Thank you, Roger, for this thread...
Cum grano salis it reminds me of something photography pioneer Edward Weston
wrote more than 50 years ago in his essay "Seeing photographically":
"... This very richness of control facilities often acts as a barrier to
creative work. The fact is that very few photographers ever master their
medium. Instead they allow the medium to master them and go on an endless
squirrel cage chase from new lens to new developer to new gadget, never
staying with one piece of equipment long enough to learn its full
capacities, becoming lost in a maze of technical information that is of
little or no use since they do not know what to do with it. Only long
experience will enable the photographer to subordinate technical
considerations to pictorial aims...."
As a musician, I work in an artistic field that has struggled with
precisely this question for almost a thousand years: Since the invention of
the organ musicians and composers have tried to understand and explore the
aesthetic use of "the latest technology" for making and controlling sound.
Any music instrument museum will show the blind alleys and the promising
inventions that turned out to be sterile. A major facet of music training is
to get the right mix between embracing technology and being a very critical
In another discussion I have proposed an Occam's Razor approach to
technology in art: In any given work of art, use only technology that
creates new aesthetic options and perspectives i.e. always choose the
minimal tech environment for a particular idea. "Be as simple as possible
but not simpler." Many of the works that Roger characterizes as sterile
probably have violated this tenet.
That is why, probably, and contrary to today's pervasive and misleading
usage, art is not = creativity, art is just one possible use of creativity,
and - creativity is only a minor aspect of art making (compared to:
thousands of hours of self-critical work, of external and internal training,
of financial asceticism, in the process hopefully achieving a trained
sensibility and concern for (im)balance, (non)beauty, (in)coherence and
dramaturgy as emerging from and desirable in the cultural, historical and
social context the artist works in).
Composer / Intermedia Artist
Canada Research Chair for Inter-X Art
Faculty of Fine Arts
Concordia University Montréal
2009/3/23 roger malina <email@example.com>
> robert et yasminers
> I need to take the blame for putting the question :
> Is some innovation culturally sterile?
> On the list= and it originally came from a diatribe from
> harold cohen about 20 years ago
> http://crca.ucsd.edu/~hcohen/ <http://crca.ucsd.edu/%7Ehcohen/>
> who is one of the interesting artists that have worked
> on use of articifial intelligence/painting machines
> (although I dont share his aesthetics)
> at one of the mit centre for advanced visual studies conferences
> he reacted in revulsion at some of the work that he considered
> so technology driven that it was a waste of time, boring, sterile
> he made a comment that if someone invents a new kind of
> ping pong ball he felt absolutely no obligation to try and create new
> ping pong ball art
> his work with artificial intelligence and drawing machines grew
> out from deep sources in his painting and drawing practice and
> was not attempt to "appropriate" a new hot technology ( for which
> funding support might be available)
> there is much art production today that one might call "technophilic"
> which views new technologies as a 'territory' for artistic exploration
> and indeed as every new technology comes on the market, one can
> find artists who are at the forefront of its appropriation- and in some
> are even employed in companies that use their work for marketing purposes)
> ( see the wikipaedia entry which adds:
> Transhumanism is sometimes considered to be the most ideological form
> of technophilia,
> as its adherents work towards a future in which technology will allow
> human beings to be
> physically and mentally enhanced, in order to better suit individual
> and social standards)
> which broadens the debate of what is "culturally fertile" and its
> ideological context.
> ( see also on technoromanticism the work of stephan barron
> and Coynes book on technoromanticism
> What is maybe discouraging is the conceptual poverty of much of this
> work ( and aesthetic boredom)= many of the key ideas and concepts
> are worked out in early forms of technology ( one could think of
> how mail art, fax art are now mature artistic modes in internet art).
> One can think of recent work in cell phones/locative media which
> have been implemented in far more interesting ways by earlier artists,
> but since there is now funding available to re=do the same kind of
> work in a new gadget, it gets attention.
> Sometimes at siggraph i get sick of what one might call
> "interface" art with endless variations of how to interface
> a cute gadget to a computer- jeffrey shaw said it all with
> his first work with a bicycle "legible city" which unfortunately
> has stimulated a whole school of " lets interface this new
> widget to a computer and call it art"
> the technophilia concern also arises in the very different
> reactions of people to the work of stelarc, eduardo kac
> kitsou dubois in zero gravity, symbiotica.
> many people see their work as part of a cultural problem of
> technophilia that is part of why we have driven human society
> to an unsustainable balance between human population/ecostystem
> I believe that the work these artists is culturally very exciting,
> poetic, and culturally fertile but i realise this puts me in a world
> view that is not shared by many people
> But I also agree that much artistic exploration of new technologies
> is culturally sterile- the problem is until you explore the potentials
> of new technologies it is very hard to predict its cultural sense-
> and without that exploration by artists it will never get cultural
> redirected or synchronised with the needs of a sustainable society.
> steve wilson in his book Information Art I think makes the best case
> for arguing that some artists should invest all areas of science and
> and that what proves to be cultural fertile can only be figured out
> after the fact
> see his web site
> which systematically documents which artists have explored each area
> of science and technology
> ( there used to be institutes of linoleum art in manchester england in
> the 19cth century,
> they came and went with the fax art programs )
> ( and I always like to mention roy's emphasis on vegetal technologies
> which indeed have
> proved culturally fertile for tens of thousands of years )
> but i think its important to situation the artists as inventors
> discussion within the
> ideological framework between technophilia and technophobia as very
> world views that co exist in society, and that I know that I believe
> that we need
> the best science and technology possible to achieve a sustainable society
> and we need artists engaged in seeing which of these are culturally fertile
> and that is one role for artists as cultural inventors
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