Everytime I see Christiane Paul speak, I am reinvigorated. Today at NewInc, she discussed the complexities of curating new media art.
I first read Christiane Paul in the fantastic book, Database Aesthetics by Victoria Vesna (which is as relevant today as it was when it was published.) Paul’s essay, “The Database as System and Cultural Form” digs into the ideas that the data form has attributes that defines it through allocation, methods and retrieval procedures which does construct something that is representational and can be examined through its “networked approach to gathering and creating knowledge about cultural specifics.”
Part of the presentation stirred up in my mind the words technique and technology. We often talk about art making techniques, but we distinguish “technique” from the exalted “technology.” In media art, technology can pass as the art itself sometimes. The magical doorbell, still goes “ding-dong.” Maybe that is the definition of style-driven art? The extraordinary that becomes ordinary. Still, Fragonard distinguishes from the rococo dreck that defines his time. Maybe we are we in a rococo stage of technology. Bakelite toasters for the Internet of Things with our obsession for silicon decoration driven by the consumptive decadence of late capitalism. Maybe the quantified self is another illusory realism. Art history is littered with dead objects who have long lost their souls in their time.
However, when you look at the body of work assembled by a master curator like Christiane Paul: plants spliced with human DNA, new Memory Palaces for the virtual set, drone aesthetics, hypertextual narrative art, and the list keeps going you can also see a certain logic. There is a relationship to the genre challenging work of the 20th century (and before), and an understanding of the evolution of techniques and artist practice that are intrinsic to art making. It isn’t about the latest technology any more than it was/is about a new painterly technique. Without a direction to point both the camera obscura and the Oculus Rift are dead objects. The ability to render is not in itself art, art represents and in its representation can create perceptual possibility.
The technique of art is to make objects “unfamiliar,” to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. — Victor Shklovsky
The new media politic challenges the form and its frame: it subverts our understanding of the locus of power in the representation of an object. How to describe this interrogative vision? Is it about a meaningful now, a present presence that can connect together the collection of points in time and space into a constellation?
The tiling methods of the 17th century can be realized by Sol Lewitt in the 20th and in Processing in the 21st. Cicero is in a virtual chat space. Mark Lombardi is reanimated by Josh On & Amy Franchescini. Maybe these dynamics define our new unnamed constellations, objects and artists shifting and moving across our infinte inky plane dipping out and then redrawing into new shapes for us to interpret for the sake of delicious perceptual prolongment. Curation is a perpetually unfinished picture.