Between Hype Cycles and the Present Shock

Texts
Alterazioni Video, The New Circus Event, 2019. Venezia, VAC Foundation. Image courtesy Valentina Campari

The full version of my long essay (or short book) “Between Hype Cycles and the Present Shock” is now available on NERO, in a beautifully designed webpage. You can read it online or download it as a 40 pages, ready to print pdf. Enjoy!

Abstract:

This text is an attempt to understand if, and how, art can exist in the present time. 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: as if it were the sacred result of moments of deep focus and concentration; as if it could still be experienced without distraction; as if it were the expression of a constant fight against the old, and of an endless rush towards the new; as if it could speak a universal language, and last forever. But it doesn’t.

Rather than providing answers, this text 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?

Although these considerations apply to all contemporary art, I use contemporary media art as the main area of reference, as I think most of the problems I’m outlining are more visible there, and more radically affecting the art that uses the tools and addresses the key issues of the post digital age. The essay addresses sub-topics such as primary and mediated experience, the end of the future, Futurism vs Presentism, art’s relation with art market dynamics and technological hypes, art’s incorporation in the art system and in mainstream culture, obsolescence and media art preservation, the difficult relationship between artistic practices and media hypes (with a focus on Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence).

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as part of the Macro Asilo Diario series, Between Hype Cycles and the Present Shock is an excerpt from a longer, unpublished essay born out of a conference I had in Rome in March 2019, wondering if, and how, art can exist in the present time.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?”

In che modo oggi gli artisti usano Internet nelle loro opere?

Texts
DISNOVATION.ORG, Shanzhai Archeology, 2015-2018. Courtesy: the artists. Photo: Seraina Wirz. Installation view, exhibition Escaping the Digital Unease at Kunsthaus Langenthal, 2017

Valentina Tanni. L’uso artistico delle reti telematiche ha una lunga storia, che ha avuto il suo picco con il movimento della Net Art nella seconda metà degli Anni Novanta e primi Anni Zero. Esaurita la spinta avanguardistica, e dissolti movimenti e correnti (compreso il controverso Post-Internet), cosa resta oggi? In che modo oggi gli artisti usano Internet nelle loro opere?

Domenico Quaranta. Da un lato il Post-Internet ha cancellato con un colpo di spugna gli ultimi residui della specificità mediale, facilitando l’emergere di artisti che portano i linguaggi e le culture digitali davanti a un pubblico più ampio, trasversale e globale. Per molti aspetti positivo, questo processo ha però danneggiato la riconoscibilità del fenomeno e la compattezza della comunità che l’ha fatto fiorire, riconducendola alle dinamiche individualiste del mondo dell’arte.
Tuttavia sono restio a vedere in questa transizione un passaggio senza ritorno. Le pratiche di networking e la Rete come piattaforma produttiva e distributiva sfidano ancora i formati e le logiche del mondo dell’arte; e, nonostante i suoi cambiamenti, la Rete non ha ancora smesso di sorprendere: blockchain, browser alternativi, mesh network, bot e intelligenze artificiali, deep web, residui strutturali della vecchia Internet lasciano aperti degli spazi a un uso dal basso, radicale e corrosivo delle reti.

In Valentina Tanni, “Internet e gli artisti. L’opinione di 5 esperti”, Artribune, January 30, 2020.

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.

Gene McHugh

Quote

“Contemporary art, to my mind, is in the business of asking “what is contemporary art?”
If contemporary art were pressed to say “contemporary art exists in the digital network as much as it does outside of the digital network,” then contemporary art would all of the sudden be operating from radically different premises.
The “white cube” paradigm (as the site where contemporary art occurs) would be threatened from within.
The “where” of “where the art occurs” would be altered as the simulation of the physical work through (primarily) the Web archive would be understood to be art’s arena.
To my mind, work which successfully bridges the worlds of the digital computer network and contemporary art is work which, on some level, implicates contemporary art into this very network.
It’s not work about the digital computer network, it’s work about contemporary art’s own entanglement in the digital computer network.
And for contemporary art to acknowledge this, it would demand that contemporary art changes the way it sees itself.
As such, contemporary art wouldn’t be taking in an orphan, but a virus.
That’s a lot to ask, but, nonetheless, there’s an urge to start asking.”
In Post Internet, June 1st, 2010