May 23, 2009

There is much to say about the AIC Annual Meeting in LA this past week, but I am prevented by time and personal travel to make many timely comments.  I do however wish to leave one, perhaps inflammatory, remark here in the hopes that I will have some interesting reading upon my return.  Particularly from Richard, whom I had the pleasure of seeing just about everywhere in LA and meeting all too briefly.

I spent a significant portion of the the meeting listening to the presentations of the Electronic Media Group and their descriptions of aging, obsolete, and difficult to replace hardware.  Let me point out here that while I may be a Philistine, I have not yet fully convinced myself of the following point: if the essence of a work of art is in its conceptual presence, why do we expend so much time and energy preserving the physical representation of media art?  Why not just replace CRTs with LEDs?

I recognize that for some (many?) pieces the artist purposefully chose the hardware to convey their work because it adds to the essence of the work, in others however the hardware is simply a vehicle to present a concept.  In these cases, is the precise physical manifestation anymore important to the work of art than the frame of a painting or the binding of a book?  Certainly, the physical presentation impacts how we view and interpret a work, but it is secondary to the actual art.  By insisting that we present media art works with vintage hardware, aren’t we relegating the work to our own, specific interpretation and understanding while positioning the work within a specific era, rather than allowing it to take on more universal meanings?  If I may extend one more metaphor, by demanding vintage presentations, we are transforming media works  into the Barnes Foundation or the Gardener Museum (or our grandmother’s home), important, beautiful, and frozen in time, rather than allowing them to be vital and continually challenging like the MoMA or the Guggenheim?

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