“O God of all gods, come to the aid of the people of Light, give the victory to the people of Light, and guide the light unto the Light!” ~ Shihābuddīn Yaḥyā Sohravardī (a.s)
After a short illness Armin Medosch, an Austrian net artist and activist has died on the 23rd of February 2017. I first met Armin in Munich and later I met him again in London, when I myself was working in media and the arts and went through all the madness and light-heartedness that was the early digital age. In Germany he was a collegue of mine at the Munich media lab and worked as editor at the German online magazin telepolis, the first of it’s kind, at an age when Online Magazins were entirely unheard of (the mid to late 90s).
Like all of my generation I enjoyed the privileges of being part of a new “digital class” but suffered and witness the rise of authoritarian neo-liberalism. Digital “netizen” ideas are now in a state of dire down-spiral entanglement with aggressive corporations and Nazi hordes who exploit our ideas and use them to spread fascist propaganda in the service of a multitude of oppressive projects. It was the news of Armin’s early death, that forced me to think a bit harder and go a bit deeper into my random thoughts. It puts out for me the question why I left the techie art world and went into Islam and the mystical teachings. I see on the surface of things that Islam, the mental-spiritual discipline, the modest simplicity of life, Islamic arts and philosophy are my answer to the “business of authoritarian-capitalist entanglements”. On a deeper level, I see that it is in the questioning of the nature of our imagination, the nature of our existence and the nature of our mind(s) that we may find more answers in how we can exist with the internet and create a better life for all without getting mentally strangulated by trolls, soc bots, Nazis, conspiracy theorists, conspirators, spies, hackers, and other artificial and semi-real to real characters that power hungry global corporations have created for us.
Islamic philosophy and mystical teachings talk about layers of perception, and so does net critique. Armin wrote endless essays about “layers” and “networks”. And so does Islamic philosophy. What I also take with me from Armin is that we – while getting more educated about the mechanisms of online abuse – have to keep on networking, put our ideas out, write, create, share, share more and ever more and forge most of all real friendships while we keep on trying and pushing to make this a better, a just world. That we use the internet and insist on it being the people’s global medium, and not leave it to the powerful to use it as yet another tool to abuse us. Thank you for this Armin. Also, thank you for many inspiring essays, such as this essay on “Landscape Painting” and the relationship between escapism and priviledge, traditionalism and modernity in art.
Armin once was involved with an event in Linz, Austria that was entitled “Radical Atoms” . He also organised in Cairo a related event, the Cairotronica, an off-Spring from the “Ars Electronica”, propably leaning on ideas of electricity, and electrified atoms in the digital sphere. I can only hope that during that event in Cairo Islamic philosophy was made a topic and that Armin took some ideas with him. He certainly had the capacity to recognize the potential when these worlds – Islamic philosophy and Net Activism – come together (and no, the outcome is not “Islamic extremism”).
Whatever he took with him from Cairo, I want to give Armin this poem by Rumi on his journey into the unseen networks in the realms beyond our grasp. From the Radical Atom to the Dancing Atom, perplexed and bewildered perhaps, perplexing and bewildering always, but always dancing.
Poem of the Atoms, by Dschalal ad-Din ar-Rumi
O’ day, arise!
Shine your light, the atoms are dancing.
Thanks to Him the universe is dancing.
overcome with ecstasy,
Free from body and mind
I’ll whisper in your ear where their dance is leading them.
All the atoms in the air and in the desert are dancing,
puzzled and drunken to the ray of light,
they seem insane.
All these atoms are not so different than we are,
happy or miserable,
perplexed and bewildered,
we are all beings in the ray of light from the beloved,
nothing can be said.