[-empyre-] Thursday, 19th: Sound Art, Technology and Innovation

Seth Kim-Cohen seth at kim-cohen.com
Fri Jun 20 10:04:16 EST 2014

Christoph, as usual, is dead right here, when defending aesthetic critical discourse. Anything worth doing can be done badly (and often is). Just because some folks blather iridescent nonsense when talking or writing about art, doesn't mean that the discourse they emptily parrot is itself worthless. To my mind, the discourse of the art world of the past 50 years has been the most fecund single field of critical production in the history of aesthetics and art. For this reason  - and here, Christoph and I disagree - I see that discourse as having important lessons to teach us, and important tools to lend us, for thinking about sound.  

More soon on the more substantive points recently raised. 

All my best


On Jun 19, 2014, at 1:51 PM, Christoph Cox wrote:

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Of course discussions of technology (the "how") can be valuable (as I noted). I simply object to it as a substitution for critical and historical analysis and/or aesthetic value.

Not sure what "pseudo-philosophical 'international art-speak' waffle" refers to. There's dumb and obfuscating critical discourse, surely; but conceptual, philosophical, critical analysis of any art form is crucial. And there's precious little of it in the sound domain (compared, e.g., to the visual arts, architecture, etc.)

On 6/19/14, 6:36 AM, Semitransgenic wrote:
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> On the point of grants and innovation for innovation’s sake, take an academic department that is trying to create time and space for creative practitioners doing their thing at doctorate and post-doctorate level, it needs to somehow legitimise its activities in a context that can be understood by people in suits who control cash-flow. For instance, if you are at a Russell group university, and there is unending rhetoric about striving for “excellence,” it’s simply very difficult to justify spending money on “research” (much of which is essentially people noodling with art/music & technology) if it doesn't appear to be “innovative.” It’s a game, a veneer, and it doesn't just apply to academia, prospective funding bodies of one kind or another can more easily be convinced of a project's merits if the proposal is spun as “new and innovate” but it is unfortunate that too much money seems to go to work that is often little more than yawn-worthy (novelty does not guarantee quality).  I’m not sure how this will change because the technocratic imperative (and the influence of trends within the “creative industries”) that forms part of the rationalisation process of determining where the money goes, means that certain hoops will have to be jumped through, hence the need to big-up the “innovation” component.  
> I also see a couple of commentators here stating that they switch off when discussion turns to technology (the “how” instead of the “why”). This is short-sighted really, it’s not an either or situation, it’s possible to maintain a healthy balance. One can be engaged in technologically           mediated creative practice and still enjoy the "how” while not letting this aspect of things dictate the value of a work.  Having said that, I find all this pseudo-philosophical "international art-speak" waffle tiring; so many emperors, so many new clothes, seriously, enough already. I’m not adverse to conceptual art but we have reached overkill with this stuff, and I’m loath to see sound/sonic/audio arts adopting this jargon in an effort to validate itself. 
> There are so many artists out there now working with sound, it seems like everyone is a “sound artist” these days, it kind of reminds of the explosion in DJ culture that we saw back in the mid-90s (overnight everyone was a DJ, all they needed was a set of CDJs and an auto-sync button, now it’s a Zoom H4 and some artspeak). 
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