<> or why new media art is a lie

Maya binary not working! my computer crashes! don’t understand how to do extrusions using booleans! hey it’s tots OK man, cos KT’s new album sounds khjdashjkklas amazeballs like the best of 90s eurotrash techno with chip music and the superslick sound of manufactured pop. In the beginning I felt kinda awkward in Parsons cos it seems that everyone has extreme cultured music taste. Not only do I have no taste, but also extreme bad taste. I’m one of the few people (that I know of) that have Paris Hilton’s Stars That Shine as well as her other discography. I also watch Eurovision religiously. Most people talk about musical “soul”, but I like my music like Jello – as artificial as possible, with vivid colourings and MANY MANY flavours. And I like it all, unironically. I don’t get liking something ironically cos I buy CDs, and hey money is money y’know. I wouldn’t waste money on irony D:

And since the maya work that I was doing just crashed, let’s look at some cool stuff:

Jon Rafman’s The Nine Eyes of Google Street View:

Basically it’s a project showing the bloopers from Google Street View, totally neat! My favourite one is the gas mask man crawling out from the underbush lol

Ian Burns’ Xerox Book (1968)

This is one of my favourite works ever – in relation to design and technology. It’s one of those works that you’re like: “goddamn why didn’t I think of it?? I wish I did it!!” because it’s so brilliantly simple and yet encapsulates everything from Deleuze to machine-technology so perfectly. Basically what Burns did was take a blank sheet of paper, and photocopy it 100 times on a xerox machine. As each piece was photocopied and re-photocopied, the machine began to read errors like lines, black spots etc until finally the machine (remember, 1960s) broke down and you got a blank black page. Literally, “difference and repetition“. He was part of the Art & Language group along with Sol Levitt – and for me, groups like these were really “new media art” even if they didn’t define themselves by it.

I guess that’s one of my main gripes about the word “new media art”. What is new media art? Is there a movement associated with it? Is there a collective force, or is it a scattered distribution? What is with the term “new” – when groups like Fluxus, Kinetic/Constructivist, Futurists and Art&Language exist?

The problem with the term “new media art” is the word “media”. Art is almost never defined by a medium, it’s usually conceived of based on a concept. That’s why
“new media art” remains flunky and vague even though the term has been tossed around for years. It’s because there is no depth to it, it’s shallow and silly to define your entire body of work just based on ONE medium. Most artists I know work with several as their career progresses, so by using the term “new media artist” they are thereby limiting themselves to what people would conceive of as “new media” and what new media is, is usually relational to the period they live in.

So in my generation, “new media art” would be work with apps and 3-d wall projections. With someone 6-10 years older, “new media art” might refer to the code-bombing a la Jodi With someone 15-20+ years older, “new media art” might be on television or broadcast.

It really bothers me because art is always driven by concept, with technology as a support not the other way round. Like why did Monet and Renoir push towards Plein-air painting? It wasn’t only the question of painting “to life, in air” but also because technology afforded the first paint tubes! Before the 19th century, paints had to ground paints in bottles, then mix with a binder (usually gum); then painted with turpentine and linseed oil. With the advent of paint tubes came the portability and convenience – now they could paint anywhere! If anywhere, why not plein-air?

So if you *really* want to push for “new media art”, well – then the Impressionists would be new media artists too. How do you reconcile that with your digital-only shtick?

Like the two examples I have above – what ties them together despite their differences in age isn’t the medium or “media” but the examination of media. Perhaps it would be much more appropriate to call this “medium art”, because it doesn’t just use media but questions the qualities of the medium itself.

For me, the interest in new media art is the traces of it. Art history has always been viewed through the lens of personages and movements, why not view it through the lens of “new media art”? Trace the origins of each movement with the growth of technology – the Impressionists was only one example. It’s fascinating to think, of this spectre of “technology” and “new media” hanging over the traditional (positivist?) mode of Art History, an unexamined haunting….. what will happen, when it’s brought to light?


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