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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  July 2012

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING July 2012

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Subject:

Re: July Theme: Collecting New Media Art

From:

Domenico Quaranta <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Domenico Quaranta <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 11:44:25 +0200

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Dear List,

thanks Pau for your feedback on my first post, but thanks even more  
for pointing out to two very interesting case studies: Collezione  
Maramotti and [S]editions.
>
> Very interesting things have been already said, so I'd like to start  
> by agreeing with Domenico's statements about the fact that new media  
> art is collected and that there are also many examples of unstable  
> art being collected. To mention one example I saw recently, the  
> Maramotti Collection in Reggio Emilia (Italy) owns a sculpture by  
> Mario Merz (La frutta siamo noi, 1988) partly made of fresh fruit  
> which has to be replaced every week. The instability of this work is  
> not a problem for the owners of a large collection of paintings,  
> some sculptures and just one video (if I am not mistaken), so I  
> wonder if the problem is not that the art is unstable but that it is  
> digital.

The problem is twofold, in my opinion - and, sorry if I insist on this  
- it's mainly "our" fault (where "our" means all those who create the  
discourse around new media art: curators, critics, gallery owners).  
When Mario Merz and other artists, back in the Sixties, started  
working with fresh fruit and vegetables, faggots, organic and  
industrial materials, etc., the center point of the discussion was not  
"can we collect and preserve this?", but "is it culturally relevant?".  
A small cultural elite decided it was, started collecting it, created  
a system around it, and now museums and collections are taking care of  
all this "unstable" art, regardless how much expensive it is. On the  
other side, along the last twenty years, we failed in persuading the  
art world about the cultural relevance of new media art, and we did an  
excellent job in frightening collectors about "digital art  
conservation", to quote the title of the last iteration of this  
masochistic approach (see http://www02.zkm.de/digitalartconservation/).

Luckily, other people started doing this work for us. In 2009,  
Collezione Maramotti made a show with works by John F. Simon Jr. from  
the collection: a good selection, from the early CPU (1999) to more  
recent works. The acquisition was made with the mediation of Paolo  
Diacono, an old contemporary art critic who was attracted by Simon's  
ability to reconnect to minimalism and to abstract painting tradition  
with radically modern means. They didn't buy "software art", they  
bought art that they considered culturally relevant also, but not  
just, because it was software based.

Another kind of understanding of their own work is what many so-called  
new media artists are pursuing with all their strengths. It takes time  
and, as Pau noticed about Seghal, it requires a system around the  
artist. In the case of Simon, it took years, the continuous support of  
a bunch of galleries, the effort to work out of the usual mind frames  
and to present his work out of the usual circles, but it was successful.

> The reproducible nature of digital files, as Domenico states, may  
> also be a problem if we follow the usual scarcity=value model that  
> is usually applied in the art market. But there are ways to create  
> this scarcity. Among the different ways in which the mainstream art  
> world is looking for new models of selling art using technology, an  
> interesting example is [s]edition <http://www.seditionart.com/>  
> which, as you know, sells digital copies of artworks by blue-chip  
> artists to the masses (we may call that high art for the Long Tail).  
> In some way, sedition achieves what Wolf states as a possibility, to  
> have one's art collection at the tip of one's fingers, on any  
> screen. Yet instead of distributing digital art, they create digital  
> versions of sculptures, installations, paintings, videos, etc. and  
> sell them at a (relatively) low price. By keeping these "artworks"  
> in a centralized "vault" and making it accessible to your iPhone,  
> iPad or TV, they control the number of copies and even give you a  
> certificate.

I think [S]editions is a very interesting initiative, but also a very  
problematic one. Its strong point is that it familiarizes collectors  
with the idea of buying the digital. Its weak point is that it  
familiarizes collectors with the idea that the digital is cheap, and  
that it provides no originals, just copies. Which of course is true,  
but should be corrected by creating different conventions, as Seghal  
successfully did with performance. Selling a jpg by Damien Hirst for  
9 levels digital collecting to buying a Damien Hirst umbrella in the  
Tate Store. It's no more a work of art: it's merchandising for your  
iPhone / iPad.

That's why I was so upset when I bought a Rafael Rozendaal piece on  
[S]editions. Upset with Rafael, because with his  
artwebsitesalescontract <http://www.artwebsitesalescontract.com/>,  
where the website is sold as unique and the collector is forced to  
keep it public, he made a masterpiece comparable with Seth Siegelaub's  
sales agreement and Tino Seghal's rules. You have the chance to create  
a new convention, and you go back to the old art market rules, further  
downgraded to adapt to the digital. And upset with [S]editions, who  
sells me something and dowsn't even allow me full access to it (as I  
documented here: <http://intheuncannyvalley.tumblr.com/post/25429872192/experiencing-s-editions-the-art-cloud 
 >), turning me in the sad owner of a digital certificate -  
foriginals, as once Ubermorgen.com called them.

> I think this could be a good platform for new media art, but it has  
> been applied to good old contemporary art, which is quite  
> understandable, because it seems reasonable to try such a risky  
> business model with something as attractive as selling Damien Hirst  
> for 9. So I think that, as Wolf suggests, we are already living in  
> a nomad culture and we are working in more flexible ways, ready to  
> buy online and own digital content that only appears on our screens.  
> But most people still do not understand new media art as art in the  
> same terms of mainstream contemporary art

Do we? Maybe this could be a good starting point...

> In a conversation some time ago, Wolf mentioned Tino Seghal, whose  
> work exists only through oral transmission, and I think that this is  
> a very good example. Seghal's work exists because there is a whole  
> system supporting it, based on the fact that performance and  
> conceptual art have been sanctioned by the art world. And this is  
> precisely what new media art hasn't yet achieved.

Which is exactly what I meant above, with a difference: I'm pretty  
sure new media art will never achieve it as a whole, and under this  
definition.

Sorry if I may seem caustic. Maybe it's because it's about 40 degrees  
here in Italy, while I'm writing. I just want to inflame a discussion  
that I'm enjoying a lot, and that I'm sure can turn out to be pretty  
useful.

My bests,
domenico

---

Domenico Quaranta

web. http://domenicoquaranta.com/
email. [log in to unmask]
mob. +39 340 2392478
skype. dom_40

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