Re: [-empyre-] reply to Ben Bogart

gh responds:

The problem with digital art is it's focus on techne. A large amount of digital art doesn't engage art history or the art world at all but rather presents itself as the newest form of creativity that obsoletes all previous forms. Digital art often insists that it be judged by it's own rules so that for instance, well formed code or a greatly simplified bit of perl is supposed to be considered on an equal footing with a Jackson Pollack. What digital artists disregard is that Pollack engaged in a rigorous discourse with previous art forms. He painted WPA and regionalist murals, he studied and produced both Surrealist and Cubist paintings and drawings before he got to his drip paintings. It's not enough to say that digital art has an affinity with Conceptual Art that is only a starting point to a discussion. What is really interesting about New Media and Digital Art is that it can engage in a discourse and critique of art forms such as painting, sculpture, sound art, video and so on. It is a way to critique the system without necessarily succumbing to it. That particular dynamic is also a problem with New Media. It means that New Media stands apart and is often ghettoized by the art establishment. What many artists are doing now is going backwards into the art world with their digital tools.

On Mar 6, 2006, at 8:33 PM, Millie Niss wrote:

I have a real problem with the way contemporary art deals with "the concept." I agree entirely with your definition of technology (and your example of paint as the technology of a painting) and I do not like art that focuses only on the concept to the detriment of the actual implementation of an artwork. I do not understand how your work could deserve to be rejected from "too much emphasis" on the technology... (I do think a work of art could have a concept which isn't sufficiently original or well-developed to merit inclusion in a show. But I don't think that given a good concept, one can ever devote too much effort to getting the technology right. In practice, works of art are eventually declared ready to exhibit so one doesn't spend an infinite amount of time on the implementation, but there almost always is room for improvement...)

From my vocabulary you may be able to detect my computer background...

In software development, a program has "algorithms" (analogous to the "concept" of a work of art) and "implementation" (ie the "technology": how the algorithm is realized on an actual computer, using a specific computer language with a compiler for a specific hardware and operating system, etc.) In big companies, sometimes different people deal with algorithms and implementation (a "software architect" designs software algorithms and structure while programmers actually write code), but everyone agrees that you do not have good software if you have good algorithms but a bad implementation.

In new media art that is influenced by conceptual art, there seems to be a view that all that matters is the concept. I have seen very well-regarded web art that uses web pages that are poorly designed with buttons and forms that don't work etc. This reminds me of the whole debate about whether an artist needs to know how to draw (e.g. in relation to the abstract expressionists). I have no opinion on that -- if an abstract painter is incapable of drawing a classical nude with charcoal, I don't care -- but I do think that if an art work INVOLVES drawing, then the artist needs to know how to draw (or should collaborate with someone who can draw). I just don't accept that "only the concept counts." I think the overemphasis on the concept is one reason why the general public has lost patience with art.

I do not think, when looking at a painting by Jackson Pollack, "any four-year-old could do that" (because in fact it is quite hard to produce splattered paint in a way that actually looks good), but when amateurish work shows up in major museums I cringe and worry for the future of art. This seems to happen much more in new media than ini traditional art. I have seen really terrible computer work in major museums, whereas I doubt these museums would display conceptual art that includes really bad drawing or painting or sculpture.

I think maybe some curators do not know enough about computers to be able to properly judge new media... Until we have a generation of arts administrators who are trained in new media and computer technology, there will be some very silly curatorial and funding decisions made. The kind of art history education that was offered in universities when I was a student (I was not an art history student, but I took some art history and was aware of what other students were studying) is not good preparation for judging software art. Perhaps things have changed in the decade+ since I graduated from college, but when I was in school (in the early 90's) computers were already in use all over the campus and new media art was several decades old. But art history survey courses ended with the Cubists...

When I see web-based art with really incompetent use of the technology, I get impatient. I do not demand that all artists know web technology and programming just because I am interested in those things, but I DO ask that all art that actually USES these technologies use it in a competent fashion. In web art, there are many collaborations, and it is quite common for people who are not computer experts but are skilled in various art media to work with others who have programming and software skills, so I do not think asking artists to use the computer well would exclude "art people" who don't like math and technology from new media art. (Plus I do not understand why anyone who has a problem understanding computers or does not like them would even WANT to do digital art!)

By asking new media art to use the technology well, I do not mean that new media artists cannot subvert, parody, deconstruct, question, rebel against etc. the usual ways of making web sites and software (I enjoy work that does this) but they need to be able to make a technologically sound site when that is their intention. There is really no excuse for web sites that actually don't work unless the artist's specifuc intention is to show buggy software. I doubt this is the case when the buggy web sites (that display error messages when you click links or buttons, or have forms that do nothing at all) are artists' home pages or portfolio sites...


From: "B. Bogart" <>
Date: March 6, 2006 8:31:22 AM PST
To:, soft_skinned_space <>
Cc: soft_skinned_space <>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] technology as material
So a wonderful opportunity came about, a festival conference on the
theme of "Architecture and Responsiveness". Unfortunately we were
quickly rejected to show the work at the festival due to the fact that
our proposal showed that "we spend a lot of time and energy on the
technology and very little on the concept." I've been struggling with
this idea of technology vs concept since. It seems there is a huge
disconnect between by own artistic interests/ideals and that of
institutions that present themselves as the most ideal venues for the
exhibition of electronic media.

For me technology is any (tool) that makes any (opaque) process
transparent (to someone). I think technology is the material of creative
process. The way a painter would mix pigments is a technological
process. It is made transparent because once the paint is mixed then the
painter is able to use it without needing to consider the process of
making it. The complex technology that defines the shapes of musical
instruments, whose whole need not be understood in order to make sound
using it.

Technology is nothing but the manifestation of concepts.

If a concept is not realized (made manifest) through text
(words/symbols), through a machine (computer) or through physical action
how can it have any value? How can it have meaning without technology to
make it part of the world?

Would a critic deem a painting as poor because the artist spend too much
time developing the colours on the canvas? Or say a piece of music is
not valid because it depended too much on the physical playing of an

Can creative process even happen if there is not tangible form that the
evolving concepts take?

So is the "Concept" the remnants of Modernity, replaced by the
"Technology" of the postmodern? Or is the "Concept" simply a method of
sorting those artists that *do* from those that "create" and leave the
implementation to others?

B. Bogart

saul ostrow wrote:

 let us try  the triads

Under what conditions are the folowingpropositions true/ not true

Technology an extension of the body (technology is human)
Technology as the standardization of human knowledge (technology is control)
Technology as subject (technology is source )

Technology is  human / not human
Technology is source/ not source
Technology is control/ not control

The human is source/ not source
The human is control/ not control
The human is  technology/  not  technology

The human is source/ not source
The human is control/ not control
Technology is  human / not human

Technology is source/ not source
Technology is control/ not control
Technology is  human / not human
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