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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  2002

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING 2002

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Subject:

Re: NEW-MEDIA-CURATING Digest - 28 Oct 2002 to 5 Nov 2002 (#2002-49)

From:

Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 6 Nov 2002 11:47:06 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (104 lines)

Beryl wrote:
>The reasons why net art has been absorbed into mainstream art museums
>and galleries whilst physical new media has been left put in the cold
>seem to be both conceptual, and practical.  Conceptually, net art fits
>rather neatly into existing curatorial debates around conceptual art,
>and the 'death of the object' (although at some later point, if the net
>art happens to be participative, then all sorts of very different issues
>arise). Practically, at first sight net art seems to have simpler
>technical needs (although at some later point, the invisible
>complexities of server-side maintenance and access tend to become
>horribly apparent to curators only when problems arise).
-----
I would like to focus on the technical issues around net art which Beryl
raises, in relation to other digital media forms, and how these influence
curatorial decision making, from the point of view of the practising
artist.

In my own practice I make work that functions in three distinct ways. Those
works that work on the net in a browser but do not require a live net
connection to be able to work. Those works that require a browser and a
live net connection to work (multi-user pieces, for instance). Those works
that might use live net connections and browsers but definitely use
localised custom hardware for immersive sensing systems and the like
(basically interactive installations). As I have done shows with various
curators and types of institutions with all of these technical approaches I
feel able to respond to the issues raised in a very practical manner.

Artists have long made works designed for differing exhibition contexts,
responding to the needs and resources presented to them by curators and
their institutions. In many respects artists see curators as clients. That
you should be able to respond to those clients needs seems quite
reasonable. If we look at artists working with more traditional media we
might see that they too tailor the technical and conceptual demands of
their work to varying contexts just as a new media artist does. A painter
might produce drawings and prints as one level of their practice; small and
medium sized paintings as another; large works, public murals and even
installative works as another. Each of these aspects of their practice is a
response to a context. Firstly, the gallery environment where there is a
demand for work that can be supplied quickly and with little logistical
burden to either party. Then the gallery context where there are resources
available for more ambitious works. Lastly, the larger contexts offered by
public commissions, architectural environments and public space. This
example would, I argue, be an almost routine description of how many
professional artists practice.

My own experience certainly bears this out. I am happily in the situation
where, from time to time, projects come along that are well resourced with
briefs that allow for very ambitious work to be produced. Work that is
often technically risky and involves not only technically costly elements
but the far more costly human elements that make such experimental things
work. There are institutions and curators "out there" that will take on
these sorts of projects and the inherent risks with vigour. However, there
is still the imperitive that the work is available in more accessable and
less demanding contexts. This is not just an economic imperitive...it is an
artistic one too. Without an audience or the means to be making work when
the big commissions aren't there your practice cannot be sustained. The
discursive relationships your creativity requires dry up.

To have work that can fit many contexts (whether online or offline) is
almost an artistic necessity. Given this it is virtually a tradition that
artists make the most of the situation and respond to these necessities by
developing new forms of art (technical, conceptual and even discursive) and
that curators, critics, educators and others respond to these developments
with their own contextualising activities. A good example of this is the
emergence of the fine art print. Another is artists photography.

My feeling is that new media art in all its forms will be gradually
"consumed" by the institutions Beryl is refering to. I use the term
consumed as it is always a problematic double edged sword when artistic
practice comes to be accepted by the establishment that such institutions
have to, almost by definition, represent/be to varying degrees. However, as
with other artforms and media, it is most likely that those works that
firstly most resemble previous practice (which Beryl makes explicit with
the net art/conceptual art comparison) and secondly are the easiest to
acquire and maintain will be the ones that these institutions will
initially accept. In this instance Beryl is probably correct in stating
that net art has had an initially more welcoming response from curators and
museums.

To conclude, for better or worse, it is only a matter of time for the full
range of new media to become accepted. In the process new forms will emerge
as the old ones are tweaked in response to the demands of context. Nothing
really changes...

best

Simon




Simon Biggs

[log in to unmask]
http://www.littlepig.org.uk/
http://www.greatwall.org.uk/
http://www.babel.uk.net/

Research Professor
Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK
[log in to unmask]
http://www.shu.ac.uk/

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