The Link Art Center Closes Down. Interview with the Founders

Debate, Texts
Collect the WWWorld. The Artist as Archivist in the Internet Age at 319 Scholes, New York 2012. Curated by Domenico Quaranta

What follows is the English translation (courtesy Google Translate, with some editing by yours truly) of an interview originally published in Italian on Artribune, about the end of the Link Art Center (here the official announcement). Together with my long time partners Lucio Chiappa, Matteo Cremonesi, Fabio Paris, I discuss with Valentina Tanni about the increasing awareness of digital cultures in mainstream contemporary art, media art institutions, collaboration, curating, publishing, and working on all this from Italy…

Valentina Tanni, in Artribune, September 19, 2019

After eight years of editorial, curatorial and exhibition activity, the Link Art Center, a cultural association engaged in the dissemination of new media art, announced its closure. We spoke with the founders – Domenico Quaranta, Fabio Paris, Lucio Chiappa and Matteo Cremonesi – to take stock of this important experience.

Let’s start with the inevitable question: why do you stop? Why now?

Domenico Quaranta: The Link Art Center was founded as a cultural association in 2011, with the mission to foster, at national and international level, a greater diffusion and awareness of the “arts of the information age”. At the time we perceived this mission as a burning necessity. We were spectators of a dynamism of the artists that did not find an adequate response in the institutions, in the magazines, in the market. We had to do something, and we did it. But on this front, from 2011 to 2019, there have been enormous changes, both at the artistic level and at a more general level of society, in Italy and in the rest of the world. Just visit a mainstream contemporary art event such as this year’s Venice Biennale to perceive the scale of this change. Themes that once would have been defined as “digital culture”, such as artificial intelligence, are now on the agenda, and not just in a discursive niche; languages ​​that once would have been defined as “new media”, such as virtual reality, are placed in the hands of contemporary art veterans such as Marina Abramovič or Anish Kapoor.

Exhibition Strategies For Digital Art: Examples And Considerations

Texts
Written in Stone. A net.art archaeology as partially re-enacted for net.art Painters and Poets, Mestna galerija Ljubljana 2014 (curated by Vuk Ćosić & Alenka Gregorič)

Published in: Lorenzo Giusti, Nicola Ricciardi (Eds.), Museums At The Post-Digital Turn, Amaci — OGR — Mousse Publishing, Milan 2019, pp. 177–198. Buy the book here

The aim of this contribution is to contest itself — or, rather, its title. It is to demonstrate that, at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century, we have reached an evolutionary phase in the so-called digital arts in which there is no longer any point hypothesizing about whether it is necessary to develop specific exhibition strategies that may facilitate public presentation in the display spaces of contemporary art of works that make use of digital media in their production or distribution, and/or make reference to the themes, aesthetics, and procedures that have emerged alongside digital media. [1] Further radicalizing the matter, this text sets out to show that today, the “problem” with digital art lies in the very use of this term, and in the artificial logics of merging (of works and artists that have little or nothing in common) and of segregation (from the rest of contemporary art) that its use reflects, and at the same time contributes to maintaining and consolidating. [2]

#translation

Reading Group

“This “translation” work is one of the most complex and fascinating aspects undertaken by the curator looking to import works born elsewhere into the world of contemporary art. Translating means taking account of the morphology and syntax of both languages. Often comprehension is only possible if both sides make hefty compromises (the way things sound, the nuances of meaning): it is up to a good translator to get those compromises to work for the text being translated. The good translator has to take account of his or her own limits, the culture (or lack thereof) of his or her readers and their ideological stances. If the translator is translating for the first time, he or she will choose an easy text; if the translation is from an almost unknown culture into his or her native language, he or she will choose a culturally simpler text before moving onto something more complex, or if translating from a culture that some people have reservations about, the translator will try to use the translation to render it more acceptable.”

“So how does a good translation come about? It is basically about identifying the essence of a work and trying to translate that into another language. In general, in the contemporary art world, if the technological interface, connectivity, processual nature, accessibility, openness and non-uniqueness of an artwork are not essential, it is a good idea to set them aside. If these characteristics are essential, it is better to keep them: the art world is mature enough to accept open, replicable, processual pieces if this is an essential part of the work, and if their value can be transferred onto something else […] The main thing is that the translator has to be not just bilingual but bicultural. That said, translations must be crafted on a case by case basis, by the artist or curator (if possible, in constant contact with the artist).”

#curating

Reading Group

“There’s no two ways about it: critics and curators have to take a lot of the responsibility for the bad rap that the art formerly known as New Media Art has in the contemporary art world. On one hand, specialized critics have made the mistake of trying to impose the value criteria applied to works of art in the New Media Art world to the contemporary art world too, and develop a “sectorial” (or even “sectarian”) discourse, attempting to present an entirely heterogeneous situation as a unitary phenomenon. On the other hand, with very few exceptions, contemporary art criticism has proved incapable of bridging the technological divide and tackling these works with their own tools of criticism. Or falling into the “unitary phenomenon” trap and merely writing the whole lot off […] there are two misconceptions that have become something of a mantra: that curating New Media Art raises specific issues that can only be tackled by a specific “media art curator”; and that New Media Art raises some pretty insurmountable challenges for those interested in collecting and conserving it. As can be seen, both of these ideas are based on the assumption that New Media Art is one homogeneous mass with the same curatorial and conservation issues; issues that can ultimately be linked to the medium used. Yet the so-called “new media” are about as complex and varied as you can imagine, and the variety of forms that it can take means that a single strategy (and term) is entirely inadequate. But this approach is rooted in an even more perverse equation: namely that which identifies New Media Art with the technology it uses.”