...Yesterday's agenda was very dense and tightly woven. I'm hoping for a little more unravelling today (and judging by the fact that Jon Ippolito has just played us a video of a Monty Python skit, I think we're in luck). Thursday afternoon's panel on Methodologies, chaired by Mark Hansen and Erkki Huhtamo seems to have been provocative and 'difficult' (in a good way) for the attendees. Mark talked about how new media is a break with art history in three important ways, in that it suggests:
1) the dissolution of the autonomy of the art object;
2) the shift from object-centered aesthethics to body-based reception aesthetics;
3) a break with the philosophical vocation of art - 'to give sensible presentation of the idea' (Hegel);
In regards the first point Mark critiqued the work of Rosalind Krauss and her writing of art history, namely her emphasis on a post-medium aesthetic. He argued that her answer to the challenges that new media art present to art history is to differentiate physicality from conventionality. He pointed out that Krauss focuses on artists who reinvent mediums in their practice (keeping in mind that mediums can be reinvented only when they have already become obsolete). I'm paraphrasing (and you can read his talk abstract here), but Mark argued that if you follow Krauss then so long as the work is new, the space separating its physicality from its status as a set of conventions remains invisible or inscrutable (naturalised). The implication of her approach being that what we call new media will become obsolete and then artists will come in and make work with it, which will then be called art. (Here, for the Art Formerly Known As New Media!) Mark rightly pointed out (and unfortunately due to the impending end of lunch there wasn't time for further discussion - which given the other panelists presentations is one of the reasons the afternoon was so dense/difficult), that the problems with this is that it prevents an art history of the present. Instead of following Krauss' lead Mark presented alternative examples of works of art where the embodied response of the viewer is disrupted or disjuncted (not a word I know, but you know what I mean), such as Douglas Gordon's 24-hour Psycho, arguing that that the differentiation between physicality and conventionality in many works of new media is less significant than the fact that the viewer's response is creative source of work's content (and not a condition of the work's medium). I found myself wondering (yet again) if it was indeed curators who were, through their practical work and not necessarily their theoretical work, the art historians of the present.