Curator on Mon, 20 Mar 2000 06:53:40 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> 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

>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. 


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: