august on Tue, 23 Sep 2003 15:26:42 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Don't Call it Art: Ars Electronica 2003

Just thinking about all this... and while I wasn't attending the Ars, I
think there are some weird looking clouds around this software art
discussion, which has obviously become a focus lately.  The following are
just some muddy thoughts and questions I have in my mind. 

First of all, something that had been addressed many times at this years
README festival, especially by the curators themselves, was that a certain
kind of drive hides behind this push towards software art.  Some may call
it an agenda.  Strangely enough the push is coming more from curators and
writers (most of which have no or little programming experience) rather
than from the practicing artists.  I don't know if this has classically
been the case with say dada, futurism, conceptualism or even modernism. 
But, Judd was writing his own critiques, wasn't he?  I didn't see a
history of art-categorism in Manovich's text.  Maybe that is part of the
larger context to which he is alluding? 

At README, one ongoing question was: are we discovering a new form of art
practice or inventing an audience for something that has always been?  I
don't think it's a question of whether software is or can be art or
whether software has cultural significance.  This I take as given.  I
believe most do nowadays.  But, maybe the question is whether art is soft? 
By that, I mean after a slow and consistent breakdown over the last 100
years of paintings on walls and sculptures on pedistals down to
installations in space and concepts at large, wouldn't it be relatively
easy (and maybe naive) to construct softer borders between categories of
art.  'New Media' was once called intermedia or integrated media, wasn't
it? Besides that, Sol Lewitt was making software art long ago, nay?

Another understanding at README seemed to be that software is becoming
more and more entrenched in our daily lives, and that it is quite
'natural' that this mixture of art and software should come about.

So, without commenting on the Ars, from a distance it looks as if it was
really aiming at situating both software and art in larger contexts.  With
CODE as its title, it _appears_ as if the Ars wanted to address art and
software and culture and society....and on and on., which would be a
positive step away from a software art label.  

Generally speaking, I think 'art AND x' says something completly different
than say 'art OF x' or 'x art' [substitute x with politics, activism,
telecommunications...etc].  The combinatorial function of AND is expansive
and open.  A discusion about software art should really be about software
AND art, with an emphasis on the AND.  All labels aside, I think it is. 

Under good lighting, the newish push towards 'software art' is not really
about making a category, which at first seems extremely precise and
limiting despite the numerous sub-categories, but finding new criteria for
reflexion on current artistic research.  So with much respect to those
writing and organizing festivals around this topic, to call it 'software
art' is IMHO generating a narrowing rhetoric which is equally
insignificant to artists and software makers who are quite _naturally_
doing both. 

And, now that has lost status, and no one really cares anymore if
it is art on the net or in the net, some may [at least partially] opt to
drop the excess baggage and suspicious categories and "...not Call it Art"


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