Sawad on Mon, 29 Apr 2002 20:46:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> GENERATION FLASH: Lev / Sawad

At 09:09 PM 4/27/02 -0700, you wrote:
Therefore the number of people who after reading my text accused me of
confusing a technical standard with an aesthetics missed my argument . The
vector oriented look of "soft modernism" is not simply a result of narrow
bandwidth or a nostalgia for 1960s design - it ALWAYS happens when people
begin to generate graphics through programming and discover that they can
use simple equitations, etc.


I appreciate very much your response to my comments, and I will post a 
response later in the week. In the meantime, I wanted to very briefly 
elaborate on a criticism I made in my earlier post, as well as to make an 
equally brief and perhaps inadequate comment on the quote above.

Earlier I wrote:

There is no reason that software art canno[t] use/create "images" in the
narrowly defined sense of "pictures," or any other form we identify from
our experiences with so-called old-media. Through software one can create
images or effect any number of sensuous phenomena. Your position vis-a-vis
the "modernism" effected by the Flash protocol, which is designed to
deliver compressed animation over relatively narrow bandwidth seems to me
mistakes technological limitations for an iconoclastic morality.

After I posted my response, I reflected further on what seemed to me as 
your confusion of technical limitation with morality. I did not cease to 
think that this was a confusion. However, it occurred to me that this 
confusion was not necessarily rectifiable in the context of aesthetic 

Historically, Western aestheticians have embraced systems for 
distinguishing painting from sculpture, and these from architecture. Upon 
such distinctions, various evaluative criteria have been calculated. But 
valorizing arguments seem to me have also depended on such distinctions. In 
one such example, modernist concerns over the surfaces of paintings were 
given memorable expression in the earlier writings of Clement Greenberg, 
where "flatness" was expanded from being a characteristic -- a limitation, 
if you will -- of paintings toward a figure existential sincerity.

My thoughts are not that modernists artists and critics were wrong. 
Regardless of our own perspectives on such an interpretation and its 
ramifications and conclusions, it strikes me that what we call morality is 
precisely always based on some theory of how we respond to forms (whether 
we acknowledge such theories or not). This is not moral relativism, but 
moral *response*, regardless of the theory of mediation between forms and 
us. Perhaps this confusion is a necessary product of all theories of "the 
subject." In other words, Greenberg's conclusions seem to me sound, *within 
the constraint of an aesthetic theory of subjectivity*. I realize now that 
it is easier to say that technical standards and aesthetic morality should 
be distinguished, than to articulate a methodology for definitively 
accomplishing this task.

Among the modes of address assumed by theoreticians and critics toward an 
artwork is questioning its construction : asking why an artist makes a 
particular decision and not a different one. This useful mode also opens a 
trap of confusing the critic's point of view with the physical context of 
creation. It is important to acknowledge that not all options, nor even the 
ones that a critic imagines, are available for artists during the creation 
of artworks. Though this may seem obvious, it is less obvious why we 
repeatedly enter this trap. Your assertion that "it ALWAYS happens when 
people begin to generate graphics through programming and discover that 
they can use simple equitations, etc." seems problematic in this way. While 
it seems to me correct, as well as a very important point, that "The vector 
oriented look of 'soft modernism' is not simply a result of narrow 
bandwidth or a nostalgia for 1960s design," it seems to me that you might 
be overstating your point when you state that this "ALWAYS" happens when 
people begin experimenting with graphics programming. Even if we understand 
that you are limiting your statement to include only "software artists," 
the set of imaginable circumstances under which this hypothetical group 
would always choose this aesthetic course seems to me preconditioned by a 
number of factors, including technical mastery and the graphics 
"primitives" afforded and perhaps most easily manipulated by beginning 

Of course the issue surrounding a nostalgic anti-mastery cannot be 
dismissed so easily, specially as I believe it supports your stated desire 
to create something new by appropriating modernism in combination with 
post-modernism. However, the possibly mythic dimensions of this 
appropriation cannot be dismissed either. You might be interested in a 
response I posted to Alex Galloway a few years ago, in which I argued 
against his valorization of what he thought was technical simplicity in 
"" [1]

[1] My comments are archived in the Walker Art Center's "Shock of the View" 
and in an online interview Steve Dietz conducted with Beth Stryker and 


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