[-empyre-] Tactical Media; this week's guests

Beatriz da Costa beatrizdacosta at earthlink.net
Wed Apr 28 03:31:05 EST 2010

Thanks for the thoughtful post Sara. It really brings up a few  
interesting points and I think goes back to understanding the roles of  
the different type of institutions involved here. Museums, while often  
conservative or simply careful when it comes to pushing legal  
boundaries, or even just the perception of a legal boundary (I have  
been there many times), are still spaces that are in principle  
dedicated to supporting and showing artworks. This is not the case for  
American universities. Art schools/departments are often the necessary  
evil to complete either the "arts and humanities" or the "arts &  
science" colleges/schools at US universities. We are at the absolute  
bottom of the hierarchy. We don't bring in any money, are quite  
useless overall and should count ourselves lucky to be allowed to  
exist of the dimes brought in from the more affluent parts of   
campus.... or so the common narrative goes. Now with the emergence of  
the so called "new media" arts things shifted a little. Suddenly that  
hybrid existence was seen as an avenue to bring money into the  
system... and it took a decade to realize that a lot these attempts  
failed, and that many new media artists,  have absolutely no interest  
to be in bed with the entertainment and/or ICT industries. So we are  
being downgraded again :). But what happened in that time period is  
that a loft of artists indeed merged/played/built alliances with the  
sci and tech areas around the campuses, often resulting in very  
interesting work. The "problem" that arises is that suddenly all the  
work has to be presented as "research" and once something is called  
"research" the outside expectations as to what that is, what function  
it should fulfill and within which boundaries it should operate really  
change. I am pretty sure that I am preaching to choir here, so please  
forgive, but since this list is not US centric, which is wonderful, I  
thought I'd bring it up. Art education and its associated institutions  
seem to vary a lot from country to country and in my experience art  
education at American universities ranks pretty low in the eyes of the  
public and the university itself.
all best,

On Apr 27, 2010, at 7:17 AM, Sarah Cook wrote:

> Dear empyre readers
> My apologies for my delay in catching up with the great discussion  
> and posting. I have just landed in Ottawa (where it is hovering  
> around zero degrees and lightly snowing this morning!) for a writing  
> residency with SAW Video. As a full time research academic within a  
> UK university, and freelance curator whose practice takes place  
> outside of the university physically but within the remit of my job,  
> I am lucky to be able to leave my desk at CRUMB and come sit at  
> someone else's desk at SAW Video studying and writing about the work  
> of other artists for a stretch of time this spring.
> This kind of transborder curatorial working, where I find myself a  
> guest in someone else's organisation but often with the role of  
> hosting artists of my choosing there, has some link to the  
> discussion at hand. (Perhaps it is the 'borrowed uniform' model).  
> The university shares in (or owns in part or at least takes credit  
> in return for funding) all new research I generate (about curating,  
> about media art, such as through the books I've authored/edited).  
> But the host organisation (this spring it is SAW Video, last year  
> the list included xcult.org, Eyebeam, and others) trusts in me to  
> generate new ideas and international connections of relevance to  
> them and supports those outcomes financially and intellectually as  
> well. In a decade of curating in this freelance manner rarely have I  
> ever had to sign an agreement with the host organisation about what  
> I will and will not put on their letterhead and how I will or will  
> not use their name and brand and support of me beyond the project we  
> are agreed to work on. I deeply appreciate that this trust exists,  
> to know my work is valued and seen as adding value, without having  
> to negotiate at every stage from brief to realisation.
> Now I suspect that were I to be working predominantly with artists  
> whose work borders on the edges of legality or employs deliberately  
> questioning or questionable strategies to make a point -- from  
> copyright infringement to importing biological components, let's say  
> -- perhaps the host organisations (the museums, galleries, artist- 
> run centres, publishers) would be more wary in trusting in me, but I  
> actually don't know if that would be the case. As a middle-person /  
> mediator-curator I can propose (indeed I am expected) to work with  
> any artists or ideas I see fit (and see fit in relation to that host  
> organisation). But what would happen if a higher authority called in  
> to question what we were doing? Would the organisation let the  
> freelancer take the blame, or would they fight it together? Would  
> stronger contractual agreements about whose idea it was be put in  
> place the next time?
> In these discussions I think of the work of my former colleague at  
> CRUMB, Ele Carpenter, who curated an exhibition at the CCA Glasgow  
> as part of her PhD research with us - Risk: Creative Action in  
> Political Culture http://crumb.sunderland.ac.uk/~ele/risk/riskwebsitenov06/risk.htm 
> . She might be better placed to discuss this kind of guest-hosting  
> arrangement than I, where the work on show challenges political  
> authority and the host organisation covers for it. The exhibition  
> was a case study her PhD was based upon, but the University didn't  
> particularly take ownership of the content of the show so much as  
> the knowledge she gained in the process of curating it. On the other  
> hand one could ask curator Steve Dietz about the Open Source Art  
> Hack show at the New Museum in 2002 in which a work was withdrawn  
> from the show over concerns the museum had about infringing its  
> agreement with its service provider. http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2002/05/52546 
>  or ask Scott Burnham about his withdrawl from organising the  
> Montreal Biennial after his proposed 'open source' audience-as- 
> artist-collaborator curatorial platform was seen as too public and  
> too risky and not 'Art' enough by the board and other directors (you  
> can watch my interview with him here: http://eyebeam.org/press/media/videos/eyebeam-summer-school-curatorial-masterclass-day-1) 
> . One could also ask the Tate how they negotiated with Heath Bunting  
> over his online commission of the BorderXing project, where they got  
> around the sticky question of actually 'distributing' information  
> which could be used to break laws (cross borders illegally) by  
> suggesting what they commissioned was research and documentation,  
> not the work itself.
> These are tangential to the case of the BANG lab at CALIT, but could  
> present lessons for how to be tactical in placing university- 
> supported research into other public contexts.
> Apologies again if this posting seems out of kilter with the  
> discussion thus far, as I read threads backwards and try to catch up.
> from an unseasonably chilly morning,
> Sarah
> www.crumbweb.org
> www.sarahcook.info
>>> Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2010 19:48:30 -0400
>>> From: Marc Böhlen <marcbohlen at acm.org>
>>> Reply-To: marcbohlen at acm.org
>>> To: Timothy Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu>
>>> Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: [-empyre-] Tactical Media; this week's guests
>>> X-PM-EL-Spam-Prob: : 8%
>>> -------------------------
>>> Dear -empyre-
>>> Thanks to Tim and Renate for inviting me to participate. Thanks  
>>> also to the other participants who have posted thoughtful  
>>> commentary on the situation.
>>> While I am also angry with UC administrators for making BANG lab's  
>>> life hell, I think it might be worthwhile to consider some of the  
>>> broader issues this fiasco makes apparent.
>>> Beatriz da Costa's post from Apr15 2010 really lays out the  
>>> problem well. Can one really expect academia to support tactical  
>>> media? Not if the university recognizes it as such. Passing the  
>>> development of tactical media as bona fide research is probably  
>>> over (da Costa). And seen from that vantage point, BANG bit the  
>>> hand that feeds it, signing off on email correspondence with CALIT  
>>> research credentials.
>>> Are there alternatives?
>>> If one is going to operate in broad daylight, there are two  
>>> choices (I see). Wear a wig (so no one knows who you are) or wear  
>>> a uniform (so you look like the others).
>>> In the wig model, the artist works a day job at a university and  
>>> keeps his/her critical practice separate from the research at the  
>>> university.
>>> In the uniform model, the artist works a day job at the university  
>>> and selectively melts his/her practice into research recognized by  
>>> the university.
>>> I use a variation of the uniform model. I make use of the fact  
>>> that my work in alternate information design (in the widest sense)  
>>> is of interest to the engineering community. I sit on panels that  
>>> I am not interested in, in order to try to move the ensuing  
>>> discussion along lines it would otherwise not travel. I review  
>>> amazingly boring high end research papers in order to be to make  
>>> the authors consider the social ramifications of their elaborate  
>>> experiments. Yes, they must revise their work accordingly.
>>> This uniform model is not for everyone. But it seems, on occasion,  
>>> to help create diversity where it is really needed.
>>> The point I would like to make is that research in/from the arts  
>>> at universities, on most basic levels, needs to be re-evaluated.
>>> Greetings,
>>> marc bohlen
>>> www.realtechsupport.org
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Beatriz da Costa


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://mail.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20100427/c574de00/attachment.html>

More information about the empyre mailing list