traces the strong similarities, visual and philosophical, between these two kinds of art. Islamic philosophy, she suggests, can offer fruitful ways of understanding contemporary art. About the Author: Laura U.
Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (Leonardo Book Series)
Book review: Enfoldment and Infinity by Laura U. Marks