[ISEA2011] Panel: Christina Vat­sella – From Lit­eral to Metaphor­i­cal Utopia: Space and Time in the White Cube

Panel Statement

Panel: From New Media to Old Utopias: ‘Red’ Art in Late Capitalism?

In its orig­i­nal mean­ing u-topia means the lack of topos. This con­di­tion is in­her­ent in the new media art­work. Due to its im­ma­te­r­ial qual­ity and non-ob­ject sta­tus, the new media art is not phys­i­cally tied to a spe­cific space un­less dis­played. Thus the white cube, turned black for the oc­ca­sion, hosts its vir­tual and ephemeral image, or, in other words, it be­comes the topos of its phys­i­cal re­al­iza­tion.  Whereas the non ob­ject-based art is a pre­dom­i­nant ten­dency span­ning through the 20th cen­tury, the time-based media in­tro­duce a new multi-layer spa­tio-tem­po­ral con­di­tion within the work. The mov­ing image, de­rived from the cin­e­mato­graphic par­a­digm, has by de­f­i­n­i­tion its own vir­tual spa­tio-tem­po­ral­ity which un­folds dur­ing its pro­jec­tion. As far as the soft­ware and net-based cre­ations are con­cerned, sup­ple­men­tary lay­ers are au­to­mat­i­cally added. When the art­work is in­stalled in a phys­i­cal space, a new di­men­sion ap­pears: the real in­stal­la­tion space and time as ex­pe­ri­enced by the spec­ta­tor. Since both vir­tual and real spa­tio-tem­po­ral lay­ers co­ex­ist si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the work evolves within this di­alec­ti­cal pat­tern.  This lit­er­ally “u-top­ian” con­di­tion re­sults from the utopian (in the sense of rev­o­lu­tion­ary) na­ture of the new media art that rises above ques­tions of unique pro­to­type, con­trolled re­pro­ducibil­ity and ob­ject own­er­ship; hence, a new gen­uinely utopian artis­tic con­di­tion emerges. To speak in Marx­ist terms, it is the a pri­ori nega­tion of the com­mod­ity fetishism that im­poses the lit­eral, as well as the metaphor­i­cal, utopia. Thus, new media, the pil­lar of the late cap­i­tal­ism pub­lic sphere, be­comes the new field of rev­o­lu­tion­ary cul­tural prac­tices. I will fur­ther analyse this para­dox­i­cal -or rather co­her­ent, ac­cord­ing to Fred­eric Jame­son- con­di­tion where the Marx­ist logic is fully im­ple­mented in the most em­blem­atic form of the post-mod­ern art: the new media.

  • Christina Vat­sella is an art his­to­rian based in Paris. She is a PhD can­di­date in His­tory of Art at the Uni­ver­sité Paris Sor­bonne – Paris IV work­ing on the ques­tion of space in video in­stal­la­tion. Fol­low­ing a res­i­dency at the ZKM, her Mas­ter de­gree fo­cused on the in­sti­tu­tion­al­i­sa­tion of ne­tart. She has worked at the Mu­seum of Cy­cladic Art (Athens, Greece), the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou (New Media De­part­ment) and the Cen­tre de recherches en Arts of the Uni­ver­sité d’Amiens (Pi­cardie, France). She works as a free­lance cu­ra­tor and her ar­ti­cles have been pub­lished in ex­hi­bi­tion cat­a­logues, art jour­nals and uni­ver­sity edi­tions.

Full text (PDF) p. 2459-2464