SPOKEN: Notes about Curatorial Approach, Implications of Art/VR, and more

CLICK here to see all posts related to SPOKEN. All are welcome to view these notes, but this is more of a scrapbook of ideas than an edited, unified post. http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/real-vs-virtual-examining-works-of-art-online/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0 http://ina-contextual.blogspot.com/ Digitl art and reproductions... Bruce Quek's article in Randian, about Curation and the "start" and "end" of an exhibition. Thanks to an original post on Google+ by Jim Hanas  I found  Jennifer Tobias'  excellent article about conceptual art and the dematerialization of books/art. Comments by Andrea Philipps and Dennis McCunney on Google+ were also helpful. Excerpt from CONTENT AND ITS CONTAINERS: THE DEMATERIALIZATION OF THE BOOK OBJECT, the referenced article:
Probably the single most important thing that librarians, authors, and publishers should pay attention to in this parallel paradigmatic shift is the fearlessness with which Conceptual artists approached and appropriated other forms of working and creating. As Lucy Lippard states in the introduction to the reprint of her book, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object:
Perhaps most important, Conceptualists indicated that the most exciting “art” might still be buried in social energies not recognized as art. The process of extending the boundaries didn’t stop with Conceptual Art: These energies are still out there, waiting for artists to plug into them, potential fuel for the expansion of what “art” can mean. The escape was temporary. Art was recaptured and sent back to its white cell, but parole is always a possibility.
Just as artists look to archives and libraries for their raw material, so too can librarians, publishers, and other representatives of print culture turn to artists to help think about the seismic changes that are disrupting the information landscape. Many of the foundational documents of libraries – the mission statements and collection development policies, written in and for another time – have calcified. Perhaps it’s time for librarians to seek parole from their own institutional stasis and create those documents in the spirit of Sol LeWitt’s instructions or Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ certificates of authenticity, setting up flexible parameters that could be executed with the input of others to produce varying results. This “process of extending the boundaries” – a counterintuitive move for a profession based on classification – might just be a way forward.
 Dennis McCunney:
I think the key is the decoupling of the content from the container. The question becomes "Is the library inextricably bound with the container?", and I think the answer is clearly no. The functions a library performs aren't dependent on the container, and are all about classification and availability of the content. Some libraries recognize that and are moving in that direction. the NYC Library system, for example, is the second most visited library site in the world, after the Library of Congress, and is big enough to do internal development of digitally oriented systems, instead of relying on third parties. (Like, I don't believe the rely on Overdrive for ebook lending fulfillment.) Conceptual art is only tangentially relevant. Yes, it was intended to expand the idea of what art was, but art is a moving target. How much of what we think of as "primitive" or "folk" art now was seen as useful stuff needed to survive by the makers?
new topic 1. From an email from Andric Tham, producer of JUMPTHECUT (9:34 AM, July 23,2014.At the time of writing, AT unaware the contents of his email would be shared.) I guess the only feedback I have is that it feels rather like a novelty. 
That Second Life has fallen out favor for things like Twitter is because people don't really want virtual reality. They already have reality reality, and reality sucks, and technology was supposed to make it better somehow.
Of course doing something like that requires you to suspend your disbelief to some extent. And I’m not trying to say that this sucks. It’s great, what you're doing, bringing art and tech together. It’s something I believe in.
But the medium is ill suited for art. There's a lot of “chrome” in the interaction which makes it distracting (hence a novelty).
If museums elevate art, VR has a potential to “de-elevate” it, if you're not careful. For the viewer, if not for the artist. It puts too much in between the art and the viewer, and for what reason?
The idea of tech and art coming together is to make art more accessible to people, which I feel is still yet to be achieved.
That's just what I feel though. I think the artists are a great bunch though, from the looks of it!
SB reaction...
"Devaluation" point is very interesting and crystallizes some thoughts I have have had. For example, anyone could do this just by collecting jpegs without the artist's knowledge. In the case of SPOKEN, we have full permission and consent from all artists. This legitimacy may be one of the more remarkable aspects of SPOKEN. (Introduce this idea: what if SPOKEN were a physical exhibition. The seriousness of the physical world: transportation costs, rent, printing costs, opening night party costs, etc. The real world-face-to-face conversations and social aspects of openings as well as the physical aspects of viewing art (alone or together) in a physical gallery.
Democratization of art through technology?
Devaluation or increase value? value of what? Art? Art experience? (Art experience is not relative to the financial value of art? The social value of art is  its greatest "value".
A great conversation is absolutely unpredictable. Exchanges(information, histories and emotions,  disagreements and  resolutions...When two people have spoken together they have created a common memory in which the linguistic exchange is the core of a physical experience( SONG LYRIC????? something like We spoke beneath the stars?)
SPOKEN aims to have the unpredictability of a good conversation. The curatorial approach was meant to:
-document the life experiences of the curators as reflected through artists with whom they have spoken,
-showcase the artists and the artworks themselves
- perhaps most conceptually intriguing,  the curation was meant to create future conversations; ie SPOKEN is a talking point, the beginning of all sorts of conversations.
Andric Tham, email. 8:33PM, now aware that his comments may be posted here...
I like your comments, the discussion about conversations and what the "value" of art is.
I think I definitely agree with both of those points. Conversation/dialogue is why art matters. It’s why Banksy is considered an exceptional "artist".
But inner dialogue is also important, and the intimacy that a physical exhibition creates (being with the art, with yourself, and at the same time around people) is a complex and profound dynamic, one in which both inner dialogue, dialogue between people, and dialogue between the artwork interact to surface certain ideas and thoughts. And a lot of it is subtle, sublime, transient.
I am not sure if VR can "recreate" that. Or maybe it shouldn't. Maybe replication isn't the point of VR, but escapism—the same way Google Street View is not a replacement for travel and playing Grand Theft Auto is not the same as actually committing a felony. It’s being transported to a place you are not physically in, that is actually alienating and discomforting, and maybe that works for a certain purpose.
That is the opposite of physical art venues, actually. Physical places provide opportunities ripe for people and artwork to talk to each other. And the design of it has that said purpose: white walls, soft lighting. It is... comfortable. You are to be at peace, calm, and to be with art.
VR is the opposite of peace and calm. It is dissonance. Digital/analog. Bytes/atoms. It is cold and harsh and bright.
Maybe it works for certain art. Art which shocks. Shakes you out of your comfort zone. Arrests and assaults you.
Andric Than,email, 9:15 PM July 23
Definitely something to think about.
SB 10:26 PM
That is the opposite of physical art venues, actually. Physical places provide opportunities ripe for people and artwork to talk to each other. And the design of it has that said purpose: white walls, soft lighting. It is... comfortable. You are to be at peace, calm, and to be with art.
Art gallery  as meditation space...or the softest soft sell ever? Yes, I should differentiate between museums, commercial galleries and "art spaces".
Have you seen The Web Show in gallery.sg?
I really really enjoy it, mainly for the space that Eugene created. It is vibrant, tacky, kitsch, gaudy and funny. The art itself would probably not impress me if it were hung in a real gallery, but in that virtual space, everything seemed just right; the space crackled with life. One part of the gallery is flooded!  "Outside" of the gallery is a landscape with a whale floating in it!  Carpeting like a Vegas casino, bright magenta body suits, text conversations on the left side"... as you wrote, it was the opposite of a physical venue".
With SPOKEN, we are aiming for a Brooklyn warehouse art space meets white cube feel. The sequencing and arrangement of the images will have a logic unto themselves; once everything is in we can "connect the dots" a bit. Hopefully not too much as the SPOKEN experience should be as open-ended as possible.
Nhung Walsh, email, 12:51 PM July 24...
I enjoy and really appreciate Andric's thoughtful note.
Although I didnt have many opportunities of seeing virtual exhibitions. But I agree that digital/electronic/bytes/atoms arts can shock. It's another kind of immersion that is not supposed to calm you. Although for me, it does make me feel comfortable.
Right now I am in a Starbucks in Tokyo staring at the ceiling of a virtual exhibition in Singapore. After a while, I thought of a lot of things: whether I would ever be able to stare at a ceiling for that long in an actual physical space. People would think I am weird. Yet the ceiling is part of the space and therefore should be part of the artscape or even the art. In the exhibition I was looking at, there wasnt any artwork in the ceiling, but I did that just because I can. Even the virtual ceiling is an imitation of a physical space. But do we need a ceiling for a virtual exhibition? Or do we even need walls at all? Not talking about the artworks yet, the space consume you the way it's not supposed to.
And how about conversations in an exhibition? In my hand there is a glass of virtual red wine and it moves with me as I walk inside the space. As if I was born with it. As if I wake up in a dream with it. Wine indicates social interaction, and we often meet people at the gallery opening day. But there was no one else in the gallery with me. I realized that I was talking to myself. Is this supposed to be like this all the time in a virtual space? And how about all of our discussions/conversations we have with each other around the art and the exhibition? Now as we have them via emails, can I think of them as invisible sounds that are bouncing around the wall of a virtual space? Just like the way we whisper with each other in a museum gallery? Sounds and noise help us to tracking and navigate space. But there is no sound here. It seems dont even hear my heart beat anymore. Although I was biologically sitting in a busy coffeeshop, I was not here. I was in the wonderful land of nonexistence, just by staring at a deceitful ceiling.
I dont think VR recreate a physical space. It creates a re-creation of a space that is not a space. But I totally feel at peace with it.
The following Powerpoint also appears  under the post featuring the collection of notes between Eugene and I.
2. Collective.. .Curatorial.... Chronology.... Geography... Technology
 -David Black (unknown)- Morimura (world famous) Perhaps these two are the extreme tangents of the conversation that is SPOKEN.
-A world map of where conversations were held, allowing for web-based conversations. Dial payphones to skype to Google Hangouts.
Perhaps SPOKEN is about the curation of symbols or moments...
The artists were free to contribute any image they wanted to know; the curation was not based on imagery. However,  the images will be  sequenced and arranged to create an optimum virtual gallery experience, one with a logic semi-independent from the "spoken" layer.
3. Nhung Walsh...writer of an introductory essay for SPOKEN
Nhung Walsh works with artists in Southeast Asia mainly in the field of Vietnamese contemporary arts. She is living in Chicago but works between Hanoi and other locations. Grew up in Vietnam, she has background in International Studies and History with research on the wars in Vietnam, politics of war memories, and the development of Vietnamese contemporary arts. She participated in cultural programs at UNESCO in Vietnam and worked with NGOs in various development fields in Vietnam before engaging in curatorial projects and cultural programs in Vietnam and the US. Nối Projects ('nối' means to connect in Vietnamese) is Walsh’s initiative with mission of connecting Vietnamese artists with interdisciplinary projects to expand the conversation of contemporary arts. Currently, she is studying Arts Administration and Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
from an email:
I want to ask you quickly if there is anything written from the curator (you and Eugene?). And I am excited to read about this in your previous email: "- as you may know the artists on display have all spoken to the curator...and our curator is fictitious although the conversations the curator had with the artists are all factual... "
So I need to study the exhibition a bit better... Anything around these keywords "conversation", "spoken",  "virtually spoken", "fictitious entrance", "noise", or something like that? I will get back to you soon about this after I know a bit more and study more about your project.
SB response: I must finalize the notes about Helium as curator.  Some notes were started in the Powerpoint here.
4. Gases, Space, the lungs, the throat, the mouth... shaping internal vibrations into external ones...internal meaning launched into space....ears as receiving dishes....all of this so automatic we have forgotten how magic it is... Robert Barry: Helium in the Desert

Phenomenon: something (such as an interesting fact or event) that can be observed and studied and that typically is unusual or difficult to understand or explain fully

: someone or something that is very impressive or popular especially because of an unusual ability or quality

EUGENE...it seems like SPOKEN is a phenomenon!

5. Helium as curator

Conceptual Art, from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_art

Tony Godfrey, author of Conceptual Art (Art & Ideas) (1998), asserts that conceptual art questions the nature of art,[3] a notion that Joseph Kosuth elevated to a definition of art itself in his seminal, early manifesto of conceptual art, "Art after Philosophy" (1969). The notion that art should examine its own nature was already a potent aspect of the influential art critic Clement Greenberg's vision of Modern art during the 1950s. With the emergence of an exclusively language-based art in the 1960s, however, conceptual artists such as Joseph KosuthLawrence Weinerand the English Art & Language group began a far more radical interrogation of art than was previously possible (see below). One of the first and most important things they questioned was the common assumption that the role of the artist was to create special kinds of material objects.[4][5][6]

Through its association with the Young British Artists and the Turner Prize during the 1990s, in popular usage, particularly in the UK, "conceptual art" came to denote all contemporary art that does not practice the traditional skills of painting and sculpture.[7] It could be said that one of the reasons why the term "conceptual art" has come to be associated with various contemporary practices far removed from its original aims and forms lies in the problem of defining the term itself. As the artistMel Bochner suggested as early as 1970, in explaining why he does not like the epithet "conceptual", it is not always entirely clear what "concept" refers to, and it runs the risk of being confused with "intention." Thus, in describing or defining a work of art as conceptual it is important not to confuse what is referred to as "conceptual" with an artist's "intention."

In 1956 the founder of LettrismIsidore Isou, developed the notion of a work of art which, by its very nature, could never be created in reality, but which could nevertheless provide aesthetic rewards by being contemplated intellectually. This concept, also called Art esthapériste (or "infinite-aesthetics"), derived from the infinitesimals of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz - quantities which could not actually exist except conceptually. The current incarnation (As of 2013) of the Isouian movement, Excoördism, self-defines as the art of the infinitely large and the infinitely small.

It is sometimes (as in the work of Robert BarryYoko Ono, and Weiner himself) reduced to a set of written instructions describing a work, but stopping short of actually making it—emphasising that the idea is more important than the artifact. This reveals an explicit preference for the "art" side of the ostensible dichotomy between art and Craft, where the former, unlike craft, takes place within and engages historical discourse: for example, Ono's "written instructions" make more sense alongside other conceptual art of the time.

The American art historian Edward A. Shanken points to the example of Roy Ascott who "powerfully demonstrates the significant intersections between conceptual art and art-and-technology, exploding the conventional autonomy of these art-historical categories." Ascott, the British artist most closely associated with cybernetic artin England, was not included in Cybernetic Serendipity because his use of cybernetics was primarily conceptual and did not explicitly utilize technology. Conversely, although his essay on the application of cybernetics to art and art pedagogy, “The Construction of Change” (1964), was quoted on the dedication page (to Sol Lewitt) of Lucy R. Lippard’s seminal Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, Ascott’s anticipation of and contribution to the formation of conceptual art in Britain has received scant recognition, perhaps (and ironically) because his work was too closely allied with art-and-technology. Another vital intersection was explored in Ascott’s use of the thesaurus in 1963 [1] which drew an explicit parallel between the taxonomic qualities of verbal and visual languages, and which concept would be taken up in Joseph Kosuth’s Second Investigation, Proposition 1 (1968) and Mel Ramsden’s Elements of an Incomplete Map (1968)

Conceptual art and artistic skill[edit]

"By adopting language as their exclusive medium, Weiner, Barry, Wilson, Kosuth and Art & Language were able to sweep aside the vestiges of authorial presence manifested by formal invention and the handling of materials."[16]

An important difference between conceptual art and more "traditional" forms of art-making goes to the question of artistic skill. Although it is often the case that skill in the handling of traditional media plays little role in conceptual art, it is difficult to argue that no skill is required to make conceptual works, or that skill is always absent from them. John Baldessari, for instance, has presented realist pictures that he commissioned professional sign-writers to paint; and many conceptual performance artists (e.g. StelarcMarina Abramović) are technically accomplished performers and skilled manipulators of their own bodies. It is thus not so much an absence of skill or hostility toward tradition that defines conceptual art as an evident disregard for conventional, modern notions of authorial presence and individual artistic expression.

In 2002, Ivan Massow, the Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts branded conceptual art "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat" and in "danger of disappearing up its own arse ... led by cultural tsars such as the Tate's Sir Nicholas Serota."[21] Massow was consequently forced to resign. At the end of the year, the Culture Minister, Kim Howells (an art school graduate) denounced the Turner Prize as "cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit".[22] In October 2004 the Saatchi Gallery told the media that "painting continues to be the most relevant and vital way that artists choose to communicate."[23] One of the criticisms of recent conceptual art in the UK is that the concepts or ideas have been weak. Writing in The Jackdaw magazine in 2013 the art theoristMichael Paraskos suggested that current conceptualist art retains the forms of historic conceptual art but is almost devoid of ideas. For that reason he suggested a new name for this kind of art, deconceptualism. Deconceptualism is, according to Paraskos, conceptual art without a concept.
  • 1960: Yves Klein's action called A Leap Into The Void, in which he attempts to fly by leaping out of a window. He stated: "The painter has only to create one masterpiece, himself, constantly."
  • 1960: The artist Stanley Brouwn declares that all the shoe shops in Amsterdam constitute an exhibition of his work.
  • 1961: Wolf Vostell Cityrama, in Cologne was the first Happening in Germany.
  • 1961: Piero Manzoni exhibited Artist's Shit, tins purportedly containing his own feces (although since the work would be destroyed if opened, no one has been able to say for sure). He put the tins on sale for their own weight in gold. He also sold his own breath (enclosed in balloons) as Bodies of Air, and signed people's bodies, thus declaring them to be living works of art either for all time or for specified periods. (This depended on how much they are prepared to pay). Marcel Broodthaers and Primo Levi are amongst the designated 'artworks'.


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