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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  October 2013

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING October 2013

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Subject:

Re: what's art history got to do with it?

From:

Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 10 Oct 2013 11:44:12 +0100

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text/plain

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Reply

Reply

Lancaster sounds great!

Don't get me wrong - we have a vibrant research and pedagogical context in digital practice at ECA. It's just that the programmes are not located in the School of Art. Design and Architecture is just where they happened to have grown. Nominally I belong to the School of Art, but that's only because everyone at Edinburgh has to belong to a subject area of some kind. However, the MSc I run (Interdisciplinary Creative Practices) is located in Architecture and most of my PhDs are either in Design or Informatics. Our other creative digital programmes are mainly in Architecture (Design and Digital Media, Media and Culture, Digital Animation, Digital Sound Design, etc) but we've recently started up the Design Informatics MSc, which is half in Design and half in Informatics (Chris Speed is the new Design Informatics Chair and programme director). It's working well and we are looking to ensure that the students that work across our suite of digital practice postgrad programmes (of which there are about 70 at MSc and another 20 at PhD level) engage with one another, across School silos.

However, none of this discounts my previous points about engagement with the digital in our School of Art - which is setup in a way that students could individually engage with the digital but there is no provision for a cohort to do so in a focused manner. The focus is very much on preparing students to engage the mainstream contemporary artworld - which till now remains very distinct to the new media art world.

The question is whether these two worlds can draw value from engaging with one another, or are better off remaining distinct? But that's not a question for this month's discussion on CRUMB.

best

Simon


On 10 Oct 2013, at 09:03, "Gere, Charlie" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Just want to jump in to respond to Simon's issue about the lack of digital at ECA. I am now Director of Studies for Fine Art at Lancaster, and I think we have begun to make real progress in dismantling the kind of conservatism Simon describes at ECA. Firstly Fine Art is part of a larger department, the Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts, which involved Film, Theatre and Performance, and Design (and until recently Music, until low recruitment led to its controversial demise). Much of our and in particular my efforts have been to break down the divisions between these areas, by teaching core courses in the first and second years for all the students, looking at the history of the arts in modernism and how they intertwine, and secondly theory as it might be applied to all or any of the arts. A lot of students love this approach, though some hate it, but my argument is that any person working in the arts, any art, should have a broad understanding of their interconnected histories. We start with the Wagnerian gesamtkunstwerk, and end with digital media realising Joseph Beuys' idea that jederman ist ein kunstler, and that digital technology is where the arts all come together
> 
> Secondly within Fine Art we are increasingly working towards a model of continuum across media, rather than treating them as separate. We have two traditional artists whose main medium is drawing, two painters who also both use new media, photoshop and online, one painter turned filmmaker, and two digital artists, plus access to sound scholars, performance colleagues and film theorists. The students are expected to develop work on a continuum from drawing to painting to digital imaging, photography, 3-d, installation and interaction.
> 
> In my more hopeful and idealistic moments I see us as continuing the tradition that includes the Arts and Crafts movement, the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and the various other experiments in radical hybrid art education and practice; a kind of Black Mountain on the M6
> 
> Charlie
> ________________________________________
> From: Curating digital art - www.crumbweb.org [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Simon Biggs [[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: 10 October 2013 08:48
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] what's art history got to do with it?
> 
> Art critics, historians and theorists are not the same thing (although sometimes a single person might fulfil these multiple roles).
> 
> It's possible that art critics are losing their jobs because social and other network media allow people to form and share their own opinions. Tripadvisor has probably led to a lot of travel journalists losing their jobs. Why not art critics as well. In the UK professional cultural criticism (whether of art, music or literature) has been in decline, just as we see co-creation and crowd-sourcing emerge. The BBC has gradually dumped such programming and many newspapers have shed their art criticism pages. Critics are professional opinion makers and perhaps that's a role that is being de-professionalised in an age of co-creation and the prosumer (with Xfactor everyone is a dancer and a dance critic).
> 
> Art historians fulfil a different role. It's their job to situate art practice in historical continuums and act as gate keepers for what is and isn't within the canon. With digital and new media we are looking at work that is very current and thus difficult to historicise. It is starting to happen though, with Media Art Histories, DASH and CRUMB as evidence. Interestingly, much of the history of new media. to date, has been written by the artists. This was how experimental film, video and performance art were historicised in the 60's, 70's and 80's and we have seen the same thing happen with new media. It is also the case that this process has occurred in parallel to conventional art history activities. There hasn't been much contact between conventional art and new media art in respect of either practice or historicisation, just as there wasn't with moving image. It's arguable (and there has been much argument) that new media art is not art as we have known it and should be treated as a separate domain of creative practice, requiring it's own critical expertise and contextual narratives.
> 
> I'm not going to address theory here - as that appears to be outside the scope of this discussion.
> 
> At my own institution (which, having worked in a few, I regard as rather conservative but not atypical) the School of Art has no digital or media programmes and no intention of introducing them. It's programmes remain focused on conventional forms of art practice - studio based, aesthetically premised with detailed reference to the history of painting, sculpture and all that goes with that. It does have an intermedia programme - but that doesn't mean the students work with media. Quite the opposite - it means they work without media, in the Fluxus tradition, echoing a popular trope of contemporary art of the last 20 years. Our practice based subject areas that have picked up on the digital are in Design and Architecture - and not in the instrumental ways one might imagine. Design Informatics is an intellectually engaged programme exploring some very interesting approaches to the role of the creative practitioner in society. Our music department is very media and digitally oriented, but that has often been the case in music wherever I've worked - technically engaged with the latest systems.
> 
> Perhaps it's to do with subjective perceptions of ontology? Most artists, at this time, do not seem to be in a zeitgeist where they are questioning the meaning and value of what they do. It is not a revolutionary time in the visual arts (it's possibly quite the opposite) as Grayson Perry is currently arguing in his Reith Lectures. Those artists who do want to do things differently therefore choose to do so elsewhere.
> 
> Our Art History department reflects our Art School in that it has no programmes that engage the digital and no researchers with expertise in the area. Our academics cover topics like classical art, medieval art, the Renaissance and Baroque, Scottish art, feminist art, Asian art, African art and much more besides. Film is dealt with in a different school (in a kind of Cultural Studies enclave in our School of Languages). There was engagement in that department with the digital - but that person left. However, various parts of our Humanities faculty are engaging the digital, especially in subjects like sociology (socio-technical studies), law, education and English and Literature. We are concertedly developing a digital humanities strategy and, as part of that, we are including the creative arts - but only a very small number of people in the arts are involved and I don't see that changing soon. This seems to echo the split in interest that Charlotte identifies between the MLA and CAA.
> 
> Last year we hosted a major international digital culture event (Remediating the Social, focused on electronic literature and network culture) and whilst staff from our humanities and sciences subject areas attended nobody from our Art or Art History departments made an appearance. I'm sure they saw the event as akin to an alien space craft landing in the Art School quad.
> 
> best
> 
> Simon
> 
> 
> On 10 Oct 2013, at 04:27, Charlotte Frost <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
>> 
>> 
>> I want to try and get to the question of what all this (amazing discussion
>> of the early days of online art production and discussion) has to do with
>> the discipline of art history. And it might be that we decide the answer is
>> 'nothing at all' but let me set out some thoughts first.
>> 
>> In the main, I'd argue that lists and art history are connected simply
>> because lists were/are primary sources for any art historian wishing to
>> research and analyze digital and new media art forms. They might have been
>> set up at least in part to get away from the limiting structures of
>> institutionalized scholarship, but truly, even with the handful of books
>> that have been published on art and digital technology, where would you go
>> to find out more? However, what I am interested in is what all of this
>> vibrant and prolific online critical appraisal of the arts has done to the
>> role of the art critic and to the resources art historians aim to work from,
>> the products they tend to produce and the way they conceptualize their work.
>> For example, poll a few art historians and you'll find they still expect to
>> be working with static images (maybe not slides, but often the new digitized
>> versions of slides) and producing monographs.
>> 
>> I am currently - elsewhere - working on an argument
>> (http://www.gylphi.co.uk/artsfuturebook/) that art history is in fact
>> essentially 'bookish'. What I mean by that (and it's a term I've borrowed
>> from digital humanities scholar Jessica Pressman who analyses the aesthetics
>> of bookishness, or rather literature which faces the trauma of the death of
>> the book by developing the codex form as an aesthetic trope) is art
>> historical knowledge is partly derived from and very much made for books.
>> Whilst that's not specific to art history - what scholarly discipline hasn't
>> imagined a print-based output?  - I think the concept and indeed concrete
>> form of the book serve to re-enforce many of the outmoded standards art
>> historians measure art by. For starters, I'd argue that the literal
>> combination of words and images bound together on paper pages re-enforces
>> the idea that an artwork should be readŠrather than danced or re-createdŠ.
>> It might also contribute to the power of concepts like the single
>> author/artists or indeed the static artwork. I don't think it's a
>> coincidence that digital and new media artworks often moved and aren't well
>> represented in art history. I think there's a direct - but not a
>> technologically deterministic - link and that link is bookishness.
>> 
>> And then there's the fact - as Diane M Zorich's report on digital
>> capacity-building in art history departments repeatedly states - that art
>> history is an extremely technophobic discipline
>> (http://www.kressfoundation.org/research/Default.aspx?id=35379). Which, when
>> you think about it, makes very little sense because art history as a
>> scholarly discipline solidifies around the invention of the camera ­ and
>> what do art historians do if not make intense studies of the creative use of
>> communication systems? And yet, where were all the art historians on mailing
>> lists like Nettime, the Syndicate and Rhizome? Where are all the art
>> historians using new technologies to ask new questions about the arts? If
>> the Modern Language Association conference annually hosts upwards of 30
>> sessions on the digital humanities, why has the College Art Association only
>> offered  one or two over the last four or five years?
>> 
>> Likewise, where are all the art critics? Over recent years we've seen a boom
>> in online art critical discussion. What art magazine/journal today doesn't
>> have a website? And sites like We Make Money Not Art, ArtFCity and
>> Hyperallergic are all very popular. But meanwhile, art critics in regular
>> employment are in the decline. The art critic for Milwaukee's Journal
>> Sentinel, Mary-Louise Schumacher, has been closely monitoring this
>> artpocalypse, mapping the job losses of art critics across America and
>> recording their stories for an upcoming documentary.
>> 
>> I'm presenting these thoughts in order to usher in a discussion on what
>> online art discussion has done to the working activities and indeed the very
>> notion of an art critic or an art historian? Can such practitioners survive
>> in their traditionally-defined roles? What skill-sets are being developed
>> and what is being lost through the fast-moving, collaborative world of
>> online art discussion? I'm hoping to hear from some of the art critics who
>> have carved a niche for themselves online, how they got started and even how
>> they make ends meet - do they necessarily have portfolio careers. And what
>> about art historians working online? There's a small but growing group of
>> regular art history bloggers so why did they take to the internet and what
>> has it contributed to the way they work?
>> 
>> 
>> 
> 
> 
> Simon Biggs
> [log in to unmask]
> http://www.littlepig.org.uk @SimonBiggsUK http://amazon.com/author/simonbiggs
> 
> [log in to unmask] Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh
> http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/edinburgh-college-art/school-of-art/staff/staff?person_id=182&cw_xml=profile.php
> http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/simon-biggs%285dfcaf34-56b1-4452-9100-aaab96935e31%29.html
> 
> http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/  http://www.elmcip.net/  http://www.movingtargets.org.uk/  http://designinaction.com/
> MSc by Research in Interdisciplinary Creative Practices  http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate/degrees?id=656&cw_xml=details.php
> 


Simon Biggs
[log in to unmask]
http://www.littlepig.org.uk @SimonBiggsUK http://amazon.com/author/simonbiggs

[log in to unmask] Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh
http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/edinburgh-college-art/school-of-art/staff/staff?person_id=182&cw_xml=profile.php
http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/simon-biggs%285dfcaf34-56b1-4452-9100-aaab96935e31%29.html

http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/  http://www.elmcip.net/  http://www.movingtargets.org.uk/  http://designinaction.com/
MSc by Research in Interdisciplinary Creative Practices  http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate/degrees?id=656&cw_xml=details.php

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