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.
Scott Kildall (http://www.kildall.com/) is a visual artist currently living in San Francisco, where he is working as a fellowship artist with the Kala Art Institute. In 2006 he received an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Starting in 2001, he put together a huge body of work in a variety of media including video installation, sound architecture, electromechanical sculpture and single-channel video projection.
Being interested in issues such as “dislocation, transition and emotional upheaval” and in the “exploration of anticipatory moments”, it's no surprise that he was attracted by Second Life, where he become Great Escape, the purple-faced member of the Second Front performance group, that he co-founded in 2006. There he anticipated the re-enactment trend with his print series Paradise Ahead, and there he is developing (together with artist Victoria Scott) his last project, No Matter, one of the winners of the Mixed Realities Commissions organized by Turbulence.org and Ars Virtua (see the end of this interview for more details on the project). By the way, No Matter is not the first fruit of this collaboration: in 2006 they made, for a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts, 2x2, an interactive (that doesn't mean digital) installation about the psychology of online social networks: basically, a message board with a grid of holes where people can put their messages (written on rolled-up post-its), read and take away messages left by other people in an evolving, “anonymous and public information system”.
I interviewed Scott for my blog Spawn of the Surreal (http://www.domenicoquaranta.net/blog/) about Paradise Ahead, a series of 12 large scale digital prints which documents re-enactments of historical performances - but also sculptures, videos and photographs - he made in Second Life, often with the kind help and participation of another Second Life star, Second Fronter Wirxli Flimflam.
DQ. When and why did you start your Paradise Ahead series?
SK. I began working on the series in September 2006; I produced the first performance-print Void in November 2006. I followed this with Shoot in December. I finished the last one in the series of twelve in May 2007.
When I began exploring in Second Life, the unlimited real estate captivated me. I saw an extension of the California dream. Empty structures populated the landscape. Various architectures and landscapes fused in dreamlike configurations. The geography indexed a cultural desire for a world that both conforms to and escapes the ailments of modern life.
My research led to making artworks of remediation of iconic performances, sculptures and video. These produce a feeling of displaced familiarity. At the same time they link Second Life back to what has been done in the physical world while asserting the primacy of the document in the artwork itself. Here, I place the geography in the background of the prints while still examining questions of the body in a simulated world.
DQ. What's the meaning of the title?
SK. The title refers to Milton's Paradise Lost, which details Satan's fall from the heavens and subsequent interference with humankind. In the last 400 years due to advancements in science and philosophy, spiritual space has slowly collapsed, favoring a singular physical reality. Milton's poem was the last of an era - when the concept of a soul space equaled that of reality.
Second Life opens an alternate space - one that resembles our physical reality but doesn't exist in any sort of tangible spatial-time grid. The potential is huge. I see many in Second Life looking for transcendental experience. What interests me with this series is capturing those common feelings of hope and fear associated with this re-spatialized world.
DQ. Why did you choose to translate this series of performances into a series of prints, rather than videos?
SK. The original artworks exist in our cultural memory as single frames. Yves Klein's Leap Into the Void is a photograph; Maurizio Cattelan's The Ninth Hour is a sculpture. While the video documentation of Chris Burden's Shoot is available in galleries and even on YouTube, it is this one image before he is shot that propagates throughout art history books.
These documents serve an archival purpose and feel frozen in time. They embody a pastness to them related to the role of the photograph. I wanted to mirror the role of the archived document and capture the feel of this simulated world in 2006-2007. In 20 years, I'll look back at these and think that was what Second Life looked like as a snapshot.
I considered using video, but I felt that this would dilute the tension inherent in the content of each of these performances. An avatar viewed in mid-air after leaping from a building captures the state of being in-between; in a video the avatar would land unharmed in an act of slapstick comedy. By using a single image, I let the viewer resolve the consequences of the action.
DQ. Among the works you recreated in Second Life (not only performances, but also sculptures and photographs), there are not only historic pieces, but also some very recent works. Why? How did you choose them?
SK. My starting point was with conceptual art performances of the 60s and 70s that were captured on video. This is a turning point in performance art where the mediated environment began superceding live performance. A small number of people have seen one of the Yoko Ono's Cut Piece performance; many times more have watched the video in galleries and museums. The video has both eclipsed and substituted for the performance.
Many recent works have progressed this experience of the mediated environment. Doug Aitken's Electric Earth is an eight-channel installation dependent on the viewer walking through the space. But, the lone image of the shopping cart in the parking lot is what lingers. Even in a recent artist talk I saw by him, he showed a few minutes of single-channel video of the shopping cart scene played from his computer. He didn't even mention that it was a multi-channel installation!
The Ninth Hour by Maurizio Cattelan depicts a sculpture of the pope after being struck by a meteorite. But the photographs make the figure look so real that it seems like a person doing a live performance. From viewer's vantage point, the media gets obscured. Although we read that this is a sculpture, it feels just like a still from a performance piece.
DQ. I read Paradise Ahead as an effort to question Second Life as a medium of representation of reality. It's like if you are saying: if other media (such as video, photo, installation etc.) are able to reproduce reality, Second Life totally betrays it. You can't preserve it's own emotional atmosphere: tragedy becomes parody, the drama is completely lost... Am I right?
SK. The experience in Second Life can't be captured through media. Any sort of representation appears as an unreality but when operating your avatar, it feels real in many ways. I see a chasm in between viewer and producer that is greater than in video or photography. Because the prints directly refer to other works, we can look at comparisons to other media.
Most people I talk to about Second Life have never ventured into the environment. Many think the prints are from a video game, but then something doesn't make sense. The scenes are obviously staged and feel familiar. The 3D graphics are unsophisticated compared to current game engines.
Because the prints are indirect in representation but figurative in content, audiences have vastly different reactions. Some see them as emotionally bereft, others as satire and some as hyper-dramatic. I am compelled by the various reads on the works as they point to our collective notions of emotional content in surreal space.
DQ. If simulated worlds can't be used to reproduce reality, what you - as an artist - can do with them?
SK. Simulated worlds compel me precisely because they fail to reproduce reality. Besides the disembodied actions and 3D graphics, there are many other layers of socialization and economies that diverge from real life. I'm most interested in the gaps between the desired representation and the actual result. From here, I examine at how others relate to the dissonances in the simulated - whether it is as a viewer, performer or active participant.
I am currently working on a Turbulence commission called No Matter in collaboration with Victoria Scott. We are commissioning builders to make "imaginary objects" - material things that have never existed in pure physical form such as the Holy Grail, Excalibur, Schrodinger's cat and The Book of Love. Also studying the virtual economy, we will pay them Second Life wages, which are below minimum wage. We will extract these models and print them as foldable paper models. At the exhibition, viewers will assemble these on factory-style tables into 3D paper forms using scissors and glue. The get paid the same Second Life wages. Afterwards we will sell the models of eBay as finished artworks.
With projects like this as well as my continued work in the performance art group, Second Front, I've seen an incredible amount of artistic space in simulated worlds. I think artists are just starting to uncover other areas for exploration. The combination of simulated space and massive social interactions is unique. Between a whole other concept of space and a semi-anonymous relational environment, there are many facets beyond the reproduction of reality to artistically explore.
by Domenico Quaranta
It was difficult to be more promising. The LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre, opened in March 2007 in Gijon (Asturias), with its rich and gorgeous opening program seems to announce a serious engagement at the intersection of art, design and new technologies. In this short interview, Rosina Gomez-Baeza Tinture, Director of the Center and former Director of Arco Art Fair, talks about her ambitions.
The interview was conducted via email some weeks ago, while writing an article for Flash Art. In the meantime, LABoral appointed a Chief Curator (Austrian artist and engineer Erich Berger, the former Art Director and Curator of The Interface & Society Project of Oslo) and opened a new show, It's Simply Beautiful.
DQ. LABoral opened in March with two big exhibitions, curated by international curators such as Christiane Paul (Whitney Museum), Jemima Rellie (Tate Gallery), Carl Goodman (Museum of the Moving Image). Why didn't you involve Spanish curators? Are you going to do it in the future? And why don't you have a stable curator?
RG. The LABoral mission is underpinned by diversity and a desire to be a true reflection of a global vision of the emerging trends in the art world and the creative industries. I want to generate a dynamic setting, capable of stimulating interaction between creators, technicians and scientists from different parts of the world. This engagement with the outside world (outside Spain, outside Asturias) had to be made explicit from the inception of our exhibition programming. Thus my choice of our very talented curatorial team. The name of our Chief Curator will be made public at the end of June.
DQ. What's your relation with the territory? Do you want to be a window on the international scene of New Media Art or to help developing a local New Media Art scene (or both)?
RG. Both, naturally. I was actually born here, close to the Universidad Laboral complex which houses our Centre and most of the Universidad de Asturias technical schools plus a technological hub. There is political unanimity in considering the ICT sector as strategic sector for development of the origin. Asturias is also a region particularly focused on encouraging relations between groups of persons from different origins,promoting the exchange of ideas and technologies and the development of art practices based on shared experiences. These particularities of the region are highly conducive to creative vitality and innovation. As a resource centre we will of course also focus on facilitating the necessary resources for local artists.
DQ. The New Media Art world and the Contemporary Art world often act as two parallel lines that never cross. Coming from Arco - the only art fair that opened to New Media Art, by the way - are you trying to make LABoral kind of a bridge between those two worlds?
RG. Why not? This project will provide a platform for an intense and profound dialogue between different forms of artistic expression, providing room for the various disciplines, which must exist in harmony as essential parts of the innovative path through art and creation at the beginning of the 21st century.
DQ. LABoral is an art center, not a museum. Nevertheless, do you have in mind to start a collection of art works?
RG. Setting up a centre dedicated to production, education, exhibition and diffusion of art and technology and the creative industries, is a response to a need expressed by many creators, technicians and producers. The fact that there are no centres for research and experimentation in Spain means that LABoral has a practically unlimited potential. We hope to be able to enrich the current debates. That will be our priority but of course we would like to "anchor" our findings and be able to trace the first technological advances: light, camera, cinema, video, computer, and their use by the artist and industry. A collection that would reflect the work of both pioneers and emerging artists is of course at the back of my head.
DQ. What about your future projects?
RG. During the first phase of the programming at LABoral, we will outline a critical route through our historical-artistic legacy while underscoring the contributions of new technologies. We hope to reflect the truly overwhelming visual culture of the moment. "Emergentes" will open in November. Curated by Jose-Carlos Mariategui and coproduced with Fundacion Telefonica, it addresses new forms of art in Latin America, mostly from the multidisciplinary research field.
Research is indeed one of LABoral's pivotal concerns, backing up exhibition concepts but also paving the way for new exhibitions. I cannot understand the two separately. We are starting our workshops this coming month of July with a very interesting program focusing on videogames from a practical angle, tackling phenomena such as Second Life, 8bit music, modding. In August we have put together our second series of workshops with Hangar, exploring new tools for creators from various perspectives: image, sound and hardware.
DQ. Can you tell me something about the show curated by Peter Doroshenko and Jerome Sans that will open at LABoral in July?
RG. "It's Simply Beautiful" rethinks the concept of beauty in today's world. It will have a very different feel to Feedback or LABcyberspaces, as it includes only five artists taking over approximately 3.000 square metres. I believe strongly in producing new work, and not just limiting the role of the institution to borrowing preexisting pieces going from one institution to another. Peter and Jerome selected four artists from France (Fabien Verschaere), the UK (Mark Titchner), the US (Dzine) and Thailand (Surasi Kusolwong), but also visited local studios and chose to include Carlos Coronas, a very interesting artist born and based in Asturias.
DQ. What's your view on the future of New Media Art? There will be a sustainable market for it?
RG. Today´s art reflects the sea changes taking place in society. I think there is an enormous feeling of optimism in the art world in general and an intense and profound dialogue between different forms of art which certainly encourages and generates a dynamic setting, capable of attracting larger, younger audiences interested in those emerging trends which reflect today´s visual culture. These new art practices appeal to the new audiences, respond to their demands.
"We are all at the mercy of dream, and in the waking ours we have to suffer its power". La Revolution surrealiste, Issue 1, December 1924
Domenico Quaranta is pleased to announce "SPAWN OF THE SURREAL" (http://www.domenicoquaranta.net/blog/), his Second Life alter-ego's blog.
"SPAWN OF THE SURREAL. Travel notes of an art critic lost in the dumpster of the imaginary" will feature the considerations of an imaginary art critic who tries to make art in Second Life make sense to him and to the contemporary art audience. The idea came out from the fact that there are a lot of accounts about art in Second Life, but a little criticism; and that there isn't enough space for this subject on contemporary art magazine. Obviously, every comment and discussion will be welcome!
"Traveling without keeping memories of the travel is frustrating. I pile up pictures on my hard disk, but when I go back to them I don't remember what they are picturing, and when and where I shot them.
I entered Second Life some months ago, and for the first time I have more things to say than what I can usually pour in articles, reviews and exibitions. So, I came up with the idea of a blog - an idea always thrown away to the folder of the "NOT TO DO" things. At least till now...
But Spawn of the Surreal - the title coming from a celebrated performance by Second Front - doesn't want to keep just memories of my travels in Second Life. Lots of people are doing it, probably better then me. I'n not a reporter, I'm an art critic. I want to understand what art is, and what does it means to make art in a virtual world. Sisiphus, come with me. You have lots of experience to share about impossible jobs...
ART. Every time I go to an ART gallery, an ART museum; every time I meet a wannabe ART work, or a self-declared ARTIST in Second Life, I have to ask to myself: what's ART for me? In real life, we can accept everything with an art label as art. In Second Life, it's totally different. Out there the art spell is broken, victim of another spell. The aura breaks into fragments: shattered not by the collapse of the mystique of the artifact, but by the rise of a new mystique: that of the virtual world. How shall we rebuild it? Make your own bet!
I have my own idea about art in Second Life. For me, SL artists are the spawn of the surreal. What does it mean? That's my own bet: try to make it make sense..."
The law includes a chapter about "virtual pedo-pornography" that consider illegal to publish "pictures whose quality of representation makes unreal situations appear real". That's like to say that this image (a screenshot from the game, http://www.ecrans.fr/local/cache-vignettes/L450xH249/arton1671-174c4.jpg) could be perceived as real.
The game can be played online here:
The italian version can be downloaded from a dutch server: http://babau.indivia.net/ciarpame/pretofilia.swf
And here are some links of interest:
Operation Pedopriest : "Couvrir les pretres pedophiles" - http://www.ecrans.fr/spip.php?article1636
Italian Government bans Operation Pedopriest as child porn - http://www.watercoolergames.org/archives/000819.shtml
"Operation PedoPriest" attaque par un depute italien - http://www.ecrans.fr/spip.php?article1671
I don't try to persuade you that such artists as Casey Reas, Lia & Golan
Levin are great artists: many people in this list can do it better than
me. I just make you notice that when you say that kids can do a better
job you remind me my mum when, in front of a Pollock, she says that
everybody can do it better. That's quite strange said by you, an artists
who is working with generative codes and software automata
You can call art whatever you want - even kids' and fools' stuff, as
Dubuffet did. But you always need a group of people who share the same
vision, and who believe that this specific artifact has an aesthetic,
spiritual and even economic value.
I believe that people such as Steven Sacks are building up this kind of
contest. Or, better, they are trying to persuade the contemporary art
world that what a lot of people in the new media art world think about
Casey Reas, Golan Levin or 01.org is right. And it's quite a difficult
task, believe me!
I don't discuss here if this is the right thing to do. New media art is
a confortable niche. It lived for years without looking for the respect
of the contemporary art world. But if you choose to follow this path,
you have to take into account the codes, rules and languages of that
world - maybe in order to break them from the inside in another moment. The limited edition (of software, of videos, of prints) is one of this
codes. Maybe not the right one for new media art: this is a good point
> by the way: isn't the "limited edition" of the software products a mind masturbation? a middle-aged mind masturbation
The art market is a middle-aged world, built up - from Duchamp onward -
on alchemical rules. A good seller can turn everything into gold. The
problem is: are you discussing the art market or the way some people are
trying to break into it?
I know that softwareARTspace is not so breaking news (it dates back to
2005, I think). Maybe it is not such a big success, indeed. But I find
it an interesting experiment. Is it the right way to bring software art
to the contemporary art world? Maybe yes, maybe not. But it is
something. 01.org's Portraits are something. Cory Arcangel's cartridges
are something. Lozano-Hemmer at the Venice Biennale is something.
Wolfgang Staehle at the Metropolitan is something. Something happening
outside another "conceptual jail", the one that confines new media art
in such contexts as Ars Electronica, Transmediale and so on.
I like when something happens.
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