[-empyre-] Nonsite as fashion trend

John Haber jhaber at haberarts.com
Mon Jan 14 07:15:40 EST 2008

I just wanted to add, to further a response, that I did not intend to 
argue for a degraded status of (physical) installations as opposed to 
the promise of new media.

It's why I started by saying that new-media artists like to think they 
have the hold on this, but I was going to take another tact.  It's why I 
tried to interweave examples from different media, new and old.  It's 
why I mentioned Baudrillard as not my example, suggesting that the 
physical experience of art (or life) isn't going away yet.  One could 
argue that this privileges old media, but I don't mean that either.

I'll also come back at the end to nonsite in relation to death and 
decay, as well as to parallel problems specific to keeping new media 
exciting.  Or, to put it another way, I've obviously become a huge 
Smithson fan.  I actually think he left much more that's meaningful, as 
well as more that altered practices, than Matta-Clark, although you 
won't feel that as you read, if I do my job ok.

The reasons for not playing media against one another, beyond what can 
be explicit here, would be another discussion entirely, so I don't want 
to dwell on them.  Just off the cuff, they have to do with my thinking 
of "the media is the message" as formalist or idealist; with my thinking 
of new media as ecompassing too many practices and stemming from too 
many genealogies in old media (TV set as sculptural artifact, TV shows 
as in Martha Rossler's pretend cooking class or the Wonder Woman video 
classic, indie film as in Warhol, performance art is in Vito Acconci or 
Marina Abramovic videos, computer games as in Corey Arcangel, 
programming practices, surveillance cameras as with Diller/Scofidio, 
Minimalism as with Keith Sonnier or Michael Snow, and of course 
increasingly as with Matthew Barney or Isaac Julien the "blockbuster" 
movie, many like Sue de Beer who cross these lines, and so on); and 
especially the inability of data, with its valid claim to a unique 
relation to nature, to produce art that is more "true" than any other 
powerful representation of metaphor for reality, especially one that 
people use for work and for entertainment.

By the time one gets to Eric Doeringer's Matthew Barney fan club, first 
online and then as work in a gallery, I don't have a clear claim anyhow 
on what's what or even what's any good!  Anyhow, apologies.  I do not 
want to take the discussion this way, rather than to new media's place 
in a certain history of the term "nonsite," but I did want to make clear 
what I wasn't saying.

I'm going to get egoistical and cite the only time I did mention Lev 
Manovich's fine work, in fact in an article on Christina McPhee:  "In 
'The Language of New Media,' Lev Manovich sees database-driven art as 
intrinsically nonlinear, owing to a computer's 'random access,' its 
ability to read and write data anywhere in a file rather than 
sequentially. He contrasts this with narrative, and he asks 
provocatively for art that will include both. But that art is 
everywhere. An artist cannot access a database or give it compelling 
visual form without a concatenation of metaphor in the first place."

Thanks a lot for bearing with me!


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