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Stewart Ziff

New media can be considered in classical formal terms so that we can speak of the ‘language of new media’ as comprising of a range of common visual elements of a certain pictorial and cinematic character whose developing form can be associated with the continuing evolution of abstract methods of pictorial representation … for many this forms the basis of interest from which works of expression are made with the tools of new media.

A further aspect of the formal nature of new media extends into a realm that has various levels of social infusion into our everyday life and there is a certain condition about this, a maturing developing condition, which has a social and political aspect to it. Social in that it is a linguistic system that we all commonly associate with (consider the pictorial metaphor of the desktop and the action of disposing of unwanted documents by the drag and drop method of placing iconographic representations of these documents in proximity to an iconographic representation of a trash can within the orthographic pictorial space of the computer desktop, a space whose pictorial elements are commonly known by all). Political for a number of reasons, notably that the engine engaged in developing these systems is one that is fueled by corporate enterprise and consumer demand in relation to each other, in which the linguistic systems of interface and engagement are evolving as a matter of oppositional relation to each other so that the condition in the social arena which we are all complicit with and affected by, have degrees of nature about them which can be looked at in social terms and political terms … it is this focus on these aspects of new media that characterizes the formal interests of Personal Cinema.

The collaborative aspect that forms much of the motivation for what Personal Cinema does as a group with respect to the making and production of work and the issue of bringing that work to an audience, both concern the matter of access to the technology, that is, the economics of access to the technology. - and particular problems with works of new media that influence the possibilities of bringing the work to an audience.

With respect to the issue of access … To work with new media requires access to new media tools. These tools are expensive and a significant burden on anyone who as an individual or an independent purchases hardware and software for production. This particularly when there is a mature sense of the poetics and possibility of those tools so that there is a preference and need for access to tools of greater than lesser capability in an economy that indexes capability to cost. The requirement for a cash flow economy to maintain access in a supply side field of engagement prejudices against artists and other independents, this particularly so in places like the Balkans, where the opportunities for access to sympathetic funding streams is more limited than in those more affluent environments in which the same situation prevails with respect to the economic forces inhibiting creative work.

The second problem addressed by the need for collaboration is access to opportunity to develop facility and skill, so that in order to become dexterous and facile with the tools, there must be an ongoing possibility of practice with the tools. To produce works of some certain complexity, there is a permanent need for both access and skill and it is this matter of the maintenance of skills that presents a certain demanding task, in that the tools by nature are difficult to use, in part difficult because they are still nascent and evolving without any definite relationship to the developing linguistics of the socio-economic system of which they are a part. In addition, these tools are formally difficult to use, they do not have the physical immediacy of a tool from the physical world. So let’s say we take a comparison with the hammer for example. The hammer is a singular tool with a singular purpose, and in the intuitively obvious manner of it’s use is like the riding of a bicycle, once learnt, never forgotten ! This is not the case with the technological tools of new media whose nature is to be far from obvious in their way of functioning and therefore quickly forgotten when not in use. Maintaining skill is a permanent matter of remaining knowledgeable about the shifts and changes in the maturing of the tools and toolsets as they develop through a version based sequence of states. Changes that directly influence the linguistics of interface and engagement, formed as they are by the competitive forces of specific corporate interests that seek to change their preferred way of doing things so as to identify themselves as brands and so forth, with some idea of themselves as having the better way of doing things. The knowledge required to stay abreast of the tools demands a significant investment of time and energy to know a tool, know then a toolset, know competing tools and their differing approaches to solving similar problems so that these specific differences in the ways that different tools function provides for an informed appreciation of what is possible through the formal knowledge of the limits of any certain set of associated tools.

It is this Babel like condition that suggests the need for collaboration in which authors of differing formal interests and tool based knowledge can collectively be the expert auteur(s) whose combined skills can form the knowledge base to realize work. As such, to author works of complexity formed from the tools of new media is antithetical to the historically defined idea of the artist as forming expression from the a solo studio practice.

Most of the members of personal Cinema come from a background of artmaking with some relationship to the artworld of galleries, museums, collectors, critics and so on. Our collective experience has shown us that the economy of the gallery system does not address very well the working needs of new media. It is a system that is built on the idea of acquisitions and collections, acquisitions of works of solo authorship, works that have a guarantee of some longevity to their existence which provides the basis for the economic system to prevail so that those investing in works of art by building collections of acquisitions, can feel confident and secure in the belief that these works will have time of some duration through which they will persist and as such add continual value to the collection in a context in which the criteria of critical judgment includes the sustainable economy of the investment.

New media presents a particular challenge to this in that most works created with new tools are dependent on a temporary technology substrate that provides for the possibility of the work being made manifest. So consider the familiar example of a computer screen and an interactive mouse based work whose temporal presence is dependent on the existence of a functioning computer; technology whose active presence is limited to the associated industrial products of a certain time and whose continued presence can only be guaranteed in accord with the wishes of specific corporate and industry interests that operate with a supply side bias to the economics of consumer demand. (so that today, it is not unreasonable to be speaking of the archaeology of the art made with computers in the 1980s !) There is no current way of operating within the gallery system that can accommodate the matter of works becoming quickly obsolete in the possibility of being made actively manifest.

A further aspect of the audience context for the presentation and dissemination of works of new media has to do with the condition of work that is collaborative in nature. To a large extent, museums, galleries and alternative spaces operate with a certain artist-centric focus, distinct from a work-centric focus in which the idea of the necessity for collaboration that brings to the situation of the work questions about artistic identity and authorship in a context whose economics is in part dependent on the cultural value of work that is of solo authorship, in which the economic significance of work is related to the consistency of mannerism in the developing ideas of the artist associated as they are with the singular voice and vision of solo practice.

From Personal Cinema there is unlikely to be any manifestation of a manifesto. There is no particular axis of action that has any specific political vector or social vector as an agenda or goal. Within the group there is great variety of interests, ideas and opinions. What binds the group and where there is commonality, is with an appreciation of the nature of new media and new tools as a matter of interest that has a certain phenomenological character and a certain socio-linguistic character as a basis for both inquiry and the production of work, this because of the place of new media in contemporary culture as an evolving system of significant influence and presence.

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Page last modified on September 01, 2006, at 09:24 AM