Drew Hemment on Wed, 4 May 2011 10:42:02 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> New Media Redux

Below is one of the articles written for a publication we are preparing for FutureEverything 2011.

Media Art Redux

There is a rich tradition of profound artistic enquiry engaging in new media technologies going back to the 1960s. Artists are coding, sculpting, visualising, sounding out new kinds of art object, and new possibilities for participation, new ways of seeing, new ways of being. We can reach out and play with every image and word ever created, every idea ever thought of, it is all there, right in front of us. We can endlessly recombine and reconfigure, we can travel through time, instantaneously connect with people and places at all points on the globe. 

Times of change and transformation often inspire profound art. Artists have charted and led the upheavals in digital culture, and the radical social change that follows in its wake. An instinct within many media artists is not to think only of what digital tools can offer, but to want to shape and influence the way digital technologies develop, and how they impact on, or are shaped by society. 

As the digital space moves from novelty into everyday, it is becoming the site of more sustained, original artistic engagement than ever before. The digital is today so pervasive it has little use as an organising term, it is now one among many spaces that artists can engage in or draw upon. 

Today the critical vision and competency embodied in the new media arts field has ever greater relevance, as its ways of working, and vocabulary resonate so much more widely. This creates an opportunity to communicate the values that are so vital and cherished, and to deepen engagement in shared interests (e.g. peer to peer, collaborative culture). 

The digital space has contributed to new approaches to being an artist, and to engaging with people-formerly-known-as-audiences. New audiences include active participants and also lurkers, the invisible audience whose gravitational pull is shaping online life. Arts policy often focuses on the benefits for audience development and accessibility. This is important, but our imagination should not end there. 

Now is a time to appreciate how the digital plays out within art, and to promote the important political and social space that is at stake. We need spaces where artists have free rein, and you can rub technology against the grain. 

Drew Hemment

This article will be published by FutureEverything in association with Cornerhouse in a book for FutureEverything 2011 delegates.

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