Re: [-empyre-] Why US DAT is Virtual

Jacob, your comments are well taken, and yes, all art when it is effective transforms our consciousness and thus has "real" impact.

However, artistic intent is critical to consider. Without over simplifying, I think you could say that Cezanne was concerned with more formalist issues, while Duchamp was attempting to erase the purely retinal or "aesthetic," while Joseph Beuys was specifically aiming his work at a new kind of social engagement, while Guy Debord was concerned with politically shifting the urban - psychological landscape. That said, I think it is important to consider theoretical perspectives in the context of the artist's intent (as best you can), and then perhaps, you can make some sort of empirical determination related to how successful the artist was at bringing about "real" change and transformation in the social and political realm.

Regarding Christiane's response: during the 1990s, it seemed that every artist project could be reduced to a soundbite that was horribly lacking in irony, that could have easily been concocted by the marketing people who seem to rule the art world.

However, since 9/11, a new honesty has crept in, sometimes naive, but often coming from a deep concern for why artists make art, what we can do as artists to respond, how we can engage. It is like waking up to the world around you and finding out there is infinite material to digest through one's art practice. That art practice is actually just the practice of seeing and examining and transforming.

And the more we wake up to the world around us, the more it seems there is an opposite force at work in today's media and political arena that attempts to dull our sensibilities, that casts a great confusion over our reality. And no one is exempt.

Now we need the artist more than ever...

Yes, if art can have a real impact on the world there is no sane reason to deny it that possibility. Modern or postmodern. However, I think it is important to discuss what is meant by "real impact". Did Cezanne's paintings have a less real impact on the world than say activist work like's recent Platz? Certainly the point could be made, but at the same time the notion of "real" needs to be qualified and contextualised. I don't think that it is necessary to categorically distinguish between "real change" and "mental change". Or to put it another way: I don't think it is possible to seperate them. What is practical change without the corresponding mental change? Instead of the modernist conviction that practical change conditioned mental change and the postmodern notion that mental or symbolic change was all that existed, I believe that an important potential for digital art today lies in a more balanced exchange between the the practical and the mental. A balance (which is also a bridge) that makes it possible for art to work with technology (in all its forms) as a both practical and mental phenomenon. And that the potential it contatins for change is equally practical and mental. Such a (syn)aesthetic would be able to conceptualize the instrumental through the imaginary and vice versa. And this is, to me, essential. If we do not see art as part of a larger "real context" and do not recognize the artistic dimension of this context we end up with another formalist art trend and a one-dimensional world ruled by technology. So to come back to the question of the effectiveness of art, I think we need to be careful not define effectiveness according to a rationalist paradigm (cause and effect; does it work and was it worth it). Art's effectivness does not create new objects in and for the world as we known it. Rather, it generates processes that makes another future world possible. Art is a gesture towards that world that does not intend one specific effect but open up to all imaginable effects. Forever a new beginning, never a closure.

Den 13/10-2004, kl. 4.47, skrev Mathieu O'Neil:

OK, but if art can also have a real impact in the world, why deny that possibility from happening? If one defers the possibility of effecting practical change to others, in the future, one runs the risk of seeing that change forever postponed... The proponents of the counterculture of the 1960s thought that they could change history by changing human consciousness. I don't think anyone would argue that the results were particularly inspiring or effective.

A beautifully crafted concept / work of art can in fact be communicated in a yes, performative manner - ie doing something at the same time as saying something. To take an obvious example, the free software movement may not be perfect (IBM would love to have its code hacked for free) but it provides an interesting direction for culture-makers to explore. It is important, I think, to not lose sight that what you say is just as relevant as how you say it, what avenues are used, what institutions are supported by speaking in a particular context.


On 13/10/2004, at 12:23 PM, Randall Packer wrote:

The notion of whether or not art should or can affect real change in the world has been a motivating idea behind the US DAT project. I believe that artists can bring about change but it may not necessarily be through direct action. I believe that artists can mediate change, be a medium for change, by introducing new models, new ways of seeing the world. The artist awakens us to new possibilities, proposes new ideas, turns us around to what "could be," rather than simply "what is." This change may not be immediate, but it might permeate our collective consciousness and gradually emerge as a transformative force over time. That is what art can do, that is what makes art unique. If US DAT were to be a real entity, an object or a thing or a place, it would cease to be an artwork and it would immediately lose its effectiveness, in my opinion. US DAT is virtual and must remain that way. The definition of virtual according to the media theorist Pierre Lévy, is that which has the potential of coming into being. The potentiality of an idea is, for me, more powerful than an action that causes an immediate result. An idea can percolate over time, it can gain momentum and depth and perhaps eventually really change the way we view the world, perhaps even end wars. As Williams Burroughs said, "Weapons that change consciousness can call the war game in question."

Beyond  the traditional interventionist strategy of EPDC -- what is its
politics -- does it seek to empower its audience or does it merely
inform -- does it organize or merely leave people as they were before
having been informed

As you might suspect from these questions my  I view  politics as
constituting the performative rather than the informational  -- Its all
fine and well to believe one is engaged -- yet that engagement must
extend beyond the relative freedom of the cultural sphere

 > I wish you could have seen our recent installation, the Experimental
 > Party DisInformation Center, installed at LUXE gallery right in the
 > heart of the 57th St. gallery district in NYC during the Republican
 > Convention. Also the heart of the NYC Gucci neighborhood. Not a
 > typical place for political art.
 > In any case, we had everyone from students to activists to red meat
 > Republicans, etc. going through the gallery. Around 5,000 people in
 > two weeks. There was one group of students from a New School
 > sociology class that had been given the assignment to view the show
 > and interview me. The Professor said the show had "opened the eyes"
 > of her students to the current political climate and the use of
 > propaganda by the Republicans. These were kids not at all experienced
 > with contemporary new media art, so this struck me as particularly
 > compelling.
 > To get to the point, US DAT is a form of "performance art" that
 > dissolves the border between the virtual and physical realms of
 > galleries, Web sites, press releases, live performance, etc. It is
 > intended to reach people viscerally in its use of fantasy and satire,
 > which I believe, has been effective in drawing a large audience into
 > thinking about complex issues that might otherwise be inaccessible.
 > I believe that if art has a political message, it needs to touch
 > people, it needs to connect with people and the world they live in.
 > Otherwise, you are right, it comes off being not only humorless, but
 > colorless and ineffectual.
 > Randall

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