Patrick Lichty on Tue, 27 Aug 2002 17:53:04 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> several modest proposals digest

I'm not going to blast your mailboxes with a recap of most of the material
I'm sure you've gotten 4-5 times, but here are a few short missives based
on Miller's excellent short metanarrative...

> One, from a purely practical standpoint there's a huge challenge for the
> would-be net.artist...the technology is difficult and requires full-time
> devotion to learning applications, something that your average conceptual
> artist isn't going to have the luxury or perhaps the mindset to

> Given that, one can usually ... drop it into one of two camps: artists
with strong conceptual skills who are dabbling with
> technology and haven't truly grasped the medium, and developers who
spend so
> much time in the literal binary world of coding that their art efforts can
lack deeper meaning.

I would say that for older artists and those coming from the programming
world, that this would be closer to the truth.  There is a thread of
artists who were both raised simultaneously in the artistic and aesthetic
environments.  This animal is uncommon, but not entirely rare.  You most
likely see them on the academic front, only by virtue of the applicability
of their skill set to research.  However, you don't see them very often on
the front; they're more into hybrid arts, like Goldberg, Stelarc,
Dolinsky, Davies, Hershmann, and Steinkamp, etc.

>The generalists in between who are capable of bridging
> the gap don't often produce compelling work on either front...

Actually, I don't think that this is the case at all.  More or less, the
hybrids are the minority, but there are a number of hybrids who are doing
very nice work (although sometimes in collectives).  The examples you cite
are more likely the people coming from wither camp trying to be hybrids,
and that usually requires a great deal of effort to be done successfully.  
I think the people who need to be regarded here are those who are truly
bicameral in nature.

, which doesn't
> bode well for the individual artist trying to triangulate the required
> technical skillsets with the conceptual skills behind powerful art.

> that's why so many collectives are forming around the need a
> wider skillset in this medium than most individuals can provide.

I agree.  But shoudl this be the case, or is this yet another form of
technological determinism?  The idea that net art has to, by some strange
superset of Moore's Law, incrementally become more complex and deeply
threaded into the technology.  This takes the conceptual nature of the
work and sets it in a subordinate role to the techne, as at this time it
seems that this is the seductive component...  Once again, the stronger
work is not always highly technical in nature.  Take a look at the Yes
Men... Their site is relatively simple from a technical perspective, but
extremely strong conceptually.  There are other works like Carnivore that
are more heavily invested in techne, but still are extremely compelling...

> But secondly: maybe I'm missing something, but why _does_ art have to be
> political?

Art is always some sort of communicative statement, whether didactic,
political, etc.  Politics is only one component, one that frequently gets
foregrounded, but only one aspect nonetheless.  Therefore, politics are
always there, but what politic is being communicated in context witht he
rest of the statement (whose standards of beauty, cultural context, and so
on) is important vis-a-vis the piece of art in question.

Why can't it be based on abstract aesthetic beauty, or humor, or
> contemporary cultural contexts, or scatology, or whatever pleases the
> artist?  I don't see why the context for meaning in art is required to be
> sober and politicized in order to earn the label of virtuous and worthy.

Much of this can be attributed to cultural threads of the 80's and 90's,
but again, numerous well-known artists who have taken strong political
stands (Laurie Anderson, RTMark, Eduardo Kac, SRL, IAA) have done so in
lyrical, hysterically funny, or even aesthetically pleasing ways.  There
is nothing wrong with the other threads Eric mentions, but there is an
intellectualism within the art world that has almost required this sort of
intellectual gymnastics, and in fact, I actually support it until it
becomes far too obtuse, like much of 80's contemporary art, in which you
had to read the Foucault library to get the inside joke, only to realize
that it wasn't that funny.

> The openness of the community to judge works based on criteria
> than politicization would seem to be an asset, not a failure.  To deny the
> artistic validity of any work that's not soberly political is a pretty
> narrow criteria for assessing value.  Wasnąt that an observation being
> on the recent Documenta 11 thread?  So to say that curators who lack a
> formal educational background in art history are unqualified, presumably
> because they wouldn't automatically contextualize all art in a rigid
> political conceptual framework, smacks of art establishment elitism.  When
> critiquing a nascent art movement's ideological straitjacket, one might do
> well to shed one's own.

In many ways I find this reading excellent.  One of the largest problems
iwth putting technological art of the current age in context is in placing
it within extant forms of critical analysis.  As with the nation-state,
high culture may find itself blindsided by its distributed counterparts
and find itself scrambling for coherence, much as the post 1600
nation-state is doing in light of post 2001 distributed organizational
networks e.g. asymmetrical warfare...

Critiquing the world's grasp of the statelessness
> of the medium is a bit backwards...they GET that a website is not bound to
> physical location, nor are the creators of the work or the audience.  It
> seems that the unfamiliarity of this statelessness sparks a certain degree
> of apprehension in more traditional art circles.

Again, dead on.  On one hand, this is not so much a challenge tot he
politics of location, but to materialism and commodity (as well...), which
throws the gallery/museum into a state of panic.

> Lastly, I think many net.artists might take offense at the proposition
> their work is inherently shackled to corporate motivations.

I know a lot of artists with cell phones, and I'd daresay that their work
doesn't center
> around shilling for Motorola and Nokia.  I'd think that we could give
> artists a little more credit for thinking critically.

There are some projects that required a great deal of resources, like
Levin's Telesymphony, that probably would not happen without corporate
backing.  COnversely, there are artists like Dorothy Krause who so finely
blend artistic practice with corporate workshopping/marketing (admittedly,
to maintain their practice), that it's highly problematic.  For example,
Jen Grey's work in the SIGGRAPH art gallery was emblazoned with Jen Zen
(Registered Trademark!) logo with copious trademarks and copyrights all
over the process statement, which I found utterly repulsive.

However, I would daresay that many of the artists using technology are not
shilling, or even really aiming at the corporate sector as an audience,
btu are using corporate technological resources as raw materials.  This in
itself is a littel problematic, but it's a different set of issues than
acting as a corporate evangelist.

> We're still learning how to use this medium, and we're still learning how
> critique it.  Forcing the critical dialogue into a conceptual framework
> can't accept certain fundamentals about the medium is flawed.  Especially
> the aforementioned framework is calcified by dogma.

Thanks for that sentiment.

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