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Re: <nettime> Of Men and Monuments
David Garcia on Wed, 1 Oct 2003 15:54:44 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Of Men and Monuments

> He was, along with 
> Paul Myoda, and  also one of the principal folks involved with
> designing up the "Towers of Light/Tribute in Light" Memorial for the
> World Trade Center victims. Like Maya Lin's 1982 Vietnam Veterans
> Memorial - the "Towers..." sought to commemorate a dilemma of
> American culture - a dilemma usually implies a situation that
> requires a choice between options that are or seem equally
> unfavorable or mutually exclusive. One monument was about permanence
> and the American aspiration to monumentalism. The other, made of
> light, was about transparency and impermanence. Light and text -
> permanence and impermanence - these are issues that info culture
> faces - in the tradition of Virilio, this is certainly no Albert
> Speers with lights intimating a 1000 Year Reich, but then again,
> hey... under the Bush Admin. maybe it could be.... after all, Leni
> Riefenstahl was a pretty good film maker too... this is art that asks
> - imperial time aspires to be universal, but how are we to think
> about the forms that represent the idea of empire? Anyway... read
> on....

The dilemma as it is described here goes to the heart of many of the
practices and cultural forms explored on this list. To the familiar
categories of traditional art: structure, content, appearance and context is
added a fifth and defining category (for new media practice) which is
*behavior*. Behavior, that is, of the whole system, including users and
machines. In this zone we move into the new spaces of *the art that learns*.
It is here that continuous change is a sign not of degradation (as in more
traditional forms) but an indication that the work is valued enough to be
used and developed by others, no matter that the outcome maybe forms that,
eventually, the original authors may no longer recognize.

But in scenarios that celebrate these "dynamic" properties it is also worth
remembering the central deficit. It would be a mistake to believe that high
value we place on the relatively stable forms of traditional art are simply
the desire for the reassurance and safety of the familiar, for "still points
in a turning world". There is another more important reason for valuing the
durability and stability of *monuments*. They offer us the referents against
which we may measure our own processes of change and transformation. If I
return to a painting ten years after I first stood before it and it seems to
have changed, its relative stability is the guarantor that it is *me* that
has done the changing. And the nature and qualities of the changes perceived
will be both poignant and instructive. The same can be said of societies and
other collectives as we saw when Martin Luther King used the Lincoln
Memorial as the backdrop against which to re-draft the American dream for a
new generation.

David Garcia  

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