Tag Archives: art

‘Blurry by Design: Public Matters on Social Enterprise’ on KCET Artbound

I had the great fortune of working with Public Matters last year and learned a lot, much of which I didn’t expect. Namely, as I explain in this KCET Artbound post, Blurry by Design: Public Matters on Social Enterprise, how an activist art collaborative strategically blurs the lines between the antithetical institutional logics of the market and social movement to green East Los Angeles’ food desert.

I had fun the whole time because they’re fun the whole time. (Yes, even with institutional logics!)

1_ELARA_Lab

East L.A. Renaissance Academy Student researchers in the Toxic Edibles Analysis Lab from the video “Have You Noticed How Much Junk Food We Eat?”
From left: Jocelyn Herrera, Martha Meija, Omar Vargas, Amisadai Hernandez.

 

 

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Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries is one of my homepages

Here’s one of the many excellent reasons why.The Last Day of Betty Nkomo It’s not new but it’s always special.

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Varnelis, K. (2008). Conclusion: The Meaning of Network Culture. In _Networked Publics_, K. Varnelis, ed. Cambridge: MIT Press.

“Network Culture” is a “broadly historical phenomenon” that has shifted society in a “real and radical” way (145). Following Charlie Gere’s (2009) Digital Culture, “the digital is a socioeconomic phenomenon as much as a technology” (146).

“Instead of nostalgia and allegory, network culture delivers remix…” (151).

To wit, some of the most captivating art practice is now done outside the gallery and in Silicon Valley, “like locative media” (152). Varnelis sees another emerging strategy, wherein “art becomes a background to life” (ibid).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Media Arts, Minor Field, Public Space, Research Fields

Miles, M. (1997). The City (Ch.1), The Contradictions of Public Art (Ch.4), and Art in Urban Development (Ch.5). In _Art, Space, and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures_. London: Routledge.

Malcolm Miles, PhD, Architecture from Oxford Brookes University, is Professor at Plymouth University’s School of Architecture, Design and Environment. He chairs the Culture-Theory-Space research group and researches the intersection of critical theory, contemporary visual culture, and urbanism.

Miles here aims to undo the nostalgic view of public art, particularly transhistorical modern art, which, rejecting context, helps to “project a compensatory fantasy of the present which abolishes conflict” (88), including — especially — those of race, gender, and class. Genuine public art should reflect that there are numerous discrete publics, and that the public realm evokes more than urban sites.

“The reconfiguration of a city introduces, in treating its existing fabric as a contourless ground on which to inscribe a new design, the possibility of a radical break with history…. perhaps the urge for a new city derives from a desire to purge the unclean, abolishing the mess and complexities of the past” (23).

He levels, following Zukin (1995) and Deutsche (1991), an attack against using art for redevelopment purposes, particularly the prosperous 80s. The essential question, linking art, urban policy, and the predictable gentrification is, Who controls the process? Miles holds that Percent for Art projects ignore the difference between “urban development” and “urban regeneration.” The latter evokes something more sustainable and strives for social justice. The former, by contrast, too often means capitulating to developer interests. Saskia Sassen (1996) worries about cultural districts/centers because reflect middle-class interests and flatten difference. Yet, per Sassen, “A large city is a space of difference” (as cited on 118). Again, whose public art is this? Who’s in control? Because even though they’re agents of gentrification, it’s rarely the artists who feel empowered on their way out.

“Developers do not develop in order to construct the ‘city beautiful,’ they construct the city beautiful in order to conceal the incompatibility of their development with a free society” (130).

For Miles, “art” and “public” didn’t jibe in the 19th century and they still don’t today, and he contends the art-and-architecture trope is a framework for conventional, male-dominated public art. A sculpture in a plaza isn’t necessarily any more approachable than hallowed museum galleries. Per museum director Kathy Halbreich (1984), “Public art should not be restricted to artworks placed in public plazas but should encompass relationships and dialogues between artists and the public” (as cited on 94). But, per feminist art historian Arlene Raven (1989), “the new public-spirited art can…critique…the uneasy relationship among artworks, the public domain, and the public” (as cited on 100). (Thus, harking Helguera (2011), the community member’s input is key.)

Finally, Miles quotes Suzanne Lacy’s (1995) Mapping the Terrain proposal for new, socially active modes of art practice.

“An alternative history of today’s public art could read through the development of various vanguard groups, such as feminist, ethnic, Marxist, and media artists and other activities. They have a common interest in leftist politics, social activism, redefined audiences, relevance for communities (particularly marginalized ones), and collaborative methodology” (as cited on 101).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Cultural Economy, Media Arts, Minor Field, Public Space, Research Fields

Markusen, A. and Schrock, G. (2006). The artistic dividend: urban artistic specialization and economic development implications. _Urban Studies_, 43(10):1661.

Greg Schrock, PhD, Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Chicago, is Assistant Professor at Portland State University. His research focuses on the intersection of regional economies and local labor markets, and how economic and workforce development initiatives can promote social equity and upward mobility in low-wage sectors.

With this article, the authors aim to reconceptualize the additional, positive impact of artists on their cities that would not otherwise occur without them: the “artistic dividend.” Thus far, their contributions have been understated because current methodologies ignore critical improvements artists bring to manufacturing facilities, cross-fertilization into other sectors and artistic practices, or the fact that “regional consumption of the arts may be import-substituting, as consumers prefer to spend on performances and artwork rather than spending at shopping malls full of imports” (1662).

Artists “heavily patronize other artists’ work and as so much of this work is labor-intensive, the multiplier effect of local arts consumption maybe higher than expected” (ibid).

There are two forms of dividends: first, current income streams within the market and second, “returns to the region as a whole on past investments” (ibid), which echo Markusen’s (2004) “distinctive city” findings about artist distribution among cities. They operationalize the artistic dividend occupationally, and look at individuals who self identify as artists.

So how and where are artists locating themselves at the start of the 21st century? Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco lead the pack, having highly skewed location quotients (particularly in performing arts), believed to be linked with: increases in arts funding, emphasis on tourism, and the pursuit of cultural capital by city leadership.

At the same time, these cities reversed the trend of decentralization, with artistic communities reconvening in LA, New York, and San Francisco in the 90s, so much so that LA overtook the highest-concentration-of-artists mantle from New York. Artists did flock to other second-tier cities, making their populations more secure. Migration is affected by the artists’ decision about where they want to live and work, but work is not the deciding factor.

Without question, artists cluster by their particular practice. For example, designers and architects are more likely to have full-time professional occupations in their field. New York, LA, and San Francisco are home to the largest concentrations of designers but not architects. Because the latter’s work is so cooperative, they cluster in metro areas in general. Advertising industries are correlated with large pools of artistic groups, but Markusen and Schrock demurred to make claims about direction of causality. Artists, especially writers, are self-employed in varying patterns; therefore policymakers should look at more information than just arts organization impact studies.

The authors conclude with the following policy recommendations. Cities should: (1) support artists’ centers, (2) link resident artists with their corporate communities not for philanthropy but product development purposes, (3) improve their decision-making processes for arts funding, and (4) make more granular, strategic investments.

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LLoyd, R. (2005). 2005. _Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City_. New York and London: Routledge.

In this book-sized expansion of his Wicker Park case study, Lloyd goes a bit deeper into the qualitative analysis, particularly in his interviews, of the neo-bohemian lifestyle, and expands on his “artist as useful labor” theory.

“…neo-bohemia is not a reified natural area but rather a mode of contingent and embedded spatial practices” (245).

Constituent to this theory is the fact that neo-bohemias are antithetical to David Brooks’ (2001) “bourgeois bohemians,” or “BoBos,” whose consumer practices only track with postindustrial neoliberal capitalism practices. Instead, neo-bohemians exhibit an “elective affinity” (241) between their artistic, do-it-yourself ethos and neoliberal capitalism’s entrepreneurial impulses. The artist, then, is useful labor in this Internet-based, image-conscious economy. Just as neo-bohemia’s residents understand themselves through identification in and with their communities, and their own “subcultural capital” (243) provides them access to status and money, art has become the “MacGuffin for [contemporary] postindustrial economic activities” (244).

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Gibbs, M. (2004). Locative Media. _Art Monthly_, 40:280.

Michael Gibbs is an Amsterdam-based artist, critic, and regular contributor to Art Monthly.

In this article about locative media, Gibbs explains the contemporary social context encouraged by mobile telephony:

“With the advent of mobile phones, space has become translocal. The boundary between public and private space is effaced as, oblivious to our surroundings, we now have private conversations in public. In fact, it no longer matters where one is, as long as one is connected” (280).

Media artists have long been drawn to the public realm because it’s genuinely site-specific — context is all. Locative media, operating on mobile software, frees artists from traditional infrastructural concerns about screens, projections, sounds, etc. More important, though, are its psychogeographic philosophical underpinnings, as well as its unprecedented (and necessarily collaborative and social) engagement with public space via “Cellspace.”

Locative media is “being vigorously pursued and promoted as the latest form of artistic intervention in public space” (280).

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DiMaggio, P. (1987). Classification in Art. _American Sociological Review_, 52(4):440-455.

Paul DiMaggio, PhD, Sociology from Harvard, is Professor of Sociology and past Chair of the Sociology Department at Princeton University. He has written on organizational analysis, particularly nonprofit and cultural organization, on art participation patterns, and cultural conflict in the U.S. He is currently studying social inequity implications of new digital technologies.

In this paper, DiMaggio presents a new framework “to analyze the relationships between social structure, patterns of artistic consumption and production, and the ways in which artistic genres are classified” (440). The societal level study of artistic systems provides insights into the menus of production, drivers of demand, and how artistic innovations reflect a society’s social milieu. The arts constitute today’s “common cultural currency” (443), thus he proposes these four dimensions of artistic classification systems (ACSs):

  1. differentiation: the number of genres in an ACS
  2. hierarchy: reflects the “degree of concentration of cultural authority” (447)
  3. universality
  4. boundary strength: the degree to which production and consumption are protected; “function of structural consolidation” (449)

These dimensions are affected by: formal characteristics of social structures, the organization of educational systems, and the internal relations between cultural dimensions. Importantly, different societies express each ACS dimensions differently, expressing particular cognitive and organizational aspects.

Taste is socially significant as “a form of ritual identification” (443) that helps establish social networks and attainment of desirable personal connections. To have good taste is to possess cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1985, 1986), which can then be substituted for economic capital. (Elsewhere DiMaggio has said that the communications revolution has expanded the social range of actors, “most status cultures are located in diffuse networks” [445].)

There are three mediating systems of production and each one expresses the ACS dimensions in whatever ways suit their objectives:

  1. commercial: producers, seeking profits, will proffer “more weakly framed genres than…ritual classification” (449)
  2. professionals: artists, aiming to establish reputations, produce “narrower, less universal” (449) variations among genres
  3. administrative: governments regulate, so they tend to be “variable” (450

DiMaggio concludes by proposing that the American erosion of cultural boundaries owes to these intersecting factors: the transition of local upper class to national elite, the rise of commercial classification principles with the rise of popular culture, the development of autonomous and competing high-culture art worlds, and the modern state’s mass higher education policy.

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Wark, M. K. (2011). _The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International_. New York: Verso.

Ken Wark, PhD in Communication, Murdoch University, is Professor, Culture and Media at the Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. His research interests include: media theory, new media, critical theory, cinema, music, and visual art. Other books include A Hacker Manifesto (2004), Dispositions (2002), and Speed Factory (2000).

Per this review, Wark’s book is a call to consider the Situationist International’s inventory of forms of praxis: dérive, détournement, the gift, and potlatch. Together these uphold individuation and collective belonging in opposition to the synchronizing, flattening spectacle.

Wark pithily bemoans high theory’s inwardly vertiginous obsession with the few “famous fathers” of yore and select “new demigods” (1). High theory, he claims, evolves as a response to disappointment; hence the productive time following May 1968. However, today “[we] are bored with this planet” (1). Boredom invites an altogether divergent low theory, one “dedicated to the practice that is critique and the critique that is practice” (3). The SI, Wark avers, explored such a critical practice, only too much has been made of the Situationists’ perceived dysfunctions and far too much emphasis placed on select “great men” (3). Were we to conceive of the SI as an experiment in social form and acknowledge Debord’s scrupulous decision to dissolve the collective before it was crushed “beneath the weight of its own incoherence” (121), we might more readily recognize the enduring value in the Situationists’ inventory of forms of praxis: dérive, détournement, the gift, and potlatch.

Wark’s book is best apprehended in terms of stages, chronological and conceptual, that catalog the contributors to Situationism – be they from within, the periphery, or even exile. The first portion details the SI’s forebear collective, the Letterist International, the misfit tribe of bohemian Saint-Germain, who together devised the critical praxis of negative action, making visible that which is impossible “within the limits of actually existing capitalism” (30). Then and there George Bataille, Michèle Bernstein, Ivan Chtcheglov, Guy Debord, Gil Wolman, and others conceived the dérive, psychogeography, and détournement with an ambition no less than to invent a wholly new civilization, leaving the 20th century behind them in distant memory.

Wark begins the middle of the book with the formation of the SI from other collectives in 1957, and this section pertains to formative theories within the Situationists’ active years. The portions on Asger Jorn’s and Henri Lefebvre’s respective provisions, as well as the chapter, “A Provisional Micro-Society,” are the section’s and book’s most successful, underscoring the SI’s emphasis on play, romance, even the collective’s own contradictions. Painter and theorist Jorn, a heavily modified and eventual ex-Marxist, proffers artistic materialism, noting art is not embedded in Marx’s superstructure but within our infrastructure; it is playful, social. As an alternative to Althusserian Marxism, Jorn proposes games and an “ontology of nature as flux, difference, and cooperation” (53).

Lefebvre never was a Situationist, but he and Debord shared an impassioned, if brief, intellectual encounter, during which they explored five concepts of interest, constituted by and constitutive of the Situationist project: “the everyday, totality, moment, spectacle, and the total semantic field” (96). For Lefebvre, the total semantic field’s three registers – signals, signs, and symbols – communicate deeply a notion rooted in romantic theory and reified in bohemia. Here and with these tools we can reverse fates and alienate the spectacle within society, itself “the concrete manufacture of alienation” (Debord, 1983, 32). Wark asserts a primary stratagem of the SI was taking up a romantic investigation of the total semantic field to a point, then reversing and establishing a new classicism in the wreckage. Such is just one lesson of the SI’s peculiar provisional micro-society: contradictions can prove creatively generative. It could and did not last, but Debord defended his paradoxical doctrine of no doctrine. Never doctrine, but “‘perspectives…a solidarity around these perspectives’” (as cited on 65). Founded on such ambiguity and fueled by a gift economy of donation for reputation, Wark recognizes the SI could not sustain. Games are not meant to endure.

However, Wark assures us this game has valuable lessons, thus the final portion of the book is a deliberate nod to the feasibility of Situationist practice as enacted by Alexander Trocchi and Constant Nieuwenhuys in the years subsequent to the SI. Trocchi’s project sigma attempts to bypass the cultural industry and arguably traces the beginnings of blogging. Constant’s New Babylon is noteworthy because his intent is that the transformation of the built form will, in fact, emerge from a transformation in social relations.

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Lovejoy, M., Paul, C., & Vesna, V., eds. (2011). Introduction. In _Context Providers: Conditions of Meaning in Media Arts_, M. Lovejoy, C. Paul, and V. Vesna, eds. Bristol and Chicago: intellect.

Context Providers explores the ways in which media art and culture — specifically digital and art/science collaborations–are challenging and changing the creative process and our ways of constructing meaning” (7).

Margot Lovejoy is Professor Emerita of Visual Arts at the State University of New York, Purchase, and author of Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age (2004). She’s received a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Arts International Grant in India, multiple NYSCA grants, NYFA’s Gregory Millard Fellowship, and the 2007 CAA Award for Distinguished Teaching of Art.

Christiane Paul is the Director of Media Studies Graduate Programs and Associate Professor of Media Studies at The New School, NY, and Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She writes widely on new media arts and lectures internationally on art and technology.

Victoria Vesna is a media artist and Professor at the UCLA Department of Design | Media Arts and Director of the Art|Sci center at the School of the Arts and California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI).  As of 2011, she was Visiting Professor and Director of Research at Parsons, Media + Technology, the New School for Design in New York, and a senior researcher at IMéRA – Institut Méditerranéen de Recherches Avancées in Marseille and Artist in Residence at the Insitute of Advanced Studies, University of Bristol.

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the Manifesto 2.0, Manovich, and Castells’ Informationalism

In an earlier  corner of my summer’s research was a stack of books whose topics, like my IML 500 class, digital media and tools, represented the convergence of my interests: community planning, digital media, and media arts. I have much to learn about the latter two topics, hence this class, this cascade of annotated bibliographies, and their informing stack of books. At the top of the stack was Manuel Castells’ The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring, and the Urban Regional Process. Though he published it in 1989, it remains strikingly relevant today, and especially so in terms of the course. In it, Castells examines the technological revolution’s transformation of the relationships between and among production, society, and space. He proposes the term “informationalism” in lieu of “post-industrialism,” calling the latter a “negative” term, one inadequate to describe the genuine impetus for our economy. That driving force is information. Economic growth via the manufacture of product propelled the industrial age. Informationalism, by contrast, focuses on the accumulation of technological developments and innovative processes. As UCLA’s ‘s 2009 Mellon Seminar in Digital Humanities asserts in “The Digital Humanities Manifesto, 2.0,” “Process is the new god; not product.”

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I reflected yesterday. It was hard.

“Media exerts a general influence on forms of perceiving space, objects, and time, and they are tied inextricably to the evolution of humankind’s sense faculties.”

Oliver Grau (2007, p. 140)

I regret to say that as often as not, I start sentences in the middle of my thought process. Generally speaking, I’m the only one not thoroughly confused. (Though not always – my third-gear-before-first approach sometimes gets the better of me, too.) My boyfriend rebukes me lovingly. My advisor assures me there’s plenty of time. Slow down. Think. And yet I persist in running headlong into ideas and projects before establishing the all-important introduction.

This website is no different. I realize now I should have stated explicitly that the annotated bibliographies herein are more descriptive and less analytical; that they’re here to serve as study guides for the late summer intellectual gauntlet that are my qualifying exams. So they’re thin on analysis (perhaps no less thin than my defense of their thinness). In all likelihood, I’ll persist in doing the “then the scholar said this” coverage for the rest of my major and minor field titles, but not today. Today I reflect. Component to this endeavor is a lot of introduction, as much to my intellectual intentions as to the paper itself.

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Crow, D. (1993). _Philosophical Streets: New Approaches to Urbanism_. Washington D.C.: Maisonneuve Press.

Dennis Crow, AICP, received his BA, MS, and PhD in Public Administration and Urban Planning all from UT, Austin. He also did post-doctoral work at Dartmouth in interpretive methods and architecture; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in history, social theory, and cultural significance of space and place in philosophy and literature, and UC Irvine in philosophy and literary criticism. At the time of publication, Crow was working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and is currently information architect at USDA Farm Service Agency.

This book is a challenge to both architects and planners to reevaluate their positions on the relationship between planning, theory, and the contemporary humanities, as well as provoke humanities scholars to critique their home cities/regions. Space is not a place, but “the relationships among places” (17). The “political implication of philosophical streets is that engagement for use and resistance of street-level bureaucracy is more important than ever to the life of theory and the practice of social change” (21).

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Don’t you wish this was real? Me too.

pinwheels

Pretty pinwheel project. Photo by Brettany Shannon.

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Rush, M. (2005). _New Media in Art_, 2nd. Ed. London: Thames of London.

Michael Rush, PhD in Theology and Psychology from Harvard University, is the founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. Most recently he was director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. He contributes regularly art world publications and scholarship. His books include Video Art, New Media in Art, New Media in Late 20th-Century Art, Marjetica Potrc: Urgent Architecture, and he’s written monographs on Gunther Brus, Steve Miller, and Alexis Rockman.

This book is a well-organized, beautifully illustrated (124 of 267 illustrations are in full color) and straightforward history of new media in art. Rush organizes the text quasi-chronologically, but emphasizes modes of practice, with chapters entitled, “Media and Performance,” “Video Art,” “Video Installation Art,” and The Digital in Art.” Suffice it to say, Muybridge and Marey, and Duchamp are the technological and conceptual benefactors, respectively, whose ideas are experimented with and added to over the next century, first by artists migrating from other disciplines and eventually by first-generation artists.

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