« Upgrade! São Paulo | Main | NET ART V1+2.0. GENESIS, FIGURES, SITUATIONS »

May 25, 2007

New Media Art Mythologies



COOL MEDIA HOT TALK SHOW: D.I.Y. talk show on art & media :: TOPIC: New Media Art Mythologies :: SPEAKERS: Geert Lovink and Armin Medosch :: QUESTIONS: ask-it-yourself now and during the show here :: June 5, 20.30 CET :: Video stream and interface for online participation :: Location: De Balie, Amsterdam (bring your laptops and mobiles)

New Media Art Mythologies...to be questioned... :: Recent discussions about (new) media art concerned a wide range of issues: starting from the validity of the term itself and ending with questioning the very premises of the modes of distinction through which the (new) media art field constitutes itself as a form of art, cultural practice, social context, institutional domain, and discourse. The feeling of a certain Rubicon, provoking self-introspective reflections, was expressed by many.

The coming edition of Cool Media Hot Talk Show on the topic "New Media Art Mythologies" will welcome persistent critical voices of the media art scene - Geert Lovink and Armin Medosch. They will present their judgements and arguments regarding the current critical stage in the development of new media art. The debates will address socio-cultural position of new media art in a historical perspective, which both speakers are discussing extensively in their writings. Preliminary suggested focal points are:

- The marginalised position of new media art within the broader cultural context.
- New media art vis-`-vis changing trends of cultural policies.
- Discursive troubles: in search for mediatory theories and media art criticism.
- New media between aesthetics and politics.

It seems that the media art community has got itself into a trap by creating a rather contradictory mythology, which very much concerns the idea of being open to disciplinary and discursive confluxes and at the same time being immune to the biases of the criticised cultures. Geert Lovink pinpoints a range of critical issues which mark the contradictory relationships of (new) media art with the broader socio-cultural context, more specifically: art institutions, "hard science", media industries, and cultural policy mediators. He sees the contradictions between current cultural-political trends under an increasingly conservative agenda, and internal intentionalities of media art, which lead to decrease of funding and institutional support as a result.(1) Armin Medosch stipulates that the critical agenda of media art in relation to mainstream media politics is its distinctive value, and should be put forward as a driving force behind artistic practices. He promotes the idea of "Open Source Culture" as an integral socio-cultural movement in which artists can and do participate actively in order to develop and exercise alternative models of engagement into creative production.(2)

The question of media seems to be crucial for the identity of (new) media art, which in itself has a lot to do with the values and socio-historical conditions of art as such. How does the issue of media affect self-determination, or identity, of (new) media art communities in relation to the broader cultural context, and what exactly renders the relationships between (new) media art practitioners and this context? It is not just a matter of being conscious and critical about the politics of media in a broader sense. It is also very much about redefining the context and agenda of art as such through exploiting this distinctive media consciousness, which has always been an intention at least. Here a dilemma occurs: to comply with its own propositions based on a disengagement from promoting ideas and values of dominant cultures (whether it is the art market, media industries, popular culture, popular politics), the media art community in all its variety, groups and individuals, should find its own sustainable platform for existence. On which ground can it be established? Should it be done under a common, umbrella and agenda? Or are centrifugal survival strategies on the basis of tactical alliances, whether with science, media industries, other art domains, cultural and social movements, more productive and likely options? Armin Medosch calls for dissociation of techno-determinist art, which rather fascinates itself with technology, from art which explores social dimension of technology through engaging with activist, Do-It-Yourself, Open Source and other critical socio-cultural movements adopting "hacker ethics", while crossing and blurring the borders in between. Geert Lovink outlines four possible "models to deal with the current stagnation" together with their down-sides: a semi-autonomous existence on the basis of interdisciplinary collaborations; transcendence of (new) media art into the existing institutional art practices; withdrawal from the art domain altogether; merging with the creative industries.

Both Armin Medosch and Geert Lovink indicate the absence of a strong theoretical back-up for (new) media art practice as a crucial set back. Indeed fascination with interdisciplinarity, resulting in discursive mash-ups, makes it confusing: neo-marxist critique of industrial cultural production and mass media goes in hand with inventive post-structuralist ideas about producer-consumer relations, borrowings from scientific discourses, communication theories, etc, while high-brow pessimism and techno-snobism is accompanied by ommunitarian euphoria and advocacy of openness and all-inclusivity. Add to it the desperate attempts to provide audiences with explanatory thresholds through mapping of key concepts next to exhibits, and the absence of strong media art criticism, and the public gets totally confused. It is not that there is a need for discursive unity, of course. At the end (new) media art is an extremely young art, and the search for self-articulation is an important process. Although even at this point two essential things are already missing: a healthy, preferably external, mediatory art criticism, and strong theoretical methodologies which would help to demystify existing obscurities.

The important issue which lacks serious critical attention is the political dimension of media art practice. Implications of both political causes and effects of artistic messages are somewhat overshadowed by the general motto "be critical". A more politically aware approach in discussions of media art, beyond declarative generalities, is definitely needed. Geert Lovink pinpoints a range of political aspects of media art practice and its discourse to be addressed, such as post-colonial issues, the weakness of links with contemporary social movements, while Armin Medosch advocates structural creative resistance of Open Source Culture to the capitalist society of control on the basis of awareness about its modus operandi.

The historical conditions of media art are changing. So does the attitude to it. The question is what the media art community is going to do with it?

1. All references to Geert Lovink: "New Media Arts: In Search of the Cool Obscure. Explorations beyond the Official Discourse" to be published in "Zero Comments", Routledge New York, August 2007; texts published online: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0308/10-fragments.php

2. All references to Armin Medosch: the statement for http://www.coolmediahottalk.net; texts published online:
http://theoriebild.ung.at/view http://theoriebild.ung.at/view/Main/TheNextLayerDraft


Geert Lovink (NL/AU) is a media theorist, critic, currently holds the position of senior researcher/associated professor at Amsterdam University. He is the organiser of conferences, festivals and (online) publications and the founder of numerous Internet projects, such as www.nettime.org and www.fibreculture.org. More info: http://www.networkcultures.org/geert/ and http://www.laudanum.net/geert.

Armin Medosch (AT/UK) is a writer, artist and curator specialized in media theory, media art and network culture. His recent work includes the exhibition WAVES, the new live event format PLENUM with Kingdom of Piracy, and the research project The Next Layer, an investigation into the culture of open sources. More info: http://theoriebild.ung.at, http://armin.manme.org.uk/blog/.

EXTRA: music performance of Remus (humanworkshop records) http://www.humanworkshop.com


SPECIAL: ASK THE BEST QUESTION & win the COOL MEDIA PRIZE. The winner will be selected through direct and open voting

Tickets: 5 euro
Reservations by telephone: +31.20. 55 35 100 (during opening hours of the ticket office) Or via the Balie website: http://www.debalie.nl/agenda

De Balie - Centre for Culture and Politics,
Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 10

Posted by jo at May 25, 2007 12:30 PM