Reference Points for Discussion
Preliminary Class Business
- Web-authoring workshops? Drop-in tech help hours?
- Wendy Steiner,"Art in 20th
Century Has Always Been 'Shock of the New'," opinion
piece in Los Angeles Times, 10 Oct. 1999: M1, M6:
Virtually every masterpiece of 20th-century art began as
a social outrage, a moral and representational transgression
that shocked both the senses and the sensibilities of "ordinary,
right-thinking people," or at least the officials who
purported to represent them. James Joyce's Ulysses,
a landmark of modernist literature, was also a landmark
in U.S. pornography law, as was D.H. Lawrence's Lady
Chatterley's Lover in Britain. In the 1910s, Igor Stravinsky's
Rite of Spring caused rioting in the streets of Paris. . . .
And in the recent round of culture battles, Andres Serrano
and Robert Mapplethorpe carried photography into the realm
of triumphant scandal, "bad" pictures, maybe,
but pictures officially protected as art. Now the "Sensation"
exhibition [at the Brooklyn Museum of Art] has become the
newest battle front. . . .
But it is by no means the case that art has always dished
out this "tough beauty." "Throughout all
recorded history, the makers of high culture were fully
integrated into their society," writes the historian
Peter Gay. "Then, toward the end of the 18th century
and the beginning of the 19th, this tacit, durable cultural
compact was radically subverted . . . Painters,
composers and the rest formed avant-gardes to fight lively
and implacable pleasure wars in which they confronted the
dominant, hopelessly conventional middle class with all
the energy at their command." . . .
After a century and more of such tactics, we are now at
a point where we believe that art is confrontational by
definition. When the Brooklyn Museum facetiously issued
a warning that some works in the "Sensation" exhibition
might cause "shock, vomiting and confusion," it,
in effect, warned us that it was showing 20th-century art.
and cut-ups in Modernist art:
Paul D. Miller (aka "DJ Spooky that Subliminal
Kid"), "Kut Kulture: Teleplex: Telecommunication
Artbyte (May-June 2000), pp. 26-27:
". . . the 'cut': words, images, sounds flowing
out that would deliver, like James Joyce used to say,
"sounds like a river." Flow, rupture, and fragmentationall
seamlessly bound to the viewer's perspectival architecture. . . ."
"D.W. Griffith, Dziga Vertov, Oscar Michaux, and
Sergei Eisenstein (especially with his theory of "dialectical
montage" or "montage of attractions" that
created a kind of subjective intercutting of multiple
layers of stories within stories) were forging stories
for a world just coming out of World War I. A world which,
like ours, was increasingly inter-connected, and filled
with stories of distant lands, times, and placeswhere
cross-cutting allowed the presentation not only of parallel
actions occurring simultaneously in separate spatial dimensions,
but also parallel actions occurring on separate temporal
planesand helped convey the sense of density that
the world was confronting."
Postmodern and Information-Age Aesthetics
Aesthetic Ideology in the Information Age:
- What is the ideology of contemporary art and literature
(i.e., what do artists and writers say their work is for)?
- Beauty or pleasure?
- Critique ("make it new")?
- What kind of artistic critique is suited to the information
- Deductive argument:
- The ideology of the information age and the "postindustrial"
or "advanced capitalist" world of which
it is a part is "creative
destruction" with the emphasis on "creation"
("innovation," "the new," "change").
- Therefore, "creativity" in the service
of "making it new" is no longer an adequate
aesthetic ideology for artists who believe their purpose
is to be critical.
- Artists take the other available position in the
ideological system. They mime the world of advanced-capitalist
"creative destruction" (often using the
very tools, images,and forms of the information age),
but do so in a way that emphasizes how destructive
creative destruction is.
- This means that the strongest, boldest, baddest
artists are going to be those who dramatize or enact
- In the information age, this means that the true
artist will be either a terrorist or a hacker (cf.,
the "Panther Moderns" and the hero of Gibson's
- Inductive argument:
- Since the "avant-garde" artistic and literary
movements of the early 20th-century, art has become
increasingly destructive, vandalistic, terroristic.
(See Dario Gamboni's book)
- Beginning with the late 20th-century, artists started
using high tech and information tech to be destructive.
- Gustav Metzger and "auto-destructive
from Metzger's 1960 "Manifesto Auto-Destructive
is art which contains within itself an agent which
automatically leads to its destruction within
a period of time not to exeed twenty years. . . .
Materials and techniques used in creating auto-destructive
art include: Acid, Adhesives, Ballistics, Canvas,
Vlay, Compustion, Compression, Concrete, Corrosion,
Cybernetics, Drop, Elasticity, Electricity, Electrolysis,
Electronics, Explosives, Feed-back, Glass, Heat,
Human Energy, Ice, Jet, Light, Load, Mass-production,
Metal, Motion Picture, Natural Forces, Nuclear
Energy, Paint, Paper, Photography, Plaster, Plastics,
Pressure, Radiation, Sand, Solar Energy, Sound,
Steam, Stress, Terra-cotta, Vibration, Water,
Welding, Wire, Wood.
Metzger's description of his acid-nylon work at
the South Bank, London, 1961:
painting. Height 7 ft, Lenght 12' 6".
Depth 6 ft. Materials: nylon, hydrochloric acid,
metal. Technique. 3 nylon canvases coloured white
black red are arranged behind each other, in this
order. Acid is painted, flung and sprayed onto
the nylon which corrodes at point of contact within
Construction with glass. Height 13 ft.
Width 9' 6". Materials. Glass, metal, adhesive
tape. Technique. The glass sheets suspended by
adhesive tape fall on to the concrete ground in
a pre-arranged sequence."
from Metzger's 1965 lecture proposing large-scale
This sculpture consists
of five walls or screen, each about 30 feet in
height and 40 feet long and 2 feet deep. They
are arranged about 25 feet apart and staggered
in plan. I envisage these in a central area between
a group of three very large densely populated
blocks of flats in a country setting. Each wall
is composed of 10000 uniform elements. These could
be made of stainless steel, glass or plastics.
The elements in one of the walls could be square
or rectangular and in another wall they could
The principle of the action of this work is that
each element is ejected until finally after a
period of ten years, the wall ceases to exist.
I propose the use of a digital computer that will
control the movement of this work. This would
be housed underground in the centre of the sculpture
. . .The
third project I would like to consider is in the
shape of a 30 ft cube. The shell of the cube is
in steel with a non-reflective surface. The interior
of the cube is completely packed with complex,
rather expensive, electronic equipment. This equipment
is programmed to undergo a series of breakdowns
and self-devouring activities. This goes on for
a number of years - but there is no visible trace
of this activity. It is only when the entire interior
has been wrecked that the steel shell is pierced
from within. Gradually, layer after layer of the
steel structure is disintegrated by complex electrical,
chemical and mechanical forces. The shell bursts
open in different parts revealing the wreckage
of the internal structure through the ever changing
forms of the cube. Finally, all that remains is
a pile of rubble. This sculpture should be at
a site around which there is considerable traffic."
- Survival Research Laboratories
from "Electronic Civil Disobedience":
The strategy and tactics
of ECD should not be a mystery to any activists.
They are the same as traditional CD. ECD is a
nonviolent activity by its very nature, since
the oppositional forces never physically confront
one another. As in CD, the primary tactics in
ECD are trespass and blockage. Exits, entrances,
conduits, and other key spaces must be occupied
by the contestational force in order to bring
pressure on legitimized institutions engaged in
unethical or criminal actions. Blocking information
conduits is analogous to blocking physical locations;
however, electronic blockage can cause financial
stress that physical blockage cannot, and it can
be used beyond the local level. ECD is CD reinvigorated.
What CD once was, ECD is now.
must remember that ECD can easily be abused. The
sites for disturbance must be carefully selected.
Disturbance Theater Action
- The Etoys denial-of-service attack: CNN
story | Village
- Cyberpunk and hacking (e.g., Gibson's Neuromancer)
- Stephen T. Asma, "A
Portrait of the Artist as a Work in Progress," Chronicle
of Higher Education, 19 Jan. 2001: B17; online version
for subscribers retrieved 16 Jan. 2001 <http://chronicle.com/weekly/v47/i19/19b01701.htm>
- Lewis Blackwell and David Carson, The End of Print:
The Graphic Design of David Carson (San Francisco: Chronicle
- Business Week,
Special Double Issue on "The 21st Century Corporation"
with lead article titled "The Creative Economy,"
21-28 Aug. 2000
- Dario Gamboni, The Destruction
of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution
(New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1997)
- George LeGrady (UCSB Art Studio),
Pockets Full of Memories: images,
(George LeGrady's home
- Gustav Metzger, Auto-Destructive
Art: Metzger at AA (London: Destruction/Creation, 1965)
Metzger (site includes texts of his "Earth to
Galaxies: On Destruction and Destructivity," "Manifesto
Auto-Destructive Art," "Auto Destructive Art - Machine
Art - Auto Creative Art," Entartete Kunst, retrieved
17 Jan. 2001 <http://www.entartetekunst.org/Metzger/index_it.html>
- Metzger, Gustav, "Art
Strike 1977-1980," 1974, The Seven by Nine Squares,
retrieved 17 Jan. 2001, <http://www.thing.de/projekte/7:9%23/y_Metzger+s_Art_Strike.html>
- Other Metzger sites: [ 1
- Stewart Home, "Gustav
Metzger and Auto-Destructive Art," from The Assaut
on Culture (Aporia Press & Unpopular Books, 1988),
Entartete Kunst, retrieved 17 Jan. 2001 <http://www.entartetekunst.org/Metzger/metzg01_en.html>
- Hans Ulrich Obrist, Interview
with Gustav Metzger, "Metzger's Quest for Social
Change from the Auto-Destructive Art Manifesto and Onwards,"
Art Orbit, No. 4 (Feb. 1999), retrieved 17 Jan.
- Paul D. Miller (aka "DJ Spooky that Subliminal
Kid"), "Kut Kulture: Teleplex: Telecommunication
Artbyte (May-June 2000)
- Tomohiro Okada, "Are
They a Headliner for the End of First Millennium in Tokyo?
The First Act of Survival Research Laboratories (SRL) in Japan,"
trans. Mayumi Kaneko, coolstates.com, 23 Dec. 1999,
retrieved 18 Jan. 2001 <http://coolstates.com/worldbeat/tyo/tyo.srl.e.htm>
- Barbara Rose, "Orlan:
Is it Art? Orlan and the Transgressive Act", Art
in America 81:2 (Feb. 1993): 83-125; online version retrieved
19 Jan. 2001 <http://www.photone.ch/zankov/NBU/materials/orlan/orlan2.htm>
- Steven Shaviro, "Fringe Research: Napster and
Artbyte (May-June 2000)
- Wendy Steiner,"Art in 20th Century Has Always
Been 'Shock of the New'," opinion piece in Los Angeles
Times, 10 Oct. 1999: M1, M6
- Kristine Stiles, "Selected
Comments on Destruction Art," in Alex Adriaansens,
et al., ed., Book for the Unstable Media, 1992, retrieved
5 Jan. 2001. <http://www.v2.nl/publicaties/unst_media/stiles.html>
- Kristine Stiles, "Prag
- Survival Research Laboratories
links for this class on Study Materials page