Ian Andrews on Tue, 30 Apr 2002 10:09:03 +0200 (CEST)

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

>Thirty years of media art and post-modernism have inevitably led to a
>reaction. We are tired of always taking existing media as a starting point.
>We are tired of being always secondary, always reacting to what already
>To return to the topic of new modernism. Of course we don't want to simply
>replay Mondrian and Klee on computer screens. The task of the new generation
>is to integrate the two paradigms of the twentieth century: (1) belief in
>science and rationality, emphasis on efficiency, basic forms, idealism and
>heroic spirit of modernism; (2) skepticism, interest in „marginality¾ and
>„complexity,¾ deconstructive strategies, baroque opaqueness and excess of
>post-modernism (1960s-). At this point all the features of the second
>paradigm became tired clichÈs. Therefore a return to modernism is not a bad
>first step, as long as it is just a first step towards developing the new
>aesthetics for the new age.

I think this is a really interesting point. But I would argue that this
reaction is not just limited to net based art, but is part of a much wider
movement away from post-modern culture. I have seen this happening in
post-digital music, where the return to modernist aesthetics is evident in
a tendency towards purity and singularity, long form minimalistic drones -
music concrete replaces the recombinant media practice of cut-up - album
covers are typified by minmalistic geometric designs, or almost blank (mute
- no text). In video art I have also recently noticed a drive towards
geometric formalism and synaesthesia and a move away from media art, essay,
and narrative experimentation.

I think that you are right to attribute this shift to a dissatisfation (or
boredom) with the continual surface play of post-modern media manipulation,
and in particular the rather tired use of kitsch and camp that often
accompanies that direction. But perhaps its also symtomatic of a nostalgic
retreat from the problematics of the post-modern condition towards the cosy
certainties of an earlier age. And also a reaction to the problematics
posed by the "end of art" argument: the idea that anything can be art -
anyone can be/ everyone is an artist  A reaction which manifests itself in
the form of a new avant gardism.

This desire for a return to purity and singularity is not without its
problems. At the very worst it can come across as anti-intellectual,
interiorizing and politically reactionary.  Intertextuality,
self-reflexivity, and other textual strategies associated, rigtly or
wrongly, with post-modern culture, often seem to be replaced by various
forms of essentialism.

Secondly the problem of the post-modern condition cannot be simply solved
by denial. The loss of faith in the grand legitimating narratives of
modernism is not something that can be be easily restored (even if that
were desirable). I would be wary of conflating the post-modern condition
(loss of depth, crisis of the great narratives, reduction of distance
brought about by the information age) with post-modern culture
(post-structuralism, deconstruction, media art, pastiche etc - often all
wrongly called post-modernism) The later is merely a response to the
former. A respone made up of different strategies.

But, as you say, the return to modernism, which might better be called a
return to formalism (in an attempt to aviod romantic idealism), is only the
first step.  Perhaps it presents a way of starting again, to build the
narrative of art from a new beginning (for Hegel art begins with the
abstract work of art - simple geometric forms). But I don't know if that is
possible. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

I hope my comments don't come across as being too negative. I have to admit
that my own work has also changed in the last few years, drifting away from
more media art oriented stuff towards this new formalism.   I do work with
flash, but I also do alot with sound and video. For me, I think the change
came about independently of the tools I was using. I do not think that the
shift in my own work came from a desire to create something without taking
existing media as a starting point (which is something that I continue to
do very much).

for reference: http://www.anonradio.net/4/

Ian Andrews
Metro Screen

Email: i.andrews@metroscreen.com.au

Metro Screen
Sydney Film Centre
Paddington Town Hall
P.O. Box 299
Paddington NSW 2021
Ph : 612 9361 5318
Fax: 612 9361 5320

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