Setting Up the Punch Line And Blogspace

Posted by Myron Turner | Thu May 6th 2004 3:12 p.m.

Curt Cloninger's recent post on "Setting Up the Punch Line" raises some questions about what we want out of net art, what we want it to be. While he rejects "conceptual work" (at least such as Sherri Levine's), the notion that art might have a "punch line" is in fact a derivative of Conceptual art in the first place. When art with a punch line first appeared, it's very nature--just being called "art"--had an impact in and of itself, and when it projected a significant message, viz Sol Lewitt going to The Netherlands to bury a metal cube in the ground, the impact was even greater. It was an Art which you didn't stand before, as at a shrine, drinking in its spirit. So it's no wonder that net art has such a predominance of work which ends in a punch-line and is embedded in explanatory texts. By its very nature, it is not a medium from which you can stand back. But unfortunately, the punch lines begin to wear thin. What we get is an art of the one-liner. And it doesn't live up to the promise of the net, which is just that, a network, interactive and participatory.

Recently, Ryan Griffiths contributed an excellent post on 'The Social Construction of Blogspace'. What his piece communicates most of all is his sense of the net as a space--both personal and public. Such a space is ripe with opportunities for art. The art of the punch line takes its queues from video and cinema, and there's no doubt that there are analogies to be made with both of these forms, just as there is with the book. But the art which explores the intersection of public and private space is architecture, and it's here where I believe that the art of the Internet will ultimately find its most profound analogies. It is no coincidence that we speak of computer architectures when referring to operating systems and systems of code--the net is founded upon these "architectures"--these technologies which organize and enable the public and private spaces of the Internet. Mathematicians speak of the beauty of mathematics, software developers speak of the elegance of code. In the very notion of computer architecture there is buried an aesthetic recognition. The question for net artists is how to understand and organize public and private spaces and their intersections so that these spaces become aesthetic and then, while doing this, to create just what is meant in such instances by "aesthetic".

I don't deny aesthetic value to the art of the one-liner and the usual web project, of which I have myself been guilty. But it's not enough to treat the screen like a wall in a gallery--to hang a work there on its glassy surface. The computer is a trans-prosthetic device--the monitor a virtual extension of what the phenomenologists call our "intentionality"--of the means by which we explore and know the phenomenal world, an extension of our mental space. In other words, it's not an object to "behold" but an object which extends our ability to behold. And it's here, where the computer has been internalized and where public and private meet that we can possibly create an art which like the art of galleries and architectural space takes us beyond the short attention span of the punch line.

Myron Turner
  • curt cloninger | Thu May 6th 2004 6:35 p.m.
    Myron Turner wrote:

    > It's here, where the computer has been internalized and
    > where public and private meet that we can possibly create an art which
    > like the art of galleries and architectural space takes us beyond the
    > short attention span of the punch line.

    Hi Myron,

    I find the architecture analogy more desirable than the gallery analogy, unless you mean some expansive installation piece that takes over the context of the entire gallery. Otherwise, the gallery is *not* what net art wants to be -- discrete piece after discrete piece, neatly labeled and formally contextualized as art.

    I'm guessing that artists are more free to work/exploit the network and new media when they aren't always having to fit their work into some contexted "art" box (as alexei shulgin could have told us in 1995). For example, only one of these pieces is self-aware "art" (florian kramer's "permutations"), yet the rest of the pieces are interesting along the same lines:
    http://deepyoung.org/permanent/autodidactic/

    Some other possible examples of un-art net.art:
    In the physical offices of Google, there is a digital screen displaying ongoing, real-time text feeds of live google search phrases as they are being typed in by users all over the world (cf: http://metaspy.com ). T. Whid (disparagingly or astutely) observed that this is the coolest piece of net art anybody's ever made [i'm paraphrasing]. In a similar vein, Auriea Harvey once commented that NN would eventually be remembered more for her funky bulletin board rhetoric than for her Nato55 software [again, i'm paraphrasing].

    So maybe visiting http://www.kartoo.com and searching for "curt cloninger" presents a better example of my "net.art" than http://lab404.com/art/

    But then, maybe not. I'm not opposed to what some dismissively call web art or screen art. To me, heavy conceptual use of the network is not a pre-requisite for valid online work, nor does it de facto guarantee interesting online work. I'm just opposed to cheezy one-liner art (whether online, offline, in a boat, with a goat, etc.). I don't just want to "get it." I want to be engaged by it.

    _
  • void void | Thu May 6th 2004 8:35 p.m.
    Take my art... please!

    AE04.
  • Myron Turner | Thu May 6th 2004 10:42 p.m.
    Hi Curt,

    Once again, I'm indebted to your great eclectic "ear" for web sites. I'm probably the ideal victim of autodidactic's wit, since I've known 'Hamlet' well, having taught it, but it's been over 10 years since I've looked at it. So, there was an immediate sense of familiarity, but not immediate recognition.

    I also like kartoo.com, a search engine with witty self-awareness.

    As to your qualificaton about "expansive installations" pieces--I agree: I think of architecture as a metaphor for virtual space, not as an actual space where installations could be mounted. I like the metaphor because architecture, despite its potentially massive physicality, or perhaps when it is most massive and cannnot be taken in all at once, requires an internalized imaginative grasp of space. And it's an internalized imaginative beholding of space that, I feel, is the defining characteristic of networks as aesthetic constructions.
    I hope that this doesn't sound like too much of a stretch--but it helps me to view the net in the idealistic terms that have always appealed to me.

    Myron

    curt cloninger wrote:

    > I find the architecture analogy more desirable than the gallery
    > analogy, unless you mean some expansive installation piece that takes
    > over the context of the entire gallery. Otherwise, the gallery is
    > *not* what net art wants to be -- discrete piece after discrete piece,
    > neatly labeled and formally contextualized as art.
    >
    > I'm guessing that artists are more free to work/exploit the network
    > and new media when they aren't always having to fit their work into
    > some contexted "art" box (as alexei shulgin could have told us in
    > 1995). For example, only one of these pieces is self-aware "art"
    > (florian kramer's "permutations"), yet the rest of the pieces are
    > interesting along the same lines:
    > http://deepyoung.org/permanent/autodidactic/
    >
    > So maybe visiting http://www.kartoo.com and searching for "curt
    > cloninger" presents a better example of my "net.art" than
    > http://lab404.com/art/
    >
    >
    > _
  • curt cloninger | Fri May 7th 2004 12:04 a.m.
    Myron Turner wrote:

    > I think of architecture as a metaphor for virtual space, not as
    > an actual space where installations could be mounted. I like the
    > metaphor because architecture, despite its potentially massive
    > physicality, or perhaps when it is most massive and cannnot be taken
    > in all at once, requires an internalized imaginative grasp of space.
    > And it's an internalized imaginative beholding of space that, I feel,
    > is the defining characteristic of networks as aesthetic constructions.
    > I hope that this doesn't sound like too much of a stretch--but it
    > helps me to view the net in the idealistic terms that have always
    > appealed to me.

    I think I understand what you are saying. You're not comparing architecture to the net in terms of a William Gibson cyberspace VR type connection (an awkward/unnatural imposition onto a network that wants to be more about code [programmatic, semantic, even iconic] than 3D space). It seems like you're saying architecture is cool becauese you can't out-meta it. You're not going to put somebody's architecture into a gallery. Architecture defines its own context (or its context is simply worldspace). And the network can be that way too. It's not just a "place" to show your art; it is itself an artistic medium, with its own kind of implicit unboundedness (Eric Raymond likens it to the noosphere -- realtime mindspace). Heady stuff, but I don't think it's entirely unfounded.
  • Rob Myers | Fri May 7th 2004 5:43 a.m.
    On Friday, May 07, 2004, at 00:35AM, atomic elroy <atomic@pcisys.net> wrote:

    >Take my art... please!

    http://www.creativecommons.org/

    - Rob.
  • Myron Turner | Fri May 7th 2004 10:49 a.m.
    Right--heady--the kind of thing that can send chills up your spine!

    Myron

    curt cloninger wrote:

    >
    > It seems like you're saying architecture is cool becauese
    > you can't out-meta it. You're not going to put somebody's
    > architecture into a gallery. Architecture defines its own context (or
    > its context is simply worldspace). And the network can be that way
    > too. It's not just a "place" to show your art; it is itself an
    > artistic medium, with its own kind of implicit unboundedness (Eric
    > Raymond likens it to the noosphere -- realtime mindspace). Heady
    > stuff, but I don't think it's entirely unfounded.
  • Rob Myers | Fri May 7th 2004 11:40 a.m.
    On Friday, May 07, 2004, at 02:49PM, Myron Turner <myron_turner@shaw.ca> wrote:

    >Right--heady--the kind of thing that can send chills up your spine!
    >
    >Myron
    >
    >curt cloninger wrote:
    >
    >>
    >> It seems like you're saying architecture is cool becauese
    >> you can't out-meta it. You're not going to put somebody's
    >> architecture into a gallery. Architecture defines its own context (or
    >> its context is simply worldspace). And the network can be that way
    >> too. It's not just a "place" to show your art; it is itself an
    >> artistic medium, with its own kind of implicit unboundedness (Eric
    >> Raymond likens it to the noosphere -- realtime mindspace). Heady
    >> stuff, but I don't think it's entirely unfounded.

    What about architectural-scale art? Or architectural models? Or designs. Exhibitions of architecture are very common (Archigram are on at the moment: Conceptual Architecture from the 1960s...). Art on the scale of architecture is also common.

    You can always paint a picture of architecture. It's harder to make a building of a painting. The desire to control space and behaviour that architecture seems to offer to satiate can be achieved through art as well, although it's hard to get a new kitchen fitted in a Picasso.

    - Rob.

    - Rob.
  • curt cloninger | Fri May 7th 2004 1:35 p.m.
    Rob Myers wrote:

    > What about architectural-scale art? Or architectural models? Or
    > designs. Exhibitions of architecture are very common (Archigram are on
    > at the moment: Conceptual Architecture from the 1960s...).

    still, walking through a Hadid building is a lot cooler than looking at a 3D flythrough of a model of a Hadid building.

    > Art on the
    > scale of architecture is also common.

    and interesting.

    > You can always paint a picture of architecture. It's harder to make a
    > building of a painting.

    But you can always hang a painting on the wall of a building called a gallery.

    > The desire to control space and behaviour that
    > architecture seems to offer to satiate can be achieved through art as
    > well, although it's hard to get a new kitchen fitted in a Picasso.

    Per this thread, it's less architecture's control of space and behavior that's being admired as it is architecture's ability to achieve a kind of most-meta-ness. I agree that "art" can also achieve this (without necessarily being big or even physical). But (by definition) it can't achieve most-meta-ness while hanging on a gallery wall with a label under it.
  • Rob Myers | Fri May 7th 2004 2:43 p.m.
    On 7 May 2004, at 17:35, curt cloninger wrote:

    > Rob Myers wrote:
    >
    >> What about architectural-scale art? Or architectural models? Or
    >> designs. Exhibitions of architecture are very common (Archigram are on
    >> at the moment: Conceptual Architecture from the 1960s...).
    >
    > still, walking through a Hadid building is a lot cooler than looking
    > at a 3D flythrough of a model of a Hadid building.

    I take your point.

    >> You can always paint a picture of architecture. It's harder to make a
    >> building of a painting.
    >
    > But you can always hang a painting on the wall of a building called a
    > gallery.

    And you can paint that, and so it recurses. Art & Language's 'Incidents
    in The Museum' spring to mind.

    >> The desire to control space and behaviour that
    >> architecture seems to offer to satiate can be achieved through art as
    >> well, although it's hard to get a new kitchen fitted in a Picasso.
    >
    > Per this thread, it's less architecture's control of space and
    > behavior that's being admired as it is architecture's ability to
    > achieve a kind of most-meta-ness. I agree that "art" can also achieve
    > this (without necessarily being big or even physical). But (by
    > definition) it can't achieve most-meta-ness while hanging on a gallery
    > wall with a label under it.

    But what is architecture most-meta to? It's real-space (unless it's a
    mall...). In terms of abstraction, generality, referentiality (etc.),
    art wins hands-down.

    I've nothing *against* architecture, it's just different to art.

    --
    "If record companies sold bottled water they'd demand that poison be
    added to your taps.
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