Matthias Fritsch is an independent artist from Berlin, most well known for his work Kneecam No 1—the live video that brought Technoviking to the internet. Over a decade after he uploaded the clip that went viral, Fritsch now is enduring a long legal battle with Technoviking himself, who sued for the reproduction, proliferation, and unwarranted use of his likeness. In response to the process, Fritsch is making The Story of Technoviking, a crowd-funded documentary that aims to shed light on the legal issues surrounding viral images. Below, Fritsch talks about what it’s like do battle in court with a viking, the ownership of images in the internet age, and hopes for his current project.
My Life Without Technoviking—since the trial began, Fritsch is no longer allowed to use images of the plaintiff's face.
DQ: Matthias, I'm of course curious about the video that originated it all. What was, for you, Kneecam No 1 (2000) before it became an internet meme? Why did you upload it to YouTube? Were you expecting such a viral reaction? What did you think when it happened?
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.
A LEAP INTO THE VOID: INTERVIEW WITH SECOND FRONT
by Domenico Quaranta
At first sight they may appear like a pop hybrid between the X-men and
the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, reviewed through the exaggerated
and postmodern aesthetics of a virtual world such as Second Life. Quite
the contrary. They are the first performance art group in Second Life:
serious guys, practicing artists, curators and academics in real life,
who decided to sound out the performative possibilities offered by a
public virtual space that is growing at an impressive rate and being
filled up by media agencies, stores, products, brands and inhabitants.
Second Front (http://slfront.blogspot.com/) officially formed on
November 23, 2006, gaining new members up right until the last few days.
Now they are: Wirxli Flimflam aka Jeremy Owen Turner; Tea Chenille aka
Tanya Skuce; Man Michinaga aka Patrick Lichty; Alise Iborg aka Penny
Leong Browne; Tran Spire aka Doug Jarvis; Great Escape aka Scott
Kildall; Lizsolo Mathilde aka Liz Pickard; Gazira Babeli aka CLASSIFIED.
The attention of “in world” media comes fast, even if Second Front
doesn't seem to work much on communication: its very first performances
are set up, unannounced, in public spaces, for a little, unconscious
audience. Then, almost immediately (January 5, 2007) comes the big
intervention scored at Ars Virtua Gallery - the most notable
contemporary art gallery in Second Life - for the opening of the
visionary installation by the American artist John Craig Freeman (JC
Fremont in Second Life). And may other performances...
Saying that Second Front is opening new paths in an unexplored territory
is not rhetorical; and the loose, immodest and a little bit punkish way
in which they do it is definitely unrhetorical. Their key feature is
openness: openness and plurality of visions and perspectives, quite
blatant in this interview (where almost each one of them decided to give
his/her answer to the same question); they are open about a wide range
of interventions, from reenactment to improvisation to code performing;
open about different ways of shaping their work for the art audience,
from prints to video to live broadcasting. They are growing up before
our very eyes. And, rest assured, they hold good things in store.
DOMENICO QUARANTA: What is Second Front?
MAN MICHINAGA: Second Front is an international performance art group
whose sole venue is the online world, Second Life. Second Front has
members from Vancouver, St. Johns, Chicago, New Orleans, and Milan (to
name a few), and works with numerous artists from around the world.
WIRXLI FLIMFLAM: As of January 14th, Second Front received official
legitimacy from The Ava-Star tabloid (owned by Die Zeit in Germany) as
the “first performance art group in Second Life”. This basically makes
us the in-world equivalent of Fluxus - perhaps we could also be
nicknamed “SLuxus”. This sudden rush from formation to celebrity has
been quite fascinating since Second Front officially formed on November
As for a more detailed idea of what Second Front is all about, some
people in Second Life might confuse us with a “performing arts” group
rather than a “performance arts” group. We are not a circus act nor a
dance or a theatre troupe although our artistic practice might
superficially resemble those other performing acts at times.
TRAN SPIRE: Second Front is a network of performance interested artists
exploring new and different environments, specifically the online 3d
animated game world of Second Life. The members have come together
through a myriad of personal relationships that existed during the early
days of the group’s formation. This dynamic has morphed and mutated to
include and involve variations on membership based on who is available
and what presence can they perform with the others.
DQ: What does it mean, for you, to make performances in Second Life? Do
you make rehearsals or do you prefer improvisation? Do you work with
code or do you simply make what all other avatars do?
ALISE IBORG: So far we have done both. I think it depends on what kind
of performance we wish to make. If it is better improvised we will
probably do that. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. With
prerecorded performances, we can fine tune and edit out things we don't
want the audience to see. But with improvised performances, the work
takes on a life of its own fueled by the creative energy of our players
which really shows through. Also, many times, it's the surprises and
unintended actions that make the work really come alive!
MAN MICHINAGA: Performing in Second Life gives Second Front the
opportunity to work at scales they would not normally be able to work in
if done in the physical world, and often has the opportunity to play to
a wider audience. Our level of preparedness is dependent on the context
for the event.
In regards to whether we use code or not, Second Front is using a
growing set of code-based interventions in its performances, thanks to
our techno-doyen, Mama Gaz Babeli. In regards to our avatars, and props,
almost nothing we use is ‘standard’, but some of us retain a few basic
props like specific wings, or even old beginner’s props like hair as a
sign of their past as newcomers to Second Life.
WIRXLI FLIMFLAM: When we rehearse and plan scripts for major public
performance events, we still have to rely on individual improvisation.
Nothing is ever entirely scripted so each member can do their “own
thing” and have breathing room yet at the same time not be confused as
to what they should be doing. We use scripts and rehearsals etc. as a
guide to help the performing member to feel secure with the thematic
manner with which they wish to improvise. This allows for group cohesion
both on an optical and practical level.
GREAT ESCAPE: Second Life offers a unique space for performance. Without
the normal constraints of the body ― the usual center of performance -
and without a traditional audience, we can try and do things that have
been previously thought to be impossible.
TRAN SPIRE: Performing in Second Life introduces variables and
situations that complement and push further the understanding and
comprehension that the members of the group share as a sense of what is
real. By engaging the contrived space of an online gaming environment
the challenges to perform are exaggerated by the parameters that persist
as the interface with the context, the others members of the group,
audiences and the templates of performance as an art medium. All of the
tropes of performance are available to the group to use at will,
hopefully to ends beyond the surface of what may appear evident around us.
GAZIRA BABELI: The real performance starts with login, the rest is
performance record. The avatar just tries to forget being a code.
DQ: Do you prefer, for your performances, a public space or an art venue?
MAN MICHINAGA: Second Front chooses its venues to fit the context of the
piece and the performance. In the case of Border Control, it was done at
Ars Virtua, therefore the context was that of an art space. For our
Breaking News and Abject Apocalypse pieces, these were context specific
(the Reuters building and the Star over the Christmas Tree at the US’s
NBC Rockefeller Plaza), and were performed in situ, with the product
being the documentation.
WIRXLI FLIMLAM: Personally, I prefer a large and well-known public venue
that is not usually within the context of high-art. So for example, IBM,
Sears, American Apparel, Wired, and Reuters are all great examples of
the kind of venues I think are really inspirational for me. Again, this
is a personal preference and not necessarily reflective of Second Front
as a group.
GREAT ESCAPE: It depends on the nature of the performance. An art venue
is interesting because it brings Second Life into the physical space. I
think it is ideal to broadcast the performance at an art venue while
engaging a specific site in Second Life.
GAZIRA BABELI: In art venues you can be welcomed with cheers, in public
spaces with bullets. I prefer the latter, as death doesn’t exist.
DQ: What kind of audience are you looking for? Do you think that a
performance in Second Life could be displayed also in the real world?
MAN MICHINAGA: We are interested in reaching out to audiences who are
interested in Second Life, and are curious of the possibilities that
avatar-based performance art can have. Currently, Second Front is
performing in hybrid venues, such as simultaneous events in its home,
the BitFactory in Han Loso, and in physical spaces, like Vancouver’s
Western Front, and Chicago’s Gallery 416. We do hope that in addition to
our performances in Second Life, Second Front can have exhibitions of
its performances, imagery, video, and ephemera in the physical as any
and all possible media. We do not wish to be limited by media, and also
wish to spread our curiosity to the widest possible audience.
GREAT ESCAPE: One thing I think we’re looking to do is to question the
underlying assumptions of Second Life and what it means to be a virtual
being in that space. A dominant trend in Second Life is to shop, make
friends online and participate in a virtual economy. We think this can
be a venue for unique artistic expression.
In this way, anyone in Second Life is an appropriate audience. The
possibilities for the space haven’t been fully explored as of yet and so
I think people are much more receptive to performances that they might
be in real life. Because it is so new, we can have a huge affect on
TRAN SPIRE: I like the idea that the notion of an audience is being
blurred by my own participation in this group. I am conscious of the
fact that during all the stages of our performances from pre-production
planning emails to after-party videos, I am both a performer with the
an audience to the many things taking place. Anything that contributes
to challenging this space and dichotomy between creator and audience I
think is an interesting thing to pursue.
ALISE IBORG: We are looking for open-minded audiences who are not afraid
to be part of the performance. And absolutely, Second Front could be
displayed in the real world. The term that I use to describe this
intervention into the real world, is 'virtual leakage'.
I define virtual leakage as a two way exchange between the virtual and
the real, through which new hybrid meanings can be made. Meaning-making
can no longer operate within the hermetic cases of the real vs. virtual,
but instead, becomes a back and forth exchange in which ideas migrate by
osmosis. While we as Second Life avatars become more real in the virtual
world, so too, that we as human inhabitants of the real world become
In my opinion, there is an amazing opportunity for Virtual Reality (VR)
to stake its own territory but in order for VR to produce meaning that
breaks from the real and from past artistic social practices, and to
become a medium that produces singular works, the binary of the real vs
virtual must be dismantled. Only then, will we be able to look at VR not
as a simulation of the real, but as a simulation of itself.
GAZIRA BABELI: I prefer an unaware audience, an audience who does not
necessarily have to understand what’s going on. Second Life is a real world.
DQ: Can you tell me something about the performances you had till now?
How did your approach changed from the first one?
MAN MICHINAGA: Like any experimental troupe, we are always learning, and
this affects our performance process. In addition, for Breaking News,
many of us were only recently active, so our first performance was a
really interesting experience. In short, Breaking News was an absurdist
play on the 18th Century idea of the Town Crier, played out in the
latest of 21st Century news facilities. By shouting out non-sequiteur,
moment-to-moment headlines, Second Front hoped to perhaps jam the usual
flow of information in the Reuters space, and possibly (ridiculously
enough) barge into Adam Reuters’ office itself! On the second occasion,
we did get an audience, as passers-by stopped and sat to listen to our
tabloid headlines. Of course (we assume) they did not take us seriously.
For Border Control, we knew we would have an audience, and that we would
need to fill a fairly set period of time with detailed orchestration, we
experimented at the BitFactory, rehearsing a series of vignettes that
fit the context of JC Fremont & Rain Coalcliff’s Mexican Border
installation. The first act, “Border Patrol” was a Dada-esque
performance of the increasing militarization of the borders throughout
North America. Following that, “Red Rover” was a play on the creation of
a border in the traditional children’s game, but in our case the border
decided to break down the audience instead of the other way around.
Lastly, the final act, “Danger Room” was a piece that was intended to
inspire a gestalt of danger and chaos in the age of Terror, but
unexpectedly, chaos erupted and the sim actually crashed, whether by our
actions or a combination of us and the audience isn’t really clear.
The approaches for the two pieces are quite different, as one is ad-hoc
and the other following a set choreography and set. Are we changing? Of
course; it wouldn’t be interesting if we weren’t. We learn new things
each performance, and while certain things get easier, we then try to
push the envelope harder in other areas.
TRAN SPIRE: I like to think that part of the script of each performance
is written in the code of the place or environment in which it is
situated. This lets the content be influenced by not only the art or
non-art context but also by the different terrains that can exist in the
real life as well as Second Life.
DQ: What do you think about art in Second Life? Is performance the only
possible way to make art out there?
MAN MICHINAGA: Absolutely not. While Second Life has limitations like
any medium, the members of Second Front are excited to see individuals
working in many different forms of expression, such as live music,
‘painting’, sculpture, even fireworks and aerial ballet. While Second
Life is relatively new, the possibilities for expression in virtual
worlds has yet to be fully explored. That’s why Second Front was created!
WIRXLI FLIMFLAM: Context is extremely important here. Part of what makes
Second Life itself is the fact that every moment seems like part of a
performance. The fact that everything can be customizable in Second Life
as well as the fact that just about any object can be wearable enhances
my personal impression that performance art is the most “authentic”
medium of Second Life in that Greenbergian sense.
GREAT ESCAPE: Right now, the Second Life galleries are mostly
replicating paintings and sculpture, enhanced with visual effects in
Second Life. These are what you’d expect with the first generation of
art-making in any new medium. I think that what we’ve seen so far in
Second Life is only a glimpse of what the future holds.
ALISE IBORG: Absolutely not. Second Life has offered the ability for
anyone to create in VR which means that there is boundless possibilities
for creativity and unprecedented work. In my opinion, VR is in itself a
new medium but what is unique about VR is that through its technology,
it can create work that can free itself from past art practices, though,
there is also amazing avenues of creation by referencing precedent
artists and works, For instance, our Last Supper performance
appropriates one of the most canonic religious events by producing an
event of binging and purging art itself!
GAZIRA BABELI: Second Life is a frame-space which can include all sorts
of artistic perversion. I call it performance, anyway. But if you find a
better definition, please let me know.
DQ. What is your relationship with your Real Life counterpart?
MAN MICHINAGA: There really is none. Patrick Lichty does not exist. Only
I am real, and I control him.
On a more serious note, the relationship between Man and Patrick is
completely in line with my RL life. I am very sensitive to context, and
the way I act in one context may be very different from another. In
Second Life I feel that one has to be “Larger than Life”, and that's
what Man is - He’s a big dark, figure - part angel, part rock star, part
architect, part actor. That is, all the things that Second Life gives
the individual more freedom to be if they so desire. I think that most
of Second Front do this with great effectiveness and aplomb.
My greatest concern is “the risk of the Artist”; that is, the bleed
between worlds that I take by making potentially controversial art in
Second Life. I think that Second Life is the first place where we can
say that sometimes our action online DO matter, and this is very perplexing.
GREAT ESCAPE: I think that the avatar Great Escape occupies a strange
nook in my subconscious. In many ways, Second Life operates as a
fantastical dream state. We can fly, teleport and pick up houses and
cars. My avatar has purple skin and fire out of his hair. When I go to
sleep at night, images of the other Second Front members often fill me
head. So for me, my avatar is embedded in my psyche, rather than an
extension of my self.
WIRXLI FLIMFLAM: In a lot of ways, the relationship between Wirxli and
Jeremy is much more closer than one might think from first seeing me.
I did intentionally want to make Wirxli more of an alien than human or
perhaps as a kind of first-generation “post-human”. I was also reading
up about the stereotypical shaman in most cultures who is
gender-ambiguous... so in this case, there is a slight departure here
from my Real Life self.
TRAN SPIRE: I prefer to triangulate, dimensionally shift my relationship
to each of the entities constituting themselves as versions of me.
Therefore, I am waiting for the two to have a discussion and then ask me
to join in on the conversation. I am interested to hear what they come
up with and how they define themselves in regards to existence in a
spatio-temporal plane, and whether they recognize each other.
GAZIRA BABELI: My body can walk barefoot, but my avatar needs shoes.
Second Front - http://slfront.blogspot.com/
Gazira Babeli - http://gazirababeli.com/
The BitFactory - http://patricklichty.com.thing.net/bitfactory.html
Ars Virtua Gallery - http://arsvirtua.com/
Imaging Place - http://imagingplace.net/
Domenico Quaranta is an Italian art critic and curator focused on New
Media Art. He is the author of the book Net Art 1994 - 1998: La vicenda
di Ada'web (Milan 2004) and, together with Matteo Bittanti, the editor
of GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames (Milan 2006,
http://www.gamescenes.org/). He curated several exhibitions in Italy,
including: GameScenes (Turin 2005), Radical Software (Turin 2006), and
Connessioni leggendarie. Net.art 1995 - 2005 (Milan, 2005). He teaches
“Net art” at the Accademia di Brera in Milan.
The Fabio Paris Art Gallery presents
Eva and Franco Mattes (0100101110101101.ORG)
January 20 - March 3, 2007
OPENING: Saturday, January 20, 6 pm
Fabio Paris Art Gallery, Brescia, Italy
Show curated and catalogue edited by Domenico Quaranta
On occasion of their second solo exhibition at Fabio Paris Art Gallery,
and for the first time in Italy, EVA AND FRANCO MATTES
(0100101110101101.ORG) are to exhibit the project for which they have
been awarded the Premio New York 2006.
For over a year Eva and Franco Mattes lived in the virtual world of
Second Life, exploring its terrain and interacting with its peculiar
inhabitants. The result of this "video game flanerie" is a series of
portraits characterized by the bright colors, artificial lighting,
polygonal shapes and surreal perspectives typical of virtual worlds.
Overall, the series draws on the technological developments which allow
the creation of alternate identities within simulated worlds.
"LOL" carries on the work that began with "13 Most Beautiful Avatars",
an exhibition project that involved the physical space of the Italian
Academy in New York and the virtual space of Ars Virtua Gallery (curated
by Rhizome.org), and is set to continue in February with the Mattes’
second solo exhibition at Postmasters Gallery in New York.
"LOL" features five portraits and a triptych, all dedicated to female
avatars. The title of the show is an expression much used by the online
community to express amusement or jollity ("Laugh Out Loud" or "Lots Of
Laughs") or as a closing greeting ("Lots Of Love"). The fact that the
Mattes duo refuse to explain the meaning of this ready-made of web
communications leaves it open for interpretation: an artificial language
for artificial life forms? A touch of sarcasm towards attempts to
interpret a work that should be assessed primarily from the aesthetic
point of view? Or rather the revelation that behind the display of
apparent high spirits virtual worlds conceal a profound sense of
anxiety, an underlying tragedy that at times emerges from these
dazzlingly beautiful faces?
On occasion of the exhibition the gallery is to publish the book
"Portraits", which explores all the stages of this work.
Fabioparisartgallery - http://www.fabioparisartgallery.com
Eva e Franco Mattes (a.k.a 0100101110101101.ORG) - http://www.0100101110101101.org/
Domenico Quaranta - http://www.domenicoquaranta.net/english.html
Contact: Domenico Quaranta
mob. +39 340 2392478 - email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Pescara Electronic Artists Meeting 2k6
6 - 10 December 2006
Pescara, Ecoteca, Via Caboto 19
The fourth edition of the Pescara Electronic Artists Meeting, amongst the most important events concerning contemporary electronic/digital based arts, will take place from the 6th to the 10th of December. Organized by the Artificialia network, the P.E.A.M. is conceived to be an international meeting and confrontation point for those artists, intellectuals, experts, and others who work in an electronic context or make use of electronics as a basic means of expression. This edition will showcase a large and refined selection of visual artists, performers, musicians amongst the most innovative of the field. The leit-motiv of the whole event will be "the Diamond", an attempt to gather artists and experts coming from as many disciplines as possible (sculpture, dance, theater, literature, music, visual arts, etc.), all with a marked high-tech approach, and to extraordinarily have them converge to the stimulating location of Ecoteca, in Pescara.
Therefore, the idea is to let many intellectuals (critics and curators) converge and present one (inimitable) or two (dichotomy) artists in a single place (the diamond), and, as a consequence, the whole Peam2006 edition will be centered onto unicity and dichotomy - such as war and peace, big and small, good and bad, love and hate, cleverness and stupidity, beauty and ugliness, close and far away, fear and comfort, real and virtual, and so on - and onto their sense of existence. In other words, the meaning itself of the concept of opposites, defining different representations of an unique symbolic system, will be put to a test, artistically.
Press Conference: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 11.30 AM, Sala dei Marmi, Provincia di Pescara, Piazza Italia 30 - Pescara
In this context, curator and critic *Domenico Quaranta* (www.domenicoquaranta.com/english.html) will introduce the work of Gazira Babeli and Damiano Colacito, two artists who, in pretty different ways, declare the reality of our experience of virtual worlds.
Born in Second Life on 31st March 2006, *Gazira Babeli* (http://www.gazirababeli.com/) is an artist who turns the performativity of the code into performance itself. Weedy and flexuous in her long black dress which covers fashionably her polygonal haunches, Gazira radiates a strange charm that makes her somebody in between a Voodoo witch and an X-men heroine. Her charm that becomes even more evident during her masterful performances, in which she activates scripts as if they were spells, makes earthquakes happens, provokes natural fatalities and invasions of pop icons (in the place of the biblical locusts). Gazira Babeli is NOT the project of an artist who works in Second Life. She IS an artist, who makes, records and signs performances based on code. She is real, like you and me, even if her action platform is a world of bits.
Born in Atri (TE) in 1973, *Damiano Colacito* (http://www.videoludica.com/news.php?newsC4) focuses his work on the basic elements of the contemporary media landscape and the complex relationship between the virtual and the real. In the last few years he devoted himself to the creation of wooden sculptures that portray objects coming from the FPS, such as med-kits, power-ups, weapons, and etc. The Scotchprint skins he puts on the sculptures allows the author to work on details so to obtain a pretty refined reproduction of the texture of those virtual objects, and the use of sound effects, every now and then, makes the realism of the reproduction even finer. As a Pino Pascali of the Doom generation, Colacito creates conceptual sculptures that result to be amazing for both the gamer and the people who don't play videogames: the former comes across familiar objects in the wrong context,while the second has to deal with unfamiliar objects seemingly coming from another world and culture. Somehow, Colacito orchestrates a kind of mental teletransport, and materializes the insubstantial nature of the electric energy.
More infos, critical text (in italian) and press images:
Rough version of an interview with Mark Tribe & Reena Jana, authors of
NEW MEDIA ART (Taschen, Koln 2006). A shorter version has been published
in “Flash Art Italia”, Issue 260, October - November 2006, p. 73.
Domenico Quaranta: Even from an editorial point of view, your book
describes new media art as a movement (such as Surrealism or
Conceptualism) rather than a mere possibility of the medium. This is a
very interesting point. Do you believe in it or is this a marketing
strategy? Is new media art the last avant-garde, and why?
Mark Tribe: Before we discuss New Media art as a movement, we describe
it more generically in terms of "projects that make use of emerging
media technologies and are concerned with the cultural, political, and
aesthetic possibilities of these tools." I think this is more-or-less
what you mean by "a possibility of the medium." We go on to write, "New
Media art is not defined by the technologies discussed here; on the
contrary, by deploying these technologies for critical or experimental
purposes, New Media artists redefine them as art media."
We then talk about New Media art as an art movement because, from our
perspective, that is an important aspect of the historical context that
has been largely ignored. In order to understand the work that was made
by people who called themselves "New Media artists" and thought of what
they made as "New Media art," it is crucial to consider the historical
specificity of that term (it's relation to the corporate New Media
industry, the Dot com boom and bust cycle, etc.), as well as the place
of New Media art practices within a broader art-historical framework. I
believe strongly in the value of this kind of contextual reading, as
opposed to a more formalist approach that considers the intrinsic
qualities of the work in isolation. Your question about the avant-garde
actually raises a similar issue: like New Media art, avant-garde can be
defined generically as any cultural practice that pushes beyond the
limits established norms through innovation and experimentation. But
avant-garde can also be defined with historical specificity as a set of
movements, such as Dada and Constructivism, that linked experimental
cultural practices with radical social and political change. But, to
answer your question directly, I do think that New Media art was one of
the few historically significant art movements of the late 20th century.
There were a lot of other historically significant practices, but none
of them galvanized as movements per se. The defining characteristics of
art movements, in my view, are: self-definition (the artists tend to use
a common term, or set of competing terms, to name their practice); the
existence of dedicated organizations, venues, publications, and
discourse networks; and a common set of artistic strategies and
concerns. Often one finds the last of these without the first two, as
was the case with identity-focused work in the early 90s. I do think
that New Media art could be described, generically, as avant-garde.
Reena Jana: Mark very eloquently described the parameters of our
definition of New Media as a movement.
Our point is that during the 1990s, with the dawn of the Internet's
popular rise as a mass-market communication medium coupled with the
increasing presence of PCs among households, a specific art movement
started to take shape that both used these tools as primary artistic
media to comment on the effect of these media on society and culture.
This movement entailed self-organization and definition on the part of
the artists involved on chat rooms, on artist-run Web sites, in gallery
exhibitions and at institutions devoted to the movement.
We seek to document this phenomenon, and to point out that New Media art
is a specific term that refers to a particular historical moment. Our
goal is to offer more than simplistic clumping of all work using digital
media with a blanket term such as "digital art."
New Media artists were not simply experimenting with digital editing to
make their video art easier to produce or creating online animations of
their paintings (two examples of practices that often were described as
"digital art" in the late 1990s and conflated with New Media art).
Instead, New Media artists use emerging mass-communications tools to
comment on the social, cultural, and philosophical effects that such
And yes, in my view, New Media art as it evolved from 1994-2004 can be
understood as "avant-garde." As for New Media art's description as
"avant-garde," I think it's key to see an antecedent in the Dadaist and
Surrealist points of view that avant-garde art strives for using
inventive artistic techniques to jar audiences and affect their
understanding and experience of life. New Media art also can be
described as generically "avant-garde," by definition—consider the term
and the artists' imaginative use of emerging mass-media and distribution
channels involved to comment on the larger "new media" as a dominant
cultural force and influence in the 1990s.
DQ: Why do you focus on the Nineties, seemingly forgetting the
Telecommunication art of the Seventies and the Computer art of the Eighties?
MT: We discuss Video art in the "Art-historical Antecedents" section of
the introduction. We had to cut a paragraph or two on transmission art
of Paik, Douglas Davis, et al due to space constraints (the length of
the introduction was pre-defined by the publisher to conform with the
series). We left out '80s Computer art (AKA Multimedia art, Electronic
Intermedia, etc.) because we felt that it was not, in fact, a
significant precursor. Although Computer art and New Media art, to the
extent that they can be distinguished from each other, shared a similar
set of enabling technologies, and many old-school Computer artists from
the Siggraph/Leonardo/ISEA scene joined the New Media art bandwagon in
the '90s, the two are crucially and fundamentally different in their
relationship to media culture. Of course I'm generalizing broadly here,
and there are lots of exceptions, but most Computer art was not as
concerned with media culture as it was with information technologies and
their cultural applications, whereas New Media art almost always takes a
critical position in relation to media culture and media technologies.
RJ: Our focus is not on media art (i.e., video or other
telecommunication art) or early experiments with computer, electronic,
or biological material and themes, but instead on New Media art. For
clarity, we place New Media art within the continuum of media art and
computer-based art. Please refer to page 7: "We locate New Media art as
a subset of two broader categories: Art and Technology and Media art..."
New Media is also its own category.
DQ: What kind of criteria did you follow in the selection?
MT: From page 7 of the English version: "We chose to... focus on works
that are particularly influential, that exemplify an important domain of
New Media art practice and that display an exceptional degree of
conceptual sophistication, technological innovation, or social
relevance." Beyond that, we considered geographic diversity and
generally selected work that we personally like. Unfortunately, do to
the limitations of the series, we had to leave out a lot of work that we
very much wanted to include.
RJ: In addition, I think it's important to circle back to the definition
of New Media art that Mark mentioned in his first answer. We looked for
"projects that make use of emerging media technologies and are concerned
with the cultural, political, and aesthetic possibilities of [new media]
tools." As for "selecting work that we personally like," such a
criterion reflects basic editorial (and, for that matter, curatorial)
practice. We spent many hours debating back and forth what the final
list would be - an intellectually challenging - and rewarding - process
that we feel resulted in a balanced selection of forms, themes, styles,
geographical representation, gender, and technologies that reflects the
diversity and dynamism of the international movement of New Media art.
Please note that our introduction includes many examples of other
important works that we had nominated for inclusion in the main entries,
which is historically relevant, or was influential. Because the book is
meant to be a brief introduction to New Media art, we were required to
present a concise list of main entries that illustrate the scope of the
DQ: A book like this is a strange event for media art practitioners: it
is cheap, small, captivating and easy to read. Media art gets out of the
ghetto and goes mainstream. Don't be shy: do you think “New Media Art”
is going to change something in the history of new media art?
MT: New Media art started to emerge from the ghetto and swim in the
mainstream several years ago, but I get your point. We tried to write
the book in such a way that it would be both accessible to
non-specialists and useful to our peers. I like the fact that the book
has so many large images of the art work and that Taschen does such a
beautiful job with printing and design. I do hope that the book helps
broaden the audience for New Media art and generate more support for New
Media artists and organizations.
RJ: Yes, the price-point, portability, and accessible-yet-informed tone
are indeed intended to broaden the audience of New Media art, although
certainly New Media art is quickly gaining attention in mainstream
outlets (for example, one artist in the book, Cory Arcangel, was named
best emerging artist of 2005 by Mark Stevens, New York magazine's
critic/co-author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning de Kooning biography).
At the same time, we hope to offer a fresh thesis within the
ever-growing field of new-media studies. In 2006, it is possible to now
look back and offer historical context for both of these audiences, the
non-specialists and specialists. Our aim is to suggest a focused lens
through which students, art-historians, artists, curators, collectors,
and the general gallery and museum visitor alike can look at New Media art.
October 7, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GAMESCENES: THE BOOK
M. Bittanti, D. Quaranta (editors), GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames, Milan, Johan & Levi 2006. Hardcover, 454 pages, 25 x 25 cm, 200+ hi-res illustrations, available from October 2006.
GameScenes. Art in the Age of Videogames is the first volume entirely dedicated to Game Art. Edited by Matteo Bittanti and Domenico Quaranta, GameScenes provides a detailed overview of the emerging field of Game Art, examining the complex interaction and intersection of art and videogames.
Video and computer game technologies have opened up new possibilities for artistic creation, distribution, and appreciation. In addition to projects that might conventionally be described as Internet Art, Digital Art or New Media Art, there is now a wide spectrum of work by practitioners that crosses the boundaries between various disciplines and practices. The common denominator is that all these practitioners use digital games as their tools or source of inspiration to make art. They are called Game Artists.
GameScenes explores the rapidly expanding world of Game Art in the works of over 30 international artists. Included are several milestones in this field, as well as some lesser known works. In addition to the editors' critical texts, the book contains contributions from a variety of international scholars that illustrate, explain, and contextualize the various artifacts.
ARTISTS: AES+F, Cory Arcangel, Aram Bartholl, Dave Beck, Tobias Bernstrup, Nick Bertke, John Paul Bichard, Marco Cadioli, Mauro Ceolin, Brody Condon, Joseph DeLappe, Delire (Julian Oliver), Todd Deutsch, Micah Ganske, Beate Geissler