AFC has a good post today about the realities of new media artists crossing-over into the larger art world. Here’s the bit that should be common sense to new media artists (but often isn’t):
Unlike many professions, there are a great number of people within the art world who could give a shit about the Internet. […] This sort of thing can create problems for artists who are making work in the medium because the people who understand it best are often the sixteen year nerds [sic] who spend 18 hours a day in front of a computer, as opposed to art world professionals who are responsible for the evaluation of art.
There are some new media artists who cross-over and make it look easy. Cory Arcangel and the McCoys come to mind. Arcangel succeeds by acting a bit like a ethnographer who travels into hacker culture and exports the bits that make sense to the art world. The McCoys succeed by addressing the older tradition of film and not letting themselves geek-out when addressing the art world.
MTAA recently had our worst fears realized when speaking to some traditional art world types about a new piece we’re developing with RSG. We were told bluntly that phrases like ‘peer-to-peer’ and ‘file-sharing’ are jargon and the art world doesn’t give a shit about them anyway. At first, I was defiant. These file-sharing networks are part of the subject of the piece, I told the art world pro. It’s like saying you don’t like apples so you don’t like paintings of apples. It’s just not your subject.
But then we realized, with some help from the art world pro (who’s remaining nameless but was very sharp and helpful), that we were failing to communicate what is interesting about our subject. (At least our 7 minute presentation about the project didn’t communicate it.) What we find interesting and exciting culturally about this technology needs to be expressed to folks in the present that may be ignorant of it or fail to understand it. We also need to communicate to people in the future that may have no idea what happened in the late 90s / early 00s.
MTAA has been wanting to move into the gallery for quite some time now. In order to do so, we’ll need to start thinking that our audience is completely ignorant of digital culture. We can’t expect them to be geeks that are excited about a good hack. We’ll need to communicate our emotion, interest and excitement. We can’t expect them to share it until we communicate every bit of it.
I can’t believe it took me so long to realize this…