In this article, I believe Paul’s central goal is to communicate to readers the paradoxical relationship that the network of artistic production and dissemination, in this particular instance, digital and physical visual art galleries entertains with the conceptions of materiality and immateriality. There are no concrete answers, but the value and vitality of the ever-evolving process and practice, of the creator, and the piece itself, are paramount in this article.
After reading the article, three of the points I found most fascinating include the following:
- Paul begins by stating that recent advancements in new media have allowed them to become what she calls more “open” systems (Paul 254). These open systems allow for more interactions and participation on the part of the audience/viewers/users of the media. Even the creators have the opportunity for greater, more lasting and “translocal” engagement with other artists and patrons (Paul 265). These systems are more easily manipulated and flexible. She states that in regards to what she terms “artistic practice and cultural production,” these new media have cultivated a new landscape for art (Paul). Her focus here is chiefly on visual art and galleries. She terms this new network of artistic creation a “DIY culture” (Paul 252). This new culture has changed how we perceive the notions of authorship and artistry, both in terms of the “we” as the artists, and the “we” as the viewers of that art. It also changes the way we need to engage with, present, and ultimately understand new media art. Paul states:
The collaborative exchanges outlined above have profound implications for the curatorial process. In the organization of an exhibition presenting new media are, a curator may play a role closer co char of a producer- particularly if the work is commissioned- supervising a ream of creators and the public presentation of the work. Collaboration requires an increased openness of the production and presentation process as well as an awareness of process. The success and results of an exhibition are less predicable and highly dependent on the “platform” that the curators and artists establish for exchanges with the audience (Paul 257).
For artists, this new culture of collaboration that relies on new media, which I am taking as art that employs or relies on more advanced digital technologies for its creation and presentation, allows more individuals hailing from many different specialties and disciplines to work together on the same piece. As such, they become a networked system of artists, each operating in a modular capacity but a part of creating a larger, more brilliant and beautiful piece of art that extends beyond material limits in its meaning and affective ability. These networks of very human and very material artists are also immaterial in the sentiment and perception of art and creation that this new media affords them the opportunity to entertain. The scope of the art is limited only by means of obtaining and sustaining connection to the group. Also, as the quote above notes, the audience is also allowed the opportunity to adapt in this new mode of engaging with this art due to the way it is curated. Paul notes that there are some exhibits where, now that new digital technologies can be employed with more regularity in galleries, patrons can craft their own exhibits by choosing which pieces they would like to see and in which order. They make art in this way by manipulating the network, by placing themselves into the process itself. New media allows for this expansion of the definition of art, as Paul notes on the last page of her article when she states, “new media art has the potential co broaden our understanding of artistic practice” (Paul 272). However, just prior to this, she notes that just like a computer system, a material system, this immaterial notion of upholding and expanding artistry needs the support and maintenance that comes from society. This calls back to the recursive nature of media. We influence its creation just as it has the ability to shape us.
- Not only does the immateriality of new media make itself known in this creation of art as it needs to be tied to materiality, this notion is also present in how we preserve and present these artistic creations. Paul notes that digital or new media have been extremely influential in dictating how we present visual art, how we curate their exposure and dissemination to the public. On page 259 she states that the curation of new media art is a “hybrid” practice that should involve “[t]he presentation and physical environment of a new media project ultimately [that] should be defined by the conceptual requirements of the artwork itself” (Paul 259). This is extremely powerful in my eyes because it endows the art with a certain agency, a unique identity that allows it to demand that the venue, they material space and agents that both create and present it need to tailor the environment to its needs. This new media is also alive in the sense that Paul notes on this same page that this media is often “performative and contextual;” it requires the space to say its piece and is dependent on the society that surrounds it, it is linked to the network that spawned it much like humans are related to others in their societies (Paul 259). In relation to this notion of vitality afforded to new media visual art and their curated exhibits is what Paul describes on page 260 as the “variability” of this new media visual art (Paul 260). Here it is, in a way, allotted the power to adopt multiple identities, to move and speak in a myriad of ways depending on how it chooses to present itself. This calls back to they ever-present notion that the immaterial is linked to the material, as this abstract, immaterial idea of identity and affective, intangible power owes itself to the hardware that gave rise to that art.
- Overall though, I think her most powerful point of discussion is that as much as these new media have changed how we create, present, and preserve art, no matter how immaterial and endlessly expansive they have made its affective scope, we cannot divorce the material from the immaterial. This is the titular “myth of immateriality” Paul puts at the forefront of her argument. I believe she explains it best when she states,
[I]mmateriality is not a fiction but an important element of new media char has profound effects on artistic practice, cultural production, and reception, as well as the curatorial process. At the same time, chis immateriality cannot be separated from the material components of the digital medium…From the macrocosm of cultural practice co the microcosm of an individual artwork, the (immaterial) links between materialities are at the core of digital media” (Paul 252).
This, to me, calls back to the networked practice of artistic creation and presentation in a whole new light. Each bit of this is a society within itself, a piece of hardware, a functional system. Though we may function apart creatively, physically, internally, etc., in ways that are essentially immaterial, we come together through these creations, as bodies that make art, that need it to persist as a society. We cannot believe that even as technology changes and media becomes more accessible and more deeply permeated into our daily lives that the material is lost, that we are forever too far distanced from the writing, the artistry, and the engagement with the creative artifacts and their history, their processes, even their creators and our fellow patrons of the arts. That is because, as Paul notes on this page, in the layers of the immaterial lie the material; each will always call back to the other.
I have two questions/areas I’d like more elaboration on in regards to the discussion that took place in this article:
- It seems like Paul is stating that she wants to find a set of standards by which we could evaluate and define how we handle and understand visual media as it enters the digital realm, but from what she discusses, I think that the idea of having a set of standards is in itself a material thing that seeks to define an immaterial, limitless artistic entity. I was just confused at this part of the article as to her ultimate goal in this section.
- On page 270, she begins a discussion of how certain artistic exhibits have quite literally shown themselves to be artistic networks, or networked art, depending on which phraseology makes the most sense there. I just found this really fascinating and wanted to know more, as I thought it strengthened her argument.
The question I would like to offer is this:
Is artistry something that can be defined as a process, a network, or an entity? The notion of art, what it is and what it means is so subjective that it seems that all work, all processes of creation in any and all disciplines could be art or part of the network of production that is in itself a kind of art. Is that sentimentality that we as humans in a society ascribe to artistic creations what makes art? Can we really attempt to define it at all? Does trying to do so limit art?