Renee Turner on Mon, 25 May 2009 15:13:48 +0200 (CEST)

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

Hi Florian,

My apologies for a slightly delayed response. I completely agree that
there are aspects within the art world which need critical scrutiny. I
was simply asking for specificity, and I appreciate that you've taken
the time to clarify.

> But unlike other culture industries, the contemporary (Fine) Art
> system often falsely believes in its own autonomy.

I wonder if this is true. Feminist/post colonial practices have often
argued the opposite and with much efficacy. Think of Jean Fisher's
critical texts, Adrian Piper's work and Lucy Lippard's writing and
curatorial projects and even the recent educational department at
Goldsmiths of Irit Rogoff; all of these practices seem to point to an
art world/system which is political, embodied and implicated.

> And it's my general experience and opinion that the art I'm
> more interested in is more often than not to be found in places
> outside that system. In the 1960s, this was true for Fluxus and
> Situationism, in the 1970s and 1980s for the Mail Art Network and
> postpunk, and in the 1990s for, the Luther Blissett project
> or the alternative pornography movement.

I'm also interested these movements, practices, antics/pranktics,
but unlike you, I see them as a part of a complex and multifaceted
art world (not outside of it). I find it problematic to define the
system as only popular art mags, the market and large institutions
when there's so much other interesting work going on. (not to mention,
how would you classify those of us involved in art education?)

> Today, to speak in terms of our both hometown Rotterdam, I'm finding
> the interesting contemporary arts at places like WORM and De Player
> and only rarely at Witte de With, for example.

Yes, here we can look into specific curatorial approaches and talk
about who these various institutions and orgs are addressing. (this
takes more time than I have now... but I'm nonetheless interested in
exploring this further at a later juncture) >> > Indeed. It's just
that the particular art world I mentioned above > - and which can
be roughly described as the art world of the many > biennials, the
Documenta, contemporary art spaces like PS.1 and KW, > contemporary
art journals like October, Texte zur Kunst, Springerin > and
Metropolis M, too often monopolizes the term "art" for the art > that
it represents. Admittedly, its system can be permissive and > include
'outside' practices, particularly when a curatorial subject > requires
it. However, it would be possible to map the institutions > mentioned
above just by the overlap of the people they involve, > and come up
with a fairly good representation of what makes up > contemporary art.

I agree, this *is* truly the crux.  It's crucial to map the overlap of  
people/institutions and ask ourselves who's setting the agenda, who's  
controlling the funding and whose *corner* of art world is being  
represented, and moreover, what do these representations make  
impossible, meaning what do they render invisible.

> They same is true, no doubt, if you take ars electronica,
> transmediale and ISEA, plus Leonardo, Neural, Rhizome and Nettime,
> ZKM and ICC Tokyo, and pin down the system "media art". But just
> as that latter system is now being - deservedly - questioned and
> undergoing a huge if not terminal structural crisis, I think it is
> as legitimate to question the contemporary Fine Art system, and the
> Western concept of autonomous art.

It's absolutely legitimate to question art's autonomy, and it's been
happening for some time now. Besides the previous examples listed
above, recently there has been much debate about the proliferation of
biennials how art feeds into a neoliberal agenda.

> So, going back to Geert's initial report about the discussion about
> the crisis of "Media Art" at Montevideo Amsterdam, I think that it
> can't be a solution to integrate a very questionable "media art"
> system into an equally questionable contemporary art system. [As it
> is now happening, in education, too, for example in the Zurich art
> school media department where Felix Stalder teaches, and where the
> media programme has been rolled back into Fine Art on the Master
> level.]

In many respects this cycle has happened to photography (remember
when John Tagg wrote that no history of art photography could be
written without taking into account, pornography, daguerreotypes,
propaganda and family snapshots.) Or video's roots in activism,
home videos, street journalism (Martha Rosler's essay: Shedding the
Utopian Moment).... there's much to learn from these histories of
assimilation. It's important to look at how institutionalization
"tames" media...disciplines the discipline. But while questioning the
systems of Fine Art, Media Art etc, I think as producers, viewers,
educators and implicated accomplices, it's imperative to ask what do
we want to see happen or change.

As a graduate student in the eighties, I was taught by Harmony
Hammond, a painter and co-founder of Heresies. In her painting
class, she reserved time to present her personal collection of
artists' works she felt were under-represented by the mainstream art
world. It was a small but extremely powerful gesture. Eventually, in
2000 the collection was published under the title, Lesbian Art in
America: A Contemporary History. I learned much from Harmony, but
the most influential part of her teaching was watching her practice

So in this context, I'm asking myself how can I/we practice
*otherwise* and how might that *doing* nudge or broaden the scope of
dominant discourses and visual regimes.



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