Re: [-empyre-] reply to Ben Bogart

I don't disagree with most of what you say.  A lot of digital art is _about_
technology in a kind of empty self-referential way that is of little
interest to the wider art world.  And I don't think that "a greatly
simplified bit of code" is what makes digital art good, at least not of you
are looking at it in an art context rather than a software context.
(Elegant code certainly has beauty but I wouldn't advocate displaying source
code in a gallery for the general art audience -- although the Whitney did a
show a while ago that showed code...)  Beauty in the software context is not
the same as beauty or value in an art context.  But my point was that a lot
of digital art does a bad job of making use of the technology, and I don't
think that is excusable on the grounds that one is an artist and not a

For me, new media art needs to meet some of the same human needs as other
forms of art.  It has to have some content aside from just the technology
that is used.  (Of course this is tricky to define because some people might
say that abstract painting has no content, which I completely disagree with.
It is easier to define content and theme and so forth with representational
art, because then the content is the subject of the painting for example,
but I think the concept of content applies just as well to abstract work.)
Too much new media is an exercise in demonstrating that a certain
technological process is possible rather than an exploration of some area of
human interest.  Outside of new media, people usually reject art that is
nothing other than a demonstration of technical skill, but in new media
sometimes such things are praised.  Most art makes us think about things
that are broader than the specific art techniques employed in the work, such
as emotional, culural, or philosophical issues.  It also often reminds us of
real life and gives us insight about real life (like when we see a painting
that influences our way of seeing the world outside the painting).  If a
work of digital art lacks does not engage us in this way, then it probably
will fail as art, however well-executed the technology is.

As you say, it is important (although not in my view essential) for art to
engage with art history and the wider contemporary art scene.  I think it is
very presumptuous of computer people who are not well-versed in art to claim
they are making art just because they are doing graphics...  However I think
that stage of digital art (where people presented artistically empty
computer graphics -- e.g. fractals -- as art) is over now anyway, so it is
not an important argument any more.  But there still is a lot of digital art
which doesn't really take in the history of photography and drawing and
paiting and video art and music and so forth.   I do not think that there is
such a thing as "progress" in art, so it follows that one doesn't actually
need to know the history of an art form to practice it (otherwise we would
have to say that the artists in the early stages of a genre, such as the
first photographers, were not as good as later ones, and that isn;t the
case) -- but ignorance certainly does not help!

On the other hand, it is equally presumptuous of artists to use computers in
their art without bothering to learn the technology properly.  We wouldn't
accept a painting made by someone who clearly had no skill applying paint.
That doesn't mean (as I said in my last post) that artists need to use the
technology in exactly the same way as programmers use it or that they cannot
rebel against the usual ways of using computers.  But if the artists really
are incompetent in computer techniques, their art ends up being quite bad.
Again, I don't understand why these people use computers at all, if they
have no interest iu learning how to use them skillfully.


P.S.  I would never claim that anything I do is on the level of Jackson
Pollack (I was speaking of new media art in general and using abstract
painting as an analogy, not making a value judgment!) or even that any new
media art is ART in the deep sense.  I would prefer not to even use the term
"art" when referring to what I do since it seems inherently presumptuous to
call oneself an artist.  But if you make computer work that is viewed for
its intrinsic interest rather than for a utilitarian reason and it isn't
"entertainment" in the commercial sense, and you submit it to shows and
journals and websites, etc. I can't think of anything to call it other than
some variant of "new media art."

----- Original Message ----- From: "G.H. Hovagimyan" <>
To: "Millie Niss" <>; "soft_skinned_space"
Cc: "soft_skinned_space" <>
Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 12:12 PM
Subject: 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

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
process. The way a painter would mix pigments is a technological
process. It is made transparent because once the paint is mixed  then
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
how can it have any value? How can it have meaning without  technology
make it part of the world?

Would a critic deem a painting as poor because the artist spend  too
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
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
empyre forum

empyre forum

_______________________________________________ empyre forum

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.