A 36 YEARS RECORDING OF LIFE
Frigo's theoretical point of departure is based on a distinction between effortless and effortful. Beyond discussions on power, gender, race, globalization and human rights, Frigo attributes to automation the crisis that contemporary society is experiencing. According to Frigo, it is the automation of social, political, economical, religious and intellectual frameworks to reduce the human effort and, in turn, annihilate its nature. In this respect, Frigo's main proposal is to act as automation and, in this effort, reconnect to human nature.
In his manual effort of both working and examining himself, Frigo differentiates from common lifeloggers or social media users. He does not automate the process of capturing, organizing and retrieving his life, but he accomplishes this process manually. By "becoming both the sensor and the algorithm", programming his own behavior, Frigo avoids the privacy implications related to lifelogging turning his operation into what he defines as ''Tebahism'', the manual stowing of life within predefined containers in view of a technology driven crisis threatening human life.
In this respect Frigo's line of thought comes close to that of Marshal McLuhan who accounts on the following parable:
As Tzu-Gung was traveling [...] he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meager. Tzu-Gung said. “There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day [...] Would you not like to hear of it?” [...] Then anger rose up in the old man’s face and he said, “I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul...”
Frigo thus uses the term "Tebahism" to identify archival practices that are more precarious than the dictatorial archival practices advocated by Jacques Derrida. He uses the Egyptian word "tebah", used in the Masoretic bible to signify both Noah's Ark and Moses' basket as life-savers. Beyond the biblical reference Frigo points at the flood myth as a narrative spread in all cultures worldwide. In line with Jacques Ellul, Frigo sees the work of "tebahists" as shamans developing techniques which could enable society to avoid the consequences of new technological changes. His historical examples are: Jacopo Pontormo's diary, Ferdinand Cheval]]'s ideal palace, Dziga Vertov's film, Janina Turek's diaries, Vivian Maier's boxes and George Perec's novels but also relatively unknown tebahists such as John Mallon Waterman, Danielle Roberts, Morris Villarroel and Jacek Smolicki. Frigo then looks at these original and marginal media practitioners adopting the following thoughts by Ellul:
It has not been sufficiently emphasized that technique has evolved along two distinct paths. There is the concrete technique of homo faber—man the maker—to which we are accustomed, and which poses the problems we have normally studied. There is also the technique, of a more or less spiritual order, which we call magic. [...] Magic developed along with other techniques as an expression of man’s will to obtain certain results of a spiritual order. To attain them, man made use of an aggregate of rites, formulas, and procedures which, once established, do not vary. Strict adherence to form is one of the characteristics of magic: forms and rituals, masks which never vary, the same kind of prayer wheels, the same ingredients for mystical drugs, for formulae for divination, and so on.” In his definition of ''Tebahism'' Frigo stresses the idea of effortful and manual self-tracking approaches. In his research then he looks at ''tebahists'' as life-savers in antithesis with common life-logging and Quantified Self technologies bringing life to extinction through the use of automation. After conducting reception studies in a barn in the alps, Frigo concluded that ''Tebahism'' is a form of syncretism and, in line with Marshal McLuhan's thinking, it is an ark stowed by marginal individuals to overcome the crisis characteristic of every new technological paradigm as quoted below:
In the history of human culture there is no example of a conscious adjustment of the various factors of personal and social life to new extensions except in the puny and peripheral efforts of artists. The artist picks up the message of cultural and technological challenge decades before its transforming impact occurs. He, then, builds models or Noah’s arks for facing the change that is at hand.
In his attempts to describe this work in a scientific context, Frigo has repeatedly explained his point of view and that is that contemporary life is filled with unnecessary procedures, often only meant for the sake of social security and surveillance. He therefore claimed that his documenting activity is only an additional procedure to enforce the self. In this respect, contrary to common belief, the enforcement of the self conducted by Frigo can be viewed in Foucauldian terms as a "Technology of the Self", a Stoic practice that enables individual to live according to nature and become more just and adapt to govern as in the case of the self-enforcing practices carried out by Franklin Benjamin and Mahatma Gandhi.
Under this line of thought, Frigo links his philosophy to 12 Stoic principles he has derived from the teaching of Seneca the Younger, Gaius Musonius Rufus and Marcus Aurelius: # Be laborious; # Do not fear; # Live modestly; # Be grateful; # Keep above the crowd; # Follow nature; # Value time; # Behold virtue; # Block vices; # Examine yourself; # Disobey the unnatural; # Stick to one goal.
The elaboration of these principles has allowed Frigo to orient himself in more contemporary thinking. While closest to Transcendentalism and Christian anarchism embracing thinkers such as Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Jacques Ellul, Frigo refuses to dilute his thinking in the dominant Marxist intellectual establishment, a reason for which he considers himself a partisan of both the art and the academic world. He therefore feels closest to the Stoics opposing the rise of the Roman Empire and thinking in terms of minor human republics. In an increasingly imperialistic world, dominated by media platforms and large unions, he therefore clearly sides with Leopold Kohr and E. F. Schumacher promoting small, self-reliant and autonomous regions. Tebahism in this respect can be seen as a Stoic attempt to stow the potential of life in view of the crisis brought forward by the increasing imperialistic attitudes of the contemporary Epicurean establishments.
Here is a list of scientific articles (see more at the publications section):
2016: Alberto Frigo, Rainer Malaka, Nina Runge & Johannes Schöning, You Can Touch This: Eleven Years and 258218 Images of Objects, alt.CHI 2016: Proceedings of the International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
2006: Alberto Frigo, Un an de système autobiographique, Association pour l'autobiographie et le Patrimoine Autobiographique, La Faute à Rousseau Journal, Volume 37, Page 49, Paris, France.
2004: Alberto Frigo, Autobiographical System: building an ideographic history of activities based on artifacts, ISSN 1651-4769, Chalmers University, Gothenburg, Sweden.
2004: Alberto Frigo, Storing, Indexing and Retrieving My Autobiography, Pervasive 2004. Workshop on Memory and Sharing of Experiences, Vienna, Austria.
2004: Alberto Frigo, A Tonic for the Self, Proceedings of The Life of Mobile Data: Technology, Proceeding of Mobility and Data Subjectivity Conference, University of Surrey, UK.
2003. Alberto Frigo, Autobiographical System Based on Photo-tracking of Artifacts, Proceedings of Generative Art Conference, Polytechnic, Milan, Italy.