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Re: Re: <eyebeam><blast> Art and Media

It seems to me that the there is a far too unquestioned analogy between
the arts and media.   This analogy works by way of the idea of
communication. The argument runs as follows:  the
internet/computer/digital whatever is the new mode of communication. 
Before that, art (writing, painting, photography, etc.) were the modes
of communication.  Therefore, the computer/internet... is a new art

This is dubious reasoning at best.  I would never deny that the internet
is an important new cultural forum, nor that it is interesting to do and
think about the possibilities of such a new technology, or such an old
idea about using new technologies.

The difficulty comes in the way both are mediated through the idea of
communication.  Why is "art" communication?  What does art communicate? 
This idea, it seems to me, remains unexamined.  It also remains
unexamined in conceptual art practices and discourses that believed they
could dissolve the art object into the discursive matrix of the artist
and the viewer.  That was a fairly short-lived idea, one that is tied to
a whole tradition of thought not only in modern art--but most
importantly in philosophy.  Beginning with Hegel, we get the idea that
the object will be overcome because it will be seen as no longer
adequate to the meaning it is meant to uphold.  That is an entirely
different discussion.  Suffice it to say that this dialectical
conception of art, the one that grounds all theories of modern art (even
the abstract ones--since abtraction was a critique, according to some
formulations of it, of the adequacy of figural representation, an idea
that leads naturally to the dissolution of the art-object altogether
into the objectless ideality (ideally speaking, of course) of
conceptualism) works nicely with the way a certain techno-discourse has
transformed art into "media."  

Perhaps we should begin by asking what is it in art, or the arts - its
plurality should be underlined--resists the notion of media.  

As a sidenote to that, I think the argument (perhaps Catherine David's,
though I'm not wholly certain) about artistic contemporaneity--i.e.,
that art which addresses the global situation, which by default is
decided to be the "media" situation" is the only valid art, hence the
near-absence of painting from Documenta--is deeply flawed.   The desire
for relevance always hides something essential about artistic
practices--that they do not operate in the same manner as other
practices, which seek to have direct impact in the world.  In other
words, in Kantian terms, there is a certain "purposelessness" to art
which I think is important.  Of course, there is a critique of Kant to
be made here, but one cannot simply say "Oh, all purposelessness has a
purpose" and reify art back into what is, essentially, a mode of
communication that takes language (understood as meaning) as the model
for the arts.  I am always wary of calls for relevance, because they
imply that one must function according to certain criteriria being
established.  How else is something relevant, except as one code that
becomes intelligible according to another.  If one imagines relevance as
a language game, then being relevant means speaking the language of the
one who has chosen relevance.  Meaning resides in the critical
evaluation of arts, not in the arts themselves.  In other words, the
"media" is a concept that belongs to critical inquiry, not something
pre-given that we should assume.  Media is not (so simply at least) a
medium.   I've seen her speak, and I think she views art simply as

If one wants to throw french philosophy into this stew, Derrida's whole
project revolves around showing how language always dances on the
boundary where meaning ends--that is how he operates his resistance to
dialectical discourses of totality--including the one that claims we are
all a "global" culture now.  In other words, a new thinking of the arts
would resist being subsumed under the generic (and totalizing) category
of media (and also of the old, modern term, "Art").  

In this way, the teleological model of development of art would cede to
an alternate view of art practices, ones that don't follow one another
along some scale of relevance.

well, i should probably stop now.

Saul Anton

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