Multitasking as Avant-garde - or who is the Processor?
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Johannes Auer

I ask: how many windows can be opened and looked at on the screen simultaneously before the composition just becomes a visual blur?
Lev Manovich says: six seems to be a good number.

I open the first one, and find Reinhard Döhl's " Book of Gertrud". I open the second one and find Sylvia Egger's "Peepshow". I open the third one, and find Martina Kieninger's " The closet, the closure." I open the fourth one, and find Beat Suter's "". I open the fifth one, there's/I find Oliver Gassner's "tango rgb". The sixth is already open and is blank. 6 seems to be a good number, says Manovitch. Good, I say and wait. Good, I say and look. I see the first one. I see the second one. I see the third one.

Manovisch says. "Windows that overlap form the key element of all interfaces between the human being and the computer. The avant-garde strategy of collage/montage is the most fundamental operation in dealing with computer data. Dynamic windows, pull-down menus, and HTML tables allow the user to work simultaneously with a practically unlimited amount of data on the limited surface of a screen. I can't see anything and wait. I can't see it and wait. I can't see it and ask: where is it? Where is my collage/montage? I see Sylvia beside Martina, Gertrud beside Tango and Beat beside the closet. I don't see Martina with Gertrud and Tango as peepshow and Oliver in a blank. I don't see closure in Cyberfiction and Beat in rgb. All I hear is "six is a good number" and I keep counting them one after the other.

Let's talk about multitasking, says Lev. Multitasking is collage gone binary. Software is avant-garde. Software is the programme version of the old avant-garde strategy. I say I see just one after the other. I say: if someone wants to call that collage/montage then let them. I call it one after the other.
I'm looking for avant-garde strategies.

Orientation 1. Multitasking means that several different programs can be activated simultaneously. Since a computer usually has only one CPU, alternating timeslots are assigned to each process in turn which then has access to the entire system for this time.

Orientation 2 Multitasking is not something the human brain is naturally capable of, if what is meant is carrying out two or more tasks with the same degree of attention and efficiency, researchers tell us. It is only through switching the window of attention from one task to the other at rapid intervals that a comparative quality in multitasking is possible for conscious cognitive processes.

There you have it, I say. The computer like the human-being: the one is the same as the other. One after the other. 6 is too big a number, two is too big a number. No collage/montage, one thing after the other, each one separately: Reinhard after tango, cyberfiction after peep-show, Martina after the blank. I'm looking for the avant-garde.

Orientation 3. Avant-garde is what you call all the artistic currents of the 2Oth century, which were "in advance" of all genres, and in the process of overcoming these genres, they proclaimed an irreversible break with out-dated artistic forms. The advocates of the avant-garde attempted to create a radically new art, in part so as to establish a new relationship between art and life, which was thus to have an effect on everyday life.

Orientation 4. Avant-garde is a process which negates everything which went before or which exists parallel-differently. So if multitasking were avant-garde, then whatever process was currently being worked on by the processor, it would delete all the other processes.

Great, I say. So it's not one after the other, it's one instead of the other. rgb paints right over Sylvia, Gertrud switches off the tango, the blank deletes Oliver and Beat smashes the closet. No, no, I say. That's not the way it works. I can see them. I see the windows. I see the first one. I see the second one. I see and alongside it the peepshow. I see the tango and in the next one the blank. I count one to six, I count them one after the other. If someone wants to call that deleting, then let them. I still call it "one after the other". One to six. I'm counting on the avant-garde.

Orientation 5 Internet art reactivates old avant-garde concepts. On the web concept art is flourishing as the concept of the avant-garde and social plastic is enjoying a maximum renaissance in toy wars, and is even being used as a metaphor for the web. In fact the Internet doesn't seem to be a technology of the future but a time machine into the past. Never heard of the Golden Twenties, missed out on '68? The moment the modem begins to hum the screen visionary sits there without a trace of the postmodern, young, utopian, focused and demonstratively determined to do the world over for its own good.

Orientation 6 Multitasking as avant-garde is not collage/montage. What is really significant is not that apparently parallel processes are perceived, collaged/montaged as running simultaneously. What is significant is that within its time-window each process runs as absolute, lays claim to everything, excludes everything else. It demands the entire system, the full resources of the processor, it is total as long as its timeslot lasts. Once the processor starts calculating the next window, then the previous window goes dead, freezes, doesn't even flicker. Until its timeslot returns. Then it is everything once again.

So that's it, I say. I get it, I say. Multitasking is not avant-garde as collage/montage. Multitasking is one window after the other. And one totally after the other is avant-garde. One after the other is everything. If one is focused the others on blur. If I see Oliver in the window then everything is rgb. If I see Reinhard, everything goes Gertrud. If I see Martina, everything is closet. Beat goes completely cyberfiction and blank is totally blank.

I say: one totally after the other is avant-garde. I say: they are all on the screen simultaneously. I say: they are all on the screen simultaneously and one totally after the other is avant-garde. If someone wants to call that collage/montage then let them; I call it all on the screen simultaneously and one totally after the other is avant-garde. I call it multitasking as avant-garde. Lev says: 6 is a good number. Lev says: 6 is avant-garde.


Sources Used:

Lev Manovitch: Generation Flash.

Lev Manovitch: Avant-garde as Software

Heiko Idensen: Die Sprache der neuen Medien lesen und schreiben?

Florian Rötzer: Mythos Multitasking?

Eigenschaften - Multitasking

Achim Geisenhanslüke: Geschichte und Theorie der Avantgarde

Johannes Auer: 7 Thesen zur Netzliteratur

Sylvia Egger interviewt Johannes Auer
perspektive - hefte fuer zeitgenoessische literatur, No. 43/44, 2002

The Windows
(in the order in which they were opened.)

The Blank

Reinhard Doehl: Das Buch Gertrud

Sylvia Egger: Piep-Show

Martina Kieninger: Der Schrank. Die Schranke

Beat Suter:

Oliver Gassner: tango rgb