"Each pattern has the maximum complexity and 'resonance' for the minimum number of frames."
Paddy Johnson is interviewing me and Michael Bell-Smith this week about our shows; I hope you'll check it out.
"Geeks in the Gallery" is a three part discussion with artists Michael Bell-Smith and Tom Moody, which will run on Art Fag City from Monday June 12 – Wednesday, June 14, 2006. A recurring theme of the talk is how technology informs artistic production, as both artists have individually exhibited work usually described as New Media, yet also seem somewhat skeptical of "tech art." Moody’s "Room Sized Animated GIFs" at artMovingProjects in Brooklyn is comprised of animated GIFs projected or displayed on variable sized CRT monitors/tube televisions, plus a looping movie of the artist performing a computer-fabricated (but realistic-sounding) "guitar solo." The show dates are May 5th – June 25, 2006; it can also be viewed online on the artist's site. Bell-Smith's exhibit "Focused, Forward" closed last week at Foxy Production Gallery and included digital animations steeped in the aesthetics of '80s and '90s video games, a print depicting collaged patterns that create a virtual Tower of Babel, and a game table-like video sculpture with a simulated radar graph of birds circling over the White House. Show dates were April 27 – June 3, 2006; it can be viewed online at foxyproduction.com. [...]Some thoughful comments were made in response to my "preview remarks" about the interview and the general topic of "showing new media art in the gallery." I've replied to a couple of those, in the comment(s) to this post--anyone is welcome to chime in about that ongoing thread or the interview.
L.N.R., reBlogging at Eyebeam, makes the observation about the preview remarks: "Self indulgent, but interesting questions."
Me, a couple of posts back:
"By putting the GIFs in the gallery (as videos), I'm making an immaterial art that is highly context dependent--depending on the shape of the room, lightness or darkness of walls and floor, and acoustics (for pieces with sound). I want the viewer to recognize the almost joke-like simplicity of the imagery...and reflect on the mechanisms of the GIFs as well as the mechanisms of the white cube."Robert Huffman says, "...I think there may be a logical inconsistency here. The white cube is not the environment of the .gif. Can Net.art effectively critique and explore gallery space? I suppose we shall see, however, "If you wanted to make a motion picture you wouldn't use stone." -Antony Gormley.
Robert, that's one issue we talk about in the interview. I would say the history of art, especially since the early 20th Century, has consisted of translation and "cross-pollination" among media. Imagism/Vorticism revitalizing poetry with ideas from painting, "art aspiring to the condition of music," and so forth. It's inevitable that GIFs are going to find their way into the gallery, and that gallery ideas will find their way into GIFs. I'm trying to make it more inevitable.
When a GIF is blown up to wall size you can barely help "reflecting on its mechanisms"--every pixel is as big as your head (I'm exaggerating). And when you have a few screens casting an overall blue glow on the gallery, with practically nothing else in the room except the white walls, overhead pipes, wires on the floor from gear, etc., you can barely help "reflecting on the gallery space."
More from Robert Huffman a couple of posts back:
The difference between gallery and net, as I see it? The work is created to exist, interact within, deconstruct its enviroment, whether we are talking about Richard Jackson or jimpunk. I would say Tom's push-pin pieces do an admirable job in the gallery, mechanisms are reflexively revealed as I believe he intended. But as we have seen in recent posts, Tom has had some trouble reconcilling gallery vs. net for his gifs. He has mentioned technical issues and quality of image, even posted images of the gifs as frame stills; but I am addressing the more conceptual issue Tom raised, that being truth to materials.I don't think you can really say I've "had some trouble reconcilling gallery vs. net for his gifs" without seeing the show. Most of the "lack of reconciliation" I've complained about is that the Net is inadequate to document art that exists independently in physical space.
As for "technical issues and quality of image"-- I believe I've used the "problems" proactively by transferring the GIFs to video and showing them on tube TVs (or projecting them). They're not as "pristine" as they are on the computer but they're not trying to be. It's a translation, or regression, of media, with inevitable errors that are part of the work.
One of the dangers of discussing process or a learning curve on the blog is it gives a lingering impression of "unresolved issues." Anything I obsessed about on the blog got resolved at the gallery stage. At least that was the feedback I heard.
On the subject of net art - I think one of the issues that net art has to deal with when transposed to the gallery is that "the white cube" imposes systems of evaluation that we use for more traditional mediums, and I'm not convinced that those results are always that useful. A good example of this was illustrated very literally in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, where the wall text written about the work of Cory Arcangel, described his piece as being something spun from the history of painting. I don't see modernist painting having much to do with his work, and I think the work suffers when it is supposed to be evaluated in the same ways you look at a painting. Net art doesn't function this way, and like it or not the onus is on net artists to explain why it doesn't, so that it doesn't continue to be interpreted in ways that don't make any sense.
Oh, don't cry FOUL!, "has had" is past tense, and you did, so I can. I didn't mean to imply that you had not resolved these issues to your satisfaction. The point I was making is only that the .gif work was not made to critique a gallery, which, I think, is why you had to go through that process to decide how to display them. If you had solved that before creating the work there might not have been any problem (truth to materials). Transferred to video? Well let's look at video art. I think it took video playing off an object (relating to your comment on media cross-pollination) , as with Oursler or Viola for example, for video to really engage a gallery space (and an audience for that matter), perhaps Net art will find a similar solution to it's inadequacy with documenting itself in a physical space. But that solution should be found first so it resonates fully within the piece, in my opinion. Anyone who isn't familiar should take a good look at Blast Theory to see some creative and logical solutions for illustrating tech-heavy concepts within a physical space. (I think this is being called Navigational art by people like Joselit.)
Okay, I appear to have missed the latter part of this conversation. Um, please bear that in mind when reading the above comment.
I don't think you missed anything. This conversation started with my "laundry list," but Robert is referring to things I've posted on the blog over a period of time. The crying foul part refers to a more strident early draft I wrote of my comment above. Sorry to go all Orwellian on y'all and soften it, but my first drafts aren't usually my best.
Yeah, I was wondering who you were directing those comments at, Paddy. I am not sure anyone in this conversation has stated that net art in a gallery will never work. We started this a couple of posts back so maybe you missed the beginning. Anyway, I do want to ask you if you consider Net art a movement like Minimalism or simply a media like painting? From your comment it sounds as though you do. Couldn't there be a distinction between a Pop oriented digital practice(Cory Arcangel) and a Minimalist digital practice(Moody)? Then we have the issue of those who write the code, those who manipulate existing code, and those who simply use the end-user software. A gaming cartridge hack, like Arcangel's Super Mario World, isn't Net.art. proper, but his recent Suicide Letter vs.GoogleAdSense certainly is. Both works bring to mind various Post Structuralist ideas. I think a convincing argument could be made that he is mining a Post Modernist vein; appropriation, equating of high and low cultures, etc.
Tom- I didn't intend for this to turn into a critical response to your work. I started out using your work as an example in my response to Paul regarding net based vs. gallery based Conceptualism. I picked up that ball and I ran with it, possible to far. Rather than a narrative regarding your thought process, perhaps we should turn back to that original laundry list.
No, you don't get to retreat now, after you've busted me with my past writings to suggest that the thought process I arrived at in the course of this show was a convenient ex post facto grafting of former ideas onto some kind of intellectually suspect current theory. (smiley emoticon) I think I'm up to defending myself--I wouldn't do it, except others might have reached the same conclusions you did based on just seeing installation jpegs. I'm not mad--you raise some good points, even though I don't think "the theory" came about the way you're suggesting it did. My hope is that in a brief narrative I can continue to cover (i) through (iv). I just have to write it.
No retreat, no surrender Tom. I just wanted to say that my conclusions are based on point #6 on your list, not installation jpegs of your current exhibit. I'll be waiting for the giant shoe to drop out of the clouds.
No giant shoe. You're saying that the GIFs predated the show as Internet pieces and therefore could "not [have been] made to critique a gallery." But the targets and molecules started out as reflexive objects (photocopy "paintings" and installations), were translated into moving versions that first appeared on the Net and were disseminated as "Net art" before being repurposed as videos that went back, reflexively, into the gallery environment. The quality of the "reflection" changed but the critique has been continuous.
I'm with you there regarding pieces like "timelapsemolecule" or "exit Maurice", but I wasn't aware "eyeshades", for example, was created that way.
Here's a sequence (1998-2006). Eyeshades uses fill patterns because thinking about Cory's and Jamie's Infinite Fill Show reminded me I used to make that kind of stuff with MacPaint.
On the subject of Net Art being a movement - I think it is, and I find it annoying that few people seem to be talking about it. Yes, work looks very different, but there are all sorts of examples of artists whose work would get labeled as part of movements, but whose art was broader than the scope of that movement. Picasso - started cubism, made all sorts of surrealist etc paintings. Duchamp - Dada, - never even considered himself a Dadaist, ditto for Jim Dine and Pop. There are always a few people who fit neatly into these catagories, but many don't, and they are often the figure heads of these movements.
To which I would add, though, that Net Aesthetics 2.0 (incl. blogs, streaming media, kitsch) is way more interesting than version 1 (social sciences projects swaddled in techspeak).
I notice Paul Chan is on the cover of this month's Artforum. Does that mean the art world is embracing cybercontent?
One note, ironically, my use of tags to illustrate my point on Net Art didn't work the first time around because the site read them as such - and thusly rendered them invisible.
Doing a quick skim through that Chan article--I'd say Bell-Smith and he are similar but Bell-Smith is more interesting because the work is visually epigrammatic and ambiguous--you don't get all the grim back story and un-subtle politics. Also, I'd take Cory's found Bomb Iraq game over Chan's preachiness.
We could sure use some official names for the different kinds of digital/electronic/net art. It would definitely make conversing about it easier, and make us sound more important!
Those are good--I'll try to think of some more. A friend with an MFA and an engineering background said for geeks art basically came down to "it's cool" or "it's shit." Oh--instead of "museum of science and history" I say "Exploratorium."
Paddy- No one is talking about it because that conversation occured 6 years ago. When the hype died down, I think most people realized that code is the same as paint or clay. Media that is not object oriented often needs it own catagories, as with film and video. Perhaps code based work will as well. My favorite "new" genre associated with the net and code would be Generative art. What defines a movement is how and for what purpose media is used, not who is associated with it. I may be wrong about that.
I am aware that this conversation happened six years ago, but I don't have to be happy with its results. I think we have licence to revisit issues when necessary, and I believe there have been enough changes over the last six years to reopen this can of worms. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I do feel like net art is currently being applied interchangeably as a term for a medium and a movement and it makes things a little messy. Maybe "net art" isn't the right name for the movement, but I think we should do some serious thinking about what is going on. Unfortunately I have not proven myself to be the most brilliant at naming these sorts of things (though Tom and Paul certainly are). The only thing I've ever been able to come up with for a genre is "found-tech".
Re: Chan, I saw that same group show, and thought the piece was nice, despite that the Darger reference was tired. I suppose I had a "wait and see" attitude. As for him becoming a festival juggernaut, I have some thoughts on that, but I'll give the shreds of my career a break.
My crack at a list of terms and genres: "Found-tech", "sucky" or "suckage", "ready-image"...uh I don't know...I'll have to think about this some more.
I think we're talking more along the lines of the 20 different flavors of house music, not marketing words for Big Four execs like "Rap" and "Heavy Metal". And I'd argue that the mainstream art market is only a little less gross than the Big Four anyway.
Those are good. "Found-tech" would cover a lot of my microgenres, except most of them aren't self-aware the way gallery art is.
No Paddy, what I am saying is that you get to name an "ism" when you can list some basic tenents holding the different artworks together under your chosen rubric. Right now I think the only thing we can agree on is that it is all built from symbolic logic. "Symbolic Logicalism"? To clunky....and that's like putting Brice Marsden and Kent Bellows together under the rubric of "Paintism". It just doesn't get to the point. Generative art is very well defined. Navigational art is as well. How does Arcangel define "dirt-style"?
There used to be a page that totally explained dirt style but the person who originally put it up (not Cory, although he was a contributor), allowed it to drop off the Net. Or so the legend has it...
The gallery press release described me as a "central figure in New Media"--I went along with it, figuring it would raise the hackles of the largest number. I'm a creature of the gallery world, though, who started spending a lot of time with his computer and actually admits it.
To the interview-
However, when I say "art world" I don't mean "us" but rather the five people here in New York who decide who will be the next "festival juggernaut."
Could you introduce me to those five people Tom?
Paul: Thanks for clearing that up - that's what I meant. And I agree that the gallery version of this is only a little less gross.
I could, but then you would have to hang out with them...
It was my understanding that the person who made it has the initials JP. It was for a class or something. Cory played "Prof C Dirt" and contributed text and ideas. I saw the term Dirt Style in one of those Captivate elevator news readers, as "up and coming lingo." They got it from Wired, I think. That's another one for the list--viral/contagious media.
That makes sense - I think he did say something about a class - I think he also had a class submit a design for "black people love us.com"...which subsequently won.
Let the record reflect that Robert saw the installation shots of my show and my post on "digital non-sites" after he fired off the AK-47 in response to my "laundry list." His criticisms are good and appreciated nonetheless--although his comment to Paddy about the "isms" did sound condescending. We're all working on this together. Communicating in comments is hard.
My apologies all around.
If we could get back to those original questions Tom raised-(i) what is the hacker aesthetic?
extraneous code = post minimal or process orientation?
"Packed full of extraneous code" is not the same as "visually hyperactive."
For purposes of illustrating my argument I would use "Nintendo Clouds" or John Simon's "Every Icon" as symbolic of a "hacker aesthetic." Or Michael Bell-Smith. His work is not messy or cluttered. Half the time that hyperactive stuff is just naive art without any self awareness of being naive. (Not talking about Paper Rad, who have art school backgrounds.)
naive=unintentionally dirt style
Intentional naivete=dirtstyle=paul's rubric "kitsch"?
"Can anyone site a code based work that would more clearly illustrate this idea to me? (jimpunk, jodi.org?)"
Here is Every Icon. I mention this in the upcoming movie 8-Bit* as a link between Sol Lewitt and 8-Bit works such as Nintendo clouds. Because it gets the point across so nicely visually.
You see Nintendo clouds as an exercise in permutation? What would you guys make of Scott Blake, http://www.barcodeart.com/, who I have compared to Lewitt in a gallery bio?
Those pieces Alex did that are like, four pixels changing, would also be good. Ah, I need to look up the specifics.
Do you see Nintendo clouds as an exercise in permutation?
^By that I mean would Blake fall into the hacker aesthetic?
Have you seen this stuff yet - dvblogh4ck.blogspot.com/?
Yes, jimpunk is great. I can't find any pics of that Galloway piece I was thinking of.
Those two Galloway pieces Paul posted aren't meant for a gallery, so no point in worrying about them. Simon did do a gallery version of Every Icon, as I recall.
I don't know that much about Alex's stuff there, except that it is definitely an example of very minimal code art. I'm not sure if it's successful or not, or how it would be displayed or interpreted. What it is, is a one line Perl script using randomization (so it's minimal and generative) and there are several more:
"every icon"....good stuff.. here is a pic of it
Well even so, I took it that they are meant to be artworks. Can they not be exhibited in a gallery, even on a laptop or something? But my question really is how can the first piece be comprehended by the layman?
does the layman need to 'get it' on a level of comprehension?
OK Paul. Good point, that is the sad fact of most art stuff. I just get frustrated when I can't define something.
The pixel one is probably just as hard to explain to a layman actually (did you look at the source?) Obviously they'd require some explanation, but the museum plaque probably wouldn't have to be any bigger than the plaque for, say, a Carl Andre. :o)
We should do a conference call, or a conference. Too much reading and typing. See ya'll tomorrow.
I usually don't look at the source Paul. I'm a painter, I tend to only focus on the surface. For instance, I was reminded of your TV piece that blends the colors on the wall when I looked at Galloways RSG/PIXEL, simply focusing on the visual phenomena and shuffling it into an historical context. I think I do that reflexively.
Tom, I felt your CRT's and DVD players had content. It took a minute to figure out what was wrong, but you just don't see home made gif's on T.V. When I see a CRT I still think "T.V." - when I see a flat panel, I think monitor, be it video, computer or tv as its input. It made your show interestingly disquieting.
I have closed this comment thread--take that, spam motherfuckers. If anyone has any follow-up to this please email me and we'll start a new topic.