The article, Art of the Paradox, in this week’s New Scientist (NS), is relevant to the work I’ve been looking at recently. It reports Transmediale, a festival in Berlin which I mentioned when posting TPG’s article about Heather Dewey-Hagborg. I am not, however, entirely sure what the writer is saying in NS. He seems to be arguing throughout digital art is almost futile and self-defeating due to being the same thing it is critiquing. A host of problems, in Ing’s mind, arise. Perhaps whatever he finds worrying about the art is in fact what is so troubling about human beings.
He says “Internet art hardly ever get’s finished. There is always more to sort, a virtual infinitude of rabbit holes to hurl yourself down, and very little that is genuinely new has had a chance to emerge”. Firstly, I would suggest this is a reality for people growing up and existing in a world heavily shaped by our interactions with the internet and digital life. So if this lack of finding closure is a problem for the art, it is also a problem for the world. Or, it isn’t – merely a new way of being. “Nothing ages on the internet; nothing dies. Nothing is ever resolved”, says Ings. This new reality where nothing ends is a significant and substantive shift and society will need time to come to terms with it. Art which reflects it is one way of doing so. And technology didn’t start that trend. It was being spoken about at least throughout last century. See Barthes’ Death of An Author, and the end of the fixed, closed sign, of Author-gods.
“…the world of media art has suffered the same fate that has befallen the rest of the internet-enabled planet. The very technology that promised us the world on a screen has been steadily filtering out the challenges and contrary opinions that made our interests and ideas so vital in the first place, leaving us living in an echo chamber.” Anyone believing those promises was perhaps more than a little naive. Ings communicates a pessimistic view, and we as a society will find ways to address these issues and we will often fail to tackle them and then try again as we always have done. We will, of course, get over our early pioneering childlike awe before becoming overawed and naive about the next revolution. We may wreck quite a lot of our world in the process but existence is far greater than our own lifetimes. We may even be on a backward-heading social path for now, in many areas. But we will continue to explore and learn about this deeply embedded need to identify our tribe, to recognise others who are the same as us – to find echo-chambers. This human trait is not new, it is merely supported by how the internet operates, and so highlights it, and makes us see it more clearly. Which is a good thing, as we can then explore it; and even try to address it? As I mentioned last week developers seem to understand they need to be writing programmes which will combat lack of empathy, cognitive bias etc.
Of course, the art is ‘strange, hard to explain – and a work in progress’. How could it not be? That is its job. Reflecting and discussing significant shifts in society due to technology’s presence. Why would the art NOT be very odd indeed? The world is super strange, hard to explain and a work in progress. To think of it in any other way, however, seems even stranger.
In the end, the article is a very useful resource with summarised details about some of the artists involved with Transmediale, but I’m not sure it says anything terribly helpful in terms of critique.