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.

My Picks on Progress

Based on my background being rooted in architectural design  I had to search the past for work that I have created dealing with this specific topic of progress.  An  interest of mine has always been surveillance and its implications to public space.  I was drawn to Hasan Elahi, TRACKING TRANSIENCE: A MONTH OF SUNDAYS and his self inflicted surveillance necessary in relieving the suspicion of the US government. 

This work resonated with an earlier project I developed for rural communities in need of support to sustain their existence.  I developed a proposal that would monitor the entire populations telephone activity.  Listing stations where then setup along the main road of the town allowing visitors to listen in on the population.  The self inflicted surveillance did not clear the town’s name but it intended to unmask the hidden uncertainty.

SYSTEM-77 CCR CONSORTIUM,,  a civilian run surveillance system in response to state run surveillance interested me since private surveillance typically is never used to defend civilians against the state.  In a New York City Lights Competition I had proposed that an open surveillance system of cameras be deployed at all intersections.  The network would be accessible to the public similar to a police radio scanner.  The public would be allowed to review live video, report crime both perpetrated by civilians and police.




Resonated art works

From writing, Feedforward.The Angel of History, the Feedforward exhibition had 5 major categories to present the artworks. Those are current aesthetics and symbolic language of media/ 20th centrury’s remains from war and conflict/ surveilance and repression to maintain control/ economic forces(outsourcing, migration)/ possibilities of reconstruction and agency. All categories has interesting point of view and various way to express their opinion via art. Since personal interest is interation between person to person or group to group, especially Stephanie Rothenberg’s and Jeff Crouse’s mixed reality installationInvisibleThreads(2008) looks slightly more interesting than other categories.

Invisible Thread(2008) indicates media language, economical and polotical issues as well as the other artworks have. The most interesting thing is that the virtual world’s products are transformed into our real living life space. The invisible but existing world has its own power to produce or make an exact form of reaction on the real-world.

Following links are also connected with  the invisible world’s action can affect on the real-life surroundings and shows it in a real-time way.


defeated by the internet

so, i spent most of last night writing a well thought out, and kind of funny, post about the fast forward show. when i clicked submit, i was greeted with this sadistic screen.

a moment of panic. surely it’s not gone, but it was gone. the entire blog was down until this morning. it was then i checked the draft folder, and with great relief saw that it had been automatically saved. well, half of the first sentence had been saved. so, it is with great sadness i now write this.

i chose trevor paglen and stella brennan.

here is trevor paglen on the colbert report and here he is at google’s hq. the video at google is an hour long, but pretty cool.

here is an interview stella brennan did for the 2008 liverpool biennial.

i’m very excited to talk about these things in class, but as of now, the internet is on my bad side. there’s also a good chance i’ll come in and edit this post as the words from last night filter back into my head. i wanted to put some links up in the meantime. i highly recommend looking more into paglen’s work if you have any interest in conspiracy theory regarding aliens/the government.


Response to Quaranta

I think the questions are relevant on a sliding scale in accordance with my art.  I come from a post-modern art background, not new media.  I am still fascinated with new media art, but what I want is to merge some of the new media art practices with my physical art making background.  I also believe that at this point it’s a bit silly to ask if there is a future of new media art.  There is a support system for this type of art, with places like Eyebeam in NY, fairs like the io Festival, and according to Quaranta, there is an “Intermedia” sector that “in the last fifteen years this has enabled numerous small institutions and organizations led by artists to thrive, producing and exhibiting works that would be unlikely to see the light of day elsewhere.”  New media art is here to stay.  This is a pretty big generalization, but I think the lack of creative research on the medium may be in part due to the lack of depth and conversely the celebration of technology that is evident in many new media pieces.  I think this is one of the recurring issues that new media is faced with, and I think it’s due to the complexities of learning the technology.  On the other hand, the technology is becoming more accessible for artists, and ten years ago I would have never thought I could understand how to code.  With the availability of open source software, and a solid community of people using these tools, I think it’s an exciting time for new media arts.  This is where Quaranta’s promoting of the medium will come from.  The people using the technology are at the base of advocating the medium, and there’s a large community at that base.  Finally, it isn’t necessary to insist on medium specificity.  I think it’s probably better not to insist on it.  As Catherine David says, “ideally the means of realizing the project should arise from the idea itself.”

I find the post-media idea intriguing, and I do think Quaranta is right to say that we will have a better understanding of John Currin’s paintings if we are familiar with today’s media.  That said, I’m not entirely sure how my work fits with these categories.  In part it is outside the categories.  But, while my content doesn’t relate to media, it uses technology that is a within the scope of new media.  It is a question I am still exploring, and a major reason I’m here, how to place my work within a contemporary culture?


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.

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These questions are most certainly relevant to my practice, albeit silly that the questions should even have to be asked to begin with. In many ways, the contemporary art world’s rejection of specifically “new media” work is parallel to the attitude of the Salon rejecting that work which failed as a part of academia – of what had become to be expected. Their next move was, famously, the Salon des Refusés; hosting there such works as Luncheon on the Grass and Whistler’s Girl in White. The tradition continues throughout art history of marginalized works being rejected, and eventually becoming institutionalized. Why should we believe now is any different in the meta-narrative of the contemporary art world? The author himself, specifically towards the beginning of the piece, seems skeptical for the art world to dive into a deeper knowledge of these new mediums that is necessary for a legitimate critical approach to the medium.

“Reducing it – or as is often the case seeing it reduce itself – to a niche in the contemporary art world, is not only unjust but also historically unfounded, and the same goes for considering it – or seeing it consider itself – an incubator for industrial research.”

That being said, basing a work completely around technology with no theoretical/intellectual backing is asking for the piece to be a flash in the pan – and often a dull one, at that. That is the case at this point in history for any medium, though. Given the progress of the concept in art over the past century, it feels a bit short sighted to lump work into the “media” or “new media” pile. As such, I feel all art now is, or should at least aim to be, “post-media”. We have evolved beyond painting for painting’s sake.

“New technologies are nothing other than new means to an end. Alone they are of significance; it always depends upon how they are applied. I am against naive faith in progress, glorification of the possibilities of technological developments. Much of what today’s artists produce with New Media is very boring. But I am just as opposed to the denunciation of technology. For me technology in itself is not a category according to which I judge works. This type of categorization is just as outmoded as division into classical art genres (painting, sculpture…). I am interested in the idea of a project; ideally the means of realizing the project should arise from the idea itself.”

My Taste

I really enjoyed Ben Rubin’s pieces, in particular the Listening Post: “I Am”.  What I enjoy most about this piece is it’s relationship to a physical realm.  I think the piece would stand on its own if it had been in a screen and nothing else.  However, when they created the installation, I was struck with the visceral physicality of the piece.  The scrolling phrases, the clicking of the relays, the way I imagine light of the the LEDs penetrates your vision and the consequential after burn of it’s image move the piece from and interesting concept into an immersive work of art.  And outside of the formal values, the piece is a type of artwork akin to the Turing test that examines a cultural notions of privacy and issues of identity.  It really feels like a plump work of art rich with subtlety and meaning.

I also thought the Double-Taker (Snout) was a brilliant piece.  It’s a simple and whimsical idea, and I love the movement involved.  I would eventually like to  have my work interact with people like this.

Then I really enjoyed Casey Reas‘ work.  When you’re making things, I think setting up rules can be very helpful to your process.  I like that from simple rules, Casey was able to build up and upon the structures of these creature like forms, creating an emergent art.  I think that the forms he’s creating have potential to be realized in three dimensions.  Not as literally as he showed int the wall sculptures that he has, but more as source material for sculpture.