by tom moodyComments Off on BitStreams--Unpopular After the Fact?
More on the perceived unpopularity of the Whitney's "BitStreams" exhibit when it was in fact fairly popular with the public and press.
Partly it was the fallout from the dotcom bust.
I was saving clippings when I wrote my Art Papersarticle on the museum computer shows in '01.
Deborah Solomon glowingly profiled "BitStreams" co-curator Lawrence Rinder for the NY Times--"Tastemaker, New in Town, Dives into Cauldron"--while the show was up. "BitStreams" was actually three exhibits--the internet art part called "Data Dynamics," curated by Christiane Paul, and "BitStreams," curated by Rinder (visual art) and Debra Singer (sound art).
Jeremy Blake received accolades for his Whitney installations in articles such as "Bit by Bit, the Digital Age Comes Into Artistic Focus" by Jeffrey Kastner, also in the Times.
Tim Griffin wrote a Time Out think piece asking which museum would be "the first to mount the defining exhibition on digital art?" right after SFMOMA's "010101" opened and prior to the launch of "BitStreams."
After a fusillade of hype, it started to be clear that tech stocks were tanking and NY's bubble economy wasn't coming back.
Some of my clippings from the same period have captions such as "Joe Blow, 30, the former art director for pseudo.com, owns 290,000 stock options that are now worth nothing. He is unemployed."
Interest in, and hype for, digital art, nosedived around this time. I believe this is one reason the shows are remembered badly. Another is that the sudden precipitous drop in interest provided breathing space to actually evaluate the merits of the exhibits, and they came out the poorer for it.
by tom moodyComments Off on Paddy Johnson on Unmonumental Online
In Paddy Johnson's review of the "Unmonumental Online" show at the New Museum, she refers to the Whitney's 2001 computer art show "BitStreams" as "disastrous" and casting a long shadow over subsequent attempts to show net art or computer art in museums. She doesn't say why that is so or why the NewMu show is an improvement.
Johnson implies that "BitStreams" was not popular (by lumping it in with MOMA's largely undiscussed "Automatic Update" show). It was very popular, attendance-wise, and got barrels of press ink. That's one of the reasons it was disastrous. People saw curator Lawrence Rinder's largely bad taste on display and thought "so that is the art that is made with computers." I wrote about it here and won't go into it again. The show was heavy on bells and whistles, Exploratorium-style art, the most elementary things that could be done with Photoshop, and the usual workstations no one wants to stand at.
Since that time social networking sites have dominated the Web and a fair amount of exchange and cross-pollination has happened with art online. The NewMu show at least acknowledges this with pages lifted from YouTube, LiveJournal, etc. and artists working in the media of blogs and browser-friendly file formats. "BitStreams" was dominated by a group of artists who came to prominence in the dot com, Net Art 1.0 era; "Unmonumental Online" is dominated by a group who came to prominence in the post-dot com, Net Art 2.0 era. More could be written about these two periods and how the shows reflected the strengths and weaknesses of each.
To rub in this sentimental view of the rich and powerful as spiritually barren—cigars, mansions, private bowling alleys, and yet they cannot love!—Plainview has to acquire and reject some family members. He gets hold of an adopted son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier). At first he does seem to love the kid with an almost creepy fervor. There’s this scene where they’re both on the floor after the boy is deafened by an explosion, and Plainview is sort of pawing and mauling the kid’s head while the kid goes "Mrrrraaawww!!” I’m not quite sure what that was, other than the only preparation the audience is going to get for Plainview baying "Draaaaiiiiinnnnagggge!!" later in the film. Incoherent yelling’s a sort of motif in this movie.
Jones has great fun quoting critics on the movie's greatness: Roger Ebert calls it a "force beyond categories." Where one might differ with her is whether all the weirdness in the film is a bug or feature--evidently she wants her rapacious capitalists and religious zealots played more sensibly.