Domenico Quaranta on Sat, 31 Jan 2009 16:45:48 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Expanded Box - Curatorial Statement

Expanded Box – Caring for an Expanded Conception of Art
Domenico Quaranta


In the vast, variegated panorama of contemporary artistic  
experimentation there are various practices germinating that find it  
difficult to carve a niche for themselves in the official discourse  
and channels, despite the undeniable appeal they possess. The thing  
that makes them so precious, and as delicate as a flower growing under  
the snow, is not the fact that they use the “new media”, because  
everyone uses the media - and now they are anything but new. What  
makes them so special is the fact that like the aforementioned flower,  
they contain a new strength, and a new promise. The strength is that  
of those who go about their lives without a thought for the rules that  
govern the world they live in, and who create the conditions that  
enable them to live, successfully, in a radically altered context; the  
promise regards this radical transformation.

Everyone in the contemporary art field knows perfectly well that the  
context in which artists operate today was by and large established  
during the 20th century by Marcel Duchamp, and given structure and  
supported by a renewed museum and market system. According to this  
model, art no longer consists in the masterful implementation of a  
technique (painting, sculpture, music or writing) to present a world  
(the so-called “real” world, the unconscious world of the Surrealists,  
etc.). Anything can be art, if given a specific discourse and a  
specific conception, and if conveyed by means of a specific context.  
The aura of a work of art, which may be lost and found time and again,  
is now attributed by means of a precise process of consecration, which  
takes place on the market and in the museums. Without venturing into  
value judgements, it will suffice to consider the duration of this  
model to understand that what comes into being within it now is pure  
academicism. Murakami is to Duchamp and Warhol as Bouguerau is to  
Poussin and David. The gradual, unstoppable transition to the  
information society has radically challenged this model, nurtured in  
the bosom of the industrial society, but has not succeeded in  
destroying it altogether. It lives on as an act of faith, a consensual  
hallucination, a superstition boosted by the fear of what is to come.  
It survives, and continues to produce masterpieces, basking in the  
splendour which characterizes all periods of decadence.

The new world is there, just round the corner – or, to return to the  
cutesy flower metaphor - under the snow. It is in the art that exists  
outside the confines of the art world, rejecting the “contextual  
definition” of Duchampian origin which seems to persist, as Joline  
Blais and Jon Ippolito wrote in their book At the Edge of Art, purely  
by inertia; it is in the art that seeks out public space, media space,  
biotechnology labs and the world of information, communications and e- 
commerce as its operative environment; it is in the art that draws on  
other practices and other specific fields of knowledge, to a point  
where at times it has problems seeing itself (and being seen) as art;  
it is in the art that enthusiastically embraces technological  
reproducibility, the variability of data and the fluidity of  
information, abandoning - and radically challenging - the status of  
precious fetish, and it is in the art that is open to interaction with  
the spectator, that forges and develops relationships, that breaks  
down the wall which interrupts and conditions our mental and physical  
dialogue with a work.

This art exists, and it is at once strong and delicate, timid and  
aggressive, marginal and supreme. It is entrenched in the  
contradictions of all revolutions: it rebels against a world, but  
needs the cares of that world to resist. It has tried to escape, to  
open up new channels, but in the end it will succeed in changing our  
idea of art, defeating the academicism and opening the way to the  
future by means of dialogue and mediation. A future, which as the  
novelist William Gibson said, is already here, just badly distributed.

The historic function of Expanded Box, the last embodiment of an  
enduring attention Arco devoted to new media and languages, is  
precisely that of cultivating and redistributing the future, and  
supporting an ?expanded? definition of art. In the last ten years, and  
through different programs, Arco has done exactly that, hosting and  
offering market opportunities to a growing number of galleries that  
take up this challenge, at their own risk. When you see this compact  
block of eight galleries that offer their space to monographic  
projects - often decidedly ambitious - you could be forgiven for  
thinking that Expanded Box is one of those typical cultural  
initiatives increasingly staged on occasion of contemporary art fairs,  
with the idea of accompanying the dialogue and exchanges between  
galleries and collectors, but without attempting to compete with them.  
This is not the case.

Expanded Box, today, is the place where Leo Castelli would go to sell  
and Alfred H. Barr would go to buy. I am aware that this might sound  
rhetorical, and possibly a little ingenuous, but I cannot find a non- 
rhetorical way to say that there, more than anywhere else, the seeds  
of an evolution are germinating. They rest, well protected, in the  
machines of Lawrence Malstaf and the interactive environmental  
installations by Pors & Rao; in the sound installations by Manas and  
Moori and Thomson & Craighead; in the exploration of the dividing line  
between matter and the dematerialization of the media undertaken by  
the Korean Kim Jongku, and in John Gerrard’s 3D animations. They  
reproduce at the speed of a virus in the works of Joan Leandre, who  
upends the hyperreal interfaces that filter our rapport with reality,  
while they lurk in UBERMORGEN.COM’s media hacking activities, which  
uses low-tech tools to bring the giants of e-commerce to their knees.

For ten years Expanded Box has invested in this new current, the  
novelty of which, we should reiterate, lies not so much in the media  
that these works use, but in the culture they reflect and in the idea  
of art that they open the way for.


Domenico Quaranta

mob. +39 340 2392478
home. vicolo San Giorgio 18 - 25122 brescia (BS)

"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid. Human beings are  
incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant. Together they are powerful  
beyond imagination." Albert Einstein

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