[iDC] shelf death

Luis Camnitzer camnitzer1 at gmail.com
Mon Nov 19 16:31:26 UTC 2007

The discussion on the preservation of media has been very interesting, but
seems to be an object-focused discussion, in which the media are being
subjected to the same fetishism and preoccupation for posterity
traditionally invested in collectibles. Therefore, from an artist's point of
view, I would like to add other considerations: So, here we have a lot of
art historical masterpieces in good condition. And yet, I don't feel that I
am getting much out of many of these marvels. I appreciate their
craftsmanship, some of the formal solutions and sometimes some basic
emotional stuff. But, I don't have a real knowledge of what the authors or
their original public really felt and got out of the works when they were
made, of how exactly communication occurred. Most of art history is a form
of backward projection of what we think today, of what we appreciate, of
what we find useful in the work. It is an exercise in archeological gazing,
not in cultural communication. In that sense, art historical pieces are
ephemeral, no matter how well preserved, and no matter how big and heavy
they are surviving in their mint condition. It would have been useful if
there had been interviews made with authors and public in the times in which
the works reached their peak in communicative effectiveness (documented on
good and lasting media, of course). In the absence of these we are left to
rely on our interpretation of things of the past and on our own creativity
in the present. The material degradation of media today seems to be
consistent with both a bloodless, capitalist version of the Maoist Cultural
Revolution, and a sense that a Bush-defined posterity is bound to be
extremely short and therefore not that important. Maybe that ephemeral
quality is the truest representation of our present culture, and that is
what should be addressed. As the self-important nineteenth century artists
we still are, with our continued focus on the object-for-posterity, all this
may be just a warning about the obsolescence of our present pursuits.
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