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Parasites

Exploitation and Interference in French Thought and Culture

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Matt Phillips and Tomas Weber

The word «parasite» evokes nearness and feeding: the Greek parasitos is «one who eats at the table of another». In biology, a parasitic organism is the beneficiary of an unequal relation with its host. The social parasite, too, is one recognized or misrecognized as the unproductive recipient of one-way exchange. In communications theory, meanwhile, static or interference («parasite», in French) is the useless information which clouds the channel between sender and receiver.

In 1980, Michel Serres’s Le Parasite mobilized the concept of the parasite to figure noises, disruptions, destructions and breakdowns at the heart of communication systems, social structures and human relations. Drawing on Serres’s work, the chapters of this volume – organized around two conceptual poles, exploitation and interference – examine French literature (Villiers de l’Isle Adam, Proust, contemporary poetry), film (Nicolas Philibert, Claus Drexel), art (Sophie Calle, contemporary «glitch art») and philosophy (Descartes, Serres, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari), alongside medieval hagiography, immunology, communications theory and linguistic anthropology. The volume thereby demonstrates the new and continued relevance of the figure of the parasite in thinking about transmission, attachment, use, abuse and dependency.

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The Parasite A(r)t Work: Digital Glitches in Visual Art (Carole Nosella)

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CAROLE NOSELLA

The Parasite A(r)t Work: Digital Glitches in Visual Art

ABSTRACT This chapter studies ‘parasitic’ techniques that create errors and glitches in the computer processing of digital images. It shows how these techniques are both conceptually and artistically revelatory. This revelation, I suggest, is paradoxical, for its strength lies in its capacity to blur – these techniques unveil by jamming. First, I look at the works of photographer Eric Rondepierre, who picks out damaged images from both celluloid and digital movies, and thereby demonstrates two forms of visual parasite. I then turn to the glitch art movement, a current in digital visual arts that started about ten years ago. Glitches enter computers programs and cause them to fail; I here show how these errors forge a new type of image, at once self-reflexive (casting new light on digital images’ mode of fabrication) and alluring (by reintroducing into computer programming some measure of unpredictability). I also discuss the works of Jacques Perconte.

Parasites have a bad reputation, and negative conceptual connotations: they are thought to trouble the norms and order of their environment. In an image, the parasite is that which soils harmony and spoils technical control; in digital visual art, the parasite deforms through defects and dysfunction. Yet the parasite can, in many ways, play an interesting role in the system it enters. Marion Hohlfeld explains that the parasite, ‘au sein d’un milieu favourable […], exploite les interstices et...

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