Tom McCarthy


9 November 2011

Kittler and the Sirens

In 2004, after I gave an artist’s talk in a gallery in Berlin, a group of people strode up to speak to me. They were, they told me, followers of the media theorist Friedrich Kittler, members of his entourage – or, to give it its semi-official name, the Kittlerjugend. They used this last term not without irony; but it was the type of irony that masks seriousness, in the way that Hamlet’s pretending to be mad acts as a cover for him actually being mad. The shoulders of the lead delegate, a charismatic Russian émigrée named Joulia Strauss, were wrapped in a hand-woven silk shawl bearing a large reproduction of al-Jazeera’s test pattern. My art project, they informed me (it involved a narrative of radio transmission and network infiltration), met with their approval – that is, with the approval of the man himself, or at least (and perhaps equally importantly) of his aura.