[iDC] Curating New Media Art

amanda mcdonald crowley amc at va.com.au
Tue Apr 11 22:52:42 EDT 2006

Excuse the cross-list posting (to CRUMB new media curating list and  
also iDC), but Trebor's post to IDC and also CRUMB has raised a few  
interesting points for me.

On the CRUMB list <http://www.crumbweb.org/crumb/phase3/ 
main_frame.html> where Trebor also posted this report, an interesting  
thread was opened up by Trebor's comment on Blue Ships... picked up  
by Sarah Cook.

Whilst Trebor's comments on my presentation at the Art-Place- 
Technology event here are cursory, he did pick up on the fact that I  
was questioning the authorial role of the curator not just in the new  
media art scene, but in contemporary arts more broadly.

I also pointed to examples of projects where artists don't make  
"works" per se, but rather make "frameworks" for others to  
contribute, and I sited examples such as r a d i o q u a l i a 's The  
Frequency Clock; Mongrel's Nine(9) and Linker; and Marko Peljhan's  
Makrolab.  These kinds of work only *become* works of 'art' when  
other artists, community groups, researchers - participants in  
general in fact - contribute to the project.

So a point I was trying to make was that if 'art'-work in this field  
requires participation to be animate, then surely a 'curatorial  
practice' that is relevant should also explore collaborative  
methodologies in similarly experimental ways.

Of course, particularly wonderful for me was the Blue Ships analogy,  
which plays perfectly into Trebor's plea for  alternative, non- 
institutional contexts for the presentation and reception of such work.

Dance clubs:  of course, it makes perfect sense. Community centres  
are also obvious and appropriate.

And Ships are not at all the worst places for new media and related  
art festivals and events to take place ;)




I am sure there are many more examples ;)

I love the idea of journeys.  Busses are also good and there are a  
plethora of wonderful examples there too!!  E-xplo; the Finnish Sauna- 


On 11/04/2006, at 12:38 PM, Trebor Scholz wrote:

>  In Liverpool two weeks ago, a conference revolved around media art
> curating. With its eleven speakers Art-Place-Technology was a small,
> focused event that took place in the classic wooden auditorium with  
> tall
> windows at John Moores University, just one block away from Condoleeza
> Rice's temporary residence. The tumult of the protesters caused by the
> visit of the US Secretary of State made up the background sound to  
> some
> of the event.
> <http://www.a-r-c.org.uk/liverpool/ocs/programme.php>
> <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4862846.stm>
> Amanda McDonald Crowley started the event refusing to be  
> categorized as
> a curator. "I'm making situations!" she said. Amanda investigated the
> role of collaboration in curatorial practice asking if it merely
> constitutes compromise. Like in the arts at large also in new media,
> some curators strive to be artists. A deep voice out of the auditorium
> added the work of Hans Ulrich Obrist as example of this type of
> curatorial approach in which artists merely become invisible, creative
> laborers who support the vision of a conceptual director. Amanda also
> raised the question if workers in the culture industry with its
> corporate, institutionalized funding dynamics now become new media
> apparatchiks. Amanda reported that Eyebeam has moved to a focus on  
> media
> art production workshops and educational programs rather in opposition
> to being a collecting museum.
> <http://www.eyebeam.org/disclaim_800.html>
> Charlie Gere linked Derrida's idea of hospitality to the varying  
> degrees
> with which new media art, and net art in particular, is welcomed into
> traditional art institutions. Will the guest ever become a permanent
> resident? Charlie asserted that net art lives parasitically and
> certainly marginalized in these art contexts. It eats off its  
> resources
> without contributing to the host's well being. He argued that the  
> longer
> net art lives in this type of existence in the gallery, the more it  
> will
> blend into this environment. He referred to similarities to early  
> video
> art. Charlie emphatically demanded rules for the authoritative
> evaluation of media art. What would a set of criteria for quality of a
> media art project look like? The discussion that followed pondered  
> where
> is this desire for straight rules originates? Why do we need to have
> clear guidelines for what is good or bad? Is life unbearable in the  
> face
> of the ambivalence and pluralistic sea of voices and opinions? Or, as
> some conference participants questioned, is this drive for the ten  
> rules
> of good media art based on the desire for authoritative curatorial or
> interpretive power over institutional inclusion and exclusion?
> <http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/cultres/staff/gere.php>
> Throughout the discussion the marginal role of media art curators in
> museums was bemoaned. The Whitney Museum of American barely gives a  
> desk
> to their adjunct media art curator. Equivalent jobs at the Tate in
> London with its amazing online archive of talks and discussions are  
> also
> rather peripheral in their position within the institution.
> Simon Worthington of MetaMute.org posed that "participation is the  
> core
> theme of restructuring a cultural organization." The Metamute crew was
> inspired by the Open Source Software for constituency relationship
> management (CRM) used by Howard Dean in his election campaign. Simon
> talked about ways in which Metamute steers toward web2print-on-demand
> (web2pod). Here one can print just a few copies of a book at  
> reasonable
> prices. The issue of participation in metamute raised a few questions.
> Why would writers upload their texts to metamute without getting paid,
> for example? What about the hierarchy of exchange that is created in
> which contributors to Metamute, uploading to their site, significantly
> boost the cultural capital of those who run the site without gaining
> much themselves.
> <http://www.metamute.org/node/7017>
> <http://metamute.org/>
> Inke Arns questioned the strategic usefulness of the term new media  
> art.
> Just by calling it media art and by fore-grounding technical  
> minutiae of
> art projects potential visitors to her institution may stay home.
> Perhaps, she argued, simply talking of art or defining artwork  
> according
> to the way they behave would be more productive. Inke reflected on the
> growing discontent with the notion of media art. Media art cannot be
> defined merely in technical terms she said. She called for an
> open-minded approach to a field of practice that is largely  
> invisible in
> arts institutions. At the same time Inke reinforced the importance to
> insist on much of new media work as art. Stephen Kovats proposed an
> interdisciplinary approach that goes beyond traditional curatorial
> practice. For Stephen, the unstable, procedural properties of today's
> media call for a stealth rather than a fixed attitude. As an  
> example he
> showed Moholy Nagy 1926 project ŒLicht - Raum Modulator¹ and asserted
> the complete misunderstanding of the work demonstrated by its  
> display in
> museums. Curators frequently mistake the apparatus that creates the  
> work
> with the piece itself. Steven asserted that Nagy's artwork is not the
> artistic tool itself and that putting this on display comes close to
> understanding a programmer's algorithms printed out on paper as the
> functioning software itself.
> <http://www.hmkv.de/>
> <http://www.v2.nl/>
> <http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/werke/licht-raum-modulator/>
> Sarah Cook introduced the work of Crumb and facilitated discussion
> groups, which she focused on themes that were overlooked or
> under-examined during the event. liverpool3.jpgShe also introduced
> useful quotes on the topic of collaboration such as Simon Pope's
> "collaboration and open source cultures can be very competitive: don¹t
> try to bankrupt the person you are giving the gift to" Sarah's  
> workshop
> crystallized several questions. Charlie, for instance, pushed for a
> clear standard of quality in new media that could be applied across  
> the
> board at least as a discussion starter. He bemoaned the postmodern
> everything goes plurality of approaches. However, this question of
> quality or even classifications in art and non-art raised eyebrows.
> Another topical orientation was that of utopian associations that are
> immediately associated with digital artwork and social networks and
> cooperative structures in particular. Right away references to 1968
> emerge.
> <http://www.crumbweb.org/>
> In my presentation I proposed an online repository for experiences  
> with
> collaborative and cooperative processes such as event organziation,  
> the
> production of art projects, collaborative writing, and more.
> download presentation <http://molodiez.org/ts_liverpool0406.pdf>
> People work together forever but where is the inventory of what they
> learned? I also proposed a manual for collaboration in the form of a
> list that can serve as guideline for working together. Surely,
> collaboration is not something we do after having had coffee in the
> morning, it is a sticky, muddy affair. But nevertheless, an ABC's of
> Collaboration and an examination of the properties of collaboration is
> important. As the term of collaboration is polluted fo many, I  
> suggested
> a differentiation in cooperation and collaboration and within that
> trajectory I argued for free cooperation as suggested by Christoph
> Spehr. I talked about the tragedy of the social new media event  
> machine
> pointing to problems like the reign of affect over content, a common
> lack of topical focus and diversity of speakers. Additional problems
> include the simultaneity of sessions at events that drives speakers  
> into
> the competition over audiences. I continued to present a typology of
> event formats also formulating a critique of paperism and panelism. I
> called for a theory of the social event machine. Such theory would  
> also
> address event economies. In the face of wide-spread resource  
> scarcity I
> proposed the term of extreme sharing networks and delineated their
> potential: a politics of inspiration. The issue of the  
> virtualization of
> conferences (Broeckman) led me to questions of participation online  
> and
> off. This is often overlooked when cultural workers open room online
> (i.e. mailinglists, participatory artworks, etc). What motivates  
> people
> to participate in an online environment? At the conference some people
> suggested that online, compared to physical exhibitions, there is no
> such thing as an audience. In the WWW everybody is supposed to be a
> participant. But the potential user/producer is at least occasionally
> just a viewer. There are many who enjoy their double life as  
> authors and
> lurkers and again others are -and will remain- exclusively viewers.  
> The
> discussion about curating media art led to exchanges about the role of
> cultural web-based repositories and the role of the curated  
> website. Who
> ever visits them beyond a small number of experts? Do people go to  
> these
> archives to experience art? In relation to the role of the curator I
> pointed out that there is an emerging phenomenon that I called the
> cultural context provider. Two characteristics shape the ccp. 1)
> Cultural workers produce contexts into which others input their  
> content.
> 2) Artists curate, write, and produce artworks. Christiane Paul also
> addressed this issue. Today, cultural workers often define themselves
> strategically depending on funding contexts. Some of it may even  
> relate
> to life style choices. Today, you may get a grant for being a curator,
> tomorrow your nearby institution may be willing to pay for a  
> technician,
> or an artist, or theorist. Cultural identity becomes strategic.
> Evident throughout the discussions was a fairly narrow focus on  
> several
> pioneering individuals who curated shows in the field. The clear and
> present danger is that of a further ghettoization of media art in  
> which
> friends and friends of friends visualize their networks of friends in
> exhibitions and catalogues. Perhaps the unstable, floating  
> character of
> the field causes a desperate hierarchization in which two or three
> trustworthy individuals become masters of expertise in an ocean of
> perceived untested maybes or wannabes. The establishment of a canon is
> at stake (as problematic as that is). Curators try to be the ones who
> bring out particular artists. There is nothing wrong with that but in
> new media it causes a narrow focus of many curators who attach
> themselves to two or three artists who are "tested and true" and may
> become part of a canon. And they want to be the ones who emerge with
> them. The pressure is on if there are only two or three jobs worldwide
> for major media art curators. For video it took about forty years to
> become a bit more center stage in the museum. But possibly the
> underlying assumption is wrong in the first place. Perhaps emergent
> digital aesthetics need new venues outside of the establishments of  
> the
> art world. The dance club. The community center. Much of the  
> discussion
> at the conference was focused on curating media art in the blue ship
> gallery or museum. Perhaps this is where the problem starts. What  
> about
> alternative, new venues, not to talk of autonomous spaces or
> initiatives? Is the struggle over new media art just a fight for
> recognition in the blue ship art establishment? For all one knows the
> battle should rather focus on getting new media art out of the white
> cube and into other cultural spheres.
> It is vitally important not to get stuck in small circle discussions
> that entirely focus on curating media art. I am also always amazed how
> even in new media circles with all their distributed research,
> discussions are still predominantly referential to national  
> discourses.
> It sometimes feels like the global networks still spin only special
> interest nests, "cyberarchipelagos". While an expertise in this  
> area is
> important it is equally pertinent to keep an open mind and include
> discourses and people who do not directly relate, who are not part of
> the circulus of a small network. Art-Place-Technology conference was
> spearheaded by the curators Iliyana Nedkova and Chris Byrne who took
> that into consideration when they focused the event on
> interdisciplinarity. They facilitated this event with the a large  
> cadre
> of supporters at John Moores while at the same time raising their  
> small
> child that was present during some of the presentations. The
> cross-disciplinary approach of Chris and Iliyana was reflected, for
> example, in the invitation of people who are not in fact new media art
> curators but rather come to the topics from an odd topical angle.
> At night, after a few unavoidable pints at the pub and a  
> performance at
> Liverpool's new media center FACT, going back to my hotel room through
> the empty, wet streets of Liverpool, a well-dressed, middle-aged man
> walks in front of me.  Over his shoulder he carries a large black and
> white anarchy flag. The next conference on media art (curating) could
> look closer at bringing media art into alternative, non-institutional
> contexts, out of the white box of the museum.
> <http://www.fact.co.uk/>
> On the backover of Oliver Grau's book "Virtual Art" Friedrich Kittler
> writers that "The highly ambitious task of locating the latest image
> technologis within a wider art-historical context has now been
> accomplished." This authoritative German spirit is exactly not what  
> the
> discussion about new media art and curating needs. This discourse  
> should
> remain an open discussion to which many voices add their wide range of
> perspectives and international positions. The discourse around new  
> media
> does not need a cult following of a handful of leaders. It needs a  
> wide
> spectrum of voices adding to that scary creature emerging out of the
> sea. We don't yet know what it will look like.
> -Trebor Scholz
> <http://collectivate.net/journalisms/2006/4/11/curating-new-media-art.
> html>
> _______________________________________________
> iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity  
> (distributedcreativity.org)
> iDC at bbs.thing.net
> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> List Archive:
> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/

amanda mcdonald crowley
amc at va.com.au / amc at autonomous.org
AIM: amandamcdc99
skype: amandamcdc

More information about the iDC mailing list