Humorous and surprising, smart and provocative, Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media (MIT Press, 2010) jumps from opposing viewpoints to opposing personalities, from one arts trajectory to another. The entire book is a dialectic exercise: none of its problems or theories are solved or concluded, but are rather complicated through revelations around their origins, arguments and appropriations. Overall, the book adopts the collaborative style and hyperlinked approach of the media and practice it purports to rethink. In other words, it is not just the content of the book that asks us to rethink curating, but the reading itself; by the end, we are forced to digest and internalize the consistently problematized behaviors of the “media formerly known as new.”
Kate Mondloch’s first book, Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art (University of Minnesota Press), is a welcome study of the cathode ray tubes, liquid crystal and plasma displays, and film, video and data projections that “pervade contemporary life” (xi). The author reminds us that screens are not just “illusionist windows” into other spaces or worlds, but also “physical, material entities [that] beckon, provoke, separate, and seduce” (xii). Most importantly, however, Mondloch’s approach is that of an art historian. She does not merely use art as a case study for media theory, but rather makes the contributions of artists her central focus in this, the first in-depth study of the space between bodies and screens in contemporary art.
In his book, Parables for the Virtual, Brian Massumi calls for "movement, sensation, and qualities of experience" to be put back into our understandings of embodiment. He says that contemporary society comprehends bodies, and by extension the world, almost exclusively through linguistic and visual apprehension. They are defined by their images, their symbols, what they look like and how we write and talk about them. Massumi wants to instead "engage with continuity," to encourage a processual and active approach to embodied experience. In essence, Massumi proposes that our theories "feel" again. "Act/React", curator George Fifield's "dream exhibition" that opened at the Milwaukee Art Museum last week, picks up on these phenomenologist principles. He and his selected artists invite viewer-participants to physically explore their embodied and continuous relationships to each other, the screen, space, biology, art history and perhaps more.
Fifield is quick to point out that all the works on show are unhindered by traditional interface objects such as the mouse and keyboard. Most of them instead employ computer vision technologies, more commonly known as interactive video. Here, the combined use of digital video cameras and custom computer software allows each artwork to "see," and respond to, bodies, colors and/or motion in the space of the museum. The few works not using cameras in this fashion employ similar technologies towards the same end. While this homogeneity means that the works might at first seem too similar in their interactions, their one-to-one responsiveness, and their lack of other new media-specific explorations -- such as networked art or dynamic appropriation and re-mixing systems -- it also accomplishes something most museum-based "state of the digital art" shows don't. It uses just one avenue of interest by contemporary media artists in order to dig much deeper into what their practice means, and why it's important. "Act/React" encourages an extremely varied and nuanced investigation of our embodied experiences in our own surroundings. As the curator himself notes in the Museum's press release, "If in the last century the crisis of representation was resolved by new ways of seeing, then in the twenty-first century the challenge is for artists to suggest new ways of experiencing...This is contemporary art about contemporary existence." This exhibition, in other words, implores us to look at action and reaction, at our embodied relationships, as critical experience. It is a contemporary investigation of phenomenology.
the Arts, University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South
Africa) for the month of June, 2005
the live visualist cometh
a Q&A with Joshua Goldberg, by nathaniel stern
I remember meeting Joshua at a group interview for graduate school -
we were both trying to get in to New York University's "Interactive
Telecommunication Program" (ITP) - what Newsweek has called the
"Harvard of Interactive."
We both did miserably, and neither of us thought we'd get in.
After starting there the following year, we became pretty good
friends; although I, along with most of ITP, thought Josh and the
software he was using (Cycling74's "Max") to be more than a bit mad.
We all believed it wasn't going much anywhere. More than 5 years
later, he's an expert in said application, which is now a main focus
at ITP as well as my own teaching at the WSOA Digital Arts MA (Josh
himself is still mad). I was pleased to have Josh as our first
Digital Artist in Residence at Wits School of the Arts (with a full
schedule of events all over town); after dinner one night, I had a
quick email discussion with him about his art, his curating, the
party scene, teaching, and what he was doing here.
Why would two geeks ever transcribe what could be typed in the first
nathaniel stern: Joshua, talk about your work. How would you define
yourself? Does it differ for you in your hats as artist, curator and
joshua goldberg: Right off the bat, you're encouraging me to get
incredibly pretentious. Sometimes when I talk about my work I get
frustrated, because I find myself using such dry terms to describe my
But I'll try not to do too badly, bear with me.
I'm a video artist who specializes in exploring abstract patterns.
These patterns can come from found material, such as television or
the motion of bodies through space, or they can come from
mathematical equations. I love working as a curator and encouraging
other artists to think the same way, and I love the visceral,
exciting experience of doing it in real time, as a performance.
NS: Perfect. But I have to add that said patterns are astoundingly
beautiful - and this coming from someone who isn't really into the VJ
style or culture. I think you once said about your work, something
like, "at its worst, my stuff is the best screen saver you have ever
seen; at its best, it's almost transcendental beauty." Tell me your
schpeel about VJ vs live visualist.
JG: I'm being called a Super-VJ all across South Africa. I love
publicity, but I really hate being called a VJ. The VJ term comes
from DJ, who is a guy who plays records in clubs. DJs almost always
play other people's stuff, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with
that. They know how to manage a crowd by playing rhythms and
melodies which veer from familiar to new, and familiarity is one
major tool in their arsenal. When you listen to a song you love over
and over again, the emotional resonance grows. The song touches you
in ways you did not anticipate when you first listened to it. It's
just not the case with video. When you watch a video, you rarely
want to watch it again fifteen times, even if it's short or you
really love it more than anything. It becomes stale, it becomes less
meaningful. So it's much more of a responsibility for people who do
live visuals to only work on their own content, because its freshness
is so fleeting. VJs play other people's clips. I craft a visual
experience, I'm a visualist.
NS: Just to clarify, not only do you make your own clips, but your
self-made software allows for a more improvisational performance
which is always different, right?
JG: Exactly. I work between video feedback, different clips to start
with, and play with numbers and oscillating effects in the visuals to
match the feel and the rhythm in real time. In simplest terms, people
can expect to see trippy moving images that match the set.
NS: I know it's hard to explain.... Let's get to Mark Shuttleworth
and free culture. He's a huge hero here in SA amongst the geeks, and
we also just had a big Creative Commons conference in Joburg.
Shuttleworth promotes free software available for use and change, and
CC does the same for content - re-usable and editable music, text,
images, etc. What's your take on them in the artistic and African
JG: Shuttleworth's a worthy hero. I've been reading quite a bit
about him since I got here; his actions are incredibly noble and
inspiring with reference to the push to develop Linux [the open
source Operating System] more in academic and governmental systems. =
I think he's great. I love Creative Commons because it gives me a
way to widely disseminate my work with the purpose of inspiring and
jumpstarting emerging artists without being worried about losing
credit for the pieces themselves. And Africa is a perfect match for
CC- everyone can inspire everyone else without getting bogged down in
typically American stupidity like endless copyright.
NS: It seems we've taken most advantage of your live visualization
skills while on your visit. Tell us about that. How did you get into
that scene? Burning man? From what you can see, why does that seem to
turn people on here in South Africa?
JG: I got into visualization because music and movement in clubs
seemed to be a perfect match for the first visual programming
experiments I began making in early 2000. I have my friend Carlos
Gomez de la Llarena, the architect and net.artist, to thank for that;
he got me my first gigs and gave me the confidence to keep on
performing. Doing work at Burning Man was really more of a result of
the joy i get from performing and showing; Burning Man is all about
sharing your absolute best strengths with as many people you can. I
think South Africans love live visuals for the same reason everyone
else in the world gets into them; they enhance great music and a
great experience and a great party. Who wouldn't like that?
NS: A bit about your work as an artist and curator. I know you've
just arrived, but what can you see in the new media scene here? Where
do you think it can, will and/or needs to go?
JG: I think that there's one word which I can use to sum up what
needs to happen: MORE. But I can also say more. To everyone who
is interested in doing new media work in a live context, or in a
gallery context: be unafraid to fail. Keep doing experiments, don't
restrict yourself. Don't second-guess your own work, trust your own
conceptual instincts, so that you have the patience, bravery and
energy to follow an idea through to completion. Getting started in
work like this can be difficult because of the complication and
breadth of the tools. Trust your instincts enough to remember your
original ideas, and be skeptical enough about every tool you use so
your ideas don't get lost in the tech. Just because I use Max/MSP/
Jitter as a primary artistic tool doesn't mean it's perfect; it means
that it's the best thing for me until something better comes along.
NS: OK, Josh, finally, tell us about your gigs here. You had a full
weekend here in Jozi (with four events!), something at the
Johannesburg Art Gallery the following Friday, and a gig in Cape Town
that next night Saturday.
JG: I lectured at Wits to the grad students all week, and I couldn't
miss a safari in the Kruger Park (with laptop). The other stuff in
Joburg and Cape Town:
June 10th 15:00
e x p e r i m e n t 0 2 at franchise
nathaniel stern | marcus neustetter
22 April 2005 - 14 May 2005 | Opening: 18h00 Friday 22 April by Stephen
Hobbs | Walkabout: 10h30 Saturday 30 April
Technology, johannesburg) cordially invite you to attend
a walkabout with nathaniel stern
through his exhibition, the storytellers
a seminar/panel discussion conducted by
Inspired by a visit to the Dublin Art and Technology Association (DATA),
joburg local digi-artists decided it was time to start a similar
organization in Johannesburg, South Africa. Community leaders worked
together with WSOA Digital Arts to launch Art & Technology, johannesburg
(AT.joburg). With the similar intentions of promoting, exploring,
discussing, and exhibiting art and (artists working with) technology in
South Africa and the world, our test-run event featured the work of DATA
co-founder, Jonah Brucker-Cohen.
AT.joburg, although founded by a Wits lecturer, has no base. The events,
usually held about once/month, range in space from galleries, to bars,
clubs, studios, and the Wits' digital convent and lab. Our presenters are
musicians, VJs & DJs, academics, artists, designers, curators,
technologists, poets and dancer/choreographers.
Our aims are to showcase local work, facilitate presentations by visiting
artists, and promote collaboration and dialogue between talents working in
varying disciplines, backgrounds and media, at the intersection of Art &
Any event organizer or artist in the Gauteng area can contact us for a
username and password, to blog your events on the site; any person may throw
an AT.joburg affiliated event - so long as it is in line with our goals,
open to the public, and free! We are actively recruiting leaders of the Art
& Technology community for participation - both on and offline.
We ask you to contribute, and to watch this space -
http://www.atjoburg.net/ - for upcoming events!