Colleagues and friends Sarah Cook and Beryl Graham have just published Rethinking Curating: Art After New Media. I had the privilege of writing the Foreword for the book, and this is, in part, how I discuss their thesis.
“Graham and Cook strategically define so-called new media as a set of behaviors, not as a medium. Once you go down this road, it becomes readily apparent that a similar strategy is equally useful for much of contemporary art. At one time, the new media of photography both changed the aesthetic understanding of painting and participated in the creation of a cultural understanding of (fixed) time and representation. At another time, the new media of video changed the aesthetic understanding of film while participating with television in the creation of a cultural understanding of (real) time and distance. The art most recently known as “new media” changes our understanding of the behaviors of contemporary art precisely because of its participation in the creation of a cultural understanding of computational interactivity and networked participation. In other words, art is different after new media because of new media–not because new media is “next,” but because its behaviors are the behaviors of our technological times.”
It is perhaps wishful thinking that this book will end the eternal recurrence of the same set of questions about what is new media, but it is a huge step forward.
“In Rethinking Curating, the sheer depth and breadth of intelligent reflection among a dedicated, global group of loosely aligned peers belie every summative, simplistic question or statement one has heard or made. “How much does it cost?” “What’s new about it?” “Why is it art?” “What’s next?” “It’s about process.” “It’s computational.” “It crosses boundaries.” “It’s new.” These questions and statements are not “bad,” but in this book Beryl and Sarah give them the context they deserve–the context necessary to move on to the real-world questions and issues of working with dynamic and emerging contemporary art.”
Buy it. Read it. Enjoy it. Ask some new and different questions.
In a related vein, see also my essays Art After New Media and “Just Art”: Contemporary Art After the Art Formerly Known As New Media and the exhibition Sarah and I co-curated, The Art Formerly Known As New Media.