International Project for Low and High Technics in Contemporary Media Art

Critique of Pure Image – Between Fake and Quotation

A project of the Art Today Association
in collaboration with Code Flow
written and curated by Dimitrina Sevova


Why critique?

As a consequence of globalization, the appearance of digital technics, and <Documenta X> 1998 in Kassel, the arts officially announced their new object to be “Politics/Poetics.” Once more art is called upon to fulfill a historical function in society, related to the idea not only of technical, but also of general human progress. Between document and social intervention, the dialectic of art links in with an interdisciplinary approach that is new for its nature, with the argument that it presents distinctly more democratic forms of expression in public space. In this context, which had started out as an alternative to existing artistic norms, the contemporary artistic institutions all too quickly found its bearings and adapted, appropriated and “canonized” it, reforming themselves in the process.
Changing its motives, goals, instruments, contemporary art demands of its audience adequate knowledge, competence, readiness to communicate, to be informed, yes even technical skills in order to find the key to the perception and interpretation of the artist’s work. Is it required of the visitors and fans of artistic events to professionalize themselves of sorts under this pressure, if they do not wish to drop out of the process of representation and perception? Is it possible via the new technics to elaborate strategies by which art may avoid falling into the trap of leaving the despised discourse of art for art’s sake just to embrace that of art by experts for experts?
If contemporary media art practices constitute democratic, accessible forms and correspondingly techniques of expression in art (as some experts claim), what are the social implications of the processes in contemporary art, and how can the notion of high-low be interpreted in this context? This discussion takes place on the backdrop of the moral-ethical question about access to technics, as well as the social and geographical contradictions and division of labor relative to their production and use.
The critical reflections on this process dynamically change the terminology of art. It is not only the system of concepts that changes, but the very object of art, pertaining to a decidedly European, humanist tradition in art – life, or nature. With the emergence of digital technics in art, contrary to the initial expectation that virtual cyberworlds would be created, it turned out that the interest was rather directed towards more nature. Towards even more genuineness and authenticity. In the current period, the object of art is defined as “new realism” (Flash Art and other magazines defining the newest tendencies in contemporary art), “aesthetics of collaboration” or outright “New Gravity” (freshly picked from the site of the Moscow Biennale 2005 – coming up). This changes not only the design of the urban space, but fundamentally the concepts related to this notion. The desert becomes more desert, the village more rural, the mountain more mountainous, the wrestlers more wrestly, and the poor become aestheticizedly poor. How does such a context bear on the perception of the global and the local?
And this is where the need for critique arises. We suggest, after the arguments of Kant, and after him Foucault, to use our reason in debating the idea of human progress in contemporary media art:
“Kant in fact describes Enlightenment as the moment when humanity is going to put its own reason to use, without subjecting itself to any authority; now it is precisely at this moment that the critique is necessary, since its role is that of defining the conditions under which the use of reason is legitimate in order to determine what can be known, what must be done, and what may be hoped. Illegitimate uses of reason are what give rise to dogmatism and heteronomy, along with illusion; on the other hand, it is when the legitimate use of reason has been clearly defined in its principles that its autonomy can be assured.” – Michel Foucault, What Is Enlightenment?
We propose to use the term “critique” in the historical sense of the critical method used by Kant in order to establish the principles of metaphysical knowledge of the nature of the human being, in which it is not our knowledge that conforms to the things, but they conform to it.


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art today lab 2005