My tuppence ha'penny worth on the Bishop.
'Art' (with-a-capital-A) is arguably the product of a particular technological regime, that of print, and the printed book, which is also that of the framed painting, the proscenium arch in the theatre, the rise of the modern autonomous subject, the nation state, the separation of the arts, and the emergence of distinct institutions, galleries, concert halls etc... in which the arts take place. The 'white cube' is the exemplary space of contemporary art, and also paradigmatic of this separation. The new media are in effect a new technological regime, in which Art, as it understood, no longer fits. The debate that Bishop's essay has started seems to revisit some of the questions opened by Derrida in The Postcard back in 1980 concerning literature.
". . . an entire epoch of so-called literature, if not all of it, cannot survive a certain technological regime of telecommunications (in this respect the political regime is secondary). Neither can philosophy, or psychoanalysis. Or love letters. . . . Refound here the American student with whom we had coffee last Saturday, the one who was looking for a thesis subject (comparative literature). I suggested to her something on the telephone in the literature of the 20th century (and beyond), starting with, for example, the telephone lady in Proust or the figure of the American operator, and then asking the question of the effects of the most advanced telematics on whatever would still remain of literature. I spoke to her about microprocessors and computer terminals, she seemed somewhat disgusted. She told me that she still loved literature (me too, I answered her, mais si, mais si). Curious to know what she understood by this." (Derrida, 1987: 197, 204)
Bishop is a bit like the American student here I think...
J. Hillis Miller suggests that ‘one of Derrida’s main points in The Post Card is that it is a feature of the new regime of telecommunications to break down the inside/outside dichotomies that presided over the old print culture’. He goes on to propose that the ‘postcard stands as a proleptic anticipation of the publicity and openness of the new communications regimes’. This new regime involves ‘the breakdown of traditional boundaries between inside and outside brought about by new communication technologies... the new electronic space, the space of television, cinema, telephone, videos, fax, e-mail, hypertext, and the Internet, has profoundly altered the economies of the self, the home, the workplace, the university, and the nation-state’s politics.’ Hillis Miller claims that these ‘were traditionally ordered around the firm boundaries of an inside-outside dichotomy, whether those boundaries were the walls between the home’s privacy and all the world outside or the borders between the nation-state and its neighbours. The new technologies invade the home and the nation. They confound all these inside/outside divisions’.
By coincidence 1980 was also the year In 1980 Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway linked two large live projections of streets in New York and Los Angeles in their ‘public communication sculpture’ HOLE-IN-SPACE, which might stand for art's movement out of the white cube and into the great outdoors.
Professor of Media Theory and History
Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts