#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.”

 

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#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.”

#collecting

The art market has already got to grips with the ephemeral nature of contemporary artworks. For our purposes it matters little whether these solutions are compromises, or in some cases, not terribly functional. The “Black Box” came about with the aim of offering a safe haven for the temporal nature of video, enabling it to be experienced over time; performance and conceptual art have learned to use methods of documentation (photography, video) and in some cases, certification. Even rapidly obsolete media have found a protocol: old film reels or VHS videos have migrated onto digital media, possibly also being restored in the process. Organic materials can be replaced, as can neon tubes. Sometimes it can be impossible to replace the original material: this was the case for Dan Flavin, who used a particular shade of red in his neon installations which has been withdrawn from the market due to toxicity. It was a fairly predictable outcome, but did not overly trouble his collectors. Hirst knows his sharks’ days are numbered but the artist’s popularity is not suffering as a result. Or it might be suffering, but for different reasons.

The issue of the “technical reproducibility” of works of art has also found a solution: photographs and videos sold in limited editions. Not even the digitalization of the image has challenged this convention, as absurd as this might seem. The fact of the matter is that those who collect works of art, be they museums or private individuals, do not let things like this stand in their way – unless they are convinced of the low cultural or financial value of the work in question. In other words, if New Media Art is struggling in market terms, this is not due to the aforementioned issues, but because there are still doubts over its value as art. Once again, it comes down to a question of appeal, a question that is influenced both by the technology and generation gap, the difficulties faced by traditional criticism and resistance to the New Media paradigm. If I have to choose between two things I have my doubts over, I will go for the one that offers more guarantees in terms of conservation and uniqueness. Such as a painting, for example.