This text has been written for the proceedings of the international conference "New Perspectives, New Technologies", organized by the Doctoral School Ca' Foscari - IUAV in Arts History and held in Venice and Pordenone, Italy in October 2011
The "portal" designed by Antenna Design to show net based art in the exhibition "Art Entertainment Network", Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2000. Courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
In the late nineties and during the first decade of this century the term “new media art” became the established label for that broad range of artistic practices that includes works that are created, or in some way deal with, new media technologies. Providing a more detailed definition here would inevitably mean addressing topics beyond the scope of this paper, that I discussed extensively in my book Media, New Media, Postmedia (Quaranta 2010). By way of introduction to the issues discussed in this paper, we can summarize the main argument put forward in the book: that this label, and the practices it applies to, developed mostly in an enclosed social context, sometimes called the “new media art niche”, but that would be better described as an art world in its own right, with its own institutions, professionals, discussion platforms, audience, and economic model, and its own idea of what art is and should be; and that only in recent years has the practice managed to break out of this world, and get presented on the wider platform of contemporary art.
It was at this point in time, and mainly thanks to curators who were actively involved in the presentation of new media art in the contemporary art arena, that the debate about “curating new media (art)” took shape. This debate was triggered by the pioneering work of curators – from Steve Dietz to Jon Ippolito, Benjamin Weil and Christiane Paul – who at the turn of the millennium curated seminal new media art exhibitions for contemporary art museums; and it was – and still is –nurtured by CRUMB - “Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss” - a platform and mailing list founded by Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook in 2000 within the School of Arts, Design, Media and Culture at the University of Sunderland, UK. As early as 2001, CRUMB organized the first ever meeting of new media curators in the UK as part of BALTIC's pre-opening program – a seminar on Curating New Media held in May 2001.
In the context of this paper, our main reference texts will be CRUMB-related publications, from the proceedings of “Curating New Media” (2001) to Rethinking Curating. Art After New Media (2010), a recent book by Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook; and New Media in the White Cube and Beyond, a book edited by Christiane Paul in 2008. Instead of addressing the specific issues and curatorial models discussed in these publications, we will try to focus on the very foundations of “curating new media”, exploring questions like: does new media art require a specific curatorial model? Does this curatorial model follow the way artists working with new media currently present themselves on the contemporary art platform? How much could “new media art” benefit from a non-specialized approach? Are we curating “new media” or curating “art”? ...
The following excerpt comes from the final chapter of my book Media, New Media, Postmedia, recently published in Italian by Postmediabooks, who kindly gave Rhizome permission to republish it in English. The book is an attempt to analyze the current positioning of so-called “New Media Art” in the wider field of contemporary arts, and to explore the historical, sociological and conceptual reasons for its marginal position and under-recognition in recent art history.
curated by: DOMENICO QUARANTA (stands), CAROLINA GRAU (cinema)
Galleries and artists (STANDS): Arc Projects, Sofia / THOMSON & CRAIGHEAD; Ernst Hilger, Vienna / JOHN GERRARD; Fabio Paris Art Gallery, Brescia / UBERMORGEN.COM; Fortlaan 17, Gent / LAWRENCE MALSTAF; MS Galeria, Madrid / ESTHER MANAS & ARASH MOORI; One and J Gallery, Seoul / KIM JONGKU; Project Gentili, Prato / JOAN LEANDRE; Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi / PORS AND RAO.
MORE INFOS, CATALOGUE TEXT AND DOWNLOADABLE IMAGES:
NEW MEDIA ART BETWEEN ISOLATION AND INTEGRATION, INTER-DISCIPLINARITY AND MEDIA SPECIFICITY
February, Sunday 15, 2009
Forum Auditorium 1, Hall 6 Sunday 15, from 12.30 to 2.30 p.m. and from 4 to 9 p.m.
Director: Domenico Quaranta
Speakers: Jon Ippolito & Joline Blais, Roberta Bosco, Geert Lovink, Inke Arns, Régine Debatty, Zhang Ga, Joasia Krysa.
Young artists showcasing trends in new media art, with a special focus on video and installation
ARCOmadrid Press Office, 08/01/2009
Curated by: Domenico Quaranta, Carolina Grau
Dialogue and an exploration of media art languages is, once again, the main focus at EXPANDED BOX. From a renewed perspective, this programme, specialised in art and new technologies, takes a step further in its mission to reflect a process of unstoppable expansion of art practices towards new formats and contexts. This year, the programme has been divided into two: STANDS, a space set aside for large format installations, curated by the art critic and independent curator Domenico Quaranta; and CINEMA, a monographic section dedicated to video art, selected by the independent curator Carolina Grau.
A total of 15 art projects are on view in the EXPANDED BOX programme, 8 at STANDS, and 7 in CINEMA. For the Italian curator Domenico Quaranta, “more than reflecting the creative exploitation of the medium, these proposals contain a critical examination of the cultural consequences of today’s media and technologies.” The tendencies come from a number of international artists, in turn represented by galleries taking on the challenge involved in fostering a new conception of art.
EXPANDED BOX is a market platform at ARCOmadrid for the exploration of art languages and dynamic discourses proposing new concepts. From the perspective of the notion of expansion, the selected programme “showcases a type of art that looks outside the parameters of contemporary art to art developed on the Net, the art produced in research centres and labs and that has all the potential to change our present-day notion of art. A change of perspective that should not scare collectors or art lovers, because these works are representative of the information society and of the globalised world we all live in,” says Quaranta.
STANDS, multiple format installations
Quaranta’s selection includes eight projects represented by both veteran and young international galleries. Eight pieces that, “in the wide open field of art experimentation, dictate their own rules regardless of prevailing canons, and give rise to a radically altered context that allows them to successfully progress.”
These tendencies are well represented in the selection made by Quaranta, defined by the variety of the projects on display. The exhibition covers a lot of ground, ranging from works using a combination of new technologies and traditional media, to pieces employing new media but with conventional purposes, or works that rediscover the potential of technologies that have virtually fallen into disuse.
The two ends of that diversity are embodied, on one hand by Arrow Wall, an interactive installation by the two-artist collective Pors & Rao, presented at the Indian gallery VADEHRA ART GALLERY. The project responds to the position and movements of the spectators moving throughout the space. For the artists, “it is a naïve abstraction of the complex dynamics of the relations surrounding us and of which we are an integral part. When users stand at a certain distance from Arrow Wall, the movements are subtler though nonetheless active. However, when the spectators comes closer, the feeling is that of a fracture of the balance, with the walls starting to move at a greater pace, as if the user acted as a magnet whose magnetic field has an effect on behaviour.
At the other extreme, we find the critical examination of the cultural consequences of present-day media and technologies through the work of the Austrian duo Ubermorgen.com, represented by FABIO PARIS ART GALLERY from Brescia, Italy. Their piece The EKMRZ Trilogy is a complex proposal developed over the last two years, integrating three projects based on a subversion of the interfaces of three giant digital corporations: Google, Amazon and Ebay. Resorting to code, software and to social hacking, they created a network of websites through which they obtained money by hosting ads in Google. The funds were subsequently invested in the acquisition of Google shares as a means to gradually erode the rigid power of the world’s most popular browser. Thus, they managed to steal, page by page, whole books from the Amazon database than were then redistributed without copy license, or to translate for Ebay users music databases from a directory based on a soft porn page. Using two projectors, the booth of the gallery reproduces the impressions and texts gathered in that space.
In these contrasting points, what matters is not how the medium is used, but the way in which the works explain to the public how human beings experience the world, how images, narratives, aesthetics and habits spread by the media have an effect on our environment.
In between these two points, we find proposals also providing a critical insight into the social consequences of the use of technology. That is the case of the work by the Spaniard Joan Leandre, one of the pioneers of software art. PROJECT GENTILI, a gallery from Prato, Italy, will exhibit a piece by this artist in which he filters our connection with reality through hyper-real interfaces. In turn, the British collaborative Thomson & Craighead, will show their work at the booth of the ARC PROJECTS gallery from Sofia, Bulgaria, with a project revealing the semantics of every devices and mechanisms.
Another sound installation shown at EXPANDED BOX comes from Esther Mañas & Arash Moori, represented by GALERIA MS from Madrid. The installation by the Korean artist Kim Jongku, on display at the booth of ONE AND J. GALLERY from Seoul, Korea, explores the fine line dividing matter and the dematerialisation brought about by the media.
FORTLAAN 17, a gallery from Ghent, Belgium, will present an installation entitled Compass, by the Belgian artist Lawrence Malstaf, a proposal researching into the interactive interface and the human-machine. Finally, the list of projects is completed with a 3D animation piece by the Irish artist John Gerrard, on view at ERNST HILGER CONTEMPORARY from Vienna.
CINEMA, an overview of video art
EXPANDED BOX has an area with screens projecting unique works by young artists from various origins. Represented by galleries with a long track record at the fair, the selection of this space set aide for video art includes “projects by artists influenced and inspired by the language of cinema and its visual codes as well as by the popular culture of television and the music world. Their videos feature daily stories and exceptional, extraordinary events captured by the artist’s camera,” as the curator of this section, Carolina Grau, states.
A regular of the ARCOmadrid’s curatorial team, Grau has chosen seven works. Pieces addressing the global society and a committed engagement with the world’s most pressing issues will be presented by galleries including the Austrian GEORG KARGL, representing the artist Andreas Fogarasi who is bring a new work Public Brands - La France. This video piece shows images of France’s 26 regions, depicting a variety of landscapes and local identities, underscoring the fact that public sector and tourism are following the path of private corporations by attempting to position locations as if they were brands.
Next up, RUTH BENZACAR GALERIA DE ARTE from Argentina is also taking part this year in this section with a piece by Judi Werthein, an artist living between New York and Buenos Aires. From the Big Apple comes MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY, presenting the most recent video by the Indian artist Amar Kanwar.
This CINEMA selection is completed with work brought by four veteran galleries at the ARCOmadrid. From the Netherlands comes MIRTA DEMARE, with a piece by the highly promising Russian artist Katarina Zdjelar. Next, the gallery from Pamplona, MOISÉS PÉREZ DE ALBÉNIZ shows a work by the Basque artist Iñaki Garmendia that will certainly encourage the members of the audience to let themselves go and experience rather than think.
This space devoted to video art will also include a proposal by Nuno Cera, brought by the Portuguese gallery PEDRO CERA. Last but not least, the screens of CINEMA will also project a work by Stefanos Tsivopoulos represented by the Italian PROMETEO GALLERY.
The new vision of art proposed by EXPANDED BOX does not consist of exotica, but rather of thought-provoking artworks heralding an interesting dialogue with other creations, languages and supports shown at the fair, with the clear intention of expanding the boundaries of art.
Re:akt! 7 - Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG Reenactment of Marina Abramovic and Ulay's Imponderabilia
“Eva and me, we hate performance art, we never quite got the point. So, we wanted to understand what made it so uninteresting to us, and reenacting these performances was the best way to figure it out.” 
The advent of re-enactment, of both historical events and artistic performances of the past, has gone hand in hand with the renewed success of performance art as of the 90s, to the point where it is now interpreted as one of the signs of this success.
Events like A Little Bit of History Repeated (Berlin, Kunst-Werke 2001), A Short History of Performance (London, Whitechapel Art Gallery 2003), and the stir created by 7 Easy Pieces by Marina Abramović (New York, Guggenheim Museum) and works like The Third Memory (1999) by Pierre Huyghe or The Battle of Orgrave (2002) by Jeremy Deller, would appear to support this theory. Yet a moment’s consideration of the characteristics of performance art in the 60s and 70s is enough to understand that re-enactment, rather than a sign of victory, is actually the most evident indicator of its defeat, its capitulation to the rules of the art world (which demands products) and the entertainment business (which demands repetition).
While radical stances like Marina Abramović’s (“no rehearsal, no repetition, no predicted end”)  were relatively isolated at the time, there was broad consensus over the need for authenticity (opposing the fictional nature of theatre, the eternal adversary of performance art), together with that of creating unique, unrepeatable, unpredictable events (with the immediacy of the ‘here and now’) which could not be reduced to the status of object or product. If this is performance art, re-enactment is its consummate nemesis. Re-enactment takes up (repeats, reconstructs and responds to) an original event. It is based on a script, and is therefore entirely predictable, and it has a defined ending. Lastly, its dialogue with the source event, and exploration of analogies and differences respect to the original, require preparation, rehearsals and the construction of a set. Its quest for authenticity is based on a reconstruction, which brings it dangerously close to theatre, and, due to the fact that, like the performance art of the 90s, it comes into being in a completely media-dominated world, derivative products are almost inevitable; indeed in some cases re-enactment exists only in mediated form.
Few have acknowledged the fundamentally Oedipal nature of re-enactment with the lucidity demonstrated by Eva and Franco Mattes. Their Synthetic Performances (2007 - 2008) are a series of six re-enactments of historic performances of the 60s and 70s, staged by the artists’ virtual alter-egos in the synthetic world of Second Life. As they have stated, the series arose out of their polemical stance with regard to the concept of performance art and the very works that they “pay tribute” to. This leads them on the one hand to breach the classic rules of performance art, and on the other to present these works - the efficacy of which was based on the radical way they explored the issues of the body, violence (Chris Burden), sexuality (Valie Export, Vito Acconci, Marina Abramović), identity (Gilbert & George), and the environment and public space (Joseph Beuys) - in a context where these issues acquire a completely different meaning, and as a consequence the original energy of the performance, and its power to provoke, dissipates, or turns into something completely different.
In the words of the Mattes: “We chose actions that were particularly paradoxical if performed in a virtual world.” And: “everything is mediated, nothing is spontaneous. More or less the opposite of what performance art is supposed to be.” 
But if the Synthetic Performances were merely a statement against performance art, they could be seen at the most as proving a point: simple, direct instant-works without any subtle nuances and probably not destined to last much longer than the debate that generated them. In actual fact the interesting thing about these works lies less in the mortal blow they deliver to performance art and more in the subtle way they bring it to life in a new context and lend it - if you will pardon the pun - a second life.
A virtual world is a 3D synthetic environment which the user operates in by means of a virtual alter ego, or avatar. The problems that virtual worlds pose to those not familiar with them can be summed up as follows: in a virtual world, representation and existence are one and the same thing. We no longer distinguish between the medium and life, because life is entirely mediated. I am my avatar, and the fact that my avatar is an artefact, a puppet made of polygons and textures, certainly doesn’t stop me from identifying with it. When I say “I”, it is my avatar talking. Obviously I can say “I” because there are millions of other “I”s with whom I can speak, dance, work, have a drink, have sex, fly around, fight, and engage in a host of other activities. If we wish, a virtual world is a consensual hallucination . When we download the Second Life client and make our first access we can still cling to the belief that it is merely a piece of software, but after a few days we cannot but acknowledge the fact that it really is a world, with its own complex society, rules to obey, and rapidly evolving lifestyles. Entering a virtual world means facing up to a new possible form of existence, and the Synthetic Performances are first and foremost an attempt to explore this new horizon using a form of art which intrinsically focuses on life. In other words, Eva and Franco Mattes use performance art to explore “life on screen”.
Let’s take Imponderabilia, for example. In 1977, on occasion of their participation in a group show at the Galleria Civica in Bologna, Marina Abramović and her partner Ulay stood, completely naked, facing each other, in the narrow entrance to the exhibition, leaving only a restricted passageway which could be used by one person at a time, moving sideways and pressing against both of the artists’ bodies. The artists themselves, immobile, appeared to be immersed in an interplay of intimacy excluding all else, while the members of the public wishing to enter or leave the exhibition area were obliged to squeeze between their naked bodies: a moment of forced physical intimacy set against a gaping emotional divide.
Re-enacting Imponderabilia literally implies transforming it into a script, and necessarily taking the media accounts of the event on board. Restaging it in a virtual world basically means planning everything: building the set, writing code to prevent the two actors from moving when they come into contact with another body, and writing other code to allow the spectators to squeeze easily through the narrow gap. On occasion of the New York festival Performa07, when Eva and Franco Mattes staged a live re-enactment of Imponderabilia, the other avatars present had two “scripted objects” at their disposal, positioned at the edges of the set: clicking on the left hand one meant you crossed the threshold facing Franco Mattes’ naked body, while clicking on the right hand one meant you came up against Eva’s synthetic physique.
As we have said, the event was staged live, in front of two different sets of spectators: those of Second Life, who took part from the comfort of their own homes, by means of their avatars; and the audience at Performa07, who followed it “from a distance”, projected onto a wall in the presence of the artists, who were there in front of them in the flesh, albeit absorbed in their computer. The contradictions of this set-up are self-evident: the event was both live (with the unpredictable immediacy of performance art) and heavily mediated (in particular, the projection was not a fixed camera stream - there was directorial control over the way the real life spectators experienced the performance); and two levels of existence intertwined, meaning that the same event was experienced in very different ways. The real-life audience experienced the event as a show, but at the same time they were able to speak to the artists engaged in the performance. For them, the re-enactment worked on the same level as a citation: being fully conversant with the original event, they could recognize it and appreciate the differences, as the laughter and comments captured on the recording show.
The Second Life audience, on the other hand, were able to participate in the event, enrich it with new meanings, star in it and reintroduce the element of unpredictability that had been eliminated at the preparatory stage. Some avatars stripped naked before squeezing between Eva and Franco Mattes, while others, who didn’t understand the interaction mechanism, took up position in front of the door, and still others exploited the situation to give rise to new performances of their own.
As we can see, Reenactment of Marina Abramovic and Ulay's Imponderabilia lends itself very well to highlighting the specific contribution that the work of Eva and Franco Mattes makes to the issues involved in re-enactment. The fact that a performance that revolves entirely around the unsettling sensation of intimacy created by a naked body in a public area ends up looking “paradoxical” in a virtual world does not mean that it is entirely stripped of meaning. Avatars have sex, and even though this takes place by means of improbable sexual prostheses, and the activation of sound files and a movement script, this does not mean that there are no consequences on the emotional level. Many avatars are reluctant to strip off, and those who do so in a public place are viewed as irritating troublemakers, and risk expulsion.
The complete “mediatization” of the event introduces another question. While re-enactment always concerns “re-mediation”, namely an appropriation or translation of other media or media objects, in a virtual world this is par for the course. But Eva and Franco Mattes go one further, taking up the documentation of the original event with philological care. No concession is made to the “vernacular” aspects of Second Life: their avatars are realistic, and the settings are reconstructed with painstaking precision; even the angles chosen by the direction faithfully reflect the photographic and filmed records of the original event. We have mentioned the term “citation”, but the duo’s long-standing interest in plagiarism could point to the concept of copies and originals in this context. Their Synthetic Performances thus represent the destiny of performance art in an age where life itself, and no longer just works of art, can be technologically reproduced.
Lastly, it is important to note that in the re-enactments by Eva and Franco Mattes, the conceptual hub of the work is spatial rather than temporal. As Jennifer Allen writes, re-enactment is to do with time: “Reenactment depends upon a linear construction of time. Of course, the 're' denotes a return to an earlier time, the existence of an event that has expired and therefore can be safely enacted once again, without being confused with itself.”  And Inke Arns notes, “Events [...] are re-enacted that are viewed as very important for the present. Here the reference to the past is not history for history's sake; it is about the relevance of what happened in the past for the here and now.”  The Synthetic Performances also implement this kind of examination, but rather than effecting a temporal shift, they work in terms of space, transporting an event into another context, another medium. The aim remains the comprehension of the here and now, but it is the here rather than the now which is challenged.
 Eva and Franco Mattes, “Nothing is real, everything is possible. Excerpts from interviews with Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG”, 2007. l
 From a statement of 1976, presented in AAVV, Marina Abramović. 7 Easy Pieces, Charta, Milan 2007.
 Eva and Franco Mattes, “Nothing is real, everything is possible...”, quoted.
 William Gibson’s uber definition of cyberspace in the novel Neuromancer (1984): “Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts...”
 Jennifer Allen, “'Einmal ist keinmal'. Observations on Reenactment”, in Sven Lütticken (ed.), Life, Once More. Forms of Reenactment in Contemporary Art, exhibition catalogue, Witte de With, Rotterdam 2005, pp. 177 - 213.
 Inke Arns, “History Will Repeat Itself”, in Inke Arns, Gabriele Horn (eds), History Will Repeat Itself. Strategies of re-enactment in contemporary (media) art and performance, exhibition catalogue, Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin 2007.
MNAC - National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest
Reconstruction, Re-enactment, Re-reporting
curated by: Domenico Quaranta
MNAC - National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest
Izvor St. 2-4, wing E4, Bucharest, Romania / Entrance from Calea 13 Septembrie
22 January - 13 March 2009
Panel discussion: 22 January 2009 at 18:00
Exhibition opening: 22 January 2009 at 19:00
Featured artists: Lucas Bambozzi, Vaginal Davis, Quentin Drouet, Janez Janša, Janez Janša, Janez Janša, Irwin, Eva and Franco Mattes (aka 0100101110101101.ORG), OHO group, SilentCell Network (Mare Bulc, Janez Janša, Bojana Kunst, Igor Štromajer)
MNAC - National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest is proud to announce “RE:akt! Reconstruction, Re-enactment, Re-reporting”, the world preview of the works realized in the last three years within the platform “RE:akt!” conceived by Janez Janša and produced by the Slovenian cultural institution Aksioma.
During recent years the term re-enactment and the practices it refers to have enjoyed increasing success in the artistic context. On one hand, the success of re-enactment appears to be connected to a parallel, vigorous return to performance art, both as a genre practiced by the new generations, and as an artistic practice with its own historicization. On the other hand the term re-enactment accompanies two phenomena that at least at first glance have very little in common: re-staging artistic performances of the past, and revisiting, in performance form, “real” events - be they linked to history or current affairs, past or present.
“RE:akt! Reconstruction, Re-enactment, Re-reporting” tries both to research on the complexity of this concept and to get rid of it, approaching re-enactment not merely as “live action role-playing” or “living history” but rather as a strategy for cultural critique, analysis and artistic expression. “RE:akt!” - meaning not only “to act again” but also “to respond to / to react upon” and “Regarding: act!”- confronts current ideological and intellectual canons, power structures, policies, and distribution channels by re-enacting selected historical and culturally relevant events. Through processes of analysis, deconstruction, re-enactment and re-reporting, the intermedia research and presentation project “RE:akt!” examines media’s roles in manipulating perceptions and creating postmodern historical myths and contemporary mythology.
Thus, “RE:akt! Reconstruction, Re-enactment, Re-reporting”, curated by the Italian art critic and curator Domenico Quaranta, will collect ten different approaches to the concept ofenaction: from Ich Lubbe Berlin! (2005, SilentCell Network), a take on the 1933 burning of the Reichstag building in Berlin, which explores the contemporary meaning of symbols such as the Reichstag itself, and of concepts such as “communism” and “terrorism”; to Das KAPITAL (2006, Janez Janša), a performance which re-stages the 1969 occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces with the languages of popular street artists; from C'était un rendez-vous (déja vu) (Janez Janša and Quentin Drouet), a project that plays with the paradigmatic history of a well known artwork, the film C'était un rendez-vous by Claude Lelouch, from “cinema verité” to “media fiction”; to VD as VB (2007), a series of actions in which Vaginal Davis, the “grande dame” of the queer underground in Los Angeles, dialogues with Vanessa Beecroft's performances. In Mount Triglav on Mount Triglav (2007 - 2008), the three artists Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša re-stage a well known performance of the OHO group from the late Sixties, recently appropriated by the IRWIN group for their Like to Like Series (2004), performing it on the Mount Triglav itself, and then translating it into a monumental golden sculpture; while in Slovene National Theatre (2007), Janez Janša translates an infamous fact of recent racism against Gypsies - known in Slovenia as “the Ambrus case” - into a piece of theatre, re-invoicing it as it was featured by the mass media. In their Synthetic Performances (2007), Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG reenact on the virtual platform of Second Life a series of historical performances that are all but virtual, raising issues such as body, violence, sex and pain, thus exploring the meaning of these very issues in a virtual world. In SS-XXX | Die Frau Helga (2007), Janez Janša again adds details and proofs of evidence to an “urban legend” recently circulated on the Net and mainstream media, concerning the presumed creation of a cyber-sex doll by the Nazis. Thus, performance and reenactment are far from being the only strategies adopted in “RE:akt!”, which also involves strategies such as documentation, remix, re-invoicement, reconstruction and remediation (such as in the project The Day São Paulo Stopped 2009 by Brazilian artist Lucas Bambozzi), and media such as photographic print, video, media installation and even architecture (such as in the project Il porto dell'amore, by Janez Janša, an homage to Fiume as an example of pirate utopia).
On Thursday, January 22, MNAC will host a panel discussion featuring Domenico Quaranta, curator of the exhibition; Janez Janša, artist and director of Aksioma; and the italian theoretician Antonio Caronia, co-editor of the book E:akt! Reconstruction, Re-enactment, Re-reporting, to be published on March 2009 (with contributions by Rod Dickinson, Jennifer Allen, Jan Verwoert, Antonio Caronia and Domenico Quaranta). On March 25, the exhibition will travel to ŠKUC gallery, Ljubljana (Slovenia) and then further to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka (Croatia).
FREE IMAGES FOR PRESS and MORE INFO:
Production: Aksioma - Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana
the European Cultural Foundation www.eurocult.org
the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia
the Municipality of Ljubljana
Institut Français de Bucarest, Irwin, Claude Lelouch - LES FILMS 13, Moderna galerija Ljubljana, MGLC - International Centre of Graphic Arts Ljubljana, RPS d.o.o.
MNAC - National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest
Izvor St. 2-4, wing E4, Bucharest, Romania
phone: +40 - (0)21 318 91 37
Aksioma - Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana
Neubergerjeva 25, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenija
gsm : +386 - (0)41 250 830
OPENING & PERFORMANCE: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 6.00 PM
From January 17 to March 7, 2009
3.00 - 7.00 PM, closed on Sunday
Fabio Paris Art Gallery is proud to announce the second solo exhibition by the Austrian artist duo UBERMORGEN.COM, presenting the world preview of the project “Superenhanced”, which is dedicated to the pressing issue of torture. Though torture is banned almost everywhere, it has re-emerged under a new set of names with the neutral, tidy, functional language of marketing and branding.
Kidnapping is now called “extraordinary rendition”, and torture is “enhanced interrogation”: “an efficient way to extract valuable information from unwilling detainees” that uses so-called “soft” techniques such as the Attention Grab (the interrogator forcefully grabs the prisoner’s shirt front and shakes them) and the Attention Slap (an open-handed slap to the face); the Belly Slap (a hard open-handed slap to the abdomen, able to cause pain, but not internal injury); this then continues into “harsh techniques” like then Long Time Standing, with prisoners forced to stand, handcuffed, for more than 40 hours; the Cold Cell, where the prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 10 degrees Celsius; Waterboarding, a controlled form of drowning, and Sleep Deprivation, where they are not allowed to sleep for several days. These are mostly psychological techniques, which do not leave marks on the detainee’s body, and have been used for years (since the Reagan administration) in America’s Supermax prisons (but also in places like Kandahar, Bagram Airbase and Guantanamo Bay) to prepare ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ (including numerous children) for interrogation. The final set of methods used by authorities are the classic extremely brutal ones: Hanging prisoners by their wrists for days, beating prisoners, breaking bones, amputation of limbs, starving prisoners and killing prisoners.
UBERMORGEN.COM gets to grips with this sinister subject matter, but rather than condemning a human rights outrage that is there for all to see, appears to be more interested, on one hand, in exploring the hypocrisies of the language that renders it acceptable, and on the other the moral position of the spectator when exposed to ambiguous questions and disturbing images. The point of departure is the Superenhanced Generator, a web project (displayed in installation form) that contains a smart interrogation engine, basically capable of comprehending the spectator’s responses, and that generates a fake legal document (a foriginal), modelled on rendition orders and interrogation protocols.
The installation is accompanied by a series of photographic prints and a video which adopt the ascetic aesthetic of maximum security prisons representing child prisoners undergoing intimidation and torture: the photos are staged poses of a reality that no-one wants to believe in - a reality that is conveyed to the public eye as a form “collateral damage” in a “necessary” fight against terror. The images are nicely lit and professionally produced, but they are profoundly unsettling due to the truths that lie beneath their patina of glamour.
On the evening of the opening, the installation will be accompanied by a performance.
UBERMORGEN.COM (lizvlx & Hans Bernhard, www.ubermorgen.com) is an artist duo based in Vienna, Austria. Behind UBERMORGEN.COM we can find one of the most unmatchable identities - controversial and iconoclast - of the contemporary European techno-fine-art avant-garde. Their open circuit of conceptual art, drawing, software art, pixelpainting, computer installations, net.art, sculpture and digital activism (media hacking) transforms their brand into a hybrid Gesamtkunstwerk.
In February 2009, FPEditions will publish the monograph UBERMORGEN.COM (edited by Domenico Quaranta, with contributions by Inke Arns and Jodi.org).
via Alessandro Monti 13 - 25121 Brescia - tel. 030 3756139 - Skype: fabioparisbs
below you can find my curatorial essay for Pixxelpoint 2008, that will open on Friday, December 5th in Nova Gorica, Slovenia.
FOR GOD'S SAKE!
“God Always Uses the Latest Technology.”
In the little town in northern Italy where I live, which is economically prosperous, culturally sleepy, religiously bigotted and politically conservative, there is a small but interesting “Museum of Art and Spirituality”. It presents part of the collection of contemporary art that belonged to Giovanni Battista Montini, a.k.a. Pope Paul VI, an illustrious local man and possibly the last Catholic pope to believe that contemporary art could convey a religious message. After a brief look at the collection, it is easy to agree that Pope Paul’s faith in art, was, as they say, blind. While alongside a few daubs, he managed to collect a number of undisputed masterpieces, by artists including Sironi, Morandi, De Chirico, Chagall, Kokoschka, Dalì, Matisse, Manzù and Giacometti, in this art it is difficult to find the populace-educating power of Medieval and Renaissance art, or the astounding emotional impact of Baroque art. None of these works has the catalyzing power of an icon. Contemporary art alters the rhetoric of religious art, learns its stylistic approaches and tackles it from a secular point of view. At times it conveys a private form of spirituality, not necessarily linked to any religion. And often, when it tackles official religions, it does so in a provocative, iconoclastic way: take Martin Kippenberger’s crucified frog, for instance, or the cross submerged in the urine of Andres Serrano, or Maurizio Cattelan’s Nona ora, or the Virgin Mary blackened with elephant dung by Chris Ofili, or Vanessa Beecroft’s recent Madonnas. All of these works are undoubtedly imbued with their own form of “sacredness”, yet they would hardly be hung in a church.
Even post-colonial art, which takes account of local traditions and therefore often deals with the powerful influence of religion, seems more intent on critiquing this influence than exploring its depths. In the contemporary art world, only video - in some instances - seems to have taken up the legacy of great religious art: take Bill Viola, for example, whose works have also been shown in cathedrals. We could explore the extent to which this is connected to the fluid magic of the electronic image, and more in general the ability demonstrated by the mass media in conveying the religious message, and recuperating the role of “biblia pauperum” once played by the great fresco cycles.
While sects and religions have had a hold over radio and television frequencies for some time, the film industry, from The Ten Commandments (1956) to The Passion of The Christ (2004), has accomplished what art has no longer been able to for around two centuries. But it has been above all with the appearance of the phenomenon euphemistically dubbed “the clash of civilizations” that we have become aware of the extraordinary readiness and skill shown by religions of all kinds in exploiting the media. The papal decree declaring the validity of a blessing received during a live radio programme (1967) came around the same time as Nam June Paik’s first legendary video (Café Gogo, Blecker Street, 1965, featuring the Pope), and the same recognition was accorded to blessings on the internet in 1995, when most of the political world had not yet even acknowledged its existence. On another front, the videos of Palestinian kamikazes have done much more for the development of “tactical media” than the Seattle movement. “God Always Uses the Latest Technology”, I once read on a Christian website. Holy wars are now waged as much in virtual worlds as real ones, and in video games such as Under Ash and Kuma War as much as with car bombs and air raids. We look to technology to confirm myth and miracle, from the Turin Shroud, to the blood of St. Gennaro, to the tears of the Virgin Mary; while the Catholic backing for Mel Gibson’s blockbuster is common knowledge, as is the way in which Opus Dei adroitly used the media to turn The Da Vinci Code’s bumbling but best-selling attack to its own advantage.
As I write there is an exhibition regarding this very theme - the skilful use of the media made by sects and religions - being staged. Entitled “Media Religion”, it is hosted by the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe (curated by Boris Groys and Peter Weibel). The press release goes as follows:
“Video has become the chosen media for religious propaganda as it can be produced and distributed particularly fast thanks to today's technology. [...] The exhibition “Media Religion” aims to demonstrate the medial aspect of religion based on current examples of religious propaganda and individual works by contemporary artists. Shown, among others, will be confession videos by religiously inspired terrorists, religious propaganda television series, and documentaries about current sects and religious groups. The artistic works juxtaposing the documentary material arise for the most part from the same context as the religious movements that they refer to. The relationship of most of the artists to religious rituals, images, and texts from their own culture is neither affirmative nor critical but instead, blasphemous. In this way, a critical analysis of the respective religious iconography is possible, as well as its crossover into modern culture.”
If the religious - when not cultural - use of the media has had a hand in bringing religion to the centre of artists’ attention, the ramifications of religion in the information society are, if possible, even more complex and fascinating. Whether we like it or not, spirituality has shaped the evolution of the media, and has in turn been greatly influenced by it.
Two of the most effective technological era brands - the Big Brother symbol and the Second Life logo - are patently inspired by the divine eye, and more generally, religious iconography appears to be almost an obligatory reference for many communications and media companies, especially stateside. High tech gadgets are increasingly aspiring, with undisputed success, to the status of fetish object. Without any great qualms we have replaced rosary beads and holy images with iPods and iPhones, and prayer books (even in the form of Mao Tse Tung’s little red book) with Notebooks. Total immersion in videogame playing, even from the postural point of view, resembles a new form of prayer or religious ecstasy, and search engines have acquired the status of oracles. “It’s true - I read it on Google”, is an often-heard mantra that sounds like an act of faith. If religion is (or was) the opium of the people, in the 90s it was banal to say the same of television, and now of Youtube.
“God games” are one of the most successful videogame genres, and together with the satellite vision made popular by GPS systems and Google Earth, they show how much we enjoy having an omniscient, commanding view of the world. What the Greeks regarded as the sin of hubris is commonplace for us, almost mundane, as is another divine prerogative man has granted himself: that of taking on different forms and using these to operate in different worlds. Like in the past, this projection of the divine ego is known as an avatar, but unlike in the past, it is now a possibility open to any acne-ridden adolescent. For today’s teenagers, “virtual life” is a fact of life, but often it is also, like in the film eXsistenZ (1999) by David Cronenberg (also present at Pixxelpoint) a collective cult, a religion. The fact that it is not yet possible to risk one’s ‘real’ life (unlike in the film), is a mere detail. Technology also violates our privacy like only God used to be able to; thus while we are increasingly unwilling to attend confession, we find it easier and easier to lay our souls bare on social networks. While our computers are not yet as powerful as HAL 9000, the arrogant superbrain in 2001 A Space Odyssey, we get the impression that this is not far off. In any case, a few years back we were sufficiently advanced to direct our millennial angst at an improbable “millennium bug”, and more recently, at a highly technological particle accelerator, which ended up getting jammed on its first run.
I am writing this article on my Macbook, on a slow, clunky train which was probably last renovated at the beginning of the 90s. It is called Freccia della Versilia - Arrow of Versilia. Opposite me there is a girl in pointed shoes and ripped jeans painting her nails and replying to sporadic messages on her Blackberry. When this secular ritual is interrupted, she takes a tiny pamphlet out of her bag - about 5 cm across, and with few pages. On the cover there is a Madonna and child image, but a few details reveal that this prayer book is not the stuff of Catholic orthodoxy. To the side of me there are two other girls. One has an open copy of The Transfiguration of the Commonplace by Arthur C. Danto, while the other, who is wearing Timberlands and a Palestinian kefiah, is holding a sheaf of notes. But instead of reading, the girls are talking about nirvana, The Celestine Prophecy and finalism, mixing philosophy, mysticism and new age. Then they stop, and the one reading Danto gets out an iPod. I swear. May god strike me down if I am not speaking the truth. If I had looked around the train earlier, I might not have written what I have. But the fact that the bag of a 20-something can contain a Blackberry, a prayer book, The Celestine Prophecy and an iPod is not really a contradiction, when it comes down to it. The future is here, and at least in this part of the world it is distributed pretty well, but it coexists with a past which is unwilling to bow out. The strange times we live in are the children of both syncretisms and synchronies.
Contemporary art often raises these issues - technological fetishism, the oracular nature of the internet, the fideistic attitude with which we use the media, and the “evangelizing” approach of those who produce them. It often adopts a critical stance, but also looks to the media as an authentic vehicle for spirituality. When I began working on For God's Sake!, the show was basically a tag cloud, a cluster of key words: hi-tech fetishism, technology mysticism, Millennium Bug, HAL 9000, Brainstorm, Big Brother, Truman Show, surveillance, dataveillance, privacy, oracle, rituality, avatar, community, social networks etc. I had a few phrases and a few works in mind, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. On the other hand I knew exactly what I didn’t want to do: I didn’t want to stage an exhibition which attributed one single meaning to the term “religion”; I didn’t want to put on an exhibition of religious art, or profanity, but rather mix saints and heretics, worshippers and blasphemers. I wanted to move away from cyberpunk mysticism, techno-hippies, data-gloves and virtual reality gurus, but also the lavish effects of audio visual work, the facile attraction of electromagnetism and the other tricks much beloved by Teslans. What I was particularly interested in was exploring the relationship that develops between our spiritual lives, both individual and collective, and the gadgets we use on a daily basis; understanding how these worm their way into our imaginations, and how they exploit and enrich our symbols and metaphors, and also understanding where faith takes shelter in a world where nothing seems private, a world which has transferred the “style” of the sacred to consumer goods, and which has submerged silence under an unprecedented information overload.
The works gradually fleshed out the framework I had sketched, enriching it and often surprising me. The power of some of the images astounded me: the evocative Via Crucis of shadows imagined by Markus Kison, the dance of satellites orchestrated by Janez Janša, or Briant Dameron’s traveller, who seeks confirmation of his existence in an empty screen. I was surprised to witness the appearance of various issues I had not considered, like the exploration of the prescriptive, authoritarian nature of certain artistic languages and styles: from the tutorials collected and examined by Petros Moris to the Powerpoint style parodied by Clemens Kogler. I was even more surprised to discover, in some works, how needs, rituals, and even the sacraments of faith can find support and mediation in the community aspects of digital technologies, and that this in no way undermines their original purity. The fact that a few of these works adopt an ironic approach does not make this new dimension of rituality less interesting.
One project with an extremely serious theoretical premise is Mission Eternity, an ambitious work in progress by the Swiss collective etoy. Mission Eternity describes itself as “a digital cult of the dead”, and entails digital archiving and data conservation, and the social dimension of peer to peer networks; it blends technology and ancient rites, with a modernized version of the Chinese joss paper tradition which bestows shares in the etoy.corporation, rather than money, on the deceased.
Meditation for Avatars, by the German artists Ute Hoerner and Mathias Antlfinger, involves a series of networked client - computers with the work installed on them, to give rise to a kind of collective meditation. Participants perform a mantra then send it to the other users online. This creates a community of computers in meditation, generating a field of positive energy that the artists reckon is transferred to the users. Vice versa, the Empathy Box by the Italian collective Io/cose establishes a community of users united by empathy through their shared perception of pain - pain caused by an electric shock generated by the device and transmitted through the human chain. Lastly, Confession 2.0 by Cristiano Poian and Paolo Tonon explores the connection between the drastic drop in confession attendance and the digital soul-baring typical of social networks, by means of a high-tech confessional that makes our confessions public, transforming us into “successful sinners”.
All of these works deploy the rites, sacraments, idols and fetishes of a spirituality currently renewing itself in line with the anthropological mutation in progress. As has always happened, for the greater glory of God.