a language for "proto-new media art"
After reading "<a href="/cgi-local/query.cgi?action=grab_object&kt=kt0531">bill
viola at the guggenheim</a>" [RHIZOME CONTENTBASE, 4.2.97] - a dialogue
about the exhibition facilitated by Rachel Greene - S. Pershall wrote:
Rachel, thanks for the transcript of the dialogue on the Bill Viola
piece, and the reference to the Soho Guggenheim's new agenda of
embracing "new media" art, which was exemplified in the recent Hugo Boss
exhibition. I was glad to see that you brought up Matthew Barney's
winning of the prize (there is, incidentally, an interesting article in
this month's Art in America about Barney and the prize itself). I found
it very disappointing that while Bill Viola's pieces were showing
downstairs, Barney's upstairs representation among the Hugo Boss
competitors included a showing of neither Cremaster I or Cremaster 4,
the videos for which he was nominated.
Another artist included in the Hugo Boss show, who has been working for
over twenty years in "new media," Laurie Anderson, was referred to in
the AIA article as having "the most entertaining" exhibit, but the
critic (Ken Johnson) felt that "it was not completely satisfying as
art." He states that it is Anderson's "eagerness to delight the
audience with all sorts of amusing visual, verbal, and technological
tricks" that is responsible for some ultimate lack of artistic
"seriousness" in her piece.
All of this leads me to wonder if the presentation or format of some of
the Hugo Boss pieces (multi-media installation including video, multiple
sound sources, animation, and LCD projection from Anderson; dual, often
overlapping video projection with dual sound sources from Stan Douglas;
performative installation featuring scientific machinery from Janine
Antoni) left some people, including critics, frustrated in the search
for a language with which to describe these pieces and a context in
which to view them. The fact that Rachel's group, disparate though it
was, had such an informed and meaningful conversation about the Viola
pieces makes me think that perhaps the presentation of what someone
called "proto-new media art" was a good beginning for the Guggenheim.
If we are to come to relate to this work, or "understand" it, we must
first develop, slowly, the language with which to discuss it.