Book looks at the virtual, real world through the eyes of a new media artist

Artists working in new media use screens and data instead of paint, pencil or clay. As electronic and digital technology has evolved, so have new media artists in the way they create – and the way they talk about – the digital and physical worlds, writes scholar Tim Murray in a new book.

In “Techniques Improvised: Activating Touch in Global Media Art,” Murray, professor of comparative literature and literature in English in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Cornell Council for the Arts, highlights technological improvement at the intersection of arts and politics. , Curator of global new media arts for 25 years, Murray uses his book to introduce artists working in digital and electronic media and explore their struggle against government surveillance and corporate culture that controls digital devices. Put it.

The College of Arts and Sciences spoke to Murray about the book.

Q: You write about “media artists who touch us through our screens.” Please introduce readers to some new media artists. What do they make, how do we approach their work, and what attracts you about their art?

Answer: The vast range of new media arts makes this a difficult question. While I refer to hundreds of artifacts in “technique improvement”,, I am particularly drawn to actions that reveal and counteract threats to the future by the Anthropocene and national and corporate systems of digital surveillance and militarization.

One particularly inventive in this regard is the artist Shu Li Cheng, originally from Taiwan and now a “global citizen”. In her massive installation for the 2019 Venice Biennale, she registered the physical data of visitors entering her installation and then mixed it through a computer program with images from a series of videos that she claimed were state-sponsored sexual surveillance. was created to plot the history of. and punishment. After walking down the aisle capturing their physical features, the audience was then captivated by the large video panel around, with graphics of their contraptions recreated in real time from the Marquis to famous sex surveillance, fantasy, and prosecution. were mixed with imagery from historical cases. De Sade to Michel Foucault. It all happened inside the exhibition space, which used to be Venice’s infamous torture prison.

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Such a mix of the physical with the analog of history, and contemporary in the individual, is also prevalent in the computer bio-art projects of Buffalo artist, Paul Vanhouse, who will be on display this fall at the 2022 Cornell Biennial. This mixed-race artist has staged live performances to blend the extraction of his and his audience’s DNA into fictional visual performances and politically immediate reflections on eugenics’ dangerously racist legacy as it permeates the public and sometimes genomics. creeps into the scientific discourse of. In September, the Cornell community will be invited to a live performance to contribute swabs of their own DNA to the mix in an installation being built by Vanhouse for the biennial.

Question: How does new media relate to corporations and the world of commerce?

Answer: Many of the videos and new media worked on CD-ROMs in the 1980s and early 1990s were created by artists working independently as they experimented with their own analog and digital tools. This changed dramatically from the mid-1990s with the consolidation of corporate software packages on which many artists became dependent, with the rapid expansion and corporate consolidation of personal computing and the World Wide Web, and with corporate consolidation for all users. With subsequent data monitoring. and/or government sponsors.

The works of new media artists are also affected by the corporate “planned obsolescence” of software and hardware. For example, Apple’s change to the INTEL chip at the turn of the millennium renders most of the 1990s works created on CD-ROMs unreadable on contemporary Apple computers. Similarly, in 2021, Adobe dropped support for Adobe Flash Player, which was a constitutional element of most artifacts made for the Internet in the 1990s and 2000s.

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While Cornell’s Rose Goldson Archive of New Media Art contains the world’s largest collection of “Net.Art”, these works are currently inaccessible without Flash’s digital infrastructure. It aims to offer an alternative conceptual approach to the corporate power of technology that “tech reform” communicates between philosophers and artists who are committed to questioning and challenging these “sovereign” relationships.

Question: You end “Techniques Improvised” with a proposal for the exhibition. What does “Fever of the Future” say about the future? Do you think this exhibition will ever happen?

Answer: Soon after the completion of “Techniques Improvised,” I began planning the details of the 2022 Cornell Biennial. For the Biennial, I recommend Herbert F. I am delighted to be able to showcase an exhibition of Screen Arts at the Johnson Museum of Art, which opened on July 13. Of the five works scheduled for screening through the fall, four pieces are featured in my proposed exhibition in “Techniques Improvised” – by international artists Patricia Dominguez, Larissa Sansour and Soren Lind, Moon Kyungwon and Jean Junho, and by Currabbing Film Collective. . This overlap is a great example of how Cornell’s theoretical research and publications in the humanities and arts can be transformed into accessible public experiences for the human good.