Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Postproduction Mantra

Yes, as per my last post on, among other things, postproduction (PP), and how a lot of contemporary artists are breaking out of the tradition of creating objects-as-objects per se, Bourriaud's small book (94 pages) on Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay, performs the vital task of seeding a more elaborate, future book that will take into account many of the issues he brings up and that I have introduced in different contexts in prior blog posts. Some sample themes from Postproduction:
  1. postproduction, the modus operandi of many contemporary artists, begins with Duchamp
  2. "Throughout the Eighties, the democratization of computers and the appearance of sampling allowed for the emergence of a new cultural configuration, whose emblematic figures are the programmer and DJ"
  3. in addition to Duchamp, the practice of postproduction is indebted to the detournement practiced by the Situationists and their offspring, not to mention the Lettrists who came before them
  4. PP artists "reedit historical or ideological narratives, inserting the elements that compose them into alternative scenarios"
  5. PP artists reenvision the exhibition space as "a space of cohabitation, an open stage somewhere between decor, film set, and information center"
I mention these particular idea-samples above, all from Bourriaud's small book, to give a flavor of what his interests are and how he writes about them. The first three samples are by now a given for most of us who have been practicing PP art for a long time. The fourth sample, about PP artists reediting "historical or ideological narratives, inserting the elements that compose them into alternative scenarios," relates both to some PP art but more importantly to Youtube-Flash culture and the netroots scene that uses these distribution and animation technologies to spin a different tale about contemporary politics and current events. The last sample, it seems to me, is somewhat limited and needs to take into account the potential of net-influenced art to radically sever itself from the profit-driven exhibition contexts of the PP art Bourriaud celebrates, especially when viewed in relation to the over ten years of explosive development of new art forms on the web, in club spaces, at new media festivals, etc.

In this post, I wrote about some of the more contemporary trends in media art (post)production that reposition the PP artists of today as cultural figures not necessarily as attached to the idea of "playing the art world game" as those artists Bourriaud champions in his book. These trends would include but not be limited to:
  • an explosion of hybridized art forms emerging out of interdisciplinary media arts practices (iMAP)

  • more contemporary artists using new media technologies to both compose their art work as well as display it

  • lively remix culture reassessing what is and is not potential "source material" and chops-driven coopetive environment spurring on debate on how to manipulate said "source material" (and possibly repurpose or "version" it) for a wide array of media genres and platforms

  • the emergence of digitally constructed identities, fictional personas, meta-histories, narrative mythologies, and collaborative networks (both anonymous and pseudonymous) as strategic aspects of naming / performing the Artist-Medium as a proprioceptive Body-Instrument investigating ways to convert somatic-sensory experience into a more aesthetically-inclined Life Style Practice

  • openmindedness to alternative distribution schemes to locate audiences (festivals, Internet, club spaces, indie DVD labels, etc. in relation to and combination with traditional venues such as museums, galleries, print publications, and recital/dance halls) and art-research investigations into future models of "audience reception"
Toward the end of Bourriaud's book (page 93), he claims that "[t]o rewrite modernity is the historical task of this early twenty-first century: not to start at zero or find oneself encumbered by the storefront of history, but to inventory and select, to use and download." And yet, don't bother searching the book for any discussion of, say, database cinema, generative art, or data visualization art. You won't find it. One would be disappointed if they expected to find in this book that champions the DJ-Programmer any serious discussions of real DJs who actually identify themselves as conceptual artists. Like I say, Bourriaud's book is still somehow bound by the "industry ideology" of the commercial gallery system and the successful artists it employs. The net art we tend to discuss on this blog is nowhere to be found in Postproduction. But this means that there is an opportunity to use some of the ideas discussed in Postproduction in a more elaborate and contemporary sense, especially in relation to the work of many net artists or someone like DJ Spooky not to mention any number of VJs who are blurring the boundaries between art and life.

Although my forthcoming META/DATA: A Digital Poetics (in the warehouse and ready for shipping April 16th), does not survey the net art and VJ scene as a curator or art historian might, it does signal one attempt by a practicing artist and writer to lay down a parallel poetics focused on what it means to be actively engaged in network culture as a postproduction artist exploring issues of persona, medium, body, instrument, and spontaneity.

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