Michael H Goldhaber on Tue, 19 May 2009 23:24:13 +0200 (CEST)

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

Thanks for some beautiful and thought-provoking statements, especially  
Brian’s and Carlos’s. I would add that to me the real medium of all  
art is attention, attention the viewer or reader or listener must pay,  
feels consciously drawn to pay, in a deepening and all encompassing  
way. That attention amounts to a transformation of self — into the  
mind and body of the artist, as it were. The rest of the world falls  
away for that moment, and so does time —the moment might be a long one  
—and,a s Brian suggests will recur  later on, in recollection and  

If that is art, it is always political, because it always takes the  
attention payer out of the “system,” whatever it might be and however  
much the managers of the system in fact solicited the artist  or the  
work to begin with. The huge abstract paintings of the 1950’s cold  
only fit on the walls of the rich, but nonetheless, as long as they  
were there, they took over those walls, and made the space different  
from what the collector might have intended, and the same goes for  
Renaissance art and art of other periods.

The reason different media come in is that the artist has an on-going  
problem as to how to capture attention as distractions and competition  
multiply. In some way, to be really focussed on, art must avoid being  
too easy to experience, for then it can become just the background,  
just decoration or elevator music, or something that can always be  
attended to “later” — I.e., usually never. This is  a serious and  
significant problem for new media as well, including much Internet art.

Expressly political art can only succeed, it seems to me, if it comes  
from the inner depths.  For instance, I just finished reading Istvan  
Kertesz’s “Fatelessness;” I don’t think it is intentionally political  
but it certainly made me boil with anger at the human mistreatment and  
neglect of others. Such art brings what was already there inside us  
and adds to its centrality. But that doesn’t happen often. In my  
experience most political art is superficial and therefore bad, just  
as likely to turn off sympathetic feelings in the viewer as the  

Incidentally,  I don’t know that good art necessarily causes us to  
think “Wow! I admire that.” But it doesn't easily let go of us.


On May 19, 2009, at 6:44 AM, Brian Holmes wrote:

> carlos katastrofsky wrote:
>> if i see some really good "political art" the first step is to admire
>> it (wow, great work) and then to think about consequences. art is
>> something autonomous. to me such an approach would free it from being
>> a mere form of communication, a medium, or "new media art". but at  
>> the
>> same time it can be all of that.
> What does one admire a piece of art? What is its autonomy?  And what  
> could
> be its consequences? I have asked myself these questions for years.  
> Like
> most thinking people, I have come to a few conclusions. And since I  
> like
> the idea that art can be "all of that" - a form of communication, a  
> medium,
> new media art - I would like to share these conclusions with you.

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