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October 24, 2002 The grid and the hive: Ollivier Dyens



Ollivier Dyens

File photo

by Julie Demers

Artist, essayist and poet Ollivier Dyens is contributing his ideas on technology’s effect on society to an exhibition at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Living Inside the Grid is a museum-wide exhibition of 24 international emerging artists who use the motif of a grid to describe the challenges of living in a world increasingly controlled by institutions, technology, and media. It has been on since February 28 and continues to June 15.

The museum’s Web site says it all: “The inhabited grid has become an irreducible sign of the world we live in.” From the Internet to the city streets to the subway, we live in an overlapping network of grids. In both obvious and hidden ways, these grids are now everywhere.

Dyens is an assistant professor in Concordia’s Département d’études françaises. He has created two publications, Feux chalins, the only French literary magazine in Nova Scotia, and Chair et métal, a Web site that analyzes the impact of technology on contemporary society; it is also the namesake of his most recent, prize-winning book.

Dan Cameron, senior curator of Living Inside the Grid, chose an excerpt from Dyens’ book Metal and Flesh: The Evolution of Man: Technology Takes Over for the show’s catalogue: “Relationships among human beings are now inseparable from machines and technology, and contemporary works of art reflect that.”

Dyens will take part in a symposium at the museum on May 3, and will call his presentation Pornography and Collective Bodies: The Reality of the Hive.

“We now believe we’re more individualist [than ever], but I think that technology has brought about just the opposite,” he said. Inside each of us live thousands of bacteria, living organisms dependent on each other. Networks are everywhere, and we’re all part of many. The grid crystallizes this collective intelligence and the network allow for the possibility of a common brain.

“The Web represents the two poles of the disappearance of the individual,” Dyens said. On one hand, it is the salvation of humanity and individuals, and on the other hand, it is the negation of the individual, since no fertility can come out of it. “It celebrates, at the same time, the indi- vidual and the end of the indi- vidual.”

It’s not the first time Dyens has been asked to contribute to such a project.

Last year, he was invited to participate in a symposium on digital art held by the Maryland Institute College of Arts in Baltimore.

With his department, he is working toward creating a master’s program in Littérature francophone et résonances médiatiques, in which the focus will be on multimedia and Internet.
The program is expected to begin offering courses in September 2004.