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<eyebeam><blast> CLOSING SUMMARY 4



<eyebeam><blast> artistic practice in the network 

4
ART DEAD


As Margaret Morse writes, "life" and "death" are engines of desire that
saturate cyberculture. "Virtualities or fictions of presence are also
fictions of absence." The fiction does not need to look "real" to work
its own "fiction effect." Margaret continues that "The subjunctive of
culture, the ghosts of what was, what might be otherwise and what could
be, are not necessarily figured or enacted in another scene - they share
our world."

This discussion of art, death, and virtuality does not refer the
familiar "deaths of art," though it appeared to begin as such. It
started as Brad Brace posted a short excerpt of an essay by Brett
Stalbaum. (Ever-fascinating are the particular communication styles we
adopt online. Brad's mode is that of a kind of "carrier." He ports bits
of information from one realm to another, cross-fertilizing net
discourses. He has a knack for knowing what to drop, where, and when.) 

Brett Stalbaum's excerpt reads as follows.  "Art as represented on the
web, the hundreds of museum, gallery, education and working artist
sites, serves to conceal that it is art practice itself that is dead. A
perhaps more accurate way of positioning art within such an analysis is
that art is an impotent cultural form living on artificial life support
through art administration and institutions. Art in this sense, on the
web or in the world, exists to rejuvenate the fiction of art. This
notion of art as living meaninglessly on artificial life support impacts
a variety (perhaps a plurality), of less theoretical social
perspectives. It would be sad if artists were the last people to either
understand or accept that this analysis has both enough theoretical
validation and public support to undercut the cultural impact of almost
anything called art. If this were the case, there would be no time to
escape what amounts to a burning house."

Ellen Fernandez Sacco replied that the thoughts expressed here are
"reminiscent of those variously heralded 'end of's which seem to occur
at moments when a space becomes opened to those usually outside of the
system."  She suggests that afrika.com's earlier posting in the forum,
which simply consisted of the term "e-race," relates to this issue.
Ellen continues by saying that "the US has a long history of
non-governmental support and suspicion for the arts that goes back to
the nation's founding. It also has a history of resistance and
circumvention of strictures across a variety of issues - the house has
been on fire many many times." Responding to this issue, Ellen writes
that Alan Sondheim's previously-stated question -- "For what purpose,
all of this practice, for whom, for what audiences, within what
political economy? With what histories, for that matter?" -- gets to the
issues that will have to be rethought constantly in the face of
totalization, manifesto and foreclosure brought on by the pressures of
the global marketplace that diversifies constantly. Ellen concludes with
the statement that "How time gets represented in regard to all of this
(the location and positioning of 'art') is important to consider."

Brett Stalbaum replied that the excerpt of his essay that was posted in
the forum is not his view, but part of an analysis of how Baudrillard's
critique is interpreted to view contemporary art.  Brett says that "that
viewpoint has a certain dangerous currency; the 'burning house,' if you
will." Brett does accept that analysis. He wants to lead to an
understanding capable of enabling routes of escape. He wants to position
the artist as a kind of knowledge worker capable of agency within a
post-industrial, network based culture. "The focus then changes from
contemporary art's worthlessness to how it can be made useful again. In
this sense it is not enough to say that art is catatonic, but rather to
understand how contemporary postmodern/postindustrial contingencies
effect art practice and to situate that practice strategically within
them."  

But the issue of the death of art was already unleashed into the streams
of discussion, where it gathered poetic resonance.

Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger writes, "Art just told me that she doesn't
mind to be dead. (In my mother-language art is feminine.) She is very
bored when being entirely assimilated into sociological discourse. She
likes her cold discussions with some fellow deads, she believes she
never was too far from death anyway, and from before birth, she even
believes she has always had privileged relations with death, with
disappearance, with loss, with the invisible and the unheard of."

Ricardo Basbaum writes that "The question is not asking if art is dead,
but if, in a domain beyond life/death like cyberspace, is there yet
possibility for something beyond art, closer to another quality of
affect?"

Robert Cheatham felt that "Dead is an ok place to be...The problem comes
for the survivors." He writes that there are times when the net seems
mostly about denial." Clifford Duffy speaks of the net as "a sťance
space, as ouijie board," where the dead and the living might just have a
chance to get close.  Sally Jane Norman writes that whether "Dead
friends' letters; thoughts and words and works that touch me, from and
of people I've never met and who may well be dead or alive; resounding
myths that well up from untrackable sources" - she doesn't care whether
they are "vehicled in internetworks or in other purportedly
technologically less sophisticated communication networks in which I'm
inextricably enmeshed (books, figments gleaned from somebody else's
conversation at the bar, whatever). They open me to other times, other
registers of existence." Olu Oguibe reminds us that there is
corporeality in cyberspace, and wherever corporeality exists, so does
death.

Carlos Basualdo writes that there seems to be two aspects that permeate
exchange in the net, "the question of the ghostly nature of our presence
'here,' and the question of our being in the position of the one who
puts the message in the bottle and throws it away." His question is
specifically referred to the possibility, and implications, of
practicing art from those positions.

Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger writes that "Art, on the Internet or in
other media concerns me if it evokes affects and transform me, or you,
with-in it, in creating some kinds of relations -- an exterior yet
intimate space with the unknown other -- with ethical value alongside
aesthetic consequences." Art, for Bracha, has to do with fragilization
and transference, which doesn't go without risk of disintegration.
"Techniques of communication, like the net, do not offer affective
transmission and transformative transference, in any case, not in any
automatic way. If and when they do, it is certainly not the fruit of the
media's potentialities alone." Most art Bracha has seen on the net
doesn't attain this.  She is interested in the net "only inasmuch as it
can interlace intersubjectivity, where by opening distance I am still
joining others and where in joining with others each of us
differentiates itself. This process inevitably involve processing loss."

Bracha emphasizes the dimension of transference in art. She articulates
what she sees as "a passage, in contemporary art, to Trauma and
Transference in a matrixial sphere." This sphere enables, on the one
hand, the passage from the subject as separate (Freud, Lacan), or on the
other hand, the infinitely multiplied subject (Guattari/Deleuze) "on to
trans-subjectivity in severality." 

Clifford Duffy writes that he finds that Bracha's notion of severality
does not contradict that of multiplicity but is "one more piece in the
machinery of desire which augments while multiplying the positions it is
possible for a consciousness to travel through." Rather than
contradictions, what we have are rather "vibrations" where "Something is
interwoven between several entities into a tissue whose connections may
become accessible via art." Clifford asks: "This Something that [Bracha]
discusses: what artist has not sensed this and felt it at moments of
high intensity and sensed perhaps that what is occurring is the tactile
remembrance and momentary inflection of the pre-Oedipal body, the body
which is submerged unconsciously cathected in the dark night of our
permanent repression. This Something which is 'interwoven' in other
words made by two sets of hands in the creation of solitude as it grasps
however fleetingly the touch of the Other which does not kill and the
Gaze which does not petrify; not the gaze of the Medusa, but the
matrixial space of shared body and lips which speak through emptiness.
This is the severaled motion which ends for moments the severance all
bodies feel from birth onwards. As the body torn again and again from
the mother's womb carries death in its name." 





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