[iDC] Curating New Media Art

john sobol john at johnsobol.com
Thu Apr 13 07:50:55 EDT 2006

> ...The power of the media art curator is somewhat decentralised
> but she is still important as expert and cultural legitimiser. She can
> contextualise projects as part of culturally discursive currents or
> historical processes. (snip) curators have the ability to foster
> participation in open artworks by drawing attention to them...

The traditional role of the curator then is to promote, contextualize 
and legitimize works of art. Certainly a useful and provocative role, 
though somewhat dicey too. Not unlike journalism in certain respects.

But if this narratizing role and the power relations it implies has 
proven itself capable to date of absorbing even the most revolutionary 
art products it is not at all certain that it will successfully absorb 
the revolution that is the redefinition of art as process.

Cultural broadcasters assumed the functions of promoting, 
contextualizing and legitimizing artworks and institutionalized those 
functions in (among others) the person of the curator , who undertook 
to fulfill those functions by leveraging partnerships with other 
cultural broadcasters – i.e. vertical media, academia, Madison Ave. 
etc. – in part because that was the most efficient and effective means 
for cultural broadcasters to create social, aesthetic and economic 
value out of art. And artists bought into this useful model for the 
same reasons.

But what if cultural broadcasting, institutionalization and vertical 
media are no longer the best tools with which to promote, contextualize 
and legitimize works of art? What if there are more efficient and 
effective means of creating social, aesthetic and economic value out of 
creative impulses? What if the whole notion of art as artifact is 
overturned by art as event, or art as relationship, or art as memory, 
or art as evanescent possibility, etc. etc.? (not an entirely new 
concept I know) Literate capitalism values products almost exclusively, 
subsuming processes within commodified units, including artworks. When 
one abandons the imperatives of literacy in favour of an alien and 
emergent system of exchange, the disappearance (or at least 
transformation) of traditional roles is only to be expected. As I've 
said before, oral cultures are a crucial reference point in this 

Possibly this is over the top. (Wouldn't be the first time for me) But 
possibly not. The world is filled with ways of seeing things that 
differ vastly from the axes on which most of us – or those of us who 
post here anyway – seem to spin. There are many cultures whose members 
don't see the value of the sort of beautiful lonely works that fill our 
museums. And – crucially – vice-versa. I'll never forget the hours I 
spent sitting at Daisen-In Temple in Kyoto as a teenager, trying to 
grasp the meaning of a small 1,000 year-old bed of raked rocks, as 
revered in Japan as the Mona Lisa is in Eurocentric culture – I felt 
like I was on Mars. Soon maybe we'll all find ourselves lost in space. 
Virtual, hybrid and otherwise...


bluesology • printopolis • digitopia
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