[iDC] Curating New Media Art

Christiane Robbins at Jetztzeit cpr at mindspring.com
Thu Apr 13 19:50:17 EDT 2006

Again, with thanks to IDC there's a terrific discussion(s) underway.  

And once again, I been struck by the feeling of not so much re-mix but rather, replay.  Many of the issues under discussion have been in existence for the last 20-25 years - albeit in different cultural contexts relative to the evolution and confluence of varied media based practices, ie. the often referenced, video art.  The issue(s) are without doubt complex - the complexity with which Trebor and others are addressing part and parcel.

Three quick responses:

1.  Showing one's work in clubs has been going on easily since the '70's - specifically in a reactive and expansive stance to the institutionalized and hierarchical museum/gallery system.  It was certainly part of the zeitgeist. My own work was simultaneously being shown in museums, in clubs in Manhattan +, as well as  being broadcast on early cable programs such as Nightflight in the '80's ( and, btw, I am, by no means, ancient = we seem to have a very short recollection of contemporary art/media practices. )  I was not alone in engaging with such varied exhibition venues - it was a very much a way of practice by innumerable artists ... and proved to add a remarkable sense of vitality and optimism.  Of course, the cultural topography and funding climate was much different - not only in the USA but in in its western European counterparts and Australia.

2.  Has anyone seen the current Berlin Bienniel which ... from what I have read recently in the NY Times ... appears to be the most inspired Bienniel anywhere in some time.  Media seems embedded in these artists' practices rather than called out .

3.  In regard to the questions revolving around the role of the curator and curating itself.  Again, this is an issue that has been bandied about for some time ... and, curiously,  no resolution ever appears on the horizon.

A couple of years ago, 2001-02, as part of my institutional role as a Professor, I produced a symposium/exhibition in collaboration with MOCA - LA, AIM III: Luna Park (brief description at end of post.)  There was the usual listing of speakers within the frame and conventions of the symposium format.  One  panel " Display Panels" comprised of Larry Rinder, Curator at the Whitney, Simon Leung, theorist, artist, UC Professor, Lawrence Rickels, Theorist, writer, UC Professor and Anne Walsh, Artist and UC Professor were asked to address issues which bear a resemblance to those that have been posted to IDC.  None of the panelists were known for being part of the New Media inner circle ... or even the outer circle, for that matter.  Certainly they were aware of new media practices, as they were other disciplines within the field of contemporary visual art and theoretical practices.  This was my intentional choice as I felt that ghettoization was not serving the discipline of New Media at that juncture.

I had sent the following notes to the panelists ( see below.)  And as they are no longer posted on the AIM site, I have decided to post them in hopes of continuing this discussion forward.  

In her essay “ Just do it ” Dorothea Von Hantelmann states that “ The concept of the exhibition as a reproducing and documentating apparatus has had its past.  Exhibition programmatics of contemporary art are not orientated any longer to an historical consciousness/awareness, but instead to create an experiential intensity.”  She continues with her analysis stating that “ an art, which exists more in situation instead of complete works – setting this hic et nuc, live and in real time into action – supplies the spectator/consumer/participant with a direct corraboration of his or her participation and receptivity to experience”    The characteristics of certain modes of artistic practice, specifically digital media/interactive media artworks structured for a temporal event rather than a permanenet presentation, constitute a challenge to museums to experiment with “new” exhibition methods in order to deal with what is ( arguably ) being termed an electronic “avant garde.”

There appears to be a strong need to ‘catch-up”, since most museums have steadfastly held on to the historically based difference between the aesthetic meaning and value of old art genres and new, technologically-produced work.  It has been noted that a number of museum have as much as capitulated in the face of the archival problems connected with this new and different, ephemeral practice by completely ignoring the visual possibilities of electronic images in fear of being overwhelmed by a mundane flood of images devoid of any content or of getting involved in what many view as the “mass media’s maelstrom of banality.

Seen from a 21st century vantage point, the new economies of digitized reproduction and distribution of artwork via the internet seem to replace the traditional museum practices of purchasing and collecting (In tandem with this point please consider the newly introduced strategy of commissioning projects ( physical and virtual)  and the purchasing web-sites)  The spirit of imperial gestures which is still present in the larger historical collectiions in New York, Paris, London Berlin, Vienna etc ( throughout North American and western Europe) is losing its persuasive cultural power with the emergence of the ideological concepts of networks and the instantiety and efficiency of communicative systems capable of making simulutaneous contacts between distant spaces and identities in a matter of seconds.  Given numerous aspects of contemporary life a number of questions arise:

Why should the museum continue to claim its role as the guarantor of artistic respectability if the internet has made this privilege available to everybody ( obviously begging the definition of “everybody”)?

Are “we” not conserving the idea of institutions such as art galleries, museums, archives, and libraries rather than artistic concepts on generations of artists?

Is it not a fact that the critique of these institutionalized authorities for the mediation of art has become an historical constant that continues the self-constituting replication of the artist’s dilemma over the need for public recognition on the one hand and the simultaneous compulsion for its denial on the other?

Today we are witnessing in museum all over the world how younger museum visitors are uninhibited in dealing with new technologies.  As Douglas Davis has stated,  “  the new audience expects these media, just as its ancestors expected text besides painting.”  Due to changing user expectations Davis’s prognosis for the future is that “in the next century it is virtually impossible to imagine a work of art being mounted in an exhibition without the viewer being given access to a wide range of supplementary information”.


excerpt from 2002 Press Release for AIM III:

For our third festival we are delighted to announce AIM III: Luna Park, presented in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. AIM III: Luna Park is a series of critical inquiries into the crucial issues raised by the nexus of art, technology, entertainment and activism in the context of globalization and the rising privatization of culture. At the core of this debate is the ascendance of entertainment and our ubiquitous, and largely unquestioned, fascination with the spectacular.

-----Original Message-----
>From: isabelle arvers <zabarvers at hotmail.com>
>Sent: Apr 13, 2006 1:00 PM
>To: trebor at thing.net, idc at bbs.thing.net
>Subject: Re: [iDC] Curating New Media Art
>I have few thoughts reading your different posts about how curating new 
>media... first, the most important thing for me is to enlarge the circle 
>"artists, curators, institutions and art venues" it has to be more connected 
>to reality, real people and problematics and it has to do more with public 
>spaces, street, network, supermarket, schools, suburbs...
>about curating exhibitions in dance clubs: my first exhibition in a physical 
>space (before it was mostly on the net) was a gaming room (playtime-villette 
>numérique 2002) which was open during the day inside a new media festival 
>exhibition and at night, the exhibit was also open
>during two nights 10000 party timers had the occasion to discover old games, 
>consoles and computers and also artists websites and installations or videos 
>related to games
>during the second night of Villette Numérique in 2002, from midnight to 4am 
>we did an "experiment" with Miltos Manetas who was in New York. As a network 
>performance, we presented neen artworks inside the 3D real time space Active 
>Worlds under the shape of avatars. More than presenting flash animation 
>artworks, we were discussing about art, theory, networks....
>in front of some very  "f..ed" up people: an exhibition inside a big party.
>what i prefer in surrealist ideas is the idea of "la rencontre fortuite", 
>this is what i beleive in... and it can't happend in circles that are closed 
>on themselves, this is why it is important again to mix the audiences and 
>look for new kind of participation
>sorry to talk again about my first exhibit experience but what we did also: 
>we went in the suburbs, in the real gaming rooms of paris and also in the 
>streets to tell young guys to come inside la villette as the exhibition 
>entrance was free, we said:" come in it's free, you can play to video games 
>for free"
>they came in and also discover artworks, i don't really know what were the 
>consequences of that "experience" i just would like to be able to repeat it 
>isabelle arvers
>Isabelle Arvers
>Paris HQ
>+33 6 61 99 83 86
>zabarvers at hotmail.com
>Geneva HQ
>+ 41 78 741 69 15
>zabarvers at bluewin.ch
>----Original Message Follows----
>From: Trebor  Scholz <trebor at thing.net>
>To: IDC list <idc at bbs.thing.net>
>Subject: Re: [iDC] Curating New Media Art
>Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2006 11:10:04 -0400
>My reflections on the Liverpool event were surely too brief to do
>justice to the many presentations there, not to mention the thoughtful
>lectures that I did not address at all. A disciplined, in-depth summary
>of the event was not what I set out to do.
>³Of course, particularly wonderful for me was the Blue Ships analogy,
>which plays perfectly into Trebor's plea for  alternative,
>non-institutional contexts for the presentation and reception of such
>work.² Amanda asserts.
>Blue Ships such as colossal upscale art establishments indeed turn
>slowly. They are not very flexible. These brick and mortar institutions
>rely on large funding bodies and corporate or state blessings. The many
>examples of well-funded and consequential Blue Ship festivals that
>Amanda and Andreas (on Crumb) listed give testimony to the fact that
>there are functioning models in these contexts. I did not offer an all
>out plea for moving out of the museum or gallery or festival hall.
>However, there is so much dissatisfaction with the isolation of media
>art (with ³ghettoization² being the keyword used most frequently at nma
>events) that I wonder where the symposia and large curatorial
>initiatives are that explicitly set out to create novel venues that may
>be more appropriate to emerging and hybrid media. There is a vast amount
>of creativity out there that never makes it into museums or galleries
>because of political considerations related to the private funding
>bodies behind the museum. An entire trajectory of work is flushed down
>the sink of history. This is an additional argument for more inclusive
>and appropriate, novel venues for new media.
>It could be asserted that the same is true for media theory. The ivory
>tower of the university and an overly in-crowd new media speak cuts off
>broad-based participation. Much can be said in support of an
>undisciplined media theory that does not give in to the
>often-suffocating corset of academic rules.  This can be exemplified by
>Geert Lovink writings. He refers to it as ³wild writing.²
>There is, of course, value to a small, tightly knit, band of media
>curators researching the ins and outs of problems specific to creating
>exhibitions of media art. The properties of emerging media are
>idiosyncratic and often temporal and so indeed-- such congregations
>make perfect sense.
>However, I appreciated the focus of the Art-Place-Technology conference
>as it tried to go outside this inner disciplinary circle. The danger of
>closed-door expert groups is that they, possibly even internationally,
>re-inscribe the same voices and thus interchangeable discourses again
>and again. In the context of this conference I enjoyed the ³alien
>intruders,² the seemingly off-topic comments the most. Perhaps a more
>elaborate debate is needed about the question of the expert as
>authority. The example of Friedrich Kittler comment on Grau¹s Virtual
>Art book exemplifies this argument. Kittler asserts a finality achieved
>by a single author. This agenda assumes that there is no value to other
>voices on this subject. This suggestion takes on a false, authoritative
>appearance of stewardship. Many authors, experts and ³lay people,² have
>contributions to make to the discourse of new media, and virtual art in
>particular. Many people have a unique perspective that can add to a
>better understanding of a research topic. Such inclusiveness assures a
>broader discursiveness. This line of thought is difficult to argue in a
>strictly academic context in which there are specialists who looked at
>all material in a small given field and are thus undeniably well
>informed. But expert knowledge does not replace lived experience, an
>emotional understanding of the learned material, an urgency behind one¹s
>agenda, or knowledge accumulated through practice (call it
>practice-based research). This guides me to suggest ³wild, undisciplined
>media theory² and a hybrid between a ³folk discourse of new media
>curating² as ³originating from the beliefs of ordinary people² and
>expert culture.
>In his post John develops the idea that ³All the effort to get cool new
>media art into museums will be wasted if people eventually stop
>supporting monological cultural institutions such as museums altogether.
>[...]  Some artists dream of seeing their work in there. An increasing
>number don't. For them, with the www as their gallery, curators are far
>less important than a well-located link. And for audiences, well, if it
>can't be Googled...²
>Many cultural producers indeed show little interest in the institutional
>inclusion of their work. But perhaps considering the ³WWW as gallery² as
>the alternative is not the answer. Online, there are sharing networks
>that inspire and provide a platform. A complete virtualization, however,
>will not and should not replace warm bodies.
>I love John¹s ³monological cultural institutions such as museums²
>phrase. Irrespective of my agreement, and just having been to the packed
>house of an underwhelming Whitney Biennial I think the end of the museum
>is quite far on the horizon. Nevertheless, this does not indicate that
>the broadcast model of the museum or gallery does not have serious
>competition from more interactive, web-powered initiatives.
>³Dance clubs:  of course, it makes perfect sense. Community centres are
>also obvious and appropriate.² Amanda posits. If what I argue has long
>been known, then, where are the projects that exemplify that? Who
>curates them? Who writes about them? When was the last time we saw a
>media art show in a community center or dance club? There are, no doubt,
>some examples but they have not gained visibility.
>Bus tours are quite common. The travelling DJ and faux guide tour are a
>start. Consequently, I¹m not canceling out Blue Ship contexts at all. At
>Art-Place-Technology and many other new media events isolation is
>frequently bemoaned. Perhaps this discussion can open up or inspire
>trajectories for different models of curating media art and theorizing
>iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity 
>iDC at bbs.thing.net
>List Archive:
>iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity (distributedcreativity.org)
>iDC at bbs.thing.net
>List Archive:

" ... the space between zero and one ... "
                 Walter Benjamin

        Los Angeles _ San Francisco

More information about the iDC mailing list