The Rematerialization of Art

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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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