Renee Turner on Sat, 16 May 2009 13:36:10 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Political Work in the Aftermath of the New Media Arts Crisis

Hi Florian,

You point towards a classic issue, the relevance of context. What do
different registers (fine art, media art, design, activism, popular
culture etc.) give to a particular work and what does a categorization
exclude, meaning what does it make *impossible*. Every register
influences interpretation, (in)visibility, production and funding.

> Since the 1990s, the so-called Fine Arts do provide no really
> desirable environment either, likely they're even worse. It is
> telling enough that the term "Fine Art" suddenly has become a
> universally accepted standard while, not a long time ago, any
> self-respecting contemporary artist would have fiercely rejected
> if not opposed it. In the past ten years of reading contemporary
> art magazines or visiting art biennales and Documentas, I've been
> flabbergasted by the lack of vision and radicalism in this field. It
> has morphed, somewhat comparable to New (composed) Music after the
> 1960s, into an academic discourse ruled by a neo-bourgeois jet set
> of hipster curators posing as cultural theorists on the basis of a
> not-even-half-baked knowledge and recycling of postmodern philosophy
> and cultural studies. The system consists of artists who have been
> academically trained to produce works - along with non-understood
> theory lingo - that fit the required curatorial buzz.

Can you speak more specifically about which curators, what art
educational programs, which artists and what practices? For a
constructive debate, it's important to avoid caricatures, otherwise
there's a risk of creating false enemies, or missing out on how to
best counter the real ones.

And as an aside, I have to admit when I read "not-even-half-baked
knowledge" and "non-understood, I caught myself wondering who are
the guardians of proper interpretation when it comes to theory. (not
to mention, which theories) After all, couldn't theory be mutable in
different contexts or even hackable? In other words, can it too be
practiced, tested and changed once it hits the ground or encounters a
specific situation or discipline?

> Along with this development, the paradigm of the white cube and art
> works as good-looking exhibition objects has become stronger than
> ever before and rules out any art practice not fitting this format.

It's true the white cube is a dominant force to be reckoned
with (or not, depending on what art world you dwell in ;-), but
interventionists/social/political practices have also continued....
(both of the digital and analog sort). You mention UBERMORGEN, and I
would add The Temporary Travel Office, SubRosa, Mongrel, AUDC, Jorge
Blasco's Cultures of the Archive, Marcelo Exposito's various projects,
The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Beatriz da Costa and others...
Maybe "tactical" is a red thread through these works?

> All the while, the system thrives on the delusion that it still
> represents visual art as a whole although, unlike, for example, in
> film where 'highbrow' and 'lowbrow' still coexist, its popular forms
> like comic books, tattoos, fantasy figurines, t-shirt illustrations,
> wildlife paintings... have long been excluded from its system.

hmmmm....not sure about this, having worked as a hybrid artist/
designer/curator/media artist/collaborator for some time now, again
I reiterate that there are many different artworlds (and for that
matter artists/inhabitants/vagrants). Sometimes they intersect, rub
next to each other, come into agitation or simply run on parallel
tracks. (Not too disimilar from the so-called new media world.) Think
of open source practitioners, the Max/Flash folk, and those that poach
the web's detritus for their own purposes, they're all a part of new
media arts, but each tend to dwell in different corners of the digital
universe (or maybe not, if you're one of those cross-pollinators :-)

> Instead, we get artists like Mike Kelley all over the art
> world in whose work I'm either not getting something or indeed
> seeing the Emperor's new clothes. ("Review" babble like
> affirms
> the suspicion that the art world has no clue either.)

I haven't seen this particular work so hesitate to judge. I do however
find it a little problematic to make sweeping statements about the
Emperor's New Clothes and the "art world's" cluelessness based on one
review and one artist.

>> Director Heiner Holtappels opened by noticing that new media art
>> is not easily accepted by fine art. Traditional art has become
>> eclecticism. According to Heiner, all art is technology based.
> This is true, yet contemporary art has mostly given up on reflecting
> its media. [I can almost hear an iPhone-wearing curator saying that
> reflecting one's media is outmoded modernism.]

ouch, how stereotypes do prevail. I wonder if there would be a
paradigm shift if he/she had been envisioned with a pre-paid nokia.


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