The Media Art Identity Crisis

"[Erik] Erickson suggested that people experience an identity crisis when they lose 'a sense of personal sameness and historical continuity'. Given today's rapid developments in technology, global economy, dynamics in local and world politics, one might expect identity crises to recur more commonly now..." [1]

"Is Television Dead?" asked the BBC programme Late Review, 13.03.09. The programme was dedicated to this question, and arguments were put for and against. Was this a sign of Pique in terms of the internet possibly taking over? They talked about how the BBC might have to allow 'product placement' in programmes in order to fund quality drama. One filmmaker said that he watched television programmes on the internet.

As television inexorably blends with the telematic context of the internet, it will have to take this telematicism into account. New types of media journalism will be required and a whole new architecture will need to be designed for interactive broadcasting formats. Telematically, this would mean an increasingly global audience.

The YBA's went televisual in the 90's, following in the tradition of Andy Warhol. Back in the early 90's, there was still a strong sense of the locale of Britain, pre World Wide Web. Of course, there is still a very real locale, there is still a Soho. Media elevates in it's portrayal of the subject. Jordan Baseman's 'documentaries' use this media structure in an experimental way, communicating about and making 'visible' subjects to be contemplated post televisually, as though the media structure can continue as a medium, suitable for appropriation by new media.

That the mass media has celebrated the YBAs in recent years,popularizing the language of their work, isn't just a matter of amplification and distribution, but is also a question of the whole structure and content of the work itself, as it meets a media language which is desperate to mould a sense of historical continuity, as well as to inform and entertain.

In Vilnius, Lithuania, European Capital of Culture 2009, Vilnius Academy of Arts is staging the first ever 'Art-o-thlon'. In collaboration with Lithuanian television, selected international artists will be expected to perform in this media environment. "Teams of artists will be competing... for the top prize"[2] While sounding not unlike Big Brother for artists, this event, based loosely on the Olympiad, seeks " Young creative souls embracing limelight as a legitimate medium of artistic expression akin to canvas or bronze".[3] The website proposes that the purpose of the Art-o-thlon is to publicize emerging artists, on television and internet, as well as to embrace live art away from the gallery context. Art-o-thlon also "aims to draw the outline of the interpenetrating topology of art and media, with an emphasis on symptomatic rise of post-television".[4]

The telematic, information storage and retrieval, is superceding the televisual and other media. The 'live' is incorporated into this context, in terms of international transmission at a synchronised time.

This 'interpenetrating topology' is best exemplified by Angus Fairhurst's 'One Year of the News -(1st January - 31st December 2003)2004, which could be said questions the very structure of newspaper publishing, while bringing attention to the flow and body of information. This build up of 'noise', layers of colour photocopied front pages, renders the information useless, the occaisional word visible amidst the build up of ink.

Fairhurst was on television in the mid nineties. This was when his appropriation of the gorilla suit was first broadcast. This instigated a whole range of significations, while primarily addressing the nation's psyche, in terms of references to films like King Kong and Morgan, a Suitable Case for Treatment. Angus Fairhurst will be remembered as the young British artist with the 'ill fitting gorilla suit'. For Fairhurst it seems that the intersection of media and art was a question of amplification. It was also a question of inhabiting, dreamlike, the media space. Even the gorilla suit was an amplification of his masculinity and human animal nature.

"Falling Times is an everlasting and growing realtime news translation machine representing permanently appearing and disappearing information about our times, and, simultaneously, the fall of our western decadent civilization." [5] The Falling Times, by Michael Bielicky and Kamila B.Richter with Dirk Rheinbold, is an internet work made in response to their perception of 'infopollution' by 'news producers'. Supported by HFG Karlsruhe and ZKM, The Falling Times allows users to select icons to summarize news items they have read. The icons then 'fall' down the screen. The creators hope this will contribute to the 'infoEcology discourse'.[6]

The Media Art Identity Crisis is a lack of continuity primarily in terms of media, as the media world changes, affecting the nature of art as it responds to the implications of this change. Fairhurst's work addresses the collective conciousness, and though Pop Art was definitely part of his art language, it was used almost ironically. He addresses the mass of people, as well as the cultural elite. Baseman's films do a similar thing, and it is only the quality of his film language that situates it in the gallery context rather than on television. The Art-o-thlon and infoEcology are indicative of these changing contexts. Artists want exposure, but as the media evolves, they also critique it.




[2]Mindaugas Gapsevicius <nettime> Art-o-thlon International Championship of Arts 30.03.09

[3] "


[5]Christiane Paul Rhizome_Announce: Falling Times - Michael Bielicky and Kamila B. Richter - opening today 20.03.09