Mediascape at the Guggenheim

The Guggenheim (Soho) re-opened yesterday as high-tech-outpost amidst an
orgy of corporate happy talk from sponsors Deutsche Telekom and Ennell
(Italian Electric). The point of the day seemed less about art than
getting the ambitious project off the ground and the doors open. On that
score, it probably should be regarded as a resounding success. The
MacGuggenheims in Europe are very likely to be franchises for the
"high-tech" programming that will be initiated in NY.

But what many of us think of as high tech isn't exactly what
the Gug has in mind. (With the exception of the Ennell VR
gallery, a permanent facility which opened not with
artworks, but boring, TV-esque programs about architecture,
restoration, etc.) The opening show, "MediaScape" – which
inaugurated the Gug's ongoing collaboration with ZKM – is
disastrously bland and old-fashioned. It seemed to belong to
last summer's abundance of video-installation shows (group
show at MoMA, Gary Hill at Gug) that signalled the
institutionalization of video-installations in American
Museums. (Bill Viola's Venice Biennale show opens next month
at PS1.)

This safe, tech-heavy, content-lite stuff seems to
be what not-too-savvy curators and directors envision when
they think media. At the Gug now, is a 10-installations-or-so
sampling of works that add up to far less than the sum of their
constituent parts; certainly not even a selective history of
20 years of the genre. The usual suspects, with fairly weak
works, include the Vasulkas, Nam June, Bill Viola,
Marie Jo LaFontaine etc. The stand-outs are works by Bill Seaman
(poetry generator) and Ingo Gunther (1991 projections on flags re.
East-West, political reconfiguarations.) Future programming can
only get better; alas no talk of bringing aboard a curator with
any expertise in video, media or digital art. No doubt we'll all
be hearing plenty (too much?) more about the Gug's activities.