We live in an incredibly exciting time for art – art is disseminated with incredible ease, is shared, is contributed to, is reused and remixed endlessly.
One element of this vast area of contemporary art, particularly new media art, which I find particularly interesting is the ever increasing importance of group collaboration. As was claimed in the documentary The Future of Art ‘the idea of the great man is disintegrating’. In other words the lone genius creating incredible works is slowly being usurped by works utilising the combined input of a great range of people, reusing and contributing to others’ work. ‘Many hands make light work’ seems to be trumping ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’. The combined existence of those two sayings has always been troubling for me.
The final product is rarely the final product. You can never know what may become of your artwork. In some ways, this may make the final product perhaps less sacred as that level of untouchability is removed. The final product can be bastardised. It can also be beautified. I am going to focus on the beautification. Rather than blabber on, here are a couple of examples of works that have been remixed and reused to create something beautiful, amusing and touching.
Firstly, as was discussed in class, is Mass Ornament, a video installation by Natalie Bookchin that raises several issues of what constitutes art.
Bookchin collated and choreographed several hundred YouTube home-made dancing videos. The result, as you can see above, is quite stunning, capturing the very sameness of all these people dispersed around the world.
Are the dancing videos posted up on YouTube art? Or do they become art only when merged and combined by Bookchin? Could Bookchin’s artwork have existed without these dancers? Clearly no.
Both elements, the YouTube dancers and Bookchin, require each other in order to create this ultimately quite beautiful artwork and it is the contribution by all parties that creates the beauty and meaning in the work.
And now for something completely different, the website Learning to Love You More, which generally employed old media but used new media to draw on crowd collaboration and input. Now the website exists only as an archive but from 2002-2009 it was an active, ever-changing example of collaborative artwork.
Briefly, Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher would set an assignment for the general public each week and the general public, or whichever part of it happened to be paying attention, would respond by completing her task and posting the results on the website.
Examples of assignments included asking a neighbour to sing or play and instrument and recording the performance; climbing to the top of a tree in your town and taking a picture; making an encouraging banner. The beauty of this website was the simplicity and generality of the commands which acted as a guide and allowed for a wide variety of responses from participants worldwide. Interesting, Learning to Love You More, like Mass Ornament, showcased the amateur. This focus on the amateur is a defining feature of new media art.
In both of these works, the lone genius acts as curator rather than as content-maker. It is the combined collaborative effort that creates the meaning, empathy and beauty in the art.
Shalom, Gabriel (2011) The Future of Art Transmediale, http://www.emergence.cc/ 2011/02/the-future-of-art/