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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:

Charlotte Frost <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Charlotte Frost <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 14 Oct 2013 14:45:42 +0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Reply

I suppose partly what I'm asking is who the historian of digital and new
media art is/is going to be?

Simon Biggs rightly points out that the art critic and the art historian
perform different tasks but as Johannes Goebel also explains, the
contextual archive for online art forms, for example, is extremely
unstable. 

But if art historians have generally been trained to work with more stable
media, who is going to shore-up the decaying archives of digital and new
media art forms if not an art historian who is also critically active in
the field? Does the art historian who aims to historically situate
contemporary art forms like net art not have to take an active role from
the start - swapping between, say, critical and historical modes? Because
doesn't that critic/historian have to ensure they can make their way back
through the collapsing archives before it's too late? Or maybe it's better
to suggest that the collapsing archive makes unwitting art historians of
us all? Take for example Josephine Bosma's work. She was very much active
in critiquing net art forms as they were emerging, but given 15 or so
years distance, she is also well placed to write an art history of this
type of work. And as this month's discussion has shown, it takes an army
of active participants in online art/art discussion to piece together its
networked histories which are already only partially available online or
in books. And if the art historian has to be involved now, or if she is
all of us, what does her/our contextual work look like? Art history has
always involved accounting for multiple view points, but has generally
been written by a single author, but what if post internet art history is
by its very nature a collaborative affair? And what if half of the work of
the post-internet art historical practitioner (if she still exists in any
distinct way) is the organisation of group recollections and archive
rehabilitation. And what if, like the discussion on this list, the aim is
not to produce a chronology, or consensus on what happened and when, but a
document or archive that is necessarily open to change and, down the line,
emulation… 

So I guess what I'm asking is can art history online look like this? Look
exactly like this list discussion even though few of the participants
might call themselves 'art historians'? Or is there an emerging practice
of online art contextualiser that straddles the existing activities of
artists, critics, curators, historians, conservators…And if the latter,
were the skills for such a role developed at least in part by the
pioneering owners/instigators of lists?



On 10/10/2013 20:25, "Goebel, Johannes" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Pondering.
>
>This very interesting discussion ­ how it meanders and find its ways a a
>result of all our thinking and pondering and experiences in the discussed
>fields.
>
>If "history" (= talking, collecting,writing, researching, thinking,
>constructing, sharing about things past - how ever small or extent past
>might be) is seen as being totally dependent on and under the direct
>influence of and shaped by funding, political power, media used and the
>interest of those who are gate keepers and those who feed the gate keepers
>­ then the digital age makes this extremely clear. "Everyone" can put
>things online ­ but how that is kept available is a plain matter of power
>and thus of political interests. Books are much easier smuggled through
>the cracks of power structures than digital information. Digital platforms
>allow very fast production of "content in media" and an extremely powerful
>distribution (and reception) in the moment ­ but the half-life of this
>information being available is in direct relationship to the funds (power)
>which allow to port the information to new platforms, to maintain the
>information, to archive etc.
>
>The digital technology promises that we can collect and distribute
>archives "for ever" because it is "all digital". In the end digital
>storage evaporates faster than acetate film or acid-free paper because the
>"substrate" information is carried by is in constant flux (literally).
>
>The only power that can actually preserve (port, adapt to changing
>operating systems, check for bits corrosion etc.) their digital
>information is the military (most likely limited to the world-wide top 5
>military spenders). I think even banks still print their most important
>documents out on acetate-free paper and store it deep in mountain. Many of
>us have tried to keep archives and lists backed-up, have seen works
>disappearing once the CD-ROM ran only on certain chip-sets and operating
>systems etc etc.
>
>Maybe we are back to the mediaeval  ages in Europe where information was
>copied by humans fed by the most powerful organization at the time (the
>church) - only those who can feed the monks of the digital age can ensure
>that their view of what is important get transported to "future times".
>Where these future times have now shrunk to maybe something like 10 ­ 20
>years.
>
>Maybe the promise of digital technology ("its all just bits") is showing
>us the real conditions of human life as being bound to heart beats (or in
>digital technology to the ever faster and thus ever quickly dissipating
>clock of computer technology).
>
>So maybe digital technology restructures how time  is used and seen and
>thus how power structures have shifted to a greater divide of "in the
>moment" and "for continuity". It is available in the moment to everyone ­
>but gone after we sent the tweet and before we die unless we can support
>monasteries with thousands of people copying and porting what other
>generations (digital generations that is ­ very short life spanŠ)
>produced. That the US Library of Congress is collecting tweets displays
>the great helplessness and the power structure at the same time. And
>Google seems to indicate another power shift. And maybe only the NSA is
>smart by understanding they cannot keep all the collected data for ever :)
>
>So maybe the promise of the "all digital archives" is not that things can
>be kept "for ever" but that we are "liberated for the moment" while being
>under the dictate of those who can port and save what has been thought and
>made. Maybe the digital age is the age of a life where communication and
>distribution has again reached the the fundamental level of time passing
>and an erosion of memory which is bound to media which disappear slower
>than our lives do.
>
>What could be a positive consequence for us little people (the ones
>without power to port what we discovered) out of this? Liberation from
>creating our own monuments and making and living time-based arts which are
>only good for the moment when they are happening. (So now we are thinking
>performing email lists!)
>
>The down side? We are enabled by digital technology to change system of
>political power and share thoughts in a moment. But the structures of
>global power can grow inversely into dimensions unknown before ­ because
>they can afford to "own time" (the clock of computers) whereas we can
>"only" live time. So digital technology has potentially brought us back to
>realize our own vulnerability in ways which show us that the past five
>thousand years of "making history" (from clay tablets to computer tablets)
>were a unique phase for humanity and now we might enter a phase where the
>real power of holders of information becomes even more obvious because it
>becomes time-dependent at incredible small intervals.
>
>Johannes

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