[iDC] Art

saul ostrow sostrow at gate.cia.edu
Fri Dec 9 13:48:42 EST 2005

I'm sitting here and  working on further plans to develop a Center for 
Art/ Science at The Cleveland Institute of Art - likewise I'm in the 
process of dismantling what had been a fairly conventional fine arts 
program - seeking to define a new program knowledge/ research based 
studio program applicable to all media - my students tell me what they 
need is a program that will supply them with material, formal and 
conceptual skills as they are applicable to 2 and 3 dimensions , who 
almost are on the verge of believing that technology is old hat or at 
least the new technologies are -- for them time base media comes under 
materials  and is used to realize 2&3 d projects - that is virtual or 
real -- all images being virtual.  I spend a lot of time talking with 
the head of industrial design about aesthetics and visual literacy and 
the potential politic of design being the new paradigm-- or atleast 
today we have the potential to fulfill the Bauhaus/ Constructivist 
dream even if it is detached from social reform and revolution,  
Maeanwhile, the Dean of integrated media instead is committed to an art 
and industry model - business being the new culture and artist will be 
used to tame and humanize it -- which boils down to vocational training 
in the arts --  meanwhile; culture becomes the shared values of small 
communities of like minded people - you students who only want only an 
audience  sing to the wind " is anybody out there -- can you hear me?" 
and may soon lay claim to the heritage of Cluny.  It is in this context 
I would argue and not the isolated examples and moments of brilliant 
theory that we find the terms of cultural complicity and resistance. To 
  re-orientate and rethink  this situation I would again assert that we 
are  obligated to abandon the fruits of many hard one victories because 
the underlying assumptions they represent are no longer relevant or may 
be in need of significant reformation both methodologically as well as 
practically.  For instance we need no longer worry if there is art or 
not – obviously, there are those who will continue to engage critically 
or aesthetically in the traditional practices associated with art  
while others will seek to expand our means of expression.  From this 
perspective, the question that confronts us is not how to differentiate 
cultural production hierarchically - this is a mere distraction by 
which the cultural field is turned  into one a valueless homogeneity.  
So,  I Imagine that if we are to stave off the negative effects of a 
society willing to allow to profit to be extract from all aspects of 
life it is time to self-reflectively engage in the fluid process of 
evaluation, devaluation and re-evaluation rather than seek affirmation.

On Dec 9, 2005, at 1:00 PM, Trebor Scholz wrote:

> Ok, let's talk Art. The everyday bread and butter of artists is to 
> produce
> culture.  It's personal. All the immediacy and politics that we 
> discussed
> before does not get lost when talking about Art.
> Something is happening. For one there is a shift of the artist to 
> something
> that I call a cultural context provider. Two things. Many many media 
> artists
> function in strange ways. In fact, their job description has yet to be
> written. They are artists. They are activists. They write.  They may 
> even be
> theorists. Many of them curate or have an event-based cultural 
> practice. And
> all of these "occupations" are united in that one person. Ok. Ok. I 
> know--
> that's nothing new. That has been witnessed long before the 
> resurfacing of
> the notion of the cultural producer in the 90s. No need to name names
> (Duchamp, Beuys, ...). But there is more than several occupations 
> under one
> hat. I'm talking about a phenomenon that renders the cultural context
> provider as the person who orchestrates a context without delivering 
> the
> input. "Les Immateriaux" in 1985 could be cited. Here, Lyotard set up a
> situation in which people respond to a task and to each other and the
> resulting thing is his artwork (with content provision entirely by 
> others).
> Trace that through the 90s service art to today's participatory design
> projects like "Learning to Love You More." I find that my students have
> decreasingly, and in many ways refreshingly, little interest to become 
> art
> stars. They want an audience. They want a platform. They are ambitious 
> with
> their cultural practice. But they realize that they can have dialogues
> without the ghettoized artworld. Or if not outside then somehow 
> tangentially
> glued on to one of its wings. Extreme sharing networks empower them.
> So, secondly: art activism. Media activism. It's as schizophrenic as
> capitalism itself. What about all this online art, media activism and
> creativity that has political intent? Is it art (uh...)? There is this 
> Steve
> Wright guy who is gripping. He wrote a flavorful essay titled "The 
> Future of
> the Reciprocal Readymade: An Essay on Use-Value and Art-Related 
> Practice."
> [1] There he says: "What they do is not art, yet without art it would 
> not be
> possible to do it." Once or twice in the past I dared to question the
> efficacy of tactical media with the result of vehement attacks. There 
> was a
> moment when tactical media suddenly became so fashionable that you have
> university courses about it. If we look at how-many-years of tactical
> media... how much has it achieved? Before you start throwing rocks at 
> me-
> hear me out. I'm not taking away from TM. But don't we need to revisit 
> even
> super-popular notions like tactical media for their ability to affect? 
> Also,
> the argument Wright makes is interesting. He asks if all this cool 
> Rtmark
> and Bureau d'Etudes work is not merely art-related instead of being 
> art. Ok,
> I always wonder why people would ask the art question to start off 
> with.
> Usually those posing tghe question are curators who look for 
> definitions to
> more smoothly define an institutional inside and outside. But here is a
> taster from Wright's essay:
> "In a late text, Marcel Duchamp set out to distinguish several 
> different
> types of readymades. Of particular interest here is the genre, which he
> punningly described as “reciprocal readymades.” Anxious, he claimed, 
> “to
> emphasize the fundamental antinomy between art and the readymade,” 
> Duchamp
> defined this radically new, yet subsequently neglected genre through an
> example: “Use a Rembrandt as an ironing-board.”1 More than a mere quip 
> to be
> taken at face value, or a facetious mockery of use-value, Duchamp’s 
> example
> points to the symbolic potential of recycling art – and more broadly,
> artistic tools and competence – into the general symbolic economy of
> everyday life. For in that respect, the reciprocal readymade is the 
> obverse
> of the standard readymade, which recycles the real – in the form of
> manufactured objects – into the symbolic economy of art. Historically
> speaking, the readymade is inseparably bound up with objecthood: it 
> refers
> to a readymade, manufactured object Yet, it would be reductive to 
> confine
> the readymade to its objective dimension alone, if only because it 
> provides
> such a strong general image of the reciprocal logic between art and the
> real.
> In the same way that framing an object in an art context neutralizes 
> it as
> an object (distinguishing it, as it were, from the mere real thing), 
> can the
> de-framing of an artwork neutralize it, in reciprocal fashion, as art? 
> This
> is an important question, and one to which Duchamp was expressly 
> alluding,
> because it would enable art to produce a use-value. Since Immanuel 
> Kant’s
> influential championing of “purposeless purpose” and “disinterested
> satisfaction” as defining features of our engagement with art, it has 
> been
> broadly held that art cannot produce use-values. Kant argued in effect 
> that
> art, unlike design, could not be evaluated and appreciated on the 
> basis of
> its objective purpose – be it external, regarding the utility of the 
> object,
> or internal, regarding the perfection of the object. In so doing, Kant
> sought to preserve art from the realm of the “merely useful”; and in 
> the
> contemporary world where utilitarian rationality and the sort of
> cost-benefit analysis to which it leads reign supreme, where art is
> regularly co-opted by such profit-driven, subjectivity-production 
> industries
> as advertising, to even mention use-value tends to smack of the 
> philistine.
> Of course one might say that in such a context there is something 
> circular
> about defending art on the basis of its uselessness alone (or even its
> “radical uselessness,” as Adorno put it), for it would seem to suggest 
> there
> is something worthwhile and thus useful about something ostensibly 
> lacking
> use-value…"
> Maybe that can be material for a continued exchange.
> [1] <http://www.16beavergroup.org/events/archives/001481print.html>
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Saul Ostrow
Visual Arts and Technologies Environment
Chair of Painting
The Cleveland Institute of Art
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