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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  October 2007

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING October 2007

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Subject:

Re: exchange pieces and time structures

From:

Bruce Wands <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Bruce Wands <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 Oct 2007 22:01:18 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (249 lines)

Hi All,
I wanted to add a few thoughts to Verina's comments about At the Edge of Art and the historical, 
scientific, thematic and genre based approaches to media art. Jon Ippolito and Joline Blais make a 
point in their book that the art world in general has had a difficult time connecting to the new 
forms of art. There are many reasons. Digital art does not easily fit into traditional art categories 
or genres, so that museums have a hard time figuring out where it should reside. This is also true 
for art historians. There is a growing number of new media curators at museums, but I feel that is 
not where the real problem lies. Traditional art forms, such as print and scultpure have been 
revolutionized by the expanded range of creative expression that the digital world offers. Yet, 
many traditional curators do not like to make a distinction between traditional and digital, i.e. a 
print is a print, etc. One other thought is that we need to rewrite art history. That was a big reason 
why I wrote Art of the Digital Age. Making art with technology was largely dismissed by traditional 
art establishments until only the last decade or so. I felt that those who had laid the foundation for 
media art needed to be recognized and documented. A lot of credit needs to go to Thames & 
Hudson and the MIT Press for their support of publishing books on new forms of art. Books help 
to define and establish this work, as well as the artists in them. While the journal Leonardo has 
been around since the 1960s, it has a niche audience. The recent increase in books about digital 
art has been helpful for all involved. One final thought, which relates to this, as well as the issues 
of engagement and curating this type of work is the generational issue. Young artists are growing 
up in a world where digital literacy is taken for granted, and they do not see making art with 
technology as unusual. They also have a more facile sense of interaction and engagement with 
digital art and technology. People who have not grown up with computers have a different 
sensibility. In many of the shows that I have curated, the issue of signage and creating an 
environment where people feel comfortable interacting with the work are very important. I also 
remember some discussion about interfaces. David Rokeby's Giver of Names works so well on 
many levels. His piece Very Nervous System was an interactive sound installation with a simple and 
elegant video motion tracking interface. Rokeby wanted it to be intuitive. Golan Levin's Audiovisual 
Environment Suite also focused on the notion of an almost transparent interface. When we 
exhibited the work in Madrid, we had a pedestal in the middle of a room with only the mouse on 
it. The video was projected on the wall. By only having the mouse there, it was obvious to visitors 
that they should move the mouse and see what happened. In this case, no signage was needed. I 
do feel that more complicated works do need some type of orientation signage. The dilemma that 
arises is that if signage is needed, then is the work really successful. Should people be able to "get 
it" without it. Getting back to my earlier point, the level of interaction and engagement does 
depend on a level of digital literacy that is different for people of varying ages.


On Oct 25, 2007, at 5:23 AM, Verina Gfader wrote:

hi marc

thank you for your long post / response to my thoughts.

I want to briefly respond to your short paragraph towards the end, where you say: “What I liked 
about At The Edge of Art, is not necessarily there approach to the subject currently being 
discussed but more how they have tried to re-engage with media art, beyond the process of using 
history to support their arguments and intentions. Even though, I take issue with their twist 
regarding connections, in science - I wholly appreciate their risk taking and passion to explore the 
varied subjects which to serve to open up different possibilities in engaging with media art and 
other connected practices.”

To me it seems very intriguing to think of and re-engage with media art beyond the process of 
using history, but I think one has to be careful of how to use the term history, namely as a 
classification. To describe the encounter with something “new”, or the potential, often emerges 
out of “thought” and processes of thinking, which includes some kind of knowledge understood as 
experience, whether grounded in theory or practice or in the intersection between them. If 
theorists and/or practitioners (be it artists, curators, or cultural producers more generally) make 
references to former artistic, scientific, etc. articulations a certain mapping of a territory can be 
made, which often also helps to make a work better understand (to a wider audience?). I 
sometimes get rather bored, in discussions around media art, by the lack of “knowledge” of what 
other artists etc. have been done earlier on in similar ways...
A certain projection is intrinsic to the reading of media art, which then also transforms “history”, 
or the projection.

 
games [] Hopefully I will see the show ZERO GAMER tomorrow, so will be able to respond better to 
your writing about engagement and spectatorship which sounds interesting.
Last night, at the Star and Shadow cinema in Newcastle, there was a performance “dead-in-iraq”by 
artist Joseph DeLappe followed by a conversation with Rod Dickinsonhttp://
www.starandshadow.org.uk/shared/october2007/ss_event.2007-09-28.6897646215/. Joe uses 
the online game environment as a site of his performance (writing/inserting text) which he 
describes as “subtle intervention”, and I think it is particularly interesting to approach the work 
also in terms of the performative, performance art if you like, and the textual. (his work might in 
this sense and also on the level of content refer also back to Vito Acconci’s early work in the 
1960ies). Beside of raising several issues around game culture, virtual space, and online 
communities, themes such as the notion of ‘public space’, the political, and the use of screen (his 
gaze shifting between the text beside the screen, the actual game environment, the text he is 
typing, as well as the responses this text triggers) condition a certain “understanding” of his work 
situated in his very method as well as the tools he is using. As I would say all media art does that 
to some degree, what to me becomes a question then is how does the work im- or explicitly put 
forward a certain reflection of the site is takes place.

As an audience you could sense the engagement (tension, concentration, routine) the artist during 
his performance underwent by interacting in the virtual environment, and it was this gap between 
being “outside” the actual action that, to me, made the piece most interesting. 
(audience in and outside the work somehow).

I wonder if the structure of games puts forward a very specific dynamic, or non-dynamic of artist/
performer/player/audience?

 
best
ver



On 24 Oct 2007, at 14:49, marc garrett wrote:

Hi Verina and all,

Some interesting points raised here,

I just wanted to respond to this part of your text when you say "I was thinking about work where 
the actual content of the artwork and the desire on part of the maker is to address ‘limits’ of 
inter-activity and engagement. Where – beside of using technology in a so-called productive 
way..."

After the success of the Game/play exhibition last year which was also part of the London Games 
Festival Fringe, as well as shown in various venues around the UK, at our space the HTTP Gallery, 
London and Q Arts, Derby and elsewhere. (Catalogue can be downloaded here - http://
blog.game-play.org.uk/files/GamePlay_Final.pdf if anyone is interested.); we became aware of 
how so much time was spent playing the games rather then standing back at a distance to explore 
other aspects of what was actually going on, and then wondered what else is there for all to 
explore about games when the interaction is taken out of the interaction - what is left?

This year, the Furtherfield.org crew with Corrado Morgana critical games theorist, are presently 
showing a co-curated exhibition at the London Games Festival Fringe this year, called 'ZERO 
GAMER'. http://www.http.uk.net/zerogamer/

Some of the works being shown at the London Games Festival Fringe, at Zero Gamer are works 
such as

Max Payne Cheats Only by Jodi

Boys in the Hood by Axel Stockburger

Mario Trilogy by Myfanwy Ashmore

CarnageHug by Corrado Morgana

Progress Quest by Eric Fredricksen

1d Tetris by Ziga Hajdukovic
and more...

A collaborative text written between myself, Ruth Catlow & Corrado Morgana (http://
www.http.uk.net/zerogamer/exhibition.shtml) explores some of these issues and ideas.

"The meaning of contemporary media art is often crafted by the context in which it is encountered 
by its audience or participants. The way in which participants interact when engaged (in games 
and art) remains an important factor for both artists and game designers, gamers and audiences 
for videogame-art. This provides a starting point for this exhibition. It considers on the one hand, 
avidly and actively immersed gamers, and on the other, the gamer-in-every-viewer of art games 
who encounters game modifications, appropriations and detournements as jolts to the 
mesmerizing flow and illusory worlds of regular game play. They are thereby placed in a more 
thoughtful and reflective relationship with them. This is the fertile antagonism that informs Zero 
Gamer.

So, what happens when the action is taken out of interaction?

Of course, the works in this exhibition don't remove all action from interaction, but they do shift 
the sites, times and agents of action. The works presented either document the results of a prior 
performative action or an automated performance defined by software affordances such as 
artificial intelligence and in-game physics. Much of the presentation of these works touches upon 
the arena of Machinima. Games creatives, whether videogame artists or amateur enthusiast 
producers have made Machinima, a contraction of 'machine' and 'cinema', a significant form. This 
form uses videogame engines- hacking, modifying or performing within multi-player games- to 
produce normally a video document following some form of formal, cinematic intent. However this 
term may need some adjustment before we apply it to artists' documents of in-game performance 
or other activity- perhaps Experimental Machinima or MachinimArt (coined at the Gameworld 
exhibition 2006 in Laboral) will stand in for these more exploratory forms which belong to 
expanded forms of cinema or documentary not normally or intentionally associated with 
Machinima."

Another interpretation worth considering here is that, we longer need to hang onto the 'spectacle' 
of interaction as the main function, purpose or valid reason for being part of it, when engaging 
with video-games now. Claiming the media is not the same as interaction, but sometimes an 
emotional trick can arise where one may mistakenly feel as though they gain a kind of agency 
through the process of being interactive when in actuality the opposite is occurring between the 
user and game.

"Naturally (or unnaturally) digital technologies allow us to get caught up in what is real. In our 
minds, using common sense, we might say that a good argument or conversation at a screening 
event is real. The hallmarks of this might be the sense of humans talking, the smell of the room, 
the interjection of one voice over another or a familiarity with a place. However, if Baudrillard were 
to play SimCity I'm sure he might say that it was just as real as visiting Newcastle or Denver.

Commentators such as Beck and Wade* would go as far as to pose a generational shift where put 
simply those born after 1970 have been absorbed in games culture as role play for life. Those 
born before - the 'analogue' baby boomers - see computer games as time wasting or passing 
fads. What I pick up from contemporary media theory is a desire to explain and summarise. The 
internet is definitely a good summary of itself though." Simon Poulter - false mutiny and the 
collective amnesia of bad sunrises. on August 8, 2006. http://blog.game-play.org.uk/?q=node/
34#comment-19

Part of what Simon suggests above is worth considering, especially in regard to 'analogue' baby 
boomers, which I am sure many who frequent this list are. When having a conversation about the 
same subject at the beginnings of conceptualising the exhibition, Corrado Morgana said that 
"many of the original gamers have simply just got older". We part of a generation of people out 
who want more out of games other than just playing them for its own sake. This opens up games 
culture to new audiences, as well contemporary artists and thinkers to explore what this now 
means for us all, on many different levels.

Not only has games culture now moved on, so have also many net artists and media artists, who 
have taken it upon themselves to incorporate it into becoming part of their own ongoing practices.

"I think the widespread idea of interactive art as a form of collaborative authorship, is vastly 
overrated
First of all, I think all art takes place in the viewer. Interactive art is no exception. Viewing art is 
always active, never passive. But that doesn't mean that the user actually makes the piece (even 
though we may sometimes make him feel like he is ;) ).


Second, authors of interactive pieces often use this myth of users-as-creators to excuse 
themselves from making any statements or adding any content. This is very convenient since in 
the context of contemporary art, expressing an opinion seems to be considered politically 
incorrect and in the context of videogames, making a statement is deemed uncommercial."
Michael Samyn on August 8, 2006. http://blog.game-play.org.uk/?q=node/34#comment-22

Of course, there are various degrees of interaction, and some artists and game makers when 
building such environments are actively dealing with these contemporary questions in their own 
work all of the time. Other than those who are in the current Zero Gamer exhibition. Auriea Harvey 
and Michael Samyn originally known as Entropy8Zuper!, now known as Tale of Tales (http://
www.tale-of-tales.com/). "the duo aim to challenge the fundamentals of game play by creating a 
‘plot free’ experience of exploration and contemplation. Jonah Brucker-Cohen, rhizome.org

For me personally, two books have effectively approached the ever continuing strong connection 
between media art and video-games culture, expansively. There are some other great writings and 
books out there, but for me these two have touched upon things that we at Furtherfield feel are 
relevant, we that each of thwm dealt with these contemporary issues in a fresh and genuine way. 
The first one, which is actually being launched this evening , in the UK this evening, which I am 
gong to is, Videogames and Art - edited by Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell. The other is At The 
Edge of Art by Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito.

In Videogames and Art, Axel Stockburger's From Appropriation to Approximation, writes an 
interetesting study of video-games and contemporary art. In the Keynote texts Axel says "While 
many games are criticised on the basis of an innovation in a weapon system or the realism of car 
behaviour on specific tracks, ZERO GAMER invites players, developers and critics who aim higher 
to stop playing for a bit, enter the discursive platform it provides, and reflect on the current 
situation. This break is necessary to be able to focus on those issues surrounding games that 
open novel perspectives on contemporary culture. These can only be addressed properly if one 
switches from mere instinctive reaction to thoughtful planned action." http://www.http.uk.net/
zerogamer/keynote.shtml

What I liked about  At The Edge of Art, is not necessarily there approach to the subject currently 
being discussed but more how they have tried to re-engage with media art, beyond the process of 
using history to support their arguments and intentions. Even though, I take issue with their twist 
regarding connections, in science - I wholly appreciate their risk taking and passion to explore the 
varied subjects which to serve to open up different possibilities in engaging with media art and 
other connected practices.

So, getting back to games culture and media art. I feel that creative interjections which act to 
inform potentially, wholesome cross-overs, for curators, artists, game makers and audience can 
bring about a truly engaging dialogue for all who are interested. Not only to put forward a more 
insightful reasoning in understanding the culture itself, but also to share ideas and issues of 
human nature as part of the contemporary mix.

Marc

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