Pioneering internet artist Olia Lialina has written about the fact that most of the web's sites and contents are built by amateurs--those people who put the "user" in "user generated" or who, before the days of web 2.0, took it upon themselves to create what Cory Arcangel calls "dirt style" websites that seem to holler, "Welcome to my homepage!" But as curator Ralph Rugoff points out, "an aesthetic of amateurism has long served as a means for deflating models of academic and market-driven art," harkening back to "conceptual artists and earlier... modernist vanguards." This week, San Francisco's CCA Wattis Institute will open Rugoff's group exhibition, "Amateurs." Up through August 9th, the show includes a long list (Johanna Billing, Jennifer Bornstein, Andrea Bowers, Phil Collins, Jeremy Deller, Harrell Fletcher, Josh Greene, Cameron Jamie, Alan Kane, Long March Project, Yoshua Okon, Michele O'Marah, Hirsch Perlman, Jim Shaw, Simon Starling, Javier Téllez, Jeffrey Vallance, and Eric Wesley) of artists "embracing amateurism as a means for questioning basic assumptions about authorship, expertise, the relationship between artist and audience, and the contingency of cultural values." Formerly director of the Wattis Institute (which has close ties to CCA's curatorial practice program) and currently director of London's Hayward Gallery, Rugoff is known for writing articles and organizing exhibits that comment heavily on the nature of contemporary art practice, and his statement for this show raises questions about the increasingly professionalized nature of the art world, and the resulting assignment of, or prohibition upon, authority. In this case, the artists present work that tends to follow two tracks--either inserting themselves into a position as an amateur (i.e. amateur anthropologists) or inserting themselves into amateurish subcultures, from DIY craft groups to amateur film clubs. The hope is that both types ...
Tuesday Rhizome posted the article "The Rematerialization of Art" by Ed Halter about the upcoming exhibition "Holy Fire". The entry instigated a thoughtful discussion in the comments section surrounding issues of materiality and the commercialization of new media art, with posts by "Holy Fire" co-curator Domenico Quaranta, Patrick Lichty, Olia Lialina, Tom Moody, Pall Thayer, and others. Discussion is here.
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