We are too overly concerned with figuring out a way to make new media and digital art function within the paradigm of the traditional art world. We need to consider it on its own terms. New media and digital art should be approached independently and any relation with the art world proper should be seen as incidental.
It’s more important to pay attention to how people consider, respond, and appreciate individual artists and his or her works, and to notice how the expression of ideas might be changing with the popularization of this other, broadening category of art making.
In my opinion there will be a shift away from the specificity of the material towards an appreciation of the more ephemeral in the form of curation, ideas, and individual style. Here’s a list of reasons why digital and new media art is unique and should stand on its own.
1. Swiftly Advancing Technologies & Obsolescence
One of the largest issues with new media and digital art is that it is beholden to the technologies that beget it. As Rhizome’s Ben Fino-Radin noted earlier this week, swiftly advancing technologies make it difficult to run older programs or software. This in turn makes it harder to preserve or collect new media and digital art works.
An awareness of the built-in obsolescence of technology-based art affects how we approach single pieces. We begin to see them as on a continuum rather than as discrete objects. A ‘Tumblrization’ of art appreciation occurs where we spend less time with individual pieces of art. Instead, we scroll endlessly through curated collections. Art becomes less about lingering in front of and reflecting on a single work and more about a gestalt culminating in an idea.
3. Honesty & Immediacy
A stronger emphasis becomes placed on immediacy and honesty over self-awareness and critical acrobatics. A recent BBC article asked whether Occupy Wall Street (OWS) signaled the death of contemporary art, rejecting it as relying too much on interpretation, irony, and commercialization. Its audience becomes limited by overly complicated, convoluted explanations that alienate those who don’t actively participate in the art world, have art historical backgrounds, or don’t study art theory.
OWS Bat Signal
Art becomes more about a shared/communal experience. We participate and appreciate art according to a broader context of reference that is less ironic and more about mutual understanding and concern.
5. Focus On Curation
As the need to linger or critically reflect wanes, we have less use for “white cubes” that foster this relationship with art. Focus will shift on how to present multiple works in more open or public spaces to appeal to large, more inclusive crowds of people.
Visitors examining Thomas Bewick’s miniatures with magnifying glasses at the Ikon Gallery. Photo by Ted and Jen.
6. New Modes of Collection and Distribution
Aram Bartholl’s Dead Drops can be used as a model for how to collect and distribute art. USBs, hard drives, and projectors become packages of works representing an idea, a style, a single artist, etc. Think about curation like the mixing of an album and pieces like individual songs.
7. Art Becomes More Public
As WI-FI and streaming technologies become cheaper and more ubiquitous they can be used to directly transfer art into public spaces or homes. Local hard drives store work to be streamed at any time.
FRAMED — A Platform For New Art Forms
8. Localized Databases As Preservation
This gives the works a local but physical substrate to exist within and be harvested from in the future. The value won’t be arbitrated by millionaires and insiders through an ostensibly legitimate but inherently specious market, but instead in a populist manner predicated on the sharing and distribution of work among real people. Proliferation rather than scarcity would decide value.
9. Experience & Immersion Replacing Galleries
Experience and immersion will become more important. Live music becomes a better analog of influence than the art world proper. Hennessy Youngman’s recent show/block party “ITS A SMALL, SMALL WORLD” at Family Business will not be an exception, but a template. BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) parties with their all-inclusive nature will become dominate.
10. Less Concern For Adaptation
We need to think more about how to make newer technologies backwards compatible, not about how to make today’s art adaptable to the future. We should not necessarily cease advancement but we should not let older technologies fall so quickly into disrepair. We should be preserving hardware and software infrastructure, not art works, per se.