Between Hype Cycles and the Present Shock

Texts

Soon available as part of the Macro Asilo Diario series, Between Hype Cycles and the Present Shock is an excerpt from a longer, unpublished essay born out of a conference I had in Rome in March 2019, wondering if, and how, art can exist in the present time. The longer version includes chapters about net.art’s futurism, post internet’s presentism, precorporation, media obsolescence, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. If you want to read the draft or suggest a publisher, please drop me a line. This shorter version suffers a bit in the last part, but it features one of my favorite chapters, about the end of the future. Hoping it could be a good companion in these days of anxiety and loneliness, I shared it on Academia. Enjoy!

“We know we are living an age that is profoundly different from that in which contemporary art was born: an age of acceleration, present shock, distracted gaze and end of the future. And yet, when it comes to art, we still confront it as if nothing had actually changed.
Rather than providing answers, this essay raises questions such as: is it still possible to make art under these conditions, and to experience art as it should? What’s the price we have to pay for engaging today’s media and the crucial issues of our time, in terms of duration and long term appreciation?”

Art numerique: un art contemporain

Texts
Exhibition View, Hito Steyerl, Hell Yeah We Fuck Die at Kunstmuseum Basel Gegenwart 2018 / Photo: Marc Asekhame / Courtesy: Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York

Written for and published in: Documents — Collecting digital art — Volume 2–2007–2018, Les presses du réel, Dijion, November 2018. Preface by Florian Bouquet and Marie-Claude Chitry-Clerc. Foreword by Valérie Perrin. Texts by Cécile Dazord and Domenico Quaranta. Co-published with the Espace multimédia Gantner. English — French, ISBN: 978–2–37896–019–3.

“Today, one must struggle, not — as Greenberg did — for the preservation of an avant-garde that is self sufficient and focused on the specificities of its means, but rather for the indeterminacy of art’s source code, its dispersion and dissemination, so that it remains impossible to pin down — in opposition to the hyperformatting that, paradoxically, distinguishes kitsch.” i

Digital art (at the time, mostly identified as Computer Art) came about in the early Sixties as an artistic response to the emergence of the computer and digital media, and as an articulation of one of the most interesting moments in the history of contemporary art — the one that, as it is widely recognized, shaped the contemporary art world and the very notion of contemporary art as we know it. In the effort to go beyond the Art Informel / Abstract Expressionist esperanto, that dominated the previous decade, artists started to look back at the Avantgardes, and to build upon that part of their legacy that was left discarded by the artistic movements active between the two World Wars: their attempt to merge art and life, to bring art everywhere and to make it with all the available means, thus rejecting the traditional media of modern art and experimenting with all available media, either borrowing them from other artistic fields (such as theatre) or from the world of industrial production, mass communication or technological innovation.

Media, New Media, Postmedia. Introduzione alla seconda edizione

Book, Texts
Cover image: Jon Rafman, Tokyo Red Eye (massage chair), 2015. Photo: Thierry Bal. Image courtesy of the artist

Media, New Media, Postmedia è stato scritto tra il 2008 e il 2010, per aiutare prima di tutto me stesso, l’autore, a venire a capo di quello strano conflitto tra mondi dell’arte di cui facevo, e faccio tutt’oggi esperienza quotidianamente, nel mio lavoro di docente, critico e curatore; per metterne a fuoco e spiegarne le dinamiche e le motivazioni profonde, per studiarne e illustrarne gli sviluppi storici, e per indicare una via d’uscita possibile. I mondi dell’arte a cui faccio riferimento sono il mondo dell’arte contemporanea “mainstream”, con la sua popolazione di artisti e professionisti e il suo paesaggio di musei, gallerie, biennali, premi, fiere, riviste; e il mondo della cosiddetta New Media Art, messo a punto tra gli anni Sessanta e gli anni Novanta del Novecento per ospitare, sostenere, nutrire, discutere, valorizzare e conservare la sperimentazione artistica con le nuove tecnologie in una fase storica in cui queste ricerche erano, con poche eccezioni, ignorate dal mondo dell’arte. Il conflitto è, ovviamente, quello relativo al posizionamento di queste pratiche artistiche, in un momento — la svolta di Millennio — in cui, complice l’esplosione della rivoluzione digitale, il mondo dell’arte ha cominciato finalmente a riconoscerne la rilevanza e l’urgenza culturale.

#borders

Reading Group

“By rejecting the fetish object, and the aura that is both the cause and consequence of its financial worth, works of art lose the very characteristics that enable them to be distinguished from other kinds of artifacts. If we throw into the mix the fact that the New Media Art world has no objections to works with a functional value, but on the contrary is extremely well disposed towards works which elicit active engagement; that techne, in the New Media Art world, tends to prevail over content and that this very world has come together as a result of figures fleeing their respective “worlds” – various disciplines from visual arts to music, drama and dance – taking all these factors into account it is obvious that the typical work required by the New Media Art world is by nature a hybrid one, and that the confines of this world are anything but fixed.”

“[…] while the contemporary art world, in a small number of cases and with precise conditions, takes upon itself to welcome works from different disciplines and bestow the status of “art” upon them, the New Media Art world is a “temporary holding center” for works that are so radical or marginal that no-one else will take them. The only passkey required to enter is a creative use of technology.”

#contemporaryartist

Reading Group

“The artist figure that emerges from this picture is still firmly anchored to the romantic vision of the genius, obviously updated to today’s standards. Figures like Olafur Eliasson, who created waterfalls cascading down the struts of New York’s bridges, and Matthew Barney, who spent five years of his life producing an unprecedented cycle of films, conceived in its entirety as a sophisticated allegory of male genitalia, embody this idea to perfection. The romantic genius acquires celebrity status, and is required to be an excellent entrepreneur of him or herself: think of figures like Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan and Francesco Vezzoli, and further back Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol. If we descend gradually from art’s lofty pinnacles into the complex, variegated fauna of artists, many of these aspects fade away, but the one constant, the one thing we always expect from an artist, is absolute devotion to a project, an idea.”