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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  November 2012

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING November 2012

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Subject:

Re: November Theme: Curating on and through web-based platforms

From:

susan collins <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

susan collins <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 23 Nov 2012 13:19:43 +0000

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text/plain

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Dear all

Apologies for stepping in late to respond, and I haven't had a chance to
properly review the flurry (flood) that the moot (which I didn't attend)
and subsequent discussion seems to have provoked. However these latest
emails (plus an email that just was sent out by CAS of Harold Cohen
featured in this months Country Life magazine) remind me of a time just
pre-90's when I first met Harold Cohen. Me in London fresh out of Art
School making drawings (and some animations) variously on whatever I could
get my hands on (Nimbus, Archimedes, Amiga 1200 & 2000). Him looking for a
research assistant in San Diego, and Harold arguing that it (ie computer
art) could not be considered properly authored unless the artist is also
programmer (Harold has been programming Aaron for 30 or so years)
therefore I could not possibly be making art. Added to which he pointed
out that you needed to either be an artist/programmer or be married to one
(if you were a woman). As you might imagine a somewhat spirited discussion
ensued, after which we became firm friends and agreed to differ (and I
never did become his research assistant I had neither the programming
skills or the visa and ended up in the Art & Technology Department at the
School of the Art Institute of Chicago instead)....

I've always made work with whatever makes the most sense to work with,
from the point of view of the context (be that site, audience, cultural)
and whatever means I have at my disposal (financial, technical,
infrastructure). For me thatıs where the surprise (and often the invention
or innovation) in the work happens. Some of what (from my speedreading so
apologies if I'm missing the subtleties of the debate here) appears to
being referred to here might be described as anthropological. Works made
with means available in the 90's obviously don't have the same cultural
reading to an audience in 2012, it isn't just the technology but also - in
many cases - the cultural reference points (and this is obviously true of
much work that is created in any medium)

A work that I (first) made in 1997 (which I think is one of the reasons
MariaLaura invited me to participate in this debate) was a piece called
'In Conversation' [http://www.inconversation.com]. It was a work which
connected the public space of the street with the 'public' space of the
internet (but this was a time when not so many people were yet online and
those that were at home were on a 28.8 - at most - dial up connection). I
had been making a lot of work using projection on the street as a form of
intervention (intentionally antispectacular these were intended to be
found/stumbled across) and was keen to have the street audience take
ownership/occupy/inhabit the work in some way. Using realplayer and
(hidden) cameras and mics there was a live (image and audio) stream from
the street to the internet and on the internet viewers could write text
strings and send them to the street where a text to speech programme would
deliver the words through a (hidden) speaker, and various multiple uneven
timelagged conversations ensued turing the streetspace into a physical
chatroom. This work was in a sense all about the state of the technology
(both technically and culturally) at that moment in time. The timelags
(which wouldn't exist now in the same way) becoming a material quality of
the work, and the fact that many of the people experiencing the work on
the street were not online and this was in many cases their first internet
connected (or first chatroom) experience, gave it another quality
altogether (surprise, disbelief and in some cases wonder), one that would
be impossible now to replicate (online anyway). It may be worth mentioning
that no one at the street end ever saw a computer - nor did they have any
(visible) interface), just a (disconnected) projected mouth to stop them
in the street and keep them standing there long enough for the
conversation to flow. I showed the work five times in five different
cities. The first one was Brighton in 1997, the last one Berlin in 2001.
By 2001 the image stream was colour, the passersby more familiar, and for
me the piece did not make sense to show again as it had not only
materially changed, but the cultural context that it operated in had
already in those four years changed beyond recognition.

There were some ongoing issues (which continue to inform the way I work
and many of my works since) which came out of 'In Conversation' for me
which directly relate to Marialaura's concerns for this theme (though from
the point of view of artist rather than curator) and these were (and they
may seem quite obvious now, but were quiet fresh then):
Where is the work? - is it on the street, on the net or in the gallery (in
two or three of the installations there was a gallery installation showing
a live - cinema verite - feed also)
Who (and where) is the viewer? Is it the person on the street encountering
the (disembodied) voice, the viewer on the net interacting with the street
or a third person/position, an observer watching the action and the
conversation/s (perhaps from elsewhere in the street or in the gallery)
unfold
Are the viewers subject or object, observer or observed?
I also became very interested in the questions of authorship and multiple
perspective in relation to what is essentially an open structure or
architecture within which the work or the narrative plays itself out, and
the fact that no-one anywhere ever sees the 'whole' work. It simply isn't
possible.

The other thing that happened that had not happened before (and this may
sound trivial/prosaic but I think any artist who has made work with
technology for a gallery may have some sympathy for this) is that I could
check on the work from wherever I was (ie make sure it was still
working)...and this has been true of some of the live internet streaming
works (albeit quite different landscape and seascape works) I have made
since.
It may also be worth mentioning that whilst it was a commissioned work
originally (artec, lighthouse, fabrica, BN1 and supported by Pavilion
Internet) it was actually made on a shoestring with most things begged or
borrowed. Realplayer had just come out with their first (free) streaming
server and the cameras and mics were really basic webcam type ones. There
was only one piece of custom programming (by Andi Freeman - I still don't
program) to literally join the dots/freeware together....

I have no idea if this prehistory is interesting but I felt moved to
respond to the collective moot/crumb nostalgia with a 90's case study!
All best wishes
Susan








On 23/11/2012 11:38, "Simon Biggs" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>My counter arguent to this is obvious and consists of two main points.
>
>Firstly, there is no method by which we can de-mediate our relations with
>things. We are mediated through and through. We are our tools and our
>tools are us. To think otherwise is extremely idealistic; essentialist
>and fundamentally dualist.
>
>Secondly, the computer is just the latest step in the evolution of human
>language, and all that is subsequent to that (such as social form,
>culture, knowledge, etc). If we are to dispense with computers then are
>we to dispense with language? An interesting proposition - but also
>ridiculous.
>
>I'm with Heidegger on how we should understand the relationship between
>humans and things. They are ontologically fluid and of one another. We
>cannot exist separate to our tools and media and what we do, and why, is
>an inescapable function of those relations - just as we are ourselves.
>
>best
>
>Simon
>
>
>On 23 Nov 2012, at 11:19, Martin John Callanan (UCL) wrote:
>
>> All technology must move toward the way things were before humanity
>> began changing them: identification with nature in the manner of
>> operation, complete mystery.
>> 
>> Art, once so elegant, has been transformed by representation into an
>> object, cluttered and confused not only by operating systems and
>> applications, its once-accepted inherited discourse, but by the words
>> and the theories used to prescribe its very being. These prescriptions
>> are themselves shrouded in a language that, disconnected from the
>> world as it is, is no longer useful. To recapture that connection, it
>> is necessary to find and use a tool that will leave no traces, that,
>> in other words, will allow an unmediated relationship with the thing
>> in itself.
>> 
>> The problem is more serious: we must dispense with computers
>> altogether and get used to working with tools. It can be put this way
>> too: find ways of using computers as though they were tools, ie, so
>> that they leave no traces. That's precisely what our computers, video
>> cameras, amplifiers, web-servers, projectors, cameras, mobile phones,
>> etc.,  and even the internet, are: things to be used which don't
>> necessarily determine the nature of what is done.
>> 
>> 
>> On 23 November 2012 10:55, Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> There's an interesting and subtle issue here.
>>> 
>>> Martin has distinguished between a programme and the computer it can
>>>run on. However, where is the computer in this?
>> 
>> 
>
>
>Simon Biggs
>[log in to unmask] http://www.littlepig.org.uk/ @SimonBiggsUK skype:
>simonbiggsuk
>
>[log in to unmask] Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh
>http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/  http://www.elmcip.net/
>http://www.movingtargets.org.uk/
>MSc by Research in Interdisciplinary Creative Practices
>http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate/degrees?id=656&cw_xml=details.ph
>p

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