Lennaart van Oldenborgh on Sun, 16 Mar 97 22:36 MET

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nettime: Net Art, Schmet art

Net Art, Schmet art

Whatever you call it, it tends to be useful to create 'constuencies' for
emerging arts.  It happens in any medium, and it is only a matter of time
before 'exciting artists' are crystallized into recognizable form.  'Video
Art' as a circuit onto itself may be fairly discredited by now, but it has
served as a breeding ground for some of the most credited artists of our
time; in the 1992 Documenta (right in the middle of video's alleged
'absence' form the artscene) the works by Bill Viola and Gary Hill were
among the most-talked-about, and both artists emerged from the now
marginalised 'festival circuit'.  Surely a large percentage of works in the
video festivals seem hardly worth a look, but the same can be said of the
majority of more object-based 'special interest' group shows scattered over
the 'alternative spaces' of the western world (for example, there has been
a re-emergence of 'painting-only' or 'works-on-paper' theme shows).

As for 'ex-video-artists' like myself and David Garcia, most have either
moved on to 'newer media', or have got wise to the fact that in the
established art world it doesn't matter so much where you come from (since
the ice for video has been broken, so to say), as long as you get yourself
written about in flashy art magazines.  And as far as the quick and dirty
approach is concerned, this is as much a legacy of the grungey, streetwise
approach of the Young British Artists (who, as legend has it, never had the
money to use anything but recycled material as a result of Thatherite
economics) as of any 1970's precedent (by the way, Matthew Barney makes a
poor example of this approach; his big-time special effects for Cremaster-4
owes more to Hollywood than to Ulay/Abramovic).  Another way the Y.B.A. has
broken some ice for video is that it is now becoming acceptable to charge
large sums of money for 'limited edition' video works by hot artists, a
concept that somehow never took off before... See, the Artworld still ticks
on the sale of precious objects, and preciousness in this case (well, in
almost any case) hinges on exclusivity.

As a means of survival for technologically-minded artists the video-art
circuit has probably served its time, but I can imagine the same is not
true for a net-art circuit.  Even if most big art institutions seem eager
to jump on the new media bandwagon, I don't know of any that has managed to
put up a credible format for showing net-based work (which would, in a
sense, be a useless exercise since the net provides the format).  With the
knowledge of the net still relatively rarefied, the gulf of
misunderstanding between 'techie' net-artists and 'traditional' art
institutions is bound to persist for some time.  In the mean time I
wouldn't mind some self-proclaimed net-artists developing some standards
and driving some of the low-res online art-cataloguing (which 99 percent of
'art on the net' seems to amount to - including, I confess, my
long-ago-aborted attempt on desk.nl) off the web.

Lennaart van Oldenborgh

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