Aesthetics of the mundane

The two artists I chose, although very different, draw on the aesthetics of the mundane as a humanizing gesture.   In this survielled, globalized, corperatized society – small things, even mass produced items, are signs that we are still human in the midst of these objectifying technologies.  Mass produced items are no longer a source of anonymity and consumerism, but in the context of contemporary society,  they are this things that distinguish us.  We cling to them, because there is a larger, technological, big brother architecture, with its own aesthetics, which we may now contrast (with some nostalgia), with aesthetics of a previous era.

Hasan Elahi is an artist who unexpectedly found himself on the terrorist watch list.  He responded by making work while her survielled himself, so that his activities and whereabouts were accessible to the authorities .  This work uses various media, but primarily photography, to document his own surveillance.  This documentation tends to revolve around mundane things, as to highlight the absurdity of constant surveillance.

Nancy Davenport is an artist who uses photography and installation to explore and critique peoples relationship to intuitions.  He work relies heavily on institutional aesthetics and architecture, and how it interacts with the population it serves.


When first reading Quaranta’s introduction to the excerpt of his book, I was immediately turned off by his stated purpose,

“to analyze the current positioning of so-called “New Media Art” in the wider field of contemporary arts, and to explore the historical, sociological and conceptual reasons for its marginal position and under-recognition in recent art history.”

I associated these concerns with all-to-frequent whine-fests which tends to bubble up when a particular movement of artists are reflecting on their ”status,” is the contemporary art world (i.e. Chicago artists who resent New York, craft artists who resent fine art, realist painters who resent abstractions ect . et. al.).

However, as I read the entire text, I think Quaranta is spot on in his proposal of how a media specific artist (which is every artist) might operate without ghettoizing themselves in the context of the material that they work with. The problem he is primarily concerned with is New Media Art ‘s survival in the contemporary art world, and how it might manifest.  What he suggests is at New Media Art must exists as a medium specific practice, but without necessarily medium specific concerns.  Although it seems a contradiction of terms, I would argue that this is exactly how an artist, or any discipline, would make work that is relevant within the context of contemporary art.   He prescribes the following program for New Media Arts:

“It needs to cultivate hybridization between different arenas and figures. It needs to recognize and proudly accept the entrance of some of the fruits of its labours into the contemporary art world, and not condemn this as a deplorable surrender to market pressures. It needs to recognize the cultural necessity of the practices it cultivates. And, like every other art world, it needs to take a look outside of itself, because only an unprejudiced dialogue with contemporary art can stop it from becoming fossilized as an ingenuous “exaltation of the medium,” as has happened all too often in recent years. “

I agree with Quaranta that it is necessary to embrace the specificity of the medium while simultaneously “looking outside itself,” to a wider dialogue of engagement.  The “unprejudiced dialogue” he describes is the often missing link between medium specific art, and the contemporary art world.  In this case the onus is on the artists to cultivate a wider context for their work and extend their work beyond the formats that cater to their mode of production.

Although this presents a challenge, Quaranta presents an optimistic perspective on the New Media Artist’s potential to be command the cultural conversation.  The article implies that artist who is versed in the language, imagery, and techniques of technology is poised to address contemporary concerns as they relate to the post-media condition.  This seems to be a natural position for the New Media Artist since it was technological innovation (printing, photography, films, video, computing, the internet ect.) that ultimately revolutionized the methods of making, documenting, and distributing artwork.

Besides some strange references at the beginning (Duchampland? Living Leather?) I find Quarant’s perspective is both refreshing and practical in the context of my own practice. It is useful to both understand the position and history of New Media Art and identify how one might use it to function within the context of contemporary art, rather be excluded because of it.

Zach Lieberman and Kyle McDonald: Pragmatic and Playful

Looking thought the artists of the EyeO festival I was drawn to Zach Lieberman  and Klye McDonald’s pragmatic approach to technology.  Lieberman uses familiar technology such as  magic tricks, overhead projectors, and cars, along with software, to creates pieces with enhance the everyday.  His approach is playful and although he had incredible technical skill in a highly seductive medium, he is able to show restraint with his coding skills creating work which forgoes the spectacle (kind of) and instead creates simple gestures.

The process used to create IQ Font was particularly excited, because rather than digitally generating a font based on a car, Lieberman actually used data from a car (piloted by a professional driver) to generate the letters.  He also helped completely a paralyzed man write with his eyes with the Eyewriter device he created. . . . watch the video and cry yourself to sleep.

Kyle McDonald creates work that takes a  humorous look at technology.  He tends to use technology in absurd or overly simplistic ways to generate sound, images and content.  The following pieces use take on their subject matter though the use of scale.

One hundred $.01 Grants: a project funded by One Hundred $1 Grants from ASDF.

Only Everything Lasts Forever: A generation of every sounds that can be heard, the entire composition is approximately 10450 years long.

KeyTweeter: A year long performance where McDonald wrote a program to tweet every word that he typed.