Post-medium Condition

  • Is it still appropriate in the 21st century to talk about the idea of the medium? With that in mind, can we specify particular attributes to different mediums?
  • Is the discussion around the notion of medium specificity advantageous or, rather, detrimental to technology-based art?
  • Does technology function as a tool or as a medium? Moreover, should New Media Art be defined as a discipline or indeed another medium?
  • Is technology-based art creating a significant gap between the artistic object and the audience, who does not always have the tools to fully understand its functioning mechanism? Is the experience of art turning into a highly privileged/exclusive one?
  • Is there a tendency to privilege the outcome or effect over its process in certain works of New Media, leading to spectacular experiences and a concomitant lack of criticality?
  • Does a post-medium condition encompass the acknowledgement of the exhibition as a medium?
  • What is the role played by installation art and performance in relation to the definition of a post-medium condition?

“[…] Which is another consideration to take into account in this matter of “inventing a medium”. Artists do not, of course, invent mediums. Carving, painting, drawing, were all in full flower before there was any socially distinguishable group to call itself artists. But mediums then individualise their practice; they intensify the skills associated with them; and, importantly, they acquire histories. For centuries it was only within and against the tradition encoded by a medium that innovation could be measured, just as it was in relation to its reservoir of meanings that new ranges of feeling could be tested”

Rosalind Krauss, ‘… And Then Turn Away?’ in James Coleman, Wiener Secession, 1997, p.5

“In its current sense, the virtual stands opposed to the real, but its sudden emergence, through the new technologies, gives us the sense that it now marks the vanishing or end of the real. […] Virtual reality, the reality that might be said to be perfectly homogenised, digitised and ‘operationalised’, substitutes for the other because it is perfect, verifiable and non-contradictory. So, because it is more ‘complete’, it is more real than what we have established as simulacrum”

Jean Baudrillard, Passwords, Verso, 2003, p.39

“I would like to pose the following question: are we in fact referring to a simple, univocal reality? Does not the term ‘image’ contain several functions whose problematic alignment precisely constitutes the labour of art? On this basis it will perhaps be possible to reflect on what artistic images are, and contemporary changes in their status, more soundly”

Jacques Rancière, The Future of the Image, Verso, 2003, p.1

“For years people have been concerned with what goes on inside the frame. Maybe there’s something going on outside the frame that could be considered an artistic idea”

Robert Barry, 1968

“It’s always difficult to define what new media art is, but to me it’s not just about being new—it’s a contemporary way of thinking and responding to the latest tools of creation and societal changes. Each generation reveals their own “new media art” based on current influences and the latest technologies. […] Digital is not a term that should be defined as a genre—digital is everything, in a way. New media is more a way of thinking and connecting to the current culture’s mode of communicating. And I think the phrase digital art is a bad representation, with a connotation that is not necessarily of a fine-art nature, whereas new media has a kind of intellectual definition—there’s an intellectual connection to the idea of advanced media”

Steven Sacks interviewed by Andrew M. Goldstein, ‘Bitforms Gallery’s Steven Sacks on How to Collect New Media Art’ in Artspace, 2014

“In the past our technologically-conceived artifacts structured living patterns. We are now in transition from an object-oriented to a systems-oriented culture. Here change emanates, not from things, but from the way things are done”

Jack Burnham, ‘Systems Aesthetics’ in Artforum, September 1968

“In the field of art history, with its obsessive concern for the materiality and “specificity” of media, the supposedly “dematerialized” realm of virtual and digital media, as well as the whole sphere of mass media, are commonly seen either as beyond the pale or as a threatening invader, gathering at the gates of the aesthetic and artistic citadel”

Mitchell, W.J.T., What Do Pictures Want?, University of Chicago Press, 2005, p.205

“A new media object is not something fixed once and for all, but something, that can exist in different, potentially infinite versions. This is another consequence of the numerical coding of media … and the modular structure of a media object … Instead of identical copies [of what Manovich calls ‘old media’] a new media object typically gives rise to many different versions”

Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, MIT Press, 2001, p.36

“It was Joseph Kosuth who quickly saw that the correct term for this paradoxical outcome of the modernist reduction was not the specific but general. For if modernism was probing painting for its essence – for what made it specific as a medium – that logic taken to its extreme had turned painting inside out and had emptied it into the generic category of  Art: art/at/large, or art/in/general. And now, Kosuth maintained, the ontological labour of the modernist artist was to define the essence of Art itself. “Being an artist now means to question the nature of art”, he stated.  “If one is questioning the nature of painting, one cannot be questioning the nature of art. The because the word art is general and the word painting is specific””.

Rosalind Krauss, “A Voyage on the North Sea”. Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition, Thames & Hudson, 1999, p.10