I am glad that you 'fessed up about adding the question:
Is some innovation culturally sterile?
It has added an unexpected and extremely rich dimension to the
discussion, especially as it relates to the nature, culture (with
culture having it's own biological implications), and/or "character"
of existing as a human being in a world of technological advancement
(for better or worse).
I was especially interested in Ramon Guardans's amusing explorations
and implications of the sterility/fertility dichotomy in relation to
"art that does not reproduce."
I also read with interest Simon Biggs's post about "techno-determined
consumerism" and his statement that "My students are already producing
mash-ups using Google Streetview (new in the UK as of yesterday),
their shiny iPhones and GPS. They are techno-motivated."
I think there is certain art that embodies a cultural moment both in
form and content and it might be that the "mash-ups" of Google
Streetviews could offer a interesting commentary on their moment as an
art-making method, subject, and period. Will they last? It probably
depends upon what form they take, what they look like, and seem to
represent. It could also be that they are easily forgotten works that
are as disposable as the latest color Mac laptop. (Some design
enthusiasts would argue with me here, especially with the cult of the
Mac and the growing body of knowledge of design and decorative arts).
It might be useful to consider Andy Warhol in relation to the
sterile/fertile reproduction scenarios. He brought his experience as a
commercial illustrator (along with what was increasingly a
contemporary form---photo-based screenprinting (its historic form of
"silk screen" apparently long forgotten} into the world of fine art.
While Warhol initially got attention through the clash of the two
worlds, he ultimate brought about a more complex dialogue through his
work, especially in relationship to reproduction and consumerism, even
capturing the attention of Herbert Marcuse through Warhol's apparent
embracing of everything in culture, dovetailing so well with Marcuse's
writing about "The Affirmative Character of Culture." Still, most of
Warhol's works were not so easily made; they were quite messy and
expressive. In a way, they were an expressive form of the image of
mechanical reproduction. Did this art affirm or critique culture? Did
embracing everything slyly question the value of everything?
I think it is this tension between the painterly off-register and
abstract quality with the postage-stamp evocative, repetitive,
mechanically reproduced quality of much of Warhol's work that still
holds our attention today (not to mention his choice of subject
matter, especially in the disaster and celebrity images).
So, it can be that invention in art can come from the appropriation of
inventions (certain kinds of screen printing methods were patented)
through a kind of inversion. I guess that brings me back to the first
part of this question: How have artists appropriated existing
inventions to create innovative art? Warhol is one example here.
In past posts, I have implicitly been promoting an emphasis on
intentionality. Warhol gave mixed messages about his intentions,
saying that it was all surface (especially as his art relates to
biographism), which could be read literally or as meaning that his art
was a subjective experience for each viewer (a kind of mirror). He
also said about his films that he wanted to call as much attention as
possible to the viewer to the fact that they were watching a film made
with a camera (not suspending disbelief), using the example of zooming
into something that was out of focus as just one example of his
technique to highlight the materials being viewed (sorry not to
provide references here). This could relate to a kind of purism of
material. It might be that this kind of dual emphasis on medium and
subject and the ensuing friction between the two is what continues to
hold our attention on his work and on more contemporary works of art
(by other artist) and the technology that comprises it and/or is
reference by it.
On 3/23/09, roger malina <email@example.com> wrote:
> 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
> 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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