El Fin

About 3 and a half months ago, at the beginning of this blog, I begged the question as to whether or not we are blinded by new media. Several readings, discussions, projects, and theories later, I have a better idea and an answer to satisfy me, but maybe not everyone.

So, my conclusion? I think yes, in a way new media blinds us, as a society, just as much as we are by any cultural phenomenon at any point in time. Societies are defined by its industries, inventions, fads, styles, etc. New media, to an extent, fits into these categories. I think new media blinds society because it is what is new, interesting, and progressive in terms of science and technology.

But I think the word “blinded” needs to be used with caution. Blinded may seem to have a negative connotation, yet this isn’t necessarily the case with new media. I think that as long as society can grasp a reality outside of media filters, new media can be a beneficial thing, both in terms of communication and artwork. The key is that one must still be able to recognize a reality apart from technology that can filter your perception of reality.

Throughout the course, I have become very interested both in this question of the goodness or harmfulness of new media, and also over the artistic practices that new media allows.

In one of our first readings, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin explores what mechanical reproduction meant in terms of the original piece of art and if it detracted from the authenticity of the “real thing.”

And, though different from what I originally decided, I don’t feel that mechanical reproduction takes away from the aura because it is so different and can be manipulated and reused in many unique ways. Some Dadaism, for example, took existing pieces of art (Marcel Duchamp, anyone?) and reinvented it. And the meaning became something new, apart from the meaning the “same” original piece had in the museum.

But new media extends beyond these boundaries of mechanical reproduction, copies of copies, clones, and all of the other theoretical talk.

As Nicolas Bourriaud pointed out (and this is one of the things I found most intriguing this semester) is that social exchanges can be considered an art form. This, I think, is one of the most progressive ideas of new media. The internet, rather than taking away from classic art, has instead added an entire new art form, whether it be online interactive pieces or social exchanges on Twitter.

In addition to relational aesthetics, and partly related, tactical media also exploits the social factor that can be absolutely crucial to artwork. One of my favorite pieces I looked at this semester was the pile of candy in a corner of a museum. Seemingly so simple, the idea is brilliant. It begs not only the question of what people consider art, but also how they will treat any object in a museum.

I also am very interested by Krzysztof Wodiczko. I think the power of placing a film of “strangers” in the public sphere, and especially projecting onto buildings with meanings directly related to it, is unprecedented. I love the idea behind forcing the public to look at something, even if they don’t want to call attention to an issue themselves. People are affected by what they see, and I think tactical media is a real progress towards discussion prompted by artwork.

So, a bit longwinded, but there are my final ideas on the class, my favorite ideas, and in a cheesy way, what I learned and can take with me in all other endeavors.

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Ramen Noodle Project

It’s in public but is it for public use?…to what degree is an object considered “art”?

We took our inspiration from the tactical media experiment of piling of candy in a museum. But this time, there was no candy and no museum. Just a sculpture of Ramen noodles outside the Undergraduate Library. And really, on a college campus, a pile of Ramen noodles makes sense. College kids eat this cheap, high-in-sodium meal all the time.

But could we make them see Ramen noodles as something other than food? How would they react if the Ramen noodles were stacked in an aesthetically pleasing way with a “Do Not Touch” sign placed in front of them?  What if there was no sign? Then would people take the unattended food?

As much as it was a social experiment, this was also an experiment in art. How do people regard art and treat it differently than, say, a pile of food? People have certain notions about art that sometimes causes them to feel that it is “sacred” and not allowed to be touched or tampered with. In this tactical media project, we desired to see how people reacted towards the sculpture—as art or as food, or both?

Originally, we wanted to use candy but were influenced to discard this idea when met with a high price for a measly quantity. Ramen noodles were economical and the amount we purchased was substantial enough for visual purposes. We arranged the packets in a pyramid underneath the awning of the UL in the wee hours of the morning. We planned to film the area throughout the day to record the ways in which people reacted to and interacted with a pile of “off-limits” food.

Though we didn’t catch it, someone rearranged our sculpture during the day, but left the “Do Not Touch” sign on it. Yet when we recounted the Ramen noodles, some were missing. It was interesting that even though some were missing, the person who rearranged the noodles kept the sculpture aesthetically pleasing. For the whole time we recorded, we heard murmurs about how people wanted to take them and saw people circling it, but never actually saw anyone take them.

By placing the “Do Not Touch” sign in front of the Ramen noodles, we recreated the austerity of a museum in a way. A museum automatically has the “Do Not Touch” aura. The Ramen noodles, without a sign, may not have indicated the same. Indeed, if someone were there handing out the Ramen noodles, they would have been gone in a flash.  And once one person takes the Ramen, then it seems that everyone else does. When we left, we both took a pack and then heard the people behind us ask each other, “You want some Ramen?”

Why the difference?  Well, that’s up to you to decide.

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Sweatshop

Because I have been trying to decide what to do for my tactical media project, I have been spending far too much time looking at what other people have done. During my internet perusal, I stumbled across these hilarious letters exchanged between a former MIT graduate student, Jonah Peretti, and Nike.

These letters, where Peretti (pseudo) politely asks the anonymous Nike iD employee to monogram sweatshop onto his tennis shoes is not only funny but also has great social commentary. This social commentary is done through just a few emails, yet the effect is extraordinarily powerful. I feel that a message doesn’t have to be elaborate for it to be effective. Sometimes the most simple things, such as an exchange of a couple emails is effective enough to demonstrate a certain critical message.

I also find the anonymity of the Nike iD responder just as important to the social commentary as Peretti’s emails to the person. This anonymity further compacts Peretti’s point that Nike is such a corporate and monopolized organization that takes advantage of cheap labor in order to make themselves have a greater net worth.

Lastly, what I find especially interesting about this piece of tactical media was its use of electronic communication to create a viral effect. This email was spread little by little by forwarded emails until it became one of the most-viewed emails on the web. This speaks to the power of electronic media and its ability to communicate quickly and effectively, in all parts of the world. In fact, Peretti was highly aware of this fact and has since made quite a bit of money exploiting the power of the internet – for example, he is one of the founders of Huffington Post.

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The YES! Men

Since we are beginning a new section on tactical media, I thought I would examine on of the more famous artist duos that take on this approach. The YES! Men essentially exploit problematic social issues by impersonating famous politicians, big corporations, etc.

Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, the YES! Men, originally created a fake website to spoof the World Trade Organization. Since then, they have gone on to create 2 movies that take a satirical and shocking approach as they impersonate powerful entities.

Many people have heard of the YES! Men, as the work has become so famous, but I had not until recently. I think their work is very interesting and powerful. It raises the question how important it is for art to be in the public sphere.

I personally think it is very important and that tactical media raises attention to social issues that people may otherwise try to ignore in everyday life. This kind of intervention places the issues directly in the the public’s “face” and doesn’t allow them to ignore it.

I like that the YES! Men create very similar websites to ones created by other politicians, so that people may accidentally stumble upon them while searching for the right one. It’s a brilliant move and it’s this kind of art that will truly force the public to reevaluate their stances.

What do you think?

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Why Was I Not In New York For This?

Ok, so this just screams new media. And awesome. All at once.

YouTube Play, an event organized by the Guggenheim, YouTube, and HP, happened on Thursday night. This biennial event features the top videos selected and plays them both on the interior and facade of the Guggenheim rotunda. And if you couldn’t make it, they posted a live stream of the event on the media as well.

I don’t really think it can get much more “new media-y” than this. There are several reasons I find this exhibit interesting. Firstly, this event featured a plethora of videos, meaning that artists who may never have been featured in the museum had the opportunity to be because of this mass-showing of videos. Secondly, I really think this illuminates how new media has allowed for the new art form of short, creative videos and it is very important that Guggenheim does an exhibit on emerging art.

The event was also hosted through a live stream, demonstrating how the internet truly allows for art to be brought into homes with the click of a button. And even more curiously, the event that was streaming YouTube videos from the internet was then reposted to the internet. This, to me, shows the incredibly cyclical nature of electronic media.

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Relational Aesthetics

In short, relational aesthetics sparked my curiosity.  Relational Aesthetics by Nicolas Bourriaud examines artistic projects that seek to engage the public audience by requiring some sort of interaction or reaction in the public sphere. The notion of using art to create social interactions was fascinating to me, and seemed much like a psychological experiment.

So I looked more into artists who helped to revolutionize the movement of relational aesthetics in the 1990s. From placing candy in piles on a museum floor to paying heroine addicts to get high in a formal setting, these artists did it all. And for what? To simply create a social interaction among people. But this idea is profound. In a world of lessening personal social interaction due to exactly what should enhance it-social media- I believe exhibits like this serve the important purpose of re-centering focus on the shared human experience.

Gabriel Orozco was mentioned in Bourriaud’s essay, a man who helped to pioneer relational aesthetics. One of Orozco’s first endeavors into relational aesthetics was his exhibition entitled La D.S. In this worked, Orozco sliced a silver Citroen DS into three pieces lengthwise, and the middle section was removed. It formed an arrow-like car that visitors were allowed to sit in, open the doors, touch, etc. The car was not made to be driven, but rather to be a force of social response. In such a formal setting, it seems unusual that visitors would be allowed to touch the car and mess up “sacred” art.

Thus, the idea of relational aesthetics not only provides a vehicle (pun) for social interaction, but also challenges society to rethink about their notions of art. This can be very hard to do, as a white-walled gallery often dominates the minds of many people when they think about art. Relational aesthetics throws this idea away and invites the visitor to come touch, see, feel, participate.

 

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Endless Sea of Checkerboards

There is definitely a theme within new electronic media, and I think part of this theme is to create simple designs out of computers that have the ability to be infinitely complex. Sure, there are some works that require much programming and technological skills, yet other projects are very basic in design.

This week on rhizome.org, the posting about Plateau (2010) by Tabor Robak serves to illustrate exactly what I mean by simplicity in some new media works. Plateau is a very simple design, as the upper half is completely white and the bottom half consists of repeating gray and white checkers – creating the illusion of..wait for it..a plateau. There is some depth perception and the checkers seem to be disappearing, but beyond that, the work is very plain and simple.

Really, I’m not sure the why the artist chose to do this, but to me, as I said earlier, maybe it has to do with the infinite complexity of computers now. Maybe because they are so complex artists choose to find solace in simple designs that provide a social commentary that art can be created from simplicity.

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