I'm back in Ottawa after a week in Banff with some really great people doing really great stuff, but before I switch my attention to fall teaching I'd like to think out loud about a few things that keep coming to mind.
It seems to me that our conversations on new media art ultimately revealed that it isn't the newness of media that's so interesting, but rather the artness of it. (Yes, I know that's not a word, but bear with me.) While "user-generated content" - or, as I prefer, public authoring and participatory media - repeatedly came up in conversation, it was quickly distinguished from artistic practice. While no one seemed willing to come right out and say it, I think the implied distinction was primarily quality-based, and both aesthetic and cultural quality are notoriously subjective.
My keynote address (which I'll post as soon as possible) chose to turn "screen" from noun to verb in an attempt to draw out the ways in which new media art and design practices involve acts of inclusion and exclusion. I tried to unpack a few of the primary metaphors that feed our notions of mobility, and I invited people to reimagine their senses of community and citizenship based on what it means to be in or out. The point of all this, of course, is to get producers of all sorts to acknowledge their own screening processes. In my mind, the most pressing political and ethical challenge facing us today is how we account for, and become accountable to, differences in perspective and practice. In other words, who gets to decide what constitutes quality content? The government? The broadcaster? The company? The artist? The designer? The academic? The public? And which public is that exactly? When it comes to collaboration, whose interests take precedence in which contexts? (As one artist said to me after my presentation, "I've realised I value art more than people.")
In my panel presentation (which I'll also post shortly) I discussed what I consider to be Proboscis' exemplary collaborative work, and how it was this sense of collaboration that helped shift a broadly technology-focussed project to a culturally-focussed one, or more specifically, how the two became entirely inseparable. Fiddian Warman also showed us a couple of Soda Creative's projects that specifically engage some of these questions, albeit in indirect ways. Both Nahnou-Together and b.tween2cultures explore what it might mean to create distinct cultural identities - together. Or how about this? The Residents and MOMA's new River of Crime Community Art Project seeks out a space for professionals and amateurs to work together. As "an exploration of the rise in popularity of instant-video-creation due to the proliferation of inexpensive video cameras, as well as both still cameras and phones that shoot video," ROCVID invites anyone and everyone to make a video - any way they like - to go with an audio clip provided by the legendary music group. Mass art and art for the masses indeed.
I'm sure I'll continue to think about these things as I prepare for my lecture on mongrel practices of art, design and anthropology at UIUC art + design next month, and as always, comments are welcome.
And for anyone interested, here are all my Interactive Screen 0.6 posts:
IA Screen : Introducing the Canadian new media context
The Convergence Conundrum: A Cross- Canadian Perspective on the Business of Content
Technology, Privilege and Innovation: The Legal Perspective
Creative Commons: Art, Activism and the Database
The View from Outside In: Margins of Art and Activism
The View from Inside Out: Margins of Technology and Business
Playing the Interface
Serious Games: Understanding the grey area between learning and playing
Filming Outside the Cinema
Blast Theory - Day of the Figurines workshop
The Impossibility Box: An Emotional Computation
(photo: Peter Horvath)