eduardo on Thu, 22 Apr 2004 17:49:55 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Help!

To: nettime-l AT 
Subject: <nettime> Help! 
From: "DOUGLAS LEMAN" <doug AT> 
  >> I would just like
   some input as to what contributers to nettime think generally about
   the thesis, and the relationship between telecoms art and
   conceptual/performance art.

My response:

This question proposes quite a complex approach to understand the Art/Not
Art dichotomy.

First I would suggest to select a methodology(ies) -- a combination of
more than two might prove to be somewhat more productive.  It seems you
have already chosen your method by combining the "outproductive" team of
the rhizomatic pheens and the well respected Mr Eco.  I would also suggest
looking at people who are writing today with a clear awareness of where
poststructuralism and all other post-isms may be at the beginning of a new
century.  But in the end, one must pose the question:

What is the role of art in culture today, not only locally but also
globally?  Art has always played a role in culture always close to (if not
serving) the elite.  The many commercial faces of art today makes this
awareness almost invisible unless one is overtly invested in the
dissection of culture on an everyday basis.

This is where I see the problem:

"My thesis is that the telecommunications
   art projects are a truly post modern art form (decentralised, non
   hierarchical etc) that represent the pinnacle of the dissolution of
   the art object."

My proposition is that the "art object" no longer needs to be physical.  
I am by far not the first to say this.  We should consider what was the
incentive behind the dematerialization of the art object in the seventies
by conceptual artists.  This aesthetic, of course, has many variations
across the world. Conceptual art in Latin America is very different from
that of Europe, or Asia, and of course the one that gets the most
attention of all: North America.  But all these movements share a clear
questioning of the object of art with the implicit aim to renegotiate the
way art was being commodified by the Institution as just another product
supporting the machine of Capital.  Of couse these were the times where
many socialist ideas were also being questioned.  And I think it is safe
to say that we all know what happened when those who came to be called the
"neo conservatives" or "neo liberalists" arouse from the left in the
postmodern eighties.

In the end even conceptual art was effectively commodified which means
that whether the object is physical or not is no longer an issue, because
today we exchange information -- or if you want to be blunt about it
"exhibtion value" a la Benjamin.  Symbolic Capital is just as valuable as
actual capital, especially when we consider the potential in increase of
value of anything -- this is the main reason why collaborations thrive on
the web and why the whole internet was able to be developed at a global
level.  Although the commercial market does ride on a more concrete ground
for investment we can consider the history of companies like Amazon or
Yahoo who never made a profit in their early years as an example of
entities who took off the ground based on future promise as opposed to a
solid economic base.

But all this leads to my point.  The reason why your position is
problematic is because, yes, while you can claim that there is a
decentralized network, this does not mean that there are no longer complex
hierarchies at play; if anything, today we have intra/transnational
situations where individuals are part of a network involving many nations
but which are ultimately controlled by key corporations, often centralized
in first world countries.  The hierarchy is also more efficient today more
than before at the same time that more autonomy is given to branches of a
corporation across the globe.

With this in mind we can see tha the type of conceptualism that you are
referring to is not effective today--that is if you want the type of
criticality that conceptual artists from the seventies exercised during
their time period put into effect today via telecommunications, you will
only exercise pastiche because such art practice is already at play as a
well established strategy in the art world at large. In fact it is
expected of most artists coming out of art school today to implement some
sort of conceptual approach in their art practice.  The default mode of
this is Appropriation.  "nothing is original"  "Hey, where is my urinal?!"

My point is that the dissolution of the art object does not immediately
connect telecommunications to a conceptual art practice.  We need no
object to exchange capital or have an aesthetic experience. Claiming that
the dissolution of the art object in this day and age automatically holds
critical value is simply mute.  Especially if you are attaching the
anti-establishment narratives of conceptualism as I described above to
current art practices in emerging technologies.  Telecommunications can
support to create objects of art, yes.  Their immateriality is incidental
as to how these could be coopted by criticism.  Critical positions need to
move past this smokescreen.

In short telecommunications do not represent the pinnacle of dissolution
of the object of art if you imply with such dissolution a critical
position as understood by traditional art practice--especially
conceptualism aiming to dismantle the capitalistic machine.  
Telecommunications is the manifestation of the effective cooption of
conceptual practice as a commodity of globalization.


Eduardo Navas

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