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Re: Writing about the ephemeral... the insignificant the singular the condition


Maeve Connolly <[log in to unmask]>


Maeve Connolly <[log in to unmask]>


Wed, 20 Feb 2008 11:16:35 -0000





text/plain (1 lines)

Dear Verina, Kristoffer and all on list

I am also interested in this idea - setting up an "ephemeral" space THROUGH a very concrete calculating operation. But in keeping with Kristoffer's point about the dialectical relationship, I wonder how easy it is to actually define 'functionality' at this point. So I'm going to reference a work that is pretty far removed from most definitions of 'new media', in which issues of ephemerality and functionality arise

The work, by Colin Darke is called The Capital Paintings and was recently shown in Temple Bar Gallery and Studios (Dublin) http://www.templebargallery.com/2008Programme/0801CDarke.htm

This project  follows on from an earlier work in which Darke transcribed Marx's Das Capital onto everyday ephemera - this process took several years. The second stage (The Capital Paintings) involved the production of portraits of these objects, with the layer of transcription removed - again a lengthy process. This  resulted in a series of 480 paintings presented in grid-like display. The project transformation of ephemera into art objects - these are 'function-less' in the sense that they are art objects yet also highly 'functional' in the sense because they can be readily bought and sold - circulating within the processes of economic exchange that they apparently critique.

The exhibition provided the vehicle and the backdrop for a gallery discussion on Creativity and Commodification, yielding a fairly familiar and narrow debate about the fetishisation of artistic labour.  But the debate also (inadvertently) emphasised the economic interdependency of public and private spheres  - particularly within the local art economy, whereby the framing of this work as 'critical' actually confirms its market value. These issues were not incidental to the work but actually brought to the fore through the focus on different forms of labour (material, immaterial) involved in both production and reception 

It seems to me that there's a definite interest at the moment in issues of economic exchange amongst critics and artists that might  seem particularly concerned with the conceptual and the immaterial (an example would be the work of the POCA group  http://www.gold.ac.uk/visual-arts/poca/)  as well as earlier discussions around immaterial labour (in publications such as Multitudes).  But the 'material' persists in interesting ways in some writing about artists (such as Pierre Huyghe) who treat the ephemeral and the temporal as their material. I'm thinking in particular here of Tom McDonough's article 'No Ghost', in October 110, Fall 2004, which takes issue with Nicolas Bourriaud's ideas of both temporality and labour in relation to production and consumption. 

With regard to the Dan Graham's exploration of timeliness and his exploration of the page as site,  I wonder  how the notion of an 'intervention' in a publication can be reconfigured now, with a proliferation of artists' publications exploring various forms of ephemerality, temporality, spatiality etc and the establishment of the artists' page as a convention, even institution.  Clearly, the 'timeliness' of the art magazine and the status of the page as site have both changed radically because physical pages are now supplemented/shadowed by web pages..

I would be interested to know of artists who have responded to this changing context and extended the exploration of the page as site



-----Original Message-----

From: Curating digital art - www.crumbweb.org on behalf of Verina Gfader

Sent: Wed 20/02/2008 09:24

To: [log in to unmask]

Subject: Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Writing about the ephemeral... the insignificant the singular the condition


Hi Kristoffer and everyone on the list!!

Thanks for your contribution to the feb theme. I thought it is

interesting what you suggest, to think the possibility of a work setting

up an "ephemeral" space THROUGH a very concrete calculating operation.

So as if the concrete calculating operation (= the function) conditions

the ephemeral (that what does not remain, that what is perhaps also

imaginative). But you also suggest the "ephemeral" space as a space for


The ephemeral here would not as such be related to the

material/non-material/im-material, but be understood as a concept

(virtual-actual?) which I find interesting especially in relation to

"media work" which has often been discussed in relation to the

immaterial, and, importantly, to money. 

Does this perspective shift the discourse from the material to the

conceptual ---- and from art to business/economies?    

When you describe the work I am interested in the potentially infinite

receipt roll that seems to be the manifestation of such a shift. But I

imagine that the actual processing of the numbers, the sound of the

machine, and the abstraction that takes place at the site, at particualr

moments, is also what brings the work back to the idea of the ephemeral

as something that in its aesthetic value of the disappearing and

fleeting and the "never the same" escapes certain logics of growth, and

labour. (well, labour in a different sense)     

I also think what is most interesting that the "art" media did not have

much of a voice, but rather the business media? There is a quite

frightening dynamic here, namely that the artwork is already quite

absorbed in economies. I wonder how art critics reflected on the piece,

how art journals deal with it. What does this "state of the Danish

press/media" say about the larger issue of the incorporation of art in

(mass) media. 

And also about the DIFFERENT situations of countries involved in global


In relation to this theme I have been thinking about a serial work by

American artist Dan Graham, which uses an art journal as object and as

the site of intervention. In 1966 ARTS MAGAZINE published the two-pages

photo-text layout Homes for America. This intervention is part of

Graham's early "works for magazines".  Homes for America is an

investigation in the 'over-all magazine article lay-out' (Graham) which

also addresses, the artist notes, the 'present-time (timeliness)' of a

magazine. As one of its most important aspects, and partly deriving from

this timeliness, Graham emphasises that the work made no claim for

itself as a work of art. 

The page of the magazine, a site of non-art, functions as an underlying

grid-like, schematic, coded system. 

There is a lot more to say about this work, but I thought this might be

interesting in relation to an "artwork" as a critique of (mass) media -

in this case print media - and its self-critique.     

The work's live and afterlive, and second life (in media, in oral

histories). . . seems to make the work in a way HAPPEN. 

Few , maybe a bit incohesive thoughts on the current theme...


----- Original Message -----

From: Kristoffer Gansing <[log in to unmask]>

Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 4:56 pm

Subject: Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Writing about the ephemeral... the

insignificant the singular the condition

> Writing about the ephemeral - Calculating "Danmark"


> As others have already pointed out, this is a very interesting 

> theme and as a newcomer to the list it is also quite a challenge to 

> comment on. A lot of directions of thought are opened. And this 

> will be a long ramble on a recent work by Danish artist Linda 

> Hilfling and myself.


> Catching on to the original post, mentioning the "press review" in 

> the list of things "particularly important for ephemeral, live or 

> broadcastworks" - I'd like to try and build on this in relation to 

> a work I've just shown in an exhibition at the National Gallery in 

> Denmark. This is a work in which I take part as an artist rather 

> than a curator, but which consists of a work which is typical for 

> new media work in that it in itself is generative and tries to set 

> up a space for thought rather than a conclusive statement. The 

> tricky part is that it tries to set up this "ephemeral" space 

> through a very concrete calculating operation, and this immediately 

> confounds critics and spectators. The work is functional, but this 

> function is at the same time an aesthetical act which points to the 

> virtuality of what is being calculated. 


> I actually think that this rupture between the material function of 

> a processual work and its meaning and ephemerality is quite common 

> to new media works in general. Considering that many new media 

> works consists of a re-routing of ongoing information processes.


> So to briefly explain the piece itself and the reaction to it. In 

> the installation, an old office calculator sits at a table and from 

> it extends a mess of cables in different colours, making it clear 

> that this machine has been hacked. The display continuously adds 

> numbers together and these are printed by the machine on a receipt 

> roll which spills over the floor. The calculator is scraping data 

> off the online statistics of Linden Lab, the Californian company 

> behind Second Life. It then calculates how much money (in Danish 

> crowns) an average Danish SL user would earn on average in SL 

> during the exhibition period's two weeks.  The result is a very 

> small number (32 crowns), but 160 meters of paper spilling on the 

> floor. The whole work is a comment to the Danish Ministry of Taxes 

> setting up an island of their own in SL last year, naming it 

> "Danmark" and thereby establishing a kind of State presence in SL. 

> The focus of this virtual "Danmark" though is to inform Danish SL 

> users that they should pay taxes on money earnt in SL. This space 

> was set up when the hype of the economic possibilities of SL was at 

> its highest.


> As an intervention into "Danmark", the calculator is also viewable 

> through a webcam "projected" on to a large billboard in the state 

> owned Danish SL.


> What I'd like to focus on is how the Danish "business" media 

> reacted to this piece. Having caught on to the results of the 

> calculation they proceeded to publish a number of articles, stating 

> the depressing state of the Danish side of the SL economy. 

> Obviously, there were a lot of Danish SL entrepreneurs who objected 

> to this, and started to comment on the online editions of the 

> articles. In retrospect, I wonder what was lost in this treatment 

> of the work, which was meant to project an image of control and the 

> virtuality of capital flow, rather than as an instrumental tool for 

> monitoring the actual amount of earned money. Of course, statistics 

> in some way always "lie" and the official statistics of Linden Lab 

> could probably be read and critically analysed in a number of 

> alternative ways. Yet, what is more at stake here is the 

> aesthetical value of such online information and the political 

> implications of creating a generative work out of this data - 

> connecting imagined locality (the national state of Denmark and its 

> virtual "Danmark") with global business and service providers (SL).


> So it seems to me a purely functional evaluation of such a work 

> completely misses the point - at the same time as the work would 

> not "function" on its ephemeral level without this concrete 

> dimension. So are we back in a dialectical relationship here.? 

> Well, at least I hope to inspire to some more considerations on 

> this rupture between functionality and ephemerality, which is 

> necessary but without excluding the one or the other. 


> best wishes,

> Kristoffer Gansing




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