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.