The Postmedia Perspective

I post hereby the last chapter of the book in English, as it has been published on Rhizome on January 12, 2011. The text is also available in pdf and mobi format (yes, I’m totally into Kindle now :-)

The following excerpt comes from the final chapter of my book Media, New Media, Postmedia, recently published in Italian by Postmediabooks, who kindly gave Rhizome permission to republish it in English. The book is an attempt to analyze the current positioning of so-called “New Media Art” in the wider field of contemporary arts, and to explore the historical, sociological and conceptual reasons for its marginal position and under-recognition in recent art history.

The starting point of the book is that the label “New Media Art” does not identify an art genre or an art movement, and cannot be viewed – as it usually is – as a simple medium-based definition. On the contrary, a work of art – whether based on technology or not – is usually classed as New Media Art when it is produced, exhibited and discussed in a specific “art world,” the world of New Media Art. This art world came into being as a cultural niche in the Sixties and Seventies, and became a bona fide art world in the Eighties and Nineties, developing its own means of production and distribution, and cultivating an idea of “art” that is completely different from that entertained by the contemporary art world. If you are familiar with Lev Manovich’s distinction between “Duchamp Land” and “Turing Land” (1996), you already get the point. According to Manovich, Duchamp Land (the contemporary art world) requires art objects that are “oriented towards the ‘content’”, “complicated” and that share an “ironic, self-referential, and often literally destructive attitude towards its material”; on the other hand, Turing Land (the New Media Art world) is oriented “towards new, state-of-the-art computer technology,” and produces artworks that are “simple and usually lacking irony” and that “take technology which they use always seriously.” 1 Both art worlds have changed a lot over the last decade, but the distinction is still valid to a point. Continue reading