[-empyre-] networking art + postmedia

Heidi May mayh at ecuad.ca
Sat Jan 29 11:14:27 EST 2011

I wanted to bring up one more topic for discussion as we wind down  
this last week. Joseph had mentioned that he made several pages of  
notes before preparing his ideas and questions for this week, and,  
well, I too found the previous week's discussions to be full of ideas  
to expand on. The one area I really want to revisit, if others are  
also interested, is the vibrant discussion that began from Cynthia's  
response to Simon B's question of materialist deconstruction of "post- 
convergent" media. I'm fascinated with the recent ideas Patrick has  
raised and do intend to respond to those as well, however, the artist- 
educator in me wants to inquire into the artistic methods we are  
choosing to work with when expressing these extremely important ideas  
related to network culture and when attempting to engage with a  
networked public.

- Heidi


Some of you might have seen a recent question I posted to other email  
lists last month, about network(ed) art, which is documented on my  
blog at http://heidimay.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/ I'd like to extend  
some of the ideas that emerged there to the topic of the netopticon.

In my current research I am defining networking art as "…practices not  
based on art objects, nor digital instruments, but on the  
relationships and processes that occur between individuals  
(Bazzichelli, 2008; Corby, 2006; Saper, 2001)….Networking art (or  
network art or networked art) sometimes described as participation art  
(Frieling, 2008), consists of multiple connections made through  
generative processes, often, but not always, incorporating digital  
technology. In many cases, the production and dissemination processes  
become the artwork itself." I am ultimately arguing for an expanded  
understanding of networking art practices that is not dependent on  
technology or media, but rather responds to a broader understanding of  
network culture as a sociocultural shift that is not limited to  
digital technology (Varnelis, 2008). I draw upon the Fluxus art  
movement of the 1960s and 70s in examining notions of network as  
processes, situations, and relations, accompanied by theories of being  
(Nancy, 2000), situated in the context of a research project that  
examines the relationship between art, learning and teaching.

Within the listserv discussions I note above, I addressed my doubts  
and reservations with using the term "network" and that it would  
immediately conjure up digital practices alone (even though my  
argument acknowledges this dilemma). I was asking what indeed  
"networked" art meant to everyone, which ultimately led to discussions  
of intermedia, multimedia, postmedium/postmedia, and remediation.


In last week's Empyre discussion, Simon suggested it may be time to  
once again undertake a "materialist deconstruction of a post- 
convergent media in order to challenge the normalising protocols of  
the net....(to perhaps) develop new protocols, sans-web." To which  
Cynthia responded, stating "the need to push artists to define  
themselves as tied to a specific medium is no longer relevant...What  
counts is the idea, the research behind the work, the concept...but  
the art world and academies still push medium as the defining factor."  
I was really taken with Cynthia's posting, along with Jon's anecdote  
that followed of his experiences teaching in a school that uses a  
traditional disciplinary model, within which students transcend beyond  
medium categories through practices that might be referred to as  
postmedia (See these two great articles for more on interpretations of  
the "postmedia condition" in art: 1) Peter Weibel, 2006, http://www.medialabmadrid.org/medialab/medialab.php?l=0&a=a&i=329 
  and 2) Domenico Quaranta, 2010, http://rhizome.org/editorial/2011/jan/12/the-postmedia-perspective/)

While reading this discussion, I was reminded of Mieke Bal's (2003)  
arguments against a visual essentialism and an authority of  
materiality in the understanding of visual culture. However, factoring  
in Zac's posting last week, I don't feel that an argument *against* an  
authority of materiality has to necessarily *exclude* material  
approaches. Zac had said that Cynthia's affirmation went against a  
trend he observed where the "immateriality of new media artist  
production has driven some practitioners to immerse themselves in  
craft...and aesthetic hunger for the material". I have noticed this  
trend as well as many of my first year Foundation students are more  
interested in pursuing painting and drawing versus digital media.

To reiterate my expanded interpretation of Cynthia's argument -- what  
is important are the concepts explored and the processes/situations/ 
relations that lead up to or evolve out of the work. (Note: this also  
ties in with the mention of techne and poiesis last week, which I  
could elaborate on here but won't since I seem to be digging up a lot  
of what has already been discussed). In challenging the netopticon, it  
is important and will continue to be extremely important for artists  
to explore notions of network and notions of being with/in networks  
that are not heavily influenced by technological determinism, nor for  
that matter idealistic notions of democracy, but rather in ways that  
convey the sense of complexity of our relationship these technologies.

Questions to leave you with then:
What do you see as potential connections and/or distinctions between  
networking art practices and a postmedia condition in contemporary art?
What can a materialist deconstruction of the net make visible about  
the netopticon that a non-material based approach might not? and vice  
Is there value in having media-specific disciplines in art programs,  
if only to incite acts of resistance?

Bal, M. (2003). Visual essentialism and the object of visual culture.  
Journal of Visual Culture, 2(1), 5-32.

Bazzichelli, T. (2008). Networking: The net as artwork. (M. Calamia &  
G. Wright, Trans.). Digital Aesthetics Research Centre. Retrieved from http://darc.imv.au.dk/?p=62

Corby, T. (Ed.) (2006). Network art: Practices and positions. New  
York, NY: Routledge.

Frieling, R. (Ed.) (2008). The art of participation: 1950 to now,  
exhibition catalogue, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. New York,  
NY: Thames & Hudson, Inc.

Nancy, J. L. (2000). Being singular plural. (R.D. Richardson & A.D.  
O’Bryne, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Quaranta, D. (2010). Media, new media, postmedia. Milano: Postmedia.  
(Italian); English chapter published on Rhizome http://rhizome.org/editorial/article-2.0.php?article=3964

Saper, C. (2001). Networked art. Minneapolis, MN: University of  
Minnesota Press.

Varnelis, K. (2008). Networked publics. MIT Press. Excerpts. Retrieved  

Weibel, P. (2006). The post-media condition. In Postmedia Condition,  
cat., Madrid: Centro Cultural Conde Dugue. Retrieved from

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