Timothy Murray, Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds

Review by Camila Alvarez
Indian River State College

Timothy Murray. Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds. Minnesota: U. of Minn. P., 2008. 320pp. $21.37 (978-0816634026).

[1] Timothy Murray not only extends but embodies his discussion of cinema and theatre in Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds. Murray's previous books range from an analysis of theater and power struggles in England and France during the seventeenth century, to a discussion of film's shaping of culture and theory, and a comparison between modern art installations and Shakespearian questions of gender, race, sexuality, and power. In Digital Baroque, Murray intertwines avant-garde media, baroque style, and Deleuze which simultaneously complicates and enriches the reading of the book. He begins by questioning and then describing what associations might exist between the digital, the baroque, and cinema in new media art. Considering a mix of cinematic "histories, thresholds, and memories...as they have been enfolded into new media art" (ix), Murray traces the interconnections in modern artistic and critical assumptions with past views of visual art. He states that the book initially aimed at complicating the claims avant-garde artists and critics made regarding film's break from "early modern visual models and subject positions" (xi). Several threads run through Murray's discussion of the digital arts: paradox, vision, memory, connection, space, time, utopia, and light. Murray weaves these threads into a baroque tapestry that appreciates how contemporary artistic experiments influence the understanding of artistic concepts and practices.

[2] Murray focuses on the cinematic and temporal conditions of new media art. The subsequent connections between new media art and the baroque create broader and more elastic psychosocial paradigms than previously discussed in terms of modernism, the avant-garde, or in cultural and subjective dialectics (the dominant critical views that have framed previous discussions of new media theory). He instead suggests a psychophilosophical view of new media art in which the digital baroque enfolds the user simultaneously in the present while relating to the past and affecting the future. This psychophilosophical approach shifts from a linear concept of time to a folded structure. Subsequently, Murray's book focuses on digital media and cinematic art in connection to the baroque folding of time, cross-cultural knowledge, and reflections on the intersubjective.

[3] Murray creates a baroque folded dialogue and structure in his writing. Throughout the book, ribbons of insight interlace his theoretical influences and past experiences manifesting his idea of a folded past, present, and future. Murray designed the book not as "a teleological progression from front to back where futurity is the explicit issue...[instead, it may be] folded and enfolded in the process of reading...[with chapters or sections] hyperlink[ing] to other chapters in the book enveloped in the same archival horizon" (26). In Murray's chapters, he applies digital baroque approaches to a wide range of artists: Godard, Orlan, Kuntzel, Biggs, Piper, Viola, Greenway, Marker, Dove, Beloff, and Rokeby. By discussing these artists and their artworks within early modern art theory and baroque theory, Murray creates not only a theoretical book on baroque art but an extension of that art. His theory argues that the past's influence on the present and future simultaneously function with the present shadowing perceptions of the past. Referring to Deleuze's and Leibniz's theories, Murray proposes a combination of the temporal fold, the incompossible, and the psychophilosophical in Digital Baroque.

[4] Purporting a Deleuzian reading of Leibniz, Lyotard, Lacan, Marin, Hegel, Benjamin, and Derrida, Murray describes the core of the digital baroque as a shift "away from centered subjectivity to energized information relay" (46). The digital baroque relies on a model of knowledge that unites energy, mania, possession, and mystical intensity creating a paradoxical doubling of digital media with analogy and mysticism. This shift in thinking from linear projection to a dynamic fold allows for connection, intersubjectivity, and elasticity in digital media. Murray also stresses incompossibility. The incompossible "elements in thought and art...fail to converge while still not negating or rendering each other impossible....[instead] they stand in paradoxical relation to one another as divergent and coexistent: as incompossible" (248). The final paradox of the digital baroque situates a "retrofuture" in which the "the after" becomes "the archival" awaiting future data for the unfolding of communication (260).Thus, for Murray, the future of digital media centers on the temporality of informatics.

[5] While Murray's theories flow well into Munster's baroque views of digital media and Hayles' discussions of the influences between technology and society, the book doesn't create a new theory so much as expand existing theory by shedding light on connections between film, digital media, and performance art. The innovation in Digital Baroque lies in Murray's performance of his theory through his writing. Digital Baroque tests the bounds of previous theoretical criticism by creating an artwork that simultaneously critically discusses theory and demonstrates that theory.