There is a learning curve for arts writers and critics in mainstream media
outlets. Most can't/won't even write in meaningful ways about "old" media
(film, video, audio art, etc.) though there are exceptions. Critics are
always pressed by circulation numbers (just like museums are pressed by
attendance figures). I don't think this is an excuse, just the reality of
what I've encountered from experience. Says more to me about what is
lacking in critical studies programs where writers get trained.
While there is a great deal of thoughtful writing about John Cage, for
example, even after nearly ten years since his death, I haven't found a
writer/critic who can consider and evaluate thoughtfully his diverse work in
the various disciplines in which he worked (that bridged the fine arts,
poetry, philosophy, mycology, etc). Can't claim that I can write about all
of that either. Still, it is very disappointing (about Cage) that what is
getting press isn't about the actual art works themselves (or the artists)
but that jazziness of the museums. Guess they have to start somewhere.
This will take time, patience, commitment, inter- and intra- disciplinary
discourse on an on-going basis. Courage.
Why don't "big media outlets" hire real thinkers to write about art? (Seems
obvious that editors underrate the intelligence of their readers, or give to
much import to advertisers.) I'd like to change my mind on all of this. It
must be more complex an issue.
In the arts, as in the sciences--and just about anything else it seems--some
people are up-to-date and comprehend what is really going on in the present,
while others are fifty years behind and everything in-between. Speaking of
which, V. Klebnikov's "Zangezi: A Supersaga in Twenty Planes" (in The King
of Time, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1985) is worth reading re:
foreseeing the net as is McLuhan's "Agenbite of Outwit" (published in
Rolywholyover A Circus, Rizzoli, New York, 1993 or Tyuoni 1, 1985).
From: Curating digital art - www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Steve Dietz
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2001 10:33 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Big Media Art. March Theme of the Month
Size is relative. I won't go into my powers of 10 rant, but just as
one person's metadata is another person's data, for some the Walker is
a huge, "mainstream" institution, and for others it's an interesting,
small, regional anomaly. It depends on perspective, and I agree with
Barbara that people do/can make a difference--but that's just my
That said, I think there is a level of press coverage of the efforts
by a SFMOMA or Whitney that may be out of proportion to what they are
actually mounting in relation to the history of what has been already
done. And this is not unique to new media by any means. When the
Whitney(?) did a "mid-career" retrospective of Cindy Sherman, it was
covered by the press differently than her hundreds of shows up till
What astonishes me--and depresses me a bit--is the level of the
discourse around the shows by the press. It's like Bill Walsh
scripting the first 20 plays of an (American) football game--What
about $? What about copyright? Does MegaMuseum doing this mean that
net art is real? What's the future? etc. If one of the things "large"
institutions bring to the table is additional audience/press, what is
the responsibility to the level of discourse? Why do 9 out of 10
articles about Bitstreams talk about Jeffrey Blake and his "moving"
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Curating digital art - www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Beryl Graham
> Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2001 4:46 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Big Media Art. March Theme of the Month
> Steve Dietz said:
> >Why does it matter to _you_ what "big" institutions do? I've never
> >quite understood the emphasis on the size thing.
> Interesting question! Of course, I wouldn't admit to being a
> size-queen myself (living in a place which is NOT London), but I
> thought it interesting and shocking that I've talked to several
> people who had never heard of new media/digital art before
> the 010101
> show at SFMOMA (admittedly, these people were Californians, and not
> art folk).
> I think big organisations reach some different parts of the
> and different parts of the press, and I think that SOME big museums
> feel rather obliged to think about 'canons'. I also think that
> expectations are different, I thought that the reactions
> that Matthew
> Gansallo mentioned were particularly responding to the fact 'hey,
> it's the Tate doing this' whereas they may have expected
> that kind of
> work from a smaller organisation.
> I've worked for big, medium, and small organisations in new media,
> and, well, they're different in curatorial terms (I didn't say which
> was better, did I?) To crudely stereotype: big ones have a more
> middle-of-the-road audience, more powerful/annoying marketing
> departments, worry about Internet porn, but have the money for big
> physical installations; small ones let you be more
> experimental, have
> no equipment, but have staff who have used the Internet for fun.
> Something which concerns me is whether physical installations are
> becoming the 'preserve' of big museums, and net.art the preserve of
> artist-run spaces (mostly because of resources), which relates to
> some of Simon Biggs' comments, and what Barbara London mentioned
> about artists leading the debate. Interestingly, it seems to be the
> physical installations which are less debated these days.
> Of course, you Steve have done the opposite to my stereotypes, which
> might be why you've proved rather successful! Does size
> matter to you?