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The Rematerialization of Art


Marx and Engels claimed that capitalism's "constant revolutionizing of production" ultimately means "all that is solid melts into air." The contemporary art market, however, describes an opposite process: innovations such as the flat-screen monitor, the digital print, and the editioned DVD, have helped transform immaterial forms like video and net.art into a new generation of physical, sellable objects. Underscoring the gallery-friendly moment, "Holy Fire: Art of the Digital Age" at Bruxelles's iMAL Center for Digital Cultures and Technology presents a show of works already for sale on the art market. While it's not surprising to find a younger crew who came of age within the current market (Eddo Stern, Cory Arcangel, Paul Slocum), more significant are the first-generation net.art names who have ditched their former outsider status and joined the commercial club: note the inclusion of Jodi, Vuk Cosic, Alexei Shulgin, and Olia Lialina, as well as later, politically pointed artists like 0100101110101101.ORG and Joan Leandre. (As corollary, observe that old media have been effected as well as new: a similar if less totalizing movement towards object-production has taken hold within the formerly market-excluded world of experimental filmmaking.) Holy Fire curators Yves Bernard and Domenico Quaranta say that to speak of new media art "doesn't really make sense today," since "all contemporary art is, someway, new media art" and many artists prefer to state their concern as "just art." With a panel moderated by Patrick Lichty of anti-corporate hoaxsters The Yes Men, the debate on that claim is guaranteed to be lively. - Ed Halter

Image: Alexei Shulgin and Aristarkh Chernyshev, Commercial Protest, 2007

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Tom Moody April 2 2008 12:44Reply

Hi, Ed,
Am I to understand that this is an exhibit organized in a non-profit space, the theme of which is, "how artists are finding ways to get paid out there in the commercial realm"?

This is meager grist for a show.

If the theme is "all contemporary art is, someway, new media art" then Bernard and Quaranta really need to come over to NY and see the Whitney Biennial 2008 and "Unmonumental," shows that seem designed to prove the opposite assertion.

The galleries in those shows are dominated by physical objects and seem to be saying that assemblage is the most important practice.

We haven't talked in a while, hope all is well.

Best, Tom

Pall Thayer April 2 2008 13:28Reply

I have to say that the title, "The Rematerialization of Art" has an interesting ring to it. However, if this becomes a trend it has to be considered a bit of a cop-out. The de-materialization of art is one of the biggest hurdles that the art-world has had to deal with for quite some time and those challenges haven't been resolved yet. Or is this the resolution? Pretending that the immaterial is material by packaging it with hardware (that is most likely going to fail at some point, I hope the "investors" are aware of that.) On second thought, this really doesn't change anything. The art is still immaterial. Isn't it a bit like buying a bottle of "nothing" and calling it something because it came with a bottle?


Tom Moody April 2 2008 13:39Reply

The art world has been selling souvenirs of dematerialized acts since the 60s. There's nothing wrong with artists getting paid. Talking about it is boring, though.

Steve OR Steven Read April 2 2008 14:13Reply

"This is meager grist for a show."
Exactly what I was thinking!

Maybe shows like this are designed to convince a hesitant collector market "its safe to buy this now". Seems like such a given that anything can (and will) be packaged, marketed, and sold… the buyers I suppose are more concerned with WHEN and WHO. Its weird that the show theme appears to be so directly about that.

For the grand parade of lifeless packaging - all ready to use
The grand parade of lifeless packaging - I just need a fuse

P Gabriel

a bill miller April 2 2008 16:57Reply

I think selling an "editioned DVD" is really funny.

Tom Moody April 2 2008 17:16Reply

So is an "editioned photo" at this point. We make compromises (arbitrary cutoffs of supply, agreeing to respect the edition, etc.) to help support artists in this cruel world.
I can't believe I'm talking about this at this late date.
Maybe Paul Slocum, who occasionally chimes in on blogs, will tell us what he hopes to accomplish by being in this show–how it helps or expands the dialog around his work.
As in, "My work was in a show about selling new media because…"
Or Olia? C'mon!

To me the issue is not material vs immaterial but rather dumb show idea vs smart show idea.

And don't get me wrong–I've been in some dumb shows. Just not on this theme.

Domenico Quaranta April 3 2008 07:23Reply

Hi Dears,

I'm happy that a discussion is getting started, even if I would expect something more on Rhizome. You are right, this is a boring concept. A boring concept for a not-boring show. You can look at the show without even thinking to the concept: what you see is a collection of interesting artworks that someone passionately started to sell and collect. Keep on calling them "gadgets", you if you like: I call them art works.

Personally, Holy Fire as been exactly the way to get rid of some boring discussions I was involved in the the last few years. New media curators saying "New media art is not exactly something a museum can invest on, because it's immaterial and processual, difficult to show and to collect". Magazine editors saying "New Media Art is out of the market". Art critics who don't even now that New Media Art exists, and has been here for a long time. Also, I'm quite tired to jump across two worlds which don't communicate between each other. Probably, if any of you would have read something more than the press release, or Ed's beautiful review, would have found some interesting statements such as:

“Questions such as: “Are new media art and contemporary art two different things? Is new media art the art of our time? Is it the art of the future or an art without a future?” never fail to exasperate me. It has something to do with the “new media” label which fits the genre like a straitjacket and sends it to a ghetto without even a flicker of compassion. Forget the new, drop the media, enjoy art.”
Regine Debatty

"We are open for business as long as we have good stuff to sell. If we don’t have good stuff for sale we shutdown the shop. Good stuff for sale is always welcome in a world full of trash. We also like to share, trade and steal from motherfuckers. It’s a complex multilayered attitude, it requires great calm but strong breathing at high altitudes. The higher you go the more blurred your mind is.”
Joan Leandre

“I consider myself to be at the ‘rear-guard’ rather than up front with the avant-garde in ‘media art’. I guess I score points by saying this, but this is not my intention. Every medium that is labelled - ‘something art’ is heading for a 1000 hurts. At the very worst it can lead to an art ghetto, where artists, whose only common link is that they are faced with the same criticism."
Charles Sandison

"New media art is a terrific expansion of available tools and the cultural playing field - an addition, not a replacement. Our goal is to actually strip the “New Media Artists” of the New Media part and deliver them to a larger pool where they are known simply as Artists."
Magdalena Sawon & Tamas Banovich, Postmasters Gallery


This is Holy Fire.

About the artists in the show. The exhibition doesn't help to expand the dialogue around their work. They are here just because they are working with galleries, or sold their work to private collectors. THIS, in my opinion, helps to expand the dialogue around their work, setting them in a "wider pool", in front of a wider audience.

Hope to see you all in Brussels!

Tom Moody April 3 2008 11:57Reply

Thanks, Domenico,
Re: your disappointment in Rhizome, I had hoped that Ed might pop in to defend the show he recommended so you didn't have to do it yourself, but it seems he has also left the building.
We've discussed these issues at length on my blog (including with several artists in your show, hence the first person plural). I will spare you a long list of links.
You are "preaching to the choir," as we say here in America.
You have organized your show around a defensive idea, and that is never a good idea.
If you make the ideas sexy and package them reasonably well, the rest will follow. Talking about the packaging is only interesting if it raises content issues with respect to the work. That might have been an interesting topic.

patrick lichty April 3 2008 12:05Reply

New Media was a genre based on a community in the 90's.
In the 2000's, it became a series of practices understood as a group of media arts
It is currently being historicized as a movement.

(However, it is also a meme used within the communications industry, which is a problem. Don't confuse them, or as little as possible.)

As moderator for the panelin the Holy Fire exhibition at IMAL, I want to chime in for a moment with a partially invested opinion. However, Domenico asked me to be there because I am a true hybrid on the subject; I am a gallery artist, curator, and critic, who, given the body of work, also critically questions material culture and the nature of art as fetish/commodity. In fact, my graduate thesis dealt with a form of Platonic tension between the (im)material in art [but almost no one has seen this body of work]. In a way, I am both for and against this practice of collecting New Media, depending on context.

I understand the tradition of patronage as well as the struggle against bourgeois culture created by the 20th Century Avant-Garde. After the collapse of Modernism, it really depends on what context and tradition you wish to address, and how you wish to frame yourself (as Nauman and Beuys created the artist as "ouevre" [body-of-work]). The joy of the Postmodern, and as we go into the next period at the moment (name TBA), is that immaterial culture's association with the material (expand at will) is that the antagonism between the art market and the avant is diffused by allowing for localized discourse. Since the "ism" was destroyed, art atomized into very local threads of genre, into small groups, and even imploded to the individual.

There is no need to rebel against Modernism once it is turned into a field on the Venn diagram, and its role as master narrative is displaced. This is not to say that it has _gone away_, and the same for the art market after conceptualism. In fact, before the 2007 financial crises, a lot of artists working in the genre formerly called "New Media" (to paraphrase Dietz) have gone to the galleries. Is this so shocking?

Part of this comes from the emergence of New Media as a Contemporary Art Form after the shows Art Entertainment Network, net.condition, Whitney Biennial 2000, 010101: Art in Technological Times, Data Dynamics, The Art Formerly Known As New Media, and so on. This is the blessing and the bane of acceptance - the greater world tradition of Contemporary Art is at your disposal, but you also have to deal with that broader community and its terms and traditions, as well as your former community in the New Media world. Many of us who are older New Media artists are now Contemporary Artists, which is something that was nearly impossible a decade ago.

However, like Video Art, which is the cultural forebear of New Media, the coming of the festival and dedicated "media" community based on common interest, cultural specificity, formal/technical exploration is still needed. Therefore the New Media community certainly still exists, even if it is pulled at by commercial agendas (art programs catering to industrial/entertainment application), the art world (as New Media now has to compete with the global art community or stay within localized discourse). We have a New Media genre/community because there is a number of us who want to share, get together, and discuss what our work is doing in the world and what we're learning from it.

With artists like Murakami/Superflat, the 8-Bit crowd (Slocum, Beige, Paperrad Arcangel, et al) there is a NeoPop resurgence, which has elements of its predecessor; that is, surface, mass production, consumption. The arrival of niche fabrication has stepped up the ante on production by allowing microproduction of limited edition items. Contrary to merely reinscribing the old agendas of material culture, the new age of fabrication threatens to reconfigure it, by creating tons of editioned items that are (more or less) easily created. Therefore, I would challenge the cursory onlooker to say that we could be entering an era apprximating Stephenson's "Diamond Age" or a "Fluxus Materialism" of easily made material art. But I think that in the age of NeoPop that the reemergence of the object and the integration of production of media artists into material culture seems oddly logical, if not appropriate.

On the other hand, as in a recent talk in Amsterdam, the distinctions between cultures may be more centered in class. While the "ism" has been decentered, and conceptualism still abounds, and that Media Art is in increasing acceptance, the Art World, the markets, and its community of patronage is still firmly in place, even though additional protocological levels have been created to address new niches. The problem as I see it is that many Media artists either wish the art market would go away, lose its relevance/power, allow the artist to become hegemon, stop assigning cultural value to "poor" works, ascribe value by intellectual/cultural means rather than those of power and wealth, etc. etc. What I see is a discursive mismatching, in that much New Media does not account for/negotiate Contemporary social, cultural and institutional traditions, and vice versa. What I find fascinating from a purely phenomenological POV is that these effects are happening, whatever your stance.

And it isn't boring - what is happening is a fracturing/reconfiguration of the discourse of dematerialization of the object itself, begun with Duchamp himself, and chronicled by Lippard in her seminal book. Immaterial artists are returning to atoms, which is relatively avant- at the moment. I see this analogous to discussions by a number of scholars of my acquaintance regarding a "New Humanism" that acknowledges the real, throws out the Foucaultian 'body' in terms of the human being, while still accounting for individual plurality, thus not being a "Neo-Modernist" backlash.

Lastly, I want to mention something regarding the valuation of art in context of media - especially New Media. At a recent symposium on computer art at Northwestern University's Block Museum, I challenged the endless worrying about New Media's persistence in relation to its valuation. For example, there are many well-known artists whose work is certainly highly prized, but ephemeral - Oursler, Flavin, HIRST, and even many of the mid-20th century masters like Pollack have been falling apart. I wonder how well Ofili's elephant dung is rated for archival? This taken in context with the fact that most digital/New Media artists are held to wholly different standards (Will your print last for at least 200 years?), or the persistence of a work when compared to lesser standards by more "traditional" contemporary artists merely makes certain power and cultural relations visible.

I also realize that others may not share my views, but in many ways, I feel like saying that one thing this show asks is whether New Media has been accepted as Contemporary Art (i.e. become part of the gallery/museum world), whose practices have been accepted, how that fits into the current contemporary dialogue, and how does that relate to larger "mainstream" art historical traditions.

Tom Moody April 3 2008 12:10Reply

Correction: I have talked with Paul Slocum about presentation issues on the blog and elsewhere and I talked a bit with Olia Lialina about it, but that may have just been by email. So it's not accurate to say that several artists in your show have discussed this on my blog. Paddy Johnson, Michael Bell-Smith and I had a lengthy confab about the content issues of being "geeks in the gallery" on her blog if you want to check it out.

Tom Moody April 3 2008 12:29Reply

Hi, Patrick,
"one thing this show asks is whether New Media has been accepted as Contemporary Art (i.e. become part of the gallery/museum world), whose practices have been accepted, how that fits into the current contemporary dialogue, and how does that relate to larger "mainstream" art historical traditions."

That's three things. Taking the questions in turn the answers are:

1. No. (See my comment above about the current Whitney and NewMu surveys)

2. The galleries have their own idea of media art–it's mostly video but there is sometimes a computer component (tabulating data, etc.). The computer is not front and center, it is usually in the back story.

3. Computercentric art has not been accepted into the mainstream and won't be as long as shows are only "about" packaging/marketing. We need more than that to be inspired (e.g "a NeoPop resurgence"). You are providing context after the fact for a show with a weak premise. Maybe Domenico should have consulted you before organizing the show.

Salvatore Iaconesi April 3 2008 13:04Reply

"3. Computercentric art has not been accepted into the mainstream and won't be as long as shows are only "about" packaging/marketing. We need more than that to be inspired (e.g "a NeoPop resurgence")."


what is needed is narrative! even minimalistic/bitcentered/geekLikeable ones, but narratives.

and packaging/marketing.

patrick lichty April 3 2008 13:09Reply

Please correct:
I understand the tradition of patronage as well as the struggle against bourgeois culture by the 20th Century Avant-Garde. After the collapse of Modernism, it really depends on what context and tradition you wish to address, and how you wish to frame yourself (as Nauman and Beuys created the artist as "ouevre" [body-of-work]).

In return -
1: Tell Cao Fei that, Jaume Plensa, Jenny Holzer, John Simon, Lincoln Schatz, Cory Arcangel, and many others.

2: New Media in the gallery isn't about putting a computer in a showroom - that's the infrastructure, not the experience. That's only one model of representation, and the most narrow one - the one that keeps New Media in the festivals.

3: The show is creating dialogue, which I think is healthy - and some rather hot debate; again quite healthy. But would Oliver Grau, Roy Ascott, Eduardo Kac, Oron Catts and Paul Vanouse think New Media is computational - I think they'd say it was also inclusive of Biotech, Friedman and Rozen probably of Robotics. Is Tactical Media, also New Media, more computational or social? This is the problem with only saying that "New Media" is about "computer-centric", which, while being a dominant form, isn't.

The dialogue seems more important than whether we are putting computers in galleries - this is what I mean by the difference between the Contemporary artist using New Media and the contemporary New Media artist. The latter expects the gallery to accommodate them, which they rarely even do for the traditional artist. The idea that New Media is somehow "entitled" to infrastructural support is a grave misconception to anyone working in the New Media genre to work in Contemporary circles.

That's just the technical end - on the Cultural end, we can stretch the discursive envelope, but we can't sit in a yurt in Mongolia, and expect the public to have to fly thousands of miles, trek by camel and jeep, and then not get it.

The point is, where it is reasonable to expect to present some challenge to the audience, curators, and gallery owners, it is also unreasonable to say that the gallery owner has to provide support beyond that of other artists, and that the public would not be provided with some elements of common cultural reference (i.e. ties to contemporary or art history) in order to "grok" what one is getting at. We're communicators - and if the message is not getting across (even if it's a "sublime" experience), we've failed.

Tom Moody April 3 2008 13:29Reply

One bug with this comment software (in addition to the delay in the comment counter, which Paddy Johnson noted today) is that if you refresh you can end up reposting, as I think you just found out.
Written before reading your repl(ies).

Patrick May April 3 2008 13:42Reply

Fixed, thanks.

Tom Moody April 3 2008 13:41Reply

I must have missed Cao Fei that, Jaume Plensa, Jenny Holzer, John Simon, Lincoln Schatz, Cory Arcangel in the Whitney and NewMu this year. I will go back and check.

Jenny Holzer got her start tacking truisms up on New York phone poles, not in the new media sphere.

Rather than a show about packaging/marketing, it would seem better to pair new media sphere artists with non, and not make a big deal about what you're doing.

An example off the top of my head: pair Douglas Gordon's 24 hour Psycho with Cory Arcangel's Slow Tetris. This bootstraps Arcangel into the discourse of a known "media art genius" from the gallery side and he comes off rather better for the comparison, because his piece is more cheeky/fun. The theme is "time in media," not sales.

Not saying this isn't being done with Arcangel–it is (maybe even with those pieces, I forget). My point is that's a better way to bring art into the computercentric world the rest of us live in than these circle the wagons exhibitions.

patrick lichty April 3 2008 18:49Reply

"I must have missed Cao Fei that, Jaume Plensa, Jenny Holzer, John Simon, Lincoln Schatz, Cory Arcangel in the Whitney and NewMu this year. I will go back and check."

Not a good barometer - New Museum MoMA, and Whitney are good for plumbing the US art scene, and I never judge from 1:only NYC, and 2: only biennials.

However, there was July, Klima, Lazzarini, Flanagan, McCoys Napier, MTAA - a bunch more. Maybe not those museums, this year. Your point is taken, just isn't mine.

"Jenny Holzer got her start tacking truisms up on New York phone poles, not in the new media sphere."

Not the point. What I'm getting at is how New Media techniques are becoming part of Contempoary practice. I'm not that concerned if you started with New Media or not (I did).

Rather than a show about packaging/marketing, it would seem better to pair new media sphere artists with non, and not make a big deal about what you're doing.

An example off the top of my head: pair Douglas Gordon's 24 hour Psycho with Cory Arcangel's Slow Tetris. This bootstraps Arcangel into the discourse of a known "media art genius" from the gallery side and he comes off rather better for the comparison, because his piece is more cheeky/fun. The theme is "time in media," not sales.

"Not saying this isn't being done with Arcangel–it is (maybe even with those pieces, I forget). My point is that's a better way to bring art into the computercentric world the rest of us live in than these circle the wagons exhibitions."

Not sure I'd call it a wagon maneuvering exercise - the show is not perfect, but few are. I think it's more about looking at the current generation of media artists and considering the shifts in art world practice, which is hardly "let's talk about New Media", although it is in a media arts center. We could probably rewind this 25 years and stick a VCR in our hands.

Computer-centric world - just my 2 cents, but I really hope that artists working with technology aren't limited to talking about technoculture.

Salvatore mentions narrative (good!), and:
""the point" possibly shifts toward the perspective that in the contemporary era *all* production is aesthetically characterized, creating a radical change in which what really makes the difference is the visual (sensorial) fetish incorporated in a "thing". And that's the a really substantial change running from Marx to Adorno or Benjamin.
In this perspective everything is actually new media, whether you print it, paint it, code it or whatever. "

Yes, exactly. the formal codification of what New Media is represents a real problem, or what people would like it to be, like web art becoming browser art.

Interesting thing is that I'm making completely solid state NM using embedded microprocessors. Very computational, but also very material, and (unless I'm wrong) should last as long as a VCR tape.

Honestly, I'm more interested in cultural media persistence than commodification.

Olia - very interesting about not wanting to be part of the "contemporary" scene. Very provocative.

Pall Thayer April 3 2008 14:06Reply

"Rather than a show about packaging/marketing, it would seem better to pair new media sphere artists with non, and not make a big deal about what you're doing."

If I recall correctly, that was done quite recently in Portugal. An exhibition curated in part by Christiane Paul. I don't remember the name or place but it was announced here on Rhizome at the time.

Tom Moody April 3 2008 14:25Reply

"My point is that's a better way to bring art into the computercentric world the rest of us live in than these circle the wagons exhibitions."

By the rest of us I mean most of contemporary culture where jobs mean staring at a computer all day, banks are doing away with paper checks and urging you to go online, etc. You don't have to ask the gallery to show an actual computer, just get it to acknowledge its own retro devotion to old handmade forms as a misplaced antidote to computercentric culture, which is the norm outside the galleries (even in Mongolia).

x-arn April 3 2008 14:50Reply

Begin Google translation: The most curious in this story is that adopting some formal standards of contemporary art to integrate the art market existing digital practices presented in this expo will re-materialise in objects (digital print on canvas, …), completely unlike the overly abstract financial products that circulate on the capital markets. This movement of re-materialization of art forms seems sorely lacking imagination, where we might expect from contemporary artistic practices, digital, intangible and distributed at the outset, they offer new ways exchange of value and should evolve and the art market itself. Currently, the operation resembles a bid regressive, a sad sterilization.

Salvatore Iaconesi April 3 2008 15:26Reply

since we are talking "contemporary", we might add that wether to make or not paintings or pictures or sculptures of things is not exactly the point.

"the point" possibly shifts toward the perspective that in the contemporary era *all* production is aesthetically characterized, creating a radical change in which what really makes the difference is the visual (sensorial) fetish incorporated in a "thing". And that's the a really substantial change running from Marx to Adorno or Benjamin.

In this perspective everything is actually new media, wether you print it, paint it, code it or whatever.


A. Andreas April 3 2008 16:03Reply

Interesting dicourse anyway, but I do mis some vital points:


A. Andreas April 3 2008 16:21Reply

Interesting discussion anyway, but I do miss some vital points:

1 Regarding the position of the art buyer, is not it that (s)he is expressing its fetishtic feelings of being around the work of art that urged to invest in it in the first place. The work of art can never be sold , and remains always in its hermetic isolation. The only sellable item is the actual presence of the artwork.

2 Regarding the position of the artist, is it not that s(h)e is actually selling his artistic position in the social context of being in an art environment, the more esteem, the higher the price. and it is still not the work of art what is commodified but the social, relational, human interaction which is expressed in capitalization .

So , whatever point of view one takes the immaterial 'being' of the work of art is not in anyway materialized, neither in the contained work nor in the apprehension of the spectator.

For me as an artist , the only reason to ever think about selling my work, is in knowing that my work cannot be owned.
I think and like to discuss this further.i.e. A work of art cannot be owned. The economical value attached to it by art dealers and art consumers is a derived value which has no connection with the immaterial artistic value added to it by the artist. A consumer can buy a material residual approximation of the original, fixed in a more or less transportable object, which acts as a fetish for the immaterial value it represents. By owning such a material object , the owner can feel in the proximity of these immaterial value, but never can claim any right for that particular value.

A. Andreas 2008

Tom Moody April 3 2008 17:21Reply

A painting is labor invested towards an idea. Once the painting is finished it becomes a product that keeps on communicating the idea, long after the artist ceases to be associated with it. Despite the immateriality of art thought process and the potential for misunderstanding of the idea as embodied in the object, a consensus emerges about what the object means and its value. Hence an art market. It is now possible to have this same symbolic discourse with DVDs and data burned to hard drives, which, although not as durable as paintings can still be archived and owned. Can we please move on?

olia lialina April 3 2008 17:38Reply

To answer your question "what you hope to accomplish to be in this show?"
Nothing to accomplish, I'm just very glad to be in it. Dragan and me have produced some works recently. They are not web art, but works about the web.

Let me quote from my own text Flat Against the Wall:

“For a long time it did not make sense to show net art in real space:
museums or galleries. For good reasons you had to experience works of
net artists on your own connected computer.

Yesterday for me as an artist it made sense only to talk to people in
front of their computers, today I can easily imagine to apply to
visitors in the gallery because in their majority they will just have
gotten up from their computers. They have the necessary experience and
understanding of the medium to get the ideas, jokes, enjoy the works and
buy them.”

I'm very happy that there are galleries like ABC in Moscow and And/Or in Dallas who value our digital craft and that there are collectors who are interested in the works where the web is immortalized :)

But there is something I'd like to achieve as well by being present at the debates at Art Brussels. I'm very very much against the merge of the new media into the contemporary art scene. I think that position, spoken by Regine Debaty – forget media, drop new, enjoy art – is sort of reactionary. I don't enjoy art, I enjoy some of the new media, especially WWW and I find media specificity to be the most exiting thing. So I'm really looking fwd to make this statement at the art fair.

Pall Thayer April 3 2008 17:53Reply

In the case of computer-programmed art, labour is invested towards an idea. Once the software is finished it becomes a product that keeps on communicating the idea, long after the artist ceases to be associated with it… You can print the code on archival paper or even laser etch it into stone and you have a durable archive of the work that can live forever.

Tom Moody April 3 2008 18:52Reply

Yes, Olia, that kind of proactive statement is what we need–what I was trying to say earlier is the junk assemblage in the Whitney and NewMu is old news, more exciting things are happening right now. In New York we have several galleries that are well along in this discourse of hybrid gallery-specific/net-specific art which may be partly why I am irritated with a show that still frames the issue defensively. As I said somewhere back up the thread, talking about how the embodiment of the art changes art is an interesting topic. That is not the topic of the show you are in, which is "proving new media art is sellable"–but hopefully you can turn it into something interesting.

Vuk Cosic April 3 2008 19:47Reply

Wow, so many words.

One nice thing about this show is that Alexei and Jodi and Olia and I will meet after quite a while.
Heath was in Brux 10 days ago and can't make it, but he is traveling to Croatia this summer and we will meet then.

One other nice thing is that we don't have to go around painting other people's apartments in order to keep making and doing art. Now we are payed for covering those walls with artwork. That is much better, principally because of the price difference per square inch.

Olia, please remind me to give you the 100 Euros for selling that file of mine to the Spanish museum.

Hey readers of this, I want to do shows and work again, anybody game? This retirement shit is killing me. I grew fat. I need to work in order to lose weight. Help me.

marcin ramocki April 3 2008 20:05Reply

Tom, just wanted to add a few question/comments:

1. What exactly is the problem with organizing a show around collected artwork?
Seems completely natural to me. What is the problem with good artists making
money selling GOOD work? This is the way things are supposed to be…no?

2. New Media (which for now is very much a valid category for the lack of better vocabulary) is starting to sell big time. The interest in work is growing practically every month. Buying new media is buying a right to display and re-sell an immaterial entity (legally an intellectual property). This is becoming a common knowledge amongst the more educated collectors. You buy art the way you buy software. You invest in a conceptual brand. Again, see nothing funny about it.

3. It is the immaterial entity which generates certain physical representation, but those ARE secondary, thus often parts of the edition. A singular piece of new media art is an edition of one. Welcome to the age of info-capital reproductionJ
The re-emergence of objecthood in the new media doesn’t negate the immateriality: it asserts certain well-expected dialectics…

4. Whitney: what can I say, the show is ok, but mostly NOT CONTEMPORARY art. This was the choice made by curators … has nothing to do with appeal of new media to the general public, which I find to be unprecedented.

5. Finally: I can’t see contemporary art without new media. for me they are almost synonymous.

Peace out

Tom Moody April 3 2008 20:45Reply

>>What exactly is the problem with organizing a show around collected artwork?

"Organizing a show around collected artwork"–no problem; that happens all the time. "Organizing a show around collecting work"–it's not enough, considering all the other things there are to talk about. It's like my complaint about "art about the art world"–it's too insular and meta.

>>What is the problem with good artists making
money selling GOOD work?

Are you addressing this question to me? Seems I've been defending that proposition all along.

marcin ramocki April 3 2008 22:10Reply

I agree that organizing a show around collecting work is a wimpy concept… but I don't see how this is the case.
This is a bunch of good work first. The concept according to Ed is rematerialization. I would just call it a selection of new media works from collections…

Tom Moody April 3 2008 22:33Reply

You might, but Bernard and Quaranta didn't! They said it was about selling new media work, which Ed endorsed with a nice-sounding term (much the way critics used commodification in the 80s to explain Mary Boone).

People are defending this show based on what they want it to be, not what it is, a show about sales. Is that not a shopping cart in the picture at the top?

Paul Slocum April 3 2008 22:44Reply

My thing in the show is from Thierry's collection, so they didn't really need my permission. But I'm totally siked to have something in a show with such awesome artists.

Since this show runs in parallel with an art fair going on in Brussels and quite a few of the works are from a huge private new media collection located in Brussels, the collecting theme makes some sense to me. Turning some new collectors on to new media seems like an okay idea.

Joseph DeLappe April 3 2008 23:36Reply

I am glad to see fellow new media artists receiving much deserved money and attention for their work, might be a thin concept for a show however - a step up from the myriad of "new media" and "computer art" shows over the years but not really moving much further beyond such. Consider how uninterested we would be in a show about "paintings that sell!"

There is something to be said for being considered part of the contemporary arts milieu however - reminds for Shawn Decker's comments at ISEA in San Jose where he spoke about how happy he was when his audio installations began to be shown in "real" (emphasis mine) art shows as opposed to group shows of audio installations - his works could finally be heard (quite literally).

Hey Vic Cusok, lose weight now, ask me how! I've lost 6 pounds over the last three weeks performing/walking 10-12 miles daily in Second Life using a treadmill - come join me!

Tom Moody April 3 2008 23:38Reply

Thanks for weighing in. We disagree on how to woo collectors but I'm not in the biz–I'll keep holding out for lofty content over "look, the Joneses are doing it."

Tom Moody April 3 2008 23:40Reply

(That last comment was addressed to Paul.)

ed halter April 4 2008 03:03Reply

To all –

I have not "left the building" but am in fact rather busy this a week-long project and attending the final NYUFF…but I will check in with this lengthy discussion when I have a chance soon! (and, as a new staff writer here, am only today realizing that anyone actually uses these discussion boards – I read Rhizome on rss, so I kind of miss out on that usually…)

ed halter April 4 2008 03:52Reply

A quick response to just a few of these questions. I chose the title "rematerialization of art" because I thought this was one of the more interesting ideas or observations one might take from this show – that certain changes over time have made a field once known for immaterial art now allow for the same artist to produce sellable art objects, both due to technological innovations and a broader idea of what constitutes a commercially-viable "object." Merely a play on Lucy Lippard's title. But, no, it is not the main theme of the show, and one could certainly read other lessons from it.

May I say up front that I do not consider any Rhizome blog post to be an "endorsement" in and of itself. I certainly don't read other blogs that way. I view the practice as providing an informed comment on something that is happening, and a link, allowing you to check it out and think about it for yourself. I figured this was a basic concept most internet readers had a handle on, so I'm surprised it has caused any confusion.

But I don't find the concept for the show "boring" in the least. It's quite provocative, in fact, and it certainly appears to have provoked Tom.

Also, I think this whole in the market / outside of the market dichotomy is rather un-nuanced. For example, even if all of these objects are for sale and selling, we might consider how central to the market they really are. I would guess that with a very few exceptions, a well-known new media artist makes far less money on his or her art than a painter or sculptor of comparable status. I have absolutely no knowledge of Cory Arcangel's bank account, but I would bet you a euro that any young painter with the same level of press attention and status would have moved a lot more product by now. Of course, Marcin argues that this is changing rapidly, but I still wonder about the sense of economic scale here.

I don't think this show is about "proving new media is sellable" but rather an observation that, de facto, a mode of art often thought of being beyond the market is in fact, right now, already within it.

Furthermore–and very importantly–most if not all of the artists in these shows do not centrally locate their practice in the production of said gallery objects. If anything, the sellable objects for many of them constitute more recent or relatively peripheral activities, and pretty much everybody still spends a lot of time producing things that aren't sellable – performances, online work, sharable art, writing, etc. Again, significantly different from the traditional model of painting or sculpture or even certain gallery-centric video artists. I think this in a very important point to make here. Nobody as far as I can tell is migrating completely into the object-creation model and thereby abandoning all extra-market activities.

x-arn April 4 2008 05:35Reply

"obtain the largest visibility with the minimal effort" is the motto of 0100101110101101.org from the beginning. Nikeground project for example is part of this intention, the anti-capitalism one might find in these projects is a posture to serve the original intent. The same goes for "AdWords Happening" by Bruno. For these people, there are no problems with these postures, the contradictions and paradoxes have to feed the social recognition of the artist, and it works. If the exhibition "Holy Fire" can reveal these strategies, it will be a step forward in our understanding of contemporary artistic practices, digital or not, it is not really the problem.

Domenico Quaranta April 4 2008 06:15Reply

Hi Dears,

this morning I woke up and I found out in my inbox a plenty of emails coming from Rhizome about Holy Fire. Even if Tom, on his blog, ironically points out that someone already played the "show must be important see how much commentary it's generating" card, I still think that discussion is important, and if a show is able to generate it two weeks before the opening, this is some kind of a success. Not too bad for "a show with a weak premise". ;-)

Many things have been told and I haven't found the time to read them all. What I'm trying to do now is to clarify some points in order to enrich the discussion.

First of all, no surprise that most of the comments are coming to me by night (that is, from the US time zone). Holy Fire is a European show, and some of the things we are talking about make a different sense in the US and in Europe. In the US, a lot of artists stepped up the game, entering the contemporary art scene often without the "new media art" label upon their heads. Cory Arcangel is an example. Brody Condon is another. When I started working on Holy Fire, I contacted Brody. We discussed a lot about the show, and in the end he decided not to be part in it. He told, among other things: "every time you describe these artists by material, you are hurting, and not helping them […] It's about ideas, not material. I don't give a shit about new media, it's just the material I understand intuitively from my youth." I know that he is right, someway. I had no chance to discuss with Cory, but probably his position is very similar. But I also now that in Europe the barriers between these two worlds (and for worlds I don't mean only "markets" and "exhibition venues", but also "discursive contexts") are very strong. Personally, I'm fighting against these barriers. Is this the right way? I don't know. The first shot is not always the best one, but I have to start in some way…

Tom says: "pair Douglas Gordon's 24 hour Psycho with Cory Arcangel's Slow Tetris. This bootstraps Arcangel into the discourse of a known "media art genius" from the gallery side and he comes off rather better for the comparison, because his piece is more cheeky/fun. The theme is "time in media," not sales." Curiously enough, this is exactly what I'm saying in my essay for the catalogue. One of the things that Holy Fire wants to show is that "new media art" is quite a precarious definition, simply because the Mattes and Casey Reas have nothing in common but the medium. What Tom is pointing out is what I call "the next step". You maybe are ready to take it in the US. What's happening here is that Douglas Gordon goes to Palais de Tokio, and Cory goes to transmediale (ok, this is not the right example, but you may undestand what I mean). After a long and surprising career in the new media context, the Mattes had to start from the beginning when they entered the contemporary art world. For the art market, they were not the big net.art stars they are for us, but just beginners.

Pall made a (partially wrong) reference to a show by Christiane Paul. It was called "Feedback", and was hosted by the LABoral center in Gijon (Spain). Unfortunately, I have not seen Unmonumental, but I've seen Feedback, and it was very important for me. There I realized that the best place for Casey Reas is next to Sol LeWitt, and that you can understand more about Jodi if you see his cheats in front of Nam June Paik. But, again: Christiane Paul is a "new media curator" and LABoral is a "new media center": where is the next step?

One of the ambitions of Holy Fire is to show to both these worlds (new media art world and contemporary art world) that segregation is not simply useless, but meaningless. We are ALREADY talking about the same things, we are ALREADY part of the same context. Most of us can already now this, and find this statement boring. But there are a lot of people who don't usually visit Transmediale: for them, seeing some fresh new works at Artbrussels can be interesting.

Then, obviously, there is the issue of the market. This is a slippery ground, no surprise if we slip on it. What I can say is that the show doesn't take a definite position about it: it just want to start a dialogue. In the beginning, it was no more than a bet: let's try to make a new media art exhibition just contacting private collectors and gallery owners, and let's see what we are able to put together. What we found out was a surprise for ourselves. Commercial galleries specialized in new media, and many others which simply look at new media as an important part of contemporary culture. And a lot of passionate collectors. Putting them in touch, developing this little, rising economy into a network (a system?) is another ambition of this project. This is just the beginning.

I know: too many ambitions for a little, cheap show set up at the periphery of the Empire. That's why Holy Fire took a multilayered attitude, even if we curators have some clear positions about these issues. A multilayered attitude into which different ways of thinking, such as Olia's and Regine's, can be the point of departure of a discussion.

And, finally, if what I get from this show is just to put Vuk in touch with his friends and make him produce some good new stuff, well, this will be a great result indeed!

My bests,

Rob Myers April 4 2008 06:34Reply

Selling new media art may not seem radical to Rhizomers. But in the broader artworld "there are new media artists who are actually selling" is a point well worth making. I applaud "Holy Fire" for not only making that point but engaging critically with it.

New media art (and net art) has never been outside the market (you have to buy a lot of equipment and services to make and experience it) but it has been outside the art market. This was part of what made it interesting as art (where it didn't make it just academic). And this was always going to make it ultimately irresistible to the art market. New media art is in danger of being the new spraycan art.

Moving new media art into the economic hyperspace of the art market is not really rematerialization. Quite the opposite. It takes something that is sociologically and aesthetically solid and melts it into the economic air. If new media art is to survive in the art market as anything other than the reified forms of the subculture that produced it then we need to set the terms of engagement. I think that "Holy Fire" helps to do this.

Pall Thayer April 4 2008 07:11Reply

The only thing I find annoying about this whole issue is that it sends a message that the immateriality of new media art is a negative thing whereas I feel that we should be trying to convince the greater "artworld" that this is part of its charm.


Erika Lincoln April 4 2008 10:59Reply

After reading all the posts I have some comments and some questions.
Immateriality, when talking about the immateriality of NMA it seems that everyone is skirting around the term conceptual art, Sol Lewitt is mentioned but that is as far as anyone has gone.
This brings me to my next question, why does it seem that when discussing NMA there is this talk as if it has spontainiously emerged out of the ether with no connection to any history or art making from the past?
And when there is an attempt to connect it to the past it is always derived from cinema, aka, Manovitch (sp) et al.

A. Andreas April 4 2008 11:55Reply

Dominico and list

I do not grasp the meaning of this so called discussion.

It seems as if it should be fun to talk and meet other people working in the art sphere, to get attention and maybe some financial profit by exposing your work in a 'social' art context.

What has this to do with an art discussion?

When you feel comfortable with these mumbo jumbo small talk , just go ahead, but do not pretend to discuss.

The point is , why should the capatilistic paradigma, of which the majority of the world population is suffering from, be transported to yet another realm. i.e. NMA.

It will be better to question the position of the artist in this perspective in place of producing quasi intellectual sound bites.

Maybe you neglecting the fact that there IS a difference between Europe and America, and as an European, I do not like to be , again, ursurpated by an financial art mechanism which is not beneficary for us , 'normal' people, who like to communicate by our art and not by our price tags.

So yes I am very negative about bringing , a possible new way of artistic behaviour, NMA, into the sphere of finance and plain old capitalism.

In France there is a rumour about getting a State funded loan from about EUR 15.000,00 , without having to pay interest. This is sold to the public as supporting the bad French situation on the global art market. Why , for god's sake, is it possible that people are displaced from their houses because they cannot pay their rents and at the same time someone is able to get a interestless loan, to buy art? This can only happen when the art world is not interested in what happens outside its splendid isolation.

So where is the involvement, the political awareness, the guts, the pain, the suffering?


Pall Thayer April 4 2008 12:07Reply

"Immateriality, when talking about the immateriality of NMA it seems that everyone is skirting around the term conceptual art, Sol Lewitt is mentioned but that is as far as anyone has gone."


"This brings me to my next question, why does it seem that when discussing NMA there is this talk as if it has spontainiously emerged out of the ether with no connection to any history or art making from the past? "

Actually, I think (just based on various conversations and readings over the years) that there is a general acceptance of prior history even though it's not necessarily always mentioned. I think most people have pretty much quit thinking that NMA popped, fully formed, out of the head of Zeus. Just skimming through the posts here I see a few historical references that are not connected to video, especially in Patrick's first post.


Erika Lincoln April 4 2008 14:00Reply

Pall, I agree with you that there are no historical references other than cinema and video being bandied about. I think more emphasis should be placed on sculpture.

Erika Lincoln April 4 2008 14:06Reply

oops forgot to mention why sculpture.
Mainly that sculpture has always adopted new techonolgies as well as explored scientific theories.

yes I know way off topic.

Erika Lincoln April 4 2008 14:08Reply

or maybe not, the show is titled "Rematerialization"

Erika Lincoln April 4 2008 22:35Reply

yah yah the show is titled "Holy Fire: Art of the Digital Age"
not Rematerialization but the post is.

Tom Moody April 5 2008 10:01Reply

Hi, Ed and Domenico,
Returning briefly to this discussion after a 36 hour hiatus.
One of the reasons I turned off comments on my blog was people were always pointing to the long threads as evidence that the work being mostly pilloried was in fact good. Both of you guys have defended Holy Fire that way, and I suggest it is rather avoiding the question.
I am excited to read from Domenico's response that Brody Condon turned down the show and for excellent reasons. He is now in my hero canon along with Barnett Newman who refused to be in a Whitney show about "geometry in art."
I have some thoughts about Ed's "rematerialization of art" thesis vis a vis 40 years of art practice and will put them up on my blog.
Domenico, "Unmonumental" is dominated by physical sculpture and wall work–the new media stuff is sprinkled throughout and is mostly in back corridors. As I mentioned we have several galleries here in New York that make no distinction between the gallery and new media subcultures. A rich discussion is going on in them about the possibilities of hybridizing practices. Sales are part of the process of keeping gallery doors open, nothing more.

ed halter April 5 2008 14:52Reply

To quote tom's blog ( http://www.tommoody.us/archives/2008/04/05/the-rematerialization-of-art/ ) , which discusses michael bell smith's recent show at foxy in new york:

* * * *

Please note that neither sales nor selling have been discussed so far. Halter's rematerialization rhetoric is old news in the art world. The '80s was all about a "return to painting" after the conceptual experiments of the '70s; like Halter, critics came up with a term to defend a retrograde practice. Back then it was commodification, supposedly a Marxist critique of what the galleries were doing–making bushels of money–that was more of an ironic celebration.
A "net artist" joining a gallery stable merely revisits, say, Jenny Holzer's transition from a "relational" artist tacking up her truisms on New York phone poles to an internationally-feted mega artist using increasingly bombastic (and highly sellable) LED displays (similar to corporate stock tickers).

The rematerialization part isn't new and the sales part isn't interesting.

After the Halter thread on Rhizome I had a phone conversation with Aron Namenwirth of artMovingProjects, where I've been showing work. He's been mixing media and non-media in his gallery, and the felt the reason for materializing art (forget the De- or Re-) was to get it into a public space where people could look at it, hear it, and talk about it. When we were doing the "Room Sized Animated GIFs" show and the BLOG project space we were talking mainly about how to translate theretofore privately-consumed Web work for a "commons" where people would be walking around and presumably would not want to be bored. Believe it or not, some people have a jones for a white box space and seeing what happens in it. Doing the shows required a hybrid thought process of thinking about what was important online and what was important in meat space/meet space. Yes, we talked about the f*cking sales process, a necessary part of keeping the gallery doors open, I think, but the excitement of the shows was, um, the shows.

* * * * *

Your point about the "return to painting" in the 80s after the conceptual upheavals of the 70s is well taken. However, I think you're trying far too hard to pose my blog post as making a much more wide-ranging claim than it really was. Clearly, I'm not talking about the rematerialization of art as such, across all disciplines. Holy Fire is a very specific show: it's only about the entry of what was called new media art into today's commercial gallery system. In this sense, rematerialization is only a term to refer to the ironic fact that an art practice predicated on immaterial stuff like data (remember "information wants to be free"?) would turn to producing objects that can be bought and sold. And no, it is absolutely not a new story–the same thing happened to video art and installation in the 1990s, so if anything it is more a sub-set of a larger trend.

A significant part of that larger trend is that the gallery world today is overwhelming for-profit rather than non. There are exceptions of course. So while I think your observations about MBS's show are correct–that it's as much about translating the experience into a physical location as it is about making an object for sale–the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the spaces in which this process occurs are places in which anything within its walls is potentially for sale, not merely exhibited for the fact of doing it. Your disavowal of this process ("Yes, we talked about the f*cking sales process, a necessary part of keeping the gallery doors open, I think, but the excitement of the shows was, um, the shows.") expresses a desire to wish this fact were not so. But it is. You may not wish this were the case–that the gallery could exist without the necessity of selling its objects and just be about exhibiting good work–but that is not the model under which most art is showing nowadays. Holy Fire, for me, may offer an opportunity to think look at our own moment, and judging from the activity on this thread, it's already starting to do that job. (If there is a critique one could make of it, it is that in its desire to provoke a response, it does fail to account for still-happening practices that do exist outside of this system–online work, the sporadic but continued existence of non-commercial art spaces, live performance, etc.–all of which remain a major part of new media art, although one could make further arguments what role they take vis a vis the market system (oppositional, marginal, supplementary…)

And Tom, please, don't keep trolling this issue by claiming that I am automatically "defending" a practice just by giving it a name. You know better than this. May I remind you of your own words when describing the style of my book From Sun Tzu to Xbox: "He has a deceptively calm 'just the facts ma'am' style that lays out all the information and leaves it to readers' heads to explode." ( http://www.digitalmediatree.com/tommoody/comment/36892/ )

Tom Moody April 5 2008 20:58Reply

Nasty Nets was not oppositional, it felt like the right thing to be doing. Ditto my blog. I'm interested in galleries with the same spirit. Obviously they're easier to do in Berlin than Manhattan. With a downturn we all may get to do work for the sheer love of it.
Sorry for trolling. My head was already exploding on this issue, but you get props for coming up with a dangerous coinage that I think others will use.

Pall Thayer April 5 2008 21:58Reply

Ed, I really have to wonder about your statement that "A significant part of that larger trend is that the gallery world today is overwhelming for-profit rather than non." I'm basing my assumptions on my own experiences, perhaps you have some hard data to back your statement up but I have the feeling that your statement applies to the US more than the rest of the world. Look, for instance, at the "about" page for iMAL, the gallery hosting the exhibition: http://www.imal.org/index.php?sub=about_EN The US is holding out as a commercial hub for visual arts because the US doesn't provide for much, if any, state or government funding whereas most other countries see the visual arts as a valuable contribution to cultural identity and therefore provide funding. Based on my experiences, which are primarily outside of the US, the non-profit galleries are the spaces where things are "happening." The commercial galleries are boring, out-dated and even cliché. The work is more or less "safe." It doesn't push buttons and therefore doesn't push boundaries either. To me, it appears that most governments are beginning to understand the value of art creation and the fact that the primary trend is towards more conceptual rather than material art and that this type of art requires more financial assistance than "traditional" (read: old-fashioned) art.

So, please respond and let us know whether or not your statement on "the gallery world" is based on your experience within the US or if you really think this applies at a global, or at the very least a "Western" - Northern-hemisphere, level. If you feel the need to do research, I suggest you begin by looking due North. Then go East.

ed halter April 6 2008 03:51Reply

Paul: for sure, my statement about the gallery world was very much meant to refer to here in the US where I am, as is Tom. Sorry, should have clarified that. Yes, it is for sure a recent trend here that smaller, for-profit galleries have taken on some of the more fringey art that in other times would have been embraced by alternative spaces instead.

Vijay Pattisapu April 6 2008 18:58Reply

It's interesting that on Rhizome the threads about money (commissions, patronage, exhibitions, patents, galleries, etc.) tend to get an order of magnitude more responses than do the threads about art.

Not denigrating, just observing.

Tom Moody April 7 2008 10:48Reply

A point of clarification. Ed said this about the blog post of mine he excerpted here:

"So while I think your observations about MBS's show are correct–that it's as much about translating the experience into a physical location as it is about making an object for sale–"

I wasn't making such a comparison. I was only discussing how the display of hardware in the gallery impacted the art. I didn't mention the pieces' success or failure as sellable objects. I didn't mention commerce at all, unless saying "Please note that neither sales nor selling have been discussed" counts as that.

Tom Moody April 7 2008 11:04Reply

Patrick, this page still seems to be reposting comments when refreshed. I wasn't triple posting for emphasis, I swear. (Can you remove a couple of them?)

Patrick May April 8 2008 18:08Reply

I've removed the extra posts, and added a touch more double-posting protection.

If you reload after posting, it had posted twice but shouldn't anymore. It's a bit delicate to find a process that guards against mistakes without restricting one's ability to post. As always, let me know how it goes.

Yves Bernard April 7 2008 19:21Reply

a lot of discussions for a small show in a small city in europe…

i can not comment all posts, but just a few reactions:
- this project is born from passionate people, Domenico and I, the artists and the collectors we knew from many years, those we discovered recently, and the galleries.
- we wanted to do something different than the usual debates about contemporary art/NMA as you can attend them in Transmediale, ISEA or other specialised festivals; so we took this opportunity to do it in the context of the Brussels international contemporary art fair, Art Brussels.
- for me, the issue of money, i.e. the artist economy is crucial; for many this seems to be a taboo subject, a topic we can not talk about; as soon as you start working with the market, you are considered as a global capitalist… very strange as indeed, developing a market, i.e. people buying to artists, is somehow an (utopian?) subversive and democratic way of supporting them, bypassing or creating alternative support systems to the public politically dependant art funding system. And we know that today we have all means to develop any niche economies and reach our customers.
- the debate around materiality - immateriality is interesting; that many net art projects have material side-effects is not a problem for me. this does not reduce any of their qualities. Moreover, this immaterial -> material drift is much more than a side-effect: it is just a part of a much larger trend: software is driving the material world, now generating objects and atoms as well as processes, interactions and communications.
- Holy Fire is just one action we wanted to do in a larger context of activities. It is neither exclusive nor the definitive statement, just a cultural operation we wanted to do today to raise some issues… It is a show among many other possible ones, all other artworks (e.g. immaterial projects, non sellable art works) must exist, and other more hidden laboratory, research, emergent, avant-garde activities have to go on. One thing does not kill the other ones, selling should not exclude any artist from more research and experimental activities…, on the contrary it should help
to carry them on.

Aron Namenwirth April 8 2008 17:34Reply

hmmm. since i was dragged into this by Tom and Ed I guess I will put a couple of cents into this tread, I was going to stay out, but after talking to Marcin…
I think that to seperate New Media Art from the rest of the of the art practice is counter-productive.
At aMP we sell more New Media then traditional artwork/ sculpture or painting. This is not saying much, and we have given a lot of thought to going non-profit. It seems to me supporting artists through sales leads to time for them to expand their work. It also gives them the feeling of being supported. Good work is good work whether it sells or not. Does it really depends on what the collector is interested in? I am not sure, but I think we are talking about a very small and extremely well researched group of people buying and they are looking for and finding work that not only is pushing their buttons but they feel can be maintained and is a good investment. We like to think art is less about decorating and more about ideas. New Media like all challenging art in any medium gives one something to talk or write about as in the case of Ed's show this seems to be working quite nicely. Tom fanning the flame of the Holy Fire can only make it burn brighter whether he likes it or not.

Tom Moody April 9 2008 09:03Reply

You said Ed's show.
I wasn't fanning the flames, I was saying that "selling art" is a boring theme for a show.
I think we've all learned today that the show fanned its own flames. So I'm wrong, this is a fascinating topic. [/irony]

Steven Read April 9 2008 18:13Reply

"I think that to seperate New Media Art from the rest of the of the art practice is counter-productive."

I think that making a show about the non-separation of New Media Art from the rest of the art practice is counter-productive.

Domenico Quaranta April 10 2008 08:12Reply

"I think that making a show about the non-separation of New Media Art from the rest of the art practice is counter-productive."

yeah, maybe it is. Many others seem to think in the same way. Surprisingly enough, many people taking care for new media chose to take part in it, in a way or another. Strange. Maybe they were all drunk. Or, maybe, they are celebrating with me the ritual suicide of new media art. Seppuku!

Keep on thinking, Steven. I prefer to make things happen. Even if it means making a counter-productive, boring show. If you are right, I will wear a cilice. But if I'm right, something would have happened. And something is better than nothing, isn't it?


Tom Moody April 10 2008 13:23Reply

Making things happen is good. If you had a show with a non-self-referential theme–such as Patrick Lichty's "NeoPop Resurgence"–and mingled old media with new media work collectors would read the catalog or wall label and see "private collection" and get that new media art was being collected. You don't have to beat them over the head with it.

Or Yves' idea about software driving the material–I don't agree with it but it's a good show idea. Just include some people from the "regular" art world and you're in business. So to speak.

Steven Read April 10 2008 15:00Reply

Domenico, in hindsight probably should have said something like "taking a stance on the" instead of "making a show about". Making a show (taking action) is usually a productive thing, and in this case of course I would agree the show itself is. But I wouldn't agree that art/action is always productive (I have learned this the hard way), and also wouldn't agree that something is always better than nothing.

Being broke and thousands of miles away, I will not be traveling to Brussels to see the show. Many collectors have money to travel around and view/shop. I do not. Perhaps thus I prefer the netty digi artz. If rematerialized, the art falls out of my reach.

Domenico Quaranta April 10 2008 17:52Reply

Well, if it is only about convincing collectors that they can buy new media art, I agree with you: Holy Fire is a miserable show. But this is just one of the points in our agenda, and not the first at all. Working in between the new media art world and the contemporary art world, both me and Yves - from a very different point of view - realized that we have to confront every day with a lot of taboos, commonplaces, misunderstandings of any kind. They change a lot from place to place, if you are talking with a contemporary art magazine director, an artist, a new media art curator or, let's say, your own grandparents. A not finished list will include:

- the rule of new media art in the last thirty years of art production;
- the existence of two very different "art worlds", with few possibilities of discussion and exchange;
- the ephemeral nature of new media art, that makes it difficult to preserve and collect;
- the necessity to be a "media savvy" in order to understand media art;
- the usefulness of a different label, whatever it is;
- the necessity to develop an alternative economy;

There is a lot of discussion about these issues. We tried to collect some statements in the debates section of the website, and obviously we are going to have a panel. Maybe this Rhizome thread doesn't mean that the show is good, but it is a demonstration that the issues it raises are hot potatos. But discussions are not enough. Last year I was in a panel about "bio art" hosted by an art fair (again, I don't like the label, but I wrote something about it in the past). I realized that we were talking about a ghost, since there was no "bio art" in the fair, and I told this to the audience. The other speakers were horrified, but many people in the audience nodded in assent.
An exhibition is, in my opinion, a way to bring a debate to a wider audience. I'm not saying that this is a good subject for an exhibition. Sure, it's boring. Maybe unseemly. But it's always unseemly to talk about the emperor's new clothes. I would like to talk about time, neo-pop resurgence or identity. I'll do it in the next future. But NOW I feel the urge to clear away the rubbish from the road. In order to be free to "mingle old media with new media" without putting the latter in "back corridors", as Tom said about Unmonumental, we have - I think - to take this step before. Confront with our taboos, realize which kind of position we have in the art world and try to change it - and do it publicly. We have to join forces. Steven, you say that you have no money to come in Brussels. Help us to bring Holy Fire in the States, create a wider network of galleries, artists and collectors, develop it into an art fair and get in touch with museums, and this little European show will be the beginning of something.

warm regards,

Paddy Johnson April 11 2008 13:54Reply

From my blog:

Cory Arcangel. Image via: Holy Fire

Ed Halter’s brief discussion of Holy Fire, Art of the Digital Age, an exhibition exploring New Media’s entrance into the art market has generated 67 comments to date on the Rhizome blog, undoubtedly the longest and most invested I’ve read to date on the site. To provide a bit of background, Holy Fire’s website divides the concepts of this show up into three parts:

* Art of Our Time (let’s stop labeling ourselves as New Media artists because the medium is familiar to everyone now)

* Collectible Artworks (Holy Fire may be the first exhibition to show only collectible new media artworks already on the art market!)

* New Economy for Autonomy, (The art market can give us freedom, and this show may be the first to help build the “new economy”!)

Clearly the conceit behind the exhibition has a few problems, even if its artist list, which includes Cory Arcangel, JODI, Olia Lialina and Dragon Espenchied, Paul Slocum, Eddo Stern and Carlo Zanni, to name just a few, suggest there will be a lot of great work. The curators themselves admit as much on the thread, Domenico Quarantax’s first response to Tom Moody’s description of the artworks-already-sold conceit as boring, being “You are right, this is a boring concept.” Naturally he goes on to defend the show, and as a curator that’s to be expected.

The discussion thread is too long to address piece by piece, but it is worth observing the reluctance of many commenters to speak substantively to the show theme of art as purchased commodity, which ultimately resulted in Moody’s visible frustration and in turn, needless hostility towards the artist, presumably for trying to push the issue. Frankly, I’m not sure why granting this point should be so difficult, after all the Joseph DeLappe comment in the thread, “Consider how uninterested we would be in a show about “paintings that sell!””, was proved this Fall with the Met’s hugely unpopular “Age of Rembrandt”. An exhibition organized by which philanthropist bought what, the Negative reviews poured in, not just for its visibly inflated institutional ego and a childish desire to awe people, but for an approach that undermines the art-historical content needed to create a successful exhibition.

In this case, a similar concern exists, because the theme of the show privileges the new materiality of an object over its content and does not provide sufficient historical background (granted, more material may become available at the exhibition, but the website is insufficient.) Perhaps the most promising aspect of the show for this reason lies in the discussion panel, because it gives the participating artists a chance to articulate this history and jump outside a set of curatorial concerns they may not share. On this thread alone, Patrick Lichty, the panel moderator has fleshed out some of this timeline and Olia Lialina, a participating artist and panelist, articulated her opposition to the integration of New Media to contemporary art, saying, “I think that position, spoken by Regine Debaty — forget media, drop new, enjoy art — is sort of reactionary. I don’t enjoy art, I enjoy some of the new media, especially WWW and I find media specificity to be the most exiting thing.”

My own reasons for opposing the erasure of New Media as a label take a slightly different approach only in that unlike Lialina, I support contextualizing New Media within the larger fine art world (I like both). However, I similarly couldn’t be less interested in a conversation that suggests giving up a means of identifying a practice significantly different than traditional mediums, while using the increased saleability of the object as the primary support for that argument. As a sales tool, it may be of some help to gallerists, but as a larger practice it does nothing to move the field forward, because it glosses over the specific skills of the artist. What’s more, the idea that sales should some how become evidence of New Media’s acceptance into the larger fine art world is erroneous. Sure, there’s been progress, some of which has been seen in the market, but it doesn’t negate the fact that when I’ve spoken to journalists this year on the subject of New Media, most begin by asking me (off the record) why well known Fine Art critics don’t know enough to even accept a cursory interview. The fact that critics are paid to know about art and yet have only negligible knowledge of the discipline, is the most basic indicator that New Media is a still peripheral practice within the art world. And Holy Fire won’t change this. Given its location, it may introduce a few attendees of the Art Brussels international contemporary art fair to New Media, but nothing more.

MTAA April 11 2008 16:51Reply

Paddy's thoughts on this issue is well-received.

Regardless if 're-materializing' new media is an interesting idea for a show or not, it's definitely been an interesting idea for new media and net artists for the last few years when it comes to making their work. I've actually thought about it in exactly these terms. If conceptualism de-materialized art, what do you do with a medium whose material consists of traces of information on a magnetic disk? You can't get any more immaterial than that, right?

Many new media and net artits have gotten lots of press, museum shows, historical references, high-profile grants, commissions and etc. Yet, still can't earn a living off their work. This is very frustrating. It leads one to wanting to sell some damn work.

Makes sense to me that curators would pick up on it since it's been on artists minds for a few years.

MTAA April 11 2008 16:53Reply

Paddy's thoughts on this issue *are* well-received.

Patick, please, please add a preview to comments so I don't sound like an idiot :-) Protect me from myself!

Aron Namenwirth April 11 2008 18:30Reply

It seems to me when New Media Art stops trying to look like old Media art made with a computer, that is pop art, conceptual art, minimalism, painting, and now the cluster-fuck installation- it's going to rock and it is rocking, despite what the art world thinks.
Who knows what the art world thinks anyway? The artworld and it's critics do not seem to think much anymore or they would stop doing the same old.

Salvatore Iaconesi April 11 2008 18:42Reply

We did a project a few years ago. It was called "MakingALivingWithNewMediaArts".
It involved us (me and Oriana Persico) trying to establish a barter-economy for ourselves: new media artifacts vs bare necessities.
we created a list: eating, energy and water, telephone and internet access, clothing… we tried to exchange new media artworks for goods and services.
we did a deal with a grocery near our house: they installed a big flat screen showing the 2 videos a month that we produced for them, and we got our food in exchange.
we did a deal with ENEL (an electricity company in Italy) and we got our six months of energy in exchange for a flash piece for their website (and we were asked for a really weird corporate interview for this achievement, too! :) )
we did a deal with an internet point: we could use access from them and, in exchange, we produced a nice led sign for their shop.
we made a dj-avatar for a really trendy clothing shop in via del Corso in Rome, and, in exchange, we got dressed really cool for about a year ;)

this is the closest i ever got to re-materializing new media art

maybe the show proposes a mechanism that is somewhat simpler.

i liked mine better, but it was way too complex to mantain.

but it addressed the "new media arts business model" issue in a way that seems to me really significative and contemporary: are "old" business (economic) models suitable for the contemporary era? (and i'm not thinking only about art while asking the question)

probably not.

but, as Domenico said about a couple dozen times: something is better than nothing.

I would have loved the show not to be based on "big names", but a bit more on research. But i also understad that a "big" initiaive is easier to use to open up marketing perspectives.. so.. what the hell.. seems like a nice show

what is true and conceptually/sensorially perceivable is that something is changing. call it curiosity, call it appeal, call it matureness, consolidation. medias are beginning to really melt int one another. chips embedded in sculptures embedded in virtual worlds, embedded in paintings, embedded in web sites, embedded in public spaces, embedded into chips. i heard lev manovich talk about "deep remixability". he was referring to 3d graphics, typography, digital design and video footage merging into one unique atomic new content of a different kind. i'd say that deep remixability is breaking these borders, allowing the remixing of practices, processes, methodologies and disciplines.

and, possibly, new media, rematerialization, dematerialization, visual fetishes, spime, wearable stuff, infoaesthetics, hacktivism & C. are all about this.

putting a price tag on the stuff is not. but it helps.

Hans Verhaegen April 18 2008 08:27Reply

Funny to see already a lot of discussion and critique on a show that nobody saw yet. So even if all the ideas expressed here are very interesting, please let's first visit the actual show and then I am sure people will be forced to review their opinion.

I am living and working in Brussels. Here in Europe (and especially in Brussels) we need exhibitions like 'Holy Fire' very badly. I just visited ARTBrussels. My personal favourite work was one by Alexei Shulgin (a version of 'Media Mirror' 2006), the only 'NMA' work around…

And I guess I do both: painting and coding. Of course the most important thing in a piece of art is the content, what is communicated, the experience, the interaction, etc… But the material also plays a very important role. Paint is paint and code is code. So yes, keep the name 'New media Art" like we still need to use 'painting'. Those words contain important information about the artwork.
Doing paintings and meanwhile coding almost the same kind of visuals, is a very revealing experience. The capabilities of my brain and hands playing with paint are rather different then those of my computer and various output devices playing with code. The result can be the same or almost the same. Still the material always has an influence on the message. Some new ideas are born out of the use of new media. Often old ideas are reborn out of the use of new media.
New media is also just what it is: new media to create art. The same art we have been creating with old media. So in this way not a big deal. Girls and boys with new toys playing the same games.

Tonight is opening night in Brussels. I hope to experience a great show.

Pierre-Yves Desaive April 20 2008 14:28Reply

I attended the "Holy Fire" debate held in "Art Brussels" on saturday (April 19).

First I don't know if any of you has seen photographs of the room where it took place, because I think the setting (a mixture between Space Invadors and Goldorak) tells a lot about how the contemporary art world (The Art Brussels Fair) looks at New Media Art world : a bunch of computer geeks suffering a severe Peter Pan syndrome (or was the setting conceived by the organizers of Holy Fire ? - maybe not the best message to send to the contemporary art world…).

This was the main question of the debate : is new media art part of contemporary art ? First everybody seemed to agree on that point, before spending an hour pointing out the specificities of new media art works compared to contemporary art works… :

-conservation, preservation : unlike the other forms of art, technology based works - especially digital technology - do not suffer from time itself, but from the obsolesence of the technology on which they are based ; someone (sorry, I forgot who it was) explaining that museums of the future will hire programmers as restorers ;
-exhibition, promotion : Alexeï Shulgin pointed out how new media art works in the closed circuit of festival and conferences, where the exhibitors are mostly professors or students. And I would add : who know these people ? who has ever heard of Shulgin, Cosic, Bunting, Lialina, Napier and others outside the new media art sphere ?
-the art market : Stephen Sacks explained how he moved to Chelsea to be in the middle of contemporary art galleries, in order to blur the borders between contemporary and new media art : why then describe Biforms as a gallery that « embraces new media and contemporary art practice » ?

Alexeï Shulgin had that beautiful remark of new media art works being based on the same technology as washing machines or televisions - and therefore, they should be used as « art products », with a limited lifespan : consumable products, to echoe the « NeoPop Resurgence » mentioned by P. Lichty. No wonder Cory Arcangel is fully part of the contemporary art scene : his works address several of the key issues of contemporary art, among which the irony towards the act of collecting. Nevertheless, the very nature of his works (think of the burned plasma screen) involves specific means of preservation and exhibition.

New media art = contemporary art ? I don’t think so.

From a museum perspective : in the museum of modern and contemporary art, there is a departement of technological art, in which there is a section devoted to digital and new media art - works using digital technology, computer programs, sensors, networks connections and so on.

And from the market point of view : collectors of new media art are well aware of their specificity among other collectors.

Claiming that new media art is contemporary art gone digital won’t help these works to escape the ghetto. What needs to be done is to turn the ghetto into a better place to live, with artists getting the recognition they deserve, with their works being bought and collected for what they are.

Steven Read April 21 2008 14:36Reply

People DO collect and preserve things like washing machines and televisions. Addressing the "act of collecting" new art by using IRONY and jokes doesn't do much for me, nor do I see how it will "help these works escape the ghetto".

T.Whid April 22 2008 16:06Reply

Steven Read April 23 2008 17:25Reply

Jeremy Levine April 24 2008 02:47Reply

Speaking as a collector, I find this discussion fascinating as it relates to my interest in extending my collection to include dematerialized mediums such as Internet Art (the most ghettoized of all media art) . Rather than ask for the re-materialization of art, as if I need a 'object component' to lock up in my house in order to claim ownership, I want to find an alternative model for collecting non-objects, immaterial 'things', or code-based work.

In considering how to collect Internet art I'd like to toss out the following propositions:

Proposition 1: 'owning' internet art implies the responsibility for hosting. Owning a work of Internet art becomes an act of patronage

Proposition 2: The collection should live by the motto "disseminate or die" -the collector participates in making the immaterial,

Proposition 3: owning internet art (media art) implies the responsibility/ for preservation, emulation, and documentation. I.E. The Variable Media Project.