As I often am, I’m humbled by just how smart the people on this list
are, and how generous with their knowledge. As we run up to conference,
here’s a stab at another running summary, and first a comment about the
aims of the conference:
Armin Medosch rightly pointed out the tension between wanting the
specific history and phenomenological differences of new media art to
be understood, and wanting not to be overlooked by the mainstream, and
that’s a tension that CRUMB has often explored. Our tactics have often
been to build bridges between what might be familiar to general
contemporary art curators (live art, conceptual art, activist art) and
defining what might be truly different about new media, thus trying to
avoid what Matt Fuller has called “cut and paste conceptualism”. I hope
we’ve tried to do this with this conference, we have invited both
general contemporary art curators, and new media specialists and asked
them to find common ground, as well as very accurately define areas of
difference, in order to understand where new knowledge must be applied.
I’m really impressed how knowledge from the different fields of live
art, performance, and video are being tested against new media art
here, and hopefully that will also happen at the conference.
I’m particularly grateful to Sarah for posting her summary, and to Curt
Cloninger for posting his ‘9 kinds of time’ – these accurate
definitions and categories of time are very useful indeed. In an
attempt to summarise recent posts and to map Curt’s typology onto the
concerns of the conference, I’ve arranged these under some headings
which embrace the subjective:
TIME AND THE AUDIENCE
Curt: >1. The time it takes the actual media art object to play out (as
Jon Thompson noted -- a decaying sculpture, a perpetually updated data
cloud). Smithson's work really problematizes this kind of time. The art
collective Spurse has been exploring "deep time/rapid time,"
considering geological formations over time. Also categorically
problematic is aleatoric software (like Brian Eno's "77 Million
Paintings") which perpetually runs with enough generative variability
to keep from ever "looking" like the same thing twice (although
arguably it is performing the same perpetual function at an algorithmic
Curt: >2. The Cartesian clock time that the discrete viewer/user
actually spends viewing/interacting with the work in the space (three
seconds, 30 minutes, or whatever).
Curt: >3. The more subjective Bergsonian time (analog, non-digital,
qualitative not quantitative) that the discrete viewer spends
affectively experiencing the work (could involve personal prior
memories, could involve the work coming to mind later after leaving the
space). This is related to the Cartesian clock time, but by no means
solely determined by it.
Issues of audience are consistent areas of ‘difference’ for new media
art, especially if the audience takes on the role of participant, or
even curator. This can be a challenge to general contemporary art
curators, who may have been content to leave any ideas of audience,
affect or experiential concerns to the education department. Curators
may even have great suspicion of, or distain for anything concerning
‘audience studies’. Lizzie Muller is one of the few people to have
formally studied artists’ intent, and audience experience, in curating
interactive new media art. Some time ago on this list, Spencer Roberts
discussed Bergsonian time in relation to interactive works. So far,
those from live art, sound art and performance have suggested
delicately differentiated ideas of liveness (Johannes Goebel, Sally
Jane Norman, Marc Tuters, Josephine Bosma). What might other curators
tell us about audiences’ experience of time?
TIME AND ART INSTITUTIONS
Curt: >5. Archival time -- how the work is archived, collected,
subsequently displayed, gradually folded into an art historical canon.
Curt: >6. The evolutionary time of art criticism and art historical
scholarship (and its overlap with philosophy, science, culture theory,
Curt: >9. Institutional evolutionary time -- the time it takes art
institutions to come to terms with and incorporate new media forms (or
new conceptual approaches to old media forms).
In discussing ‘Life Cycles’ of new art, the tension mentioned above is
very apparent. According to Gartner Inc.’s Hype Cycle, the Peak of
Inflated Expectations id followed by a Trough of Disillusionment before
the more gradual Slope of Enlightenment reaches the Plateau of
Acceptance. Barbara London has mentioned here the different rates of
progress, and has also elsewhere mentioned the tension placed on
curators to simultaneously do The Novelty Hustle for the latest thing,
versus the long term considerations of collecting, which is deeply
linked to the development of critical art histories.
Whilst this conference does NOT specifically concern the technicalities
of preservation and conservation, Charlie Gere, Neal White and Jon
Ippolito have all discussed on this list the importance of new media
works entering collections, and another tension between ‘fixing the
work to death’ versus some gleefully nihilist destruction (Simon Biggs)
is explored. Lizzie Muller’s mention of her work on David Rokeby is
interesting in this context, for it combines methods concerning
documentation of works in collections, and an ‘experiential’ approach
linked to ‘TIME AND THE AUDIENCE” below.
TIME AND THE ARTIST
Curt: >7. The evolutionary time of an art practice throughout an
It has been said that art institutions do not collect artworks, but
artists, so in relation to the heading above, then the hype about the
‘newness’ and the Novelty Hustle militates against collecting mature
bodies of work as they develop.
For artists, there is also the different new media time-scale of
‘versioning’ which may confuse the collecting strategies of art
institutions. As Jon Thomson says: “Speaking as an artist, I tend to
find 'variability' of an artwork (as already mentioned by Curt) one of
the more useful prisms through which artworks can be characterised,
understood and ultimately preserved.”
Would any other artists on the list care to comment?
TIME AND THE CURATOR
Curt: >4. The time that the entire show or project runs.
Curt: >8. Curatorial research time.
Gavin Wade will be discussing this at the conference, and CRUMB
research has consistently identified that the duration of shows is very
important for new media art- whether concerning the evolution of
participatory works during a show, or the suitability of festival
formats for ‘works-in-progress’. Would any other curators care to
Beryl Graham, Professor of New Media Art
Faculty of Arts, Design, and Media, University of Sunderland
Ashburne House, Ryhope Road
Tel: +44 191 515 2896 Fax: +44 191 515 2132
Email: [log in to unmask]
CRUMB web resource for new media art curators