[iDC] shelf life

Danny Butt db at dannybutt.net
Thu Nov 15 09:35:38 UTC 2007

Interesting topic and much in Annette's analysis that resonated, but  
let me pick out a tension related to the question of performance  
which is on my mind a lot right now probably because I know so little  
about it:

I've recently looked to artists with a performance orientation to  
help understand new media practices, and I think the question of  
documentation is understood in a much more sophisticated way in that  
field than it is in new media practice, so an engagement with that  
history could be a great opportunity (of course, many artists are  
already working that thoroughly). We get sucked in by the short term  
stability of a digital object (or platform/algorithm) and generally,  
new media is interested in what's new, so archival practices are not  
only de-emphasised, but there are few models around to discuss.  
Personally, when I look at some works I was involved with more than  
ten years ago, I'm grateful to be able to just describe the ones that  
don't work, as the ones that do seem pretty dated. But then maybe I  
should have been producing "better work" lol.

I'd describe the idea that

"Barring physical destruction, but acknowledging cultural difference,  
contextual change, and continuous reinterpretation, the [traditional]  
art object has a kind of inner stability/integrity that defies time.  
This is often irrespective of judgments of quality or fashion, but  
something that resides in the object itself, an indissoluble  
lamination of medium and idea"

as more to be a statement of modernism than of art generally, and the  
persistence of that ideology within the new media sphere has always  
been a source of great discomfort to me, because it's not really true  
from my pov. Here is a further, heavily politicised link to  
performance: performance is a medium which found very little space in  
the modernist aesthetic (Michael Fried), or we might even follow  
Amelia Jones in suggesting that performance art can be read as an  
often deliberate displacement of the modernist subject.

To add to this, I'm not sure I agree with the statement that "There  
seems to be an odd paradox of 'long gestation, short lifespan' that  
seems very particular to new media", or the characterisation of  
performance art as "spontaneous, gestural, open-ended and casual".  
Yes, there is a tradition of improvisation in the performance sphere,  
but  I see performance generally as being similar in its long  
gestation period, and with often even shorter lifespans.

So a tension between the temporality of media practice and that of  
institutional (or subjective) demands for stability could be an  
opportunity to forge stronger alliances with other fields that have  
failed to be "real enough" for the institutions - performance, video,  
storytelling, "craft", etc... and perhaps media art is less unique  
than we might think in this respect.

On this whole question, I've really enjoyed the work of Caroline Rye  
and others in University of Bristol's PARIP (Practice as Research in  
Performance) project which, while dated (2001-2006) raised some of  
these questions for me initially <http://www.bris.ac.uk/parip/ 
index.htm>. I'd really appreciate hearing from anyone doing further  
work in this area.




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