[iDC] shelf life

Danny Butt db at dannybutt.net
Thu Nov 15 22:53:44 UTC 2007

Hi Sean,

Heh, I like axiom two... but in relation to axiom one - the issue  
which underlies my very dissolute post is probably this: isn't the  
"shelf life" of oral communication and bodily movement shorter than  
all those media you list?

Now my gut feeling is that media studies has often taken (from  
structuralism) such activities to have a "natural" presence which  
disqualifies them from the condition of media/representation/art as  
such. But for me Derrida's "Of Grammatology" rigorously took apart  
that distinction - or at least highlighted the danger of that  
distinction: privileging speech as the source of writing ultimately  
leads to a form of ethnocentrism whereby speech's guarantee of  
presence suppresses our ability to treat speech as we would any other  
medium; thereby leading to all the hierarchies we know well in  

So the questions of temporality seem a bit more complicated for me,  
hard to place on this incremental axiom, and again, my aim here is to  
ask in what ways the issues of "preservation" in new media are  
completely distinct from other fields, and where the opportunities  
lie for connecting our experience to others....




On 16/11/2007, at 10:59 AM, Sean Cubitt wrote:

> axiom 1: every new medium has a shorter shelf life than the  
> previous one (stone lasts longer than paper lasts longer than film  
> lasts longer than magnetic lasts longer than optical)
> axiom 2: with each step, recording media come closer to becoming  
> erasing media
> Sean Cubitt
> scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
> Director
> Media and Communications Program
> Faculty of Arts
> Room 127 John Medley East
> The University of Melbourne
> Parkville VIC 3010
> Australia
> Tel: + 61 3 8344 3667
> Fax:+ 61 3 8344 5494
> M: 0448 304 004
> Skype: seancubitt
> Web: www.mediacomm.unimelb.edu.au
> Editor-in-Chief Leonardo Book Series
> http://leonardo.info
> -----Original Message-----
> From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net on behalf of Danny Butt
> Sent: Thu 11/15/2007 8:35 PM
> To: idc at mailman.thing.net
> Subject: Re: [iDC] shelf life
> 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.
> Regards,
> Danny
> --
> http://www.dannybutt.net
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