Reproduction, Mimicry, Critique and Distribution Systems in Visual Art

moderator: Bill Arning, The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
author: Michael Mittelman, Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Center for Future Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Tony Cokes, Brown research, Brown University
author: Andres Laracuente
published: March 20, 2014,   recorded: April 2007,   views: 2507

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Bill Arning extends his curatorial skills in this session, showcasing artists who are pioneering paths in digital media and installations. He poses central questions about this new art: At a time when reproductions can’t be distinguished from the original, should the artist seek “control of images” and create what Arning describes as “artificial scarcity”? And in an era of ubiquitous images, and mass distribution, why “go someplace special to see something?”

Michael Mittelman speaks from his dual role as teacher and artist. He came up with the notion of capturing interactive installation art (his own and that of colleagues) on DVD, and adding commentary track. This enables viewers who miss a gallery show to watch in the comfort of their own homes, at an affordable price. With his ASPECT DVD publications, Mittelman is also creating important collections of current art for students and future generations. However, Mittelman notes, while he has the support of one-half of the artistic community, he’s in conflict with the other half. Artists want to get their work known, “and the genre can only develop if other artists know what they’re doing,” but artists working in digital media may undercut gallery sales of their work by distributing it in Mittelman’s low-cost format. The goal, says Mittelman, “is many eyes, few hands. Scarcity is important but it’s also important many people know about the work.”

Tony Cokes’ genre involves putting “everyday images, texts and sounds in different contexts.” He says that he appropriates, rearranges, and also repurposes known forms, including music videos and discographies, so that they “make meaning in different ways.” In the past decade, he’s become increasingly interested in “audio cultures.” These days, he commits first to a soundtrack when producing new art. He shows an excerpt of Pop Manifestos, a work that emerged from his essays on pop music.

Andres Laracuente describes his art as a form of collaboration with others, and “a mediation between myself and performance -- an opportunity to increase or enlarge myself in culture.” Trolling places like Craig’s List, Laracuente has found people willing to share their passions (more accurately, fetishes) on camera with him. He shows two videos, which are also available online: “Dr. Popper” features a “blue collar guy who wants to pop balloons,” and in “MTMTN,” Laracuente subjects himself to intense tickling. Laracuente’s art consists of two stages: in the first a performance happens in a space “for the limited audience of creators.” The second part is the document, the video. He believes that if distribution of this kind of art helps create significant discourse, then it enhances the value of the work.

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