Curator on Sun, 19 Mar 2000 19:48:18 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] not bloody likely: a response to hush

To Mr. Lunenfeld,

Despite your response, we remain unconvinced that the beliefs we opposed 
in your symposium presentation were not in fact your own.  Where we were 
in error please find enclosed our apology.  To that end, here are our 

>I'm not a designer.

We had some familiarity with your background prior to attending the 
symposium, and knew full well that your primary occupation was not that 
of a designer, but the vigor with which you complained about the art 
students in your *design classes* led us to believe that the word 
designer must appear buried somewhere on your c.v.  We apologize for not 
offering a more in depth explanation of your career in our review.  

>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.

Our reference does not assume that you were, in fact, disturbed by 
continuous orgasms... we only offered possibilities if you were.  As for 
us...we take them when we can get them....but that was not our point.  
Our point was, that in the course of the symposium your references to 
both video games and pornography seemed to reflect only very specific 
segments of those genres.  Additionally, we were attempting to suggest 
that your choice of segments was not particularly representative or 
useful (for purposes of this discussion).  The position that pornography 
is central to net culture seemed to be made in support of your larger 
argument with regard to the uncontrollable acceleration of culture 
through the network. We do not necessarily disagree that pornography is 
central to internet culture. We would argue that pornography is pretty 
central to many cultures and the internet just provides one more method 
of distribution.

>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.

Even in our "artificially arrested, rural religious community" we're 
aware of the pressures from you city folk... that is why we referred not 
just to the acceleration of culture as a myth, but instead were careful 
to refer to the *uncontrollable* acceleration of culture as myth.  Surely 
we are not the first to suggest that the claims technology offers with 
regard to making our lives easier through faster production are bunk?  We 
mean to suggest that studies showing that life has become harder (not 
easier) as a result of technology..that workers are working longer hours, 
that computers...rather than simplifying tasks, actually complicate them 
in many cases ... are onto something, and that our blind acceptance of 
this freight train of acceleration is a detrimental force that should be 
resisted rather than embraced or even just accepted.  We are not prepared 
to accept this wave of come shots and thumb candy as an inevitability.  
Here we refer again to Anne Wagner's proposition that art can work to 
figure an alternative to consensus reality, and our support for that 
proposition.  In the course of the symposium it seemed to us that you 
were taking this acceleration for granted and suggesting that artist's 
practice should address this acceleration of culture by embracing it.  We 
would be happy to discuss this point further, but have bigger fish to fry 
at the moment.

>Funny how I smuggled my distrust of and distaste for art past all those
>editors at while writing art criticism for magazines like ...

No not funny at all...scary.  As we move to the real meat of this 
discussion (in our view) we will elaborate.

>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. 

This part of your discussion obviously struck us as the truly pernicious 
strain.  It seems to us that your argument reads, "because there are not 
enough opportunities in the world for artists to practice as artists , 
they can and should be herded into design jobs".  Would it not show a bit 
more respect for art's place in society to argue that society should work 
to provide more opportunities for the artist, rather than suggesting that 
artists just learn to accept ahead of time that they are going to have to 
work as designers?  If a student chooses to study art, it is not a 
decision made in a is because of arguments like yours that 
many art students are encouraged to expect that they will be taught more 
marketable skills in art departments.  Should every academic department 
with limited vocational possibilities begin reworking their program to 
become more "marketable" to students? 

We refer here to our previous line of reasoning regarding the collapsing 
of art and entertainment....If art departments do not serve graphic 
design's interests are they not good art departments?  Are we to close 
down all the art departments that do not accommodate the idea that most 
of their students are just going to end up as designers anyway?  If we 
require art schools to do the work of design schools: a.) Why have design 
schools at all? or b.)Why have art schools at all?  

(aside to brad brace:   Would you like to field that two part question?)

Where will a student be able to go for support if they have no interest 
in commercial production?  Or are you arguing that the university is 
simply a factory for churning out good little workers?  If your answer to 
this last question is yes then I see no place where we can share common 
ground on this issue.  The corporate world has plenty of support for this 
perspective without having professed art critics helping them along the 

>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. 

If a student chooses  to study art at UC Berkeley, and what they want to 
study is design, they have options available to them.  They have the 
choice to go somewhere else where there is a design department, for one.  
The world is not wanting for design departments.  Are you arguing that 
administrators have somehow made a mistake in providing already existing 
art departments with technology, rather than developing all new design 
departments fully stocked with computers used purely for design purposes? 
 or are you suggesting that the investment of equipment be tied to 
vocational training and curriculum changes?   

>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? 

We feel we have shown where our impression of your distrust of art and 
artists came from (and btw continues to come from). We have no interest 
in defending ourselves from your charge with regard to design and 
designers.  The proliferation of graphic design throughout the web is 
something we at are most certainly opposed to...though 
many of our closest friends are designers, and we have worked as 
designers of one sort or another in our careers.  We should mention, that 
(as designers) we frequently felt either oppressed by or superior to our 
clients.... and we wouldn't have it any other way.  Michael Eisner and 
Steve Case (to name two) are not our idea of good drinking buddies. If 
corporate entities choose to be oppressive....we choose to acknowledge 
that oppression...if their criticisms of innovative and challenging work 
are ill-informed, we choose not to gush with approval.  We also choose 
not to learn to diplomatically negotiate for every minimal change we 
would like to make to our creative output.  We practice art for a reason, 
we make no apologies for that. To us...your "professional ethic" sounds 
eerily like corporate brainwashing...and "cognitive dissonance" sounds 
like the "illness" suffered by the revolutionary in a fascist society....

>>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. 

We were very deliberately not referring to your history here (though we 
have read the articles), nor were we attributing this perspective (re: 
the melding of art and entertainment) to you directly, but instead by 
association.  As argued above, some of the views you presented in the 
conference came dangerously close to an implicit support for some of the 
ideas you claim to oppose.  People reevaluate their stances from time to 
time. How are we to know whether you are or are not in the process of an 
ideological transformation.  Perhaps this could provide a valuable forum 
for a transformation.

In summary, we do not want you to be our straw man, Mr. Lunenfeld, but we 
still fail to see where we were all that confused about your statements.  
Your deliberately contentious statements and your less deliberately 
contentious statements would have been good fuel for more animated 
discussion had the larger debate developed in a more balanced manner. 


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