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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  September 2009

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING September 2009

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Subject:

Time - another running summary

From:

Beryl Graham <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Beryl Graham <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 17 Sep 2009 13:52:18 +0100

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Dear List,

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 
level).

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, 
etc.)

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 
artist's life.

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 
comment?



Yours,

Beryl

 


-------------------------------------------------------------------

Beryl Graham, Professor of New Media Art
Faculty of Arts, Design, and Media, University of Sunderland
Ashburne House, Ryhope Road
Sunderland
SR2 7EE
Tel: +44 191 515 2896    Fax: +44 191 515 2132
Email: [log in to unmask]

CRUMB web resource for new media art curators
http://www.crumbweb.org

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