On this last day of februari I thought it would be good to simply say
goodbye, or express some last thoughts on the februari topic, to you.
Due to sickness and holiday I have not been able to be engaged with the
discussion all the time. I think what is clear from it is that, contrary
to popular belief, the discussions and developments around art in new
media have by no means come to an end. In fact, we still need more of
them. Of course accompanied by practice :) I read an interview with
Jeremy Rifkin last weekend about how people tend to underestimate the
changes brought about by new technologies simply because of the demise
of the dotcom economy. I absolutely agree with that. This
underestimation often seems to be an almost unavoidable obstacle when
one tries to continue developing anything from discourse to
presentations of for instance net art. I have seen many people give up
in frustration and move to working outside the on line networks. I am
not an optimist by nature, but I love my work. I think media art has
many unexpected marvels still to be discovered.
I was very happy to read the mail by Rosanna Flouty, to see that better
structures for supporting new media art (and especially net art) are
still being created. I also liked very much Jean Gagnon's remark about
the curators discourse being overwhelmed by special artworks. There were
many more interesting remarks the past few weeks, forgive me for not
coming back to all of them.
What I would like to come back to is Beryl Graham's post about a lack of
good criticism. I agree with her completely that this is the case. We
started, or I started (I am never sure what it is since I could never
have done it without the contributors/collaborators), the newsletter
'cream' for this reason. Cream is still in a stage where the
contributors get to know eachother, yet good things come out already. It
is a slow quality process I do not want to hurry, and I think that slow
is the only way it can really be if you don't meet eachother regularly.
Contrary to what people seem to think about on line collaborations and
mailing lists they fully depend on social networks (with all their
sensitivities). Seeing how these social networks develop inside
technological structures which are half public half private has always
been fascinating and challenging to me. The position of critics in them
has been critical from the beginning.
But back to Beryl's remark. Although we have recognized the need for
better criticism, creating it has been (and still is) not without
complications. I said criticism on line was critical from the beginning.
The reason is that on line everybody can be a critic. Everybody is now a
(bigger or smaller) media player, of course. But everybody making
'meaningful media', as the artist Graham Harwood likes to call it, does
not mean all content is of the same level of quality and interest to
everybody. We have the difficult task to balance between opening up to
new and unfamiliar voices, skimming the broth and trying not to enforce
a new rigid criticism. Next to this we have the situation that the on
line world was almost seperate from the off line world for a long time.
Net culture was a New World, and some still like to approach it as this
seperate entity. A very important reason why exhibitions like the ones
Beryl described did not receive much criticism is that most people from
the net cultural field have to hold themselves back. They (we) are happy
that there is finally some kind of acknowledgment developing of work we
love, while at the same time they (we) have to suddenly rethink our
position towards the works/artists selected because they (we) often
wonder why exactly these works were selected out of all the works they
(we) know. So I think the main reason there was not much criticism of
the art works in these exhibitions was that they (we) wanted them to
have a chance maybe. With more exhibitions and presentations being
developed criticism has to step forward more now. Hopefully it can go
hand in hand with a stronger curating practice in this field (so some of
the issues I was concerned about, like better money rewards for
immaterial/net art, can be dealt with).
Sorry for the long mail. I know how dense mails can really hurt your
eyes in the morning. :) Greetings from Amsterdam.