New Media vs Artists with Computers

This post on William Eggleston a few years ago discussed the difference between two movements, "art photography" and "artists with cameras":

[Jim] Lewis' phrase "new art photographers" glosses over a not-so-old schism in the world of Museum-collected photography, between "art photography" and what might roughly be called "artists with cameras," a distinction outlined in Abigail Solomon-Godeau's famous essay "Photography after Art Photography." Almost exclusively shot in black and white and practiced by the likes of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Lee Friedlander, art photography was firmly ensconced in the museum in the '60s and '70s under the stewardship of MOMA curator John Szarkowski; it emphasized darkroom practice and objective standards of quality in photos.

The "conceptual photography" of [Richard] Prince, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, and others, however, emerged from the world of painting, sculpture, and video. These artists used photos to document a performance, advance a theory, or critique the mass media, and didn't much give a damn about photographic values (including the old prohibition on color). In addition to this generation change in America, developments in European contemporary art gradually came to light in the late '70s: Gilbert & George, for example, used vivid colors in their photopastiches at least as early as 1975, and the conceptualist Jan Dibbets had no qualms about color in his images of tilted landscapes and car hoods. And finally, as Lewis mentions, color printing technology was vastly improving during this period.

Thus, while Szarkowski may have taken a big leap vis a vis older art photographers by giving Eggleston a one-person museum exhibit in '76, other trends were fast making that radicality a non-issue. The Europeans and young Americans weren’t invited into the tea circle of art photography because William Eggleston opened the door: instead, they found their own critical advocates, and after a few years of publicity and sales, they simply took over the show--and color came along with them.

The same types of distinctions could be made between "new media" artists and what could be called "artists with computers." The latter care about their laptops as much as Cindy Sherman cared about her camera. Necessary mechanical skills can be learned but the habits accompanying those skills need to be unlearned. Also, artists may not always and at all times be "with computers"--it's a tool to be picked up and put down as needed.

New media suggests a respect for hardware & software and belief in their newness, something artists with computers don't care about. New media involves a finicky devotion to programming and process, whereas artists with computers are bulls in the Apple Shop. New media artists tend to germinate in design or media arts programs whereas artists with computers incline to studio arts backgrounds or autodidacticism. has traditionally been a bastion of new media whereas Paddy Johnson's blog (particularly last summer's IMG MGMT series) has provided a platform for artists with computers. (She may not appreciate being lumped into this diatribe.) Lastly, new media artists define themselves in relation to Lev Manovich's principles ("new media objects exist as data," etc.) and artists with computers find those confining, impractical, and overly utopian.

The so-called surf club artists come from both schools. Nevertheless, resistance to the clubs (comparing them to George Bush and closed source programming) and sarcasm of certain reactionaries seen in the Rhizome chat boards in June of 2008 could be construed as evidence of the split. New media artists scoff at the art world's notions of art yet want very much to be approved according to those criteria.

[This may seem like a strange time to pigeonhole Rhizome since they are in the middle of a fundraiser (this blog just kicked in for a seedling membership). The staff can't be held accountable for the obscurantists in the chatrooms; there is some sentiment within the organization for "artists with computers" so giving is recommended, enabling the institution to thrive so it can be colonized, ha ha.]


screenshot of an email that came from a music retailer on Wednesday:

except Apple

Gold, mining stocks, Treasuries, and overhyped music players will see you through the hard times.

Reynolds on Axl and Kanye

Recommended: Simon Reynold's compare and contrast on Salon of the new Axl Rose and Kanye West releases. It's unusual to see criticism foregrounding the studio software used by artists almost ahead of music and lyrics; Reynolds notes that Rose and West use these normally invisible processes in a highly visible way, so that they rise to the level of active partnership in the content. This justifies all the attention to ProTools, Autotune, compression, and the "loudness wars." Reynolds' roots in techno-rave criticism (he wrote the book Energy Flash aka Generation Ecstasy) give him an edge over critics who won't know how to talk about the "cyborg" aspect of both recordings.

Thanks Again, Alan

Matt Stoller:

Clinton knew that Greenspan could sink his administration at any point, and Greenspan knew he knew, so Greenspan forced Clinton to cut spending 'to balance the budget,' something he was not interested in when a Republican President occupied the White House.

If you're wondering why your finances went to hell one reason is Alan Greenspan. Most boys outgrow Ayn Rand, but not Alan, who continued to praise her writing as recently as a few years ago. He believed in fighting inflation if that meant keeping down wages of the middle class (tough love and all that) but didn't care about the inflation wrought by gamblers in financial services. Now the poor old man professes to be "shocked" that his philosophy of life was so much crap.