“It’s contemporary art, stupid” Curating computer based art out of the ghetto

“It’s contemporary art, stupid” Curating computer based art out of the ghetto

Inke Arns & Jacob Lillemose Dortmund/Copenhagen, August 2005

Published in: Argos Festival, ed. by Anke Buxmann, Frie Depraetere, argoseditions: Brussels 2005, ISBN: 9076855218, English: pp. 136-145; Dutch pp. 342-353

이 글을 digital age에서 curating이 무엇인가? new media art curating은 contemporary art와 과연 어떤 관계인가? 를 논하고 있다. 

Our discussions have focused on what influence curating and the discourse surrounding it has on the relationship between computer based art and contemporary art in general. We both felt that the two fields were too separate and that some kind of mediation between them was needed. (1)

Three current curatorial tendencies

First, there is the institutionalized curating represented by for instance Christiane Paul at the Whitney Museum of American Art. […]

Good intentions are expressed and concrete initiatives are taken by the institution to integrate computer based art but somehow the process of following through seems to run out of energy very quickly and stop halfway; Steve Dietz was fired from the Walker, the San Francisco MoMA has not shown computer based art since “010101”, while both the Guggenheim and New York MoMA have closed their online museums. Of course, it also took a long time for photography and video to become part of the institution but the institution should have learned from its former ’slowness’ and opened up since then.

The second tendency is also institutionalized but within a context that deals more or less exclusively with computer based art. Especially influential are long-running festivals like the transmediale in Berlin and the Ars Electronica in Linz that both include a theme specific exhibition (usually in physical space) as well as a competition between a number of works usually from an open call list.

However, the relation to those institutions seems to be ambivalent: the institutions of the second tendency wants to be recognized as established institutions like the institutions of the first tendency at the same time as they criticize that framework because they are disappointed that the institutions of the first tendency have not realized that computer based art is a/the new happening art form and that it demands serious attention like other contemporary art forms. Thus, the institutions of the second tendency are caught between ambitions to be included ‘ equal’ to the institutions of the first tendency and insistence on being themselves.

The third tendency is the curatorial formats and strategies found in organizations, groupings and platforms based primarily on the net, like the runme, rhizome and Eyebeam. (3) The attitude in this tendency is that computer based art should be 4 presented outside the white cube (preferably online) and that it demands new and more democratic approaches to curating. : Everyone can be a curator.(4)

they have no ambitions of being recognized by these institutions. […]

On the contrary, they seem to thrive on their independence and explore the possibilities of curating in direct opposition to traditions and conventions. While this tendency certainly has generated refreshing alternative approaches to curating it has also contributed to an increasing separation. (4)

we feel that the term is not applied with sufficient specificity and on the other hand we feel that there is no such specific thing as curating computer based art. There is just curating art. Of course, computer based art involves new formats and offers new possibilities for curating but we believe that the discursive role of the curator nevertheless remains the same: To make a statement that explores the art in question and finds new ways of thinking about it and the context it refers to by putting it is a larger cultural or theoretical context. (4)

We believe in the democratization of curating in the sense that not only persons appointed by institutions can act as curators; that curating should be informed by 5 principles of transparency and horizontal discourse; but at the same time we believe that curator is a title you earn, not at title you take. (5)

The time of special interest shows is over and it is time for computer based art to get out of the ghetto. No doubt that a certain amount of secluded nurturing (promoting and production) served computer based art – from net art to software art – well in the beginning but now it is ready to step onto the scene of contemporary art. (8)


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