Kind of difficult to escape in the new media festivals or lectures to the supposed « crisis » of new media, Interact or die was the motto of Deaf this year, and « New media Arts at Crossroads » was the title of Geert Lovink’s lecture for Argos, i wont paraphrase him here, because when i did in a previous try out of this post, it looked as if i endorsed this complaint, this self defensive or self whipping tone, so let’s him talk, ask the questions, make the observations, quoting his lecture and his chapter « The cool obscure: the crisis of New Media » :
« Why is new media art perceived as an obscure and self referential subculture that is in the process of disappearing? Why is it so hard for artists that experiment with the latest technologies to be part of pop culture or contemporary arts? Why is so difficult to seek collaborations with scientists? Why did new media art miss out during the exuberant dotcom days and why do geeks an it millionaires prefer buying cars and other middle class baubles of consumption and turn their backs on their own art form? Why was Steve Dietz fired of the Walker Art Center, at the time of the dissolution of the net art program of this institution? Simultaneously as we can observe the disappearance of Public Netbase, the WWVideo Festival in Amsterdam, and as the ZKM largely abandoned the support of production, as the Australia council disbanded the New Media Arts Board. Is the educational sector the only way out for the new media arts actors? Is new media arts fallen into an abyss of misunderstanding? »
Well this last sentence is not a question in G. Lovink words but an assertion.
Don’t you feel already depressed? Or don’t you feel a little bit, or at all, concerned?
But as Tapio Makela questioned during the debate following G.Lovink’s lecture « Whose crisis are you talking about? A euro/western centered crisis mentioned by the diverse examples quoted ? The crisis of those who were longing to enter the contemporary art scene and till now did not succeed? But what about the others? »
Curiously (or not) during this talk G.Lovink was doubting between 2 positions, claiming at the beginning of this talk being an « outsider » that allows him a fair distance to analyze the sector, but at the same time claiming to be part of it, suffering himself the difficulties, therefore they are real . Just to remind you the curriculum of G. Lovink « outsider » of the new media arts scene: media theorist and activist, Internet critic and author of Dark Fiber, Uncanny Networks and My First Recession.
Is a media theorist and a internet critic really an « outsider », the scene is his raison d’être, and part of the scene is visible thanks to his work. But is there a new media art life outside Nettime?
For G. Lovink the 2 main curses threatening the sector will be isolation or disappearance, « Interact or die! » ( i cant take out of my mind the other choice « Freedom or Death » (see note 1), commented by Joan Copjec, in the book Imagine there’s no woman or this other (no) choice mentioned recently in a seminar during Deaf on publication and archiving : « Publish or Perish »). G.Lovink suggested during this lecture, that the new media arts sector should analyze, or maybe if we heard well, be inspired by the video art experience that drifted to new media to be completely accepted as a contemporary art form. He also mildly suggested that the attachment to internet makes it more difficult to be taken seriously by the contemporary arts scene, internet and mobile media are so popular, but new media art is not, the threat he said is « that new media at its best will be recognized for its material awareness » but will float forever in the collective unconscious.
Indiscipline- Transdiscipline – Transgenre
If one of safety option for new media is « to reincarnate as a marketable art form » as video art did in the nineties, other options other paths were brought to my ears and eyes, these last weeks..
Again Brian Holmes in the Negri Seminar in Jussieu on March 19th Devenir Banlieues. If new media arts is in its teenage crisis as Lovink suggested it also, i vote for the indiscipline generally attached to this age of growth! Holmes suggested that academics practices should leave their « disciplines », go beyond, go mongrel, go out, just go out of your limits, borders, constraints. To be more alive, efficient if needed. If we follow this track, why should new media arts would enter the arts « discipline » as video art did, and not make the arts discipline exploded as other avant-garde did with a time -delay effect i concede it. Or as internet did with music industries with a less time delay. Why the visual arts scene would be different? isn’t it the arts scene the ghetto? the isolated? the disciplined? Why new media arts actors would like to enter a ghetto? To shake it? Fair enough, but it is a difficult task to explode 2 century of myth, and now a tourist drive made of biennales and flashy contemporary museum all around the world. This western myth is gaining terrain, but not on line, why would we leave this popular, floating, highly political, highly commercial place that is internet?
If we are the crisis of identity in our puberty, why would we choose for one genre with all its constraints, and not for a difficult and sometimes vulnerable position of trans-genre? Vulnerable but highly critical and sensitive, and vivid.
(An)archaeological quest and more interdiscipline
Mentioned by Lovink too, in his text, not in his talk, i was reading by chance, Deep time of the media, Toward an anarchaelogy of hearing and seeing by technical means by Siegfried Zielinski. Here are some suggestions for the new media arts actors as conclusion of his book through the archeology of media, what the new can learn from the old.
-Developed media worlds need artistic, scientific, technical and magical challenges
-Cultivating dramaturgies of difference is an effective remedy against the increasing ergonomization of the technical media worlds that is taking place under the banner of ostensible linear progress
-Establishing effective connections with the peripheries, without attempting to integrate these into the centers, can help to maintain the worlds of the media in a state that is open and transformable
-The most important precondition for guaranteeing the continued existence of relatively power free spaces in media worlds is to refrain to occupying the center
-Artistic praxis in media worlds is a matter of extravagant expenditure. Its privileged locations are not palaces but open laboratories
-The problem with imagining media worlds that intervene, of analyzing and developing them creatively is not so much an appropriate framework but rather the allowing them to develop with and within time
Of course these positions do not solve the economical precariousness that we all leave, but why do we have besides this precarious life to feel miserable, isn’t it difficult enough? Let’s be free, away from the attraction of the death drive (see note 1)
This is the problem where we can join Lovink, where is the money coming from to allow this time and space, obviously from public fundings, private sponsors being conscious of it or not.Do you have already heard of poachers, of « la technique de la perruque »? Free software is partly developed at the periphery of commercial work, or immediately paid by the IT millionaires, may be the problem with new media arts is not the arts factor, but the license one? When i say this it is not the juridical issue but again all the political drive behind the choice for free licenses, that was born from computer sciences, but changed computer, why cant new media art has the same influence on the contemporary art scene? But as Nicolas Malevé, reminded me, Free license movement is based on the history of computer sciences, is conservatory movement, based on the principles of origins of computer sciences, Free license is not a fracture in computers, but a continuity. So are we ready for a fracture in art history , a revolution in the 19th century institution?
Trans-genre new media arts unite!
OK, promised, next time we talk about vampires.
Here, just an avant-goût…
The hunt is now on for more than a century.
What has worn off completely in that time is any concept of purity.There is no outside.And there is no revolution without taking part in the system. You can’t fight the system if you’re not able to feel it.
At least, some of us should.
Out-fashioned as our ideas about purity,are our ideas about class.. Getting organized is a multitude thing. Love it or leave it!
Tony Conrad, Christoph Spehr On blood and wings.
1. Joan Copjec, Imagine there’s no woman, p.18
Now, it would seem that the revolutionary slogan, ‘Freedom or death’ offers a choice with the same alienating structure. If you choose freedom and thereby invalidate the threat of death, you have no way of demonstrating your independence of the life situation, as Hegel argued in his essay on “Natural Law”; that is, you have no way of demonstrating that your choice is free. So in this case the only real choice is death, since it alone proves that your choice has been freely made. Yet once this decision is taken, you lose all freedom but the freedom to die. This is what Hegel called “the freedom of the slave”. (…)
In (this) example,(…), by choosing one does not automatically lose what is not chosen, but wins some of it. Lacan attributes the difference between the 2 examples (Your money or your life and Freedom or death) to the appearance of death in the second. It is through the introduction of the ‘lethal factor’,as he puts it, that the revolutionary choice opens the possibility of an act about which it is improper to say it sacrifices freedom, that it loses it to the structure of alienation. The choice of death gains freedom. This point is utterly incomprehensible unless one assumes the death one opts for in the second example (freedom or death) is not the same one that is avoided in the first (your life or your money). That is, at the point at which death intersects freedom-which is to say,at the point at which it intersects the subject-it ceases to be conceivable in literal or biological terms. The authority for this observation is, again, Freud, who argued that death is for the subject only “an abstract concept, with a negative content”. For this reason it does not enter psychoanalysis as such, but only in the form of the death drive. We must assume, then, if we are speaking of the embodied rather than that abstract subject, that what is at issue in the intersection of freedom and death is not biological death, but the death drive. It is to the latter that we owe the possibility of an ethical act does not alienate freedom or incur additional guilt. More specifically, it is to sublimation, which is strictly aligned with the drive (…) that we owe this possibility.