nettime's_sensible_sorta on Fri, 20 Feb 2004 15:27:34 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> questions to nettime [Cramer,porculus,Dickson,Gleeson]

   Re: <nettime> questions to nettime                                              
     Florian Cramer <>                                     

   Re: <nettime> questions to nettime                                              
     "porculus" <>                                                

   Re: <nettime> questions to nettime                                              
     Ian Dickson <>                                              

   Re: <nettime> questions to nettime                                              
     "Regina Gleeson" <>                                     


Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 11:44:02 +0100
From: Florian Cramer <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> questions to nettime

Am Donnerstag, 19. Februar 2004 um 17:25:46 Uhr (+0100) schrieb David Gonzalez:
> does anybody know why there's such a mess with the terms
> media arts
> new media arts
> digital art
> interactive art

...because these terms are, in the first case, institutional monikers
rather than thorough concepts. 

On could consider the term "media arts" redundant as there is no art
without media. On the other hand, it could be narrowed down to art that
is made to specifically fit a certain medium. Most literature, for
example, is media-independent and can be disseminated via direct speech, 
handwriting, print, sound recordings and digital text files/streams
alike. Literary works like Francesco Colonna's "Hypnerotomachia
Poliphili" from 1499 or Sebastian Brant's "Ship of Fools" from 1494,
which in their typography and composition of text and illustrations were
specifically designed for print, could however be rightfully called
"media artistic". 

But it seems to me that the term "media art" is rarely being used in
this transhistorical sense, but as a simple abbreviation of "new media
art". But since a medium is new only in a specific time - so that it
doesn't make much sense anymore to speak of radio, TV and video as "new
media" today - one could even argue that the "Hypnerotomachia" and
the "Ship of Fools" are new media art because they engaged with a medium
that was new at the time of their creation.

The hidden truth between the terms "media" and "new media" is that they
are largely products of media studies as they were invented by McLuhan.
As a matter of fact, everything seems to count as "new media" and "new
media arts" that was conceived as such since McLuhan, although throwing
TV, radio, video and Internet into one bag rarely makes much theoretical
and practical sense. Assumptions that digital "multimedia" works are
"interactive" for example only make sense from the media studies
perspective, if you conceive of the computer as a successor to film,
radio and television, but don't make any sense if you take  performance,
games and theater into account. - So "interactive art" is probably
shorthand for art, where the interaction between the art work/process
is realized as human-machine interaction (and should perhaps be more
precisely called "cybernetical art").

"Digital art" is, in my opinion, the clearest and most useful term of
the ones you mention, since it means quite precisely that an artwork is
encoded as digital information (the aesthetical implications of which
are nontrivial, starting [but not ending] with the identity of original
and copy).  However, the term "digital art" is problematic as it seduces
to falsely identify "digital" with "computer-based". An example of
digital art in a very literal, but non-electronic and non-computational
sense is Peter Kubelka's 1959 experimental film "Arnulf Rainer" which
simply is an edit of single monochrome white and black frames. 

I always wonder why the moniker "media arts" got so much more popular
than the much simpler and clearer term "electronic arts", but I guess it
has to do with McLuhan's discursive legacy.

- -F

- --


Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 12:33:22 +0100
From: "porculus" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> questions to nettime

> does anybody know why there's such a mess with the terms
> media arts
> new media arts
> digital art
> interactive art

dont know at all except i sent a reply befor to another question to nettime
about 'are we all just neatart' & replied i prefer one call me asshole, this
for doing it 'comprehension' as said mathematician cause in ascii
extension this reply set didnt go through, even in bulk, cause of course in
long i would be never so rude, it's question of art & right now i perform an
answer to your question yet, first i would say you cant be too carefull bout
qualificative that qualify art, it's kind of diversionary move for
discreditiong the fact it couldnt exist pork butcher art, then it exist for
century but when i bough a so nice chitterling saussage to my butcher & she
ask how it was (my butcher is a female one) i replied 'it was a marvel, it's
simple, it was art' & she smile of contentment for my gratitude & we share
hapiness resulting from having same art understanding but imagine a second i
said 'it was butcher art!'..but i make it too long & you ask your question
to 'nettime', scuz i let them to reply


Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 12:09:44 +0000
From: Ian Dickson <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> questions to nettime

In message <>, David Gonzalez 
<> writes
>I've  got a question seeking some kind of answer please..
>does anybody know why there's such a mess with the terms
>media arts
>new media arts
>digital art
>interactive art
Because language evolves, and everyone use words to mean what they want 
them to mean, especially when meanings are not settled.

Meanings only settle through competitive use....

Not mention the fact that some people use language, and appropriation of 
language, as a way of displaying their actual or desired status.

All part of life's rich tapestry:-)
- -- 
ian dickson                        
phone +44 (0) 1452 862637                    fax +44 (0) 1452 862670
PO Box 240, Gloucester, GL3 4YE, England

           "for building communities that work"


Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 12:16:03 -0000
From: "Regina Gleeson" <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> questions to nettime

In response to David's question, the lack of clarity in the categorisation
of contemporary art practices and production is a reflection of the
diversity of media being used and their infinite manipulations. There is
such a confusion of categorical terms because there is such a huge
engagement in cross-disciplinary research and production.  As with all art
movements, clearly defined categories are only truly seen when the growth of
the movement has slow down.

The tautological first term on your list "media art" describes very little.
Anything from Titian's Worship of Venus to Jenny Holzer's Truisms can be
described as media art. However the term was generally used to refer to art
that had some kind of technological input along the way.

The term "new media art" originated when audio and screen based work entered
the art gallery. It would appear to be out-dated now as none of the media
referred to in a "new media art" exhibition is actually new. Never-the-less
the term is still used, for convenience sake, in referring to the use of
digital devices and technological information in the production of art. It's
interesting to remember that what we refer to in art terms as "modern", has
nothing to do with anything that is produced in the present or immediate

Then to the term "digital art". This would seem to be a straightforward
description of art created with the use of some digital process but it
becomes cloudy when the digitisation took place in the preparatory stages
and is neither visible nor perceptible in the artwork.

"Interactive art" could aptly describe non-technological sculptural
installations but is mostly used in reference to art that has incorporated
a pre-defined series of interactions through which the user can explore the
work and who uses a technological device to do so.

There are a plethora of descriptive terms for art that use a mixture of
media (in the true sense of the word) and artwork that uses digitisation
but, it frequently happens that the most interesting work does not fit into
a single, neat category. One man's categorical hierarchy is another man's
disciplinary fallacy; if we hang around for a decade or two, we will find
out exactly what to call what we are doing now!

I hope this goes some way to answering your question David,



From: "David Gonzalez" <>
Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2004 4:25 PM

> does anybody know why there's such a mess with the terms
> media arts
> new media arts
> digital art
> interactive art

SNIP [mod]


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