13 CONFUSIONS

 

NOTES ON THE CHALLENGES FACING ‘MEDIA ART’

  

(and new media art and digital art and software art and computer art and…)

 

1966 AMOS VOGEL

 

1.     Times Square with Manhattan

2.     A Producer’s Co-operative with a School

3.     Historical Continuity with Immaculate Conception

4.     Freedom with Formlessness

5.     Content with Quality

6.     Non-Selectivity with Art

7.     Good with Bad

8.     Propagandists with Critics

9.     Publicity with Achievement

10.  One Swallow with a Summer

11.  One Generation with Another

12.  Literary with Visual Critics

13.  Popes with Free Men

 

 

 

2011 DAN FOX

 

 

1.     Cost with value

2.     Publicity with achievement

3.     The typist with the writer

4.     A moment with a movement

5.     Politics with pictures of politics

6.     Having your cake and eating it

7.     The footnote with essay

8.     Literary with visual critics

9.     Tourism with international relations

10.  Buildings with culture

11.  Expertise with shop talk

12.  Art world with the world

13.  Telephones and conversations

 

https://frieze.com/article/13-confusions

 

2016 CARROLL / FLETCHER

 

 

1.     Cost and price (Fox)

2.     Propagandists with critics (Vogel)

3.     Literary with visual critics (Vogel and Fox)

4.     Publicity with achievement (Vogel and Fox)

5.     Art world with the world (Fox)

6.     Media art with art

7.     Real and physical

8.     Form with content

9.     A lack with an insoluble problem

10.  A copy with an original

11.  A painting with a performance

12.  Art and entertainment

13.  Good with bad (Vogel)

 

 

“The only valid tribute to thought such as Nietzsche’s is precisely to use it, to deform it, to make it groan and protest. And if commentators then say that I am being unfaithful to Nietzsche, that is of absolutely no interest.” Michel Foucault, Prison Talk in Power/Knowledge.

 

 

Cost and price (Fox)

 

Better broken in two parts: (i) don’t confuse production costs and retail price, and (ii) don’t confuse retail price and cultural value.

 

(i) The retail price is what the market will bare, not cost plus a profit margin.

 

(ii) In the long run the retail price and cultural value are correlated.

 

This links to the rise of art as both a luxury good (although it’s always had a role as a signifier) and as a financial asset class -> importance of understanding of the market in art (also see next two confusions) -> the art market/world as an oligopoly spanning public and private -> damage to (‘public sphere’ + archive/canon + decline in medium/small galleries + rise in unrepresented artists)

 

Propagandists with critics (Vogel)

 

The importance of transparency and identifying motivations.

 

For example, don’t confuse speculators with collectors and don’t confuse a friend with a critic.

 

This links to ‘A Producer’s Co-operative with a School’ (Vogel).

 

 

“I would simply ask why so many critics, so many writers, so many philosophers take such satisfaction in professing that the experience of a work of art is ineffable, that it escapes by definition all rational understanding; why they are so eager to concede without a struggle the defeat of knowledge; and where does their irrepressible need to belittle rational understanding come from, this rage to affirm the irreducibility of a work of art, or, to use a more suitable word its transcendence.” Peirre Bourdieu, Rules of Art.

 

“There is no social agent who does not aspire… to have the power to name and to create the world through naming… The power of words is nothing other than the delegated power of the spokesperson.” Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power.

 

“The art of any period tends to serve the ideological interests of the ruling class.” John Berger, Ways of

Seeing.

 

“The professional tends to classify and to specialize, to accept uncritically the ground-rules of the environment. The ground-rules provided by the mass response of his colleagues serve as a pervasive environment of which he is completely unaware. The ‘expert’ is a man who stays put.” Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967.

 

 

Literary with visual critics (Vogel and Fox)

 

The importance of identifying rôles and expertise.

 

For example, don’t confuse gallerists with speculators or collectors or curators.

 

Gallerists have a key role as the people focused on (i) selling an artist’s work, (ii) helping the artist develop their career, and (iii) developing a long-term relationship with an artist – representing an artist is similar to marrying someone…

 

“…one of the great breakthroughs in digital art is the great practice of Ian Cheng that, all of the sudden, video no longer has to be a loop but now can be an algorithm, a complex dynamic system that can evolve and change. If you have a video of Ian Cheng’s in a room, over the next 50 or 100 years this video is going to evolve in unpredictable ways, so you will never have the same film.” A prominent curator, 2016.

 

 

Publicity with achievement (Vogel and Fox)

 

The importance of critical distance and detailed research.

 

Or lack of publicity with lack of achievement.

 

Or novelty with originality.

 

Links to the two previous C / F Confusions, and to ‘One Swallow with a Summer’ (Vogel) and ‘Typist with the writer’ (Fox).

 

“If a work of art wasn’t written about and reproduced in a magazine it would have difficulty attaining the status of ‘art’. It seemed that in order to be defined as having value, that is as ‘art’, a work had only to be exhibited in a gallery and then written about and reproduced as a photograph in an ‘art magazine’.” Dan Graham.

 

 

Art world with the world (Fox)

 

The importance of a sense of perspective.

 

Contemporary art is a small world that lies outside the direct experience of most people.

 

Consider contemporary art vs television (and cinema and theatre and the printed and screen-based word).

 

And contemporary art vs activism and action.

 

However, art can be integral part of life (art vs. life is a false dichotomy) and art can make a difference.

 

“Art is a medium through which we can talk to each other and engage with the world. Its problems – confusions such as these, and the myriad of others you may or may not have – can be useful, since they might indicate where I stop and you begin.” Dan Fox, frieze, 1 Jan. 2011. And it has the capacity to raise the spirit and urge us to action.

 

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell.

 

“It is no longer enough to make political films: one must make films politically.” Jean-Luc Godard.

 

 

Media art with art

 

Media art is art and is contemporary art.

 

Media art may not be mainstream contemporary art, but mainstream contemporary art is not the whole of contemporary art…

 

This doesn’t imply there aren’t specific curatorial or conservation considerations or that taxonomies and histories aren’t useful.

 

It does reflect a concern that, within this context, ‘media art’ is a too broad and imprecise term.

 

And a concern that we need to avoid ‘Media Art’ becoming an exclusionary social group subject to Groupthink.

 

“It’s contemporary art, stupid!” Inke Arns & Jacob Lillemose, 2005;

The Art Formerly Known As New Media, Sarah Cook and Steve Dietz, exhibition at Banff New Media Center, 2005;

“Don’t say new media – Say art!” Gazira Babeli, 2008;

“Forget the new, drop the media, enjoy art.” Régine Dubatty, 2008;

“It’s about ideas, not material … I don’t give a shit about new media.” Brody Condon, 2008;

“It shouldn’t be called Computer Art in the first place. There’s confusion between how something is produced and what you show.  Nobody says: ‘he’s a pencil artist’ because he makes only drawings.  I always laughed when people asked if it was art.  What else is it?  It’s what I do…  It’s either art and it’s interesting or it’s nothing.” Manfred Mohr, 2012.

 

“[artists] must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life, either our bodies, clothes, rooms or, if need be, the vastness of Forty-second Street... we should utilise the specific substances of sound, movements, people, odours, touch.  Objects of every sort are materials for the new art: paint, chairs, food, electric and neon lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies, a thousand other things that will be discovered by the present generation of artists… Young artists need no longer say, ‘I m a painter’ or ‘a poet’ or ‘a dancer’.  They are simply artists.  All of life will be open to them.” Allan Kaprow, The Legacy of Jackson Pollock, 1958.

 

“The first thing you have to realise is that there’s not such a thing as digital media art, or whichever label you choose to describe it. There are just artists, responding at different levels to the topics of their time, and using at different levels the tools of their time.” Domenico Quaranta, Dear Collector, 2016.

 

 

Real and physical

 

Reality is made up of a combination of online/virtual/immaterial and offline/physical/material.

 

“Digital Natives live much of their life online, without distinguishing between the online and the offline. Instead of thinking of their digital identity and their real-space identity as separate things, they just have an identity.” Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, 2008.

 

Form with content

 

The online space, and browser-based and www/internet-based works are of equal validity and importance as the physical gallery space and material works (relates to previous Confusion).

 

Explore the current situation where they are not equivalent -> the art world as an oligopoly, institutional and academic silos and unfamiliarity.

 

Explore the motivations of reconfiguring internet/networked art and browser-based art for the physical gallery.

 

Are they financial and prestige rather than artistic?

 

Reimagining a concept for different spaces and contexts -> consider the idea of a meta-work -> translation vs. version vs. instantiation vs. imitation vs. copy vs. ‘influenced by’ vs. ‘school of’ and ‘from the studio of’.

 

“To take this work out of the browser and into the gallery is not an act of recuperation but an act of deterritorialisation – a violent reification: it forces a commodity value upon a product with a use value confined to a particular context.” Jesse Darling. Post-Whatever #usermilitia in You Are Here: Art After The Internet, ed. Omar Kholief, 2015.

 

“Translation is in essence an act of displacement.  It causes the meaning of a text to move from one linguistic form to another and puts the associated tremors on display.” Nicolas Bourriaud, p.54

 

“In my view, when you show online stuff in a gallery space, which is not online, you essentially put it in the wrong place. It’s not at home. It’s not where it is supposed to be. It’s decontextualised; it’s shown in a glass tube. So whatever you do is just an attempt to make it look more alive.” Vuk Cosic, quoted in Cook, Graham, Martin, 2002 (p.42).

 

“The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” Sol LeWitt, Paragraphs on Conceptual Art

 

 

A lack with an insoluble problem

 

To expand: don’t confuse a lack of information or experience or language or theory with an insoluble problem.

 

Consider the perils of the early adopter and the pioneer – the story of the electrocuted collector and of the incandescent light bulbs.

 

And the shock of the new -> the need to develop a new language and tropes, and technical expertise, and critical theory, and etc.

 

Technology has developed and become ubiquitous (no longer in the foreground and better suited), artists have adopted (rather than scientists and technologists) and lessons learned.

 

“With regards to the world of New Media Art, Holy Fire [an exhibition] wants to challenge some die-hard preconceptions, like its dismissive attitude towards the role played by the market and its reiterated assumption that New Media Art is ‘immaterial’, ‘disseminated’, ‘collaborative’ and ‘open’: difficult to preserve and therefore not preservable; difficult collect and therefore not collectable; difficult to sell and therefore not saleable. Difficult to preserve? What about Leonardo’s Last Supper? Difficult to collect? Christo! Immaterial? Air de Paris by Duchamp. Collaborative? The Fuxus boxes. All things that have found their own solid position in art history.” Domenico Quaranta, Holy Fire, Or My Last New Media Art Exhibition, from In Your Computer, pp.65-66.

 

http://www.lozano-hemmer.com/33_questions_per_minute.php

 

http://www.lozano-hemmer.com/pulse_room.php

 

 

Copy with the original

 

The importance of standardised contracts.

 

Sharing and collaboration and editioning and versions and translating don’t result in the Death of the Author (Barthes) {-> don’t confuse a reference with learning (an example of The Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome)!}.

 

Watermarks, preview copies, screening copies and certificates of authenticity.

 

Perhaps it signals the Birth of the Collector as patron and curator (or rebirth).

 

And the Birth of the Artwork as a bundle of rights and responsibilities.

 

“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause with don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.” Woody Guthrie.

 

“The only valid tribute to thought such as Nietzsche’s is precisely to use it, to deform it, to make it groan and protest. And if commentators then say that I am being unfaithful to Nietzsche, that is of absolutely no interest.” Michel Foucault, Prison Talk in Power/Knowledge.

 

“But if you understand collecting not just as a way to accumulate precious objects, but also as a responsibility toward your culture and society, other options are available too. Buying an artwork is not just a way to own it. It’s also a way to assume responsibility toward the artwork, take care of it and of the way it is presented and preserved.” Domenico Quaranta, Dear Collector, 2016.

 

“Unlike the poetry world, where the flow of capital is meagre and where works can circulate freely and virtually on the Web, visual art’s ongoing double attachment to intellectual property and physicality threatens to jeopardise its own relevance in the forthcoming decades. In a hundred years’ time, will visual art have suffered the same fate as theatre in the age of cinema?” Claire Bishop, The Digital Divide, Art Forum, September 2012.

 

“Media art is at odds with an art market built on a paradigm of objects—not intellectual property. The most obvious solution to this ‘video art as rights’ is the development of contracts between the artist and his or her representatives and serious collectors and institutions… If we admit the reality that video art is a ‘package of intellectual property rights, which is protected via copyright law in multiple territories and jurisdictions’, then we realize it is closer to the movie industry than to buying a painting. This ‘virtuality’ of video art underlies the embarrassment of the fine art market, which equals collectability with scarcity.” Alain Servais, collector, 2016.

“Because as long as there is a mainstream art world that is still invested in the analog, the archival impulse, and “dead tech” and that is slow to invent new vocabularies with which to talk about perception in the digital era, there will have to be a self-marginalizing alternative called new media art that asserts its own relevance for the future. One is obsessed with the technology of the past, the other with the technology of the present; they are mutually constitutive products of similarly blinkered thinking. In this light, the inability of both to speak meaningfully about our contemporary experience of the digital seems to be a structural blind spot, produced both by the mainstream art world’s insistence on individual authorship and auratic materials and by new media niche advocacy that misses the point, fixating on the centrality of digital technology rather than confronting it as a repertoire of practices and effects that increasingly lodges capitalism within the body.” Claire Bishop, Technical Difficulties (a response to comments Bishop’s Digital Divide), Art Forum, January 2013.

 

 

A painting with a performance

 

The importance of understanding the nature of the work.

 

The problems caused by selling a performance as a painting.

 

Depends on an open, ongoing dialogue between the artist, collectors and gallerists that interrogates the work and results in a common understanding of the work.

 

The difference between a closed deterministic work and an open evolving work, and allographic and autographic.

 

JODI and Manfred Mohr (‘paintings’) compared with John Cage and Thomson & Craighead (‘performances’).

 

Consider Gustav Metzger’s Auto Destructive Art and Thomson and Craighead’s Horizon.

 

“A painting is manifestly art, whether on the wall or in the street, but avant-garde work is often illegible without institutional framing and the work of the curator or historian.” Seth Price, Dispersion, 2002.

 

“The innovators were rebels. Two axioms to bear in mind here: sedition is, by definition, ungrammatical; the artist is the first to recognise when a language is lying.” John Berger, Portraits.

 

“While it emphasised its universal availability and its potential collective accessibility and underlined its freedom from the determinations of the discursive and economic framing conventions governing traditional art production and reception, it was, nevertheless, perceived as the most esoteric and elitist artistic mode” Benjamin Buchloh, quoted by Seth Price in Dispersion, 2002.

 

 

Art and entertainment

 

The importance of identifying and challenging elitist, invalid hierarchies and divisions such as entertainment and art, high brow and low brow…

 

Art can be entertaining and entertainment can be art.

 

"Entertainers can divert and console; only artists can transfigure.” David Foster Wallace.

 

Good with Bad (Vogel)

 

The importance of judgement within an open, discursive, democratic, constructive, critical framework.

 

The Sunday Painter is as valid and, on certain metrics, as important, as Picasso.

 

“[I] have come to be called a ‘professional’, ‘an artist’ and an ‘amateur’. Of those three terms – amateur – is the one I am most truly honored by… Why have they come to make ‘amateur’ mean: ‘inexperienced’, ‘clumsy’, ‘dull’, or even ‘dangerous’? It is because an amateur is one who really lives his life – not one who simply ‘performs his duty’ – and as such he experiences his work while he’s working – rather than going to school to learn his work so he can spend the rest of his life just doing it dutifully.” Stan Brakhage, In Defence of Amateur, 1971.

 

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” Bertolt Brecht.

 

“For me a work enters the realm of art when it makes me feel and know the reality of my human state in its essence – an abstract, perceptual experience beyond thought.  I am interested in a painting that is about itself.  Not political, not a cartoon, nothing interesting, just a pure perceptual experience of the moment, the experience before the idea, not the limited finite thinking but rather an alignment with the infinite, the bigger picture.” Mary Corse, in Art Review Jan. & Feb. 2016.

 

“The concept of art is located in a historically changing constellation of elements; it refuses definition.” Theodore Adorno.

 

“Art contributes to a democratic culture by stimulating skills, like open-mindedness and the possibility to see and imagine things differently that are of vital importance for a constructive political process where differences have to be constantly negotiated and there are always alternatives.” Charles Esche.

 

 

ODDS AND ENDS

Rhizome, 6 December 2012:

 

What's (Really) Specific about New Media Art? Curating in the Information Age by Domenico Quaranta

 

Inc. a reply from Sarah Cook.

 

Artforum, September 2012:

 

Digital Divide. Claire Bishop on Contemporary Art and New Media

 

Inc. an active comments thread.

 

Artforum, January 2013 :

 

Technical Difficulties by Lauren Cornell and Brian Droitcour

 

Inc. a response from Claire Bishop.

 

Carroll / Fletcher Onscreen:

 

http://carrollfletcheronscreen.com/category/collecting/

 

Inc. links to two important articles by Domenico Quaranta.

 

Seth Price, Dispersion, 2002:

 

http://www.distributedhistory.com/Dispersion2016.pdf

 

 

Pip Laurenson

 

https://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/fineart/events/time-based-media.htm

https://vimeo.com/184868009

 

Ontological friction: ‘Challenge the dominant ways of thinking about the nature of a work of art, specifically, the artwork as a singular, individual, finished object’.

 

Epistemic resistance: ‘resist dominant ways of seeing and doing within the museum’.

 

c.f. Hal Foster ‘closed system of significance’

 

-> epistemic object

-> preservation of a static object rather than an evolving networked system

-> allographic vs. autographic or performance vs. painting

-> anachronic vs chronological

-> Theseus Paradox and Shinto shrines

 

 

Beta Manifest

 

http://beta-manifest.de/en/index.html

 

1.     The gallery’s authority on price setting will be constantly called into question;

2.     More artists become entrepreneurs – the gallery owners their business partners;

3.     Virtual reality will be able to simulate and potentially replace the live experiencing of art;

4.     Considerable net appeal helps the short-term online marketing of art. In the long-term, however, it needs a physical location to ensure success;

5.     Digital channels pave the way for a new mainstream art market, but not effectively democratize the current one;

6.     Rankings will offer orientation to investors – and potentially mislead them;

7.     Copyright violation will become a business model.: some will use it to increase visibility, others to assert commercial interests;

8.     More and more private collections will become publicly accessible – both online and offline;

9.     Social media use will influence the sale of contemporary art more than traffic from ‘click and buy’ platforms;

10.  Talk of digitalization will be a thing of the past.