Most people will only think about the current situation in
Eastern Europe and Russia in objective terms: The lines are
bad, the computers might be old, there will be no money,
perhaps there is no proper training for the electronic
artists-to-be, not enough bandwith, too expensive access
All this is true, but it also counts for many West- and South European
countries. For me these problems are relative, everywhere it is a little bit
different: too much money and therefore no interest (Swiss), an
unwillingness to get organized (Hungary), telecom problems combined with
a deep distrust in technology (Germany), difficulties in collaboration
(Austria) and a hegemony of small, commercial providers (almost everywhere).
What interests me are the hidden, unspoken objections to media-art in
general by the cultural agents who are in charge. In Moscow I found the
most outspoken resistence against these developments. You mentioned some
of them and I would add some. They are perhaps not only acurate for
Moscow. I found similar tendencies in Romania, Bulgaria and in dull,
right-wing, elitist circles in the West who are on their 'decline' trip.
These arguments are hard to counter because they are not addressed
in the open. Hardly any conservative art critic will ever bring those
thoughts on paper, mainly because they are full of resentment. Still,
we encounter them everywhere. The undercurrent resistence against new
media is responsible for the fact that computers are still
in hands of companies, universities, big institutions, etc. Where do we
find large scale cultural/art programs, raising public awareness and
training? Nowhere. Anyway. We do not complain. Some hidden reasons:
- the dominance of literature over visual art and thereby, also over all
the new media of the 20 century. Writers (and art critics) as the old
intellectual class still make a lot of decisions when it comes to
grants, prices, subsidies, government policies.
- the fear of an older generation to lose their jobs because they feel
that they are not anymore able to learn anything new (universal problem).
- the low intellectual discourse on new media, lack of good critics and
a lack of training of young critics who can deal with media/art/theory.
- the dark side of the current hype surrounding 'the Net', producing
almost only superficial data, again stressing the bad and banal
image of 'media', compared to serious literature, opera, painting.
- the actual crisis in the art scene and the strong wish to produce
'objects' that are easy to sell (allready a problem for the previous
video art generations).
- the fear of becoming a craftman/woman (programmer/designer) and therby
losing the possibility of ever becoming a 'genius artist'.
- some specific cultural aspects, like religion, like the orthodox
church, who prefers to see a return to traditional art forms.
- an unspoken hate against mass culture, of which media (and the Net)
are certainly part.
- the idea that experiments, avant-garde, underground, counter culture,
alternative movements, marginal artists etc. are historical categories
and that we are now living in the age of professionalism. A fear to get
associated with amateur undertakings who will finaly lead nowhere.
I would like to challenge these bureaucrats and their intellectuals.
Perhaps it is a waste of time. Should we convince them? Or should we try
to formulate the current conservative trend so that we understand a bit
better why (despite all the hype) media-art-experiments remain a
marginal part of the cultural life in many countries.
Many visionairies proclaim a sort of inevitable revolution from below, inherent to
the logic of the technology, as a kind of built-in device. Amongst us there is a
strong wish and a hope for a paradigmatic change that seems to be in the
air. But perhaps completely other processes are taking place around us,
if we allow ourselves to look away from the screen for a minute.