What do you think about aesthetic research made with the help of a computer?

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During Manfred Mohr’s solo exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1971, “a large white panel was mounted in the exhibition hall at the Museum, a sort of guest book, where visitors could write whatever they wished to say. The panel consisted of sprocketed computer paper (77.5 centimeters by 281 centimeters) placed on a wooden board.” This is what they got. Check out this page to read into details.

I discovered this story today thanks to Wolf Lieser‘s beautiful presentation at Retune Festival in Berlin. After the 1971 exhibition, the panel was shown only once, 40 years later, at Bitforms Gallery.

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What are these people actually talking about?

Fred Deaking

“I think it’s a creative act in a digital space, that goes beyond the more trivial interactions that social media encapsulates, and engenders some kind of emotional response.”

“There were a bunch of fine artists working in digital space, but they weren’t necessarily making digital art.” Continue reading

A little bit of history repeating: Digital Revolution at Barbican

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Doesn’t this sound familiar? If not, go to read chapter 4 of Beyond New Media Art and you will seriously consider to accuse Alastair Sooke of plagiarism of early reviews by Roberta Smith, Lucy Bowditch, Barbara Pollack, Stefanie Syman and alikes. Some relevant quotes:

“In case you hadn’t noticed, we are living in the middle of a revolution. ”

“The exhibits in Digital Revolution are often astonishing, but at the same time the show can veer too close to the tone and texture of a tech industries trade fair.”

” the “art” (in this case, the film itself) has been sidelined, while the means of production take centre stage. ”

About Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s The Year’s Midnight (2011): “It’s clever and briefly diverting – but, then, that’s kind of it: a 21st-century version of a distorting fairground mirror. What else is there to say?”

“Digital Revolution is a great idea for a show, and I applaud the extraordinary creativity that is palpable in every single gallery. No one could fault the advances in technology on display, but the art that has emerged out of that technology? Well, on this showing, too much of it seems gimmicky, weak and overly concerned with spectacle rather than meaning, or making a comment on our culture. Moreover, for an exhibition that is supposed to be about the cutting edge of technology, the graphics used by some of the featured electronic artists are surprisingly awkward.”

Alastair Sooke, “Digital Revolution, Barbican Centre, review: ‘gimmicky'”, in The Telegraph, June 30, 2014, online at www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/10935600/Digital-Revolution-Barbican-Centre-review-gimmicky.html

 

New Media Art vs Mainstream

For those who want to see the war of worlds in the making, an interesting debate is taking place this month on the CRUMB mailing list. The discussion responds to a recent review of the book Art And the Internet (Blackdog Publishing, 2014), written by Pac Pobric and published on the Basel edition of The Art Newspaper. Pobric blames internet art for “provincialism”, and writes:

“Artists have been making work on the internet for more than 20 years, but it is scarcely seen outside of small circles. It is virtually nonexistent in galleries and museums, and is seldom for sale at auction. Because the work operates at the margins of the art world, it lies in the suburbs of cultural conversation. Few artists break into the mainstream, and those who do rarely take the internet as their primary interest—Seth Price is a good example.”

If you don’t subscribe to the list (which is recommended), it’s pretty hard to lurk in, so I add here a direct link to the online archive for June 2014.

Below a couple of catchy quotes:

“The ongoing mainstreaming of new media art has many benefits, not least of which is to engage a new generation of artists and curators with the intellectual toolkit of art historical methodologies (and vice versa.) But something is being lost when new media art is denied existence as a legitimate or discrete subject; when it is assimilated into the art world only one-by-one as “contemporary” artworks and not studied as the collective tangled mix of media/artworks/technology/theory/industry/practice/community that it is.” Richard Rinehart

“We should not be frustrated by ignorant articles of people writing for the Art Market, which has other interests. Over the last fifty years, media art has evolved into a vivid cultural expression. […] We therefore should not stop communicate, that digital art is able to deal with the big issues of our time, all thematized on festivals and meanwhile 200 biennials all over the world. We should not count on the art market, but we should remind our tax financed museum system (in Europe) that it is their job, by law, to document, collect and preserve the relevant art of the time.” Oliver Grau

#criticism

“all contemporary art needs to be media literate. For its part, New Media Art needs above all to be conversant with art history, and to have a working knowledge of contemporary art […] This kind of argument could probably be made for much of the art formerly known as New Media Art, the real power of which today lies in what more and what else, compared to other practices, it can tell us about the destiny and topical nature of abstraction; racial and sexual issues; our globalized world; control and censorship; terrorism and climate change. The art of our time must be measured and assessed in these terms. In order to do so, art criticism must cast off its prejudices on the media nature or the social origin of what it is looking at, and learn to look inside and outside of the art world, and look for art where it is not expected to exist; it must lose that baggage of ignorance (technological on one hand, artistic on the other) that it still carries.”

 

#afterart

“if recognizing that we are living in a postmedia era is just a starting point, the integration of the art formerly known as New Media Art into the contemporary art world is, again, only the preliminary phase of a broader reconfiguration of art worlds. The continental drift has begun. When it will be over, we will be probably able to understand what the word “art” will mean in the new millennium.”

#postmedia

“Recognizing that we are living in a postmedia age is not a point of arrival, but a point of departure. It means recognizing that the digital revolution completely changed the conditions for the production and circulation of art, and that it is slowly but inevitably changing the ways in which art is experienced, discussed and owned. In these circumstances, art is becoming something completely different from what we were used to – and art worlds have to change accordingly, developing new values, new economies, new structures.”

#future

“Historically the New Media Art world filled the gaps between one creative arena and another, between arts and science, arts and technology. This was its mission, its destiny. Reducing it – or as is often the case seeing it reduce itself – to a niche in the contemporary art world, is not only unjust but also historically unfounded, and the same goes for considering it – or seeing it consider itself – an incubator for industrial research. Yet the conceptual model introduced by the term “incubator” is an apt one: like a business incubator, the New Media Art world has to act as an incubator for the other, more solid art worlds, creating the ideal situation for the development of advanced, risky, financially unsustainable or aesthetically challenging work, and subsequently enriching those arenas that, not out of conservatism but due to their very characteristics, would have nipped it in the bud. The New Media Art world can potentially generate the energy that powers the other art worlds, giving their respective “ideas of art” a radical evolution. While for Shigeko Kubota video was a holiday for art, New Media Art can be the childhood of art, or its spring.”

 

#translation

“This “translation” work is one of the most complex and fascinating aspects undertaken by the curator looking to import works born elsewhere into the world of contemporary art. Translating means taking account of the morphology and syntax of both languages. Often comprehension is only possible if both sides make hefty compromises (the way things sound, the nuances of meaning): it is up to a good translator to get those compromises to work for the text being translated. The good translator has to take account of his or her own limits, the culture (or lack thereof) of his or her readers and their ideological stances. If the translator is translating for the first time, he or she will choose an easy text; if the translation is from an almost unknown culture into his or her native language, he or she will choose a culturally simpler text before moving onto something more complex, or if translating from a culture that some people have reservations about, the translator will try to use the translation to render it more acceptable.”

“So how does a good translation come about? It is basically about identifying the essence of a work and trying to translate that into another language. In general, in the contemporary art world, if the technological interface, connectivity, processual nature, accessibility, openness and non-uniqueness of an artwork are not essential, it is a good idea to set them aside. If these characteristics are essential, it is better to keep them: the art world is mature enough to accept open, replicable, processual pieces if this is an essential part of the work, and if their value can be transferred onto something else […] The main thing is that the translator has to be not just bilingual but bicultural. That said, translations must be crafted on a case by case basis, by the artist or curator (if possible, in constant contact with the artist).”

#curating

“There’s no two ways about it: critics and curators have to take a lot of the responsibility for the bad rap that the art formerly known as New Media Art has in the contemporary art world. On one hand, specialized critics have made the mistake of trying to impose the value criteria applied to works of art in the New Media Art world to the contemporary art world too, and develop a “sectorial” (or even “sectarian”) discourse, attempting to present an entirely heterogeneous situation as a unitary phenomenon. On the other hand, with very few exceptions, contemporary art criticism has proved incapable of bridging the technological divide and tackling these works with their own tools of criticism. Or falling into the “unitary phenomenon” trap and merely writing the whole lot off […] there are two misconceptions that have become something of a mantra: that curating New Media Art raises specific issues that can only be tackled by a specific “media art curator”; and that New Media Art raises some pretty insurmountable challenges for those interested in collecting and conserving it. As can be seen, both of these ideas are based on the assumption that New Media Art is one homogeneous mass with the same curatorial and conservation issues; issues that can ultimately be linked to the medium used. Yet the so-called “new media” are about as complex and varied as you can imagine, and the variety of forms that it can take means that a single strategy (and term) is entirely inadequate. But this approach is rooted in an even more perverse equation: namely that which identifies New Media Art with the technology it uses.”