Monday, March 23, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] Is some innovation culturally sterile?

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 cases
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 technology
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 different
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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