A little bit of history repeating: Digital Revolution at Barbican

Schermata 07-2456848 alle 09.22.10

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

 

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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

Michelle Kuo

Letter from Philip Leider to Matthew Baigell, October 30, 1967.

Letter from Philip Leider to Matthew Baigell, October 30, 1967.

A quote from Michelle Kuo‘s introduction to the September issue of Artforum, “Art’s New Media“:

“Today we still cringe at manufactured genres like “computer art,” even if art as we know it could barely exist without computers. Technophilia and technophobia alike pervade museums, galleries, and art-fair booths; the language of new media and social media—platform, network, algorithm, sharing—abounds in press releases and exhibition titles, slaking our thirst for 1960s-cum-1990s cyber-euphoria. At the same time, Leider’s doubt echoes in the distance, a critical reminder that art’s affair with media is always prone to historical amnesia, to lazy conflations of vastly different positions and practices, to abrupt shifts from the faddish embrace of progress to a pining for the obsolete. We are nostalgic; we want to move on.”

Gene McHugh

“Contemporary art, to my mind, is in the business of asking “what is contemporary art?”
If contemporary art were pressed to say “contemporary art exists in the digital network as much as it does outside of the digital network,” then contemporary art would all of the sudden be operating from radically different premises.
The “white cube” paradigm (as the site where contemporary art occurs) would be threatened from within.
The “where” of “where the art occurs” would be altered as the simulation of the physical work through (primarily) the Web archive would be understood to be art’s arena.
To my mind, work which successfully bridges the worlds of the digital computer network and contemporary art is work which, on some level, implicates contemporary art into this very network.
It’s not work about the digital computer network, it’s work about contemporary art’s own entanglement in the digital computer network.
And for contemporary art to acknowledge this, it would demand that contemporary art changes the way it sees itself.
As such, contemporary art wouldn’t be taking in an orphan, but a virus.
That’s a lot to ask, but, nonetheless, there’s an urge to start asking.”
In Post Internet, June 1st, 2010

The Future of Art

What are the defining aesthetics of art in the networked era? How is mass collaboration changing notions of ownership in art? How does micropatronage change the way artists produce and distribute artwork? The Future of Art begins a conversation on these topics and invites your participation.

The Future of Art. An immediated autodocumentary was shot, edited and screened at the Transmediale festival 2011 in Berlin, Germany. More info here.

Catherine David

“I have frequently been asked about my relationship to the New Media. My answer has always been: New technologies are nothing other than new means to an end. Alone they are of significance; it always depends upon how they are applied. I am against naive faith in progress, glorification of the possibilities of technological developments. Much of what today´s artists produce with New Media is very boring. But I am just as opposed to the deuncination of technology. For me technology in itself is not a category according to which I judge works. This type of categorization is just as outmoded as division into classical art genres (painting, sculpture…). I am interested in the idea of a project; ideally the means of realizing the project should arise from the idea itself.”

Catherine David, “dx and new media“, June 20, 1997

Vito Campanelli

“After spending several days at a major European festival of digital art and culture, I had the impression of a community in which good manners and friendship where the rule. Smiles, handshakes and back-patting dominated within this laidback atmosphere, in which the participants were safe from unwanted or threatening currents. This brings to mind Baudrillard’s reference to a certain ‘accomplice paranoia’ in the world of contemporary art. In other words, this is a scene that constantly eludes the possibility of critical judgment, and leaves space only for a friendly, necessarily convivial, sharing of nothingness’. In such a context, open dissent is seen as utterly inappropriate. Nothing is allowed to disturb the quiet harmony of a community that in fact comes together for comfort rather then to confront.”
 
Vito Campanelli, Web Aesthetics, Institute of Network Cultures / NAI Publishers, Rotterdam 2010, pp. 42 – 43.

Caitlin Jones

“Thus the studio is a place of multiple activities: production, storage and finally, if all goes well, distribution.” [Daniel Buren 1979]
These words by Daniel Buren were originally meant as a critique of the traditional studio system, but the quotation in fact offers a prescient description of art production today. For many artists the notion of the studio does not present a problem to be dismantled or deconstructed. The laptop studio serves simultaneously as the tool, the space, the product and the frame. This conflation of the studio’s many functions is the goal, and quite often the meaning of the work.
The “post studio” laptop studio has other meaningful implications for contemporary art production. The concept of access transforms significantly within this notion of the studio. Access to (virtual) studio space, public access to artists’ work, artist access to materials—each of these transactions is enhanced in the shift. Traditional “open studio” conventions are rendered obsolete as, by its very nature, the laptop studio can always be “open.” The “post studio” laptop studio also significantly disrupts the temporal process of the traditional studio—moments of research, production and dissemination are continually evolving and reorganizing.
In these ways, post studio practice in a contemporary sense could be understood less as a reaction against established norms of production and distribution and more a reaction to expanded cultural platforms writ large.”
 
Caitlin Jones, “The Function of the Studio (when the studio is a laptop)”, in Art Lies, Issue 67, 2010.

Jennifer Allen

In the last issue of Mousse Magazine (Issue 26, December 2010, pp. 196 – 200), German art critic Jennifer Allen published an interesting article titled “From Media to New Media”. Addressing some recent events and publications, from Free to CRUMB’s latest outputs, she argues that the most revolutionary features of digital media – both in terms of distribution and production – are having little or no impact on the contemporary art world. Definitely a worth reading. Here a couple of quotes:

 

“While describing the gradual acceptance of new media art and artists, the retrospective view of A Brief History points to a basic conflict: to remain true to techy origins or to become part of the museum and the art market.”

 

“If there’s a new democracy to celebrate in the new media, the most democratic dimension is hard to see. While anyone can be an artist, a photographer and a filmaker […] everyone will not make it into the museum and the art market. We all increasingly use the same tools to do different tasks, even the same tactile gestures of clicking, saving, copying, pasting, sending. But that radical equality has not quite movedbeyond the screen.”

Tom Moody


Tom Moody‘s blog post, 08.12.2010