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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Art and the attention economy

Some replies to the below from someone who was a London (born and bred)
artist and artworld groupie from 1982-1992 (and occasionally since then)
and has been born again as an Australian new media artist, living in
Adelaide for the past 6 years. (I did have an Amiga in the UK before I
left, I have to admit).
So I guess I could be Simon Biggs (who moved from Adelaide to London) in
reverse give or take a fair amount of essential code remapping except
I'd never describe myself as Post-Colonial... I mean how could I?

Simon Biggs wrote:

>My intention was to suggest that digital based art, when using the
>computer to its fullest and within its paradigms, is by definition not
>only a distinct media form but also a distinct art form, just as
>visual art, writing, theatre or music are.

Matthew Slotover wrote:

> OK, well this is exactly where I disagree. I usually see the computer
> as a tool, not an art form. I use mine for writing, accounts, graphic
> design, image manipulation etc - so what? I could do any of these
> things using different tools and the end result would be similar, if a
> lot more time-consuming. You say:
> >their pieces do seem to address a fundamental aspect of computing
> >culture, which is that of arbitrary discrete language mapping systems
> >(parsing in short).
> And this is fine, interesting even, though not my area of expertise.
> So you're saying these artists' works are about the computer and its
> processes etc. I still don't see why they should be 'unrecognisable to
> traditional art discourse' - because gallery-goers and art critics
> don't know what 'parsing' is? If so, I agree - but isn't that a bit
> like saying the art world cannot understand an artist who makes work
> about certain intricacies of molecular biology because they lack the
> discourse? Surely there's just some kind of category mistake going on
> here.

There seem to be a lot of knickers in the twist here.Simon is being
purposefully obscure and beligerent I feel. I only know the word 'parse'
from Director, an interactive authoring program, Matthew, which is quite
different from the programs one uses for word processing or layout and
design, in that in itself it is capable of making new programs that can
do things that commercial program builders wouldn't bother to produce
and which artists and others use to make interactive CD ROM work.
I guess you may know this.
Anyway in Director there is a term, 'parsing the handler' which means
that instructions in Lingo (Director's programming language) can pass
down a chain and affect sound and images or whatever on the screen when
the mouse is clicked or an image rolled over with the cursor.
There are no doubt more complex or different uses of the term but I
don't know them yet.
Simon's work, from what I know of it from a talk he did here in
Adelaide, uses those sensors where audience movement determines what
happens to a projected screen image, kind of like a more computery
version of the Gary Hill corridor video piece I guess, so he may be
talking about this kind of thing.
(Simon can you enlighten us when you get back from Portugal?)
So the thing is that many artists are now using this program,
'Director', and others to make work which functions very differently to
art made with older technologies and which can incorporate most other
art forms, except those which rely on 'real life' performers. It can in
some cases add up to something which could be considered a whole new art
form but I completely disagree with Simon in that I don't think this
work has to be about the computer and its processes, just as I don't
think painting has to self consciously be about the language of painting
although some would disagree. I'm worried about Simon's possible
heirarchising of work that uses the computer 'to its fullest and within
its paradigms'. I think there's some kind of macho problem there.
To me, and many other artists who use computers, what I want to say, do
and explore with my work comes first and it just happens that at the
moment using Director for a CD ROM and Premiere for video editing are
the most appropriate ways of getting to it, so this in a way comes back
around to your 'tool' remark Matthew although I would substitute the
word medium for tool in this instance.
The fact is that no other 'real world' tool can do the job of those
(When it comes to interactive net art that's another kettle of fish
again, it's rather a jump on from mail art and can have very different
 I'd like to ask which art discourse does Simon think that new media art
is unrecognisable to? The term 'traditional art discourse' sounds pretty
problematic to me, suggesting all sorts of nasty binary possibitities,
another example of the empty bath/burn the books syndrome, and possibly
an easy cop out.
> and he has something here. While again, I think the way an artist does
> or does not promote themselves really has little to do with the
> lasting value of the  work, it does have something to do with viewers'
> response to the art. The first time I saw One Hundred Years and One 
> Thousand Years, Hirst's fly-killer pieces, it was in 1990, in a group 
> show in an old warehouse miles away in the East End of London. There 
> had been no press about it - I had no idea what was going to be shown. 
> The effect it had on me was immense. It turned my ideas about art 
> upside down, in ways I still haven't quite resolved. I can say, 
> though, that the power of the work was indeed 'inscribed on the object 
> itself' - here else was it inscribed?

I remember very clearly that work at Building One and I have to admit I
thought it was great. For me it's still the best piece by Hirst but that
could be due to the subsequent hype. Anyway, at the time what was also
great about it was that I thought, whew, from now on hopefully we won't
have to look at all those MDF white boxes with bits of letraset on them
in posh galleries.

> I remember a similar debate in New York circa 1992 with the arrival of
> Matthew Barney - some critics said they couldn't see the work for the
> hype. Sometimes it's hard to see through the hype, but if you don't
> manage it, your own cynicism takes over.

That's the tradgedy of art magazines in that whilst informing you of
what's going on they often simultaneously engender the kind of cynicism
you're talking about. I guess there's no way out of this one.

Suzanne Treister

Time Travelling with Rosalind Brodsky.1997
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