On Oct 7, 2004, at 9:21 PM, curt cloninger wrote:
> It seems like at this point you're grapsing at things about which to
> be contrary. I think you're best tactic for sparking dialogue is to
> get into the work piece by piece, preferably with as little hyperbole
> as possible.
Thanks for the advice -- I will follow it as best I am able 02.
Although after seven hours straight today of responding to
multiplePeeps, this may be the last word from me on this particular
line of discussion, for fear of repeating myself and going around in
circles forever. But I certainly appreciate the condescending tone;
I'll be sure to lather it on liberally as well.
> The works in ArtBase are easy targets. Not to dis the ArtBase, but
> it seeks to be fairly inclusive, and nobody is really looking to it as
> the be all end all archive of contemporary new media art.
No, although that's essentially how it's framed by its creators -- the Rhizome.org
front page used to read "Rhizome.org -> THE NEW MEDIA ART
T H E New Media Art Resource. The one, as in [Gnostic/Matrix]
mythology, as in THE one. You think they didn't consider that? That's
calculated. So if they're going to claim definitiveness, I will hold
them to it. Rhizome and the ArtBase are thus representatives of
newMedia as a whole, and should be approached as such.
> You say that the Shape of Song (
) and textarc (
) don't utilize visual abstraction, that every
> pixel is procedural and representational. Perhaps from a technical
> coding perspective.
How about from a logical perspective? I define abstract as either
non-representational or so obscurely representational as to be
indistinguishable from non-representational. This is a fairly
controversial distinction, but I believe in it. I think squares moving
around the screen randomly is essentially the same as squares moving in
the same manner but driven by stock prices.
> But data visualization is inherently abstraction.
In that case, a book is abstract art, because language is an
abstraction of thought (which may be an abstraction of chemistry &&
physics?). Where do we stop? We get into stonerDiscussionLand.
> The artist is literally abstracting data (from text to animation in
> the first piece and from sound to shapeForm in the second). The
> artists could have abstracted the data any number of ways, but they
> chose to abstract it in very specific ways, not just to achieve
> accurate representation, but to achieve an abstract, aesthetic effect.
It's an aesthetic effect all right, but it's in no way abstract. Unless
you're going to count sheet music as abstract as well. Of course in one
sense (like language) it is, but as you can see, that's not a very
productive avenue of discussion, is it?
> The pieces work not just because they are useful or accurate (indeed,
> neither are terribly useful), but also because they look interesting.
Now who's using Marxist && scientific terminology? Who gives a fsck if
they're "useful" or "accurate?" That's not at all what makes them
interesting to me. What I find fascinating about them is the way that
they pose questions about navigation and representation, and attempt to
answer those questions. They are indeed interesting-looking -- they're
fascinating shapes when you realize how they describe and navigate
concepts and relationships. If you stripped away the conceptual
element, and I only had the visuals, I would absolutely disagree that
they were interesting-looking.
> Furthermore, the way in which they look interesting is intrinsically
> related to the data they are abstracting, but not merely arbitrarily
> driven by it.
Exactly! As you say, they are interesting in their way exactly because
of the concepts happening. If the MIDI files in Shape of Song merely
determined the amount to offset transparent squares, my interest
> Each coder's "hand/eye/craft/aesthetic intent" is imposed on the way
> the their output looks (in the case of Shape of Song) and moves/reacts
> (in the case of TextArc). This is part of the art.
Sure, no one doubts that nugget. I know you think I'm a negative d00d,
but I'm not attacking individuality...
> Regarding carnivore ( http://www.rhizome.org/carnivore
) the genius of
> the piece is precisely that it farms out the last-mile aesthetics to
> "artisans" (if you must) who enjoy and are skillful at visual
You say genius, I say Galloway was making a considered move to maintain
distance from this world of newFormalism while leveraging it to his
advantage. This project allowed him to use the kind of splashy
abstraction that gets people's attention without actually giving up his
Conceptualist membership card.
> Galloway tackled the obligatory political concept and coding. The
> political concept (surveilance) was/is very en vogue and thus a
> shoe-in for gallery-ization, but there's nothing terribly sexy about
> that aspect of it to me.
Nor to me. I find Galloway's work to have a fairly repellent tension
between Hipsterism, Careerism and Hackerism. The thin concepts that do
make their way into his work are, as you describe, unrelated to the
ulterior motives that drive it. But they are indeed an easy sell to
overEager galleries and institutions.
> 1. It takes brilliant advantage of the online community. It's true
> net art, not just because it runs on the network (again, an obligatory
> requirement), but because it optimizes the collaborative aspects of
> the networked community in its ongoing production.
I would rephrase your first sentence to read "It takes advantage of his
online community." Because the work was really about drawing attention
as "THE new media art resource," and the awesomeness
that is AlexGalloway. The more people who "collaborate" by contributing
clients, the more press and attention he receives. This work engages
the network on only the most superficial and rudimentary level; the net
simply serves as a highFashion publicRelations network to draw people
closer to Him.
> 2. In so clearly bifurcating the concept (backend) and the visual
> aesthetics (front end) it uses its literal, technical form as a
> meta-phor to foreground the split in art criticism between concept and
> visual aesthetics (the same split we've been dancing around for the
> last two days in these posts).
It is indeed a bifurcation, stemming from the realization that he could
capitalize on the screensaverization of newMedia while maintaining his
credibility as a "serious artist." In this way, all Carnivore clients
become part of his work, which happens to be to his advantage, while he
is absolved of the specific responsibility of authorship of those
clients. He reaps the praise as the conceptualistMastermind behind the
project, and artDirectors in magazines everywhere get to print
prettyPictures. And it doesn't stop there....
> The project then goes on to unite these two aspects into a single
> work, thus showing that the two aren't really diametrically opposed,
> but that they drive and complement each other and are "apiece."
Oh, everyone united in The House that Alex Built. It's touching! Truly
touching, and also utter fantasy. In his masterStroke, Galloway gets
credit for uniting conceptualism and aesthetics while actually driving
them further apart. By implicitly encouraging the production of work
that deals in [dataVisualization/dataAbstraction] (ie, Carnivore
clients), Galloway ensures that there will be enough prettyDataPictures
to draw people to Rhizome.org
for some time, and leaves him plenty of
time to create more hipsterCareerHacks. The division created is not a
comment on the division, but rather a protraction of the division.
> It's easy to look at Carnivore and get excited about the politcal
> aspects of surveilance. But that's the easy surface read of the
> project. You said earlier that RSG's part in the piece was
> concepetual. A facile critique.
It is conceptual, but it isn't about surveillance; it's about Alex
Galloway. At least Jeff Koons' work is about how ridiculousness and
shameless his carreeristNarcissism is. Galloway's work obfuscates the
fact that it is un-ironically about how cool he is.
> Their genius in the piece was to orchesetrate an outsourcing of the
> generic conceptual to the idiosynchratic abstract. And Alex's
> marketing genius in the whole project was to make it "about
> surveilance," when it's really not about surveilance at all
Exactly. Although one man's "marketing genius" is another's
> [Incidentally, Galloway also hired Takeshi Hamada (
) to design the carnivore logo. Hamada
> is the same designer who designed the rhizome logo you so flippantly
You're right -- I didn't spend enough time examining the Rhizome logo.
Let's look at it together! Hmm. I see lines. No, let's dig deeper!
Lines, as in linearity, as in 1-dimensionality, as in locked in a
to-and-fro proto-Flatland hell (AbbottStyle). Deeper still! Okay, I see
a hub and spoke, suggesting centrality, unification, Modernism. Deeper
still! Wait, they seem to be different colors, so there must be
multiple elements coming together in the same place! Like a city, which
grows rapidly before calcifying into stone. Deeper still! What's that?
You say these lines aren't simply random, but based on some... data?
What kind of data? Oh, 11 herbs and spices, eh? Well, a secret's a
secret -- I'll take your word that the lines are based on Something!
What's that? You want a final analysis?
It seems that this "Rhizome" is some sort of unified location for...
There. I've just given the logo more thought than most Rhizomers
probably [have/would care to]. Is there something deeper I should be
"getting," or am I just not appreciating it enough somehow?
> You say, "whether or not they agree." They categorically disagree,
> and that's my point. You may assimilate them into your current
> historical paradigm to your own intellectual satisfaction, but if they
> were here today, they wouldn't go so quietly.
I hate to say this, but if we start relying on the artists to interpret
their own work, intellectual discourse in the art community will
largely wither and die. Do you believe everything Warhol told you about
his work? Of course not, you look at the work and you draw your own
conclusions. The conclusion I've reached after snoring my way through
five or six years of FlashFormalism is that I'd like to raise a little
hell about why this work continues to be made.
> Brian Eno:
> Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
Breaking news: subscribing to Rhizome is NOT withdrawal in disgust, but
rather fullOn engagement. If you really want to withdraw from the
artWorld in disgust, unsubscribe and truly disEngage.
> cf: http://www.rhizome.org/print.rhiz?7261
(a summary of my position
> regarding contemporary new media criticism).
yesYes, although I do find it rather curious to craft such a critique
of criticism, when the piece is obviously part of that same critical
> So it ain't just FlashFormalism, Ben. It's "speaking" about art
> history; about new media's relation to art history; about the nature
> of time-shiftedness and instruction giving; about the balance between
> chaos and control; about the continuum of performance,
> meta-performance (literally "script writing"), and object; about the
> relationship between process and visual aesthetics; about the
> relationship between code, hand, line, and dance; about the ability of
> software-based media to evince an idiosynchratic personal style. Plus
> it looks so danged pretty. And the beauty of it (literally) is, you
> don't have to grok the above insights to get something out of the
This piece doesn't interest me, and to be honest, I don't really like
looking at it. But let's skip past that.
To pose a question that "Plasma Studii" raised, how much of your
analysis is the kind of critical rhetoric you so despise, and how much
do you really get out of the work? I'm fairly attuned to all of the
fields of interest that you raise, but when I look at this piece, I can
only get to a few of these concepts, and only when I really push
myself. And afterwards I have the dirty feeling that intellectually, I
just squeezed blood from a stone, and I might as well have been looking
at a Hallmark card or a block of wood. It's like an artSchool exercise:
write the artist's statement for the blackVelvet dolphinPainting. Lest
this get into a personal quibble over what two people get from a single
work, let me ask you this: if, as a hypothetical viewer, I'm not moved
or impressed enough by a piece to give it even a few minutes of
thought, will you really blame me?
Can you really point the finger at me for not "grokking" it, and accuse
me of intellectualSnobbery for asking why I see so many things like it?
> And you're not grocking those things (or you're doing an award-winning
> job at playing devil's advocate) because you've been conditioned to
> look for something heavy, political, important, groundbreaking, and
> immediately dialogue-able.
Oh, I see you *can* point the finger at me. Okay. This must be a
problem on my end. How did cCloninger find out about my artSchool
brainwashing, anyway? That fox is always one step ahead...
> (When intellectual stimulation leads to mental masturbation, call
> us. Our trained professionals are standing by.) If it's pretty and
> subtle and anti-sublime, it must not be saying anything. And if it
> happens to show some superficial resemblance to a screen saver, Egad!
> Out with the bathwater it goes.
Yes, because my critique is superficial and categorical. Oh wait, it's
not. I have no investment in overIntellectualizing anything. I'm simply
making a small point about the overAbundance of FlashFormalism, and
raising the issue of why there isn't more critical thought and
discourse around it. You (and others) seem to agree that more critical
engagement is desirable. So what, in precise terms, are we disagreeing
Besides, you say "masturbation" like its a dirty and shameful word, but
when I think about it, there is no better word to describe art!
* Both are immensely pleasurable (unless you have "issues" as they call
* Both are frowned upon in society (except by the enlightened few) --
even though *everybody* does it
* Both have no "productive" purpose, yet, oddly, seem to stimulate
those in production.
* Both can take place in public, alone, in pairs, in groups, or with
lubrication (see matthewBarney)
* Both can be either invigoratingly expressive and sensual, or
* Both are necessary and fascinating
* It's always weird when someone tries to teach you how to do either.
All art is masturbation. Although not necessarily vice versa. ;)
> No, but you're implicitly approaching art as material and humans as
Oh. Really? ...
> There's seems to be little room for the spiritual in the assumptions
> of your critical perspective. But then spirit went out with
> Romanticism, so you're off the hook there.
I don't like the word "spirit," just as I don't like the word "soul,"
as I think they're overUsed and at this point, bereft of the power that
their meaning once held. I don't adhere to any specific conventional
spirituality, but I place my own spirituality somewhere between Zen
Buddhism and [Superstring Theory/M-Theory]. Not that it has any
relevance to this discussion; if I am ever spiritually moved by a piece
of Flash art, you will be the very first to know.