Sunday, March 18, 2007

New Media as the Next Logical Step

As I read through "The Database", I found myself thinking that new media (websites, digital art) is very much an extension of conceptual and postminimalist art, of which Bruce Nauman belongs to the latter. The initial making of new media requires little skill in the production but much in the conception and the execution. Anyone with the right database can make a decent and navigable website with minimal html training. New media is usually interactive, letting the viewer select their own path through the website. As a result, it has multiple narratives and lets the viewer decide which they want to see or believe in. As a side note, this makes it different from cinema, as in cinema the filmmaker/editor chooses the order of the various clips and forces the viewer to watch their conceived path through the film.

Similarly, in conceptual art, the finished product is nothing particularly special or striking visually. As many people said when we visited the Nauman exhibit, it seemed as if all of his works could have been erected by anybody. Every object was so simple and easily formed that it could not be considered art like the Mona Lisa is considered art. Yet, the point of conceptual art is not the finished piece of art itself, but rather the original thought behind it. Just as the average person can make a website, so can he make a piece of conceptual art, and yet it is not the design of the website that necessarily makes us want to stay, but the content.

However, just as Manovich says, we want to create narratives out of random pieces of data, perhaps as a result of our reluctance to part with linear time (we cannot go back and choose another path like we can with websites). Hence, many people who are not art majors or do not know about the origins of conceptual art dislike the post-modern form because of its randomness and lack of "story". The art seems pointless, even though in reality it can rival traditional art in terms of how much interpretation it can hold. The Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile - a subject of debate for many years and for many years to come. John Cage's famous piece 4'33" is a performance piece that is completely silent, which he "wrote" to emphasize the sounds that the audience makes and to make them aware of the "music" around them. People who do not understand his work may interpret it as a protest of modern pop music or of the elite, who can afford to go to concerts. One cannot say that these interpretations are wrong; they are simply different from the artist's initial intention.



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