Peter Lunenfeld on Fri, 17 Mar 2000 08:19:39 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] hush: a response to crush: a response to crash

To the curator,,

It's in the nature of speaking in public that some people object to one's
ideas, while others don't understand them. You, however, have combined both
postures, disliking what, in fact, I didn't say. I'll let the others on the
panel ignore, applaud or deny your reportage on their comments, but I'll try
to set the record straight on my positions. You clatter on in a
schoolmarmish way about whether or not the crash panelists had "done their
homework" (shades of Natalie Bookchin!). Right back atcha', here's a list of
corrections to your text: 

>voiced by designer Peter Lunenfeld

I'm not a designer.

>individuals find on the net what they are looking for.  If Mr. Lunenfeld
>is really disturbed by this one continuous orgasm, perhaps he should visit
>the outrageously popular where prurient interest are
>most assuredly indulged, but not a single bodily fluid is spilled (on

When did I say that I was "disturbed" by continuous orgasms? Talk about
projecting your own anxieties onto discourse. In any case, citing the
popularity of cheesecake confirms, rather than argues against my position
that the pornographic imaginary is central to net.culture.

>Mr. Lunenfeld indulged another myth of the effects of a network 
> on society: the uncontrollable acceleration of culture.  

Is the curator, the first Amish net.artist? That would
explain the modesty of your lower case title. If, however, you don't live in
an artificially arrested, rural religious community, I find it hard to
believe that you would actually claim in the context of a symposium on that acceleration is a myth.

>Mr. Lunenfelds preoccupation with the commercial in his discussion of
>culture might have served to add to the discussion if it were not for his
>apparent distrust of and distaste for art in favor of design.  

Funny how I smuggled my distrust of and distaste for art past all those
editors at while writing art criticism for magazines like Artforum, Flash
Art, Art issues., X-tra, etc., and have continued doing so in my column for
art/text. You've got me dead to rights on one thing, though; I certainly
prefer design I like to art that I dislike. 

>In response Mr. Lunenfeld began a diatribe about trying to teach
>design to artists who resisted a professional ethic.  Given that Mr. 
>Lunenfeld did not give any specifics, we are left to believe he is
>complaining about not being able to break the will of artists that have an
>interest in challenging corporate interests through personally expressive

At the risk of offending my gracious hosts at Berkeley, I did in fact
directly cite the University of California system as ground zero for an
increasingly pernicious beaux-arts digital pedagogy. Training students to
think that they can only express themselves fully as "independent artists"
rather than as "indentured designers" ensures years of cognitive dissonance
except for those very few who make a career in the art world or by teaching
in art departments. The vast majority of those trained in digital
technologies in art departments do not follow that path, however, and move
into what can be loosely called design professions. It's been my experience
that for many of them, it is only when they determine precisely what
constitutes a "professional ethic" that they are able to develop a voice in
tandem with clients as opposed to feeling oppressed or superior to their
commercial collaborators. Since you felt free to bring in the sidebar
discussions that circled around the open forum, I'll do the same. I had at
least half a dozen people who had graduated from undergraduate programs in
art come up to me after the conference to say that I'd expressed something
that had bothered them both consciously and in a subterranean way. They had
gone into fine arts programs rather than design departments because for the
past few years art programs have been the place where university
administrators tended to be more comfortable investing money, faculty, and
equipment for training in digital media. I would hope that my ten years of
writing art criticism shields me from your accusation that I have contempt
for art and artists. What's your defense from my charge that you neither
respect nor understand the field of design and the work that designers do? 

>If we define art as entertainment and pleasure, we pave 
>the way for an overwhelming influx of the inoffensive and boring. 

Absolutely everything I have ever said or written about aesthetics is
diametrically opposed to collapsing art and entertainment. See
"Triangulation: Media, Technology & Art"
<>, "Hipbrow"
<>, or, for extra credit
homework as it's not available on the Web, my extended critique of Dave
Hickey and the rest of the beauty camp in "High-Q Art: The Seductions of
Broadcast Romanticism", X-tra v.II, n. 3 (Spring, 1999).

>As for the implications of not understanding 
>or embracing net art, we will leave that
>for history to decide. 

Responses to symposia can be an invaluable contribution to net.culture,
opening up the discussions to a vastly expanded audience. I appreciate the
fact that you devoted a whole day to the symposium, and then more time
responding to it on <nettime>. I welcome an opportunity to debate those
things that I intend to be contentious, as with calling for a "professional
ethic" in front of a panel stocked with tenured professors of art and an
audience full of net.artists. That noted, if you take on an extended
response of this kind, you have an obligation to make sure that positions
you oppose are actually espoused by those to whom you attribute them. I
refuse to be your straw man. 

Yours --

Peter Lunenfeld

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