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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Art and Media

i was drawn back to ursula's last posting on this thread [3/26/98] by
robert simon's response to it. somehow i had passed on what i consider
very disturbing and rather dangerously va[gue/cuous] statements that one
is only able to excuse because discussions of this nature give little
time or space for properly thought-out positions and therefore hardly
represent the discussant's depth of articulation. yet, ursula left quite
a long trail of very contestible opinion: about art and its supposed
naivete, about art institutions and their preference for art historians,
about the net., about new media, about...what was it again?...net
criticism? good one! i must confess that some of this stuff are one step
ahead of my senses. whatever the case, i think some of the criticism is
misplaced. i'd agree with robert simon that there is no cause for
knocking art historians [i am one, actually, as well as a practising
artist, cyber/net critic, curator, journalist, media executive etc], and
further contend that ursula's venture on that track betrays what looks
like unfamiliarity with either the nature of--or need for--art
institutions, or indeed of the entire corpus of museum criticism that
has been generated over the past two decades. i'm not sure whether
people get it at all when they talk about art, that it is a profession
too, like medicine or banking, something that pays mortgages and places
food on the table and therefore needs predictable institutions and
structures and dedicated "curates" [in the original sense of the word,
custodians] and traders to fulfil those duties in addition to any
others; an "industry" as ursula admits, as it always was from the days
of the court artist in egypt through those of the medieval church
muralist to picasso turning things out for the dealer henry kanweiler,
to the "stable" artist with a sydney bluechip gallery or the public art
muralist working for the municipality. art is not simply something
theoreticians and "net critics" knock around in philosophical discourses
even when they cannot--how is it said again?--draw a perfect circle.
which brings me to the matter of "curates" and art historians, and to my
contention that, irrespective of whatever anyone thinks, a good and
efficient curate/or of art must have a deep grounding in art history.
some of my closest friends whom i consider among the finest curators
working today, though they may not have spent seventy-two months on a
doctoral in art history at columbia identifying objects from the
university vault, are nevertheless able to do the great work they do
because they inimitably grounded in art history. it is very easy for
those who do not have to make a living from making art to romanticize
the industry and indulge in inordinate leaps of fantasy in the name of
vision. i sincerely have no idea what a media analyst would be doing
curating art for a museum unless they are much more than a mere media
analyst. no point jerking around. accepted, traditional/conventional art
structures could do with some loosening up, but that loosening up is
already and always going on. i have postulated that the future of the
contemporary art industry belongs to the independent curator rather than
the 9.00-5.00 minder of a museum collection inventoring and recycling
acquisitions and writing exhibition catalog essays, and in that future
which is already in the making, all manner of disciplines will be
involved in the business of the definition of taste. but to suggest that
the art institute of chicago hire a practicing structural engineer as
curator of its 20th century art collection? someone please! regarding
art's debts to philosophy [for that, afterall, is what we mean when we
speak of how "theories" have "brought about fundamental changes in art
production" ], i would contend that neither is such phenomenon new nor
are those debts "unrecognized." on the contrary, theory--philosophy--is
the bedrock of all art and art production. nevertheless, we must not
make haste to over-estimate the potentials or relevance of new
communication environments [which are not to be mistaken necessarily for
new art "media"] to art making and the art industry. there is a reason
why art is art and has remained so--under whatever guise or
designation--for millenia. art isn't quite the same as media, and that
is the essence of that cojunction, the _and_ in "art and media". 

olu oguibe

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