[iDC] Art-Time-Technology Conference / Liverpool

Karen Annemie Verschooren karen_v at MIT.EDU
Wed Apr 12 12:43:06 EDT 2006

Dear Mr. Scholz,

I just read your summary on the Art-Time-Technology Conference and your
conclusions triggered a number of thoughts, pertinent to the thesis research I
am preparing and plan to undertake:

As I understood it, you ask yourself at one point in the summary, whether the
struggle over new media art is just a fight for recognition in the blue ship
art establishment. If it is, you look rather pessimistic on the setting,
stating that ?For video it took about forty years to become a bit more center
stage in the museum?. But then you step back and relfect that ?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.?
You suggest that ?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.?

I believe that indeed what is at stake is the ? not so healthy - relation
between new media art (and I assume he uses the term to indicate the digital
arts) and the blue ship art establishment, over the question of recognition.
Indeed, it took video art 40 years to move itself a bit more into the museum
spotlight, but can?t we draw lessons from the route video art has taken, to
accelerate the process for new media art.
The need for a canon for new media art (as problematic as it is) as expressed at
the last CAA Conference in Boston (Feb 2006), and again by you, indicates the
need for institutional involvement in new media art, since it is generally
accepted that canonization moves through these institutions of power.
Isn't diverting the extremely difficult question concerning the relationship
between new media art and the traditional museum institutions by saying that we
might need to ?look closer at bringing media art into alternative,
non-institutional contexts, out of the white box of the museum?, avoiding a
very tangible problem, gearing attention to documenting what is already
occurring extensively?

I believe digital aesthetics already have new venues outside of the
establishments of the art world, and I would say even that those venues are
much more frequent than the presentation of digital aesthetics within the
traditional museum spaces. You have expressed your fear of ghettoization of
media art, a fear that is apparently widely present, since in my interviews
with both Marisa Olsen as well as Cory Arcangel, this issue appeared. Yet your
understanding of this ghettoization is very different than theirs. You point
towards the narrow focus on several pioneering individuals who curated shows in
the field. Your notion of ghettoization is thus linked to ?media art in which
friends and friends of friends visualize their networks of friends in
exhibitions and catalogues.? Ghettoization of new media art is then, as I
understand it correctly, situated within the opinion of two or three new media
art?s curators who dictate what belongs or doesn?t belong to the canon.
Ghettoization is thus understood as a danger occurring within a circle of
people. But where are those people situated? To what instiution are they
linked, if at all? Do you situate them in the traditional art institution, and
is that why you wish to look at other venues for digital aesthetics?
Marisa Olsen en Cory Arcangel on the other hand fear the ghettoization of new
media art rather in the context of specialized new media art centers, thus
outside of the traditional art institution. They understand the danger of
ghettoization primarily within a space, impeding the venturing of new media art
in the more established traditional art centers.

My belief at this moment is that the danger of ghettoization is indeed very
present; within a small group of people, which I would situate outside of the
traditional museum space.
Marisa Olsen has also recognized the existence of that small group of people,
who appear to have a great deal of impact on the new media arts discourse, and
she points towards organizers of conferences as partly responsible for that:

In that sense, I fully agree with you, when you praise the organizers of the
Art-Time-Technology conference for inviting 'people who are not in fact new
media art curators but rather come to the topics from an odd topical angle.?
I believe indeed that the discourse, and thus the danger of ghettoization,
would greatly benefit from informed outsider?s attention. And that ?the
discourse around new media does not need a cult following of a handful of
leaders.? That ?it needs a wide spectrum of voices adding to that scary
creature emerging out of the sea.? is an encouraging quote for my planned
research initiative.

Adding outsider perspectives only enriches the discussions about new media art,
but the canonization, as I believe, happens through ? ideally - a great
variety of perspectives, offered by a number of people, but within the art and
academic institutions. I believe that if we want to move towards recognition of
new media art as an art form, we have to play within this institutional field,
regardless of all the other venues new media art is already venturing into.

All the above explains the thesis research plan, I wish to undertake:
In five sentences:
I propose a thorough investigation of the role of the North American and
European traditional institution for contemporary art, vis-à-vis Internet art.
Through comparative research on museum role-theory and Internet art theory on
the one hand and practical applications within the art institutions on the
other, I plan to explore the dimensions that characterize Internet art?s
absence/presence within the physical museum space. The scope of the study
should go beyond the stage of understanding. In the desire to create a work,
relevant to both the academic as well as the art world, this research will
culminate in a set of suggestions on how to ameliorate the Internet art -
museum relationship, Internet art exhibition methodologies and hardware
interface designs

It is always exciting for me to find a piece of writing, on the Internet, in a
book, which triggers a set of thoughts, questions, insights. And if you read
this far, I would be very happy already, since it meant my writing at least
interested you enough to continue reading. No need to say that I am very
curious for your opinions/advice concerning my research plan and the value of
my perspectives and research endeavors for the future of new media art and
internet art in particular. In this early stage of the process, I especially
want to make sure, that what I will be spending some 15 months on, is not just
*fun* to me, but interesting and of value to a larger community.

Kind regards,

Karen Verschooren

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